Mpumalanga                                       

 

From Gauteng, the high plateau grasslands of Mpumalanga stretch eastward for hundreds of kilometres, offering outstanding attractions, specially for those who seek tranquillity. Witbank, the first major town in this region, is the centre of the local coal mining industry, while the Botshabelo Mission Station near Middelburg is a romantic reminder of the days when the African veld was a frontier land. To the east, the brisk cool highlands around Belfast, Dullstroom, Machadodorp and Lydenburg compromise one of the few remaining natural highveld areas in Mpumalanga and provide well-stocked trout streams and spectacular scenery.

The town of Graskop is perched on a spur of the Mauchsberg at an altitude of 1493 metres and dates way back to 1837, when Andries Potgieter passed through with the Great Trek in search of greener pastures in the north. In his memoirs, he mentions leaving the womenfolk in the area now known as Graskop, which means grassy peak, while he went down the escarpment in search of a route to Delagoa Bay, now Maputo.In the 1850's, the Graskop area was a farm owned by Abel Erasmus, an adventurous character involved in hunting, prospecting and imposing law and order in the area. He was known among the local tribesman as Dubala Duzi ' He who shoots at close range'. Graskop is also famous for Jock of the Bushveld which dates between 1885 and 1887. Paradise berg is where Sir Percy Fitzpatrick established his paradise camp, and two chapters in his book, namely' Paradise camp and the Leopard' and 'The Baboons' are set in this area.

In 1873, gold was discovered in nearby Pilgrim's Rest and by 1911 a railway to the area had become necessary. Graskop was the nearest settlement accessible by rail and by 1914 the railway was completed and the town of Graskop blossomed. In 1972, the mining activities at Pilgrim's Rest ground to halt and today the railway line is used to serve the large timber industry in the area. Graskop has since developed into the focal point of tourism for the escarpment.

Scenic Drives

Panorama Route (North on R532)

This scenic route commences along' the R532 at the top of Louis Trichardt Ave., signposted Ohrigstad, which goes directly to the Blyde River Canyon, while the scenic route R534, a 15,4km loop along the escarpment, branches off to the right at 2.2km and rejoins the R532 at a point 8.1km from Graskop.

Pinnacle Rock is a tall column of weathered quartzite littered with bright aloes. It rises 30m above the indigenous forest in the surrounding Driekop gorge. A source of the Ngwaritsana river cascades through the dark depths of the narrow cleft on the right at the head of the gorge.

God's Window at an altitude of 1730 m, offers magnificent views across the Lowveld, Kruger National Park and the Lebombo mountain range in the distance. The nature reserve at God’s Window includes a rain forest and beautiful Aloe gardens scattered with large outcrops of sandstone, weathered into haunting prehistoric shapes. A trail leads through the rain forest along the escarpment edge towards Wonder View affording panoramic views over a vast expanse of the Lowveld.

Lisbon Falls are a spectacular 95m treble cascade that tumbles into the dark green pools far below. Lisbon creek is typical of the area where early diggers panned for gold.

Berlin Falls were named after the farm on which they are situated and are 45m high. They originated as a result of the differential weathering resistance of the local rocks. The scene should not be missed as there are some excellent vantage points revealing the entire drop.

From Berlin falls the route passes through dense pine plantations and some 33km from Graskop, eventually links up with the course of the Treur river and the upper reaches of the Blyde River Canyon. The tall rock faces of the canyon are coated with beautiful orange and yellow lichen, which glow strongly in the late evening light.

Voortrekker Monument commemorates the epic journeys of both Louis Trichardt and Andries Hendrik Potgieter in their attempts to establish trade contacts with the Portuguese in Delagoa Bay. The trek under Louis Trichardt ended in disaster, when after having crossed the Lowveld, their oxen started to die from the Nagana disease caused by the Tsetse fly, while fever caused by the malaria mosquito began to make its appearance amongst the Voortrekkers. Determined to reach Delagoa Bay before they all succumbed in the wideness, they pushed on in haste. They reached Delagoa Bay on the 13th 0! April 1838 and it seemed that their difficulties were over, but one after the other contracted the fever. Twenty seven died including Louis Trichardt. It was a sad ending to such a heroic journey. Seven years later another attempt was made by the Voortrekkers under the leadership of Andries Potgieter. Coming from a southerly direction, their path was blocked by the Drakensburg mountain range. During their efforts to cross the mountains, Kasper Kruger, father of Paul Kruger, found a negotiable route, which to this day is known as Casper's Nek. They then reached the escarpment and outspanned in the vicinity of the present day town of Graskop. Faced with the daunting descent to the Lowveld, Potgieter decided to leave their wagons and families behind, arranging that those left behind would return to their homes without them after a stipulated period. when the agreed departure date came, with no sign of the explorers, they named the river where they were camped, Treur (Sorrow), believing that the party had succumbed in the wideness. A few days later, while fording another river, they were overtaken by Potgieter and his party who had successfully made the journey to Delagoa Bay and signed a trade agreement with the Portuguese on the 22nd of July 1844. Such was the joy on being reunited that the river was named Blyde (Joy).

Bourke's Luck Potholes at the confluence of the Treur and Blyde rivers is one of the most remarkable geological phenomena in the country .Through millions of years, the swirling whirlpools which occur at the confluence, have caused water born sand and rocks to grind deep cylindrical potholes into the bedrock of the rivers. At the visitors centre, some of the interesting nature and socio-historic features of the reserve are on display. The potholes are named after Tom Burke who recognised the gold potential of the area. He became involved with the mining enterprise which owned the properly. However, there is an element of irony in the name, as the main find of gold was not on their ground but on the opposite side of the river.

