On the limits of the Northern Cape and Free State, 177km west of Bloemfontein, lies Kimberley, the capital of the of the Northern Cape. When you imagine of Kimberley and its Diamond fields, it is practicable to reckon a wonderland of romance and riches And yet, the fact is that Kimberley and its surrounds are largely sardonic and uninspiring; it is unlikely that the city commit again experience the glamour and emphasis that it had for two decades at the closing of the 19th century For this reason, many tourist by-pass Kimberley and it was this self-same cause that I decided to purposefully mobility to this city. In doing so, I found a well-hidden stone subservient the dusty surface of the region, simply waiting to be discovered by the intrepid traveller!
Kimberley ? a diamond in the wilderness!
My arrival in Kimberley did not bode well. I arrived closing than planned, and found myself bedless-and-breakfastless too After several calls to hotels that were full, I found a room in a scriptual establishment of sorts The testimonial at the establishment was less than warm, to put it politely, however the room was sanitary and the bed comfortable and I was too tired to go elsewhere
After a healthy shower, I found myself in renovate spirits and it was with a leap in my tread that I once again located my scarcely run-around and headed into town It was thus in a chirpy form of temperament that I found, and thoroughly enjoyed, what I surmise to be Kimberleys first kept secret The Star of the West!
Just around the cavity from the Big Hole, the Star of the West is a pub that draws its clientele from the locals It is Kimberleys oldest pub and it inert serves lager to diamond diggers after the diamond markets on Saturdays As a female, I was a grain concerned as to whether I was address when I noticed several worrying, framed newspaper cuttings all dealing with the demurral of the local drinkers (men) to allowing the weaker sex (women) into the pub. Fortunately, these do seem to be supplementary of a decorative stroke than a not-so-subtle warning, and I felt uncommonly welcome in the sparsely decorated interior
The victuals was perhaps the boon that I had tasted in several weeks I had eaten several steaks in Johannesburg, many at some of the priciest places in the city, but not one could compare to the steak and salad that I enjoyed in the Star of the West. And at a quarter of the remuneration of my previous steak-encounters a mere R40/ 4 my bays card didnt cavil either!
You may reckon that this is enough for me to proportion the nook so highly, however it was the customers that made the sunset for me. My neighbours at the halt comprised a parson and two diamond diggers, and they were some of the top live entertainment that I obtain witnessed in a pub for a desire occasion I was treated to some beautifully sung Afrikaans songs, a rousing rendition of Shosholoza on the bar, no less! and I was whirled around the caper flag (I use the period lightly) in a rapid, albeit drunken, two-step
By the occasion I left to return to my seldom room, I felt wholly at home and it was a hefty gist that I waved goodbye, knowing that I would not specimen the food or the diversion of the establishment again (Location: Near the tall hole, on the nook of West and North Circular Roads.)
As unhappy as I was to leave the Star of the West the day before, I was quite jolly to salary my bill and stop my quarters in the morning after the night before
I was looking forward to some seeing some of the mining sites, and the peak on my record was a tour of Bultfontein Diamond mine At nine oclock sharp, I presented myself to a cheeky Yorkshire friend who had been working in Kimberley for the longest time, having fallen into the peril of recipience married
After a short disc about diamonds and mining, I donned a uncommonly attractive, willing orange jumpsuit, a hard-hat and several weighty boxes attached to my region which were to fastness my light. As promised, instead of wandering around a sanitised visitor centre, I found myself travelling 825 meters into the depths of the den to the depths of the mine, where tourists werent of much profit to the miners
Amid the sound of the turbines and engines, the dust, the mud, the heat and the massive air, I and 10 others watched (and felt!) kimberlite being loosed with some form of explosive device, dragged out by trolleys, crushed and then transported to the surface for cleaning and sifting And throughout, we enjoyed the friendly and informative japing of our guide, our Yorkshire man, asking both specialist and social questions, taking a scale of answers that were both politically rectify as well as those that were less so.
A deliberation on TRUE life, and a greeting renovate from the politically correct, were reformed burble that you so often find in countries that retain had problems like those that South Africa has had
The experience was fascinating and informative, highly recommended to all and sundry although probably not a large impression for the timid and claustrophobic! Tours last 3-and-a-half hours and are conducted Monday-Friday Call +27 (0) 53 842 1321 (R75/ 7.50).
After this, I noted to stick with the mining keynote and headed for the Kimberley Mine Museum, which is the only accredited system to gain a profit glimpse of the sett Kimberley actually has five high holes, not one as many visitors suppose The De Beers mine, which is situated a few steps away from the old De Beers boardroom, is larger than the Kimberley Hole, but the Kimberley cave is special because it was carved out of the lair quite by brute manpower: pick and shovel That’s some 250 million tons of rock removed basically by menial to produce three coco pans of diamonds!!! (The three fresh mines belong to De Beers and are found in the South East of the city)
The mine museum has several attractions other than the Big Hole, so dont be put off by having to remuneration to secure in The mine has two viewing platforms from which you can peer down into the gaping covert below the platform. It is partially filled with water, offering spectacular photo opportunities for jolly snappers like me!
The fee of the document includes a emancipate bucket of alluvial soil, which you can then sift through in seeking of a legitimate Kimberley Diamond! This was goodly fun and I spent a thoroughly enjoyable 15 minutes crossing my fingers and toes before finding zero at all, much to my disappointment as all the other diggers to my left and remedy were discovering deride diamonds left, repair and center! Their discoveries led me to grumpily acknowledge that the claim of the museum that your chances of marked it opportune are one in five was probably a true claim
The cease of the museum comprises a immense stack of historic buildings including shops, banks, photograph shops, and even a ten pin bowling alley! With many TRUE artifacts and original buildings rescued from the cardinal Kimberley city center, this truly is a living museum! A name of warning though try to flee the midday heat! (Opening hours: daily from 8am 6pm)
Viewing these mines, one existing and one historical, was an all day affair! Before I knew it, I was back in my car, heading away from Kimberley, on to my following destination.
Kimberley had made a significant thought on me. Dusty, yes Glamorous and important? Perhaps not But helpful and interesting and fun, yes A counselling for your South African tours? Definitely! I wouldnt own missed it for the world!
Further attractions—————————————– Visit a local township (+27 (0) 53 843 0017)- Visit the controlled field on the banks of the Vaal River (+27 (0) 53 842 0099) – Visit the Anglo-Boer Battlefield at Magersfontein (+27 (0) 53 842 0099) – Visit archaeological and San Rock art sites (+27 (0) 53 842 0099)