When the festive season rush is over, thousands of mountain bike enthusiasts will be heading off to Mpumalanga for a rush of a different kind. The Barberton Rotary Club’s 23 rd annual XCM Mountain Bike Challenge storms into the small Lowveld town on 26 January, bringing with it all the excitement and hype of a big city race.It has really put the small “dorpie” on the map and the town is again abuzzwith preparations for the influx of entrants and visitors for next year’s race. In Barberton, you will find some of the finest scenery in Africa, a glorious climate, incredible biodiversity and the unique Barberton Greenstone Belt geology that tells the earliest history of earth itself – a fossilised record of the wild frontier of time.
“Genesis of Life” is Barberton’s tagline and it isn’t difficult to figure out why. The town’s roots go back to 1884 when Fred and Henry Barber and their cousin, Graham, discovered gold here. On 24 July 1884 the Gold Commissioner, David Wilson, christened the reef with a bottle of gin (no champagne available) and named the town Barberton. Back then it wasn’t mountain bikers or tourists but prospectors and fortune seekers who flocked to Barberton. Its heyday was short-lived though and fizzled out soon after gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand and only the larger mines continued operating.The area is also any geologist’s dream.
The Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains are made by geological strata and are world famous for their staggering age of more than 3 500 million years. That makes them, together with similar rocks in northwest Australia, the oldest well-preserved rocks on earth. Even though the strata in the Barberton Mountains are displaced against each other by geological faults, scientists congregate here yearly to painstakingly take the rocks apart and study them in the field and in laboratories. This is because these rocks, spread out over an area of about 160km by 40km, are mankind’s only physical repository of information about this formative period of earth’s history. The mountains harbour information about its atmosphere, the oceans, climate, volcanism, meteorite impacts and the physical environment in which the first microscopic life forms successfully established themselves and then spread out to conquer the planet.
The geo-trail along the paved R40 road, which winds its way across the high mountains to the Swazi border, makes it possible to comfortably learn about these rocks and enjoy the scenery responsibly. Barberton also boasts an incredibly diverse flora and fauna, with twitchers, bird clubs, naturalists and botanists having made rare sightings and finds in this “Genesis of Life” in Mpumalanga. With all this diversity and beauty, it’s no wonder the Barberton Rotary Club gets so much support for its annual XCM Mountain Bike Challenge.
The 2019 event again promises exceptional hospitality, entertainment and fun for the whole family. Barberton is only 43 kilometres south of Mbombela and 360 kilometres east of Joburg, so you can see why the event is so popular. It actually draws interest from all over the country and even international riders take part.
These are some of the things Barberton will surprise you with:
- You can do gold panning! It’s not just a thing of the past, it’s alive and
well and has captured the imagination of young and old.
- Mining tours into Bray’s Golden Quarry: Experience the magical tale of
Edwin Bray, a wanderer who literally struck gold when he discovered a
hill so rich in gold in the Barberton area that it was claimed to be one of
the Wonders of the World!
- Guided heritage walk through Barberton.
- Underground mining tours.
- Queen Rose hiking trails: A 14km circular trail and a 26km two-day
- Paragliding or paramotor experiences.
- Adventurous quad-biking trails.
- Mountain bike trails into reserves and surroundings.
- Eureka City and other 4×4 off road adventure tours.