One of the lovely things about friends and family moving away, is that it gives you the task of visiting places that you may possibly give a miss on an another day. A friend of ours recently moved to Port Elizabeth (PE) – the friendly city – and it’s the reason we drove those extra kilometres through the garden route for a brief 48 hours.
Port Elizabeth is also called the “windy city” but we didn’t really experience that when we were there. Maybe we arrived on a good day. Our friends had been staying in PE for about a year but in the routine of work and life, hadn’t quite gotten around to seeing the sights. So, since we had done some research before arriving, we ended up showing them around. We made them walk quite a bit, got them sunburnt and then said our goodbyes. Yes, I felt bad but at least we all had a good time.
I love walking tours. Walking through forgotten buildings and revitalised places; some sad, some compelling, others joyous. More importantly, I like stories behind old historical churches, hotels and all the different people who passed through there over the years. So, I always look for walking tours when I visit a place. I generally look for guided tours for those extra nuggets but we didn’t have the time to organise one, so we took the self-guided option of “the iconic Route 67 arts, culture, heritage route.”
Route 67 is made up of 67 public art works symbolising Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of political life and work dedicated to the struggle for freedom in South Africa. The route starts at the Campanile Monument is a high tower with the largest carillon of bell in the country. It’s revived now to to include galleries exhibiting local art. As you walk up, you experience the build up of art and colour and are rewarded with an incredible view of the city and Harbour. However, we started near the top of the route at Donkin Reserve and made our way down. Walking back up again was a bit brutal as it was a scorcher of a day.
The Donkin Reserve is an historical attraction in the city. There’s rolling green spaces with great pieces of art. Each with thoughtful inspiration and interpretations. It is also, we discovered, a lovely place for a quiet date with your person. Sweet couples were dotted along the reserve, holding hands looking at art, taking pictures. I suppose it’s fitting as the stone pyramid was build by Sir Rufane Donkin in memory of his wife. Perhaps the spirit of love is all around this light house.
The light house overlooks the piazza where a beautiful mosaic in the piazza with a collection of art made up of a kaleidoscope of colours flows together in the form of cars, wind mills and shapes.
We started near the top at Donkin Reserve and made our way down. of course that meant we had to walk back up again. Walking up helps you experience the build up of art and colour and you are rewarded with an incredible view of the city and Harbour.
For about R10, you can exlpore the inside of the light house. The stairs inside are steep and narrow. The climb to the top is not for the faint hearted. The higher you climb, the darker it becomes with only a few windows lighing the space. Only Steve and I made it to the top (we lost our friends halfway up) but it was well worth the effort.
As you walk along the route, you find some of these installations. These are some of the ones I took decent pictures of.
This part of the walk also has special art work really celebrating Freedom. A long queue of people waiting to vote hugs the walls, all the way down yellow crosses mark how long the winding queue was and it culminates in a statue of Nelson Mandela under a Great South African Flag.
We visited PE, the annual Port festival was on. Basically, the port opens to the public to view and learn about what happens in the port. The are various ships you can board and explore, water sports, air exhibitions and an opportunity to watch all the machinery in action. It also had a fair atmosphere, so there kiddies rides, musical performances and food stalls.
Steve was bored at the festival. I loved it. “Look at the port machines in action,” I said. “Where have you seen that before?” I suppose it’s not for everyone but if you are in town when there have the festival. I reckon you go and explore it.
You are on the coast, so of course a stop at the beach is mandatory. If anything, so you can say “the water is much warmer that Cape Town.” There are few restaurants along the way. We had dinner at Something Good Road House and then lunch at Barneys on the beach front the next day. Both served hearty pub grub. We also just took a picnic down to the beach for a sunset on our second evening. When I heard that PE was the also called “the windy city,” I genuinely thought I’d be in a vortex most of the time. Sorry PE, I didn’t know.
Addo Elephant National Park
The Addo elephant park is technically not in PE. It’s actually about 30 minutes outside PE but again, since we were there anyway, we spent our second day there. The park was established in 1931 to save 11 Elephants on the verge of extinction, now there are over 600.
The park has a variety of animals but as the name says, it has a special spot for elephants. We spent a couple of hours watching them at various watering holes, took in the sights at the viewing decks and stopped for a picnic lunch and refreshments in the park. There are a couple of picnic spots with benches and tables.
All in all, it was a great 48 hours and I’m glad we took the time to visit Port Elizabeth. Okay friends, who is moving where?