Posts Tagged With: Bloemfontein

Nelson Mandela Bay – weekend 3

CONGRATULATIONS to Wilene Venter & Mekylo Ram!  They each win a  sets of five x day passes (valued at R1000), complements of Kingfisher FM & Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism.

The day pass gives you access to a whole range of activities & discounts.  It is a fun & affordable way to travel Nelson Mandela Bay.


LOCATION: Nelson Mandela Bay is located in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.  It is 763 km east of Cape Town.

DATE VISITED: 14 & 15 September 2012 (Spring)

WHAT WE DROVE: An Alfa Romeo Giulietta complements of Maritime Motors

WHAT WE DID: We spent time at the Cuyler Manor Museum, The VW Autopavilion, The Uitenhage Concentration Camp Memorial Site & Memory Factory, as well as Wild Cats World, Spotted Cats Conservation, Daniell Cheetah Project.

WHERE WE STAYED: The little house on the not so little hill

WHO GUIDED US: Craig Duffield from Mosaic Tourism

RECOMENDATION: Nelson Mandela Bay is the ultimate family destination.  Often Uitenhage would be left off the itinerary, but you cannot miss the VW Autopavilion or Wild Cats World.  For the VW Autopavilion you need to plan at least an entire morning or afternoon.  For the Cuyler Manor Museum, you should make arrangements if you want to visit it on a weekend.

WEBSITE: Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism

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Who would imagine running into a family of clowns at a war-memorial?

Or meeting a Xhosa woman who is immensely knowledgeable & passionate about Dutch history?

Or flying across black top in an Italian Car to kneel down and rub a fully grown Cheetah?

This weekend we explored the Uitenhage side of Nelson Mandela Bay.

We did all of the above.

And more.

Driving the very fast, very sporty Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Uitenhage seemed a little closer to Port Elizabeth this Friday afternoon.

It managed our entire Tribe.

Minus the pram.

Without any strain.

I can imagine, with only one or two children, it would manage even the pram.

This car makes you feel young.



It was in noticeable contrast to the Cape-Dutch buildings & old world lawns of the Cuyler Manor Museum where Rosie Kula greeted us.

She has been with the museum for 25 years.

She knows the stories of Genl. Jacob (Armstrong) Cuyler, as if she was there herself.

Watching while his grandmother spoilt him.

Eavesdropping on the conversation where he declares that he will no longer be an Armstrong, but a Cuyler.

Smiling knowingly when he is upset as they send him out to pasture on a stipend instead of a pension.

Some people are always entitled.

Rosie has been serving.

For almost three decades.

From the Cuyler Manor Museum we made our way to the VW Autopavilion.

A modern-day ‘museum’, showcasing the work of Volkswagen in South Africa, since shortly after the Second World War.

There is a new Beetle cut in half.

The last Beetle ever built in South Africa, perfectly restored.

And Herbie, with his distinctive ’53’.

There are simulators.

Science explanations.

Vehicles on display from every period.

Even a green screen & film studio.

The VW Autopavilion is open on weekdays & every first Saturday of the month.

The Cuyler Manor Museum is open on weekdays.

On Saturday Craig from Mosaic Tourism find us activities available on weekends.

We make our way to the war-memorial site of the Uitenhage Concentration camp.

It was erected in the 70’s when a previous government made history its servant.

Making heroes of woman, children & old men who died in captivity during another senseless war.

War is always senseless.

On all the pages of recorded history I’ve not encountered one which served more than it destroyed.

Or set free.


The English War (1899 – 1902) could’ve been avoided.

Some wish to call this war the ‘South African War’, playing on the fact that it affected all people in South Africa.

I find this interesting, for there was no ‘South Africa’ in the sense of today’s South Africa, at the time & the name is just confusing.

I prefer the term ‘English War’ for, if we hope to be honest, we should admit that it was a war waged by Britain.

British expansionist ideas (notably propagated by Cecil Rhodes) as well as disputes over uitlander political and economic rights resulted in the failed Jameson Raid of 1895.

As tensions escalated, political manoeuvrings and negotiations attempted to reach compromise on the issues of the rights of the uitlanders within the South African Republic, control of the gold mining industry, and the British desire to incorporate the Transvaal and the Orange Free State into a federation under British control. Given the British origins of the majority of uitlanders and the ongoing influx of new uitlanders into Johannesburg, the Boers recognised that granting full voting rights to the uitlanders would eventually result in the loss of ethnic Boer control in the South African Republic.

To Lord Milner’s satisfaction, the June 1899 negotiations in Bloemfontein failed, and in September 1899 British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain demanded full voting-rights and representation for the uitlanders residing in the Transvaal. Paul Kruger, the President of the South African Republic, issued an ultimatum on 9 October 1899, giving the British government 48 hours to withdraw all their troops from the borders of both the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, failing which the Transvaal, allied to the Orange Free State, would declare war on the British government. The British government rejected the South African Republic’s ultimatum, resulting in the South African Republic and Orange Free State declaring war on Britain.

