Once again, I’ll attempt to relate my impressions on the final (return) leg of my journey into the East Coast region of South Africa, hopefully with the aid of some photographs.
Having left Storms River Village behind (with a degree of sadness), I headed up to Port Elizabeth. Nothing much to report here. Just another coastal city. I did however stop briefly to admire the new Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium that was built for the Football World Cup that came to an end only recently. I did also stop at the Greenacres shopping mall; it looked quite different from the last time I shopped there many years ago.
I had booked a one-nighter in Grahamstown, being convinced that there would not be much to see, what with the National Arts Festival having concluded some weeks earlier. It seemed to me that Grahamstown revolved around the famous Rhodes University and the large number of top-notch schools (mostly private) that is dotted around this small town. There are some pretty well-known private schools here, viz. St. Andrews, Graeme and Kingswood Colleges and the Victoria Girl’s High School. This must surely be South Africa’s Education centre.
Grahamstown is also well-known for the relatively high number of places of worship and religious denominations present for such a small area. Apparently there are 52 churches of every conceivable denomination and places of worship for several other disparate faiths such as Hinduism, Scientology, Quakerism, Mormonism and Islam. At this point you’re probably wondering what an Atheist is doing in such a place? Well, I didn’t come here for the evangelism; just the historical interest, and some of these places of worship do have beautiful architecture, which I admire. If you asked me to settle here with all this religious fervour hanging in the air, I’d point-blank refuse; this is something like my version of hell, even if it’s a picturesque hell.
Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George
I also learned that I had just missed Grahamstown’s first snowfalls in about 34 years, by about two months. Apparently there was quite a dusting around 15 June this year. Now that would have been something to see.
Unless you’re a student, there isn’t much to do in Grahamstown. That evening I had the choice of joining the university brats at one of the sports bars that lined what looked like the main street, or take in a film at the local Art Cinema. I chose to catch the early evening screening of the Coen brother’s film, A Serious Man, get some dinner and a swig or two of a full bottle of Jack Daniels I’d been dragging along since Storms River. I’m glad I did.
I left Grahamstown quite eager to get on with my road trip and my penultimate stop, before heading back home to Johannesburg. Port St. Johns is really a nothing-town. The buildings look dilapidated and the streets consist mostly of potholes. But the scenery is absolutely stunning. There isn’t any night-life to speak off, and from what I could make out there were only two restaurants available. However the food was quite good at the one I visited alongside the river on my first night there.
Port St. Johns
Having basically nothing to do that evening, I experimented with long exposure shots of the magnificent vistas available from my cabin overlooking the sea. I’m quite happy with the two posted below, one of which looks to me like a painting.
Port St. Johns night scene
Port St. Johns night vista
2nd Beach is reminiscent of a South-East Asian Island paradise. The coastline is quite rocky, but very very beautiful. I was quite lucky to find two local lasses who were only too keen to show me around the following day, as the deep-sea fishing excursion I was looking forward to, got cancelled due to strong winds. No matter; we had quite a rollicking time, and that near-full bottle of Jack Daniels I’d been dragging along since Storms River, helped to fill in the evening.
The Wild Coast
I was told that in the 70’s or even early 80’s there was no bridge on the main road leading to Port St. Johns, across the Umzimvubu River that squeezes past the town into the sea. Apparently ferries were used to get vehicles and people across. I was pleasantly surprised to find that ferries are still used to carry people and more especially school children across, closer to the river mouth.
The drive back to Durban the following day through Lusikisiki and Port Edward was pretty uneventful, even though the roads leading out of Port St. Johns were quite hair-raising. As I got off the highway to the neighborhood where my parents resided, I noticed that the huge inappropriate signboard near the exit, that I’d noticed there when I left for the Eastern Cape, was gone. It had read “Let Jesus Touch You.” Thank goodness…