Makhonjwa Mountains World Heritage Site
The Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains were inscribed as a World Heritage site on 2 July 2018. The site comprises 40% of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, one of the world’s oldest geological structures. It represents the best-preserved succession of volcanic and sedimentary rock dating back 3.6 to 3.25 billion years, when the first continents were starting to form on the primitive earth.
It also features meteor-impact fallback breccia’s resulting from the impact of meteorites formed just after the Great Bombardment (4.6 to 3.8 billion years ago). Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains is South Africa’s 10th World Heritage site, and the first for Mpumalanga.
The Geotrail allows you to step back in time and explore what the surface of our planet would have looked like 3.5 billion years ago before man, before the dinosaurs, when the first life forms were only beginning to appear and the planet was a far more hostile place.
Along the route, you will see evidence of the first life visible to the naked eye, of superhot volcanoes, ancient tsunami’s and what could be the first land! It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Geotrail, as these rocks only occur in two places on earth and the other is totally inaccessible. Take in the spectacular scenery and wildlife along the route and learn about life 3.5 billion years ago. The Geotrail starts just outside of Barberton at the intersection between the R40 and R38 and continues all the way along the R40 to the Swaziland border.
There are 11 stops along the route, each with information boards. The route takes around five hours to complete, so pack a picnic and make use of the picnic sites along the way. It is free for those doing a self-drive tour, the cost of guided tours vary.
Liberation Heritage Route
The Liberation Heritage route forms part of the Mpumalanga chapter of the National Liberation Heritage Route, spearheaded by the Mpumalanga Department of Culture, Sports and Recreation, to map out, document and preserve Mpumalanga routes to independence. It highlights the key freedom fighters who fought against racial segregation as well as the destinations that featured prominently during the liberation struggle.
The Nkangala District Resistance and Liberation Route highlight four key towns and sites that were extensively involved in the anti-apartheid liberation struggle, which resulted in a peaceful transition to democracy in 1994. These include Delmas, Emalahleni, Botshabelo and Mapoch caves. The Gert Sibande District Liberation and Heritage Route highlights six towns: Bethal, Daggakraal, Ermelo, Saul Mkhizeville (formerly Driefontein), Secunda and Volksrust that were home to various freedom fighters involved in the grassroots liberation struggle. As more research continues to be conducted, other towns may be added on the route.
A detailed content highlighting each town and the various offerings in each place has been developed. This provides information about the route, accommodation, attractions, maps and cities. Information is available on www.mpumalanga.com or you can download it from the Mpumalanga Travel Guide App available on Apple and Android phones.
Dr Esther Mahlangu
Dr Esther Mahlangu was born in 1935 on a farm outside Middleburg, in what is now the Mpumalanga province. She was the first of nine children: six boys and three girls. Following traditions passed down from her mother and grandmother, she learned traditional Ndebele wall painting and beadwork as a child. She became an expert in painting murals as a teenager, using a widening range of paint colours that emerged in the 1940s. She married and had three sons, but lost her husband and two of her children. Between 1980 and 1991, she lived and worked at the Botshabelo Historical Village, an open-air museum of Ndebele culture.
Mpumalanga interesting facts
Have you ever …
- Hiked the Blyde River Canyon trails through the deepest green canyon in the world?
- Visited the cultural villages at Loopspruit, Botshabelo, Matsamo, Ebutsini and Shangana?
- Visited the Samora Machel monument and museum at Mbuzini?
- Birdwatched at Wakkerstroom, Chrissiesmere and the Southern Grasslands?
- Rock climbed at Waterval Boven?
- Explored the southern grasslands’ archaeological sites in Ermelo?
- Photographed the sculptural wonder of Bourke’s Luck Potholes?
- Taken a historical gold mining tour of Pilgrim’s Rest and Barberton or panned for gold?
- Played golf at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park or many other Mpumalanga golf courses?
- Explored the Sudwala Caves, the oldest dolomite caves in the world?
Top 10 things you might not have known about Mpumalanga
- South Africa’s first stock exchange was built in Barberton in 1884 during the gold rush.
- The world-renowned artist, Gerald Sekoto, was born at Botshabelo near Middelburg on 9 December 1913.
- Makhonjwa Mountains in Barberton boast the oldest rock formations in the world dating back 3.5 billion years.
- By far the world’s largest underground coal mining complex is in Secunda, making Mpumalanga, South Africa’s powerhouse.
- The Blyde River Canyon is the third largest in the world and the largest green canyon.
- The Kruger National Park is two million hectares in size.
- Ray Phiri, Marriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Zakes Nkosi, Lucky Dube and Rebecca Malope all hail from Mpumalanga.
- The Sudwala Caves are the oldest known dolomite caves in the world. The caves are approximately 2 000 million years old.
- Pilgrim’s Rest was the second town in South Africa after Kimberly to be electrified. The electricity was generated from a hydro electrical plant in the Blyde River Canyon built in 1911.
- The giant footprint, otherwise known as the Goliath’s Footprint, embossed on a rock on a farm near Ermelo is six feet long.