Recently, Briony Chisholm – the blogger from navelgazer101.wordpress.com – visited Nelson Mandela Bay and explored plenty of Bay activities. We checked in with her, asked about her best memories and also how she experienced the Bay in terms of its wheelchair accessibility.
Tell us more about your blog…
I’ve been blogging for years, first anonymously with a ‘diary-type’ blog, and then with Navelgazer I decided to be ‘brave’ and get my stuff out there. The travelling I’ve always done and my best stories are those of my travels – places I’ve seen, people I’ve met … all the things that make travelling so wonderful, mind-opening and horizon-broadening.
Last year we travelled for six months in my capacity as a pharmacist for the National HIV TB Hotline (a position I’ve now stopped for a while to focus on travelling). Our mission was to visit the most rural clinics to tell them about the hotline.
We travelled through seven provinces (excluding Gauteng and Western Cape), slept 60 nights away from home (each night in a different place), flew 12 992 km, and drove 9 950 km (mostly on back roads). I loved every minute. When I got back, I decided I needed to branch out and start writing about travelling in a wheelchair – there is SO little info out there. Generic websites have a tick box for accessibility but this, more-often-than-not, is completely inaccurate
The fact that so many people aren’t getting to see our beautiful country because there’s so little info on accessibility was too much. My aim: to visit places and give solid, personal information on accessibility so that people can see whether (or not … some places are just impossible) they can manage. If I haven’t been there, I’m not writing about it.
The bottom line: I want other people in wheelchairs (or with physical difficulties) to experience the joy of exploring this beautiful country (and I’m perfectly happy to do the reccie missions to make that possible!)
We are celebrating Tourism Month in September and the focus is on sustainable tourism and to get locals to travel more domestically. As a blogger with itchy feet, what is your message to fellow itchy-feet-sufferers who want to explore their surroundings?
Go! South Africa has so many incredible places to visit – from the cities to the tiny towns to the incredible wild in-between. Pack a bag, get in your car and explore. There is almost nowhere in South Africa where you can’t drive for an hour or two and find yourself somewhere interesting, with stories to tell, places to see and people to meet. Just get out there!
You recently visited Nelson Mandela Bay, where did you go and what did you do?
Ably guided by the knowledgeable Tony Neveling, we explored the beautiful Cape Recife Reserve, met the penguins at SANCCOB and saw the canon at Sacramento on our first afternoon, before having a fabulous dinner in vibey Stanley Street.
Our second day was spent driving and then ambling through the CBD, being amazed by the beautiful public art of Route 67 and the wonderful mix of historical buildings and modern art and ideas, before popping in at the Atheaneum to admire the beadwork and then heading onto the fort. In the afternoon we drove to the Sundays River and enjoyed a peaceful trip on the Sundays River ferry, watching the birdlife and being lucky enough to see a legavaan trying to eat its lunch of a rather large ray!
Day three took us to Addo where we saw a huge number of elephants, buck, warthogs and a lion heading into the bushes carrying its prey. What an incredible treat! A late lunch of fresh-out-of-the-sea fish in the harbor and an easy afternoon was followed in the evening by possibly the most authentic Italian experience I’ve had in South Africa, at Remo’s. I’m still dreaming of the food!
On day four we visited St Mary’s Cathedral and marveled at its ancientness and history, before greeting Queen Victoria in front of the Public Library and heading into the Feather Market to admire its gorgeous restoration and be amazed by the old posters of past performances. Who knew Queen performed in PE?! After a quick brewery tour and a tasting – that ‘lemonade’ is delicious, but dangerous – with the young guys at Richmond Hill Brewery Company, we took a lovely walk along the promenade from Summerstrand and admired the beauty of PE’s beaches.
An early last morning meeting five of the Springboks at the hoisting of the huge flag in the Donkin Reserve was the cherry on top of a fantastic visit!
What were some of your highlights during your trip?
Besides the abovementioned, there was the people. I was amazed by the friendliness of absolutely everybody we met in PE and those we didn’t meet. People smile at each other in the streets, it’s wonderful.
The other thing that really stood out was all the public art – truly accessible to everybody and a testament to the cultural wealth of the area.
Wheelchair-accessibility is always an important factor for you to keep in mind when travelling. Did you find the Bay and its attractions wheelchair-friendly?
Considering that PE – certainly central PE – is built on a steep slope, I was amazed by how accessible it was. While some places are inaccessible (the gorgeous stairs on Route 67), other parts, like the Donkin Reserve, are very accessible. The restaurants we visited were all great and, if there was a step or an obstacle, people were more-than-willing to help.
Having not been able to go on a boat for 20 years, finding an accessible boat like the Sundays River ferry was absolutely wonderful and our accommodation at the Radisson Blu was entirely accessible. The staff here, too, deserve a mention. They were amazing, all of them.
A perfect day in the Bay is…
… filled with sunshine, sea time and friendly people.
You must have had a meal or two at one of the Bay’s restaurants. Any recommendations?
Tough call as we had some amazing meals! The sushi at Fushin was the best I’ve ever eaten in South Africa and Remo’s pasta still has my mouth watering just thinking about it.
We hope that Nelson Mandela Bay will see you soon again! Are there any other attractions in the Bay you want to visit?
Yes! Four days is much too short to see everything PE has to offer. I’d love to do the Arts Journey and visit the museums (especially the Red Location Museum and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum), attend a performance at the Feather Market and visit the township to see the history and experience the culture of all who call PE, home.
I’d also love to spend some time in one of the game reserves in the area, as I love the wild, Eastern Cape bush. But not one with any kind of animal interactions – I like to see them in the wild!
A few last quick questions for you:
Friendly City or Windy City? Definitely friendly.
Bush or beach? Tough one … If I had to choose, bush.
Sunrise or sunset? Sunrise.
Road trip or flight? Road trip.
Elephants or dolphins? Elephants.
Braai or fine-dining? Both!
Museum or art gallery? Art gallery.