Robber's Pass

Robber's Pass connects the little town of Pilgrim's Rest to Origstad, a long tarred road rich in history

Mpumalanga Tourist AttractionsThe Robber's Pass

Robber's Pass connects the little town of Pilgrim's Rest to Ohrigstad, a long tarred road rich in history with a particularly scenic landscape that boasts wild horses and the odd monument. Take it slowly.

Where? Links Pilgrim's Rest to Ohrigstad, Mpumalanga

When? Best during daylight hours

How much? Free

Overnight? See Pilgrims Rest accommodation, in Mpumalanga

Pilgrim's Rest alone has a rich history. Not only it is the birthplace of South Africa's gold rush but there are more than a couple of stories about robbers to add to the allure of the pass.

First is the Robber's Grave, perched above the town, where a thief banished and convicted for stealing a tent - was shot as he returned to Pilgrim's Rest. But he isn't the robber for whom the pass is named, despite the grave's fame.

That's a different story, involving at least two highway robberies. The first when a stage coach was robbed of 10 000 worth of gold (no-one was convicted or even caught); the second happened in the same spot, 13 years later. For this robbery Tommy Dennison was jailed, only to return to Pilgrim's Rest post sentence to start the Highwayman's Garage.

The pass begins on the northern edge of Pilgrim's Rest and leads in a north-westerly direction into the foothills of the mountains. The initial 5 km follows a series of hairpin bends, best driven slowly, particularly as large trucks tend to use the pass. You will be lucky if you manage more than 40 km an hour.

You pass your first monument about 6.5 km up the pass a cairn with a plaque that explains how the pass got its name.

As you reach the Morgenzon plantation, keep a watchful eye for wild horses, said to be the descendents of horses bred near Dullstroom for the stage coaches from Pilgrim's Rest. But you will be lucky to spot them.

The Prospector's Trail, anything from two to five days' of hiking, starts up here. Fairly close by is the second monument a plaque to commemorate the opening of the tarred pass in 1938, by the local MP who later spent time in prison for fraud. The third is a plaque for Jock of the Bushveld, but you may find it difficult to locate.

The highest point of the pass is at about 13 km, after which you descend in slow curves onto the grassy plains of the Ohrigstad River. The last 5 km are easy, along the bank of the river; Thabatswenya peak on your right.

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