Blyde River Canyon. A scenic spectacle, the Blyde River Canyon lies within the 35,000 hectares of the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, a 57 km belt which runs north from Graskop along the escarpment. Owing to variations in altitude, temperature and-rainfall, a great diversity of vegetation occurs. On the high-lying southern section which has a high rainfall, extensive grassy slopes and dense areas of rain forest with yellow wood, boekenhout, forest silver trees, etc. and ferns are to be found. The central area has mixed Sour Bush veld and thorn trees, while the northern area and foothills are known as the Lowveld Sour Bush veld.

Lowveld View Site is on a flat rocky mountain top at an altitude of 1219m and appears to be 'only a little lower than the canyon peaks. Paths lead to the edge of the 16 km canyon, an awe inspiring view. Fat below the Blyde river foams and tumbles along the rocky canyon floor winding like an enormous green snake and eventually flows into the Blydepoort Dam. Dense vegetation with moss and ferns fill the deep krantzes and the upper rocks are covered with vivid lichen.

Three Rondavels View Site affords magnificent views of the famous peaks of quartzite and shale, known as the three rondavels while the Blydepoort dam lies calm arid serene far below. The poort or mouth of the canyon lies between Swadini and Mariepskop, which was once the scene of a great battle between Swazi raiders from the south and local Bapedi and Mapulana tribesman, who used the flat crest of the mountain as a place of refuge and a fortress whenever they were attacked. The Bapedi and Mapulana tribes became tired of the continual Swazi raids and under the leadership of Chief Maripi Mashile, they climbed to the top of the mountain peak opposite Swadini and bombarded the Swazis with large boulders in what became known as the battle of Moholoholo, 'the great, great battle '. The Swazis were heavily defeated and thereafter the mountain was named Maripi in honour of the Mapulana chief.

Abel Erasmus Pass when gold was discovered in the northern Lowveld, this led to the proclamation of the Selati gold fields and the establishment of Leydsdorp in 1890. A road was soon constructed from Lydenburg via Ohrigstad and down the mountain to the new village. This road was constructed under the supervision of the Native Commissioner of Lydenburg, Abel Erasmus. The road winds up into the mountains, crossing cultivated valleys and grassy plains with views of the old road on the right, as it winds through a valley and rejoins the tar road. The pass is without doubt, one of the best areas for viewing Lichens. The rocks are coated with a panoply of yellow Lichens complimented by huge rock figs, with thick roots strangling the sheer faces. The road continues and winds along a ledge above a sheer drop into the tree filled gorge on the left, across from which a waterfall can be seen plunging down the precipitous tree lined sides to the river below. The road descends to the entrance of the 132,3m tunnel, named after a former Prime Minister, J.G. Strijdom and was opened on the 8th of May 1959.

Blydepoort Dam and Nature Reserve The Blydepoort dam is reached by road at the poort or mouth of the canyon between Swadini and Mariepskop. The dam wall is 72m high and the dam has a capacity of 54 million cubic metres. The reserve developed around the dam is the home to a large variety of animals and bird life, including all three species of Louries found in South Africa. The visitors centre has some very interesting displays on the area and is surrounded with a balcony overlooking the dam. Rejoin the R531 and continue to Klaserie to link up with the R40. The junction at Klaserie can be confusing, keep following the R40 to Bosbokrand (Hazyview). The road between Klaserie and Bosbokrand passes through parts of Lebowa where the countryside is dotted with tiny villages. At Bosbokrand take the R533 to Graskop.

Kowyn's Pass The lower sections of the pass twist through dense Eucalyptus and Pine plantations and eventually climb higher and higher into the lofty regions of the escarpment. The first route through this area was built in 1902, followed by a second route in 1929 and finally the most recent route was opened in 1959. Due to the high rainfalls on the escarpment, dangerous rock falls had been experienced. Engineers incorporated the avalanche-resistance design of the Swiss tunnels to create a more protected passage between the Highveld and the Lowveld which was completed in 1980.

 

Panorama Route (South on R532)

This route commences along the road to Sabie and Pilgrim's Rest (R532). 

Natural Bridge This phenomenon was probably caused by the river weathering away the softer rocks as far as the hard quartzite. The river which is a source of the Mac Mac river, rises south of Hebron, flows past the old prospecting pits before passing through the natural bridge. Continue on the R532 bearing left at the turn off to Pilgrim's Rest

Maria Shires Waterfall In honour of pioneer, Maria Shires (Born Taylor) 1814 to 1875, whose mortal remains lie buried close by. She was the mother of Joseph Brooke Shires (Junior) a pioneer commercial forester of this region, who planted the first Eucalyptus and Wattle at Onverwacht (now Brooklands) in 1876 and of Ann Maria McLachlan who was presented with the Burgers Cross by President Burgers for her devoted nursing services to the Mac Mac digger community. Her son in law, T. McLachlan together with James Sutherland and Edward Buttons discovered the first gold in the region of Spitzkop on the 14th of May 1873. He later found many other valuable minerals in the region. A truly distinguished pioneering family who opened the way for the gold and tree wealth of today.

Forest Falls These beautiful broad falls, 10m high, on the Mac Mac river, can only be viewed by walking the 3.5km Forest Falls Nature Trail, which starts at the Green Heritage picnic spot.

