Eastern Cape Heartland | 400km

Eastern Cape Heartland.

EAST LONDON

...developed around the port established in 1847 as a landing place for British troops and supplies destined for the eastern Cape frontier. It has now become a popular South African holiday destination. Situated at the mouth of the Buffalo River, the settlement was first named Port Rex but was renamed East London in 1848. The city is famed for its long stretches of beach which attract numerous sunbathers, anglers and surfers. Eastern, Orient and Nahoon beaches are popular with sunbathers; Bonza Bay and Nahoon offer ideal conditions for boardsailing while Nahoon Reef is an internationally noted surfing destination.

Among the city's historical links with the turbulent period of the Frontier Wars is the old powder magazine on the site of Fort Glamorgan, built in 1849 against a hill on the western bank of the Buffalo River. Gately House, built in 1878, is an excellent example of a period townhouse. It contains a fine collection of Victorian furnishings and serves as the city's Town House Museum. The Ann Bryant Art Gallery has a valuable collection of works by English and South African artists.

Among the other historic buildings you should visit during your South African holiday are the City Hall (1899), Public Library (1906) and Cuthberts Building. The East London Museum focuses on the natural and cultural history of the Border area. Among its displays are a gallery devoted to the coelacanth, comprehensive collections of South African fish and seashells and ethnographic collections focusing on the Xhosa-speaking people. East London's Steve Biko Memorial commemorates the death of the father of the Black Consciousness Movement, who died in police custody from injuries he sustained during interrogation in Port Elizabeth in 1977.

GONUBIE

Set against a backdrop of forested dunes, the coastal town of Gonubie lies alongside a tranquil lagoon at the mouth of the Gqunube River. The river - navigable for 5 km upstream - coastline and open ocean offer excellent angling possibilities. Visitors can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, surfing and a walk on the boardwalk, while several sporting facilities are available in the town. The name is said to be Khoikhoi in origin, meaning 'bramble river'.

KWELERA

This South African holiday town owes its name to the Kwelera River, a corruption of the Khoikhoi name Goerecha, meaning 'many aloes'. The rocky beach here is a long-standing favourite with anglers.

HAGA-HAGA

...is a beautiful seaside village flanked by sandy beaches at the foot of green hills. The lagoon and beach offer safe swimming, while the rocks extending along the seafront present good angling opportunities.

KOMGA

Lying amid rolling green grasslands, Komga was established as an agricultural centre in 1877 on the site of a military camp established 23 years earlier. The Khoikhoi name is said to mean 'lots of clay', or 'clayish'. A monument in the town recalls the epic 1842 journey of Dick King, who covered the 960-km distance between Port Natal (now Durban) and Grahamstown on horseback in ten days.

VICTORIA CROSS MEMORIAL

About 20 km west of Komga, a stone monument honours Major Hans Garett Moore, the first recipient of the Victoria Cross in South Africa. During the Battle of Draaibosch, fought here on 29 and 30 December 1877, Moore and three others went to the assistance of a comrade named Giese who had been overtaken by the Xhosa. Their heroic attempt failed to save Giese, and Moore was stabbed in the forearm. The following day, a patrol led by Moore was attacked by a Xhosa force of 1 000 warriors on foot and 600 mounted men. Moore and his men held off the attackers, who eventually fled.

BISHO

...a Xhosa name meaning 'buffalo', lies to the east of King William's Town. It was built by the South African government as the capital of the Ciskei homeland after the apartheid government refused to incorporate King William's Town into the Ciskei, which became 'independent' in 1982. Following the reintegration of Ciskei into South Africa in 1994, Bisho became the capital of the Eastern Cape province.

Among the sites relating to the struggle against apartheid is the grave of Steve Biko, who was born in Ginsberg township on the outskirts of King William's Town. Also of interest is the site of the Bisho Massacre, where 28 people were killed and 200 injured when Ciskei soldiers opened fire on thousands of ANC marchers on 7 September 1992.

KING WILLIAM'S TOWN

...has its origins in the Buffalo Mission Station established on the east bank of the Buffalo River by the Reverend John Brownlee of the London Missionary Society in 1825. Following the Sixth Frontier War (1834-35), the British Governor, Sir Benjamin D'Urban, annexed the land between the Keiskamma and the Kei rivers, naming it the Province of Queen Adelaide. A fort was built near the ruins of the mission station (destroyed during the war) and on 24 May 1835 the site was proclaimed the capital of the new province. It was named after the reigning monarch, William IV.

The British government, however, refused to ratify the annexation, and barely seven months later the province was abolished. At the outbreak of the Seventh Frontier War (1846-47) the frontier territory was reoccupied by British forces, and on 23 December 1847 the Crown Colony of Kaffraria was proclaimed, with King William's Town as its capital.

The Amathole Museum (formerly known as the Kaffrarian Museum) has interesting displays on the region's German settlers, as well as a world-famous collection of over 40 000 mammals. Its most celebrated exhibit is Huberta, a hippopotamus that wandered approximately 700 km from Zululand to the Keiskamma River between 1928 and 1931.

The SA Missionary Museum is appropriately housed in the Gothic Revival-style Wesleyan Church, built in 1855. Among King William's Town's many historic buildings are Grey Hospital (1859), Town Hall (1867), the Old Court House and Post Office (1877), British Kaffrarian Savings Bank (1908) and the Old Residency.

MILKWOOD TREE

Next en-route your South African holiday is the famous milkwood, known as the Umqwashu tree, a symbol of the Mfengu people's release from subservience to the Gcaleka people. Their decision to seek British protection during the Sixth Frontier War (1834-35) incurred the wrath of Chief Hintsa. To create a buffer against Xhosa attacks, the British Governor, Sir Benjamin D'Urban, ordered the resettlement of the Mfengu south of Fort Peddie. Protected by troops of the 2nd Division, some 17 000 Mfengu men, women and children moved westwards across the Kei and the Keiskamma rivers. Having finally reached safety, the Mfengu affirmed their loyalty to God and the British monarch at this spot.

PEDDIE

...was once one of the most important military posts on the eastern frontier of the old Cape Colony. In 1835 a fort shaped like an eight-pointed star was built at Peddie as part of a defence line west of the Keiskamma River. It played an important role in protecting the Mfengu against attacks by the Xhosa and in the defence of the eastern frontier. The sturdy stone-built watch tower dates back to 1841, when the fort was strengthened.

To protect those inside, the entrance to the double-storey building was placed 3 m above the ground, with a retractable entry ladder. A cannon could be fired from the roof. Just outside Peddie, on the road to Hamburg, are the church and residence of the Reverend John Ayliff, who accompanied the Mfengu to Peddie, and the Durban or Ayliff Methodist mission station.

HAMBURG

...was one of the villages in British Kaffraria where over 2 900 German immigrants were settled in 1857 in yet another attempt to stabilise the volatile eastern frontier. The emigration scheme was funded by the British government and the emigrants were recruited from members of the King's German Legion, a military unit disbanded after the Crimean War. The village was named after Hamburg in Germany. Situated on the southern bank of the Keiskamma River, the village is a popular holiday destination, offering excellent river boating and surf angling, and sweeping white beaches.

KIDD'S BEACH

...is a great South African holiday beach, lying on the southern shores of the lagoon formed by the Mcantsi River. The lagoon, sandy beach at the mouth of the Mcantsi River and tidal pool offer safe swimming, while the outstanding waves are popular with surfing and boardsailing enthusiasts. Anglers are attracted by the excellent fishing opportunities along the rocky coastline. The village was named after Charles Kidd, who was mayor of East London in the 1860s.

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