If the leaders of the Boer Republics were willing to talk, negotiate & find a compromise, it could’ve been different.

There are no heroes.

Even if we wished there were.

We’ve stumbled upon some of this history in Bloemfontein.

And in the Red Location-precinct, just a week ago.

During the English War Guerilla Warfare was utilized for the very first time in the modern history of man-kind.

Changing the way things were.


In small groups.

Waging war.

The English answer to this was a burnt-earth.

Farms destroyed.

Women & children incarcerated in designated restricted access areas.

The thinking: you take away their resources, they will give up.

Which eventually happened.

After thousands died.

Almost a century later our country had more of the same.


In small groups.

Waging war.

They were already living in designated restricted access areas.

Some spent decades in jail.

Others fled.

Technology changed.

Information flowing.


And Nelson Mandela negotiated.

And no more died.

The link between the English War (1899 -1902) and the Freedom Struggle lies deeper than that.

The Uitenhage Concentration Camp was the only of its kind on which prisoners were not housed in tents, but in corrugated iron buildings.

Emily Hobhouse had made a bit of a stink about Kitcheners’ methods.

Illusions had to be maintained.

A flagship project was created.

For all to see.

For journalists to visit.

For pictures to be taken.

Here, the food was abundant.

The housing more comfortable.

The water clean.

The sanitation proper.

And then the war ended.

And the victors moved the red corrugated iron buildings of the Uitenhage Concentration Camp to the New Brighton Location.

And they rusted.

Red in the sun.

And Red Location was born.

More of the same.

For so often Governments do not govern to the benefit of all the people of the land.

A civilized lot we are.

We’ve convinced ourselves.

It was Hoby the Clown who related all of this to us.

This story of Uitenhage’s Concentration Camp & its connection to the Red Location.

He is married to Popsi.

They have a son & a daughter.


And Popsicle.

We’ve been to many war memorial sites.

Never before have we been met by Clowns.

Hoby & Popsi & their children run the Memory Factory.

A touch farm.


Children’s parties.

They’re eager to talk about the past.

The present.

The future.

About hope.



And ‘stupidly’ following your heart.

Against all odds.

Living a life less ordinary.

I admire them, I think as we get into the Alfa Romeo Giulietta to make our way to Wild Cats World for lunch and an extraordinary experience with spotted cats.

The drive is easy.

Open road, quickly eaten by the Italian Automobile’s appetite.

Lunch is simple.

Then Maxie takes us through this project’s visitor area.

We meet Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, Lynx and Genet & Tierboskat.

They conserve.


Eventually release.

And along the way, in order to pay vet’s bills & feed bills & staff salaries, we get the opportunity to see them.

Meet them.

Touch them.

We are delighted that a project such as this exist.

We are saddened that our world has come to this.

A place so harsh for so many.

The drive home in the late afternoon is fast.

The Giulietta a red dash on black tar.

We’ve seen some of what the Uitenhage-area offer us.

There is still a science centre.

Beautiful seventeenth & eighteenth century architecture.

The Despatch Chimney.

Despatch Museum.

Victoria Tower.

As we twist on forgotten country roads to our little wooden house, we talk of our story.

South Africa’s.


Through centuries.

Filled to the brim with adversity.

And hardship.


And animosity.

Yet also filled with hope.

Relentless hope.

Beyond imagination.

Categories: Nelson Mandela Bay, Uncategorized, Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments


Location: 680 kilometres from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay in the Freestate Province, South Africa

Date Visited: 10 – 12  February 2012 (Summer)

Website: Bloemfontein

Where we Stayed: Emtonjeni Country Lodge

Where we visited:Cheetah Experience , War Memorial , Naval Hill, Waaihoek Wesleyan Church

Recomendation: Bloemfontein is an amazing city to visit, but it is not a weekend destination, not if you travel from Nelson Mandela Bay.  Because of the distance you need at least a long-weekend.  There are no direct flights from Nelson Mandela Bay to Bloemfontein on weekends and at this time a lot of infrastructure redevelopment is being done on th eroad between our two cities, extending traveling time consideraby.  We would however recomend you take time to spend here.  It is a city filled with surprises, drenched in history.


I was surprised.

When I read about the ANC Centenary being celebrated in Bloemfontein.

I did not know it was in this city that the ANC had its origin.


It does not bring to mind the pictures often conjured by names such as Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay or Africa.

South Africans know where this city is.

As they travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg, they often pass on its outskirts or stop there for a moment’s respite, before continuing their journey.

It is not regarded as a ‘holiday’ destination.

And it wasn’t for holiday that we made this journey.

There is a difference between ‘holidaying’ and ‘traveling’.

Traveling is about discovery.


It is about ‘becoming’.


As we connect with people and places outside of our little bit of world.

We wanted to investigate, for ourselves, our country’s rich and diverse history.

