Yesterday Joe and I went to Pretoria to run some errands. We had to visit vendors and pick up a few things for a photo exhibition we’re planning. One such errand brought us to a suburban highway lined with strip malls and big-box stores. It reminded me of home.

I saw a sign that said “Wonderboom” and asked Joe what it was. “It’s a tree,” he said. He decided to show me – we turned off the road into the Wonderboom Nature Reserve.

We parked in the reserve’s near-empty lot and headed up the path toward the Wonderboom. “There it is,” Joe said, and pointed ahead.  I was confused; what I saw ahead looked like an entire forest. That forest was the Wonderboom.

The Wonderboom.

The Wonderboom – can you tell I like the name? – is a 1,000-year-old fig tree. The original tree was so massive (reportedly large enough to shade 1,000 people, although it’s much smaller today) that its branches eventually touched the ground, took root, and became new trees. These “daughter trees” form a circle around the original tree, and there are now three daughter circles. But technically it’s all one tree.

There’s a wooden boardwalk through the middle of the Wonderboom. We walked in and took some photos of the mother and her daughters.

Boardwalk into the Wonderboom. The original daughter circle is straight ahead. The Wonderboom mother is inside that circle but she is quite small now — she was burned in a fire in 1870 and also suffered from some kind of parasite. Poor mama.

The view from inside the Wonderboom.

A Wonderboom daughter.

There are several trails in the nature reserve, which straddles the Magaliesburg Mountains. I was wearing sandals but we decided to take a short hike anyway.

Hiking through Wonderboom.

We followed a steep stone path up the hill. We observed a variety of interesting plants and trees, including the rock fig tree, which grows only on steep rock faces.

Strange rock fig tree. It grows right up against the rock.

We saw a black eagle circling overhead and also stumbled upon a cave full of dead animals (possibly killed by the eagle, who we later learned lives in the reserve with his mate).

View from near the top. Unfortunately I didn’t get a shot of the cave or the eagle.

We were so enjoying ourselves that we got lost and had to backtrack a couple of times. Our short hike turned into a long one and before we knew it, we’d spent half the afternoon at Wonderboom. It was worth the blisters.

View of the Wonderboom Shopping Center from the Wonderboom Nature Reserve. Just because I thought it was funny.

I wrote “Wonderboom” 16 times in this blog. This is one instance in which I don’t mind a little redundancy.

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