Things To Do in BarbertonBarberton Makhonjwa Geotrail
Where? 19 Judge Street, Barberton, Mpumalanga
When? Best during daylight hours.
How? Call +27 (0)13 712-6490
How much? Free
Known officially as the Barberton Makhonjwa (after the mountains behind Barberton) Geotrail, this self-drive route is a 38 km exploration of ancient rock formations that date from the Archaean period, more than three billion years ago. These are no ordinary rocks. The discovery on the mountains behind Barberton has become known as 'the history of our planet cast in stone'.
There are very few places on earth where rocks of the Archaean period are visible. Every other site is so far removed from civilisation, on desolate back roads, as to be unreachable. But in Barberton they are right next to the road. You have only to get out of your car to see them.
And so the history of life on earth, involving several key geological elements, is now available for anyone to view. Now 11 geosites, each with its own information board, along with braille labels, describes the different geological elements.
Elements that include: a 3.2 billion year-old beach deposit, fossilised biomats in sandstone (the first signs of life on earth, viewable with the naked eye), piles of volcanic pillows formed by lava expelling on the floor of the sea, and volcanic hailstones preserved in chert sediments.Contained in the mountains, these most ancient rocks in the world are on what has been called the Barberton Greenstone Belt by geologists.
This period describes a world in which the sun hung pallid in the sky, the atmosphere was toxic, there was no vegetation, there were consistent volcanic eruptions, torrential downpours lasting millions of years, a much larger moon (as it was closer and so tides were more frequent and violent) and shorter days.
The route follows the R40 from Barberton to Josefsdal, south to Bulembu at the Swaziland border. It forms only a portion of a longer 260 km Genesis Route; a figure-of-8 road route that links Barberton, Badplaas and Low's Creek.
The route can be self-drive or done as a guided tour. Contact author and environmentalist, Tony Ferrar.