25 January 2013

South Africa - Grahamstown Day Trip

Grahamstown Suburbs

Grahamstown is an easy day trip from Colchester (Addo) so we set off after breakfast. The drive out was pleasant with not much traffic. Everything is very green despite it being mid-summer. There are a vast number of game lodges in the area from Colchester to Grahamstown - so you are spoilt for choice if this is your what you wish to do. We saw some giraffe, zebra and buck from the road.
Grahamstown was started off as a small military outpost in 1812 by British Officer, Colonel John Graham during the turbulent frontier wars. It grew into a market town and was once the second largest city after Cape Town!! Can you imagine! Not any more - Cape Town beats it hands down. Sorry, Grahamstown.

The 1820 British Settlers also arrived in the town and they established many of the schools and churches still in use today. Grahamstown has Rhodes University and a wander through the grounds was pleasant although it is too early in the year for students. Unfortunately, the Botanical Gardens, which adjoin the university, are in very poor condition and not worth the name "Botanical" despite being right opposite the Botany Department! Neglected and looking really sad, it's a great shame. The University grounds are well kept and a pleasure to wander around.
Grahamstown boasts the oldest Red Post Box in the country and a letter posted here will receive a special frank. It is quite difficult to find as there are no signs and no special plaque when you reach the spot on corner of Worcester and Somerset Roads.
The views from Signal Hill are lovely over the town - sadly, there was a fire on the mountain behind us so the town was covered in smoke. The 1820's Monument on the hill hosts the Grahamstown Festival annually - however, we were rather disturbed by the fact that the memorial bench to the founder was not maintained and the paths are full of weeds. It's a shame.
The centre of the town has many interesting buildings and is certainly worth a wander. The locals don't need cell phones - they shout across traffic and so loudly that everybody can hear them!!!!
The most exciting find for us was the museum which houses the Observatory Museum which in turn houses the only authentic Camera Obscura in the Southern Hemisphere. It provides a 360 degree view of Grahamstown once you have climbed the 70 or so steps!! It is a completely fascinating experience seeing traffic going past way down below plus seeing all the buildings in colour.

There are 5 museums in the town - we only had time to visit the one.
The cathedral of St Michael and St George was started in 1824 and took a 128 years to complete - only finished in 1952 - can you imagine building for so many years? Incredible! Grahamstown is known as "the city of saints" as there are no less than 52 places of worship. Holy people, so hopefully a peaceful place to live!
Church Square has a number of monuments and is an interesting part of town.
There are a number of coffee shops and restaurants in the town when you start feeling peckish.
The drive back to Colchester was rather hairy as the EC (Eastern Cape) drivers were hell-bent on getting somewhere fast so were overtaking on double lines, blind rises etc. Seeing this sort of driving behaviour it is not surprising that the death toll on South Africa's roads over the 2012 Festive season was so high. Cowboy drivers. We were stopped twice - on the road to Grahamstown plus on the way back - for licence checks. The cops/traffic police would be better employed checking the motorists who are totally reckless and endanger other peoples lives.
Safely back at our B&B, we breathed a sigh of relief!!

© Judelle Drake

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