The Persistent Legend of the Kruger Millions Raises its Head Once Again

Kruger Pond

The story of the Kruger Millions is a legend that refuses to die, although history has (supposedly) disproved the existence of the treasure; searchers are however still hunting for the elusive treasure.

The Anglo-Boer war and events at the time gave rise to the legend of this golden hoard, which many firmly believed lies buried somewhere in the Lowveld.

When the British occupied Pretoria on June 5, 1900, Lord Alfred Milner esta­blished that gold to the value of approxi­mately £800 000 (about R8-million in todays’s terms, but bear in mind that the price of gold has gone up manyfold since 1900) had been removed from the S A Mint and National Bank between May 29 and June 4, 1900.

Kruger Gold Bars

Gold to the value of £2,5-million was confiscated from gold mines and, according to documentary proof, £1 294 000 was removed from the S A Mint and National Bank. Gold to the value of about £2 million had disappeared ! Milner did everything in his power to find the gold but rumours began to circulate that the gold was buried somewhere and this fired the imagination of many, in­cluding that of the writer, Gustav Preller.

Armed with a pistol, he dramatically com­mandeered a mule wagon in Sunnyside. That night one load of gold was transported by the mule wagon, and four loads by a horse cab, to a waiting train on Pretoria station.

In the Preller collection, in the State Archives in Pretoria, there is a typed copy of the article in which Preller says: “I think it was on 28 May 1900, because on 31May I left Pretoria. Let’s say it was 28 May. In any case it does not seem that the precise date is important now”.

A Younger Smuts

The precise date is indeed important, as it is a historic fact that the gold was re­moved on June 4, 1900, a day before the British forces occupied Pretoria. In his “Memoirs of the Boer War”, General J C Smuts said the British forces had pro­gressed as far as Six Mile Spruit on June 4, 1900, just outside of Pretoria.

Here the Boer forces resisted the British, to keep them from entering Pretoria, so that there was enough time to remove the money and gold which belonged to the government, as well as a large amount of ammunition and a number of cannons, that were still in Pretoria.

The removal of the money and gold be­longing to the government from the Natio­nal Bank was Smuts’ specific responsibi­lity.

Ernest Meyer, Master of the Mint in 1900, was involved in the removal of the money and gold from Pretoria. On October 25, 1949, as a result of what Preller wrote, Meyer drew up a document in which the removal of the money and gold on June 4, 1900, is described.

Map Kruger Millions

In Meyer’s version of the events General Smuts, who was State Attorney at that time, was left behind in command at Pre­toria, while the government head-quarters moved quietly and almost unobserved to Machadodorp. On June 2, the British forces were approaching Pretoria from the South. The mint was still in operation and, as was usual, was closed on Saturday June 2.

He was amazed that no preparations had been made for the removal of the gold. The British would enter Pretoria within the next few days and Meyer reported this to Jules Perrin, head of the mint. Perrin’s answer was that he had not received any instruc­tions to remove the gold and that they would have to submit to the authorities whoever they might be.

Six Mile Spruit

The British occupation was imminent. On the Sunday the sound of cannon fire could be heard, and on Monday morning June 4 reports were received of fighting at Six Mile Spruit;

The staff at the mint started the day at the usual hour of 07hrs00 and Perrin dis­tributed the metal to the different depart­ments for processing. Perrin and the office staff then went home to return at 09hrs00, while the technical staff continued working. During Perrin’s absence, Meyer took the opportunity to warn the smelter and purifier not to proceed with the pro­cessing of the gold, but to await the directions of the State Attorney. Everyone at the mint was willing to co-operate as they were also at a loss to understand Perrin’s inexplicable behaviour.

Meyer proceeded to General Smuts’ home in Sunnyside and informed him of the situation. In shocked tones he exclaimed “What, has the gold not been taken away?” He told Meyer to return to the mint immediately and to await him there. Smuts arrived at the mint just before 09hrs00 and after a few words to Perrin and Hugo, the National Bank manager, Smuts ordered the gold to be collected, weighed, recorded and made ready for despatch to the Pretoria station.

Pretoria Mint

The weighing and recording of the gold took time and consisted of gold bars, un­processed gold and approximately 100 000 Kruger pounds to the value of
£750 000.

At 12hrs00 all was in readiness and the gold loaded into the train’s baggage compart­ment. Meyer and an armed guard of between four and eight men travelled in the passenger compartment. Thus the last train under the flag of the Republic left Pre­toria, amidst the thunder of cannon fire, taking the precious freight to safety.


