Welcome to Week 18 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Tswaing Meteorite Crater. About 200,000 years ago, a swimming-pool-sized rock crashed into South Africa. The collision created the Tswaing Meteorite Crater. Two thousand centuries later, the Tswaing Crater is a nature reserve in the far northern reaches of Gauteng Province. The Tswaing Crater is not to be confused with another nearby impact crater, the Vredefort Dome, which is thought to be the largest impact crater in the world and is about 166 times larger than Tswaing. (The Tswaing Crater is 1.8 kilometers, or just over a mile wide, and the Vredefort Crater is an unfathomable 300 kilometers wide.) Ray and I had been wanting to visit the Tswaing Crater together forever, and I’ve been really excited to feature it on #Gauteng52. Unfortunately our visit didn’t go as smoothly as planned and we didn’t experience the crater as fully as we’d hoped. I have some valuable tips to share that will make your visit to the Tswaing Crater more fantastic than ours was. The Tswaing Crater, looking way less impressive than […]
Welcome to Week 6 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit Freedom Park, a monument to those who fought and died in South African conflicts. South Africa, like most countries, has a complicated and tumultuous history. There are many fantastic, thoughtfully designed museums and memorials commemorating this history and I’ve been to most of them. But somehow Freedom Park in Pretoria eluded me until last month. Looking out over S’khumbuto, the main memorial at Freedom Park. Freedom Park was founded in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and based on a mandate by President Nelson Mandela, who said in 1999: “…the day shall not be far off, when we shall have a people’s shrine, a Freedom Park, where we shall honor with all the dignity they deserve, those who endured pain so we should experience the joy of freedom.” The park officially opened in 2007. I’ve been holding off on writing about Freedom Park because it’s a difficult place to describe. Unlike the more popular historical museums like the Apartheid Museum, the Hector Pietersen Museum, and Constitution Hill, which present […]
I’m in America right now and I had really been looking forward to seeing the fall leaves here. I came home at exactly this time last year and the leaves were spectacular. Alas, it’s been a warm autumn on the East Coast and that seems to have slowed down the color change. The leaves have only just begun their transition in Maryland and Virginia. Not to worry though. While I don’t have any good fall leaf photos yet, I do have good pictures of white jacarandas in South Africa. The white jacarandas of Herbert Baker Street. Two weeks ago I went to Pretoria with my journalist friend Marie-Lais Emond, who writes a weekly column for the Citizen called “Other Side of the City”, to find the legendary white jacarandas. Marie-Lais had known about Pretoria’s white jacarandas for years but had never been able to find them before. Finally this year, someone gave her their exact location on Herbert Baker Street in Groenkloof. What’s the Big Deal About White Jacarandas? A bunch of white-flowering trees in early summer might not seem like a big deal to those of you on the American East Coast and in Europe. But if you live in Africa or […]
Joe and I woke up ridiculously early one Sunday morning. It was a beautiful day. Joe had an idea for an outing but wouldn’t tell me what it was. He ushered me into the car and we headed up the M1 toward Pretoria. When I saw this granite monolith staring down at us, I realized Joe was taking me to the Voortrekker Monument. Die Voortrekkermonument. (It’s all one word in Afrikaans.) Voortrekker, which means ‘pioneer’, is pronounced ‘FOUR-trecker’, with a rolled R that I can’t replicate.
Pretoria, which sits just north of Joburg, is smaller and tamer than its neighbor to the south. Some Joburgers consider Pretoria to be a boring backwater, while many Pretorians see Joburg as a crowded, wild place that’s best avoided. (I grew up near Baltimore, Washington D.C.’s northern neighbor. A similar rivalry exists between those two cities.) Pretoria City Hall, one of many historic buildings in Pretoria. Pretoria is the capital of South Africa. Well, sort of. The country actually has three capitals: Pretoria, where the president is; Cape Town, where the Parliament is; and Bloemfontein, where the courts are. Sort of. South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, actually sits in Joburg. But Joburg isn’t one of the capitals. Go figure.
A few months ago I attended my first cricket match and learned that cricket is not a game for sissies. Yesterday I discovered rugby is not for sissies, either. I’ve watched rugby on TV before, and I’ve seen Invictus. But nothing prepared me for the moment after the whistle blew, when I watched a guy catch the ball, run for a few seconds, and get slammed to the turf by a 1500-pound mob of muscle. Without pads or a helmet. My sports photography leaves a lot to be desired, but you get the idea.
Sandwiched between a week in Durban and a week in Lesotho, Joe and I are wrapping up one hectic (but fun) week at home. We’re leaving again tomorrow morning and I have no time to write a proper account of this week’s events. Here is a brief synopsis. 1) We had our first overseas visitor: my colleague Evan Von Leer from Washington D.C. He spent a few days with us in Melville while on his way to Lesotho and stayed at the Die Agterplaas B&B, which is a block up the street. The Agterplaas is a great guesthouse – I would stay there myself if I didn’t already live here.
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.
I’m in Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, about an hour’s drive from Joburg. I’m sitting on the terrace of the Sheraton Hotel, sipping a double espresso and watching the action across the road. View of Pretoria from the Union Buildings. Across the road are the century-old Union Buildings, the seat of the South African government. It’s a complex of bronze-colored brick buildings at the top of a steep hill. Below it are acres of terraced gardens with spring flowers blooming. Below the gardens is a vast green field, where 30,000 South African civil servants are gathered. They’re on strike today.