This small town was established in 1895 and named after General Joachim Jose Machado, in recognition of the role he played in surveying the “Oosterlijn” railway line from Delagoa Bay (present-day Maputo in Mozambique) to Pretoria. Machadodorp became a temporary seat of government for the ZAR government of President Paul Kruger during the Anglo-Boer War when Kruger was forced to flee Pretoria. It was not long before the village was razed to the ground and the women and children transported to concentration camps in the Middelburg area. President Kruger and his government were forced to move to Waterval-Onder where he spent two months before being forced to move once more. Today, Machadadorp, known to the local Africans as “Emthonjeni” (“Fountain/Resting Place”), with its temperate climate, the Elands River and thermal hot springs, is a well-known trout-fishing venue.
ADVENTURE AND SPORT
Hiking: Guided trails such as the Wathaba Wilderness Hiking Trail will allow you to explore the beautiful natural surroundings of the Machadodorp area, perched on the higher reaches of the escarpment.
Paragliding and hang-gliding: The cliffs around the town offer excellent take-off sites for paragliders and hang-gliders.
Trout-fishing: The town and its surrounds are renowned for their many trout-fishing opportunities. Visit the De Kroon Dam, now also stocked with rainbow trout, for its excellent flyfishing conditions and fishing tackle shop and become a member of the fly-fishing club.
ARCHAEOLOGY AND PALAEONTOLOGY
Blaauboschkraal Ruins: The ruins of a long-abandoned tribal settlement lie just outside the town.
De Kroon Dam Restaurant: The restaurant at the dam serves delicious country cuisine featuring trout dishes and several home-cooked specialities. The pub next to the restaurant is built over the dam creating the illusion that the building is floating on the dam. Spurwinged geese are often spotted from this vantage point.
HISTORY AND ARCHITECTURE
Historic Buildings: When Machadodorp was razed to the ground during the Anglo Boer War, only one cottage, Rose Cottage, built in the early 1880s, survived and is still standing today. This is one of the town’s more picturesque buildings.
Kruger Plaque: The Kruger Plaque was erected in town to commemorate President Paul Kruger’s brief stay in here.
Hot Springs: The hot, radioactive thermal springs, a short distance from the town, are said to have healing powers. The area has been developed into a resort that is much frequented by people suffering from arthritis and rheumatism.
Lydenburg is situated at the foot of the Long Tom Pass at an altitude of 1 469 m above sea level. The town was founded in 1849 by the Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius. The name means “Town of Suffering” and refers to the misery suffered by the Voortrekkers as a result of the drought and malaria in this part of the Lowveld area. When alluvial gold was discovered in 1873 on the Spekboom River north of Lydenburg, the town experienced a gold rush to the Finsbury Goldfields. To this day, a few hopefuls remain, searching for their pot of gold in the river-bed. Lydenburg is now a healthy, thriving agriculture and mining centre that the local Black population call “Mashishini”. It is the chief soya-bean growing area of South Africa as well as an important cotton, wool, tobacco and grain-growing area.
Fishing: Lydenburg has one of the few rivers in the country where trout breed naturally. As a consequence, excellent trout-fishing opportunities exist in the area. Loch Long allows fishing from the banks or from float tubes and rowing boats. Other fish that abound in these waters of the area are carp, bass, barbell, yellowfish and bream.
Golf and other sport: The town has a nine-hole golf course in excellent condition as well as well as squash, tennis, swimming and bowling facilities.
Hiking: Explore the beauty of Lydenburg by choosing one of the following hiking trials: the 9-km Crane Nature Trail to a dam and vulture restaurant, the Famba Farms Trail, the Maratan Trail, the 5-km Pedi Trail to the ruins of a settlement once inhabited by ancestors of the Pedi people, the 12-km Protea Nature Trail winding through dense stands of proteas and past old Anglo-Boer War forts, the Ribbok Trail that starts at the Lydenburg Museum and leads through the Gustav Klingbiel Nature Reserve, and the Sterkspruit Trail.
