After our amazing experience at Ntafufu… it was time to move on.

We decided to meet up with Nick’s cousins in Plettenberg Bay where the family has a lovely little holiday apartment.  However – Plett is far from Ntafufu… and so we decided to do the trip in two days.

After spending a number of hours on the road, we stopped off at East London.  Admittedly, after spending a couple of blissful days on completely deserted beaches – it was a VERY different scenario when we arrived at Gonubie and a beach full of thousands of littering holiday-makers.  This instantly put me in a bad mood and I wanted to turn around and drive straight back to the Wild Coast.  But I had a bit of an epiphany… and wrote about it here.

The following day, before driving the rest of the journey to Plett… we stopped off at the East London museum.  I have been on a bit of a mission to discover more about my family history… and due to a post that I had written a few months ago, I had been contacted by family members who told me that my great-great-great grandfather had owned a travelling fair and spent much of his life in East London (and had survived a shipwreck there too!).  I was hoping to find out more about the shipwreck (East London museum has a big section on ships that were wrecked in the area).

I loved the East London museum!  It was like… stepping back in time.  The museum was opened in the 1930’s… and to me, it seems as though nothing has changed since then.  Same polished parquet floors… same displays (featuring lots and lots of dead, stuffed creatures)… even the descriptions and tags on the various displays have the same typed explanations (typed on an old typewriter – that is!).

It’s like the museum is… in itself… a museum!

The East London museum offers a mish-mash of displays and information.  They’re probably most famous for the 1938 discovery of the Coelacanth (prehistoric fish that everyone thought was… well… long extinct).  They also have the world’s only Dodo egg.  For us, it was a fascinating morning.  Here are some pics:

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Also – I made an interesting discovery (about my family history) that confirmed a story that my newly-discovered relative told me about how my great-great-great grandfather met his eventual end.

The story goes like this:

During the Boer war Athanassois got a job making bell tents for the British.  It was a speed commission and he enlisted sail-makers to help him.  I’m guessing that he was just hustling, because he wasn’t doing the fair anymore, possibly because the kids were too old to travel, I don’t know.  What is certain is that it was a rush job, and I’m guessing payment was dependant on the goods being delivered in time.  Anyway, he got his sail-makers to stitch together the triangles which make up a bell tent.  Think about the shape, the small ends of the triangle at the top and the big ends at the bottom.  The sail-not-tent-makers stitched the pieces end-to-end, ie small point up then small point down, which resulted in them making strips of canvas, not bell tents.  When Athanassios realised what had happened and how much time had been wasted, he threw a fit and died there and then of a heart attack.

For some reason… when I pictured the scene of Athanassios and the tents – I always imagined that it happened inland… somewhere near Joburg.  But sure enough, at the East London museum, I discovered a collection of old photographs of tent refugee camps that sprung up during the Boer war – and a huge one on the East London beach!  Surely that was where Athanassois was working – and possibly even died!

Here’s a (bad) photo that I took of the photo:

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You can even see the bell tents (that Athanassios was commissioned to make).  If we had been in East London for longer, I would have scoured the oldest graveyards to see if I could find the grave of Athanassios Vedovitch.

That will have to wait for next time…