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How to Rock Your Trip to Mpumalanga: A Guide to the Oldest Caves and the Coolest Towns

Mpumalanga, a South African province renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty and thriving wildlife, offers more than just scenic vistas. It is a land with a deep and diverse history that stretches across millions of years, embodying the legacy of its people. In this blog post, we invite you on an exploration to unearth the concealed jewels and cultural riches of Mpumalanga, ensuring an unforgettable journey.


The best way to experience the world is by going outside and exploring it .

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Sudwala Caves: Delving into the Depths of Antiquity

The Sudwala Caves stand as a The Sudwala Caves, a testament to the marvels of nature, came into existence an astonishing 240 million years ago, earning them the distinction of being the world's oldest known caves. Nestled in the Drakensberg Mountains' foothills, about 35 km from Nelspruit, these caves are open to visitors. Guided tours will lead you through magnificent chambers and passages adorned with mesmerizing stalactites, stalagmites, and other captivating rock formations. While exploring, you can also glimpse prehistoric fossils, including ammonites and trilobites, which once inhabited these underground chambers. The caves also house a colony of bats and a rare species of blind shrimp in their subterranean pools. For a more adventurous experience, the Crystal Tour grants access to the deepest and most breathtaking part of the caves, featuring a massive quartz crystal, estimated to weigh over 200 tons, within the crystal chamber.

However, the Sudwala Caves aren't just a natural wonder; they hold cultural significance. Throughout history, they have served various purposes, including shelter, refuge, storage, and places of worship. These caves have witnessed humanity's evolution and the changing world. Additionally, they are steeped in legends and myths, such as the story of Somquba, brother to King Sobhuza of Swaziland. He sought refuge within these caves with his followers and treasure, evading his brother's pursuing army. Legend has it that this hidden treasure still awaits discovery by a brave and worthy explorer.

Pilgrim's Rest: A Blast from the Gold Rush Era

Established in 1873 during the South African gold rush, Pilgrim's Rest is a delightful town with a name inspired by prospectors who believed they had struck gold at their ultimate destination. It has been meticulously preserved as a national monument and living museum, offering insights into the lives and culture of gold miners and their families. As you stroll along the main street, you'll be charmed by the painstakingly restored original buildings, now housing museums, shops, restaurants, and places to stay. Exploring the diggings and cemetery will reveal the stories and history of past residents. For those seeking a hands-on experience, try your hand at gold panning or join guided tours to nearby attractions, including the unconventional resting place of a notorious outlaw at Robbers Grave and the Alanglade House, which once offered luxurious quarters to the mine manager and family.

Beyond its historical significance, Pilgrim's Rest has been a muse for countless artistic and literary works, including novels by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, paintings by J.H. Pierneef, and films by Jamie Uys. The town also hosts various events and festivals year-round, such as the Gold Panning Championships, the Arts and Crafts Fair, and the Pilgrim's Festival. The town thrives with a vibrant community of both locals and visitors who share a deep passion for its heritage and undeniable charm. 

If you seek a place to unwind and savour life's simple pleasures, Pilgrim's Rest is the perfect destination. Just don't forget to bring your gold pan – you never know what treasures you might discover.

Adam's Calendar: Unravelling an Ancient Enigma

Adam's Calendar, located on a South African hilltop near Kaapschehoop, is a mysterious ancient site. Believed to be the oldest human-made structure on Earth (predating both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza by tens of thousands of years), it consists of 30 standing stones arranged in alignment with cardinal points, solstices, equinoxes, and the Orion's Belt constellation. These arrangements suggest it served as both an astronomical observatory and a calendar for its ancient builders. Around the site, there are other stone structures, such as pyramids and terraces, creating a complex network. Some researchers even suggest this structure may have influenced the development of Sumerian and Egyptian cultures. While you can visit the site, it's advisable to book a guided tour with a local expert to understand its significance.

Also recognized as Blaauwboschkraal Stone Ruins, this ancient marvel was bestowed with national monument status on April 18, 1975, further acknowledged as a heritage site by the South African Heritage Resources Agency. Among local shamanic communities, it bears the evocative name "Inzalo ye Langa," signifying the "birthplace of the sun."

Over time South Africa's own "Stonehenge" has inspired various theories, from connections with extraterrestrial beings to links with Great Zimbabwe. It's also associated with spiritual and paranormal experiences, like visions and UFO sightings. For many, Adam's Calendar is a place of great significance that can awaken human consciousness and potential. 

So, if you visit Mpumalanga and explore Adam's Calendar, remember to bring your binoculars and compass – you might just find yourself on an extraordinary journey through time and space. 

As our journey through the province of Mpumalanga comes to an end, we hope you are as captivated as we are by its timeless beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture.

If you're inspired to explore this remarkable region and experience its wonders firsthand, get in touch with the team at Where It All Began. We'll guide you through Mpumalanga and other remarkable destinations across the continent, and help you to create your own dream African adventure. 

Image Credit: Guyermer, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

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We’re an ethical private travel planning company focused on Southern Africa.

We offer ready-made and also customised holidays and journeys across this unique region of the world.

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The cave system has so far given rise to the remains of over 15 individuals, making it the largest hominid fossil remains site ever discovered.

Travelling to Southern Africa is truly a return to the source of humankind, to Where It All Began.

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