Lydenburg Heads/Masks: The “Lydenburg Heads” are believed to date back to 500 AD. A farmer’s son, Ludwig von Bering, found pieces of the heads/masks on his father’s farm in 1957. He later developed a strong interest in archaeology and kept on collecting shards from the site. It later proved that the shards were part of seven clay heads/masks. Among his treasures were also iron and ostrich-egg shell beads, copper bands and pieces of bone. The heads/masks are thought to have been sculpted by early Iron Age people and might have been used in cultural rituals.
ENTERTAINMENT AND SHOPPING
Lunar Landing: This wonder world is situated some 10 km north of Lydenburg and overlooks the valley of the Spekboom River. It is a world inhabited by life-sized concrete animals, including elephant, giraffe, lion, hyena and a larger-than-life ape man. There is even a sculpted San cave reachable by a tree-branch ladder.
FAUNA AND FLORA
Gustav Klingbiel Nature Reserve: This grass and wetlands reserve houses a number of indigenous species of plants and animals and is a popular bird-watching site (a checklist is available from the museum). A breeding colony of Cape vultures live in the reserve and are regularly fed – do not miss out on the opportunity to watch them lunch at the “vulture restaurant”. Many species of antelope, such as kudu, grey rhebuck, blesbok and the rare oribi roam the grasslands. The ruins of an unknown tribe that used to live here in mediaeval times can still be seen within the reserve. The reserve has been earmarked as the location of the province’s first astrological observatory. The Gustav Klingbiel Reserve is considered extremely safe for children and is accessible to disabled people. (Starling) Fisheries Production Centre: Visit this noted trout hatchery and aquarium for a very interesting tour to find out how trout are hatched and farmed.
Lydenburg Nature Reserve: Several scenic walks traverse the Lydenburg Nature Reserve, allowing visitors to appreciate the local scenery.
Scenic Routes: There are three scenic routes that link Lydenburg to Burgersfort (via the
Watervalsriver Pass); Pilgrim’s Rest (via Robber’s Pass) and Nelspruit (via Long Tom Pass). All these routes travel through lovely countryside and each of the passes offers spectacular views from the summit.
Sterkspruit Nature Reserve: This mountain escarpment reserve lies some 10 km south-east of Lydenburg near the Sterkspruit Dam and is an excellent trout-fishing venue. It is the starting point for the renowned 32-km Rooikat Hiking Trail that traverses some spectacular mountainous terrain.
Historic Buildings: Lydenburg is renowned for its fine examples of early Transvaal architecture. The oldest building in town is the Voortrekker School built in 1851. There are two historic Dutch Reformed Churches in town. The Voortrekker Church was completed in 1852 and is flanked by a replica of the mother church in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. This church has a teak pulpit, made in 1894. One of the churches houses a small museum. The old powder magazine was built from stones taken from the formerly British-controlled Fort Mary. The old ZAR Post Box is still in use today.
Lydenburg Museum: The museum and its exhibits will take you back in history to the early days of the town’s existence. It includes replicas of the “Lydenburg Heads”, terracotta masks of animal and human heads, shards of which were found in the area and believed to date back to 500 AD. The museum also has its own distillery and visitors may taste the “heady” traditional Afrikaner brew, “mampoer” (moonshine/peach brandy).
Steenkamps Bridge: The historic bridge over the Spekboom River is situated some 12 km north of the town. The bridge has been proclaimed a national monument. Opened in 1897, the original structure was destroyed during the Anglo-Boer War and rebuilt in 1903. The bridge stands alongside the modern Schalk Burger Bridge erected in 1965 and can be reached via a network of footpaths. There are picnic sites on the banks of the river.
“Die Berg”: This peak, simply translated as “The Mountain”, in the Steenkampsberg Mountains is 2 331m high and presents some lovely views of the surrounding countryside.
Hydra (Lydenburg) Falls: The dramatic Hydra Falls consists of three falls that drop some 245 m to earth where the power of its waters is harnessed to supply electricity to the town.
