Use a tour guide when sightseeing – you see and understand more of what you are seeing!
Wednesday saw us embark on adventure to learn a little more about the Adventure Province that is the Eastern Cape. We truly are blessed in St Francis and surrounding areas including the Tsitsikama, surrounded by so much unspoilt nature thanks to those organisations that work so hard to preserve our natural heritage concerned organization, it will stay that way owing to much of already protected and work afoot to extend the protected areas. That is of course unless the EFF and BLF have their way in which case we can kiss South Africa goodbye anyway.
As a youngster in one of my very early jobs I worked as a sales rep for a small agency firm is Port Elizabeth introducing, believe it or not, Tastic Rice, only just recently introduced as the first par boiled rice in South Africa. My area included Humansdorp, Hankey and Patensie and I remember them only as small farming towns with a few orange trees, little else and little to really remember them by. On returning to this area in 2013 some forty years on I gave little thought to revisiting the towns for really, how much could they have changed.
Setting off early Wednesday from Cape St Francis Resort in the company of two German tourists with Resort Adventures Shaun Tessendorf as our guide we headed for Humansdorp on toward Hankey and onward, Patensie. When one drives oneself, one tends to pay limited attention to the passing vegetation. Sure driving between St Francis and Humansdorp one becomes accustomed the scenery and vegetation but being a passenger gets to see just that little bit more. We all know First Choice is a major dairy in the area but Shaun imparted interesting information that I was totally unaware of prior to this trip.
Leaving Humansdorp I noticed how suddenly the vegetation changed from flat grassland to hilly terrain covered in aloes and prickly pears. Commenting on the change to Shaun he explained how over the next ten hours how we would travel through some six of the seven biomes that exist in SA, Savanna, Thicket, Grassland, Forest, Fynbos, Nama Karoo, Succulent Karoo with only desert missing. And as we travelled one could almost instantly notice the change, sometimes changing several time is a few kilometres.
Arriving in Hankey it was like winding back a clock for the steep, narrow roads , even some of the buildings came back to me almost instantly. One noticeable change however the amount of housing that filled the hillsides. Again Shaun added to our growing knowledge of the area explaining that the majority of the labour force that worked within the citrus industry lived in Hankey and were transported to the orchards and packing facilities by bus each day, returning at night. On very noticeable difference to our local Sea Vista township was the almost total lack of shacks, unless they were simply well camouflaged out of tourists sight. One wonders why when there seems to be a great need for labour in the farming area, squatters flock to Sea Vista where there is little or zero chance of employment.
Onward we travelled scheduled to stop for breakfast at a restaurant / tea garden just before Patensie. We were a little ahead of schedule the it wasn’t yet open and serving so we continued our adventure by going to visit Kouga Dam. On the way Shaun pointed out out how many flowering plants lined the road and almost anywhere where there was open plantable land. Bees play a huge role in the welfare of the citrus orchards and ths every effort is made to ensure their survival which is so endangered worldwide.
Arriving at Kouga Dam it is hard to believe that just a year ago this dam was at just 8% of capacity. It certainly is nowhere close to full standing at just a tiny amount over 48%. With a long dry winter ahead this level is sure to dropping significantly if we don’t have rain soon. A reminder indeed of just how important it is for us to keep on saving water for the drought is far from over.
Returning to Padlangs Country Restaurant for breakfast Shaun stopped to show us how millions of years ago the entire area we were in must have been under the sea. The embankment running for miles on the northen side of the road show an amazing cross section of rocks and pebbles that appear to have been made by man as a support to stop the wall from collapsing but it is in fact solid rock.
More next week on our adventure into the Adventure Province.