The Genesis Route Uncovered
He may be new to the Lowveld, but that hasn’t stopped Rekwele leaving his mark. Poached from his Johannesburg job to be part of BATOBIC - the Barberton Tourism and Biodiversity Corridor, it was the prospect of working on a World Heritage Site project that really excited him. You only have to hear Rekwele speak about the area to realise he has fallen in love with The Genesis Route. When asked the best part of his job, Rekwele’s answer was simple, “I get to expose Barberton and all the wonderful things we have here to the world”. So who better to uncover this incredible part of Mpumalanga?
What makes the Genesis Route special?
Simple, the rocks! They are the building blocks of the area. They provided the gold that led to the gold rush and all the towns we have in this region. The wealth of plant species that can be found here is a result of the great soil these rocks provide.
The rocks can tell us what our planet would have looked like 3.5 billion years ago and hold evidence of the first visible life forms on earth. They are a provincial treasure, a national treasure and indeed a global treasure. They are the reason this area has been given tentative World Heritage Status and it is our responsibility to conserve them and get more people excited by them.
If we had one day, where would you take me and why?
Obviously the Geotrail! It is a one of a kind, an experience you can have nowhere else. One that takes you back in time, allows you to see how the earth would have looked 3.5 billion years ago. It allows you to come face–to-face with some of our earliest ancestors, to see volcanic hail and the effect of ancient tsunamis. It really is an incredible attraction.
The other place I would take you is to Masuli mine in the Songimvelo Nature Reserve. You may ask why I would take you to an asbestos mine in a nature reserve? It is a good question! It is a triumph for rehabilitation, in fact if you didn’t know it was once a mine you would never have guessed. The village is now a ghost town, which makes for a great tourist attraction and the mine itself is living proof that we can reverse the damage we have done to our natural habitat. This is something we should be promoting. The evidence is the fabulous wildlife and birding Songimvelo is becoming renowned for. You can visit on foot or for the more adventurous on one of the 4x4 routes!
Where is the best place to grab a bite to eat?
I love eating at the Cradle of Life restaurant just outside Badplaas [www.cradleoflife.co.za | +27 (0)82 345 1924]. There is an incredible ambiance there. Somehow it takes you away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The restaurant serves a great range of well-cooked affordable food and the views over the grasslands are incredible. It is definitely the place I take people when they come and visit. Especially as you can do one of their famous game drives while you are there that brings up close to predators from around the globe. When I am in Barberton I always eat at Restaurant Josephines. The food is wonderful and the friendly atmosphere makes it one of the best places eat on the Genesis Route.
What are the top 5 things to do or visit along the Genesis Route?
I keep saying it but the Geotrail has to be one. If you are even slightly curious about what our planet would have looked like 3.5 billion years ago then here is where you must come. It can be done as a self-drive, but I would always suggest you do a guided tour. As this really is the best way to bring these rocks and the stories they tell to life.
The next is the Barberton Museum. Most people don’t realise that when Barberton was founded there was no Johannesburg. So this essential was the Johannesburg of its day. Here you can still find the second ever stock exchange in Africa. The first was also here but burnt down. Barberton was a metropolis back in the gold rush days and while it is hard to believe now, the museum allows you to experience what it would have been like at the time.
The heritage in this region is remarkable and something we need to promote. From the Gold Rush days and the Anglo-Boer war, to the Struggle Era, all have left their mark on this area. There are so many fascinating stories to be told.
Eureka Ghost Town is definitely one of my favourite attractions. It is a lasting reminder of how easily fortunes come and go. In its heyday it drew people from miles around which is remarkable when you consider it takes an hour of 4x4 driving to get there! During the gold rush up to 700 people lived here, there were tennis courts and donkey races, hotels and even a post office. Now all you see are the foundations of where it all once stood. The incredible views remain and that makes a picnic up here a must for any nature lover!
Finally, it would have to be one of the many fabulous hiking trails. In this day and age we don’t get out into nature enough. Yet for people living in Mpumalanga and even Gauteng, some of the best hiking trails in South Africa are on their door step.
What makes Mpumalanga stand out from all the other Provinces?
It is the variety of attractions we have here. No other province offers so much. We have cultural attractions, and when I say cultural I don’t just mean those celebrating black culture. There are great attractions celebrating Afrikaans and English culture too. Then there is the nature based activities, the hikes, wildlife experiences and scenic routes. The thrill seeker attractions like paragliding, mountain biking, 4x4 adventures, quad biking, mine diving, micro-lighting, literally you name it. There really is something for everyone along the Genesis Route and in Mpumalanga. I think this is something we ought to be very proud of.
Contact details for the activities and attractions Astrid mentions:
The Geotrail: Open 365 days a year, it starts in Barberton at the intersection of the R40 and R38 and goes all the way to the Swaziland border. Admission is free for those self-driving. Guide books can be obtained from the Barberton Information Centre email@example.com | +27 (0)13 712 2880| +27 (0)82 959 6670]. Alternatively contact David firstname.lastname@example.org | +27 (0) 82 923 5366] or Tony Ferrar email@example.com | +27 (0) 72 376 2581] for a guided tour.
Queen Rose Hiking Trail: Open 360 days a year (prior booking is required). The Queen Rose Hiking trail is located just outside Barberton. Admission is R50.00 for day walkers. Overnight accommodation is R120.00 1st night and R80.00 for the second night on the weekend, midweek it is R90.00 each night. For more information or enquires regarding booking the 2 day trail contact Andrea Botha at Barberton Odyssey firstname.lastname@example.org | +27 (0) 79 180 1488].
Historic Barberton: The Heritage tour is open 365 days a week and can be done as a self-walk or guided. Simply pick up the route map at Barberton’s Tourist information office. The township tour needs to be booked in advance. For more information about the Barberton Heritage Tour and the Township Tour contact the Barberton Information Centre (details above) or alternatively contact Andrea Botha at Barberton Odyssey (details above).
Underground Mining Tour, Gold Panning & Tour of Bray’s Golden Quarry: Open most days, advanced booking is required as permits are needed. Both tours can be booked through Andrea Botha at Barberton Odyssey (details above) or the Barberton Information Centre (details above).