Travel in South Africa - From Pretoria to Harties to Rustenburg to Klerksdorp
Crocodile River at Hartbeespoort
South Africa: From Pretoria to Klerksdorp
Travelling from Pretoria to Klerksdorp (and onward to Cape Town), a motorist has three choices.
- If he is in a hurry, he will take the shortest route via Johannesburg on the N1 highway, turning off on the N12 to Kimberley.
- If he wants to avoid the very dangerous intersection at Soweto and also Johannesburg's traffic, he will choose the Krugersdorp-Randfontein road in spite of the fact that one has to drive through these two towns instead of passing them on a highway. This is the route we have taken when we came to Pretoria on Friday, and which I have described in my hub 'en route from Klerksdorp to Pretoria'.
- If he is in the mood for an alternative route, he will take the N4 Platinum Bakwena Toll Road and approach Klerksdorp via Rustenburg and Ventersdorp - a route that offers a variety of exiting landscapes and venues.
Read on and enjoy pictures and some information of this most scenic region of the North West Province -
Three routes from Pretoria to Klerksdorp and vice versa
The red circle indicates the region between Pretoria and Klerksdorp in South Africa
Traveling from Pretoria to Klerksdorp and vice versa: Difference of distance and time of three choices -
Pretoria - Johannesburg
Johannesburg (passing Soweto and Westonarea) to Potchefstroom
Potchefstroom (passing Stilfontein) to Klerksdorp
168 min = 2 h 48 min
Pretoria - Krugersdorp
Krugersdorp via Randfontein to Potchefstroom
Potchefstroom to Klerksdorp
175 min = 2 h 55 min
Pretoria - Rustenburg
Rustenburg (passing Derby) to Ventersdorp
Ventersdorp - Klerksdorp
227 min = 3 h 47 min
Just because we have enough time on our hands we make a little detour to take some pictures of Schoemansville, now better known as Hartbeespoort, or rather Harties, as we locals call this town.
In the 1800's Schoemansville was originally a farm called Hartbeespoort, the property of Generela Hendrik Schoeman. It is a picturesque valley situated on the banks of the Crocodile River and the slopes of the Magaliesberg (mountain). In the late 1800's General Schoeman sold his idea of building a dam to the advantage of the entire farming community to President Paul Kruger of the then Boere Republic of Transvaal, and so the building of the first dam wall began in 1896 - three years before the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Boer War. Unfortunately torrential rain washed the wall away in 1921. After countless other stumble blocks, explained in detail by Willie Meyer in "The Birth of a Township", the Hartbeespoort Dam was built and the town Hartbeespoort founded. Today the town consists of numerous holiday homes and tourist attractions around the dam.
NB: A hartbees / hartebees / hartebeest is a large antelope widespread in Africa. It was also the name that was given to the homes of the first European settlers in South Africa.
A hartebees house
'South Africa Venues' lists 43 things to do in Hartbeespoort, among others, visiting the Dam Snake Park, the Aquarium, the Elephant Sanctuary, the Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary, or doing something exiting in nature like horse riding, rafting, abseiling, or go for a ride in an air balloon, or to the top of the mountain in the Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway - the longest mono-cableway in Africa, or going boat cruise on a luxury pontoon party boat, or do some shopping at the Welwitchia Country Market and have lunch in one of the many coffee shops or restaurants.
Magaliesberg Mountain Range
The Magaliesberg Mountain Range, a stretch of 120 km (± 75 miles) from Pretoria to Rustenburg, are among the oldest mountains in the world. (100 times older than Mount Everest.)
Magaliesberg Mountain Ranges
Hartbeespoort, South AfricaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Lonmin Marikana Platinum Mine
Back on the N4 again, we pass Marikana Platinum Mine, where 41 mine workers were killed by police during a strike that turned violent in August 2012. This will forever be part of South Africa's history, just like the Battle of Silkaatsnek on 11 July 1900, when, during the second Anglo-Boer War, 23 British troops were killed and an unknown number of Boere. (The name Boere (farmers) was, and still is, the cognomen for Afrikaans-speaking whites in SA.)
Lonmin Marikana Platinum Mine
South Africa has 9 provinces. North West = purple
This specific region in the North West Province of South Africa is called the Bojanala Region - the most scenic region of the province. Because it is a natural Bushveld, it has a number of game parks. Although smaller than the world-renowned Kruger National Park, they offer wildlife experiences that ranks with the best in Africa. The entire northwest part of this region is a game reserve called Madikwe.