Long Tom Pass: The summit of Long Tom Pass, 57km long, is 2 149 m above sea level and connects Lydenburg, on the Drakensberg Plateau, with Sabie, on the escarpment. It is one of the highest passes in South Africa and offers spectacular views. During the Anglo- Boer War the retreating Boers deployed two 155-mm Creusot artillery guns nicknamed “Long Toms”, in the pass, against the pursuing British forces, hence the name of the pass. A replica of one of these guns stands guard at a spot some distance from the summit of the pass.
Mtotolo Volcanic Pipes: The Mtotolo Volcanic Pipes at the end of Voortrekker Street date back some 2 000 million years
The small village of Dullstroom, the fly-fishing capital of South Africa, also has the attraction of fresh air, lovely surroundings decorated with wild flowers and equipped with a strong tourism infrastructure! The town was established in 1883 and the name does not refer to a lack of social activities, but rather to Wolterus Dull, the Director of an immigration scheme to settle European immigrants in the area. Because the town lies so high up in the Steenkampsberg Range, some 2 100 m above sea level, mist often covers the town and surrounding areas and it can become quite cold during the winter months. However, the friendly inhabitants, cosy eateries, lodges and hotels, beautiful surroundings and the fireplaces in each house more than make up for the cold. Dullstroom, also called “Sakhelwe” (We build) by local inhabitants, is the source of the Crocodile River that forms the southern boundary of the Kruger National Park, has one of the highest railway stations in South Africa and is also one of the few places in South Africa where elm and beech trees grow in large numbers.
Air ventures: Explore the Dullstroom area from the air – you have a choice of a hot air-balloon trip or an aeroplane flight.
Altitude Training: The town has an Altitude Training Centre with free weights, circuit-training, aerobics and kickboxing facilities for professional athletes and visitors.
Archery and clay pigeon shooting: A fully-equipped range is situated some 7 km from Dullstroom on the Belfast side of the town.
4x4 Trails: Various operators offer 4x4 trails to destinations such as Ndebele ruins and the Elands River Valley.
Hiking: The numerous hiking trails in the area will introduce you to the wonderful scenery in and around Dullstroom. The trails include Elandsvlei Hiking Trail, Misty Valley Hiking Trails, Rassies Walker Trail, Ratelspruit Hiking Trail, Salpeterkrans Hiking Trail and Trout Royalty Hiking Trails.
Horse Trails: Experienced operators offer horse and pony rides for beginners, as well as twohour game rides and weekend trail-riding.
Mountain-biking and cycling: Several biking routes traverse the area. Many professional mountain bikers visit Dullstroom to do altitude training here.
Trout-fishing: Dullstroom is undoubtedly the region’s trout-fishing Mecca. It has numerous streams and dams stocked with both rainbow and brown trout and fishing rods and flies are available for hire or sale from specialist shops in the town. Trout-fishing venues include Hakers Haven (ideal for children and beginners), Jurassic Pond, Ondervallei (Crocodile River), Elandskloof (ten large dams) and Ratelspruit River fishing, to name a few.
ART AND CRAFTS
Dullstroom Art Gallery: The gallery is situated next to Dullstroom Inn and displays and sells the works of prominent South African artists.
Stonehouse Gallery: Stonehouse exhibits and sells the work of leading local artists, especially those of Edmund Barton, as well as stained glass pieces. Stained glass work can also be ordered from local artists and the town also boasts a sculptor of renown.
Shops and restaurant: Dullstroom has changed its face over the last few years and has added several shops and eating establishments to the town to meet the needs of the growing weekend population who wish to escape the pressures of city life and find peace and quiet here. Consequently the town and its establishments are extremely attractive and offer a rich variety of items for sale. Antiques, linen, country clothes and home-made sweets are but some of the items on sale. Another benefit of the improved tourism infrastructure is the variety of eating establishments in the town. Visitors can take all three meals at different establishments and still have some different ones to visit the next day. And yet, despite all the growth, the town still retains its rustic and relaxed atmosphere where people can appreciate a combination of natural resources and human creativity.
Ruined forts, trenches, artillery placements and the graves of both Boer and British soldiers are still visible at sites around the town.
