YOU may or may not know that the first cricket and rugby test matches played in South Africa took place in Port Elizabeth – but do you know the story of the “unfinished freeway”?
Fascinating history, architecture, public spaces and more recent events are woven into a rich tapestry of Nelson Mandela Bay in Gladwyn Jackson’s recently launched Walk the City Tours.
“We offer people who walk with us the opportunity to discover the gems of the city which have almost become forgotten,” Jackson said.
The Port Elizabeth guesthouse owner invited 11 pupils from the Harvest Christian School along with My Weekend on a complementary tour which began at the South End Museum.
He was assisted by NMMU fourth-year tourism students Jordin and Jayde Brooks who are doing their treatise on the perceptions of tourists and locals regarding the development of Walk the City Tours.
They handed the children a quiz and crossword puzzle, which they could tackle in small groups, about all the historical sites.
“It creates a more informed pupil who can speak proudly and confidently about his or her city,” Jordin said.
“Students will also receive a certificate which confirms that he or she has walked the city centre’s heritage route.”
Students were shown into the museum where they learnt about the political forced removals of the apartheid era.
They were also told about the history of sport, poetry and fishing and the communities in the city.
They were introduced to old South End heroes such as anti-apartheid campaigners Omar Cassem and Molly Blackburn.
“This is what it’s all about – we can’t really speak proudly about the city if we don’t know the city,” Jackson said.
Moving along, we walked across the road to the Old Fig Tree, where Jackson explained it was the only thing that had not been destroyed during the segregation.
“In the days of the old South End, before the Group Areas Act resulted in the removal of the people from the area, the kids used to climb this tree while the older people sat in its shade.
“When the people were removed and the buildings in the area demolished, the fear was that the tree would also be chopped down. Luckily this didn’t happen.
“It is thought that the tree is over 100 years old.”
Turning to the South End “Green Mosque”, near the bottom of Walmer Boulevard, Jackson noted that it had once been threatened by demolition.
“They wanted a freeway off-ramp to run across the land. They didn’t get very far,” he said.
He said his walking tour idea was created to add an alternative green aspect to tourism.
“We reduce the carbon footprint by walking, we keep healthy and we create a closer bond with the city and its people.
“Our three-hour tour is available to schools and tertiary institutes to enhance their learning as part of their curriculum. It’s an opportunity for pupils to experience a part of the city they would not visit by themselves or with the family.
“The idea is to offer a walk which is safe, and which couples fun with learning. We aim to rekindle the pride in and increase local knowledge of our city.
“Walks are also a perfect team-building experience for corporate businesses or to showcase the city to their company visitors while taking up spare time,” he said.
The walks are easy and suitable for all ages from 12 years and older.
Through managing Abahambi Luxury Guest House, Jackson said he identified the need to offer tourists who love the outdoors and a healthy lifestyle a holiday with a difference.
The walking route includes the Old Fig Tree, South End Mosque, Bartholomew Diaz Garden, the “unfinished freeway”, the harbour, the Campanile and Market Square.
The cost for students is R70 per person, which includes a free branded Walk the City sling bag. Tourists pay R250 for the tour and receive the branded sling bag filled with goodies. “The goody bag includes a health bar, mineral water, a muffin, a fruit, and nuts and proudly states “I have walked Port Elizabeth city centre,” he said.
Bookings can be made via e-mail and this must be done at least 48 hours prior to the walk via email@example.com or the website www.portelizabethtours.co.za
For more information contact Gladwyn on (041) 368-8871 or 071-009-9418.