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East of Gauteng begins the province of Mpumalanga. The landscape changes rapidly as you drive east. From the flat plateau one arrives in the rugged mountain world of the Drakensberge of Mpumalanga, which delimits the domestic plateau (Highveld) as a northeastern part of the marginal threshold mountains from the lowveld in the east.
On the one hand, it was necessary to overcome the steep slopes and deep gorges of the Drakensberg, on the other to cross the endless marshes of the humid-hot Lowveld, where malaria – along with other diseases – was a constant threat.
Along the spectacular escarpment, the so-called “Panorama Route”, a scenic highlight of any trip to South Africa. In the far reaches of the Lowveld is the Kruger National Park, one of the largest and most beautiful game reserves on earth.
The land of the former Transvaal is characterised by the settlement movements of the Voortrekkers, who travelled here with their oxcarts and opened up the region with great sacrifices.
The historic gold mining town of Barberton is located 40 kilometres south of Nelspruit in the picturesque Kaapsehoop. In 1884, Fred and Graham Barber discovered gold here, sparking a gold rush a short time later. Tents and wooden huts sprang up like mushrooms, as did a hotel with a bar and a few shops. In 1887, the first South African gold exchange was even opened. However, the gold rush only lasted until 1898, when more fertile gold finds were made at the Witwatersrand.
Even today, however, there is a small active gold mine north of the city. The Sheba Mine is one of the oldest gold mines in the world.
The city is proud of its historic buildings, most of which have been carefully restored. A particularly good example is Belhaven House on Lee Street. The house was built in 1904 and inhabited by wealthy middle-class citizens. The walls are made of corrugated iron, with smooth metal plates inside. The house is furnished in Victorian and Edwardian style and is now a museum.
The Mpumalanga Drakensberg are part of the inland highlands of South Africa, the west of the Kruger Park, along the panoramic road, as a so-called Great Escarpment in steep steps from the cool Highveld breaks into the dry-hot Lowveld. In the summer from December to March it gets hot to very hot in the Lowveld regions, in winter it can be very cold again in the high regions of the Highveld. Economic sources of income are mining of coal and platinum, forestry and agriculture (oranges and bananas) and tourism.
Mpumalanga shines with scenic beauties, historic villages, natural monuments and countless outdoor sports, such as hiking, mountain biking, water sports, horseback riding, fishing, climbing, Abseiling, golf, etc. Iconic is the Kruger National Park, which attracts about one and a half million visitors every year , The second major attraction, the Blyde River Canyon, is a spectacular, approximately 25 km long and green overgrown Flusseschlucht. The parallel panoramic road offers countless other attractions: waterfalls, the gold-mining village of Pilgrim’s Rest, the river erosion landscape of Bourke’s Luck Potholes, viewpoints into the Lowveld and the Blydepoort Dam. The pass roads Long Tom Pass and Robbers Pass connect the panoramic road with the eastern R36.
The two places Dullstroom and Lydenburg in the climatically temperate Mpumalanga Drakensberg are trout and hiking centres. Wildlife enthusiasts can indulge in one of the ultimate game lodges in the Private Game Reserves, many of which are on the west side of Kruger Park. The tourist infrastructure in Mpumalanga is excellent with countless accommodations in all price ranges. The historic mining town of Barberton brings the time of the gold rush back to life.