Mjejane lies tucked between a broad reach of the Crocodile River and the modern N4 highway that follows one of the old trading routes connecting the goldfields of the Witwatersrand to the Indian Ocean at Delalgoa Bay (now Mozambique’s capital of Maputo). It is a magical place where – after the briefest of moments in geological terms when it was ploughed for crops and grazed by livestock – a far-reaching conservation vision has returned the landscape to its original custodians and the wildlife that once teemed there.
The Mpumalanga Lowveld, where Mjejane shares a common boundary with its renowned northern neighbour, the Kruger National Park, is an ancient lanscape that dates back well before the beginning of any form of life we would recognize today. For example, as you leave nearby Nelspruit en route to Mjejane the highway winds through the Crocodile Gorge mountains where lichen covered boulders are among the oldest exposed rock formations known anywhere on earth. And as you follow the course of the river eastwards to the more recently formed Lubombo Mountains that straddle the border between South Africa and Mozambique, you trace a geological history that spans some 3,4 billion years.
Little wonder therefore, as you allow your mind to wander while looking out over the Crocodile Valley, there is a very real sense of insignificance, of being the merest spec of carbon in a very old place. And at night below the trillions of tiny pinpricks of light that make up the cosmos any remaining pretence of self importance melts into nothingness.
And so this stretch of Africa has borne witness to the uninterrupted span of our planet’s evolution. Even our own early ancestors were here and if we could transport ourselves back about three million years we might well see small groups of upright walking apes moving along the floodplain searching for food.