The first time I experienced the magic of Matjiesfontein, I visited the town to do some writing, following in the footsteps of Rudyard Kipling and Olive Schreiner before me, who had both hidden away in the small Karoo town to pen their masterpieces. I like to think they too favoured the stark lunar landscape of the surrounding Karoo, the cosy fireside of the Laird’s Arms and the tales of merry ghosts playing billiards, to rattle up the muses. That such a small town could hold such great wonder is part of its magic. Perhaps because it is arrested in time, frozen in the elegance of a bygone era that it can so easily transport one out of reality and into daydreams.
History plays a central role in Matjiesfontein. Founded in 1884 by James Douglas Logan, it was originally an insignificant railway halt in the depths of the Karoo. Entranced by the surrounding landscape, Logan created a village seemingly in the middle of nowhere which would make his fortune and become for many a tranquil retreat.
While Cape Town and Johannesburg are the South African cities most well-known to international visitors, the sunshine-drenched port of Durban has become a popular attraction since being rediscovered by tourists during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Called eThekwini in local language Zulu, which simply means bay, the city of Durban’s rich history, beaches and her famous ‘Golden Mile’ are a subtropical delight on the Kwa-Zulu Natal province’s coastline. While local holiday-makers usually trek a little further to Umhlanga for their school breaks, the Durban metropolitan is being revitalised, with the new world-class King Shaka International Airport having recently opened to travellers, the breathtaking Moses Mabhida stadium with a capacity of 54,000 and the ever-popular uShaka Marine World, which is the fifth largest aquariums in the world and is home to Gambit, who is the world’s biggest bottlenose dolphin in an ocean aquarium.
Explore the famous trees and treetops of South Africa: gaze up at the lush green canopies of some of the tallest and oldest trees on the African continent and stare out in wonder at the emerald oceans of unspoiled forests surrounding your tree house accommodation – what a view!
Famous South African trees
If you’re in the nation’s capital Pretoria, be sure to visit the Wonderboom – a 1000-year-old wild fig tree with a colossal trunk, beneath which folklore says the chief of a local tribe was laid to rest. It can be found at the Wonderboom Nature Reserve to the north of the city.
The charming little village of Darling has a big reputation for spectacular wildflowers, and it’s for this reason that it’s known as The Flower of the West Coast. In fact, the wealth of flora and natural flowers is undeniably its biggest asset. Summertime sees the town nestled between golden fields of wheat and perspiring vineyards, and winter’s rolling green pastoral hills are dotted with arum lilies and grazing cows. It’s spring time though, that sees Darling blossom into fiery, flowering brilliance and bloom into a must-see stopover along the West Coast Road.
Capetonians are lucky for several reasons... scenic splendour, rich history and vibrant culture. Personally I would include the variety of quick day-trip escapes to the list. With a little petrol and whole day ahead of you, the world of the West Coast begs to be discovered.
Top of my list is Paternoster. One of South Africa’s last remaining traditional fishing villages, Paternoster is quaint without being cutesy and romantic, without trying too hard. Paternoster, although much changed in the modern world, remains closely associated with fishing and the sea. Brightly painted fishing boats line the beach and fishermen sell crayfish, or kreef as it’s known, from roadside intersections.
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After digging to a depth of 100 meters last year, Russian scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 1000 years, and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network one thousand years ago.