Tswaing crater just North of Pretoria is one of the greatest day hikes in my neck of the woods. Even the drive up to the old “Soutpan” takes you through unfamiliar terrain, instilling a sense of adventure. Taking the Soutpan road you pass through parts of Soshanguve, an ever growing settlement established by the previous regime. The name Soshanguve is an amalgamation of the various tribes names that were settled in the area back then. Sotho, Shangaan, Nguni and Venda.
I haven’t been up this way for some time and couldn’t miss the new shacks and houses that have emerged from the barren ground. This is the real South Africa. This is where most of the population lives, in townships, far away from the gated communities and golf estates.
The concrete fence of the Tswaing reserve is in tatters. Maybe the beams have been salvaged as construction material for the surrounding housing developments? (Incidentally, the friendly and helpful lady at reception mentioned that they struggle with poachers in the reserve.) Entering the gate you notice that part of the large Tswaing visitor’s center has been gutted by a fire. A skeletal ruin which will be echoed later on in the journey when one passes through the ruins of the old salination plants.
The Tswaing experience has never been cold and this hike was no exception. Although it is the middle of our Winter the mercury must have been in the mid twenties. Luckily I took a hat and lots of water.