The train arrived at Machadodorp at 02hrs00 where Kruger was residing. Here Meyer assisted with the payment in gold to several claimants and with the help of the auditors and treasury personnel had a busy time.

After Meyer left for the front on July 17, 1900, to join Max Theunissen’s Scouts, Commandant General Meindert Noome, Chief Clerk to the Auditor General, took over from Meyer.

Fall of Pretoria

However, now the plot thickens !

Apart from the account of the gold from the mint being loaded, there was supposed to be gold bullion in bar form from the gold mines that was also loaded. In 1930, according to Historian Hedley Chilvers however,  most of the bar gold was never accounted for !

He maintains that the total value of the bar gold was £2 million (approximately 480,769 ounces or 1,202 bars) which would have a value of 26 million dollars (R6.6 billion) today – consisting of 183,138 ounces of bar gold (457 bars) was taken from the Witwatersrand mines : Robinson Mine (198 bars), Ferreira Deep (104 bars), Ferreira Mine (96 bars) and other small mines (60 bars).

Louis Botha

12 years after the end of the war the State Mining Engineer Jan Munnik said at a public meeting : “I would ask General Botha what has been done with the 134 gold bars, worth roughly £750,000, which he had recovered from the mines, and which, at President Kruger’s departure, were left in the hands of the Commandant-General, General Botha, and two others, by government resolution. Thus far the gold has never been accounted for, and if General Botha can give a satisfactory explanation, and if there is any gold left, I would say: Hand it over to help the Empire.”

A reporter from the Rand Daily Mail, L. van Gelder, who was present at the meeting, wrote the story which was published the next day. The prime minister read the story in a Cape newspaper and “his face grew black as thunder”. The result was an action for criminal libel initiated by Louis Botha against Jan Munnik which was brought before Mr J.C. Juta in the old magistrate’s court in Johannesburg on 27 October 1915.

Kruger Lodge Watervalonder

Christiaan de Wet

What was interesting about the trial was not so much the libel case, but the witnesses who appeared – all prominent Boer leaders during the war that had ended 12 years previously. Aside from Louis Botha himself there was General Schalk Burger, ex-vice-president of the South African Republic; ex-president of the Orange Free State, F.W. Reitz; and General Christiaan de Wet, then residing as a prisoner of the Crown in the Johannesburg Fort. (He was one of the leaders of the 1914 rebellion who had been run to earth deep in the wilderness of Bechuanaland).

ZASM Tunnel

A number of witnesses who had been involved with the removal of the gold from Johannesburg, Pretoria, Pilgrim’s Rest and Barberton also gave testimony. The truth in fact supports the supposition that the ‘Kruger Millions’ vanished into thin air somewhere between Machadodorp and the Mozambican border, (and then more specifically, were buried on a farm somewhere between Sabie and Watervalboven). This haul had been augmented by the addition of gold bars and amalgam taken from the Pilgrim’s Rest and Barberton mines.

President Paul Kruger

Dr (later Mr. Justice) F.E.T. Krause, who was responsible for the removal of the gold from the Johannesburg mines and its dispatch to Pretoria in 1900, gave specific evidence of the quantity of gold recovered from the Robinson Mine: 120,000 ounces. You will recall that the historian Chilvers estimated this quantity at only 78,958 ounces in 1930, so his estimation of the size of the original fortune is a possible underestimation !

This material was gleaned from Rob Milne’s latest edition of “Anecdotes of the Anglo-Boer War”, as well as from other sources.

This book is available from Tourism Marketer for R250.00 per copy excluding postage. Call us on
013 764 1177,

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We can host groups on an exciting Jock of the Bushveld and general history tour through the Escarpment, Lowveld and Bushveld regions.Call our Dream Merchants at TRIPS ZA for more information on
013 764 1177

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…More Land Rover Quips ! The best 4 X 4 on Tar !


They say 90% of all Land Rovers manufactured are still on the road. The other 10% have reached their destination.

All Land Rovers are like women – they moan on long journeys, embarrass you in front of friends and cost you more money than you ever expected, once you’ve committed yourself to one.

Police officers shake your hand when they issue you a speeding ticket.

Landy Itiey Style

Why do most Defenders have jerry cans and gas bottles fitted?
So that the driver can make coffee while waiting for road assistance.

