Welcome to the final blog post about my hike through the Kruger Park’s Pafuri Triangle: the mineral installment. Most of the facts in this post were gleaned from Brian, our Pafuri wilderness guide, and Wikipedia.

If you’ve read parts 1 and 2 of this series, you know that the Pafuri Triangle is chock-full of majestic African wildlife and awe-inspiring trees. But Pafuri also has rocks. And water. And an amazing geological and archaeological history. Geology and archaeology aren’t my specialties, but this post is an excuse to show you some of my favorite pics from the trip that don’t feature animals or plants.

Water is a mineral, right? Either way, I really like this picture.

The rocks in the Pafuri Triangle are old. Really old. Some of them are a quarter of a billion years old, from back when the earth had just one big landmass called Pangea. You can get a feel for how old the rocks are when you visit Lanner Gorge, a canyon where the Luvuvu River has been cutting through the rock for a couple million years.

The river has been here for 2 million years; the rocks it cuts through have been here for 250 million.

Most of the rocks in Pafuri are made of sandstone, which dates from a time when dinosaurs roamed South Africa. The sandstone indicates that the Pafuri region was very dry during the time the sandstone was created, between 210 million and 144 million years ago. (I hope I’m not getting this completely wrong. If I am, someone please correct me.)

Bird-watching below a sandstone ridge. We later climbed the ridge, which was tiring but pretty cool.

Me, sitting on a different sandstone ridge with endless wilderness behind me. (Photo courtesy of David Park.)

The whole group (sans moi) on yet another sandstone ridge. (See the pattern here? There are lots of sandstone ridges.) From left to right: Matthew, David, Anne, Jenni, Juliane, Brian, and Chris.

I know you can’t see the sandstone ridge that Anne and David are standing on. I swear it’s there though, and this is one of my favorite pictures from the trip.

The Pafuri Triangle has an interesting archaeological history as well. The Triangle is officially called the Makuleke Contractual Park, named after the Makuleke people who inhabited the land up until 1969. At that time, South Africa’s apartheid government forcibly removed the Makuleke from the area to make room for the Kruger Park. Although still technically part of Kruger, the land has since been returned to the Makuleke clan, who partner with private-sector companies (like Wilderness Safaris) to preserve the environment and promote tourism.

All throughout the Triangle there are pot shards, tools, and other items left when the Makuleke were forced to leave their home more than 40 years ago. But the human history of the Pafuri Triangle goes back far further than that. Several hundred years ago, a civilization called Thulamela thrived in Pafuri — more than 1,000 people lived in Thulemela’s walled city and hundreds more lived in smaller settlements throughout the area. The walls of Thulamela still stand; we didn’t have the chance to visit them but we saw them in the distance from atop one of the many sandstone ridges we climbed.

Jenni sitting on said sandstone ridge. The Thulamela ruins were too far away for me to photograph, but we could see them across the valley.

On our last evening in Pafuri, we also hiked to see rock paintings that were created thousands of years ago by the San people, who are believed to be the earliest modern humans.

I think this is a painting of a jackal. It doesn’t look like much in this photo. But when I stood there, under a rock in the middle of nowhere, looking at a 2-thousand-year-old painting with no glass around it, I felt pretty impressed.

 So there you have it. I’m sad that my Kruger series has come to an end, but I’m looking forward to blogging about Joburg again. I’ve missed you, Jozi!

I’ll leave you with two final mineral-y photos from the Pafuri Triangle.

Sunset on a Pafuri floodplain. Again, I’m not sure whether water and dead tree trunks are considered minerals. Close enough.

Setting off in the early morning, with yet another sandstone ridge up ahead. This is what I’ll remember most about my Pafuri trip: setting off into the wilderness, walking off the chill as the sun comes up. Pure magic.

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