Towards the centre of South Africa you will find the Free State Province. Bloemfontein, the capital of the Free State, is also the judicial capital of South Africa. Bloemfontein in the Free State is nicknamed the “city of roses”, but is also known as Mangaung (“place of the cheetahs”) by SeSotho speakers. Mangaung is now the name of the Local District Municipality, which includes Bloemfontein and a number of surrounding towns.
The northern area of the Free State is known as “Golden Country” because of the many wheat and sunflower fields, as well as the gold deposits beneath the earth. One third of South Africa’s gold is produced here. Towards the north east you will find the Golden Gate National Park, so named because of the spectacular sandstone formations that glow with shades of gold in the setting sun. The Golden Gate National Park contains a number of antelope and birds, including the bearded vulture. In wintertime this area can become quite cold and you can even expect to see snow.
The Vredefort Dome in the Free State is the largest and oldest meteorite impact site in the world. Scientists estimate that our planet was hit by a giant meteorite (larger than Table Mountain) almost 2000 million years ago, creating a dome as a result of the rebound of rock. What we see today, when visiting the Vredefort Dome in the Free State, is the eroded remains of that dome.
The Free State was also the scene of many battles during the two Anglo Boer Wars. The “Vrouemonument” (monument to women) outside Bloemfontein, pays tribute to the many women and children who died in the concentration camps, after the British started burning down the farms and fields to win the war.
The Basotho Cultural Village (next to the R712 route from QwaQwa to the Golden Gate National Park) offers a glimpse of the way of life of the South Sotho people of the Free State. Your guide will first take you to the chief to ask his permission, whereupon the chief will offer a sip of traditional beer to show his hospitality. You will see how the huts are decorated, crushing of maize, traditional games and dancing, as well as attend a bone-throwing ceremony of the Ngaka (the chief’s bone-thrower that can read the future by throwing cattle bones). You can also enjoy traditional meals at the restaurant of the Basotho Cultural Village in the Free State.