Eastern Cape Settler Country, South Africa

Eco Shrine Hogsback.
Bosberg Nature Trail, Bosberg Reserve, Somerset East, South Africa.

A leisurely two-day circular trail of 15 kilometres takes the ambler through the remains of indigenous forest, rich in yellowwood and wild olive.

The summit of Bloukop ridge rewards the effort with views of Somerset East and, like a mirage, flat-topped koppies roll ponderously towards the horizon. There is a dam at the top of Bloukop which is perfect for a swim after that post-uphill slog and, perhaps, a spot of trout-fishing after lunch. Spring is the best hiking season when the wildflowers are in fine fettle and the summer heat has yet to ignite the drylands. There's also a golf course next door.

Somerset Museum, Somerset East, South Africa

Life in a nineteenth century Victorian parsonage is faithfully represented in the local museum. No less incongruous in the heat of an African summer, are the 700 rose bushes that surround this little piece of England. Fancy some rose-petal jam with that cuppa? This museum ensures that visitors not only see the past but taste it too.

Walter Battiss Art Museum

This small museum has the largest collection of originals in the country by Somerset East's most well-known son, the artist Walter Battiss. In the 1950's, he was the country's first significant abstract painter, his works heavily influenced by the rock art of the San (Bushman) with whom he spent some time in 1948.

Cradock Spa, Cradock, Karoo, South Africa

A hot springs resort with indoor and outdoor pools, this is a popular family holiday. Two short hiking trails begin here, one along the banks of the Great Fish River, sadly denuded now of the hippo that once wallowed in the shallows. Accommodation runs to fully-equipped chalets and a camping site. There is a restaurant should you need a break from cooking on an open fire.

Oukop Hill, Cradock, South Africa

Take a short scenic drive up the hill for a view of Cradock where you'll find hundred year old etchings done by idle soldiers in the Anglo Boer War. Cradock's sporting possibilities include golf, tennis, squash, rugby, cricket, bowls and water sports on Grassridge Dam. There is sport-climbing and hiking in the Winterberge and trophy hunting on private farms.

Hiking, Cradock, South Africa

Hike to Olive Schreiners' grave, an early South African feminist writer. She was a quiet revolutionary at a time when a hundred years still lay ahead before women got the vote. The view across the Great Fish River Valley will eloquently explain her choice of final resting place. Her husband, her baby and her dog lie with her. Count on half a day's energetic excursion once you've got permission from the farm owner.

Great Fish River Canoe Marathon, Cradock, South Africa

September sees one of the world's top five river marathons take to the artificially regulated waters of the Orange River. If you care to follow in the wake of the professionals, there is tubing, rafting and canoeing on the Fish River from September to May.

Linglihle Graveyard, Cradock, South Africa

This is an opportunity to learn about South Africa's more recent history from a different perspective. Comrades of the liberation struggle are buried here and in addition to this visit, a traditional meal with a Xhosa family can be arranged.

Martello Tower, Fort Beaufort, South Africa

One of Fort Beaufort's most famous National Monuments, the defensive tower dates from 1837 and is a British import. They were designed after the French Revolution for coastal defence and installed along the island's vulnerable coastline. This African tower however is situated quite some way from the coast but proved useful no doubt in the frontier wars against a tide of angry Xhosa warriors.

Historical Museum, Fort Beaufort, South Africa

Fort Beaufort's museum is one of a number of national monuments in the historic town. In its original incarnation in 1830 it was the British Officers Mess, redolent with sweaty redcoats far from the accustomed cold of northern climes.However, it has been a museum now for more than seventy years and little lingers of that early past. The military museum captures what is left and the old military hospital, while incorporated into the present hospital, can still be seen. There is a nineteenth century military cemetery too for those unfortunates who did not make it out of the hospital alive.

The Victoria Bridge, Fort Beaufort, South Africa

The Victoria Bridge, built between 1840 and 1844 is a contender for one of the oldest river bridges in the country. Its architect was Andrew Geddes Baines, engineer extraordinaire of nineteenth century South Africa who routinely tamed mountains, carving rocks into roads.

Middelburg, Settler Country, South Africa

Middelberg is primarily hiking country with some mountaineering in the Compasberg There is a three-day, forty-eight kilometre circular route around the foothills of the mountain. Overnight shelters include a farmhouse and a stone mountain hut if sleeping under the sequinned canopy of the Karoo sky doesn't appeal. There are also trails of varying duration on private farms where you'll find birds and ancient rock art.

