After paying a small entrance fee, the guard at the gate jumped in my car and joined me up to the mine. We got to a halt in front of a huge dip. That’s all? That’s the mine? I asked myself a bit disappointed. From the oldest mine on earth I was expecting something more exciting.
I was doubting about the age of this mine, till I looked up on Wikipedia about Ngwenya Mine. As my guide told me, the scientist dating back the first use of the hematite, or iron ore, for more than 40,000 years. It was used in the stone age for coloring the skin, probably as protecting from the sun.
But first we stepped into the remains of the former museum, which burned down by wildfire a couple years ago. Just in front of the ruins lies the deep hole from the old commercial mine. There are two more dips, the guide explains me. We drove further and parked at another mine dip, filled with water.
From here we got on our feet and walked up to the highest point, the top of Mount Ngwenya. The last steps are on a steep latter. Stairways to heaven, slipped in my mind and followed me for awhile. From the top, a green wide valley opened up in front of my eyes. The sun rays plays with the clouds, draws pattern in the green landscape. The clouds sprays rain over it, as if it’s in a playful competition with the sun.
Eventually we got to the cave I mentioned earlier. Reddish rocks and ground all around here. Easy to imagine how the early homo sapiens was impressed of that colorful stone. My guide picked up some hematite and rubbed it on the back of my hand to demonstrate how the skin got colored. With the reddish stain on my hand we left the place, still imagining how 40000 years ago people was wandering these beautiful hills.