A HISTORIC MOUNTAIN BIKE RIDE – THE COPPER TRAIL
Embark on a journey back in time and explore the remnants of the Copper Trail, an archaeological marvel preserving South Africa’s copper mining legacy. Although the railway tracks and sleepers have been removed, sections of the railway bed remain intact. The raised earthen packed ridge and its hand-built culverts over dry stream beds, all bear silent witness to its historical significance.
Copper was originally discovered by Governor Simon van der Stel who launched an expedition into Namaqualand, who arrived with horse drawn carriage, 2 cannons, a boat and six ox wagons on 21 October 1685 at “Koper Bergen”. Although the expedition was a huge success, it proved impossible to exploit at that time due to the remoteness and harsh conditions. The prospecting pit, now a national monument, can still be seen outside the town of Concordia.
It was only in 1846 that Thomas Grace established port and trading post at Hondeklipbaai that it opened a route for copper to be exported and by 1852 the first copper was transported by wagon. Abundant copper was discovered near the town of Okiep, Concordia and Nababeep in 1853, which sparked the need to construct a railway line connecting these mining hubs to the coast. By 1869 copper mining increased when the first rail, a 30inch tramway for animal-drawn traffic, was laid.
Construction work continued and a narrow-gauge line was built to connect Okiep with Port Nolloth, where a port was developed which was opened in 1876. A branch line from Garracoup Junction to Nababeep was added in 1899. The main line survived until 1945 while the section between Okiep and Nababeep operated until 1950.
Today we can only marvel at the remains which bear testament of the ingenuity and ‘stubbornness’ of those who built these structures with limited mechanical assistance.