Bloemfontein: the place where an obscure Wesleyan Church hides in the shadow of an Apartheid-era power station’s 3 cooling towers and the obelisk of a monument reaches to the sky to hide the shame of a president’s obstinacy.

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The University of the Freestate was kind enough to make a historian available to our tribe for this weekend-trip.

Not a young junior lecturer.

One of the members of their senior management who works in the Rector’s Office.

‘Our perspective influences what we deem important’, he says.  ‘If you read English history the war of 1899 – 1902 is insignificant and obscure.  In South Africa of the 1940’s and 1950’s it was elevated to a core moment in our country’s history.  And to us it probably was.  To the BaSotho the destruction of mission stations & the looting of schools & the redistribution of land wich preceded this war was probably more significant.’


Cooling towers of an intrusive power station are a more significant monument to some than an obelisk surrounded bemtionaly charged bronze statues.

On Saturday the historian takes us up Naval Hill from where we have a panoramic view of the city.

He shows us the Bloemfontein of 1854 & walks us through the arival of rail transport & poverty as people lose their jobs to industrialised new transport systems.  He shows us where a people lived & where they were moved too, like pieces on a chess board, or objects, when their homes needed to make space for a new power plant.

He shows us the Churches and schools of a city which really started out as an English setlement.

He shows us the trinity of power in juxtaposition to the memorial obelisk.

We look to the site of a refugee camp, later known as a ‘consentration camp’.

The ‘auswitz’ of Afrikaners.

Who did not learn from opresion & war & death.

Who replicated the atrocities visited upon them.

We drive to that memorial.

‘What motivated the errection of such a memorial’, I ask.

‘Guilt, perhaps’, he says.

It seems the war of 1899 – 1902 could’ve ended a few months after it was declared, in the summer of 1900 after the two capitals were siezed.

Imagine that.

There would’ve been no burnt earth.

No 27 000 women & children dead.

How different a future can be, if our leaders choose differently.

‘Was there a reason for this war’, my son enquires.

‘Is there ever a good reason for war’, the historian suggests.

The men who gathered in that little Wesleyan Church did not seek war.

They were teachers, ministers, lawyers – educated men who received exceptional training from french and english and german missionaries.

Informed men.

“Althoug, as a race, we possess the unique destinctionof being the first born sons of this great and beautiful continent; although as a race we can claim an ancestry more ancient than almost any round about us, yet as citizens of the glorious British Empire , we are the last born children … we must still be careful ever to seek out the way where wisdom (not mere sentiment or desire) leadeth … the bright path illumined by rightiousness and reason …”

Rev. John L. Dube

Principal of the Ohlange Native Industrial School.

He presents himself, with the acceptance of the presidency of the South African Natve National Congress, somewhat different than how he and his kind was presented by a history rewritten after 1948.

On Saturday afternoon we take a respite from the challenges to our mind.

We visit the Cheetah Experience.

We hold wild cats and fondle baby lion.

We are amazed by these resilient animals, perhaps the first inahbitants of our continent, now dependant on our kind’s grace for survival.

They have been slaughtered.

For that is what we do.

And then in gracious benevolence we conserve & rebuild.

And make attractions of what was once free.

‘We must breakfast together’, the historian insists.

And that we do.

And then we’re off to that Wesleyan Church.

We drive through the city’s historical section.

We see the old presidency.

Government buildings.

The court of apeals.

The deserted Church is overshadowed by that trinity of power.




We drive through Batho.

We see the homes built in the 1920’s in stark contrast to the characterless boxes of apartheid and post-apartheid.

Praises eminate from churches on the corners of every street.

I wonder about the influence of Churches in our little bit of world.

I wonder what the Rev Dube would be preaching this morning.

No sentimentality.

No mere desire.

I wonder if we will be mature enough as a people to discover a different history.

Before lunch we start the journey home.

We travel past the magnificent Gariep Dam through deserted towns called ‘Hofmeyer’ and ‘Steynsburg’.

We stop for lunch in Cradock.

Home of the Cradock Four.

Who were assassinated.

Of whom Nelson Mandela said: ‘The death of these gallant freedom fighters marked a turning point in the history of our Struggle. No longer could the regime govern in the old way. They were the true heroes of the struggle.’

Everywhere our history is dark as the setting sun.

Yet, bright as the break of dawn.

If only we could see past ourselves.

Past the perceptions incubated in a misplaced social experiment.

It is dark when we reach our home.

Our stay at Emtonjeni Country Lodge was exquisite.  One of those undiscovered gems.  A country ‘hotel’ on the outskirts of  city.  Filled with beautiful original art, antique furniture and warm people.

Our journey through history was unsettling.

We’ve traveled 1360 kilometers.

We’ve discovered more than words can describe.

Perhaps we should travel more & holiday less.

Challenging ourselves.

Taking responsibility for a future which will unfold, regardless of our own prejudice.

Click HERE to Watch Our Family Video :-)

Categories: Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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