A mountain spine runs from the Southern Drakensberg ‘dragon-tooth mountains’ to the Mpumalanga Province in the north. That name means ‘the place where the sun rises’ in the native tongue. Here are high mountains, mighty forests, and exposed cliffs where South Africa’s gold rush began. This is where the inland plateau plummets down a mighty escarpment, and over the Mpumalanga Waterfalls towards the lowlands of the Kruger National Park.
When I was a lad, I visited many Mpumalanga waterfalls there, and swam in their streams and pools beneath the falling water. This was decades before the tourist industry arrived, with its necessary restrictions on free movement in these sensitive areas. I thought I’d share my memories of them with you. They are not as awesome as the Victoria Falls by any standards, but still hold the fascination of cascading water.
Mpumalanga Waterfalls South Africa
Bridal Veil Falls
A 750-meter walk through a rich indigenous forest carpeted with ferns and flowers brings you to a peaceful spot beneath falling spray drifting gently in the breeze down a 70-meter drop. Enquire at Sabie 6-kilometres away before you dare traverse the rocky strata to feel the coolness. When there is heavy rain upriver, a torrent spreads out across the cliff.
The Lisbon Falls plunge 94 meters just outside the town of Graskop, and at the gateway to the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. 19th Century gold prospectors named them after their hometown; and you can still find their diggings and lonely graves if you look.
Blyde River Protea
A variety of South Africa’s national symbol the Protea grows 5 meters tall in the scrubland, and flowers from mid to late summer.
Elands River Falls
This is my final choice for this post. However, there many more waterfalls in Sabie Mpumalanga I would like to tell you about and I may make another one. In the early 1890’s as relationships deteriorated between the Afrikaner Boer Republics and Great Britain, President Paul Kruger drove a railway tunnel nearby to open up an alternate trading route to the Portuguese settlement of Lourenço Marques now called Maputo in Mozambique.
Zuid Afrikaansche Spoorweg Maatskappij Tunnel
When he fled the approaching armies to establish an alternative government in Switzerland, he overnighted here in a small hotel. His train left the following morning without the precious cargo he was carrying, for he feared a British ambush ahead. His ‘Kruger Millions’ were never seen again. My late father insisted Boer soldiers hid the gold bars at the Lisbon falls. If you would like to look across the valley and imagine the historic moment, you will have walk down a dark, 200 metre-long NZASM Tunnel at Waterval Boven to get there.