“I write of South Africa, where my heart sometimes resides, and my mind often drifts back to, across the distance of lands and oceans. An 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
I couldn’t resist this one, his little face is facinating!
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!!
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.