Landy’s have the best fuel consumption of all 4×4′s.
That’s because they are always being towed by something else.

Why do Land Rovers always drive in convoy?
They are playing ‘Who’s the Weakest Link?’

Landy Snow Job

I always wondered why they called their models, a Series 90, Defender 110 etc.
But this weekend I found out, those numbers in the model name are the top speeds.

Rumour has it that the next series Land Rover has no speedometer.
Apparently all you need to do is phone the guy in front and ask at what speed he is towing you.

Landy Speed Ace

When you drive on a toll road, you get these yellow emergency phones next to the road. Stop and look closer. On the phones there are emergency numbers: police, ambulance, doctor and Land Rover Service.

Landy Rally Job

Q: What do you find on pages 4 and 5 of the Landy’s user’s manual?
A: The train & bus schedule.

Q: What is the sport-version of a Landy?
A: When the driver wears Nike shoes.

Q: What do you call a Landy with brakes?
A: Customised.

Q: What do you have to do if your Landy gets in the way of a swarm of killer bees?
A: Stop pushing and take refuge inside the car.

Landy Retired Pink Panther

Why do the latest models have rear window demisters?
A. To keep the hands warm when pushing.

Land Rover has a special this month!!
If you buy one, you get a dog for free!! Then you do not have to walk home alone.

From the pen of Sharon Mandy.

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…a Snippet and a Poem or two from Percy Fitzpatrick during his Barberton Days

A “Barbertonian” is a special sort of person who sees himself as a member of a close-knit clan. The other members of this clan are people who live, or used to live in the finest place in South Africa, if not in the world -

Stamp Image of Fitzpatrick

It was to a prosperous Barberton that FitzPatrick came with his wagons in 1885.

Bray's Quarry

Bray’s Golden Quarry had been discovered and the ore was tiding five to seven ounces of gold to the ton. More than a hundred mining companies, representing some 4-million shares, were quoted on the Barberton Stock Exchange. The shares of the Sheba Company stood at 105 pounds. There was an extraordinary gathering in the camp of company promoters, mining engineers, capitalists from Kimberley and enterprising Kiel-proprietors. While the various companies waited for their batteries and steam engines to be delivered, their shares were being talked up to fantastic levels.

Tented Town Old Barberton

All this excitement, and the orders that flowed from it, made a transporter’s heaven. Every square inch of wagon space was sold and any goods a wagoner had purchased “on spec” were snapped up even before they could be unloaded. Machinery, picks and shovels, canned foods and bottles were the principal items in the cargoes the wagons carried. Of the three, the bottles -

Barberton Square Face Gin Bottle

cases and cases of squareface gin, whisky, brandy and beer outweighed everything else. Barberton was a thirsty place – and there was the fever to be kept at bay.

Horse Racing at Eureka City

The wagons were not always on the road. In high summer it was dangerous for both man and beast to travel in the Lowveld and then trips to Lourenco Marques were few and far between and supplies were carted from Lydenburg. So FitzPatrick had time to hang about in Barberton, to attend the dances and become hail-fellow-well-met with most of the inhabitants. He had a tremendous gift for picking up friends wherever he went.

Cockney Liz

It must have been at this time that he wrote his amusing little poem about the transport rider’s life which was published in the Barberton Herald. It was a poem in two sections, designed to show what were erroneously supposed to be the joys of the wagoneer’s life and then, in the second part, what it was really like. A couple of stanzas reveal his thoughts.

Grazing Cattle

Barberton Mountains

Ideal :
He loves the smiling valleys wide.
Green, and broad, and fair,
And he loves the rugged mountainside
And the bracing mountain air;
And the whistling wind that swells and sinks.
And the tints that autumn tell,
And the torrent’s roar, are only links
In Nature’s subtle spell.
For roads are good and rates are high
His cattle are fat and strong
And the cares of the world all pass him by
As his wagons roll along.
Little he racks of Nature’s strife -
Away from the world is he
Without a care is the carrier’s life -
Roving, gay and free.

Dying Cattle

River Flood Damage

And now for the Reality :
The valley’s velvet carpet green
Hides but the deep morass;
And many a bullock’s bones have been
Left on the mountain pass.
The cold winds freeze the cattle’s blood
In autumn dies the grass
And rain comes with every flood
When wagons cannot pass.
For roads are bad and rates are low
And rivers oft in flood;
And wagons stick in the mud.
The cattle – in this world his all -
Begin to sicken and die
Of red-water, lung sick, “melt” or gall
Tulip, fever or fly.

