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Amsterdam, the one in South Africa, is best known for its extensive stone age rock tool collection and Goliath's Footprint – a six-foot-high geological feature shaped like a human foot.

Travellers are often astounded when they discover that there's a town called Amsterdam located in South Africa's Mpumalanga Province, but the town has closer links to Scottish rather than Dutch history. Amsterdam’s beginnings can be traced back to Scotsman Alexander McCorkindale, who envisioned establishing a New Scotland Republic on the 200 farms he planned to buy from the South African government in 1864. The capital of this republic was to be called Roburnia, after the Scottish poet Robert Burns, however, it was renamed Amsterdam in 1882 in gratitude for the support that Holland had shown the Boers during the First Anglo-Boer War (1880-1881). However, the Scottish heritage of the surrounding region is evident in the names of nearby towns and farms.


Yet the region’s history stretches back much further than the 19th century. It is in the unassuming town of Amsterdam that Zama Sibeko, a maths and science teacher at a nearby school, has a private collection of more than 1 000 stone age rock tools that can be viewed by appointment. His passion is palpable as he demonstrates how the tools were used and for what purpose. He also points out those tools that are still enveloped in mineralised rock.


A short drive away from Amsterdam is Goliath’s Footprint, a 6-foot-high geological feature that captures the imagination of all who see it because it is shaped like a human footprint, with five perfectly formed toes. Numerous myths and legends attempt to explain its existence – some call it God’s Footprint, others refer to it as Adam’s Footprint, while still others believe that it is a remnant from times when giants roamed the earth. Resting a few metres below the footprint is a
large boulder shaped like a human skull, which further adds a mythical element to the storytelling.

Also nearby is Jericho Dam, located a few minutes’ drive from Amsterdam on the Mpama River. It is a fishing and camping destination that is also known for boating and water sports. Even if you’re only coming for a day trip, remember to pack a picnic basket, swimming costume and your mountain bike or hiking shoes.

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