Earlier on this month I was invited along to the Drakensberg with the Johannesburg Photowalkers to do some Star Trails photography. With a day and a half to spare before having to meet up, I decided to pay Freestate’s only National Park an impromptu visit – The Golden Gate National Park. Having heard how beautiful this part of South Africa was, I could not comprehend its beauty until I arrived. I could definitely see why it had been famed for its golden-hued sandstone cliffs that rose 2829 m above sea level and the spectacular scenery the park offered. Surrealism and a magnificent stillness exist here.
If you are a huge fan of the great outdoors like I am, then this place is tailored for you.
Camera in hand, I was excited to scope the area for some great photo ops. Having visited in winter, I can only image the kind of contrasting images I would get at sunset with the overhanging cliffs glowing orange popping against the green grassland. Due to time constraints I opted for a drive through the Park to make the most of my short stay here, rather than hike one of the many trails starting at the Glen Reenen Rest Camp.
This place reminded me so much of my favourite childhood movie – The Land before time. Maybe it was the after math of the intense drought South Africa had recently been experiencing. The lack of water saddened me. Or it could have possibly been the fact that in 1973 fossilised dinosaur eggs and bones as well as footprints from the Triassic period were found here.
Never the less, I couldn’t help but daydream about life here 195 million years ago. With not a soul in site, I imagined myself being LittleFoot, who became orphaned during the earthshake. I could see evidence of this by the deep craters that dug out the land. As the winds blew I heard LittleFoot’s mothers voice guiding me to follow the “bright circle”, past the great rock that looks like a longneck, then past the string of “mountains that burn to the Great Valley. I found myself following the suns rays towards the Brandwag overhanging cliff which is a well – known landmark in the region. After being greeted by a series of golden-hued sandstone cliffs I finally arrived at the “Great Valley”. The first and only water source I found in the park. Here you will find an angel overlooking the mountains at The Van Reenen family graveyard. This iconic landmark gives us insight into the lives of Jan Van Reenen; a historical influencer in South African history who gave this park its name in 1878 – Vuurland. Today known as the Golden Gate.
And that’s not the only piece of history you can find here. The remnants of the San bushman can also be found in the many overhangs in the area.
It was fun pretending I was LittleFoot for a while, but after a good few hours exploring the park, I needed a warm comfy bed and shelter from the declining temperatures.
I spent the evening at the Basotho Cultural Village Rest Camp at the foothill of a mountain. Lucky for me, there was a friendly staff member on site to assist with my check in that would normally take place at the Glen Reenen Rest Camp, 20km away.
The self catering Rondawel that resembled a Basotho Kraal was spacious. It had a kitchenette, a double bed, and an ensuite bathroom with an amazing shower. From the patio, game viewing was effortless and offered a spectacular view.
The next day, I tried to visit the Basotho Cultural Village, a live cultural museum but was shocked to see if was closed on a Saturday.
Enroute back to Joberg a few days later, I could help but return to the park for one last view of this gorgeous place.