Jock of the Bushveld, Mac Mac diggers and Transport Riders Memorial. When prospector, Tom McLachlan acquired the farm, Geelhoutboom, gold was found in every stream and the human stream of prospectors followed and were soon busy with shovel, sluice box and pan. This was the richest strike so far and attracted miners from all over the world. Jansen, the Landrost of Lydenburg visited the diggings and under pressure from experienced diggers, organised a digger's committee and appointed an American, Major W. MacDonald as Gold Commissioner. As the members of the Volksraad could not possibly visualise the developments taking place in the area and had only a vague idea as to its location, Jansen suggested that President Burgers should visit the goldfields, which he agreed to. Burgers proved very popular with the naturally suspicious digger community. For a start, he spoke excellent English and the diggers had heard that his wife was Scots. when the President looked over the claim holders, he noticed the predominance of Scottish names, bearing the prefix 'Mac' and said "I am going to call this place Mac Mac". The role of the transport rider, in providing supplies and equipment to the digger communities should not be overlooked. These transport riders, mostly young man of adventure, were a breed of their own and hauled their wagons and oxen over terrain faced with many hazards and hardships. One of these, Percy Fitzpatrick, later became a well known South African politician.

Mac Mac Falls were declared a National Monument on the 18th of February 1993. Cement pathways and stone steps with safety railings have been provided to gain access to the beet view points, from where one can see the two uninterrupted cascades plunging into the deep densely wooded chasm, with the river twisting 65m below. The Mac Mac diggers were responsible for rearranging the face of the earth a little, by changing the single waterfall into the double waterfall as we see it today.

Mac Mac Pools is a popular picnic area, shaded by a clump of trees on the edge of the shallow rocky river, which drops into a series of rock pools. There are shelters, braai facilities, toilets, picnic spots and a nature walk. The nature walk works its way to the base of the Mac Mac falls, providing magnificent views of the falls from below.

Sabie River Gorge and Falls are situated under the new Sabie bridge which was built on the curve so as to blend in with the natural attraction of the gorge. View site parking is on the right hand side before crossing the bridge. There is a short walk through the Williams Memorial Gardens to view points overlooking the gorge down which the Sabie river plunges 73m.

Bridal Veil Falls which resemble a bride's veil, can be reached by taking the old Lydenburg road until the gravel forestry road on the right at approximately 3km. Mondi Timbers sawmill, one of the biggest in the Southern hemisphere, is situated on the corner at the turnoff. Continue on this gravel road, passing the Ceylon Forest Station on the left and over a narrow bridge to the five road junction. Bear right at the junction (do not turn right) and keep to the main road. Further on a track forks to the right and leads to a stream 300m down the track, the falls can be seen above and ahead. It is advisable to park on the rise and follow the rough track to the left beyond the stream. This track winds through thick vegetation up to the falls which drop 70m into the centre of an amphitheatre at the head of the valley.

Horseshoe Falls are situated 4km on a signposted gravel road off the Old Lydenburg Road. The cascade type falls form a perfect horseshoe when the river is in flood and have been declared a National Monument. This is also the site of one of the first sawmill in Sabie.

Lone Creek Falls are situated 9km from Sabie on the old Lydenburg road. A lovely short walk of 200m through the thick vegetation of the gorge reaches a pool, into which a slender cascade of water plunges over a ledge from a height of 68m. The falls have been declared a National Monument. The Long Tom Pass which links Sabie with Lydenburg, is one of the most spectacular mountain passes in the country, With a summit of 2169m, it is one of the highest major roads in South Africa .From Sabie the road climbs more than 1000m before descending 670m to Lydenburg. The road sweeps smoothly over sharp climbs and descents and it is difficult to appreciate that this pass was once a fearsome natural obstacle. It was also the scene of a running battle between the Boers and the English in September 1900. A replica of a Long Tom canon stands in the pass, reminding visitors that the pass was named after the Long Tom canons used in the battle there during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).

Devil's Knuckles It is not certain where the 'Knuckles' originated from. In 1873, a German. Dr Cohen indicated on a map he made with a pedometer between Delagoa Bay and Lydenburg, the name Devil's Kop. It seems fairly certain that the name was given to these sharp prominences on the watershed by the early settlers. The 'knuckles' were extremely difficult to navigate as they consisted of a narrow ridge (Watershed) between the precipitous valleys on the north and south connecting the escarpment on the west with that on the east. Signs of the original road can still be seen around and over the 'knuckles '.

Long Tom Shell Hole (Bomgat) was made by one of the shells fired from a Long Tom Canon.

Die Geut (Shute or Gutter) also known as the staircase was a very steep descent which was difficult to negotiate. Ruts can still be seen in the elate, which were scored by the locked wheels of the heavily laden wagons when they were slid down the steep gradient. 

Mauchsberg' This mo1Ultain was named after the German teacher and amateur geologist, Karl Mauch ( 1837-1878 ), who in 1865 arrived in Natal from where he set out on several journey's of discovery throughout southern Africa, mostly on foot. During his journeys, he made careful geological and geographical surveys, studied the flora and fa1Ula and discovered gold in the Transvaal, including the Witwatersrand. He made maps of every region between Kimberley in the south, Marico in the west, the Soutpansberg in the north and Delagoa Bay in the east. His map of the old Transvaal was correct in every respect and even indicated where coal would one day be mined.  

Animal Cement Park is situated about 9 km from Lydenburg. There are number of concrete wild animal statues created by the artist, Dick Heysteck.  

Robbers Pass offers magnificent scenery, especially when descending into Pilgrim's Rest valley. This pass originally known as Pilgrim's Hill, was renamed after the coach was held up and robbed of 10,000 Pounds worth of gold bullion, by two masked men in 1899. The gold was never found.

