We arrived in Kimberley on a mid-Sunday afternoon at its brilliantly atmospheric railway station. As you descend onto the platform you are immediately conscience of how wonderfully different it is from other modern day stations.
The metal latticed roof structure is designed to allow plenty of natural light in and the wooden benches perfectly accompany the calligraphy signage boards that announce your arrival with all the flair of a bygone era. Stone walls and white arches guide you out and into the Capital of the Northern Cape.
Kimberley is famous for its diamonds, in fact were it not for these, the City would probably resemble much of the rest of the Northern Cape – a dry, hot and beautifully inhospitable landscape. The province is South Africa’s largest, more than double the size of the second largest in fact, and yet is home to the fewest. This is due mostly the province being dominated by the Karoo Basin and the desert like conditions with which that comes.
However, the discovery of diamonds in 1866 by Erasmus Jacobs led to a turn of events that saw the world’s fortune hunters flock to the, then unnamed, City in droves. Men came to seek their fortunes from all over, some journeyed by ship to the nearest port and then walked the rest of the way on foot and others went by horse and wagon. It was long and treacherous but the diamonds were seemingly unending. The majority of the world’s diamonds still come from here today.
We visited the Cities most famed landmark and, fittingly, a South African born Scotsman guided us around the remains of what is known as the Big Hole. The hole is the largest excavation by human hands in the world and looking at it today it’s hard to believe that it started out as thousands of different ones.
The condensed version of the story is that of course all the little holes in such a confined area eventually began to give way to one another and this was aided by the torrential rains of one fateful year that saw many workers die in the pits.
The Big Hole has today been converted into a cleverly and carefully constructed museum facility that shows you, amongst other things, the history of diamonds specific to Kimberley, the various ways in which they are mined, historic memorabilia, the opportunity to buy diamonds slightly cheaper than usual, recreations of the mining tunnels and the blue diamondiferous rock – Kimberlite, which is rich in diamonds and not forgetting the complete reconstruction of the “Old Town” at the big hole which shows you what it was like to live there back in the 1800’s.
Visit Kimberley! The Old Town has many fascinating buildings to go and explore such as pubs, churches, banks and hotels in Kimberley.
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