Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve
The Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve, about 40 km west of Port Elizabeth, conserves a number of endemic, rare and threatened plants in the Albany Centre of Endemism and serves as an important environmental education centre to local communities in the Nelson Mandela Metropole and outlying regions.
The reserve belongs to the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality (NMMM) and consists of a low-lying area of about 600 ha between the Van Stadens mountain and the coast.
There is a well maintained custom designed ‘flower house‘ with correctly named flowering plant specimens at the reception office to test your knowledge.
Various walking trails are available. (http://www.vanstadens.co.za/)
Van Stadens Bridge
35 kms South of Port Elizabeth on the N2 freeway, lies The Van Staden’s Bridge. It was completed on 12 October 1971 and was the longest concrete arch bridge in South Africa and the sixth longest in the world at that time. It has a main span of 198 metres and is 125 metres above the gorge. The two halves of the bridge were constructed simultaneously from both sides. The bridge offers a fantastic view of the magnificent gorge, which is well worth a visit for visitors to the Eastern Cape on their way to the Garden Route.
Before the N2 freeway was constructed in the 1970’s, the main road from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town twisted and wound down the steep Van Staden’s Gorge offering breath-taking views of the mountains and the magnificent flora, which abounds. At the base of the valley there was a beautiful picnic spot where visitors from Port Elizabeth and surrounding areas would come for a daytime braaivleis. One could look up and see the massive modern bridge soaring above the gorge 125 meters above as the N2 freeway traffic passes above on its way to Cape Town.
Apart from hosting the annual Naartjie Festival the small town of Loerie has an interesting history.
Early Settlers were in the area as early as 1745 and the first farms were awarded in 1817. Floods, droughts and the big fire of 1869 took their toll on the pioneers of the area, but the community expanded rapidly and the first school was opened in 1890. The first bridge across the Gamtoos river opened up the area and eased the lives of the farmers considerably.
The inhospitable terrain with primitive roads was a nightmare with regards to transport to and from the markets in P.E. and Uitenhage. Everything had to be transported by ox wagon and a trip took a few days. In 1899 it was decided in Parliament that a narrow gauge railway line would be built from P.E. to Avontuur. It was completed in 1906 and started new optimism in the whole valley. Farmers only had to bring their produce to Loerie from where it was taken further by train. In 1914 the line was extended to Patensie.
In 1933 the Eastern Province Cement Company (later PPC) obtained a farm in the Kleinrivier area and started the construction of a 14 km cable way to Loerie. Production started in 1934. High quality lime stone was mined here until the late 1990’s. Sadly, the cable way that became a landmark was removed after the mine was closed.
The Loerie dam was built as part of the Kouga dam scheme with the purpose of supplying Port Elizabeth with water. The dam includes a filtration and pump system to balance the pressure in the pipelines, controlled by one of the first computer systems in South Africa.
Although the population of the area has shrunk considerably in recent years, the fertile soil and temperate climate ensure that vegetables of a high quality are produced here. (www.baviaans.net)
Grave of Sarah Baartman
Sarah Baartman, displayed as a freak because of her unusual physical features, was finally laid to rest 187 years after she left Cape Town for London. Her remains were buried on Women’s Day, 9 August 2002, in the area of her birth, the Gamtoos River Valley in the Eastern Cape.
Baartman was born in 1789. She was working as a slave in Cape Town when she was “discovered” by British ship’s doctor William Dunlop, who persuaded her to travel with him to England. We’ll never know what she had in mind when she stepped on board – of her own free will – a ship for London.
But it’s clear what Dunlop had in mind – to display her as a “freak”, a “scientific curiosity”, and make money from these shows, some of which he promised to give to her.
Baartman had unusually large buttocks and genitals, and in the early 1800s Europeans were arrogantly obsessed with their own superiority, and with proving that others, particularly blacks, were inferior and oversexed.
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