Apart from attending to the affairs of Cohen and Graumann, FitzPatrick found time to encourage tree planting in Barberton, to help to organise dances, to found a political association that presented the case of the English and colonial inhabitants of the Transvaal who thought they ought to have the vote and to write for the Barberton Herald, is worth quoting :then edited by R. J. Pakeman. One of his poems about Barberton entitled:

Steam Train Barberton Station

Shop Keeping Barberton

“As Others See Us”

…The stranger comes.
He finds — no need of search —
Some shops, a jail, two canteens, a church
Some private ‘shanties’ and a market square
And oh! – the public buildings, too, are there.
What now for courthouse and post office passes
Was once a stable built for other asses.
And if it wasn’t – well to call the place
a decent stable
’twere a rank disgrace
Knock-kneed walls, old doors and rotten thatch
and some officials made express to match.
Pretentious streets (of room there is no lack),
With, down the middle, perhaps a wagon track.
The rest is verdant neath the stranger’s gaze
And there for choice the village cattle graze….
And so on for another twenty-six lines,
Dolly ( Fitzpatrick’s nom de plume)

from ‘The First South African” by A.P.Cartwright and other Sources.

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Contact our Dream Merchants for a stunning Jock of the Bushveld and General History group tour through the Lowveld and Kruger, in either Kombis, Sprinters or big coaches. Our number is 013 764 1177

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Welcome to the Slowveld !

Slowveld Meander

The SLOWVELD is only 4 hours of comfortable and easy travelling away from Gauteng on the N4 Highway. Relax comfortably and let us take all the travel strain.

Why not gather a group of friends or family together and embark on a SLOWVELD meander while quietly taking in all the best kept secrets that only those “who know” will take their time to share with you. Besides which, it will save you a fortune in toll fees, fuel and believe it or not – meals and accommodation as well..especially during the SLOW season !

Coach Transport

Herewith a complete “to do” list of activities from which to choose, which can be built into tailor made tours, that will enable you to cover so much more in the touring time available.

Knotty Nook Gallery of Fine Art

Arts and Crafts
There are local and world famous artists, craftsmen, potters and sculptors, displaying their wares at galleries, forges, centres, malls, restaurants, information offices, and other suitable venues in the region’s towns.

Shopping Tours.

Slowveld Shoppers

There are masses of quaint individual and boutique shops offering an amazing range of
Antiques, Collectables, Mimentos, Historical Artefacts, Liquors, Classic and Cottage furniture, Jewelry, Books (new, 2nd hand, classical, Afrikana for collectors), Clothing, Leather Goods, Excellent Artworks, Camping Gear, Angling Gear, Curios, Chocolates.

Slowveld Cheetah Cubs

Adventure Activities – Mild.
Hot Air Balooning, Helicopter Flips, Fixed Wing Flips, Tree Canopy Tours, Night Drives in Game Reserves and Forests, Birding (for all levels), Wild Life Projects, Elephant Encounters (from close by), Gold Panning, Geological tours, 4×4 adventures, Angling (trout and bass).

Extreme Adventure

Adventure Activities – Wild.
White Water Tubing, White Water Rafting, Quad Biking, Bungi Swing, Mountain Boarding, Kloofing, Caving.

Palaeontological, Archaeological, Rock Art, Ancient Temples.

Botanical Gardens Slowveld

Nature Tourism.
Birding, Tree-spotting, Veld Flowers and Shrubs, Butterflies, Entomology, Bats, Spiders, Scorpions, Reptiles, Ecology, Indigenous species. Environmental, General Wildlife (KNP, Research), Botanical Gardens, and Wildlife Rehabilitation Projects. All of the tourism in the above segment is good for school, student and/or special interest groups too.

Slowveld Anglo Boer War Sites

History Tourism.
Battlefields, Cemetries, Churches, Museums, War History, Uniforms, Regiments, Whole War Culture, (There is more critical Country War History around Mpumalanga than there ever was in Kwazulu-Natal). There is interesting Gold Mining History, Old Buildings and Achitecture, and a Jock of the Bushveld tour throughout the SLOWVELD.

Timber in the Slowveld

Agri – Tourism.
Timber Industry:

Tree Improvement, Nursery culture, Tree Field Management, Sawmilling, Furniture Production, Spin-off into other Timber Products.

