Where to start my journey ? With the monument, that is clearly visible from my neighbourhood, all of 15 km away.
Walking up the steps, I had forgotten the sheer size of the 40 meter high granite structure, that confronts you. Stark in the early Autumn sunshine.
The corner stone was laid in 1938 and the following items were placed behind it and then closed up: a copy of the diary of Jan van Riebeeck, a copy of the national anthem, and the Klopper Bible. (Henning Klopper was the leader of the symbolic trek of 1938.)
The Monument was inaugurated on 16 December 1949.
Greeting me at the foot of the Monument is a rather grim looking bronze statue of a Voortrekker woman and her 2 children, done by famed sculptor, Anton Van Wouw.
And the scale of the whole building is further enhanced by 4 Voortrekker leaders, gazing resolutely into the distance.
Entering the Hall of Heroes, I am now looking at the world’s biggest marble frieze. 27 panels depicting daily life on the Great Trek.
But I am drawn to the Cenotaph, the focal point of the Monument…a “grave with no bones”. The symbolic resting place of Piet Retief and all the Voortrekkers who died during the Great Trek.
Every year on the 16th of December at noon, the sun shines through the opening in the roof of the cupola, onto the words “Ons vir jou Suid-Afrika”. (We for thee South Africa)
On a more human scale, I like the lantern in a back corner, that has been lit since 1938.
Artifacts in the museum look at daily life during the trek, but I need some fresh air, as the overwhelming Gerard Moerdijk structure fills up with busloads of visitors.
And one final piece of the huge jigsaw, is the laager wall that circles the Monument, 64 wagons, the same number as at the battle of Blood River in 1838.
2 km to the east of the Monument, Fort Schanskop has been beautifully restored. Built in 1897, it was one of 4 forts for Pretoria’s defense.
Also situated on the 250 hectare site, is the Heritage Centre. An archive, library, research centre and a display area, was opened in 2008. The exhibition: “Afrikaners in the 20th Centuary”, is well worth a visit with it’s plasma screens and touch screen data bases.
In the small art gallery, I loved the bronze bust of a determined General Christiaan de Wet, who definately had his hair gelled I think !!
And then there is still more…bring your mountain bike or rent one for R80 an hour on site and enjoy 15 km of trails. Horse trails from R150 for 30 minutes are also available.
On a more sobering note, a garden of rememberance, has been laid out, and for R4 000, that could be your final resting place.
My day spent at the Voortrekker Monument was definately worth it as this privately run concern welcomes all and sundry. R60 for the whole terrain was well spent. The whole site is well kept, safe parking, wheelchair friendly and great rest rooms.
Maybe I should go back on Sunday for the famous Boerekos buffet, a snip at R130 !!
Need to know more ? www.voortrekkermon.org.za
Next week I explore the Irene concentration camp cemetery and Garden of rememberance.