Wednesday, 24 May 2017

South Africa Road Trip; Upington to Kimberley ''The City that Sparkles''. The End.

5/10/2016. Today we drove from Nossob to Twee Rivieren and out of the Kgalagardi. When booking this arid park I knew there were no guarantees about what would be seen. We had seen Gemsbok, Wildebeest, Springbok and Giraffe, as far as Cats were concerned we had only seen the two young Male Lions. The birdlife was amazing and I wasn't expecting that. Mice! I saw thousands of mice, in fact I think the park is built upon mice. They are an important part of the food chain as I saw mice used as food for wild cats, birds of prey and snakes! It was an impressive park and the endless waves of red sand dunes and dry river beds make for a majestic landscape and wonderful sunsets, I am glad I visited this unspoilt wilderness and hope it stays that way.
Originally we intended to start to drive to Kimberly today, but as we were not sure how long it would take to get out of the park we booked to stay in Upington at River Place Manor again. As it turned out this was a good decision as there was no 'drop -in' accommodation between Upington and Kimberley, our next stop.
River Place Manor proved to be excellent once again and early on the moring of 6/10/ 2016 we crossed the Orange River and followed the river on the N10 to Groblershoop where we turned onto the R64. The landscape was rocky and the road straight.
Our first stop for lunch was in a town called Griekwasted, this was a mission station historically known as Griquatown. At one time it was an independent state and provided sanctuary for robbers, adventures and all kinds of schellums. the town still has a frontiers town feel to it.

Griekwasted, Northern Cape
Griekwasted, Northern Cape.

Griekwasted, Northern Cape

After lunch we drove on to Kimberley. While some cities are located on the banks of great rivers, in fertile lands or at important harbour side locations  Kimberley is a city that has developed around a big hole in the ground. The Big Hole is man made and a result of the diamond rush from 1869 onwards.

Kimberley is a very historic place with many connections to the UK. There are the diamonds and the De Beers Diamond Company, characters such as Barney Barnato and Cecil Rhodes, The connection with the Boar War and the siege of Kimberley; this leads to the connection with Baden-Powell and the Scouting movement.

In its heyday Kimberley had been a very rich town, it had the most Millionaires in the world at one time and it was the first town in the world to install electric street lighting, it has rows of elegant Victorian style houses where the wealthy lived this part of the town is known as Belgravia. Were had booked into a B&B in this area called Oleander Guest House.
The big Hole. Kimberley



The Diggers Fountain, Kimberley

First stop we called into the tourist office, they were very surprised to see us and didn't have any maps or leaflets on display, but once it was ascertained that we were oversees tourists and not just local South Africans we were given maps and other pamphlets and welcomed.
Using the maps we walked all around Kimberley and it is a very historic place. As with so many places around the world there is a statue of Queen Victoria. Many museums, the McGregor Museum is located in the same building where Cecil Rhodes lived during the Siege of Kimberley and there is memorabilia here depicting that time. There is a statue of Rhodes on horseback with a map of Africa in his hands, he faces North and it is symbolic of his vision of extending the British Empire, so very politically incorrect now! The Diggers Memorial is a fountain in the form of a diamond sieve held aloft by five life sized diggers, it is a really impressive statue but it was disappointing to see the pond green and filled with rubbish  and the sieve rusty and broken.
We called in at The Kimberley Club of a cup of tea, this is now a boutique hotel and to end the walk we called in at The Star of The West, Kimberley's oldest pub, the bar is original and Rhodes chair is still there, but the building is in a very poor state of repair.
We visited The Big Hole, this is a complex with The big hole itself, and underground mine experience, a real diamond display- housed in a vault with an armed guard! The old mining town itself, this is full of the original buildings that have been moved and preserved. There is then a tram to take you back to the modern town, but it only goes 1/2 way now as the tracks are broken.
Kimberley was fascinating, and the accommodation really good. But the town is disintegrating, there is little work and the tourist attractions are not being maintained or publicised- I think we were the only overseas tourists in the town. The place is run down and it looks like a town down on its luck. it is very sad as it has bags of potential.  
For us! having had two days of colonial history we dropped the car off at Kimberley Airport and got a South African Airways Airlink flight to Cape Town, and that was it another great road trip of South Africa done.