Sunday, June 12, 2016

Mpumalanga Explorations

After the Kruger National Park, we toured Mpumalanga and saw the biggest tourist attractions in this province over a few days, including places such as Pilgrim's Rest and the Blyde River Canyon. It was  an exciting (albeit exhausting) week and officially our last 'tourist-hat' days for a long time....Here follows what we did.

One fantastic Baobab Tree (Kremetart Boom) next to the road. We stopped spontaneously, as these trees are usually more north and we'd never seen one before.  

Coming out of the Kruger Park, we drove to Pilgrim's Rest and stayed in the caravan park that night. We arrived late afternoon and were just in time to check out the different museum buildings. 

Pilgrim's Rest are famous for the buildings made from sink, originally built by gold prospectors. 

Gold was first discovered by prospector Alec Patterson in 1873 who, when he grew tired of the nearby MacMac diggings, went out and explored the area on his own. He found gold in Pilgrim's Creek and soon more than a thousand people were panning for gold, resulting in a sudden village: Pilgrim's Rest. It only lasted a few years however, and then bigger companies moved in with proper equipment in order to mine the deeper gold ore. In 1986 the village was proclaimed a National Monument, and it is now mainly a tourist attraction as living memory of the gold rush years. 

Part of the museum, these are the kind of tents the gold prospectors lived in before they could build more solid dwellings. 

After a demonstration of what gold panning entails, the boys were in the freezing water and looking for gold themselves. They found flecks of gold, but it was so small it looked like misplaced glitter. 

In the transportation museum. Pilgrim's Rest is located between 2 passes, and thus in the old days it used to be very hard getting a car there. Cars and trucks had to be hauled over the mountains by horses/donkeys. 

The General Dealer store. Gold panning is very hard work - this guy was obviously a bit smarter than the rest of them, and got his gold by trading food and essentials with the panners. 

One of the old switch boards used when making telephone calls, in a museum. It was the first time we saw a machine like this. 

At the old Post Office museum - a Post Box really is a handy thing you know, how about a bit of appreciation?

One of the churches. 

Although the Pilgrim's Rest caravan park was a bit rundown, we decided to camp there as this 300-site park is beautifully situated amongst massive autumn trees with a lot of atmosphere. So, after looking for somebody to help us get permission and unlock the facilities, we camped there all by ourselves for one night.  

It got very cold as the campsite is next to a stream, but a local helped us with stacks of wood, so a good old campfire was made and it kept the cold at bay! 

Running amongst the huge autumn trees.

Pancakes for lunch the next day! 

Magical mirrors - I know you have a big brain and a long neck, but please shut your mouth. 

 We visited Echo Caves and enjoyed an hour-long tour of this surprisingly large underground network of tunnels and formations. Echo Caves were used by a black tribe as a hideout long ago, and when a farmer discovered it on his land in the middle 1900's, he found the evidence of their presence among the stalagmites and stalactites. He opened it as a tourist attraction soon after, however a big part of the caves (about 16 km) remain inaccessible to the public.

There were many interesting formations including a Madonna, an ostrich head, an ostrich body separate from the head, an elephant head, etc. Can you spot the ostrich head here? (It's upside down and just left of my dad's head).

Tree roots growing down more than 200 meters from the surface. 

Elephant skin rock (fascinating texture).

Apparently, some of the tribe members sometimes used stalactites as weapons/spears.

Red or blue, which to choose? 

We passed through Graskop (a town) and continued on to see some of the most popular sightings in Mpumalanga. The Lowveld Panorama Route (what the area around Graskop is called) is known for its spectacular views and many waterfalls, and we alternated between these, sleeping over at Blyde River Canyon Lodge. This is what we saw on route...

The Pinnacle, named for obvious reasons. 

God's Window, where we walked through a piece of natural rainforest (it feels quite out of place) and stunning aloes in bloom. 

Unfortunately the view was unclear/smoky because of forest fires (we weren't sure if it was controlled or uncontrolled though - forestry is a big industry here, and sometimes they burn intentionally). 

 Interesting moss in the rainforest. 

Berlin Falls, 45 meters high and named after the farm it is on. 

We stopped at Bourke's Luck Potholes, where the Blyde River had carved out strange circular rock formations. It it named after a prospector, Tom Bourke, who apparently predicted the presence of gold in the holes (though he found none himself).  

The Three Rondavels are very noticeable, more than 700 meters high and distinctly shaped. 

Lisbon Falls were absolutely stunning, and our lunch was rather awesome in view of this 95-meters-high constant crash of water. 

 The next day we gathered our courage and tackled the last few views and waterfalls - by this time our appreciation for good scenery was less than usual. It was our last official day of 'touristy' touring, as we visited and stayed over at a friend in White River that night to catch up on news, and then drove back to Potchefstroom.

A pool in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. 

The Mac Mac Falls - notice the fantastic rocks and moss to the right. Interestingly enough, when there is a lot of water the falls come down in two separate streams. This is due to gold diggers who, through their diggings higher up the river, partly changed the flow the of the water. 

One of the few viewpoints where there weren't any fencing. There were plenty of "Warning, Risk of Falling over Cliff" signs though.  

We stopped at a Jock of the Bushveld Memorial next to the road out of loyalty to our old dog Jock (he's been adopted by the friends who are looking after him, for the information of animals lovers).  Jock of the Bushveld is the true story account written by South African Percy FitzPatrick about the adventures he and his dog companion had in the 1880's. 

The Bridal Veil waterfall, appropriately named. It was a lovely walk through indigenous forest to the waterfall, but the rock formations were more impressive than the actual waterfall (mistfall would be more accurate). 

The big Lone Creek waterfall. Spot dad and Maarten! 

And so we reached the end of the Panorama Route and our tourist travels for now (we've seen enough viewpoints and waterfalls for a while, I think). After touring through the whole of South Africa in 20 months, we have decided to settle in the Klein-Karoo town called Oudtshoorn, and a new season in our lives is beginning.  Watch out for the last few blog posts, as we report on the move and give some reflections on our journey. Thank you for reading!


  1. Informative and a lovely read as throughout your "touristy" tourist blog... thank you for sharing! Love the well-placed last photograph as ending this piece ;)
    Mooi Elna, is trots op jou en is lekker om te lees. x

    1. Ek het so gelag toe ek uitvind 'touristy' is actually 'n woord... Baie dankie! xx

  2. That's really great! Would you like to be a guest blogger for museuly?


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