So I doubt that many of you have heard of Ottoshoop, we had not until I saw a very random picture one day on facebook. Thereafter we felt it was worth the trip to get some decent pictures and have a day out of the city. I collected two fellow photographers and off we went. The intention was to be in the area late in the afternoon to take advantage of the good light so we did not really mind a leisurely lunch stop at a small game lodge just past Groot Marico before heading to Ottoshoop.
It’s described as a small town near Mafikeng and that it is, with a few small shops and suchlike it services the needs of the locals, the train line (although the station is derelict) and divers at the nearby Wondergat. The busy period for the little town was around 1880 when much mining activity took place in the area – our exploring and photography was somewhat hampered by overcast conditions but we managed a few pictures, many of mine shot on film have to still be developed. After gold was discovered Ottoshoop was the site of the biggest claim-staking race in South Africa, it is said that there were more than 100 000 participants. The town flourished and all available land was rapidly sold, then disaster struck although situated in a dry area the town sat on top of a large underground river and with the summer rains the mine shafts filled faster than water could be pumped out rendering mining impossible.
When word of gold in Barbeton and on the Witwatersrand reached the miners the town emptied overnight. The original plans for the town were then used as a blueprint for Johannesburg on instruction of President Kruger. In the 1980’s old rubbish dumps were scoured by bottle collectors who sold their finds for hundreds of US $ on e-bay,this has now stopped but was reminiscent for a while of the gold rush days.
Divers at the nearby Wondergat still visit the town; Wondergat is a large dolomite sinkhole and is the deepest natural hole in southern Africa. Many divers feel that one has not really dived until they have tried Wondergat. The site is fenced off with a guard at the main gate and offers camping, ablutions and a main boma area. Despite the excellent safety record of the various diving bodies in South Africa there have however been a few fatalities experienced at the facility some of which were highly experienced divers, recovery of the bodies also took time and extensive searches took place. So with a cloudy sky and a weak sunset we set off back to Johannesburg around 16h00,elated at having been out for the day but slightly disappointed with the pictures we took.
However nature played it’s part and about 30 Km out of Lichtenburg we were met with a beautiful brooding landscape as a typical “Transvaal” thunderstorm was brewing, we stopped to photograph the veld and the storm leaving only as the first few drops began to fall, then nature hit us with it’s malevolent best, driving rain, thunder and lighting in such magnitude that we could only drive along at around 30 Km/h for stretches as visibility we so bad.
After stopping for fuel and coffee in Lichtenburg we carried on making our way to Johannesburg, the storm did not abate until we reached the outskirts of Tarlton so our short three hour trip became a six hour epic with us only reaching Johannesburg around 22h00. But we were happy, our country is rich in history and culture and offers numerous opportunities to explore and bring back memories in the true All Terrain spirit.