Well, not exactly Paris, France but I got your attention didn’t I? David and I went to Parys (pronounced pa-rez) in the Free State province about an hour and a half south of Johannesburg. When we arrived, there were replicas of Eiffel Towers throughout the town. I couldn’t quite get the connection to Paris until I learned that Parys is the Afrikaans translation for Paris. Afrikaans is one of the official languages of South Africa. It developed from the several Dutch dialects spoken by the Dutch who settled in South Africa.
There are many theories of how the town came to be named Parys but the most acceptable one is it was named by Mr Schilbach, a German land surveyor. He had been involved with the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian war. Five years later, when Mr Schilbach saw the Vaal River that runs through Parys, he was reminded of the Seine River in Paris and predicted that one day, Parys would line both sides of the Vaal River.
The Vaal River is very nice, what we saw of it. It meanders along the northern part. I think Mr. Schilbach had grandiose ideas when it came to this lovely area. We drove along the road that border the river. There were nice grassy areas that were shaded with large, elegant weeping willow trees. People were sitting along the river trying to catch a cool breeze or even a fish while fishing. They had a hard rain the night before which, I imagine, contributed to the murkiness of the water. There is a small suspension, footbridge that was built in 1919 that you can walk over to get to Golf Island where there is a golf course and restaurant. Further down the road there was a bridge to cross the river, this part of the river was considerably wider.
It was suggested that we visit there for a day trip as there are many arts and craft galleries, antique stores and restaurants. I had this image of a picturesque town with a main street lined with quaint shops. The main street, Bree Street, was lined with a variety of shops and restaurants but I wouldn’t describe it as “picturesque”. We visited a few of them, but honestly, it was so darn hot to be out and about. We found the people extremely friendly. For example, we asked a gentleman for directions to the information center, rather then telling us how to get there, he walked over with us.
At the information center, we were told about attractions and things to do near Parys. We were surprised to discover that there is a World Heritage Site near the town. The Verdefort Dome, where over 2020 million years ago an asteroid collided with the earth. Now, that sounded interesting and David and I made our way to see it.
The Dome Impact Tours is given by Christo Meyers on his Kopjeskraal Country Lodge property (http://www.kopjeskraal.co.za/tours.htm). I am not a “science-minded person”….neither math nor science were ever strong subjects for me in school. This, however, I found very interesting and Christo was an excellent guide.
This site is approximately 185 miles (300 kms) in diameter and one of the issues with declaring it a World Heritage Site is that the entire impact area is on privately owned property. I think he said that there were 250 individuals who owned the property and trying to coordinate and regulate the area to meet the guidelines for the World Heritage Site was difficult.
The dome is believed to be the oldest and largest impact structure in the world. This area is so unique because upon impact, the asteroid pushed rock layers downward. Then, on the rebound effect, it pushed the different layers up to form a dome and inner rim of identifiable ridges. One of these layers was pink granite and according to our guide and the guide book, it is the only place in the world that has this unique colored granite. The granite was mined in the 60s. Some of it was exported especially to Italy and some has been used throughout South Africa.
There isn’t much of the “dome” left as erosion over the years has taken it away.
After his talk, we hopped back into the truck and made our way up the steep hill to the top of the mountain for a better view of the site.It was such beautiful scenery….the mountains were covered in lush green and gratefully, there was a cool breeze.
The site wasn’t as I imagined it would be. I was expecting more of a crater similar to what you would see at Crater Lake in Oregon. Thank goodness that Christo was there to point out the perimeter of the rim and he was right about erosion taking its toll. There were parts that the rim is no longer visible.
This stone wall is the remains of a corral that was built by the Tswana people who migrated into central South Africa in the 14th century. I don’t know when these corrals were built but they are possibly very old.
These are dung beetles. There are three types of dung beetles, the rollers, the tunnelers and the dwellers. These are the rollers. They take feces that has been left by an animal. The rollers will roll the dung into a ball and use it for food but also, the female will lay eggs and once they hatch, the young beetles will use the dung ball as food.
The tour lasted about 2 1/2 hours. I am so glad that we went on it. There is another attraction nearby Parys, it is an old gold mining town of Venterskroon. There, you can walk through an abandon, mile long, hand-dug, gold mine. The town has the “world’s smallest bar” that only seats 5 people. It sounded like a nice place to explore but we ran out of time.
By the time we got back into town, it was around 4:30. We hadn’t had lunch and considered getting an early dinner. Instead, we decided to head back to Joburg.
Parys, isn’t the “Paris” of South Africa but it is a lovely little town and great day trip from Johannesburg, if you are looking for a “day get-away”.