In 1912, Tommy Dennison, once the barber and later the laundryman of Pilgrim. s Rest, made an attempt at a repeat performance of the escapade. Unfortunately for poor Tommy, there was no gold on the coach that day, only coins from the bank, which the disappointed Tommy took anyway. The next rooming he appeared in the village as usual and at all the shops where he owed money, he stopped and settled his debt in half crowns. He paid 160 to the Royal Hotel bar and it was here that the police arrested him. He was sentenced to five years in Pretoria Central Prison, a sentence which most of the villagers felt was a bit heavy. Upon his release after four years, Tommy returned to Pilgrim's Rest and opened a garage, which to the huge amusement of the residents, he named 'The Highwayman's Garage.

Historic Towns

SABIE

The Sabie area was popular as a camping and resting place for hunters and explorers long before the discovery of gold. The Sabie river, originally known as 'ULUSABA' (the river of Fear) flows through the town. It obtained its original name from the raging waters and many crocodiles in the river. Sabie is situated in a valley surrounded by mountains, Mount Anderson 2284m and Mauchsberg 2115m tower above the town. Gold was discovered in Sabie by H. T. Glynn during a shooting practice with friends, when a stray bul1et chipped a rock, revealing gold. This led to the discovery of a rich reef and the establishment of the town of Sabie. Initially the indigenous trees were chopped down for use as props in the mines, but fortunately commercial tree planting had been started as early as 1876, which proved useful as the inevitable shortage of timber was soon apparent. The continued planting of Eucalyptus, Black Wattle and various Pines has led to one of the greatest man made forests in the world and one of the biggest sawmills.

PLACES OF INTEREST

Cork Oak Trees Several magnificent specimens, planted in 1938 are situated in front of the Post Office.

Forestry Museum This is the only museum of its kind in South Africa, It originated at the request of Dr. W.G. Winkler from the Anglo American company. In addition to the history of the forestry industry, the museum houses some 372 exhibits, such as one of the oldest boilers used in the Lowveld, an example of the famous Garret steam boiler and the pelton waterwheel. Letters posted at the museum receive a special date stamp. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. An entrance is charged.

Glynn Cemetery The cemetery can be seen by taking the gravel road off Glynn Ave. There are many graves including that of H. T. Glynn who discovered gold in the area and played a major role in the development of the town.

Helbig's Mill A German, named Helbig had a mill which was operated by a waterwheel in the Sabie river, near the falls for grinding mealies. The stanchions for the cable can still be seen in the rock wall.

Hitching Rail old hitching rails for horses are situated outside the First National Bank and old documents of the original Bank are on display inside.

Huntington Hall The home of H.T. Glynn is situated 500m down Glynn Ave. on the right hand side. Travelling to England in search of a wife, he met Miss Gertrude Gilbertson Dales, who at the age of 18 married the 40 year old H. T .Glynn and the couple moved into Huntington Hall. The house was built in 1896 and was named after Gertrude's childhood home.

Hydroelectric Power Station The remains of the first hydroelectric power station can still be seen in the Sabie gorge. Built by Glynn's Lydenburg Mine, it provided Sabie with electric light from 1906.

Jock of the Bush veld Way Marker. Situated on market square, where local farmers displayed their produce, the ml1rker indicates the position of the old transport road used by Sit Percy Fitzpatrick and his dog Jock.

Milder Bridge built in 1915, now serves as a foot bridge, a short distance upstream on the Sabie River.

Nurse's Quarters situated in Third Street, across from the War Memorial Hospital used to house the nurses working at the hospital.

Pewter Foundry The Manx Cat is the only pewter foundry in South Africa. Visitors can watch pewter smithing in progress and as each piece carries the craftsman seal, it is of great value to the collector.

St Peter's Anglican church This beautiful stone church, designed by Sir Herbert Baker for a fee of 10 Pounds Sterling, was built in 1913. The building of the church was financed by H. T. Glynn.  

 

Lydenburg (Town of Suffering)

The Voortrekkers, under the leadership of Hendrik Potgieter, abandoned their settlement at Andries-Ohrigstad, which had proved a suicidal site owing to the scourge of the Lowveld in those days -the ubiquitous malaria mosquito. Moving to higher lying areas the town of Lydenburg was founded in 1849. This town became the capital of 'de Republiek Lydenburg in Zuid Africa', from 1857 to 1860, after which it was reunited with the old South African Republic (ZAR).

 

PLACES OF INTEREST

Voortrekker School is situated in Kerk street near the corner of Kantoor street. The school was built in 1851 and is the oldest building in Lydenburg as well as the oldest school in Mpumalanga. The architecture is typical of the Boer houses found during the pioneering period. The building was used as a school until the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer war in 1899. The school was declared a National Monument in 1974.

Voortrekker Church, situated on the corner of Kerk and Kantoor streets was built in 1852. In 1879 the original gables were removed, the windows were altered to Gothic style and the thatched roof was replaced with one of corrugated iron. In 1894 this church was replaced by the nearby Dutch Reformed Church to which services were transferred. In 1973 the church was declared a National Monument and was restored to its original style with the aid of a pen sketch drawn by Richter in 1867 and an illustration published in 'The Graphic' of 1876.

Dutch Reformed Church is situated on Church Square between Lange and Kantoor streets. The foundation stone was laid on the 12th of April 1890 by the Rev. H.J .Neethling and came into use in 1894. The pulpit, a replica of that in the Mother Church in Stellenbosch, was constructed by Palfrman and De Roo from Kiaat donated by Abel Erasmus. In 1926 a unique organ was donated to the church by the descendants of the Voortrekker G.C. Schoeman; The plot on which this church and the Voortrekker church stand was declared a National Monument in 1978.

