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.


There is a piece of South Africa in Italy

I found an interesting piece of history while going through some of my late father’s documents.  The part of Castiglione, Italy, which houses the South African Military Cemetery actually belongs to South Africa.  One of my father’s younger brothers is buried there.  Gunner Lionel ‘Lenny’ Gray of the SA Sixth Division was among many South Africans killed during WWII in Italy.

Letter from King George VI
Gunner Lionel 'Lenny' Gray of the SA Sixth Division is buried in Italy
A small piece of Italy belongs to South Africa

Mud, glorious mud

A visit to Israel that included a mud bath at the Dead Sea was the highlight of 1999.

My good friend, Keren, had invited me to spend some time with her in Israel.  At the time she was living at a kibbutz in the Negev Desert near Gaza and the border with Egypt.  Her house, a converted bomb shelter, was cool and comfortable.

We had her patch of Israel grassed while I was there.  There was a bottle of whisky involved, but that is another story………….

An amazing number of South Africans were living there, farming and turning the desert into fertile farmland.  In the afternoons, during the heat of the day, we would rest and as it got cooler people would set up tables under the trees and start preparing and eating their meals.

I remember having a glass of wine and a light meal under a magnificent moon.  Strange that the moon seems so much larger in the desert.

We visited, among other places, the Masada, the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee.

Something old

I was looking though some cupboards today, thinking about what to throw out.  I found some old photos that I had forgotten about.  They are of my grandparents.  Grandpa Gray (FM as we called him) was born Farquhar McAllister Gray in 1879.  He married my gran, Bertha Lehmann in 1900 and they had thirteen children.  Some children died of diptheria, two sons were killed in World War II.

My last aunt passed away in October this year at the ripe old age of 93.  She was living in an old age home in Aberdeen in the Karoo.



16 December

Karen brought our grand niece, Kaylee to visit.  What a breath of fresh air she is.  Always smiling and very happy to pose for photos.

18 December

The Sunday before Christmas was spent with our Dutch friends, Co and Evelyn.  They made us a wonderful three course meal that ended with Co producing a flaming Baked Alaska. This set the tone for Christmas.









24 December

Christmas Eve was spent with Daryl and Karen.












25 December

Christmas Day started with my husband Les and I getting up at 5 am to prepare food as we had invited some friends and family for a Christmas dinner.  Les, inspired by Co’s marvellous Baked Alaska, very ambitiously decided to make some beer bread as well as stuff and cook a turkey.   Bear in mind that Les has never stuffed a turkey before and has only made bread once before.

I set the tables, made the trifle and prepared a leg of lamb.  By 9.30 am I was worn out and put my feet up for an hour before everyone arrived.

Les in the meantime ploughed on.  By 10.30 he came to have a shower, looking very pale and stressed.  He hadn’t realised how much work was involved in preparing a turkey.  Wow!  He had made the stuffing, put it inside the turkey and got it all onto the Weber in time!  What a titanic effort and what a titanic mess in the kitchen.  Flour, egg shells and pork sausage were all over the counters.

I shovelled all the debris into the dirtbin and washed the counters down, with only minutes to spare before the guests arrived.  Whew!  Just in time.  I somehow feel that next year we will do a lot more the day before (didn’t we say that last year?).  Everyone seemed to enjoy the lunch.

28 December

I am currently reading a book called ‘What the Dog Saw’ by Malcolm Gladwell (who also wrote ‘Outliers’) kindly given to me by Daryl and Karen.  It discusses very mundane issues that have had an amazing impact on our lives. Both books are great reads and very enlightening.

Garth and Bronley went Husky Sledding in Finland and are now on their way to Prague.  Tomorrow will be -4C in Prague, so I hope they took lots of warm clothes.

Only three days left of 2011.  What will 2012 bring?