Mountain Zebra National Park, Cradock, South Africa

As the early European settlers secured land and settled down, grazing lands made way for grain. Zebra was a popular hide for making grain bags and the zebra-like quagga disappeared over the slippery slope, closely followed by his cousin the Cape Mountain Zebra. Down to a population of ninety-one in the 1950's the Mountain Zebra got lucky - luckier than his hapless cousin, at any rate.There are now some twelve hundred Cape Mountain Zebra world-wide and the Mountain Zebra National Park has one of the largest herds. 25 kilometres west of Cradock on the Middelburg road, the undulating hills and vegetation-dotted valleys of the park, harbour a variety of antelope as well as zebra.The Mountain Zebra Hiking Trail gives you three days and two nights among the flora and fauna but there are shorter nature trails as well as horse-riding excursions. Accommodation is in a restored Victorian farmhouse as well as traditional Karoo cottages. And there's always camping. This time there's no need to bring in your own provisions - there's a shop, restaurant as well as a gas station.

Hogsback Eco-shrine, Hogsback, South Africa

This small holiday resort amongst the pine trees and indigenous forest of the Hogsback mountains is an artists and eccentrics enclave. Diana Graham was one of the individual winners of this year's Mail and Guardian and WWF Green Trust awards. In her front garden in the Hogsback she has created, from cement and paint and tile, an African Stonehenge. The multi-media edifice is set on a hill overlooking the three Hogsback ridges and portrays the inter-connectedness of all life.Architecture, sculpture, mosaics and paintings weave together history, biology, science and myth into an ecological altar. Diana Graham's own work and that of other environmental artists is on display from September to January at the shrine and her home studio is open to the public. The artist in on hand to give visitors the guided tour.

Stairways Artists Community's Forest Gallery, Hogsback, South Africa

Diana Graham is but one of many artists in the Hogsback. This gallery showcases the diverse talents of some of the residents: Stone fairies and wrought iron dragons, potters and crafters and organic farming consultants who specialise in healing plants and herbal lore. It's quite a heady brew. Tolkien obviously thought so too when he drew inspiration from the Amatola mountains for his classic trilogy of Middle Earth.

St Patrick On the Hill, Hogsback, South Africa

This tiny stone and thatch church was originally built for private worship by a local family. The traditional, round, rondavel has unfortunately lost its shape in the recent extensions as it is now used by the village and has become popular for weddings.

Hiking Trails, Hogsback, Settler Country, South Africa

There are numerous well-marked walking trails through the indigenous forest and the shade provided is welcome during the summer months when the waterfalls are at their fullest. The climate however is unpredictable and in some years, snow falls in winter, transforming the pine forests into a Christmas card Europe.For those who like to hike rather than amble, the three Hogsback peaks provide the necessary challenge. Gaika's Kop is the highest at almost 2000 metres. For a longer overnight hike through the upper Hogsback contact the Safcol Forestry Station in the Hogsback. The Amatola Hiking Trail ends three kilometres from the Hogsback.For those who like to hike rather than amble, the three Hogsback peaks provide the necessary challenge. Gaika's Kop is the highest at almost 2000 metres. For a longer overnight hike through the upper Hogsback contact the Safcol Forestry Station in the Hogsback. The Amatola Hiking Trail ends three kilometres from the Hogsback.

Ruth Lock Shell Art Collection, Queenstown, South Africa

Queenstown is two hours north west of East London. Winifred Ruth Lock was born in Queenstown in 1906 and over fifty years, Aunt Ruth as she was known locally, created an extensive collection of pictures and sculptures entirely from seashells.An incongruous choice of material this so far from the sea but then, understandable perhaps, for the same reason. Ruth died in 1994 at the age of 88 but her life's work, over five hundred pieces, are housed in the three galleries which were once the family home.

JC Marshall Art Gallery, Queenstown, South Africa

This gallery houses a collection of original artworks and sculpture that feature the talents of local artists. The annual exhibition in September displays an extensive range of national works.

Lawrence de Lange and Longhill Nature Reserves, Queenstown, South Africa

Together, the two reserves cover about 1386 hectares of aloe and prehistoric cycads around the Mountain of Longhill and Madeira. Zebra, antelope and jackal are some of the bigger mammals that inhabit the bush. They can be viewed on foot or by guided vehicle tour.Prior arrangements need to be made to view the San paintings and fossils. walking trails and guided vehicle tours, bushman paintings, fossils prior arrangement.. There are picnic sites at Longhill Reserve only.

Berry Reservoir, Queenstown, South Africa

The Aloe Walking Trail around the dam offers good views of the town, picnicking spots and fishing opportunities.

Bongolo Dam, Queenstown, South Africa

Queenstown's premier watersport playground features a number of annual events including angling competitions, the Bongolo Marathon in October and the popular 'Anything that Floats' regatta.Copyright 2002 Laurianne Claase. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the permission of the author is prohibited.
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