Lydenburg Museum is situated in the Gustav Klingbiel Nature Reserve on the Sabie road. Some of the most interesting Early Iron Age finds date back to 490AD, which were discovered at Sterkspruit near Lydenburg by Ludwig von Bezing. They consist of seven terracotta heads known as the Lydenburg Heads, six have human faces and the other that of an animal. Two of the heads might have been worn as masks, the rest being much smaller were probably used in rituals. The original heads are displayed in the SA Museum in Cape Town. Imitations of three of the heads are presently on display in the Museum.

Powder Magazine is situated in Viljoen Street between Voortrekker and Potgieter streets. At the end of the Sekhukhune war in 1879, a detachment of soldiers of the 94th regiment were stationed at Lydenburg. At the outbreak of the first Anglo-Boer War (1880-1881), Lt. Col. Anstruther, together with most of the garrison left for Pretoria. The remainder under the command of 2nd Lt. Walter Long converted a number of huts into a fort, which was named after Long's wife, Fort Mary. The fort, which was successfully defended for 84 days, by its small garrison, was evacuated after March 1881. At this time, the Boer's weapons and ammunition were stored in a powder magazine near the Magistrate's building. However this building was unsafe and damp and therefore unsuitable. In 1889 a contract to build a new magazine was concluded. During the building of the magazine, some of the stones were used from Fort Mary and the names engraved on the stones by the British soldiers can still be seen today. The building was declared a National Monument in 1962 and restored to its present condition in 1982

Burgher Monument situated on church square alongside the Dutch Reformed Church. On the 20th of July 1914, the Church Council of the Dutch Reformed Church decided to donate a piece of ground to erect a monument in remembrance of the L~ Burghers who died in action during the Anglo- Boer War (1889-1902). This monument with the names of 33 burghers engraved on it was unveiled in 1918 by General S.W. Burger

Lydenburg Production Station The Mpumalanga Parks Board Production Station, previously known as the F.C. Braun Aquarium, is situated on the road to Sabie. The area consists of 56hectares of gardens, dams and buildings. Large shady trees, lawns and running water create a quiet relaxing atmosphere making it an ideal stopping point. To date 188 species of birds have been noted on the station. The aquarium fish production ponds, fish hatchery, nursery, botanical gardens and picnic facilities are easily accessible and open to the public daily between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Motlolo Volcano About 2000 million years ago volcanic action in Mpumalanga gave rise to this natural occurrence. The eruption was of the type which originates from the violent escape of subterranean gases, accompanied by a little lava, which had accumulated under high pressure. With the escape of the gases in their upward movement, the overlying rocks disintegrated. The volcanic pipe or opening which was formed in this way, consists of course fragments of a variety of rock types cemented together by the lava. The remains form the present outcrops. Another result of this violent turbulence of the mixture in its upward path is the formation of concentric structures composed of lava and known as volcanic bombs. Examples of such bombs may be seen amongst the exposed rocks.

To reach the volcano, continue westwards along Voortrekker Avenue, past the bridge for about 1 km. The volcano will be seen on the right hand side.

 

PILGRIM'S REST

 

In the 1840's the world wile gripped with gold fever, when large quantities of this precious metal were discovered in California. These early finds stimulated the search for gold in other countries.The history of the Mpumalanga gold fields date back to ancient times, when unknown miners worked the quartz reefs for gold. Traces of their mining activities can still be fo1.U1d all over the Northern Province and Zimbabwe. A series of minor gold deposits were fo1.U1d in the northern parts of southern Africa between 1840 and the early 1870's.

The first gold rush in South Africa took place in February 1873 when payable gold was discovered by McLachlan, Parsons and Valentine on the farm Geelhoutboom. President Burgers visited the fields, named the digger's camp Mac Mac and declared the area the New Caledonia Gold Fields. One of the Mac Mac diggers, Alec 'wheelbarrow' Patterson, left the area to prospect further a field. Patterson found rich gold deposits in the Pilgrim's Creek. He kept his discovery secret, but soon afterwards another digger, William Trafford, also discovered alluvial gold in the creek. The news of this rich strike triggered the first major gold rush in South Africa. Pilgrim's Rest was declared a gold field on the 22nd of September 1873. The Gold Commissioner moved his office to Pilgrim's Rest and by the end of 1873, there were approximately 1500 diggers working 4000 claims in and around Pilgrim's Rest. The valley was rich in gold and big finds were also found at Starvation Gully, Peach Tree Creek, Brown's Hill, Poverty Creek, Golden Point and Breakneck Gully.

The first decade after proclamation, mining activities centred mainly on the recovery of alluvial gold. Gold was recovered from the streams and the banks of the river and creeks by means of sluice-boxes and cradles. An estimated amount of R2 million worth of gold had been removed during the first seven years of gold mining in the Pilgrim's Rest Valley. Pilgrim's Rest was the social centre of the diggings and a busy community in 1874- 1875, consisting of the Upper, Middle and Lower Camps. The petering out of the alluvial deposits and the outbreak of the Sekukuni War (1876-1879) resulted in the decline of the gold fields. The scale of the Pilgrim's Rest gold fields cannot be compared with that of Australia or California, but it did produce a large amount of gold and for some time the Pilgrim's Rest diggings caused much excitement in South Africa.