Dutch Settlers Memorial: This memorial was erected in 1887 to honour those pioneers who left their native Holland and made use of the immigration scheme to make a new life here.
Historic buildings: There are many historic buildings in town, many of which have been restored and converted into shops. Buildings worth viewing include the Dutch Reformed Church, Old Post Office and the Station.
Bird of Prey Centre: The Bird of Prey Centre at Owl and Oak, 9 km north-east of town, on the road to Lydenburg, treats, rehabilitates and trains injured birds of prey.
Dullstroom Dam Nature Reserve: The fast-running rivers and still dams teeming with trout and other fish make this reserve an angler’s dream; in fact it is considered to be one of the ten most popular freshwater angling spots in the country.
Floral Kingdom: The Dullstroom area is a floral paradise with more than 50 species of ground orchid, 120 species of indigenous wild flower and many other plants such as the bright yellow arum lilies that carpet the area in vibrant colour every spring (September to November).
Highlands Crane Group: Book an outing with the Crane Group to view the three endangered species of crane that have made this area their home.
Verlorenvallei Nature Reserve: This small reserve was established with the main aim of protecting a critically threatened habitat and its specialised species of birds from extinction. It has the distinction of being the only reserve in South Africa where all three species of crane are found. Verlorenvallei has been proclaimed an international RAMSAR Wetlands Site.
Richard O’Neill, the owner of the farm Tweefontein (the son of John O’Neill, the owner of the farm at Majuba, at which the Peace Treaty ending the Anglo Transvaal War of 1880 to 1881 had been signed), on which the town was established in 1890, called it after Belfast in Ireland, the ancestral home of the O’Neills. Belfast lies at an altitude of over 2 000 m, the highest point on the railway line between the Witwatersrand and the coast and is considered to be one of the coldest towns in the country. The town’s high position, rich soil and cool climate make it an ideal sheep and dairy-farming centre. Belfast is also renowned for its trout and tulips and the annual Trout and Tulip Festival, held here every September, is enthusiastically supported by busloads of visitors. The finest black granite in South Africa is quarried in the vicinity of the town and iron and chrome are also mined here. Many local inhabitants call the town “Siya Thuthuka” (“We Grow”).
Hiking: There are two, two-day hiking trails in the area. The Bospoort Trail takes you through lush indigenous forests and the Rapid Waterfalls Trail meanders through ravines, gullies and rapids ending at a waterfall, on the farm Langkloof.
Horse Trails: Many opportunities for horse-riding exist in the area, especially to and from some of the trout-fishing and other holiday resorts and lodges.
Trout-fishing: Belfast is a truly magnificent trout-fishing destination and has a wide choice of well-stocked dams and streams. Trout rods can be hired from specialist shops and lodges and flies are sold in the many shops catering for the trout and fly-fishing fraternity. Mountain-biking: Mountain-biking is a popular pastime in this area and bikes can be rented. Some trout lodges supply visitors with mountain bikes as part of their services.
Lakenvlei: The beautiful Lakenvlei wetland area surrounded by lush forests is a natural heritage site. The vlei with its dense reed beds lies some 10 km outside Belfast. The nearby hills and forests are home to a wide variety of birds as well as small mammals such as the Cape clawless otter, caracal and serval. Horse-riding, hiking, mountain-biking and trout-fishing are some of the leisurely activities available to visitors.
Scenic route: Take Road R540 towards Lydenburg, passing and stopping over at the troutfishing village of Dullstroom. Alternatively; take National Road N4 through Machadodorp, Waterval Boven and Montrose to Nelspruit. Allow enough time to enable you to turn right at Ngodwanaand and explore the picturesque village of Kaapschehoop, 32 km from Nelspruit. Tulip Nursery: The enormous Tulip Nursery exports tulips to many different countries around the globe; in fact, they claim to be the biggest exporter of bulbs in the Southern Hemisphere. Visitors stream to the nursery in September, when the vast fields of tulips start blooming. Aerial flips over the farm/nursery allow visitors a better view of this magnificent sight.
