A long list of characters has left their mark on Barberton, from the infamous Cockney Liz to the nation’s four-legged hero Jock. A name that will surely be added to that list is Astrid Christianson. As unique as the Mountains that surround the Genesis Route, Astrid has stories that will make you laugh, cry, blush and gasp. Her knowledge of the area is second to none and her boundless energy is only matched by her love for the Genesis Route, making her the ideal choice to uncover it!
What makes the Genesis Route special?
The Genesis Route and the area surrounding it have been given tentative World Heritage Status. If it is granted it will make this area only the ninth place in South Africa to be given such a status! The Genesis Route really does tick all the World Heritage Site boxes. There is the unique geology of the Makhonjwa mountain range, which has been beautifully interpreted in the Geotrail. The whole route is awash with historical significance whether it is from King Shaka’s era, the Gold Rush Days, Anglo-Boer War, or even the Struggle Years. It allows you to experience the different cultures that make the route so enthralling. There are activities for everyone, whether it is a relaxing peaceful time you are searching for or an adrenalin rush for the thrill seeker. All set amongst the spectacular, ever changing scenery that unfolds around each bend in the road. I truly believe this is the most beautiful route in South Africa and one that deserves a lot more exposure.
If we had one day, where would you take me and why?
It is simply impossible to spend only a day here. Believe me you would come for a day and want to stay for a week! I might have to kidnap you and take you for a three day tour instead of one! We would of course explore the Geotrail, before visiting the Masuli mine where you will be amazed by the rehabilitation effort to return it to a pristine wilderness. Then we would visit the Cradle of Life so you can come face-to-face with big cats from all over the globe, before enjoying a night on a houseboat at the Vygeboom dam. We would catch trout at Dawsons, explore underwater caves at Komati Springs dive site, walk the Queen Rose hiking trail considered the most scenic in South Africa. Finally, we would finish it off with a trip to Nukain’s stone garden and a night at Boondock’s where we would walk the labyrinth to get our breath back and ponder the marvels we have seen.
Where is the best place to grab a bite to eat?
There are so many great places, but if you are looking for somewhere with a bit of history I would have to say Cocopan in Barberton, [email@example.com | +27 (0) 79 180 1488]. The atmosphere there is amazing and the place has real soul. Their steak burgers are legendary, not just here in Mpumalanga but around the world. Alternatively, if you fancy a stone over pizza then Papa’s is your place [+27 (0)13 712 4645 | +27 (0)79 856 9988]. Their pizza is always perfect, and it is a great place to catch up with people. But if it is a three course meal you are looking for then Josephines in Barberton is the place to go [www.restaurantjosephines.co.za | +27 (0)13 712 3543 |firstname.lastname@example.org]. It’s extraordinary, fine dining at its best. Not forgetting Taribo for traditional African food [email@example.com]. The atmosphere there is electric, especially on a Friday and Saturday night whilst the food is as authentic as it gets!
What are the top 5 things to do or visit along the Genesis Route?
Now you are asking the impossible… how about fifteen? No!
The Geotrail would have to be one. It uncovers the secrets of these mountains, allowing everybody access the rocks that make this area so unique. The laybys and beautifully designed information boards tell the stories of the rocks. From the first life forms visible to the naked eye, to meteorite impacts and superhot volcanoes these mountains uncover what life would have been like 3.5 billion years ago!
The Queen Rose Hiking trail is a must for nature enthusiasts and anyone who loves the outdoors. It is considered to be one of South Africa’s most scenic routes and is rated as one of the top 5 hikes in the country. It is a two day hike and the overnight accommodation is simply superb.
Barberton’s Heritage Walk and Township Tour showcase two very different sides of Barberton. The heritage walk gives you a taste of what life would have been like during Barberton’s boomtown gold rush days. While the Township tour will break down any preconceptions you might have about Township living. There are some historical stops like the school Nelson Mandela stayed in en-route to Swaziland and the towns first Rondavaals. Then there are the spectacular buildings like Simon’s water-wise house, the new library, and Anglican Church. But I think most importantly you get to experience the community. Whether it is having a drink at the Taribo lifestyle lounge, visiting the feeding program and beading project or simply witnessing the sense of pride everyone has in this community.
Then I would have to add the underground mining tour at Sheba Mine. It gives you a real idea of what life was like for the miners and allows you to explore the richness of this area and we could stop for a spot of gold panning so you could see if you too get the bug!
Finally, I think it would have to be Bray’s Golden Quarry and Eureka City. Edward Bray found a gold seam so rich that it looked like gold had been cemented on all the rocks. Sheba mine which went on to mine the quarry is considered the richest mine in the world as it produced almost 10x the amount of gold per ton as any other mine. Sometimes it was up to 100 times! Eureka City was built just above the mine, it was a real Gold Rush city that simply died after the rush had finished. Now it is a ghost town with the most incredible stories to tell.
What makes Mpumalanga stand out from all the other Provinces?
Mpumalanga is the gateway to both Swaziland and Mozambique. Where else offers you the opportunity to enjoy breakfast in South Africa, have lunch in Swaziland, eat dinner in Mozambique before returning back to South Africa to spend the night in the world renowned Kruger National Park? Mpumalanga really does have something for everyone…so what are you waiting for?