September 2018

Magnificent Baobabs are a feature of the Northern Limpopo landscape.

Still heading north, through Wyllie’s Poort and the twin Hendrik Verwoerd tunnels, I soon left behind me the lush greenery of the Soutpansberg.

Before long the landscape became flat and dry. Ancient, alien-looking Baobab trees rose high above the other vegetation and added interest to the otherwise rather bleak and dry countryside.

It wasn’t a long drive to bring me to the town of Musina where I was going to spend a few days with relatives.


My first-ever encounter with Musina was in late 1966. It was my first trip “Down South” as South Africa was referred to by everyone living north of the Limpopo.

Having spent all my previous life in wet and tropical Zambia, the dry landscape around Musina was a shock to my senses. I’d never seen such bleakness in all my nine years on earth!

A Flamboyant tree in full bloom.

But the excitement of finally being “Down South”, that mystical place where my ancestors came from, more than made up for the bleakness of this little town. All I remember seeing from the back seat of the Peugeot 404 station wagon were the bright red flowers of the Flamboyant trees along the almost deserted main street.

The road made a slight bend and there was a hotel.

Abruptly the town was behind us again and we continued onwards “down south”. After three days of driving we still weren’t there!

In those days, Messina as it was called then was a tiny outpost on the Great North road heading over the Limpopo at Beit Bridge, through Zimbabwe and into Zambia. In fact, Musina only officially became a “town” in 1968, a year after my first encounter.

This northernmost town of South Africa had been settled by the Musina tribe for hundreds of years. They mined copper in the surrounding area and this attracted the attention of the white settlers. In the early 20th century the large copper deposit was re-discovered by a Colonel John Pascoe Grenfell. He obtained a mining certificate and in 1904 Messina was founded. In 2003 the town was correctly re-named Musina, honouring the original inhabitants.

Musina is no longer the quiet village remembered from my youth.
A constant stream of heavy vehicles passing through on the narrow main street.

Today Musina is a town bursting out of it’s seams with activity. Gone is the quiet village of my distant memory. Now, the streets are filled with informal traders and the inadequate shops are packed with shoppers from neighbouring Zimbabwe. A non-stop convoy of heavily laden trucks heave their cargo through the narrow main street. Northwards, supplies and equipment going up as far as Central Africa. Southwards, precious metals and products headed to the harbours and onwards to distant countries.

Many new mines have been developed in the area and the suburbs of Musina have expanded to provide accommodation for the miners.

Limpopo River

The Limpopo leaves South Africa at Crooks Corner in Kruger National Park.

Muldersdrif se Loop sprouts up in the Constantia kloof in the Gauteng city of Roodepoort. It soon tumbles down a pretty waterfall, flows through the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens and heads off in the direction of the well-known Hartebeespoort Dam. Somewhere around the Cradle of Humankind it becomes the Krokodilrivier (Crocodile River). Soon afterwards just north of Lanseria Airport it is joined by the Jukskei river which began at a stormwater drain in Johannesburg’s eastern suburbs.

After these humble beginnings, the Krokodil leaves Gauteng, feeds the Hartebeespoort Dam and continues its journey in a westerly direction towards South Africa’s border with Botswana.

In full spate, the Krokodil leaves the Hartebeespoort Dam

70Km north-west of the town of Thabazimbi, the Krokodil is joined by the Marico river which had it’s origin at the Eye of Marico just south of the town of Marico.

At the confluence of the Krokodil and Marico, the river now becomes the Limpopo and the waters continue their epic journey flowing first northwards, then east again to finally flow into the Indian Ocean at the Mozambican town of Xai-Xai.

Where the Shashe river meets the Limpopo at Mapungubwe National Park three countries come together, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

1800 kilometres in length, the Limpopo is the African continent’s second longest river that flows into the Indian Ocean and only the mighty Zambezi beats the humble Limpopo into second-place.

Near Musina the Sand River joins the Limpopo. “The Beach” is a popular place where locals come to practice their off-road driving skills.

Often dry, the Limpopo can quickly become a frightening mass of raging water following heavy rains in its vast catchment area. The extremely flat plains in Mozambique are easily flooded when this happens and a huge number of people who live on these fertile plains are regular casualties of the floods.

At Crooks Corner the Levuvhu River joins the Limpopo before it finally leaves South Africa.

From Musina, following the course of the Limpopo eastwards, my next destination was to the most northeast corner of South Africa at Crooks Corner.



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