Battle of Berg-en-Dal: The last pitched battle of the Anglo-Boer War took place at Berg-en-Dal near Belfast, in 1900. About 20 000 British troops were resisted by a heavily outnumbered Boer force under the command of the famous Boer General, Louis Botha. However, after a three-hour artillery bombardment the Boers were finally overrun. The Berg-en-Dal Monument commemorates this historic battle.
Historic Buildings: The Dutch Reformed Church, Halfway House and Police Office, Lord Roberts’ house and Richard O’Neill’s farmhouse are all well worth a visit.
Mushroom farming: The Belfast area is also renowned for the mushrooms that are grown, dried and packed here before being exported.
The Highlands Meander Region covers the higher reaches of the escarpment and is ensconced between the Cultural Heartland and Panorama Regions. The region specifically caters for the needs of bird and nature lovers and adventurers. Adventurers delight in the challenging cliffs, ravines and rolling mountains and the many adrenaline-pumping, adventure sport opportunities available. This is also the trout and fly-fishing Mecca of Mpumalanga.
However, the region also appeals to history buffs, especially those interested in the history of the old Zuid Afrikaansche Republic of Paul Kruger and in the Anglo-Boer War. For those who love unravelling mysteries there are the ruins of Stone Age and Iron Age settlers to explore and the mysterious masks left behind by a vanished people.
Wakkerstroom, one of the oldest villages in Mpumalanga, is situated at the foot of Ossewakop, on the banks of the Umzinyati River. When Voortrekkers settled in the area in 1859 they called their village Martinus-Wesselstroom after the then President of the Transvaal. However, this difficult name was soon changed to Wakkerstroom (“Lively/Wide-Awake Stream”). Today, the town is also known as “eSizameleni”.
During the Anglo-Transvaal War that broke out in 1880 after Britain had annexed the then independent Transvaal, the area saw much fighting and the British experienced heavy losses. However, one small British garrison that was besieged in a fort in the town for three months, refused to give up and marched victorious out of the town when peace came.
Because of the foresight of the early town fathers, Wakkerstroom has become one of the prime bird-watching venues in Africa. They refused to allow a proposed Durban to Johannesburg railway line to pass through their town – a wise decision that protected the town’s natural wetlands (a possible World Heritage Site), ensuring the survival of many different species of birds. Today, the town and district also owe their prosperity to their sheep, cattle and coalmining activities.
Angling: The many beautiful streams and lakes and the two dams, Heyshope and Zaaihoek, in the area provide numerous opportunities for trout, fl- and coarse-fishing.
Hang and paragliding: Hang-gliding and paragliding are two popular adrenalin-pumping sports that can be practised in the area. Conditions encountered in the area create easier-than-usual circumstances for paragliders. The sites in the area face all points of the compass and gliders are thus not limited by the direction of the wind.
Hiking: There are several hiking trails that take hikers through the forests east of town, the wetland areas with their many birds and up the mountainous slopes in this area.
Horse-riding: Travel through the Wakkerstroom countryside with its beautiful trees, waterfalls and many streams and wetland areas, on horseback.
Mountain-biking and cycling: Some excellent mountain-biking routes have been established in the area.
San Rock Art: Several examples of San rock art are found in the area.
Scenic routes: There is a lovely circular, scenic route that travels over the Jantjieshoek Pass, down to the Assegaai River Valley and back through Buitenzorg. The route traverses pristine grasslands and towering mountain peaks, where the rivers that run through this area have their sources. There are other scenic routes, mostly on gravel roads, between the town and Heyshope Dam.
