Vryburg Things to Do
If you're driving into Vryburg from Kuruman, on your left hand side just before you reach town, you'll see the entrance to the Leon Taljaard Nature Reserve. The crenullated top and thick walls of the gate may seem a little excessive to keep the bokkies from escaping - until you realise that they were constructed to incarcerate people, not wildlife!
The gate house is a former Boer War prison, built to house Afrikaaner prisoners captured by the British forces. A plaque on the wall commemorates the prisoners executed on a gallows fashioned out of a windmill, and there is a small museum (which was closed for renovation at the time of writing in early 2011).
These days, the reserve is host to a variety of herbivore species and over 110 bird species. As it is not a Big 5 reserve (the only one of the five present is white rhino), it is safe to walk, and a 30km hiking trail (intended to be hiked over two days with rustic accommodation en route) has been established.
The reserve also apparently adjoins Vryburg's Swartfontein Pleasure Resort, whose pleasures I have yet to sample.
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The Voortrekker monument in Vryburg is located a couple of kilometres outside Vryburg on the Kuruman road. It was erected to commemorate the Great Trek of 1835 (where 12,000 Afrikaaner families trekked from Cape Colony into the dry and remote South African interior to distance themselves from British colonial forces). However, in truth, the monument's lonely, windblown location just seems to reinforce the sense of physical and political isolation of this event from today's reality - the sort of place Bruce Springsteen might have written about in his Darkness on the Edge of Town period.
The monument is well maintained but the fact that it is surrounded with a perimeter fence (accessed via a turnstile arrangement) and that the memorial itself is fenced off suggests that it either has been vandalised in the past, or is considered to be vulnerable to defacement.
Usually I am moved by Voortrekker monuments, which inspire me to admire the courage and pioneering spirit of the people who were willing to uproot themselves and trek into the unknown in search of a better life for them and their families. However, I find this monument so depressing that frankly, if the choices were to be commemorated with a monument like this, or to be forgotten, I can't say that one alternative would be better or worse than the other.
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