Did you know that the oldest (unofficial) post box in South Africa is not an actual box… but a tree?
It’s true! In 1500, Pêro de Ataíde, captain of a Portuguese ship returning from the East, left a letter under a tree in Mossel Bay. The letter detailed the loss of some of the ships on their fleet and warned of troubles in the eastern seas. It was customary for passing ships to stop on the bay to take on food and fresh water, and so some years later, the letter was discovered and delivered to Portugal by another sea captain.
This was the start of the South African postal service, as seamen often left correspondence there, in the hopes of it being delivered by passing ships.
The impressive milkwood tree is said to be over 600 years old, and still stands there overlooking the bay. It has been declared a national monument, and a postbox was set up under it with its own special cancellation mark and everything! The postbox sits on what is now the Bartolomeu Dias Museum complex.
A big thank you to Cathy, the South African member who pointed out this tree for us and took the nice photos above. That is her auntie Chris on the left, mailing a postcard home!