After the First Anglo-Boer War (1880-1881) the reinstated Republican government instituted a policy of granting concessions to individuals and companies, in an effort to stimulate industries. In 1881, David Benjamin, a London financier, obtained the mining rights concession on the farms Ponieskrantz (on which Pilgrim's Rest is situated), Ledovine, Waterhoutboom, Driekop, Grootfontein and Belvedere. Benjamin compensated the remaining diggers and formed The Transvaal Gold Exploration and Land Company. In 1895 various smaller companies amalgamated with the above company and in 1896 the Transvaal Gold Mining Estates (TGME) was formed. The history of the TGME at Pilgrim's Rest is one of fluctuating production, An average of 300,000 tone of ore per annum was mined in the period 1930-1950, In the fifties ore production fell to an average of 50,000 tone per year, Sub-quality ore, unstable ground, scarcity of labour and floods were but some of the problems that the TOME had to deal with at Pilgrim’s Rest. In 1972 the TOME closed down Beta mine, the last operational mine at Pilgrim’s Rest. Since 1974 Pilgrim’s Rest has been managed by the Provincial Administration as a living museum.

 

PLACES OF INTEREST

 

Alanglade House Museum once the mine manager's house has a fine collection of Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco styles of furniture, dating between 1915 and 1930. The museum is not open to the public other than by a guided tour.

Alcock's The original Alcock's store is now restored as a Saloon Bar and Restaurant.

Anglican Church The church was built by diggers in 1884 and the original bell can still be seen.

Bank House The old bank house originally housed 'De Nationale Bank der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek' and later Barclays Bank. A part of the building was used by the bank manager as a residence.

Cemetery To reach the cemetery either climb the steep path from the Methodist Church or drive to down-town Pilgrim's Rest and follow the signs. Amongst the graves is that of a tent robber {marked 'Robbers Grave' and lying at right angles to the others) who was shot after having robbed one of the diggers.

Diggings An interesting guided tout on the gold panning activities is available.

Dredzen Shop and House Museum Dredzen Shop Museum is representative of the typical general dealer store during the period 1930 to 1950. The articles on display date from a period covering 20 years and were therefore not always simultaneously available. The home and life style of the post Second World War years can be seen in the Owner's residence adjoining the shop.

House Museum The House Museum, built in 1913, is an example of the wood and corrugated iron architecture which is typical of Pilgrim’s Rest. In 1976 the building became a house museum and was furnished to epitomize a middle class home of the early 20th century in this area.

Joubert Bridge The bridge was built in 1896 and was named after the mining commissioner. It stone arches proudly span the Blyde river and the bridge offers the visitor a dramatic entrance into town.

Methodist Church In 1874, the year after the Pilgrim's Rest gold-rush began, the Methodist church established a ministry there to cater for the spiritual welfare of the diggers. The Rev. J .Good, who was appointed to serve the Pilgrim's Rest congregation in 1910, recorded that the first Methodist Church to be erected was 'sent out from England in sections in 1895 and used as a stable in the Anglo- Boer war'. It also served as a school. The original church, however, was demolished in 1911 after a suicide inside the building and a more substantial structure took its place. The foundation stone was laid on the 14th of October 1911 and a new manse was also provided for the minister just behind the church.

Pilgrim’s and Sabie News .The first locally printed newspaper to be circulated on the Pilgrim's Rest Goldfields was the 'Gold News' on 24 January 1874. Shortly after it was first published, an Irishman, W.J. Phelan, became the new editor and he changed its name to 'Goldfields Me In 1910 the first 'Pilgrim's and Sabie News' was published with T.W.S. Craig as its editor. The original premises of the paper which was situated between the present building and the Pilgrim's Hotel was totally destroyed by fire some time between 1916 and 1919. Subsequently the printing works was moved to its present site. This building was originally a private residence constructed during the late 19th century. 

Royal Hotel The hotel was built in 1894. One of the most interesting features is the bar which was once a chapel in Cape Town before being dismantled and shipped to Pilgrim’s Rest via Delagoa Bay.

 

Kruger National Park

This is one of the most famous national parks in the world and the oldest one in Africa. It is 350km long from north to south, at most 60km in width and covers a surface area of 1 948528 hectares. The park's genuine African atmosphere has an enchantment that entices the visitor to return. Those who wish to experience it have to relax, look and listen. Once one has learnt to appreciate every aspect of bush life, there is no end to the surprises it holds and it becomes possible to enjoy the park to its fullest extent. One of the main objectives of the park management is to maintain the ecosystem in its natural state for the enjoyment and enrichment of the visitor.

Fauna and Flora The park is a home to an unparalleled diversity of wildlife and is maintained by one of the world's most sophisticated management systems. Five rivers cross the park from west to east. There are 300 different types of trees, 49 species of fish, 33 types of amphibian, 114 different reptile species, 507 species of birds and 147 species of mammals in the park. The number of different animals varies from year to year. The following is an estimate based on the 1993 census.

 

Black Rhino

220

 

 

Blue Wildebeest

12 723

 

Buffalo

15 232

 

 

Burchell’s Zebra

29 142

 

Cheetah

250-300

 

 

Eland

496

 

Elephant

7 834

 

 

Giraffe

4 600

 

Hippo

2 314

 

 

Hyena

2 000

 

Impala

970 297

 

 

Kudu

3 150

 

Leopard

600-900

 

 

Lion

1 500+

 

Roan Antelope

44

 

 

Sable Antelope

880

 

Tsessebe

363

 

 

Waterbuck

1 425

 

White Rhino

1 871

 

 

Wild Dog

350+

 

 

Climate The climate is subtropical with summer rains between October and March. The annual rainfall varies from 700mm in the south to 400mm in the north. Winter is a popular season for those who wish to escape the cold of the highveld. During this time surface water is restricted to rivers and artificial watering holes and the animals tend to congregate there. Because the grass is dry and most trees are leafless, visibility is also much better. The days are normally sunny, warm and clear with little likelihood of rain. Summer is the season during which all living creatures flourish and rejoice in the rain, which transforms the park into a green paradise. It also is the time to enjoy beautiful trees and flowers, hundreds of impala lambs and birds. For those who have air conditioning in their cars, this is the best time to visit the park. 

