Our Visit to
||In South Africa if you think of
"Diamonds" you think of Kimberley, the scene of the
"Diamond Rush" of the late 1800's.
The first diamond, the 21.25 carat "Eureka" was picked up in 1866. By 1871 the most famous diamond mine in the world, the Kimberley Mine or Big Hole was in full operation as tens of thousands of diggers from all over the world rushed to peg out the whole area. The entire hillock where they commenced their feverish digging quickly vanished soon to be replaced by a hole which eventually reached colossal proportions. But more about that later on.
I had been to Kimberley in the early 1970's during army training and I can still remember freezing my butt off in the cold winter guarding fuel depots. So now it was time for me to go back and take in some of the sights that I missed during my army training.
A local long weekend and a new car were just the right ingredients to tempt us to hit the road and head south to Kimberley which is situated about 500 kilometers southwest of Johannesburg in the Northern Cape province. We had rain all the way there but luckily for us, as we finally approached the outskirts of Kimberley, the heavy cloud lifted and the sun broke through!
We headed to the famous Big Hole and the Kimberley Mine Museum first of all as I wanted to get some pictures before it possibly started to rain again.
The Kimberley Mine Museum, consisting of original and carefully reconstructed buildings is an open-air museum preserving a great deal of the city's past. Here you can experience life in Kimberley as it must have been during the diamond-rush days when races, lotteries, pubs and ballrooms made the town a very bright place indeed. We had fun walking on cobbled streets marveling at original buildings and shops still preserved in their original condition.
We also bought diamond bearing gravel for R5 a bucket and could sift through it carefully looking for the glint of a diamond did in the old days!
The Big Hole itself is an astonishing sight. Mined to a depth of 215 meters, and with a surface area of hectares and a perimeter of +-l,6 km, it is the largest hand-dug excavation in the world. On 14 August 1914 work on the mine was suspended. By that time 22,5 million tons of earth had been excavated, yielding 2 722 kilograms of diamonds.
On site are also some interesting souvenir shops where we were able to buy some polished gemstones (no diamonds, unfortunately!!)
After a leisurely drive through the city itself marveling at the many old buildings we headed to our hotel for a good night's rest.
The second part of our trip was to visit the place where Doreen (my wife) spent part of her childhood, but that was now a private diamond mine and we were not allowed to enter. So we headed for home, thinking about the "good old days" of so long ago.