This is the life in Vredefort Dome (even if it’s not perfect)
Our country boasts the oldest and the largest meteorite impact crater in the world. It changed the landscape around the towns of Vredefort, Parys and Venterskroon so dramatically that it has been declared a World Heritage Site. Meet the friendly people wh
To say every place has “its own charm” is like telling someone they have “a beautiful personality”. The northern Free State is one of those parts of our country that not many people get excited about. It’s flat as far as the eye can see. Kilometres and kilometres of farmland. Wild dust storms. Not everyone finds this beautiful. Yet this part of the world keeps our tummies full, because it’s a food basket where enormous quantities of maize, sunflowers, peanuts and potatoes are grown. And where the cattle graze amid the rooigras.
It’s as if outer space knew that this bit of planet Earth would be the laughing stock because of her lack of curves and so made a plan: about 2 000 million years ago a meteorite roughly 10km across slammed into the earth here and created the world’s largest impact crater that we know of, one that stretches from Johannesburg to Welkom. A half-moon of koppies and ridges in an otherwise flat landscape forms part of the rim of the centre of the crater – the dome.
If you drive through the small town of Vredefort and look over the plains towards the north, you’ll see a wooded koppie on the horizon. Beautiful. So special that this area has been declared the Vredefort Dome World Heritage Site. >
The largest and best-known town in the dome is Parys. What was once a one-horse town has grown rapidly in the past 10 years.
“It’s because so many people want to live here,” explains Cornea Viljoen at Parys Info & Tourism. She, too, spent many years dreaming about living in this area.
“My granny’s people farmed just outside Vredefort and when we used to visit the farm, I always imagined that one day I would live here.”
Her mother was already living in Vredefort when Cornea got divorced, and so her dream became a reality.
“Vredefort is peaceful and sometimes it feels like I’m living on a farm. But there aren’t many jobs there, which is why I work in Parys. It takes only a few minutes to drive between the two towns, and I really enjoy the people of Parys. Nice people. People who care about one another. If someone’s burglar alarm goes off, everybody wants to know if they’re alright.”
Many Gautengers have weekend houses here, says Cornea. Others spend weekends at the many guesthouses or on the guest farms in and around town. “Any time from Thursday afternoon onwards you can expect them. Then Bree Street [the main street] gets really busy.”
A MAN WHO KNOWS exactly how quickly Parys has grown is Saal de Jager. Saal, who moved here as a child with his parents in 1964, has had an estate agency in the town since the late 1980s.
“The first big boom was around 2004. That’s when there were 34 estate agents in the town. Then things levelled off – today, there are 11. The economy is
tight, and smaller houses and flats are most in demand. There are already 150 blocks of flats in Parys.
“So, yes, we did have an explosion of property and people, and that led to problems at the end of the day. Like the water shortage… Nobody predicted that would happen.”
Saal is a member of the Parys Development Forum and, since last year, a DA councillor. And because he cares a lot about the town, he does his level best to improve things.
“I learnt that you achieve far more if you do things, work together and make suggestions rather than just tell the municipality what is wrong all the time. That’s how we came to upgrade the water-purification plant from 15 megalitres to 25 megalitres last year.
“It’s a good life. On a farm you eat the best meat and vegetables, and you drink the best milk and water. When it’s planting season here, I get restless and I can smell that freshly ploughed earth.”
It’s a compact water-purification plant with technology that is being used in Africa for the first time.”
Saal’s cellphone rings every now and then – people calling him to report problems. “I sometimes get tired of the complaints, but I enjoy finding solutions and seeing the gratitude of people. >
The calm water of the Vaal River is one of the main attractions of Parys. Members of the Likkewaan Canoe Club paddle on the river over weekends.
Parys is 118km southwest of Johannesburg and 326km north of Bloemfontein. Venterskroon is about 25km northwest of Vredefort and 15km south of Parys.
1 Saal de Jager, a former Springbok canoeist, loves the Vaal River. The water from the taps in Parys, however, is not so lekker, “because of the algae in the river. But if you’ve drunk of the water once, you’ll always come back.” 2 From the old suspension bridge north of Parys you have lovely views of the river. Sunset is the time when lovers promise each other eternal devotion and affix a padlock to the bridge as a symbol of their love.
3 Asked why he dubbed his unconventional pub the Pickled Pig, Nico Uys said, “I like warthogs and buffaloes.” 4 This small shop is chock-a-block with pretty gifts and hand-made items.