South Africa in 30 Days: Day 3. You can skip Pilgrim’s rest or love a little history!

b0089  b0098Welcome to sleepy town. Depending on my travel group, I would go straight to the Kruger Park to see the impatiently awaited big five and all the other spectacular African animals.

But a bit of history never harmed anyone. It’s actually good to know where and how settlements began.

b0095Mining in this region of Mpumalanga dates back many centuries, when unknown miners worked quartz reefs in the area for gold.

Proof of these diggings can still be found in this area.

The history of this small delightful village dates back to 1873 when a miner, Alex Patterson, discovered alluvial gold on the farm named Ponieskrantz.

He had left the Mac-Mac area to search for a place that was less congested.

Though the discovery was kept as a secret, the inevitable happened when a second prospector William Trafford also discovered gold close by.

What they had found in this beautiful valley drew optimistic gold panners and prospectors from all over the country and the World (news of gold strikes of this magnitude travel fast !).

On 22nd September 1873 Pilgrim’s Rest was officially proclaimed a gold field and the scatter of tents and rudimentary shacks soon grew into a flourishing little village complete with sturdy brick houses, church, shops, canteens, a newspaper and the well-known Royal Hotel.

The diggers called it Pilgrim’s Rest because here, at last, after so many false trails and faded dreams they had truly found their home.

In due course the alluvial deposits were depleted and the locals turned to forestry, but their village, whose residents still number in the hundreds, has been painstakingly preserved as a “living museum” and major South African tourist venue.

Fotoshoot 080With my chilhood spent in Germany I had more than my share of museums and historical sites. It might sound to you as if I am not a very romantic person when I say I do not particularly like antiques. Own a piece of furniture that generations used before? Only a desk and matching chair might have any antique appeal. Stay away with vases, basins, kitchen equipment. I love the clean lines of modern design.

Stepping into to Royal Hotel and the many authentic little houses in Pilgrim’s rest gives a very good idea how folks lived those days, and believe me, you wouldnt want to have swapped places with them. Look at all those restraining dresses in the humid African heat. Good riddens old days.

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yes, you can even take totally phony pictures of yourselves in the clothes of days long gone … if you have to. Or your wife giggles and begs you to do so.
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The search for that perfect souvenir continues. Listen people, do it just for the fun of it. Engage in dialogue with the natives. Ask them about their lives and families. Much more interesting. Cool souvenirs you can still find at the airport.
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Cute tea gardens and coffee shops.
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Kids will love the automobile museum.

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1 Comment

  1. We lived in SA years ago and frequented Pilgrims Rest both camping in a tent and a “kombi” with children. We also stayed in the mining houses then owned by Rand Mines out of JHB. We always enjoyed the quaintness of the area which appears now to have been much developed although much of the character has been retained. Comparing it to my photos taken in the 60s much is the same.

    T & B Davis
    Florida, USA

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