Hiking, Trails and Routes

ID #4970

Explore the Rainbow Route, Mpumalanga to Zululand, South Africa.

A road less travelled and a journey of discovery from Mpumalanga to the Zululand coast. Much to see and do. Every town along the route has something to offer…

•    Kriel. A small town of some 22000 residents. It was established 22 years ago to support power stations and coal mines in the area. Visit the power stations, which generate 6600 MW as well as coal mines that produce 20 million tons of coal annually. +27 (17) 648 2241 ext 302
•    Carolina.  The northern gateway to the Rainbow route. On the escarpment. A brisk healthy climate. Principally a sheep and cattle farming area as well as coal mining. Tennis, badminton and a 9-hole golf course at the country club. Historic Anglican Church has been converted into a restaurant.  Favoured by anglers and a popular bird-watching spot.  +27 (17) 843 1055
•    Chrissiesmeer.  Centre of South Africa’s lake district. Small hamlet in the highlands of south-east Mpumalanga. 270 lakes and pans within 20 km of the village. Wetlands and grasslands.  Scottish sheep farmers settled here in the late 19th century. Anglo-Boer War battle fought in the area. Activities include frogging, birding, horse and mountain bike riding, cycling, butterflies, canoeing, hiking and rambling. Marietjie Blignaut +27 (82) 929 1219
•    Bethal. On the banks of Bethal Dam. Popular with fishermen, watersport enthusiasts and birders. National Potato Festival held annually at the end of April. Potato Express steam train from Johannesburg to the town. +27 (17) 647 6231
•    Ermelo.  Razed to the ground during the Anglo-Boer War. Busy hub of the Eastern Highveld. Settlement of stone huts near Tafelkop built by the Leghoya Tloka tribe and Bushman (Bushmen) paintings on the farm Welgelegen.  Nooitgedacht Agricultural Research Station. Tours of surrounding farms, sawmills and mines. Carp, black bass and barbel fishing at Douglas Dam. +27 (17) 819 2453.
•    Amsterdam.  First named Robernia after the Scottish poet Robbie Burns.  It was to be part of Alexander McCorkindale’s “tartan republic” called New Scotland. The scheme did not come to fruition. It was renamed Amsterdam in 1882 by Paul Kruger. The church and police cells, built in 1887 and 1890 respectively, are national monuments. Walking and hiking trails. Three dams for watersports and fishing. Large timber plantations.  +27 (17) 846 9892
•    Piet Retief (Pietretief).  Named after the Voortrekker leader killed by Dingane.  High in the mist belt on the escarpment. Surrounded by forests. Centre of the agricultural and timber industry.  German settlements at Wittenburg and Augsberg nearby are worth a visit.  Excellent angling, fishing and hiking trails through game farms.  Golf course, bowling greens, tennis, squash and a swimming pool at the local country club. Coal mines, particleboard and timber related industries in the area.  +27 (17) 826 5477
•    Paulpietersburg.  Between Piet Retief and Vryheid.  Rich heritage from the town’s involvement in the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer Wars as well as the influence of early German missionaries. Three spring water bottling plants and a hot mineral spa.  Popular venue for paragliding. Timber Marathon (running) and Craft Exhibition are annual events that attract visitors.  +27 (34) 995 1650
•    Vryheid. Once the capital of the Nieuwe Republiek. Three museums and nearby battlefields evoke memories of a colourful military past. Discover the heritage of the Zulu in their curios, woven articles, paintings, beadwork, sculpture and pottery.
•    Melmoth. Lush green mist belt that boasts the cleanest air in the country. Long established trading and agricultural centre. 85000 Ha of timber plantations. Bird sanctuary that is part of the Zululand Birding Route +27 (35) 474 2531. The views of the Nkwaleni Valley are spectacular.  +27 (35) 450 7572
•    Ulundi. Experience the customs, culture and traditions of the Zulu. Ondini Historical Reserve and the Kwa-Zulu Cultural Museum, Mgungundhlovu (Dingane’s capital), Kwa-Gqokhi Hill (one of Shaka’s victory sites), Ulundi Battlefield and Kwa-Ngwengu (site museum at Mpande’s former royal residence). Magnificent tapestries in the Legislative Assembly building.  Close to several world-renowned game reserves. +27 (35) 870 0501
•    Eshowe. Birthplace of Cetshwayo.  Near kwaBulawayo, Shaka’s kraal. Nonquayi, a Beau Geste-style fort houses the Zululand Historical Museum. Centre of the Zululand Birding Route. South Africa’s first aerial boardwalk was recently built in Dlinza Forest. Hiking, picknicking, bird-watching and rambling. Game park, Vukani Collection of Zulu Arts and crafts. +27 (35) 474 1141 ask for Tourism Office.

Turn south off the R12 at exit 515 onto the R545 and travel via Ogies to Bethal, passing Kriel on the left. Travel east on the R17 to Ermelo. Continue east on the R17 to Chrissiesmeer. Continue on the R17 past Warburton and turn south on the R33 to Amsterdam. Continue south on the R33 to Piet Retief. Continue south on the R33 to Vryheid via Paulpietersburg. Travel south on the R34 to Melmoth. Turn east off the R34 onto the R66 to see Ulundi. Continue south on the R34 and then turn right onto the R68 to Eshowe. ASExplore

Contct:            Information Officer, Rainbow Route
Box 2149 Vryheid 3100
+27 (34) 982 2133 telephone
+27 (34) 982 3497 fax

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Last update: 2013-01-22 16:40
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.1

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