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Wednesday Aug 22, 2012

Cableway adds new attraction to Hartebeespoort

It might not be in the league of the Table Mountain cable-car experience, but the new Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway adds huge value to this area's visitor attractions, and not least, gives you a bird's eye of the rocks of the Magaliesberg, which bear the ripples of tides that lapped the shore more than 2 billion years ago.

The cable car at Hartebeespoort Dam.

Being quietly hoisted up on Africa's longest mono cableway (1.2km) at its launch last week, there's no disputing that it's a world-class feat of engineering.

The 14 six-seater cable cars were supplied by Swiss company CWA Constructions, the largest cabin manufacturer in the world, and another Swiss company produced the galvanised cables.

Also, the fact that the owners are entrepreneurs - Craig Saunders and his investment partner, Michael Sachs of Zargodox Ltd - and not the local government, somehow makes one feel a little safer going up.

It was in 2010 that Zargodox purchased the cableway, which had operated for 32 years, but by 2005 it had fallen into disrepair and closed down.

It has taken until now to rebuild the site and the cableway system meets international standards (the cableway was fitted and reengineered according to Canadian Standards Association specifications).

Safety considerations out of the way, what does the new Harties cableway adventure offer? Having been on many an aerial cableways, including in Europe and the US, my experience is that once up on the mountain and back on terra

Ifirma, the views are always spectacular but the facilities are often a bit disappointing. Not so in this case. The allyear-round good weather being a Harties trump card, Zargodox has cleverly laid down an expanse of wooden decking connecting the 250-seater Bugatti Restaurant at the base station to the Lookout Bar, with its panoramic views of the Hartbeespoort Dam and surrounding Magaliesberg flanked by local agricultural fields, blighted here and there by towers of industry like the Pelindaba nuclear power station.

On the upper deck there is an educational "Dassie Walkway" that leads to the al fresco Pizza Shack, a kids' zone featuring a compact jungle gym and a couple of private bomas on the perimeter, ideal for romancing couples, picnickers or smokers.

More adventurous visitors can call on the adventure centre offering paragliding and hiking.

There's also a little shop for curios, clothing, gifts and novelties, although I've learned to apply a blinkered-eye technique to those, given price tags that are usually as lofty as the shop's location.

The great attraction of this spot - aside from the 360° uninterrupted views and inspired use of the setting, including floor-to-ceiling windows in the Bugatti restaurant - lies in its incredible geological and anthropological history.

Almost 100 times older than Mount Everest, Magaliesberg as we know it is the denouement of a story that began more than 2 billion years ago, when huge seismic forces cracked the bed of an inland sea and tilted it skyward.

Vincent Carruthers, author of the book The Magaliesberg, describes what happened next. "Molten magma pumped into fissures and burned deep kloofs in the rock.

"Ragged peaks of the tilted seabed were scoured by a continental ice sheet, then buried in swamp, smothered under desert sands and finally capped with volcanic lava.

"Sixty million years ago, the covering began to weather away and the mountains reemerged to become the cliffs, the gentle slopes, the secretive kloofs and the tumbling streams we know today."

The Harties cableway overlooks the southernmost ridge of the Magaliesberg, which also happens to be part of the Cradle of Humankind, the place that birthed what is believed to be our hominid forbears.

The Star

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