The Amatola and Stormberg region of the Eastern Cape encompasses the Frontier Country which has seen more than 100 years of frontier wars and extends northwards to include the Karoo plains and majestic mountains of the far north of the region. The small town of Adelaide was established as a military outpost in the Frontier Wars and sits at the base of the Winterberg mountains. The town is named after Queen Adelaide, consort to King George IVth.
By far the largest town in this region is East London, sitting on the banks of the Buffalo River. East London is South Africa's only river port and is the gateway to the Sunshine Coast. The town has developed into a holiday resort and an important commercial and industrial centre with cosy pubs, good restaurants and a vibrant night-life. Visitors to East London have the whole of the Frontier Wars areas to explore and can enjoy some of South Africa's most beautiful countryside. The prosperity of the city is built on vehicle assembly, electronics, citrus, wool and pineapples. It is adjacent to the holiday resort of Gonubie situated on the lagoon of the Ganubie River.
The Amatola town of Port Alfred sits on the banks of the Kowie River. Some commercial fishing is carried out from here but the town has undergone a rapid expansion in recent years in the development of holiday homes, sometimes at the expense of the local amenities. Just a few kilometers inland from Port Alfred is the old English village of Bathurst, boasting both the oldest pub and the oldest Anglican church in South Africa. Just outside Bathurst is Bradshaw's Mill, a water-wheel driven wool mill built in 1820. Bathurst was initially intended to be the administration centre for the 4000 British settlers who immigrated to the area in the 1820s, a task that later fell to Grahamstown. The nearby community of Martindale was witness to a rail disaster in 1911 when the local train from Port Alfred to Grahamstown plunged off the Blaauwkrantz Bridge killing 26 souls. Martindale is now a centre for pineapples and cattle farming.
Grahamstown is now the administration centre for the Amatola region of the Eastern Cape. Every year, in July, is held the world famous Grahamstown National Arts Festival, the largest cultural event in the southern hemisphere, where upwards of 400 separate performances of dance, music and theater can be seen during the 11 days of the festival. The 1820 Settler National Monument is set in a wildflower reserve next to the Botanical Gardens, and the Cathedral of St Michael and St George with the tallest spire in South Africa is the city's most prominent landmark.
Perhaps the most well-known village in the Amatola and Stormberg region of the Eastern Cape is Hogsback, set in a fairytale landscape of mountains and ancient forest. The village is a very popular holiday destination, and the visitor can enjoy walks through the forest past giant ferns and massive yellowwoods. Here you can enjoy hiking, horse riding, climbing, swimming and fishing, and can relax in the evening in front of a large log fire. The area around Hogsback with its wonderful old forests was the inspiration for JRR Tolkien s books.
Stormberg in the very North of the region is the site of the Battle of Stormberg fought on 9th December 1899 and won by the Boers a disastrous defeat to the British who lost 90 men and had a further 600 taken prisoner. The whole of the Amatola and Stormberg region of the Eastern Cape is steeped in history. The region is ideal for hiking, climbing and mountain-biking as well as fly-fishing and canoeing.
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