Citrus Slowveld

Citrus Industry:
Tree Improvement, Nursery Culture, Orchard Management, Packhouse Management, Products and uses.

Macadamia and Pecan Nut Industry:
Tree Improvement, Nursery Culture, Orchard Management, Roasting, Packhouse Management, Products and uses.

Avo Slowveld

Avocado Industry:
Tree Improvement, Nursery Culture, Orchard Management, Packhouse Management, Products and uses.

Sugar Industry:
Plant Material Improvement, Field Management, Sugar Mill Management, Products and uses.

Nursery Industry.
Azaleas, Roses, Indigenous Plants, Trees and Shrubs, Palms and other Exotica.


Flowers Industry.
Cut Flowers, Roses, Proteas, Tulips, Orchids, Mixed Flowers, Botanical Gardens.

Italian Slowveld

Cultural Tourism.
There are many various cultural segments in whatever region that one tours. All these cultures have a different cultural heritage. You have different Religious, Social, Historical, Cuisine, Art, and Music backgrounds. There is Indigenous, Indian, Chinese, German, English, Scots, Welsh, Italian, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, English, Dutch and Afrikaner culture to choose from. Colonialy all these cultures have a connection with almost all regions. Theme tours, musical evenings with different cuisines, poetry, raconteur, and humour are very popular with local people and tourists alike.

Blyde Canyon Slowveld

In the Panorama and Eastern Highveld Regions:

Vyeboom, daGama, Wiklip, Kwena, Longmere, Klipkopje, Primkop, Njaka, are all good for Picnics, Angling, Water Sports, Walks, Nature, Birding. Blyde Dam is good for wildlife viewing and an exciting boat cruise.

Religious Tours.
Various Christian Churches:
Child Evangelisation, Mission College, Printing Press, Motivational Speakers, Various outreach clinics, Mission History of the Region.

For want of space it has been virtually impossible to expand on the activities available above. Please do not hesitate to make enquiries about the activities that may interest you and we’ll be only too pleased to let you have more details.

The point is  – take it easy, sit back, relax and enjoy your oddysey in the SLOWVELD !

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013 764 1177


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Celebrity World Class Driver in Sabie for the Sasol Rally

Malcolm Wilson & Hulley Booth

The name Malcolm Wilson may not be on everyone’s mind, but for one Lowvelder, Hulley Booth, the memory of spending a few moments with a Ford racing legend and owner of M-Sport will remain with him for time immemorial. Malcolm built the two Sasol Rally’s winning Fords.

Malcolm Wilson next to Hulley's Escourt

Hulley who was also a rally driver in his earlier days, is forever teasing visitors about the parking bays in front of his business Sabie Hardware that he says are reserved for Ford fanatics only. Imagine his surprise when Malcolm Wilson walked into his shop to take a look at Hulley’s 1979 Escort Rally replica ! Hulley couldn’t believe his luck – especially after Malcolm agreed to sign his Escort as well as his Ford ST. The Escort is now proudly named the Malcolm Wilson Escort.

Malcolm Signing Hulley's Escort

Malcolm has more than 20 years of rallying experience at World Championship level. He won British titles as a driver during the 1970’s and also won the British overall Crown in 1994. Since then he has been Ford’s senior test driver. From his youth Malcolm had always dreamed about being in charge of Ford’s Rally Programme.

After taking over M-Sport the team became a world renowned privateer team with a string of titles to boast about. M-Sport has been managing Ford’s World Rally Programme since 1997.

Hulley & Malcolm

In 2006 M-Sport won the FIA World Rally Manufacturer’s title driving a Ford Focus RS WRC 06 that was a first for Ford since 1997. They won the title again in 2007, and have been successfully developing Ford rally and racing cars like Fiesta’s S2000, R1 and MS1, RRC and RS models ever since.

Wilson Factory

Hulley is still a Ford fanatic and has a marvellous collection of Ford memorabilia in his office. These days his business takes up most of his time, but he’s still available to swop a joke or two over a cup of coffee while he relates countless Ford anecdotes from earlier eras.

Malcolm Wilson

Inside the Wilson Factory

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The Best Time to Vist the Sabie Valley, Kruger, Game Lodges and the Panorama Route

One seasoned well-travelled International Tourist described this Region as: “The most beautiful natural phenomena he has ever encountered anywhere during his extensive travels across the face of this earth ”! On enquiry as to why he was so enthusiastic he replied : “There is a new surprise around every corner ”!