Paardeplaats Reserve: Paardeplaats Reserve lies close to Wakkerstroom and is a high-altitude grassland reserve in the upper catchment area of the Ntombe River, a tributary of the Pongola River. More than 70 species of orchid, including 12 epiphytes and other protected species of flowering plants, as well as pockets of yellowwood, cussonia and strangler fig trees grow here. Typical grassland fauna, such as oribi antelope, grey rhebuck, reedbuck and many species of birds also call this reserve home. Wakkerstroom Wetland Reserve: Wakkerstroom is a renowned bird-watching venue because of the wealth of birds protected in the Wakkerstroom Wetland Reserve. The 700-ha
Wakkerstroom Wetland Reserve is part of the South African Grassland Biome and many rare and sought-after species of birds, such as the blue crane, Rudd’s lark and wattled crane have made the grass- and marshlands their habitat. At least 19 of these rare species are endemic or near endemic to this region. Local specialist “birding” guides can help you make the most of your bird-watching experience.
Wild Flowers: Many summer visitors are entranced by the many wild flowers in bloom.
Historic buildings: There are several historic buildings in and around town, including some Boer homes built in the mid- to late nineteenth century. The British blockhouses and encampments are still intact and the staging posts for the original coach services can still be seen. The Courthouse has been restored to its former glory.
Town Museum: Visit the small museum in the library building and learn more about the town’s past.
Wagon tracks: The tracks left by the timber wagons of yesteryear can still be seen in the forests east of town.
Volksrust is situated some 1 675 m above sea level and is surrounded by mountains and hills that witnessed many historical happenings. The town was established in 1885 on a farm that was used by the Boers to recuperate after the battle of Amajuba (1881), during the Anglo- Transvaal War of Independence. The name of the town means “People’s Rest” but it is also known as “Vukusakhe” (Stand up and build). Volksrust lies close to the KwaZulu-Natal border and the famous battle site of Majuba as well as to other Anglo-Transvaal War (First Anglo-Boer War) sites. The town’s main income is derived from agricultural activities in the area.
Golf: The town has a nine-hole golf course.
Hiking: There are several hiking trails in the area, including the historic, 12-km Amajuba Trail past the famous battle site and the mass graves of the fallen soldiers of the British 58th Regiment, the 13-km Waterval Trail past a crystal clear waterfall and the cliff-top home of the Bald Eagle, the Slangrivier Trail past two waterfalls and the nesting place of the bald ibis and the 21-km Welverdiend Trail that runs next to a river and forest in an area where several different species of buck can be observed.
Horse-riding: You can explore the town and surroundings on horseback. Horse trails with overnight accommodation is also available.
Paragliding: Tomato Mountain north of Volksrust is a popular paragliding spot.
Snowy’s Art Market: Snowy’s Art Market offers a fine selection of furniture, crafts and fresh produce for sale.
Bird-watching: The town and its surrounds are a bird watcher’s paradise and there are several nesting sites in the vicinity. The rare bald ibis, kingfisher, paradise flycatcher, hadidi Ibis, blue cranes, sugar birds and woodpecker are found nesting in the area. Hides at the nearby Roodedraai Wetlands offer undisturbed viewing of the birds, and flamingos can be seen at Daggakraal.
Majuba Power Station Nature Reserve: Do drop in at the Majuba Power Station Nature Reserve if you are interested in reptiles. The giant girdled lizard has found a safe home in this reserve.
Farm holidays: Several of the farmers in the vicinity offer day trips and farm holidays where real farming activities can be experienced. Some also offer ox wagon trips and leadership development courses for children.
Battle of Laing’s Nek: The Boers, under the leadership of General Piet Joubert, inflicted serious damage on the British at Laing’s Nek, a few kilometres from Volksrust, in KwaZulu Natal, during the Anglo-Boer war.
Battle of Majuba site: Majuba Hill is considered to be one of the key battlefield sites of South Africa and is fairly easy to climb from the Volksrust side. The British suffered severe losses at the hands of the Boers at this particular site. There are two memorials on the hill, one dedicated to the British soldiers who lost their lives in the battle and the other dedicated to the Transvalers who had to fight their way up the hill.
Battle of Schuinshoogte site: The British suffered severe losses here against the Boers, led by General Piet Joubert, at Schuinshoogte, during the Anglo-Boer War.
