Across the Great Kei River

On Friday afternoon we left Gonubie and travelled on the N2, heading towards the Great Kei River.  The journey to Kei Mouth is 80 kms and takes about one hour.  The turnoff from the N2 towards Kei Mouth leads you onto a tar road that is wide and in excellent condition.

On a bend, as one nears the seaside village of Kei Mouth, a strange sight greets you.  We were told that the owner of this property bought this plane for a song.  It was originally bought by Matamzima when he was the president of the former Trnskei.  It was never used and now sits as a landmark near a restaurant and B & B.  Unfortunately we did not have time to stop and investigate as we had to cross the ferry before it closed for the day.

The Great Kei River is very wide where it reaches the sea and the only way across is via this rather old, but stable ferry.  We had been on the ferry before, many years ago and even then the ferry had seemed old.

We watched as passengers and vehicles disembarked.  It appeared stable enough and everyone looked calm.  All seemed well.  Would it hold our two cars?  The ‘conductor’ waved us aboard.

No time is wasted.  As soon as the vehicles and passengers are loaded, the ferry driver moves slowly into the river.  Vehicles pay R60 and passengers without vehicles pay 50c.  We paid our money and chatted to a few of the locals who regularly use the ferry.  They told us that sometimes, when the weather is stormy, the waves get very choppy and the ferry sometimes cannot cross.

Once across we have about 30 minutes of travelling on dirt roads.  As soon as you cross the Great Kei River it feels as if you are in a different country.  I have been visiting the Transkei for many years and love the relaxed rural atmosphere.

Strelitzia seem to grow a lot bigger in the Transkei.

We stayed at the Trennery’s Hotel  It is typical of the family hotels on the Wild Coast and is famous for its seafood buffet on a Saturday night.  Just make sure you ask for a non-smoking room.  My only complaint was that our room and bed smelt of cigarette smoke.  In all other respects it was a wonderful stay.

The beautiful beaches and idyllic life style hide a crime that is taking place on a daily basis and is not being addressed by the South African authorities.  The locals told us that huge foreign trawlers appear every second night near the Qolora River mouth and set up long lines which are illegal as they catch all types of fish as well as turtles and birds.  The trawlers appear at about 9 pm and have no lights so cannot be identified.  Although this has been reported to the authorities none have ever been causght or confronted.

Not only are our rhino been harvested,  but our fish are also been stolen!  This type of illegal activity destroyed the liveliehoods of fishermen in Somalia and this directly led to the piracy problem in that area.  Unless this matter is addressed, our coasts will be stripped of all life.

The next day we girls decided the explore the area.  Les stayed at the hotel to watch some very important rugby matches.  We took ‘the road less travelled’ and ended up in a situation where we were on a very narrow ‘donga’ and could not turn around.  There was nothing else to do, but bravely venture down the hellish strip (I will not use the word road).  Giving my navigator dirty looks and trying to keep calm and seem confident, I set forth.  It got worse!  Eventually we found a place to turn.  I took a few deep breaths and we went back up the monster.  We decided the less the hubby knew about this little adventure, the better!

By this time our nerves were distinctly shattered.  We needed a stiff drink or some chocolate cake!  It calmed the frayed nerves.

The view from the Morgan Bay Hotel (and the wonderful cake) had the required calming effect.  We thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and forgot the rather shattering start to our adventure.

We took a drive to the end of Morgan Bay and stopped to admire this lovely stretch of beach and rocks.  We then took the tar road back to Kei Mouth, crossed on the ferry and went back to Trennery’s.

That evening we enjoyed the seafood buffet and celebrated Marion’s 60th birthday in style.

Nothing was mentioned about taking said vehicle down said ‘donga’, but perhaps one day the truth will out and ‘he who usually drives’ will not look quite so contented.

The next day was Sunday and we left Trennery’s and began the long trip back to Durban.  The road to Kentani is gravel and in a bad state of repair.

It was enjoyable travelling in the rural part of South Africa.  We took it slowly as the roads were bad.

We passed the rural village between Kentani and Butterworth.  The road between Kentani and Butterworth was mch better.

This village is near the outskirts of Butterworth.  There were signs that the roads were being graded.  Fortunately there were no roadworks as it was Sunday.

As we approached Butterworth the road was tarred.  At Butterworth we filled up with petrol and continued on the N2.

We crossed the Mbashe River.  It was another 240 kms to Kokstad and a late lunch.

Beautiful storm clouds were gathering as we travelled towards Mthatha.

As we neared Mthatha the roadworks and calming humps slowed us down.  I am not sure why they are called calming humps, as they did anything but calm the driver.

At least we can see where some of our hard=earned taxpayers money is going.  They seem to be building a double highway near Mthatha.

After Mthatha the road improved dramatically.

Near Mount Aylif we encountered mist and rain.  Lovely autumn rains which are welcomed by all.

As we approached Kokstad it rained heavily and the temperature dropped to 13 deg C.

Just as quickly the rain stopped.

After an enjoyable lunch at the Wimpy just outside Kokstad, we continued our journey.  Near Harding we drove slowly through the rain and mist.  The rest of the journey was uneventful.


Thomas River – historical village

We left Cathcart and took the N6 towards Stutterheim.  The locals had recommended that we stop at the historical village of Thomas River for lunch.  Just the name was intruiging enough to tempt us.

Less than half an hour after leaving Cathcart we saw the sign for Thomas River and followed the dirt road.  It was a beautiful day.  The sky was deep blue with a sprinkling of clouds.

The owner of this museum collects items from all over the world.

The restaurant is full of memorabilia of the Royal family.  Princes William and Harry paid a visit during their trip to South Africa in 2010.

One of the highlights in the garden is an old British telephone booth.

They have collected old petrol pumps from yesteryear.