That is what International Tourists think of these Regions. We at Trips ZA will tell you when it is the best time to visit to be able to appreciate what we have.

For International Tourists :
who are looking for “More Bang for their Buck”, the best time to be in the Panorama Region is during the winter months, between May and August, with continuous glorious open clear sunshine days, and a moderate climate with temperatures ranging between 5 and 25 degrees Celcius.The summer months between September and April although generally moderate can be very wet, with a cloud cover obscuring all the best views. This could result in a huge disappointment for patrons who are set on seeing this marvellous picture with limited time at their disposal.

The Kruger National Park is also seen at its best during the winter months when it is dry. This forces the animals to drink at either rivers or specially designated water points which in turn lure predators that find it easier to hunt the animals at these points. This can give rise to very exciting interaction and game viewing with massive herds of different species congregating near to water. The days are also quite gloriously clear with temperatures ranging from 10 to 28 degrees Celcius on average. During the winter months Kruger is also relatively safe from a malaria point of view. Birding experiences are more satisfying during the spring months.

For Domestic Tourists :
South African tourists are inclined to visit this region during school holidays, over Easter, Christmas and Long Weekends.

Unfortunately this Region is becoming very congested during these periods, and although tourists can make accommodation reservations for during School Holidays, they are encouraged to try to avoid the Easter, Christmas and Long Weekend periods. These are peak seasons with high prices, traffic congestion, people congestion, mediocre service, exhausted venue owners, as well as dangerous busy highways to and from the city areas. Kruger is so congested during those periods that a patron has to make a reservation ahead for a day trip these days. Sometimes there are major traffic jams requiring traffic inspectors to manage the traffic at spots where predators are seen.

Segments of tourist patrons :
· Retired people
· Singles
· Own business owners
· Yuppies without children
. Home school families with children
· Yuppies with children that are not school going

All of whom are able, ought to try to visit this region when it is quiet from a crowd point of view. The accommodation prices are invariably on a special, the service is more personal with attention to detail, the retaurants are more laid back, the tourist spots are clean and less congested, while the roads are also not so busy.

As with the International Tourists, just so for the Local Tourists; the climate during the autumn, winter and spring months in the Panorama and Kruger Regions is absolutely scrumptious !

Contact us for further enquiries and bookings with SUBSTANTIAL DISCOUNTS !

We also do group Panorama Tours as well as exciting Jock of the Bushveld, general history and other special interest tours through the Escarpment, Lowveld and Bushveld regions. Call us our Dream Merchants on 013 764 1177

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Trips ZA

Company Overview

Trips ZA is a wholly owned Tourism Reservation Information & Packaged Tours Service and Brokerage Company that specializes in Tailor Made Tours, Accommodation and Activity Reservations, as well Destination Marketing.

Tour Operators

The Company operates from two Information Offices; one office in Sabie, and one in Graskop.

Trips ZA provides Tourism Information to patrons and sells Accommodation and Packaged Tours to patrons who have visited their offices, or reached them through the following websites:

Tour Operations

The Reservations Bookings are processed by three dedicated, very knowlegeable Consultants who take the time and trouble to carefully match their patron’s needs to the Product that is available for them to sell. Each Consultant has had years of intensive training and experience in serving a discerning public who have been completely satisfied with the service they have received.

Elephant in Kruger

Trips ZA does business with nearly 300 lodges, hotels and guesthouses in the region covered by the websites mentioned, as well as further afield across RSA. To date Trips ZA has handled and processed over 11,000 Confirmed Reservation Bookings to patrons who have been accommodated through approximately 100,000 bednights.

Please feel free to contact us for whatever your tourism needs may be. We would just love to hear from you !

As Tourism Brokers we can facilitate Group Tours throughout Southern Africa.

