TAKE ME TO THE RIVER
Remember the movie, "Paris, Texas"? Well, driving to Parys in the Free State can be a bit like this, with wide-sky spaces unfolding beyond your windscreen. This little town is currently hot property and has become a veritable hotspot on the tourist route along the reaches of the Vaal River.
Antique shops, organic eateries and delis line the laid-back streets, but it is the river and nearby Dome Conservancy that lure adventurers to the area. The Vredefort Dome, a good 200-billion years old, was created when a giant meteorite struck Earth to create a shallow crater with a radius of nearly 200km. This so-called “dome” is an outdoor playground of note, so make sure you pack your toys. The world's oldest astrobleme has been a World Heritage Site since 2005.
If you thought of the Vaal River as a sluggish stretch of water, think again. Few other rivers in South Africa offer year-round white water of the consistency you will find at Parys, with “The Theatre” boasting a runnable rapid longer than 900 metres! Play-boating, kayaking, river-boarding and rafting are offered by a number of experienced operators in the area.
The Dome Conservancy is a paradise for mountain bikers, and offers a perfect escape to members of the fat-track tribe based in Gauteng’s urban jungle. Thabela Thabeng is centrally situated within the conservancy, with riding options varying in distance from a fun 12 kilometres to a two-province 50-kilometre beast.
The section of the Vaal River within the Dome Conservancy is a dream destination for fly-fishermen (and anglers of all types, in fact). Largemouth and smallmouth yellowfish, king carp, barbel and mudfish make for excellent sport, especially on lightweight fly tackle.
If you’re travelling south along the N1 from Johannesburg, look out for the R59 and turn right towards Parys. The town is situated about an hour from JHB, plus another 20 kilometres to the Vredefort Dome.
Best time of year
Parys has its own micro-climate, so you’ll survive winter; best time is spring and early summer though.
Where to stay
Chalets, farm stays, guesthouses, lodges, campsites and a host of other accommodation options dot the Parys area.
North West Tourism (1hr from Gauteng) - www.tourismnorthwest.co.za
World Heritage Site - http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1162
Parys Tourism - www.parys.info
Thabela Thabeng (Mountain Biking & Hiking) - www.thabelathabeng.co.za
The Otters' Haunt (River rafting) - www.otters.co.za
Dimalachite Resort (Fishing) - www.dimalachite.co.za