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Pilgrim'ns Rest

Pilgrims Rest was founded in 1873 when gold diggers found alluvial gold in the streams flowing through the valley. There is a rumour that says when Allec Wheelbarrow Patterson, a digger, found the first gold in the Pilgrim'ns Creek, he shouted, "The Pilgrim is at rest" and the mountains echoed back "Pilgrim'ns Rest". Since then the town is known as Pilgrim'ns Rest. Wheelbarrow Patterson got his name from the fact that he always pushed his belongings around in a wheelbarrow. 

A gold rush soon followed when diggers moved from the MacMac The ideal picnic spot is next to the magnificent Mac-Mac pools. Falls to the valley of gold. The town flourished for a couple of years until the Transvaal Gold Mining Estates were founded and they started with underground mining. Most of the claims were bought by this company.

TGME or Transvaal Gold Mining Estates worked the mines until 1973 when it closed down all operations and most of the inhabitants moved away. The town was destined to become a ghost town. The then Transvaal Provincial Administration saw an opportunity here and bought the town from TGME to develop it as a museum town.

Today, Pilgrim'ns Rest is a living museum. The whole town was declared a museum and all the buildings restored to its former glory. 

A visitor to this famous holiday destination can experience life as it was a hundred years ago. The museums that are open to the public are:

  • The House Museum - a house furnished in period furniture to show the lifestyle of a typical miner.

  • Allan Glade: The Mine Managers mansion. This house was named after the children of the first mine manager of TGME at Pilgrims rest. Today, it is furnished in Art Deco style furniture. It is a must see.

  • The Print Shop: A printing museum where the local newspaper was printed.

  • Leadley'ns: A shop museum where you can see a typical shop of the period. 

  • The Diggings: Here you can experience the life of the digger and see a demonstration of gold panning and maybe even try your hand at panning yourself.

  • The Cemetery: This cemetery, situated against the slopes of one of the hills surrounding the town, is situated in the most impossible place. Graves were dug in the rock of the mountain. It is said that this cemetery was started when a robber was shot and buried where he fell. In the first days at Pilgrim'ns Rest, most of the diggers were living in tents and make shift shelters. Security was thus impossible to maintain and when a person was found stealing from another, half of his beard was shaved and the other half of his hair. Such a person would then be banned from the town. This particular thief was shaved and banned with the words, should he ever return, he would be shot. When hunger forced him to return to the diggings, he was shot when he was first spotted. Where he fell, they buried him. When one of the other inhabitants died a couple of weeks later, he was buried close to the thief so that he at least had some company. This then was the start of the cemetery and even today you can see the grave of the robber. 

It is difficult to imainge the power of water. These holes were carved by the grinding effect of loose rocks being moved by the force of the water falling down the waterfall.Various hiking trails through the mountains offer the adventurer breathtaking views.

There are a multitude of little cottage industries and craft shops in the town. Be prepared to spend at least a day in this quaint little town. While you are there, why not spend the night in the Royal Hotel and sleep in beds dating back a hundred years or have a drink with the locals in the pub. This bar was transported from Lorenco Marques (Maputo) by ox wagon. It was originally a church and even today you can sit on some of the church benches while enjoying a drink and listening to the stories the locals have to tell.

Pilgrim'ns Rest is also well situated to visit many of the natural beauty the area has to offer. It is close to God'ns Window, MacMac Falls, Berlin Falls, The Potholes, Three Rondawels and even close enough for a visit to the Kruger National Park.

This is where Bourke found his luck by mining in these holes for alluvial gold.
The Potholes at Bourke'ns Luck

(Click on these pictures and wait for a bigger view):

There are numerous walking trails in the Pilgrims Rest area  where breathtaking views await the nature lover.  
The Clivia Forest

Pilgrims Rest


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This page was last updated on 07 June 2009
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