A LOOK AT THE REEFS AND MINES.
And now for a look at the reefs and mines, which are the –raison d’ être– of Barberton, so named by the way, after “Mr. Barber”, one of the early prospectors of the vicinity.
Standing with one’s back to the hills behind the town, and looking out over the valley away to one’s left’ and seven miles distant, lies Moodies, as the mountain farms owned by the Moodie Company are called. These are reached by an excellent road skirting the hills. To the right again is the road leading to the far-famed Sheba range of mountains, the magnificent tops and shoulders of which tower loftily above the low, intervening stony ridge called the Berea. Allowing the eye to travel still further round in the same direction, and following the rugged outline of the mountain barrier, it rests on the Kantoor Hills, the loftiest of the range, and some 7000 feet above sea level, distant from Barberton some 30 miles. Away diagonally across the valley, in the direction of the pass by which the Natal road descends, is situated the Komati diggings. The principal centres of mining industry are thus, the reader will see, widely apart; but in addition to these are other reefs and mines such as the Caledonian, Victoria, Albion, and others, which are at the foot of the adjoining hills or out in the valley.
We proceeded to have a look at the Sheba first. The road winds across the flat among some pretty park-like scenery, thickly dotted with mimosa and camel thorn trees, and six miles out turns off into a narrow valley between two lofty hills. In this valley were numerous wagons out spanned, waiting their freight of quartz from above. The road now begins to ascend, and riding becomes impossible. Away up we toiled and scrambled, dragging after us our unwilling steeds, until it seemed quite impossible that we could get further, or horses be induced to follow, indeed, in one place, with a gradient of 1 in 2 t. It was just all we could do to surmount it. Ridge after ridge was, however, wearily mastered, each top attained, only in the most exasperating manner revealing a more lofty one beyond, until one almost fancied that there could be no top. It took us an hour and a half to reach the summit; and severe as had been the climb, we were more than amply repaid by the delicious, bracing air, and the magnificent panorama. Behind us, far below, was spread, out like a map the Kaap Valley; right, left, and before us, was an endless secession of hills in crests, ridges, domes, and peaks, almost treeless, and clad in winter russet, but beautiful nevertheless. A good road has been made along this part of the range, which was level enough to canter upon, as it kept to the hilltops pretty much. We were now on the top of the Sheba range and passing some of the properties, whose names were quite familiar to us.
Beyond these, however, was our destination, it being quite impossible to visit all or even a tithe of the reefs. We passed prospectors with their donkeys laden with stores and tools, cheerfully plodding along, and occasional strings of wagons laden with quartz; while dotted about on near and distant hills were white spots-tents indicating the homes of the prospectors. A hole in the side of a hill, with a pile of debris shot out from it, indicated where work was going on, emphasised by an occasional dynamite explosion. We met here, as everywhere, familiar faces and kind greetings, with eager enquiries about friends in Natal. Everyone seemed cheery and hopeful, even where fortune had not already smiled on them; and well they might be, for many a good thing was being developed in this range. We found ourselves about noon at the hut of our well-known Durban friend, Mr. Geo. Hillary, jun., where was also another