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Northern Province - Messina/Musina

 
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Location

In Limpopo Province, on the N1 national highway in the extreme north of South Africa.

The small, embowered town, decorated by flowering tropical trees and set in attractive countryside just 15 kilometres from the Limpopo River and the Zimbabwe border, owes its existence to the rich copper deposits of the area. Indeed men had been mining the deposits for hundreds of years before the place was founded in the early 1900s. The local African folk, who bartered copper ingots with Arab traders from the north, called the metal 'musina', which means 'spoiler' in their language (a reference to the way it adulterated iron, the commodity they were really after). The area is also rich in other metals and minerals, among them coal, iron-ore, magnetite, graphite, diamonds and semi-precious stones.

Accommodation is available at, among other establishments, the nearby Tshipise Resort and in the local nature reserve (see below).


Highlights

Messina Nature Reserve The town is especially noted for the giant baobab trees of the sanctuary, which lies just to the south. There are many legends wreathed around these ancient, rather grotesque monsters of the hot African veld, and not without reason: though their branches have a spindly, root-like root, they grow to an immense age - 3,000 years in some cases - and an immense size, their girths reaching 20 metres and more in circumference (one huge, hollowed out specimen, near the Murchison hills to the west, once served the early gold-miners as a bar-room!). It is said variously that God planted them upside down, or that they simply fell from heaven to plunge head-first into the ground; that their blossoms are haunted by spirits and that a drink made from the seeds will protect you from crocodiles. Appearances are deceptive, however, for this solid-looking tree is in fact little more than a mass of soft fibrous material and water, and though it may have started life before the birth of the Roman empire, enduring everything the elements could throw at it, its death (from disease or from water-logging) is sudden, quick and complete. It simply crumbles in on itself to become a barely noticeable pile of flaky vegetable matter.

The Reserve has more to offer: its mopane-covered plains are home to 350 other types of tree (some not yet identified), to giraffe, antelope, wildebeest, leopard and a host of smaller animals and to around 200 bird species. It also contains some of the world's oldest rocks: the Sand River Gneiss layers found here were formed more than 3.8 billion years ago, when Planet Earth itself was still young.

Limpopo Valley National Park South Africa's newest national sanctuary protects the animals and plants of South Africa's northernmost parts and, even more notably, Mapungubwe Hill ('Hill of the Jackals'), at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashi rivers about 75 kilometres from Messina. The hill, an enormous rock feature that can be penetrated via a crevice, was refuge for folk of the Mapungubwe culture around a thousand years ago but was discovered only in the 1830s. Archaeologists have found the remains of stone walls and an array of pottery, jewellery, and ornamentation; among the artifacts unearthed are a small golden rhinoceros and a golden bowl. The park's wildlife includes lion, elephant, leopard and many other kinds of wild animal.


Nearest towns

Louis Trichardt, Pietersburg/Polekwane and Potgietersrus/Mokopane lie on the main highway to the south; Beitbridge is just across the border in Zimbabwe.

 


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MESSINA/MUSINA

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