Malaria The Mpumalanga Lowveld is a malaria area. You should have started a course of anti-malaria tablets before arriving. If you have not been able to do this, tablets can be bought from a rest camp shop. Remember to follow the dosage instructions and continue taking the tablets after leaving the area. In the summer months, especially at dusk and dawn, protect yourself by using an anti-mosquito repellent.

Distances from Graskop The following gates of the Kruger National Park are within reasonable distance from Graskop: Phalaborwa 177km, Orpen 125km, Paul Kruger 79km, Numbi 56km and Malalane 153km. Since entrance gates and rest camp gates are closed at night, visitors have to ensure that they arrive at the entrance gate in good time to reach their rest camp before the gates close. Those who arrive at the entrance gates after closing time will be refused entrance and arriving late at a rest camp is an offence and the offender could be fined.

 

 

 

Entrance Gates Open

Camps Open

Entrance Gates and Camps Close

 

January

05.30

05.00

18.30

 

February

05.30

05.30

18.30

 

March

05.30

05.30

18.00

 

April

06.00

06.00

17.30

 

1st May to 31st August

06.30

06.30

17.30

 

September

06.30

06.00

18.00

 

October

05.30

06.30

18.00

 

1st November to 31st December

05.30

04.30

18.30

 

Useful Telephone Numbers (Dialling Code -013)

A.A. SKUKUZA

7355606

 

 

AVIS SKUKUZA

7355651

 

COMAIR SKUKUZA

7355644

 

 

POLICE SKUKUZA

7355601

 

PAUL KRUGER GATE

7355611

 

 

LETABA CAMP

7356636

 

NUMBI GATE

7355133

 

 

OLIFANTS CAMP

7356606

 

PHALABORWA GATE

7356509

 

 

PUNDA MARIA GATE

7356870

 

PUNDA MARIA CAMP

7356873

 

 

PRETORIUSKOP CAMP

7355128

 

SATARA CAMP

7356306

 

 

SHINGWEDZI CAMP

7356806

 

BERG-EN-DAL CAMP

7356106

 

 

CROCODILE RIVER

7356012

 

MALELANE GATE

7356152

 

 

ORPEN GATE

7356355

 

LOWER SABlE CAMP

7356056

 

 

PAFURI GATE

7356888

 

SKUKUZA CAMP

7355611

 

 

MOPANI CAMP

7356536

 

Game Drives

Kapama Game Reserve where you can enjoy the most unforgettable wildlife experience of your life. Day or night drives in open vehicles afford excellent all round viewing. If big game is your interest, Kapama will give you the opportunity to view Africa's Big Five -Elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo and leopard. There are also many species of antelope and an unimaginable variety of birdlife and insects. The night game drive also includes a dinner in the Elephant Inn Boma. There is nothing quite like a balmy African evening and a hearty traditional braaivleis to round off a memorable day. The opportunities for photography are abundant and skilled and experienced safari staff will ensure you take home more than just memories.

The Hoedspruit Research & Breeding Centre for Endangered Species is a unique project which conducts essential research on endangered species and provides the opportunity to view the animals in their natural surroundings. Guided tours are conducted hourly and start with a video presentation where fascinating background information on these beautiful animals, the research and the current breeding project is presented in the auditorium. Visitors are then guided through the research and breeding centre by experienced guides -more than 60 cheetahs including the extremely beautiful King Cheetah can be viewed. An introduction to the world of the 'painted wolf' or Cape Hunting Dog, a visit to the 'vulture restaurant' and other rare animals concludes the tour.

 Tsakani Silk Enterprise

The Tsakani Silk Farm is situated in the heart of the Amashangaan tribal land of Mpumalanga and has close ties with the local community. A team of skilled and dedicated Shangaan women will show visitors the intricate methods of commercial silk farming and hand processing of silk duvets. Purchases of a unique range of African Bilk products can be made from the showroom. Hourly Guided Tours take place from 9.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. An entrance fee is charged. 

Botanical Gardens

Approximately a quarter of the garden is being developed and cultivated and the remaining area is being preserved in its natural state. It is through this natural bush along the Crocodile River that the riverside trail has been cleared and here various animals and birds and about 500 plant species can enjoy an undisturbed existence. An entrance fee is charged.

Caves

Sudwala Caves

Prom Graskop take the R532 to Sabie. In Sabie turn right on R532 to Lydenburg. About 10km out of Sabie, turn left at the junction of the R37. Continue on the R37, direction Nelspruit, until Rosehaugh (about 20km). At Rosehaugh turn right at the junction of the R539. Continue on R539 until the T -junction, turn right and entrance to Sudwala is about 1km from the junction.

The Sudwala caves, situated in the Houtbosloop Valley, are one of the biggest and most beautiful cave complexes in the world.

HISTORY In past ages these caves were formed when gigantic stresses cracked the dolomite. Rain water percolated into the cracks, carrying carbon dioxide and dissolving away the limestone in the rock, forming in the process, a subterranean dreamland of vast caverns and passageways decorated with stalactites and stalagmites. In the nineteenth century these caverns were used by Somcuba, the Swazi king, as a fortress. In the power struggle for the throne, many bloody battles were fought at the entrance. On one occasion, Somcuba's enemies tried to smoke him out of this natural stronghold by lighting a huge bonfire in the entrance. They were, however, thwarted in this attempt by a Lydenburg commando which came to his rescue. Traces of the fire are still visible. After the enemy had withdrawn, the entrance was guarded by one of Somcuba's captains, Sudwala and his regiment -hence the name.

