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Vaal dam opens the floodgates; tourists flock to see

By Branko Brkic 29 January 2010

Hey, there isn't a great deal to do in Joburg and surrounds on a Friday afternoon. So when word reached the city that there was action a short distance away, the city up and left to go see. And sell each other boerewors rolls, of course.

A rural bridge on the R549 just east of Deneysville – and just a couple of hundred metres down from the Vaal Dam Wall, became an impromptu tourist destination on Friday. Hundreds of people chocked up the roadside for kilometres on either side of the river, with both locals and Joburgers (the city is only 150 kilometres away) coming to see the first opening of dam sluices in recent years.

It’s not quite disaster tourism; while the river has burst its banks and swallowed large trees there is very little damage visible from the road. Much of the flooding is lower down on the river – and much of that is to holiday homes, many of which were illegally built below the floodline. So not too much sympathy there.

Kids still in their school uniforms, Harley-riding dentists, microlights with passengers and a couple of crazies trying to fish on the outskirts of the flood-swollen river with nothing but a small hand net, made up some of the crowd.

On the Gauteng side of the river a small commercial hub had sprung up. On offer: ice cream, boerie rolls, biltong and mielies straight from the farm. While nobody has been counting cars, the mielie farmers had sold around 600 units during the course of the day. Although, at only R3 a piece, that may be more a function of price than an indicator of crowd size.

The floodgates are due to be closed over the weekend, but that depends on whether the rains continue, and on Friday there was certainly some indication that Gauteng’s wet spell wasn’t over yet.

By Phillip de Wet

Photos: Vanashree Chetty

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