Following Christmas, the family and I travelled to South Africa for a much-needed break to relax, rejuvenate and refocus. We chose the province of Mpumalanga as our destination (about a 10-hour road trip with kids) and got exactly what we needed – fresh mountain air, incredible views, country food, several outdoor activities as well as quiet time to reflect and look ahead. We also got something we didn’t expect – cold in summer! Can you believe we had a log fire almost every night? Bright and early on New Year’s Day, Ditiro and I took a short drive to nearby town Pilgrim’s Rest to ring in the New Year. Now, you know I never run without you, so let’s go!
Pilgrim’s Rest was the second of the Transvaal gold fields, attracting a rush of prospectors in 1873. When mining shut down in 1971, the village was sold to the government as a national museum and has been protected as a provincial heritage site since 1986.
We parked our car at one end of the old town, just opposite The Vine Restaurant. There were already a couple of families entering the restaurant for New Year’s breakfast.
It was a cool and cloudy day, but with a tough climb to the other end of the town, it wasn’t an easy run! But my goodness, as a history buff, I absolutely relished the experience. I later told my kids it was a real “Once upon a time…” town. The town’s architecture remains largely unchanged since its days as a bustling mining town. We both felt as if we had been thrown back in time and were intrigued by the different buildings and impressed by the types of businesses that existed at that time. The views were also spectacular with rolling green hills painting the background.
We ran past the old blue post office (which is fully functional and has old artefacts from the late 1800s), various General Dealer stores, a butchery, the Central Garage and a fuel station (which we later used to fuel our car!), as well as an apothecary (pharmacy) and a bank.
We also ran past a news agent, old hotels, pubs and restaurants, as well as a gin distillery whose proprietor proclaims to have the best pizza in the Lowveld and the best gin in South Africa.
There were also different churches, one built as early as 1884, and The Sacred Heart Catholic Church which I later brought my dad to see as he is Catholic.
Although it was a tough run to the top of the town, it was only 2km – it felt like four! Running back was a lot easier and as we approached The Vine, I was joined by a four-legged running partner, a Collie, who escorted me all the way to an old bridge at the bottom of the town. He was a loyal companion for the half kilometre we ran together, clearly very confident about his surroundings. We later found him sleeping comfortably by the fireplace in The Vine.
When we returned to our lodge, we insisted that the whole family go back for lunch and a walk through the town. The kids treated themselves to sweets from the candy store, my dad bought some wooden crafts from a street vendor, and my sister spoilt herself with some old Coca Cola trinkets, as we toured the different stores. It was such a beautiful start to the year… And in my next blog, I’ll tell you how I FINALLY found an ‘H’ for my Alphabet Challenge!
I hope you enjoyed running with me in Pilgrim’s Rest! Have you run through a living museum? Are you from South Africa or have you visited this diverse country?