The North West Province is divided in 4 regions. Bojanala = yellow
By far the best known attractions in this area are the major nature reserves. The Madikwe Game Reserve and Groot-Marico Park are huge reserves north of the Pilanesberg, almost half the size of Belgium. Madikwe hosts all the major plains species, including the Big Five and has the second largest concentration of elephants in South Africa.
The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is one of the most accessible South African game reserves - only one-and-a-half-hour's drive from the Oliver Tambo airport near Johannesburg. It is the fourth largest National Park in South Africa. This malaria-free park perched on the eroded vestiges of an alkaline volcanic crater which formed more than 1300 million years ago - one of only three such craters in the world. The Pilansberg Game Reserve is home to thousands of animals including the Big Five - lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant.
Vaalkop Dam Nature Reserve - just 90 minutes from Johannesburg and 30 minutes from Sun City, this nature reserve is dominated by broken bushveld. It is a renowned area for both lovers of fishing and birds, and a lovely space in which to spend a day picnicking, canoeing or just gently idling away the time on the shore of the dam.
The Cradle of Humankind, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, extends over this region.
The entire area bristles with relics from the Stone Age and early middle and late Iron Age. A large number of arts, crafts and curio outlets, are to be seen in this region.
Madikwe Game Reserve, South AfricaClick thumbnail to view full-size
At the spur of the moment we decide to leave the highway to refresh our memories of Brits.
Brits, founded in 1924 on a farm that was owned by Gert Brits, is a modern developing town surrounded by fragrant citrus groves and strawberry fields.
Popular attractions in the vicinity of Brits are -
De Wildt Cheetah Research Centre, specializing in breeding cheetah and other endangered species such as brown hyena, suni, blue duiker and wild dogs;
The Vaalkop Dam Nature Reserve for bird watchers where 340 bird species have been recorded;
A crocodile farm;
The Vredesboom (Peace Tree) – a Karee tree under which negotiations between the Boere and the British took place in 1864 during the Transvaal Civil War;
Five traditional dwellings, each representing a South African culture: Pedi, Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho and Ndebele;
The Margaret Roberts Herbal Centre;
Granite Works where the largest diamond saws in the world are used to cut blocks of granite.
In addition to being a center for agriculture, Brits is home to several heavy industries, including a factory of the Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo.
94% of South Africa's platinum comes from the Brits and adjoining Rustenburg districts. Together these two districts produce more platinum than any other single area in the world. In addition, there is also a large vanadium mine.
Brits is also the birthplace of the first cloned animal in Africa.
In the vicinity the tourist will also find the studio gallery of the world renowned sculptor and painter, Jo Roos.
Rainbow Cultural Village at Brits
Rustenburg (Town of Rest)
The next town on our route is Rustenburg (Place of Rest). Situated at the foot of the Magaliesberg Mountain range, it is one of the fastest growing towns in South Africa. It was established in 1851 as an administrative center for a fertile farming area producing citrus, fruit, tobacco, peanuts, sunflower, seeds, maize, wheat and cattle.
It has a temperate humid subtropical climate - very warm summers (from December to February) and mild winters (from June to August).
This town acts as a service center for many industries, including the agricultural communities surrounding the town, the platinum mining industry and the local manufacturing and product distribution industries. The two largest platinum mines in the world which processes around 70% of the world's platinum are here. The area also produces asbestos, tin, chrome, lead, marble, granite and slate.
Among the first residents of Rustenburg were settlers of Indian origin. One of the first families of Indian origin was the Bhyat family. Fatima Bhayat Street is named after Fatima Bhyat, who arrived in Rustenburg with her husband in 1877.
Rustenburg SkyDiving Club operates every weekend and most Fridays, making use of an Atlas Angel (turbine) aircraft to go 12 000 feet up into the big blue playground in the sky.
Photos of RustenburgClick thumbnail to view full-size
Olifantsnek Dam at Rustenburg
Only 47 minutes from Rustenburg are two of South Africa’s most famous, modern and luxurious holiday resorts, namely Sun City and Lost City, offering casinos, the Valley of the Waves, beautiful tropical gardens, and two world-renowned championship golf courses.
Photos of Sun City and the Palace of the Lost CityClick thumbnail to view full-size
In the region of Rustenburg is the German community of Kroondal that traces its origins back to 1857.
