Sunday, December 10, 2006

African Images #2, Southern African lighthouses

Hope you have a bit of time on your hands, because this has turned into a marathon, so make a cup of coffee, grab a biscuit or two and settle in.

I thought I may as well give you the next thrilling installment of pictures celebrating the diversity of Africa, this time it is lighthouses. I am including a map in case you are interested to see where they are. This is by no means complete, just some of the pretty old masonry ones, (there are newer metal ones that aren't as exciting) and I have a nasty gap in Kwa Zulu Natal, so need to plan a trip some time! I also seem to have misplaced my photo of the Danger Point lighthouse in Gans Baai, which is a pity, as the place is memorable for 2 things. 1. That is where (insane) people climb into the most rickety, flimsey looking cages you have ever seen, and go diving amongst the Great White Sharks that proliferate there, and 2. The cafe sold us the most revolting, rancid french fries ever, eeeuughgh! So we ended up feeding them to the seagulls, and got some cool photos which I will share one of these days when we do birds or wildlife. By the way, don't fall about laughing when you see how out of date the map is, I photographed it from an atlas I had when I was at school, 'nuff said!

So without further ado, tar rah rah raaaah.... here is #1. Swakopmund in Namibia (one of my MOST favourite places, with old German architecture and a cosmopolitan atmosphere), undergoing a facelift as you can see from the brave chaps hanging on the side! Since this is positioned on an extremely treacherous coastline, known as the skeleton coast, it really earns its keep!

#2 is one of my favourites, because you can stay there! The lilac building is the old lighthouse, and they rent it out as a bed and breakfast. The 360 degree views from the top of the tower are spectacular! On the rocks just below it is #3, the much more boring working lighthouse, on a steel lattice tower.

#4 is nearby, further down the coast at Pelican Point. Not the most spectacular, it is very remote and isolated, but around it are salty pans full of flamingoes and pelicans, and they really ARE fabulous. The cold Benguela current flows on this coast, causing fog banks and making it very dangerous for shipping.

Moving from Namibia into South Africa, we have a detour to #5 at Lamberts Bay, which is a cute West Coast fishing village. I am cheating here, this is not strictly speaking a lighthouse, more like a beacon at the end of the pier, but I wanted you to pop in here, because later on in the series we will come back and visit the spectacular gannet colony, when we do African wildlife.

We then head for Capetown, and another famous place for difficult sailing, in fact it used to be called "Cape of Storms", which explains the abundance of warning lights on this part of the coast.
We start with a distant view of #6, the Milnerton lighthouse, with Table Mountain in the background, and as an added bonus (for no extra charge) our tour includes the famous tablecloth on the mountain. (This is a phenomenon caused by air condensing as it rises up the mountain from the other side, and it pours over this side to form clouds known as the tablecloth).
Moving south, the next one is #7, Greenpoint Lighthouse, which is right in the thick of things, near the harbour and waterfront, a pretty old building with its diagonal red stripes. (each lighthouse on the coast has a unique paint design, in combinations of red, white or black, to help ships that may be lost establish where they are.)
#8 is called the "slangkop" lighthouse, which is translated from the Afrikaans as "snake head." It is made of metal panels bolted together, and as you can see is very tall. The sunset over the Atlantic helps make it rather picturesque!
#9 and #10 are right on the southern tip of Cape point. The Historic lighthouse was too high, and so an new one had to be built further down the rocks.
Now we move Eastwards to #11, Cape Aghulas, which is the southern most point of Africa. I couldn't resist including the misty photo, and wish I could take credit for it, but it was taken by Meg. She lives in Southermost, which is, as the name suggests, the most southerly house in Africa. When we do Architecture, we will visit her there.
#12 is fascinating, because, as you can see, it was built over a cave! It is Cape Blaze lighthouse in Mossel Bay.
No prizes for guessing that the next one is one of my favourite spots on the planet! #13 is Seal Point Lighthouse in Cape St Francis, and if you look over old blogs you will see that I often wax lyrical about it (sorry, sigh, but I do get carried away by my little enthusiasms!!) Anyway after agonizing over the millions of pictures I have of it, here are just a few to show its many moods. It is the tallest masonry lighthouse tower in South Africa, and the walls are 2 m thick at the base.
It is brilliantly engineered, with a series of domes for strength, so every now and then, as you climb it, you pass through a little porthole and into the next one. It also has really pretty cast iron detailing, and the exterior stonework is lovely, when you compare it to how buildings are slapped together these days.
The prisms that magnify the light intruige me. We are so accustomed to computer designed and cut things now, it is amazing to think that all this was worked out and the optical glass hand cut to such precision, so that a very small light source can glow at regular intervals, for miles. The whole top of the lighthouse used to be operated by clockwork, and the keeper had to climb up every 4 hours to pull the weights to the top again. Now it is all mechanised so his life is a bit easier!
Moving on we get to my home turf, and here I have to hang my head in shame and blush furiously, because when I numbered the map, I clean forgot that we have 2 lighthouses in Port Elizabeth, one historic one which now houses a military museum, and the operating one at Cape Receife.
So here you have #14 A, the Donkin lighthouse and memorial. The new Governer to this area, Sir Rufane Donkin, arrived by ship from India in the 1800's, and his beloved wife Elizabeth died on the way. He called the town Port Elizabeth in her memory, and had her heart buried here, with the pyramid over it. (Sounds a bit creepy to me but hey, different strokes...)
..and #14B, the Cape Receife lighthouse, which, as you can see from the sign, isn't all that new, but newer than Donkin.
#15 takes us East to the Great Fish River, an isolated lighthouse set on a dune amongst coastal bush.
We then get to the next major town along the coast, East London, and # 16 the Hood Point Lighthouse, which is a beauty, set near the harbour at the mouth of the Buffalo River, and with an interesting "keyhole" window, and lovely cast iron and brass details which are lovingly maintained by the staff.
Finally we move all the way up the East coast, and to Beira in Mozambique, where we find #17, the Makuti Lighthouse, scene of many happy childhood holidays. This Photo was taken on my old Brownie box camera so you must know we are REALLY going back in time here! There was a shipwreck next to it for years, and I must have been about 11 or 12 when we were there on holiday, and I took a photo of it. That night there was a massive storm and the whole side of the wreck was washed away. That must be one of the last photos of it, I will try and fish it out of its hiding place and post it sometime!

2 comments:

DebR said...

Wow, these are gorgeous photos! I'm lovin' the house renovation pics too.

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