Interesting facts about the area
In 1871 diamond deposits on the hillock dubbed Colesberg Skopje led to a mad scramble for fortune - the initial hand-digging of what became the colossal Kimberley Mine, now better known as The Big Hole. Within a year there were 50 000 diggers. Tents and shacks of the mining town of New Rush – overcrowded, unsanitary, in the heat, with dust and flies – mushroomed on the veld. Gambling dens and canteens thrived. The stakes were high and the ruthless ruled. Fortunes were made and lost in a day. Some found only despair and heartbreak; others stuck it rich.
In 1873 New Rush became Kimberley – named after the Earl of Kimberley, British Secretary of State for the Colonies; and by the turn of the century the town had donned a mantle of architectural elegance, though a higgledy piggledy web of roads, connecting no less than five mines and the frenetic activity between them, remained as a reminder of chaotic beginnings.
Kimberley today is a prosperous, thriving metropolis with its older buildings complementing the more modern fabric of the CBD. Lacking the furious pace of South Africa’s larger urban giants, it is perhaps not only the country’s most authentic city but also the most innovative. Home of the first flying school, the first stock exchange and the first city in the Southern Hemisphere to install electric street lighting.
The pretty, very little town of Douglas lies almost halfway between Kimberley and the town of Prieska.The first thing one notices about Douglas, however, is the amount of water - the town lies where the Orange and Vaal rivers meet, hence farm land is fertile in the vicinity, to say the least, and the town is regarded as something of an oasis. Considering that the rest of the Northern Cape has the reputation of being dry, parched and arid - certainly it claims to be the most arid region in South Africa - this is quite an achievement.
Douglas is also an historic town, with years of diamond digging and the missionaries to thank for some of its quaint little houses. More excitingly, it has a series of glacial pavements that date back 290 million years and a number of rock engravings made from stone tools. You will need permission to see these from the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, which is only 100 kilometres away from Kimberley, making it an obvious stop over en route to view the Big Hole and other exciting tourist attractions.
Douglas, because it is so green, claims a wonderful bird life and is famous for its fishing on the Vaal River - the town boasts seven of the big-league fresh water fish in the vicinity. There is a lovely little spot that marks where the rivers meet, just outside of town, known as Die Neus (the nose), and the Douglas Wine Cellar is also worth a visit.