This is one of the original Coke signs.

This is the oldest working mobile home in the world.  It has been lovingly restored.

Now the family home, the was the original railway station for Thomas River.  The railway line has since been dismantled and taken away.

This three wheel car is a Messerschmitt KR 200.  It was made by the same compny that made German airplanes.

Another interesting motobike.

This is not the vehicle for a family man.

This is a motorbike converted into a delivery van.

We were told that Thomas River is a sought after wedding venue and the vintage cars are often used to collect the bride or hired by wedding guests.

The old Postmaster’s house has been turned into a self-catering unit.

The old Station Master’s house can also be hired.

In its day Thomas River was a bustling station with a post office for the local farms.  Now it is the local pub for the farmers in the district.

View of the pub and restaurant from the old station.

Cathcart – place of history

We spent the weekend in Gonubie with my sister.  On Monday we took the N6 via Stutterheim to Cathcart.  Named after Sir George Cathcart, governor of the Cape from 1852 to 1854, Cathcart is a small village at the centre of a wool farming area.  It is about 1 1/2 hours from East London and is worth a visit.

We stayed at the Kenwyn B&B run by Gloria Spies, an energetic 70 year old, who together with her gardener restored this lovely old house.

Gloria has a friend make a copy of a Picasso as the focal point of her comfortable lounge.

The locals told us they had snow this past winter.  The fireplace at Kenwyn has beautiful carved detail.

Our room was cozy and comfortable.  All the restoration work and decor was done by Gloria.

The next morning we went to breakfast.  On sunny mornings this is served on the verandah.  Today we had a delicious English breakfast in the dining room.

Every corner of the house is tastefully decorated.

The old stables have been converted into a self-catering unit.  These are often used by bikers who visit Cathcart to ride the lovely trails.

Inside the self-catering unit.  Although it has a Mexcan theme, Gloria made a pillow representing the Union Jack as she had some guests from the UK.

The bedroom lights are made of oil lamps.

Gloria’s grandfather was a stoker on the railways.  She has incorporated his old coal shovel into the decor.

Another room in the self-catering section.

A Coke sign enhances the red and white decor of the self-catering kitchen.

This old stone church is very popular for weddings in Cathcart.

After breakfast we visited the local museum.  They were having a spring clean.  Les got involved in some gardening in the museum’s rose garden.

We crossed the road to the local secondhand shop.  The owner is also the local tour guide.  He was busy, but told us which highlights to visit.

The bell on this building overlooking the old market square, is from the ship ‘Orient’, which was wrecked near East London in 1907.

It was used to call the fire brigade or summon the community in an emergency.

We then went further up the road searching for a world famous carving that is housed in a shrine next to a Catholic church.

We saw a nun in a car with some people pushing.  We went to help.  We discovered why they were having difficulty.  She had the brake on and had the car in gear.

After much shouting of instructions, she finally let the brake off and the car was pushed into the garage.  It had a flat battery.

Everyone heaved a sigh of relief.  Life could go on as normal.

We then visited the shrine, which was why we had come there in the first place.

Father Josef Kentenich survived three years in Dachau concentration camp for opposing Hitler.

This Schoenstatt shrine is visited by pilgrims from all over the world.

Travels in the Eastern Cape

In April 2012 we decided to take a one week break in the Eastern Cape.

Sunday is a day of rest in the former Transkei and is a good day for travelling, although care must still be taken to avoid cattle, goats and other animals.

It is not recommended that this road is travelled at night.  Some areas are not fenced and animals roam freely.

The veld was green and in good condition after the summer rains.

The road winds down into a valley that is fertile and very populated.

The area near Izingolweni is very beautiful, however you need to be on the lookout for pedestrians.

Stafford’s Post is a well known landmark where you turn left at the T junction on the way to Kokstad.

The lovely colours of autumn were all around us on the road to Kokstad.  The Wimpy is Mt Curry is a good stopover for brunch.

Kokstad is named after the Griqua chief, Adam Kok III, who led his followers there in 1862 from Philippolis.

Up until now the roads had been pretty good.  We left Kokstad and then the trouble started.

After a delay of 20 minutes we were on our way again.

Mt Frere is situated at the foot of the Frere mountain which was named after Sir Bartle Frere who was the governor of the Cape from 1877 to 1880.

Leaving Mt Frere.  During the week this town would be full of taxis and shoppers.  On Sundays it is quiet and calm.

The autumn skies in the Traskei are clear and blue.

The roads were in great shape between Mt Frere and Qumbu.  We made good progress.

Qumbu was fairly busy for a Sunday.  With only 240 kms to East London we were on track.

Mthatha is the largest town in the old Transkei.  It would usually be only another three hours travelling to East London.

However, we weren’t expecting the major roadworks on the south side of Mthatha.  It appears as if they are making a double highway.

Every few hundred metres we came across ‘traffic calmers’.

We counted over fifty five speed humps which really slowed us down and made the dear driver anything but calm……

We made slow progress.  At Dutywa the weather suddenly changed.  It was 16 deg outside and overcast.


Butterworth is a bustling town 113 km from East London.

It is named after Joseph Butterworth, who was the treasurer of the Wesleyan Missionary Society that was stationed there in 1827.

Butterworth seems to be preserving some of its historic buildings, however the twon council is not doing a good job of maintaining the town.

Crossing the great Kei river.   The White Kei, the Black Kei and the Tsomo rivers are all tributaries of the Kei river.

Kei is derived from the Khoikhoi word meaning ‘sand’.

Gonubie is a seaside resort at the mouth of the Gonubie River.  The name is derived from the Khoikhoi meaning ‘bramble river’.

It took us 9 1/2 hours to travel from Durban to Gonubie.  We have been travelling this road for 40 years and this was the longest time it had ever taken.