THE CAVES have been illuminated and spotlights placed in strategic positions, bringing into proper relief the strange shapes of the Speleothems (the name given to these cave formations) created by nature through the centuries. The caves have a natural air-conditioning system, the temperature being maintained at a constant 18C throughout the year. Even at a distance of about 457m from the entrance, cool fresh air from an unknown source permeates the subterranean passages.  

Dinosaur Park

The dinosaur park is the biggest and scientifically most accurate park of this kind in the world. It is dedicated to the late P.R. Owen who after a visit to the American Museum of Natural History, decided to install a display of restored pre-historic animals in an open-air museum near the Sudwala Caves. Ian Theron van Zyl, one of the world's finest animal sculptors, reconstructed the life-size dinosaurs in steel, asbestos and cement after he and Dr. Andre Keyser, chief of the Palaeotological Division of the Department of Mines, had done a great deal of research, using data available on fossils which have been excavated. Many of the large and terrifyingly life-like dinosaurs now stand displayed in natural surroundings. When the project is completed, the park will have more than 100 varieties of pre-historic monsters. These will range from the small creeping reptile, Ichthyostega, which first emerged on land from the surrounding seas some 200 to 300 million years ago, to the more recent giant, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the king of the tyrant lizards. With a height of 6 metres and a length of 15 metres, he reigned during the Cretaceous Era, terrorising all other dinosaurs until they all became extinct, some 65 million years ago. Recently six magnificent sculptures were added to the visual reconstruction of the story of the horse family, Equus. The display culminates in the Cape Quagga, now extinct, being brought down by the black-maned Cape Lion, also extinct.

Echo Caves

 

From Graskop take the R532 (North) .Continue on this road to the junction of the R36. Turn left, direction Ohrigstad. The turnoff to the caves is about 1km from the junction. Follow the gravel road for about 4km to the entrance. The Echo Cave has developed in the Mogaba area of Mpumalanga, within a spur at the head of the Molapong valley, a tributary of the Ohrigstad valley. Research suggests that the caves were probably formed in the early Quaternary period, about one million years ago. It is believed that the dolomite overlying the cave is about 100m thick, which decreases towards the sides of the spur.The cave system has two entrances and two main sections: The one extends for approximately 350m and follows the main tourist route from the shop; the other, 'Cannibal Cave " which has a vertical shaft entrance 13m higher than the first, extends for a distance of 105m. The link between the two sections is an artificially enlarged passage. On the whole the cave is dominated by long simple passages, between 2 and 10m high. Caverns or chambers have developed where intersections of joints has led to greater solution and collapse. The main chamber in the Cannibal Cave section is the largest section in the cave. It would appear that most of the cave is formed below the water table level by phreatic action and that there has been subsequent scalloping by running vadose water above the water table. The western Cannibal Cave section is purely phreatic in origin, lying as it does at lower elevations than the northern section of the cave. The two sections of the cave vary also in the amount of deposition which has taken place. The western cave has very limited cave formations, speleothens; while the northern section is quite well decorated (speleothens can only form in a dry cave situation). Rock breakdown and the accumulation of red earth fill are also common deposits in the cave. Life in the cave is very limited. While mosses and ferns occur in entrance areas, fungi, algae (with electric lighting) and tree roots are the dominant plant growth features deeper in the cave. Animals are limited in number and diversity. Bats occur in more remote areas and spiders are found in undisturbed crevices. The food chain is very limited and has been considerably modified by human utilisation of the caves.

Nature Walks

 

forest Falls Nature Walk (3,5km)

 

SITUATED: Between Graskop and Sabie.

Hikers are required to sign the visitor’s book at the Picnic site before starling. The starling and finishing point is at the Green Heritage Picnic Site. The trail winds through the forest on its way to the falls. These beautiful broad falls, situated on the Mac Mac river, are 10m high and plunge down into a lovely rock swimming pool. The trail then continues back to the starling point. A short walk across the road, takes in the Maria Shires waterfall as well as the old graves at the top of the hill.

 

Secretary Bird Nature Walk (3km)

SITUATED: Mac Mac Pools.

This trail starts and finishes at the Mac Mac Pools and works its way through the surrounding grassveld and scattered indigenous trees. There is very little shade on this route so precautions must be taken against sunburn. The Fanie Botha Hiking Trail also works its way through this area and hikers are cautioned to follow the correct route. There is an entrance fee to the Mac Mac Pools.

  

Belvedere Nature Walk (+/- 5hrs)

 

SITUATED: Bourke's Luck Potholes,

Before starting, hikers must obtain a permit and map from the office. The trail starts and finishes at the Bourke's Luck Visitors Centre. The route follows the 'Yellowwood Trail', passing the Potholes and then descends into the Blyde River Canyon to the Power Station. Because of the steep slopes one should be fairly fit to tackle this trail.

 

Jock of the Bushveld Nature Trail (+/- 4hrs)

  SITUATED: Graskop Municipal Tourist Park.

An entrance fee must be paid at the Tourist Park Office before starting. Graskop's, Jock of the Bush veld Trail on Paradise Berg is marked by a “Jogging Jock”" on appropriate rocks and leads the hiker along paths dating back to 1885-1887. Relevant Jock signs have been numbered, to enable the hiker to pinpoint his position along the trail, in relation to the map supplied,