P.O. Box Mail – To Boot- South Africa

“I write of South Africa, where my heart sometimes resides, and my mind often drifts back to, across the distance of lands and oceans. South AfricaAn Africa that always beats with a strong heart of different people, languages and cultures, who irrefutably call this land their home.”

From Ladysmith we will happily travel back to the Indian Ocean, this time to Mossel Bay, 1178 kms by road.

Over 500 years ago the very first letter was posted in a mail box in South Africa addressed to Joao da Nova, an explorer.  Imagine that!

It hung from a tree in Mossel Bay.

mossel bay

It was in the form of a boot hanging from a Melkbos (Milkwood) tree, left by seafarers of a ship that limped into a bay after a terrible storm had almost wrecked their ship and drowned his captain Bartolomeu Diaz of Portugal. 

They were rounding the The Cape of Storms, later named the Cape of Good Hope, where many sailors lost their lives in a quest to find the sea route to India.  These mariners were lucky, so they moved to calmer waters into the protection of Mossel Bay to rest and repair damage, then named by previous Portuguese mariners as “The watering place of St. Blaize.”

mail tree

His message was a sad one but he hoped to let others, including Joao know that this tragedy had happened.  It was a success.  Today the melkbos tree is still identifiable, near to a fresh water spring.  A stone postbox has been erected, in the shape of a shoe, where you can post letters.  This is quite a tourist attraction.mail box boot

What began with a letter in a boot hanging from a tree, became the regular postbox for travellers in the 1500’s onwards.  A shrine was also erected there by the Portuguese.  When the Dutch took over the Cape province, they found that the fresh mussels in the bay were very tasty after being weeks at sea; and named it Mossel Bay. 

Ostrich male and female

The Dutch erected the first proper building, a granary.  Mossel Bay became a port of note.  Famous for its export of feathers  from the Karoo, during the Ostrich Feather Fashion Boom in the 19th and 20th centuries.

ostrich head

I couldn’t resist this one, his little face is facinating!

santos beach view

Later the new Governer of the Cape, an Englishman, Sir Harry Smith tried to rename Mossel Bay, Aliwal South after the battle of Aliwal in India had been won, but the name did not stick. 

Mossel Bay it is!


Some say their mussels have been fished away; but the restuarants still have them on the menu!!

Mossel Bay, Beach

1) Visit Mossel Bay

2) rest and repair

3) post a letter and then

4) Ahhhhhhh… Route 57 Restuarant!(link above on restaurants)

More next week on Jenny’s Alphabe Thursday.


About liz2you

Life just happens when you plan something else. 50 years spent in Africa and relevant stories.
This entry was posted in Alphabet Thursday, History, Indian Ocean, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to P.O. Box Mail – To Boot- South Africa

  1. I am especially captivated by that magnificent melkbos tree. It reminds me of something Robinson Crusoe would have found on his island!

    What a magical place this is.

    Thank you always for sharing it.


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