The Mossel Bay Protea Hotel has unveiled a giant post box in its garden next door to the Dias Museum Complex – home of the famous Post Office Tree.
“The owner of the hotel, JJ Moorcroft, has always wanted a giant post box because of our association with the Tree,” said the Café Gannet Janine Shippen (the Café Gannet is the hotel’s in-house restaurant).
“We think it’s a fun attraction for our guests and visitors.”
Mossel Bay Tourism’s Marcia Holm said that the post box – which is painted a traditional bright red – was a salute to the venerable old milkwood that’s known as the Post Office Tree.
“Whenever we deal with overseas visitors or tour operators, they want to know about the Post Office Tree. The Portuguese and – not surprisingly – the Brazilians are particularly interested, but people from all over the world ask us about it.
“Everyone seems to know about it.
“They love the fact that letters posted at the Tree are still stamped with a special commemorative frank,” she said.
Ms. Holm said that the Post Office Tree was first used in 1500 when Pêro de Ataide hid a letter for João da Nova in a boot (or possibly an iron pot) in its branches.
“de Ataide was part of Pedro Álvares Cabral’s expedition toIndiawhich aimed to break the spice monopolies that were held by the Arabs, the Turks, and the Italians,” she said.
“After the fleet had been forced to flee from the Indian city ofCalicut, de Ataide’s ship became separated from the others, and he eventually landed up inMosselBay.
“While he was here, and knowing that King Manuel I of Portugal had ordered da Nova to lead the Third India Armada (which sailed some time after Cabral), he decided to warn him of the situation in India.
“It’s almost incredible to believe, but da Nova found the letter in all the wilderness that was then the South African coastline, and, armed with the intelligence it provided, went on to fight Portugal’s first significant naval battle in the Indian Ocean – and to defeat the Calicut fleet off Cannanore on the 31st of December, 1501.”
Ms. Holm said that people have been posting letters at the Post Office Tree ever since.
“It’s become one ofMosselBay’s biggest tourism attractions,” she said.
Ms. Shippen said that the giant post box isn’t an ‘official’ posting site of the South African Post Office. “But with their permission, we collect the cards and letters in it every day, and post them in the box under the Tree.
“That way, they still get stamped with the Post Office Tree frank.”
Ms. Shippen said that very few guests could reach the slot in the Hotel’s 2.85 metre-high box.
“That’s why we have that ladder there,” she said.
Mossel Bay- www.visitmosselbay.co.za and www.facebook.com/visitmosselbay
Protea Hotel Mossel Bay- www.oldposttree.co.za