Tag Archives: South Africa

Clarens, South Africa: small town with a view

I was in South Africa last week visiting Cassandra’s family. Because there’s only so much to do in Kimberley (yes, I’ve seen the Big Hole), we decided to do take a road trip to see some new scenery. I had been looking at the map of South Africa and noticed that Lesotho, the small nation enclave surrounded entirely by South Africa, was fairly close. Cassandra’s dad suggested that we drive to Clarens to get a good view of the Malutis.

Clarens was a pleasant surprise. It kinda reminded me of little towns I’d been to in Northern California (especially Calistoga); quaint, quiet, clean, and safe. The town is situated around one or two main streets and a small square, with cute restaurants, pubs, antique shops, and bed and breakfasts dotted along the way.

We arrived at around five o’clock so we still had a good hour or two of sun. We spent a few minutes searching for a suitable bed and breakfast, and then we went to scope out the town and check out possible dinner joints. You can see the mountains from almost anywhere in Clarens…

Other than the beauty of Clarens and its environs, a few other things stood out to me as being different than what I had experienced in other parts of South Africa I’ve visited:

  • I heard very little Afrikaans being spoken (and not one printed sign that I can remember).
  • I didn’t see any electric fences, high walls, or crushed glass around any homes.
  • While I did see police officers, I didn’t see any private security guards. I’m used to seeing private security like G4S everywhere in East Africa!

If you ever get a chance to go to Clarens I’d highly recommend it. Here are a few more pictures:

The Big Hole

There’s a really big hole in Kimberley, South Africa. Aptly named “The Big Hole”, it is the largest hand-excavated hole in the world. While originally quite important to the development of the region (and the global diamond market in general), these days it is little more than a big pond for tourists to stare at!

Digging started in 1871 when several large diamonds were found on land owned by the De Beers brothers. As I understand it, diamond finds were not uncommon in the area (one on a river bank here, another in a field there, etc), but the discovery of Kimberlite pipes changed everything. Kimberlite (named after the town in which it was discovered) is a volcanic rock that is known to contain diamonds. The craze which followed is similar to mineral discoveries, and subsequent “rushes,” all over the world.

The mine was finally closed in 1914, after an estimated 50,000 men had pulled 6,000 pounds of diamonds from 22 million tons of earth.