The ±10 km meteorite which smashed into earth at Vredefort about 2.023 billion years ago, may have been very impressive but subsequent erosion means that images of what it looked like back then rely completely on imagination. Tswaing crater (40 km north of Pretoria) has visual impact. When a ±50 m meteorite fell at Tswaing ±220 000 years ago , it left a mark still visible today. This is one of very few conspicuous, well-preserved impact sites in the world. Most local friends and family here have never heard of it.
After a lunch braai (barbecue) we hiked to the crater. The full 7.5 km hiking trail takes you around the rim and 100 m down into the basin. Freedom, who works at the picnic site advised that with small children we hike to viewpoint 10, then double back to the boom where a road leads into the basin. This shortened hike took us 2½ hours to complete. We were very grateful for Freedom’s advice, undertaking this hike during a heat wave was not the pinnacle of our parenting practicality, nor was setting forth with only 1.5 L of water. To do the hike comfortably we should have carried at least 3 L. Leaving most water for the children, Cliff and I unglued tongues from pallets by sucking on delicious marula fruit, found intact on the ground at intervals. At 7 our son Fjord is fascinated by the solar system and all things astronomical, you can’t compare book learning with walking into the heart of an asteroid crater.
You can almost hear the whisper of time echo off the crater walls. Reminding me of the truth in “This too shall pass”. Once a scene of annihilation and devastation, now tranquil trees speak of life. Water birds mindless of the past, take wing, flight mirrored on the lake’s still surface.
Freedom told me that the museum is no more. The contents were moved to fancy new buildings which were destroyed by a bush fire a year or 2 later. This too shall pass. The skeletal buildings will be restored, or eventually they will melt back into the landscape.
Next weekend Tswaing hosts an annual music festival. 70 DJs and live acts will entertain about 2000 visitors. When the crowds leave the music will be replaced again by birdsong and silence. Mother earth has weathered more, she knows that she is made to endure.