ON A WEDNESDAY morning a select group of media houses were treated to an informative and adventurous junket by management of Gold Reef City, inside their activity-laden theme park.
Welcomed by the warm and friendly crew, we were treated to an appetizing breakfast of rich muffins, scones, cheese, yoghurt-topped muesli, brewed coffee, tea and fruit juices!
After an introductory speech by one of the staff, we commenced through to the beginning of the promising excursion, at the entrance to the mine tour, inside a rustic shed located at the feet of one of the ubiquitous shafts which can be spotted hovering over the Witwatersrand skyline.
Inside said shed, one of what turned out to be numerous knowledgeable guides, briefed us on the composition of the mine we were about to embark into.
That was immediately followed by another briefing by a safety gear-clad guide, named Regina Molotha, who was to accompany us underground. After we’ve been issued with hard hats and torches, we were then ushered, in separate groups, into cage lifts which transported us 75 meters down the bowels of a now un-commissioned mine lying below the theme park and whose depth lies more than an incredible three kilometres from the unsuspecting surface.
Having reached our destination, referred to as level one, in no time and whilst instantly feeling a drop in temperature – Molotha wasted no time in leading us through winding dim paths whilst unpacking how things unfolded in a typical operation established for the excavation of an object which lies at the very existence of Johannesburg!
Our underground meander crossed paths with groups of excited schoolchildren of varying ages – the very demographic the heritage tour has been designed for.
After some considerable and educative while spent below, we re-surfaced with pictorial souvenirs of our sojourn and after parting of ways with the mine tour personnel, then headed to another fascinating aspect of the tour, the gold pour – where inside another shed, we listened to an audio clip expounding on the process of the extraction of gold-bearing rock being grinded, then heated to liquid form before it is turned into glimmering bars.
Thereafter, a duo of men clad in requisite protective gear gave a demonstration of how the process of searing molten gold straight out a furnace and poured into a pan until it solidifies into a brick worth a fortune priced in five figure ranges at current exchange rates. Being pre-warned that the final product wasn’t an actual pure gold, lest some amongst the audience become tempted with ideas not of the legit variety – we were then invited to come have a closer look and feel the gold bar.
Upon our taking leave of what is described as the experience of the heart, soul and mind, the tour’s itinerary then steered us in the direction of the Rich Beginnings theatre where a film on the discovery of gold, as narrated from the perspective of a character known as Prospector Jo, was screened.
We then rounded off the tour by visiting a trio of museum houses representing a bygone era where families eked out a living based on the principle of ‘waste not, want not’.
With interiors filled with replica furniture and utensils from the period, the abode I got to walk around in, Oosthuizen House, is a McCoy throwback of the time, with its white colour painted picket fences in the front yard and a Welcome Dover coal stove in the wooden floored kitchen. A long drop toilet in the backyard completed the idea of how human settlements looked like!
A publicity media release issued to put the aim of the heritage tour into perspective describes it as providing the perfect backdrop for children with inquisitive minds to explore the rich and enchanting history of how Johannesburg came to be and how gold was discovered on the reef, outside of the traditional classroom setting – continuing to promise that history lesson has never been this interactive and fun!
Prior booking is essential. For availability please contact the Heritage Department, Mondays to Fridays, on +27 11 248 6986 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Jacob MAWELA (Undergroud Mine Tour guide, Regina Molotha, looked at a dummy whilst taking media corps through a tour below the Gold Reef City surface, in Johannesburg).