The Guard

The Truth On Board

Know and embrace your park

By Emily Setona

CLARENS – As part of marketing and encouraging the local community to know their park, Golden Gate Highlands National Park took local and national journalists on a guided tour of the facility, introducing them to different tourist attraction areas that the park offers, from September 20 to 22.

Magnificent mountain formations that give rise to wonderful hiking trails in a grassland biome that is rich with lush vegetation and wildlife that are unique and form part of the cultural heritage of the eastern Free State and a dinosaur interpretation centre telling the story of khodumodumo the South African dinosaur or Basotho mythological creature that was slain by Moshanyana Senkatana, making this national park very significant to the international community.

Areas that were toured included a newly built dinosaur museum which is not only going to be used as a heritage site, but also an educational and research place for university students and academics.
The tour of the dinosaur interpretation centre was led by park manager Paddy Gordon who mentioned that the museum has a unique design and brickwork in the shape of a lizard, offering visitors a zig-zag tour of the museum that will help tell the history of the dinosaurs in this area.

“Palaeontologists have discovered numerous fossils in the park and the centre is expected to serve as an interactive museum as well as scientific research station aimed at preserving the remains of the archaeological site where one of the oldest known dinosaur nesting grounds was discovered.”

“The South African dinosaur is different from the American dinosaurs and as the Basotho mythological legend goes, khodumodumo was a gigantic creature that ate an entire village and a mother hid away inside a cave with her son. As the son grew up and asked his mother what happened to the people she told him that khodumodumo ate the whole village so Moshanyan’a Senkatana built up his courage to face the monster and saved his people by cutting the creature’s stomach and releasing all the people,” Gordan said.
Tour guide Kgalalelo Makwaeba guided a group of media personnel on a hiking trail after a horse riding trip from Gladstone stables to Van Vuuren farmhouse.
She said “People think that Golden Gate gets its name from the mountains that stand opposite each other at the park’s entrance as a gate, but it is because of the beautiful golden colour that the mountains get as the sun casts its rays on the sandstone mountains.”

“Golden Gate is rich with biodiversity and beautiful mountains, it is a grassland biome, and a water catchment area making parts of the park a wetland. The park does not have the big five but has animals such as the black wildebeest, eland, oribi, blesbok, springbok, mountain reedbuck, caracal and our iconic bird is the secretary bird.”

According to Gordon, “The national park offers visitors numerous hiking trails that are not only breathtakingly beautiful but also offer a glimpse into this area’s rich history and cultural heritage as geologists agree that the rock formations and the arrangement of the colours in the Golden Gate mountains tells a story of years gone by in chronological order through the way that the colours in the mountains are arranged.

“The vegetation and animals found along this beautiful escarpment are as old as time itself, that is why the South African National Parks (SANPARKS) have decided to make this part of the eastern Free State a national park so that they can conserve and preserve the rich cultural heritage that is found in this area.”

For his part, SANPARKS media, events, marketing, and stakeholder relations general manager Reynold Thakhuli said, “Through SANPARKS week, we are encouraging locals to know their park. People don’t have to go far and spend a lot of money to experience the beauty of nature that is right in their backyards.”
The Wilgenhof Environmental Education Centre (EEC) offers activities such as horse riding along mountain trails that take you to caves riddled with rock art paintings.

Malefetsane Makubo, an experienced rider working at Gladstone stables who happened to be cast in the Black Panther movie, told The Guard, “I have eight years doing horse riding, that is how I was chosen to be a cast member for Black Panther in 2018. They were looking for an experienced rider in the area. It was an overwhelming and exciting experience because I am not an actor, but it was very nice to work with the American film crew as they shot some parts of the movie here in the park.”