18 February 2012 by Kate Turkington

A walk into the Iron Age

Take a peek at centuries-old dwelling places on the Iron Age walk at this beautiful national park.

Pilanesberg National Park, 1 of Southern Africa’s biggest, is only just under 2 hours from Johannesburg. Known for its beauty – it’s situated in the caldera of massive millions-year-old volcanic upheavals – its basin provides a natural sanctuary ringed by mountains.

Today you can find the Big 5 here, including dozens of other mammals and over 300 species of birds.

What is less known is that Tswana-speaking people, the Bakgatla, have been living in the area for centuries and built sturdy dwelling places, with houses for the chief and his wives, kraals for the cattle, and a fine open meeting place, the kgotla, for settling disputes and social gatherings. This was also the site of the ‘holy fire’, a symbol of wealth and prosperity.

As I stood gazing out at the distant mountains – yes, you’ve guessed it – a vervet monkey poked his head over the wall and gazed at me.

Drive up to the Bakgatla Gate in the north-east of the park and follow the directions to the Iron Age site on the map. It’s a lovely, very quiet 10-minute walk with stunning views. These people certainly knew how to pick a good location.

By the way, each Tswana clan had a totem animal. The vervet monkey is the totem of the Bakgatla people.

As I stood in the kgotla gazing out at the distant mountains – yes, you’ve guessed it – a vervet monkey poked his head over the wall and gazed at me.

And I’m sure he winked before he turned his back on me…

 

Category: Adventure, Wildlife

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