There’s a small town about 120kms south of Joburg that has a name uncannily similar to a more famous European spot which has a famous steel structure as its centrepiece.
Well, let me tell you that Parys has better than just a famous steel structure as a centrepiece. It is…a centrepiece! This small town is located IN the Vredefort structure…aka an upside dome, more popularly known as a crater.
2023 million years ago a meteor with a diameter of 10kms came hurtling through the cosmos and collided with earth at 30 000kms per hour creating an indentation 300kms wide. It’s the largest meteor impact site scientists have found on our beautiful planet and 2x larger than the one that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
This makes it the older crater yet found on earth. And because of all that, it’s been named a World Heritage Site, South Africa’s 7th.
The Vredefort Dome is only the central part of the impact crater. It is called a dome because the rock layers were bent into the shape of an upside-down bowl 90km across by the impact. (Source)
The red star on the map shows where it is in South Africa.
It stretches all the way to Joburg. As you can see, Parys is in the core of the structure.
The Vaal River, one of South Africa’s strongest flowing rivers, flows across the dome with Parys situated on its banks. Along its banks are also many picturesque resorts – some years ago Che and I stayed at one of them – the Carrieblaire River Retreat.
When we were kids every holiday was spent in Durban. As landlocked Joburgers the annual beach holiday was something I looked forward to all the time. Once a year we packed our family of 5’s belongings into a VW Bettle and headed down to the coast. As we neared Durban, we played the game of ‘who can see the sea first’, which was accompanied by the briny smells of the ocean.
One of my favourite things to do was walk along the Marine Parade from the South to the North Beach, browsing all the vendor’s stalls. I was a child with no cash and convincing my folks to buy this and that was never successful 🙂
These days I seldom go into the city, preferring instead the quietude and serenity of the small village of Umdloti Beach.
The village has changed little over the years but the beach has changed significantly. The beautiful tidal pool most parents felt safe allowing their kids to frolick in is not so safe after all. The promenade has subsided in places because of soil erosion caused by severe storms over the years. When Che and I were last there, in August last year, the tidal beach was closed off for rehabilitation, with a huge bulldozer in the middle of the sand.
Away from the tidal pool, avid residents walk the beaches at sunset, wielding metal detectors – I wonder what they find…?
Things to remember when holidaying in Durban:
It’s on the Indian Ocean coast so the waters are warm.
There are amazing dive sites further north, close to Sodwana Bay.
There are game reserves with the Big 5 just 2 hours to the north.
uShaka Marine World is a haven for kids – the waterpark is a lot of fun.
It has, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful aquarium in South Africa.
The Durban Botanical Gardens is one of the city’s best-kept secrets.
It boasts a large international airport, the King Shaka International Airport with daily domestic flights, and international flights from Istanbul, Doha, Dubai, Mauritius and other African destinations.
I transited at Antwerpen-Centraal train station on my way from Amsterdam to Ghent in January. I’d read that it was considered the most beautiful train station in the world, as awarded by Mashable in 2014. Naturally, I was curious and was gobsmacked at its beauty. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave the station to photograph the exterior, but I did walk around a bit and took a few pics.
Just before catching the tram to the station I managed a quick stroll along Werregarenstraatje. It helped it was right across from my hotel. It was devised as a temporary project during the 1995 Ghent Festivities and this alley still serves as an ever-changing sketchbook, a demo of current street art and especially as a blank canvas for Ghent’s many graffiti artists. The tags and pieces change daily and sometimes the entire alley is painted over so that a new blank canvas is created all over again. In this rule-free zone the spray can rules, the artists respecting works that are better than theirs (Ghent City Guide).