The North Province, known as the Platinum Province, can be compared to Texas. It has some of the largest cattle herds in the world. The fertile land in regions like Brits-Rustenburg-Derby-Ventersdorp-Klerksdorp encourages mixed crop farming, especially maize and sunflower. This province is, in fact, the major producer of white maize in the country.
Between Rustenburg en Derby, pastures and crops compel the traveler to think deeply about the essence of rain. The North-West Province is a summer-rainfall region. Temperatures range from 17° to 31 °C (62° to 88 °F) in the summer and from 3° to 21 °C (37° to 70 °F) in the winter. Annual rainfall totals about 360 mm (about 14 in), with almost all of it falling during the summer months between October and April. Although it is by far not as dry as the semi-desert regions in the country, drought is always a threat. Understanding the negative results of the past year's drought is a challenge to be met by a metropolitan like me.
The town Derby is not visible from the main road. Today we decide to make the little detour in order to refresh our memories.
Towards the end of the Anglo-Boer War (1899 - 1902), this area was the scene for a battle between the Boer forces and a Scottish Calvary Regiment. The graves of the British soldiers who died here may be seen in the Derby's military cemetery. Derby was named after Lord Derby, British secretary of State, and had its origins as a settlement for destitute people.
16 kilometer (17 minutes by car) in a northern direction is a small farming town called Koster, a centre of maize production and other grains, tobacco and citrus fruit. Situated on the watershed between the Orange- and Limpopo Rivers, this town was proclaimed in 1913 and named after Bastiaan Koster, the original farm owner. (Koster is not only a surname in South Africa, but also the Afrikaans word for "bellringer".)
On our way from Derby to Ventersdorp, the bushy and subtropical climate of the Rustenburg-region ends. We are back in the province's more natural grasslands (savanna) biome.
Photos of Derby & KosterClick thumbnail to view full-size
Ventersdorp, South Africa
The next city on our journey from Pretoria to Klerksdorp via Rustenburg is Ventersdorp, another centre of a large agricultural area. The enormous silos, with a two million bag capacity, stand as proof of farming successes. It was originally founded as a Dutch Reformed parish on the farm Roodepoort in 1866.
Near Ventersdorp we’ll find the Eye of the Schoonspruit River, one of many river eyes in the area. The water level stays constant, even during dry seasons. It was from here that the first mineral water was bottled in South Africa, under the label "Schoonspruit".
In a far corner of Ventersdorp’s cemetery is the grave of G. Shaw, an Irish soldier who fought on the side of the Boers during the South African War. He was court-marshaled by the British authorities and executed by firing squad. The site is known as The Grave With Eternal Flowers, as the grave is under a tree which stays in bloom for months.
Some Tswana groups settled in the Ventersdorp region in the mid 18th century, but fled the area in the early 19th century during an invasion by another African group, the Matabele under kingship of Mzilikazi. Most of the Tswana fled southward to the Orange Free State. They later returned only to find that white farmers had dislodged the Matabele and claimed the land along the Schoonspruit River.
The first white people came to the area in 1840, making it one of the first settlements in the old Transvaal Republic. The first farm in the area was called Sterkstroom - (strong flowing stream). The town was established on the farm Roodepoort, property of Mr J.H. Venter. The development of a farming community and the discovery of diamonds in the area, as well as gold that turned out not to be worth mining, attracted many people.
In 1969 Terre'Blanche spent three years in a Rooigrond prison for assaulting a petrol station attendant and for the attempted murder of a black security guard. He was released in June 2004. On April 3, 2010, he was hacked and beaten to death on his Ventersdorp farm, allegedly by two of his employees.
In the region of Ventersdorp is the Swartrand Caves, where the roar of water can be heard from deep within.
Three dams in the region attract anglers and water sport fanatics -
- The Elandskuil Dam - only 3 km from Ventersdorp on the road to Klerksdorp;
- The Rietspruit Dam - 8 km from Ventersdorp on the road to Klerksdorp
- The Klerkskraal Dam - 22 km from Ventersdorp on the road to Krugersdorp.
Ventersdorp offers a variety of attractions and historical sites.
Photos of VentersdorpClick thumbnail to view full-size
Dams in the vicinity of VentersdorpClick thumbnail to view full-size
Thunderstorm between Ventersdorp and Klerksdorp
Klerksdorp Dam, also known as the Neser Dam
N4 Platinum Bakwena Toll Road from Pretoria to Klerksdorp
© 2010 Martie Coetser
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