"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on August 1, 2017 by Sioux under General


Paul had a birthday approaching and as I never know what to buy him, I decided a holiday would be perfect.

I gave him 3 options and Kiara Lodge, near Clarens & Golden Gate National Park, was his choice.


Golden Gate National Park was proclaimed in 1963 and in 2004 it was announced that the park would be joined with the neighbouring QwaQwa National Park. Completed in 2007, the amalgamation increased the park’s area to 340 km2 (84,000 acres).    


Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north eastern Free State, it was the perfect setting for an idyllic getaway. Wildlife in the park includes mongoose, eland, zebra, and over 100 bird species, with the most notable features being the golden ochre, and orange-hued deeply eroded sandstone cliffs and outcrops.

It is the Free State’s only national park, and is more famous for the beauty of its landscape than for its wildlife. Numerous paleontology finds have been made in the park including dinosaur eggs and skeletons. Instead of introducing any one of the “big five” into the park, the sungazer lizard and water mongoose were reintroduced. Twelve species of mice, ten species of carnivores and ten antelope species have been recorded in the park. The grey rhebuck and the mountain reedbuck were

present when the park was established. 

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We stayed at a lodge between the park and the quaint village of Clarens, but still within the beautiful and picturesque Maluti Mountains. The lodge had large grounds, a dam and plenty of hills to walk in, but for us the main attraction was the peace and quiet. There was a small dam which needless to say became the subject of many photos – day & night; as well as a few bushman rock paintings. 

The San, or Bushmen, are indigenous people in Southern Africa particularly in what is now South Africa and Botswana. Their ancient rock paintings and carvings are found in caves and on rock shelters, mostly in arid or desert areas. The artwork depicts non-human beings, hunters, and half-human half-animal hybrids. The half-human hybrids are believed to be medicine men or healers involved in a healing dance. 


The Drakensberg and mountains in Lesotho are particularly well known for San rock art, however ‘Dassie Shelter’ is the only place in the world to have a rockart painting of a Dassie or Rock Hyrax. An important animal in the Bushman religion, the Dassie or ‘Ichneumon’ was the grandson of ‘The Great Trickster God / Kaggen’. There are 47 paintings in total in this site, including the extinct Bluebuck. Their paints were made from the soil, rock and natural items around them, red being made from ferrous oxide, a type of rusted ironstone, ground to a fine powder and mixed with animal blood and fats. Plant sap and egg whites were used to bind the paint. Yellow was made from hydrous ferrous oxide; white from bird droppings, clay or ground animal bones and black was charcoal or manganese. The youngest paintings at this site are in yellow and thought to be around 600 years old, while the darker, red ones are thought to date back over 1,000 years! 

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Dassie (L) and Rhebuck (looking over its shoulder)

Eland (the 3 lines indicate the folds in skin around the animal’s neck)

The extinct Bluebuck

On our first afternoon at lodge we went for a short drive and found the graveyard of the Van Reenen Family alongside the main road into the national park. J N R Van Reenen was a farmer who trekked into the area in 1875 to settle on his newly acquired farm, Vuurland (Fire Land), and as the fading light coloured the cliffs he apparently called the area ‘Golden Gate’. Vuurland was one of three farms in this area which were amalgamated in 1962 to form the Golden Gate National Park.  

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We took a slow drive back to the lodge, enjoying the magnificent scenery along the way. It was time to light the braai fire and settle in for the evening.


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2 responses to “Home again – part 2 – R and R in the wilderness #1”

  1. Pauline Smith says:

    Lovely – so picturesque but dry at the same time…

  2. Cheryl Wilkinson says:

    Love that area! Good pics of the paintings! always so interesting your blogs thank you!

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