Convention Bridge: Just outside the town lie the remains of the bridge on which President Paul Kruger and the British High Commissioner, Sir Henry Loch, met in 1894 to sign the Third Swaziland Convention, by which the Transvaal acquired the rights of administration and protection of Swaziland without actual annexation. Neither man would negotiate on foreign soil and a train carriage was drawn on to the bridge, the border between their respective territories, each therefore remaining in his own territory.
Historical Graves: The house and grave of General Piet Joubert, renowned Boer General, lies west of the town and the grave of Dirk Uys, who died at Laing’s Nek lies east of the town near Mahawane Dam.
O’Neill’s Cottage: The peace treaty that ended the Anglo-Transvaal War was signed at O’Neill’s Cottage, on the slopes of Majuba, just inside KwaZulu Natal. Some of the British soldiers wounded in the Battle of Majuba were treated here. Today, the cottage displays maps, documents, photographs and other memorabilia of the war and the peace.
Sand River: The Sand River has special historic significance because it was here that the Boer forces assembled in 1899 before the start of the Anglo-Boer War. Volksrust Station: The town’s sandstone station building was built in 1885.
War memorials: There are several memorials and monuments in and around the town. The “Burgher” Monument, dedicated to the memory of the 1 009 women and children who died in the concentration camp nearby during the Anglo-Boer War, as well as to all those who fought for the freedom of the old Zuid Afrikaansche Republic, adorns Voortrekker Square, where a retired steamroller and a Class 19D locomotive No 2696 can also be seen.
Slang River Falls: These beautiful falls are approximately 13 km from town and are well worth the trip.
This town was established in 1883 and in 1885 it was named for the renowned Boer leader, Piet Retief, who, with many of his followers had been murdered by the Zulus. Like so many other Transvaal towns it was virtually destroyed during the Anglo-Boer War and rebuilt after the war. The indigenous local inhabitants dubbed the town “eThandakukhanya” (“We Want Light”). Today, this pretty town, surrounded by pine and gum trees, is home to one of South Africa’s most important timber industries. Mica and kaolin are mined nearby.
Angling: Dams in the region are well-stocked with fish such as yellowtail and Natal yellowfin. The Heyshope Dam is famed for its favourable conditions for black bass-angling.
Biking: The mountainous terrain surrounding Piet Retief offers a number of biking trails.
Golf: The town boasts an inviting nine-hole golf course.
Hiking: There is a choice of hiking trails in the area. The Assegai Trail will take you through beautiful mountain scenery with prodigious bird life and the Phongolo Highlands Hiking Trail System offers hikes lasting one to five days. The system includes the Ngcaka and Mpisi Hiking Routes.
Horseriding: Enjoy the magnificent scenery of the region on horseback.
San Rock Art: Several San rock paintings can be viewed in the caves of the area.
Candles: Röhr’s Country Guest House has a charming display of locally made candles. Browse and buy.
Oribi Conservancy: The conservancy is the only reserve in the country that was established specifically to protect the oribi antelope and other species of grassland animals and birds.
Piet Retief Game and Bird Sanctuary: See the local fauna and flora at the Piet Retief Game and Bird Sanctuary.
Dutch Reformed Church: The lovely church with its Cape Dutch gables and pretty tower was designed by the well-known architect Gerhard Moerdijk. Library and Information Centre: Visit to the town’s informative library and Information Centre for an overview of the history of the town.
Sandstone Bridge: The Paul Kruger Bridge, built by the celebrated architect Sytze Wierde, can be seen on the line between Piet Retief and Ermelo. The bridge, built in 1897, is the longest arched sandstone bridge in the region and has been proclaimed a national monument.
War Memorials: There are several war memorials in town, including the Zulu War Memorial, the Heinrich Filter and Nils Larsen Monument and the graves of British soldiers who died here.
Mondi Forest Pulp and Paper Plant: Visit this interesting plant and join one of its informative, educational tours.
During the years of epidemic horse-sickness farmers used to bring their horses to this peak, which was free of this disease, to prevent them contracting the disease; hence the name, which means horse’s hill. A permanent settlement was later established at this particular spot and some of the old stone houses with their cosy verandas are still inhabited.
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