Visiting the ancient City-Museum of Pilgrim’s Rest
If you are visiting Blyde River canyon it’s worth a short stop to Pilgrim’s rest. The history of this place dated back to ancient times when unknown miners worked the quartz reefs for gold. The first gold rush in South Africa took place in 1873 when payable gold was discovered near the town of Sabie on the Mpumalanga escarpment.
Some diggers found rich gold deposit also in the pilgrim’s creek and the news of a rich strike triggered the first major gold rush in South Africa. Pilgrim’s Rest was declared a goldfield on 22 September 1873 and by the end of the year, there were 1500 diggers working 4000 claims around the area. Gold was recovered from streams and the banks of the river and creeks by means of sluice-boxes and cradlings.
It is estimated that 2 millions rand worth of gold was mined during the first seven years along the valley. Pilgrim’s rest was the social and commercial centre of the diggings which comprised of the Upper, Middle and lower camps. In 1896 permanent buildings replaced the tents and in the period 1930 – 1950, an average of 300.000 tons of gold per year was mined. In 1972 the last operating mine in Pilgrim’s rest ceased operations, but the village has become a Provincial heritage site and a living Museum.
- What to see and do in Pilgrim’s Rest
Walking through the small village you can visit several museums and the most interesting are: the Victorian House (a typical local house dated back 1913), the Drezden Shop and House Museum (a typical general dealer), the Central Garage Museum (an agency selling tours, petrol rental cars where take place an old vehicles collection), the Printing Museum ( the old typography). It’s also interesting to visit (only guided tour) the Alanglade Period House Museum (the residence of the mine manager until 1972) and the Diggins Site Museum (an authentic re-construction of how the valley was). It’s also interesting to have a look at the old cemetery and read the name of the diggers burnt here; also a quick visit to the New Gothic Church, built in the 1911 and still in use, and to the Anglican Church, built in 1884, and the Catholic Church, built in 1928 with a beautiful German organ dating back to 1846.
You have to buy the general ticket at the Information Centre where you can pick up a map and some brochures.
- Where to sleep in Pilgrim’s Rest
The village is only 40 km from Sabie (370 km from Jo’burg) and 15 km from Graskop. In those towns, you’ll find several accommodations at any budget, from cheap guesthouses to excellent hotels. If you want, it’s also possible to sleep at The Royal Hotel in Pilgrim’s Rest where you also find some restaurants.