So we popped into the local sports club to discuss our next road trip. As our last two were both destinations over 900 km from Johannesburg, we opted to see what we could locate around the 500 km mark. We also wanted a destination which would offer us good photographic opportunities and the opportunity to explore some interesting landscapes. In true road trip tradition, we put very little thought into the items we took with us from a catering perspective as we decided to use one of the stops en -route to stock up with groceries, drinks and charcoal.
That behind us we then debated destinations, Sutherland was ruled out because of the cold and distance but it stays on our bucket list.
Then we looked North and decided on Mapungubwe for a few reasons: it’s just over 500 km from Johannesburg, and it offers numerous photographic opportunities.
It is set on the northern border of South Africa, adjacent to Botswana and Zimbabwe. It is a vast landscape, and the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers can be viewed from a deck which is also a great place for sundowners.
Culturally, it is the site of the first kingdom in Southern Africa and the virtually untouched remains of the palace sites and settlements can still be viewed today and guided tours are available. Its position enabled it to be a key player in the trade routes as it was able to trade gold and ivory which were scarce commodities for chinese porcelain and glass beads from Persia. Until climate change bought about the inability to sustain the civilisation, it was the most important settlement in the African subcontinent.
There is extensive archaeological evidence which shows how trade was controlled by the elite with a king secluded from the commoners located in surrounding settlements. Leading to its demise was a decrease in rainfall around 1300 AD, the land could no longer support a high population through traditional farming.
The inhabitants dispersed to survive, with the power shifting to Great Zimbabwe and later on to Khami. Over and above the cultural context the park offers game viewing and birding opportunities as well as beautiful sunsets and sunrises with a landscape dotted with Baobab trees.
A further opportunity exists, that is to look for the remains of Greefswald, Greefswald was South African Defence Force camp where anyone who broke the mould of a traditional SADF conscript was sent as punishment at the hands of a Dr Aubrey Levin who operated out of the psychiatry ward at the No. 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria.
So we will pack the cameras and tripods and hope to bring back some stunning landscapes, night sky pictures and shots of the village sites- then we will share them with our all-terrain readers.