Getting around in Pretoria
A visit to the Voortrekker Monument and other attractions in downtown Pretoria. But make friends with someone in Pretoria otherwise getting around can be a problem. The public transport system is not kind to foreign travellers without own transport at all!! Walking under the jacarandas near Pretoria University as a student on a rainy day in October.
Blue Crane Wildlife Sanctuary...
Blue Crane Wildlife Sanctuary and Restaurant. Located in the Waterkloof/Brookline section of Pretoria, this is a small nature preserve in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The Blue Crane restaurant overlooks a small lake, where many native birds, including South Africa's national bird, the Blue Crane, make themselves at home.
Waterfalls, swans and the floral kingdom....
Looking for a rejuvenating place to spend a few hours?
Go to the Safari nursery on Lynnwood Road.
Enjoy a light meal or drink in the Tea Garden and watch swans and fish swim lazily just beneath. And if it's open, go to the church built especially fo weddings on the premises.
Feel the impact of obscure Tswaing Crater
Tswaing is a meteorite impact crater north west of Pretoria. It is less than an hour from Pretoria, but because it's well off the beaten track, it is seldom touristed, and feels rewardingly remote. If you like visiting offbeat locations, are crowd-averse and have an appreciation for the natural environment and disaster movies, then Tswaing's definitely the place for you!
The meteorite which created Tswaing is estimated to have been 30-50m in diameter and the impact left a crater over 1km wide and 100m deep - talk about creating an impact (sorry!) In geological terms Tswaing is brand spanking new, since it's estimated to be only 220,000 years old: as a result, it is remarkably well preserved, and much more recognisable as an impact crater than the older, larger and much more famous Vredefort Dome impact crater (a World Heritage area about an hour's drive south of Johannesburg).
Wikipedia says the following: "The name Tswaing means Place of Salt in Tswana and was previously known as Soutpankrater in Afrikaans (which still appears on some of the road signs). Stone tools from the Middle Stone Age show that the crater was regularly visited by people from as far back as 100 000 years ago in order to hunt and collect salt. Water in the crater comes from surface springs, ground water and rain water and is rich in dissolved carbonates and sodium chlorides. Tswana and Sotho people harvested the salt by filtering and decoction between 1200 AD and 1800 AD. Between 1912 and 1956 brine was pumped from the floor of the crater by the company SA Alkali Ltd. in order to extract soda and salt" (by the way, you can still see the remains on this infrastructure on the crater floor).
By far the best way to appreciate Tswaing is to hike the circular 7.2km crater trail, which follows the perimeter of the crater and allows you to descend down onto the crater floor along a section of the route. Quite apart from the unique scenery (there are, after all, less than 200 of this type of terrestrial meteorite crater in the world), this is a lovely walk through pristine indigenous vegetation - see my photo of gorgeous aloes in bloom during winter - that is energetic but manageable for the moderately fit. Be warned that it can get very hot in this area, and that there is relatively little shade along some sections of the route, so come prepared with hat, sunscreen and plenty of water. I would recommend starting the hike as early as possible to avoid the midday heat, which will also give you a better chance of seeing the mammal and birdlife (the latter is particularly rewarding, since the juxtaposition of woodland and wetland ecosystems means that you have a chance to see species from both).
There is a 'museum' by the parking area where the trail begins - to be honest, this makes it sound rather grander than it is, but the poster displays on the formation of the crater and the attendant wildlife are worthwhile perusing before you set forth to explore. There are four other trails in the 2000ha surrounding conservation area and some group accommodation (I have no idea what this is like).
From Johannesburg, take the N 1 north towards Polokwane. Take N 4 west towards Rustenburg at next off-ramp (signposted Bakwena Platinum Freeway). Drive through the Doornpoort toll plaza (19 km) and take M 80 Pretoria/Soshanguve off-ramp towards Soshanguve. Drive north along M 80 (Mabopane Freeway) until a point where this freeway stops at three-way stop-sign intersection (about 18 km) and turn right towards M 35 (signposted Soutpan Tswaing) at this intersection. Turn left at T-junction with M 35 Soutpan or Tswaing Road and drive on for about 15km north past Soshanguve’s informal settlements. Watch out for game fence (left) and Coca-Cola sign indicating Tswaing Crater 2.7 km and turn left at brown tourist signs after 2.7 km into gravel road leading to main gate - keep a sharp eye out, as when I visited, this sign wasn't very obvious (easy, eh???)
Marabastad lies on the fringe of Pretoria Central. At this stage it is not a very safe area, but there are plans to revive this area.
Marabastad was a culturally diverse community. Like the residents of other racially diverse areas in South Africa, such as District Six, the inhabitants of Marabastad were relocated to single-race townships further away from the city centre. These removals were due to Apartheid laws like the Group Areas Act. This part of the town was not bulldozed, but it retained many of its original buildings, and became primarily a business district, with most shops still owned by the Indians who had also lived there previously.
The black residents of Marabastad were relocated to Atteridgeville (1945), the Coloured residents to Eersterus (1963), and the Indian residents to Laudium (1968).
There are plans to revive once-picturesque Marabastad, and to reverse years of urban decay and neglect.
I do hope that this will happen, as it can be a very lively and interesting area to visit.
An exibition, about the history of Marabastad, can be found in the Culture History Museum (see tip).