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Melville Koppies - the way things were
The Melville Koppies are part of the rugged Witwatersrand (‘White Water’) ridge that runs west-east through the western and northern suburbs of Johannesburg. Further west along the ridge is Langlaagte, the site of the first gold discovery in the Witwatersrand basin in 1886, which transformed this whole region forever - the reef was made by a prospector called George Harrison (and you thought that he was a Beatle!).
The Koppies have been proclaimed as a nature reserve and the central part of the Koppies has heritage site status (and restricted access). The Koppies also provide an unusual vantage point, from where you can look out over the northern suburbs all the way to the Magaliesberg.
The website says it best: "The Koppies are the last conserved remnant of Johannesburg's ridges as they were before the discovery of gold in 1886. Its geology goes back three billion years. Stone tools show that Early Stone Age man camped here as long as 500 000 years ago. There is a Late Stone Age living floor. Within the last 1 000 years Iron Age immigrants arrived, and remains of their kraal walls can be found on the northern slopes. In 1963 an iron-smelting furnace was excavated and can be seen today.
"The vegetation of the Koppies is entirely indigenous and is a remarkable example of the richness of highveld grasses, flowers, and trees so close to a city centre. These ridges have looked like this for hundreds of years."
The western and eastern sections of the reserve are open to the public, and are used by dog walkers, hikers and small church groups who gather on Sundays for their open air services. These groups practice a mix of Christianity and traditional worship, and it is interesting to watch the faithful in their colourful robes, gathered in small groups of no more than 20 people, singing, dancing and drumming. Each group has a different ‘uniform’, and I have often mischievously wondered whether they are 'colour-coded' on the basis of their previous transgressions!
There are sporadic reports of people being accosted by vagrants in the western and eastern section of the Koppies, so I would suggest that you don’t go alone, and avoid visiting times when there are unlikely to be many people around (weekends are the best option).
The central part of the Koppie is closed to the public, except on certain Sundays of the month, when guided tours are offered. This is the section of the Koppies that contains the Iron Age sites, and a small donation is requested.
There are also special events arranged at the Koppies from time to time (see the website).
Bird ringing days take place several times a year (next one scheduled for 12 June 2010). Last summer, Husband and Small Daughter spent a hot, happy morning hunting spiders, scorpions and a few lizards under supervision of an entymologist who helped them to trap and classify the beasties before releasing them back into the wild. They had an absolute blast!
For all of June up to 16 July 2010, World Cup Tours will run Monday to Friday 09:00 - 11:30 Booking is essential for these tours (011 482 4797)
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Sutburban and Students
Melville is in the surburbs, On a Koppie looking North.
A stone's throw from Rand Afrikaans University, and the SABC Studios and Milner park Holiday Inn / JHB Chamber of Commerce.
Lots of eateries and quaint gift shops.
then website give all the necessary plus photos.
Melville Koppies, nature reserve, archeology
Before 1886 most of what is Johannesburg today was open savannah, pretty much unchanged from the days when Mrs Ples and her hunter-gatherer contemporaries roamed the Cradle of Humankind. Apart from the Melville Koppies there are few remaining semi pristine tracts of land that remain. These hills (for that is the English translation of “koppies” have no less than seven interesting archeological sites dating back as far as the Stone Age . There are Archaic Homo Sapiens camps that are between 250000 and 500000 years old (Middle Stone Age), two ancestral Tswana iron furnaces estimated to be approximately 500 years old, a Tswana hut floor and pottery approximately 300 years old, 1880s gold prospecting site, a British 1900s gun emplacement and early 1900 quarries. The collection of Stone Age tools collected from the archeological sites is housed at the Witwatersrand University and is a national treasure. The vegetation of the Melville Koppies is entirely indigenous and illustrative of the diversity of highveld grasses, wildflowers and indigenous trees,
I wandered all over the Melville Koppies as a child, looking at the archeological sites which were known then – some had not been excavated back then, the flora and fauna, and the other interesting things which my father would point out. The Melville Koppies were strictly out of bounds back then during the sixties and seventies) without my father accompanying us because they were potentially unsafe. Bear this in mind. There are groups that walk on the koppies every day. There is safety in numbers. There are also open days on Sundays for the central part of the koppies or by arrangement during the week. Check out the website for information.
The view over Johannesburg alone makes the little trip worth the effort, especially if one is staying in Melville and has access to transport.
The entrance is in Kafue Street, which means one must turn off Judith Road, going south (uphill) on Orange, and wend one's way up to Tugella Street carrying on up the hill to Kafue Street where one turns west into the cul de sac and parks. The Lecture Hut is just out of sight about 30m into the fenced perimeter. Access is not impossible even for those who use wheel chairs or walking aids, but it is not completely smooth either.
The website is www.mk.co.za and the telephone number 011 482 4797.
The Friends of the Melville Koppies are very friendly indeed and will accommodate tourist schedules if proper prior arrangements are made. firstname.lastname@example.org
- Budget Travel
I was told by a South-African I met in Mocambique to make a stop in Melville when I was in Johannesburg, because it was safe and cool.
Melville looks like an American village with clean streets like in Switzerland. This is like day and night compared with the downtown. Johannesburg University is located nearby, so the place is known to be cool and for housing students and trendy people. There are cafes, bars and restaurants around the main streets where you can hang around, drink beers and speak with the locals. Like I did in Berlin Bar, one of many places there.
It takes 20 minutes to drive from the downtown and 40 minutes to JNB airport.
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