Heritage

Heritage of the farm

The history of the farm Buffelskloof
(Thabela Thabeng)

Thabela Thabeng is located on the family farm Buffelskloof.

The farm is 342 hectares and borders on the Vaal river. It stretches over unspoiled mountainous terrain, several hectares Savanna field with game (e. g. impala, gemsbuck, eland, warthog), and large pecan nut orchards.

The farm originally belonged to President Paul Kruger and was bought for R75 000 in 1968 by architect and nature-lover Johannes van der Merwe. The farm has been part of the van der Merwe family for over 50 years.

Throughout his life Johannes strived toward conserving the unique natural heritage of the area. He was instrumental in the establishment of the first Nature Conservancy of the Vredefort Dome area. Amongst other things, he launched a baboon rehabilitation program in the mountains to prevent the population from weakening due to inbreeding.

Continuing his father’s legacy, Flip van der Merwe is still operating the pecan orchards that Johannes planted, on the farm.

Continuing his father’s legacy, Flip van der Merwe is still operating the pecan orchards that Johannes planted, on the farm.

Gold on the farm
With the discovery of gold in the hills during the 1800’s, the once quiet valley became a busy hub filled with diggers looking for both gold and diamonds. The little town of Venterskroon, 3km from Thabela, originated with the building of a necessary jail, followed by a small school and school master’s house.

The road leading along the mountain at Thabela was built by the miners to transport the gold they found behind the hills into the valley. Several of the original gold mine tunnels can be seen on Thabela’s hiking routes.

Thabela Thabeng’s old Barn was built with sandstone by Italian prisoners of war.
It was later used by the OK Bazaars for a dairy.

The thatch roof house that overlooks the valley was the residence of Johannes and Peggy van der Merwe (now Valley Lodge). The old Barn was built with sandstone by Italian prisoners of war and later used by the OK Bazaars for a dairy. The Buffelskloof Lodge was once used as a milkshed before it was renovated as a holiday home for the van der Merwe family.

Thabela Thabeng Guest Farm
The tourism business on the farm was started by Johannes’ wife, by Peggy van der Merwe. She named the business ‘Thabela Thabeng’ which means ‘be happy in the mountains’. As a retired architect, Johannes assisted her in building the various chalets in the mountains. He enjoyed the challenge of building on mountainous terrain that seemed virtually impossible to build on. Johannes designed many chalets around the natural environment, integrating natural boulders as walls and devising methods to cantilever the balconies over cliffs. The guest farm is currently being run by Hanri de la Harpe (nee van der Merwe). Johannes died in 2010, but he and Peggy’s legacy continues to live on Thabela for everyone to enjoy.

GEOLOGICAL HISTORY

Thabela Thabeng is situated in the heart of the Vredefort Dome, an ancient geological structure that was created by a meteorite impact millions of years ago.

What is the ‘Vredefort Dome?’

The Vredefort Impact Crater was formed when a meteorite struck Earth about two billion years ago. This is the biggest and oldest meteorite impact that geologists have yet found on Earth and it is nearly twice as big as the impact that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. This makes it a site of great importance for scientists.

Based on its unique geological features and significant history, the Vredefort Dome has been selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over many decades, geologists from South Africa and other parts of the world have been studying the broken and melted rocks around Parys and Vredefort to understand what happened at the Vredefort Impact Event.

This is what scientists have found:

• The meteorite impact happened about 2023 million years ago, at a time when there were no people or even animals of plants like we see today. The only living thing was a type of algae, like the green slime seen in dams today. Scientists speculate that the incident may have increased the planet’s oxygen levels to the point of making life possible.

• The impact created a crater of about 300 km wide. To make such a wide crater, the meteorite must have been about 10 km across and travelling at more than 10 km per second (36 000 km per hour).

• The Vredefort Dome is only the central part of the impact crater. It is called a dome because the rock layers were bent into the shape of an upside-down bowl 90km across by the impact. The dome has eroded away during the course of 2 billion years and only the crater floor is now visible.

This is what scientists have found:

• The meteorite impact happened about 2023 million years ago, at a time when there were no people or even animals of plants like we see today. The only living thing was a type of algae, like the green slime seen in dams today. Scientists speculate that the incident may have increased the planet’s oxygen levels to the point of making life possible.

• The impact created a crater of about 300 km wide. To make such a wide crater, the meteorite must have been about 10 km across and travelling at more than 10 km per second (36 000 km per hour).

• The Vredefort Dome is only the central part of the impact crater. It is called a dome because the rock layers were bent into the shape of an upside-down bowl 90km across by the impact. The dome has eroded away during the course of 2 billion years and only the crater floor is now visible.

Rocks that provide evidence of a meteorite impact
Scientists and geologists who have been doing research for many years in the Vredefort Dome discovered several rock formations in the area that provide proof of the theory that the structure was created by a meteorite impact. Many of these rocks can be viewed in the Vredefort Dome Information Room at Thabela’s Reception.

Two fascinating rock formations that can be viewed in Thabela’s Information Room are:

“Shatter cones’: This type of rocks can easily be spotted on Thabela’s hiking trails. Shatter cones originate from rocks that were suddenly exposed to extremely high temperatures (thousands of degrees Celsius) and pressure (several Giga-Pascal). The crystal structure of a rock is deformed into a conical shape with the base of cone orientated away from the source of impact. It bears evidence of the high impact and shock caused by the meteorite that struck the earth.

“Pseudo Tachalyte”: This type of rock was created by the heat that resulted from the meteorite impact. It consists of dark grey granite that was melted by the impact and flowed, carrying chunks of unmelted granite within the melted rock.

“Pseudo Tachalyte”: This type of rock was created by the heat that resulted from the meteorite impact. It consists of dark grey granite that was melted by the impact and flowed, carrying chunks of unmelted granite within the melted rock.

The impact of the meteorite has changed the otherwise flat countryside of Parys and Potchefstroom into a mountainous landscape of exceptional scenic beauty that is rich in biodiversity.

Gold and the Vredefort Dome
It is believed that the Vredefort blast, forced all the rich gold deposits closer to the surface in the mining areas of South Africa. The South African gold deposits constitute by far the largest known deposits of gold in the world and are still the source of considerably more than half of the annual world production of newly mined gold.

Old mine dumps and tunnels in the hills in this area, tell the story of fortune seekers who hoped to become rich since the 1880’s, but without much luck and left for Johannesburg for better luck. Mining for gold began in 1887 and in the same year the Venterskroon Gold Fields was officially proclaimed by the Government of the day. The ancient gold mine tunnels can be seen on various of Thabela’s hiking routes. A Mining Commissioner’s office was established at Venterskroon in 1889, from where the gold mining activities were regulated.

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S 26° 51ʹ 38"
E 27
° 17ʹ 14"

We are 100 kms from Johannesburg.

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Enquiries and booking requests:

Chantel de Meyer: 060 923 2265

If no answer contact Hanri: 083 280 3283

Email: info@thabelathabeng.co.za

ACTIVITIES

Hiking
Mountain Biking
River tubing
River rafting
Rock climbing
Obstacle course
Abseiling
'Hike & Braai'
'Discover the Dome' talk
Birding
Stargazing
Fly fishing