Mpumalanga DestinationsBarberton, Wild Frontier
Nestled in the heart of the Makhonjwa Mountainlands in the De Kaap Valley, one of the oldest regions on Earth and the core of a proposed World Heritage Site, lies the quaint little town of Barberton.
Some of the oldest sedimentary rock formations are found in this valley, the hills of which have been picked bare by treasure hunters over centuries that included a gold rush, but even today the wildness of the area pervades the place with incredible beauty and surprises visitors with its unspoilt heady mix of indigenous riverine and mountain forest, savannah, bushveld and sharp, crystal streams.
Itís no surprise that within a 12 kilometre radius of Barberton you have access to half a dozen nature and wildlife reserves - within an hour, you can find your way to the Kruger National Park - or that there are some lovely hiking routes, some of which include picnic areas. Barberton is also a really exciting area for adventure sport, particularly paragliding and microlight flying, together with endless 4x4 mountain trails and trails for mountain bikes, quad bikes and horses.
Barberton is regarded as something of a relic of the gold fever that gripped the Lowveld in the 1880s. Graham Barber and his cousins descended on the valley along with thousands of other prospectors, but it was they who found what they called Barberís Reef, supposedly so rich in gold that it literally sparkled. Many of the old buildings still stand and gold is mined from the oldest and richest gold and silver deposits in the world, trademarked as 'Ancient Precious Metalsí.
One of Barberton's most elegant old buildings, Belhaven is now a museum furnished in the style of a wealthy Edwardian family home. Two other museums depicting the early days are Fernlea House and Stopforth House. The only known verdite deposits in the world are found in the rocks of the Barberton district. For hundreds of years, verdite in powdered form has been used by sangomas (traditional healers) for promoting fertility. The Fortuna Mine Trail in the hills above Barberton evokes images of the hardships endured by prospectors in their search for gold.