The Tours consist of :
In the Mpumalanga Region

Adventure Tours (Mild to Wild)
Night Drives (Forest or Big 5)
KNP Tours
Photographic Tours
Birding Tours
Panorama Tours
General Tours
Religious Tours
Gold Tours
Indo-Africa Tours
History Tours (Battle Fields, General History, Jock of the Bushveld, Architectural, Cultural)
Flower Tours (Bushveld, Highveld, Lowveld, Wild Flowers, Shrubs, Private Gardens, Exotica, Nursery)
Agricultural Tours
Art Gallery Tours
Geological Tours
Booze Cruises
Golfing/Shopping Tour Combos for Coupled Groups
Tailor Made Combo Mix and Match tours
Other Southern African Regions.
Birding Tours (Throughout Southern Africa)
Eastern Free State and Lesotho
Northern Cape
Garden Route
Gariep and van der Kloof Dam Regions
Upington Winelands
Desert Tours in Namibia or Angola

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Forest Falls

Main Office Sabie
Tel. 013 764 1177
Fax. 013 764 3399

Email addresses
Trips ZA MainOffice

Contact details in Graskop
Trips ZA Office

Tel. 013 767 1886
Fax. 013 767 1888
Email address

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The Ceramic Tiles on the walls of Sabie Post Office

My son Michael Fincken has asked me to tell you all I know about the beautiful tiles on the wall of the Post Office at Sabie which is actually very little as I would have been just four years old at the time they were created in 1937.

Sabie Post Office

My late wife saw a reference to them on a TV programme in 1990 and we saw them for ourselves during a trip later that year. As far as I can ascertain, The Ceramic Studio where the tiles were created, was at the Cullinan Refractories at Olifantsfontein where my Mother used to work occassionally while on vacation. Her maiden name was Pope-Ellis and she was born on 30th May 1894 at Hilton Road in Natal, as it was called in those days. She died at Umzumbe, South Coast, Natal on 26th March 1973.

Tile Details

Ceramic Tile Signature

I know that she trained at the Berlin Acadamy of Fine Arts and The Slade in London during the 1920′s and worked mainly in Capetown executing various public works for the General Post Office and other bodies. The lifesize Storks on the Maternity Section at Groote-Schuur Hospital in Capetown were created by her at that time and they are still there and much admired by all who enter that well known section of the Hospital.

Ceramic Studio Tile

She was a prominent member of The New Group of South African artists, and her participation in that movement is referred to in the book by Esme Berman,”Art and Artists in South Africa”. Her exhibitions of water colour paintings and sculptures executed in stone and bronze were always a sellout. I now have only a few of her works in my possession to pass on to my heirs.

Ceramic Studio

One of her notable creations called “The Spirit of Africa” was purchased by the then Governor-General of South Africa, Lord Clarendon who presented the work to South Africa House in London where as far as I am aware it still stands to this day.

More Ceramic Studio

Mum and Dad married in 1932 after which her output decreased, especially after purchasing a farm in the Natal Midlands in about 1940. They retired to the Natal Coast in 1969, my Father passing away in 1972 shortly before my Mother in 1973.

That is really about all I know about Mom’s art works which were a major part of my early life in Capetown where I used to spend time in her studio which was on the Foreshore. I used to play around with the clay etc, whenever I was allowed, which was almost daily !

Ian Fincken

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…He breathes new life into old wagons !

Piet Serdyn

Farmer Piet Serdyn of Kleinkarnmelksvlei near Moorreesburg in the Swartland is one of the last of a nearly extinct breed, the old-fashioned wagon-maker and wheelwright. Few, if any, can match his skill in restoring old carts and wagons to their original glory.

Most of the ox wagons used by transport riders throughout Southern Africa during the nineteenth century especially on the Great Trek as well as to the gold and diamond fields were built in the Cape. The raw materials as well as the expertise were available at the Cape, whereas most of the basic finer construction knowledge had been imported from Europe.

Using age-old skills, Piet builds and restores wagons and carts using modern materials. He recently built a beautiful black cano-landau with steel wheels, white genuine leather upholstery and fringes around the top which took him more than two hundred hours to finish. “But,” he maintains, “nothing excites me more than the sight of an old wagon-wheel, broken and paint flaking, begging for its dignity to be restored. And nothing beats the feeling when you push the final product out into the sun. An old wreck has been turned into a shining chariot. You look at your hands and you know: I’ve done it, with these hands, I’ve done it ! You’re proud and humble at the same time.”

Piet remembers well the days when he and his siblings went to school at Bridgetown in a cart drawn by one horse, come rain or shine. When it was raining his father would put two horses in front of the cart, that way they could get to school quicker !

While Piet was still in the sub-standards and had to wait for his sisters in the higher grades who came out later, he would go and watch the local wagon-maker working at his trade. Whilst still a young farmer in his early twenties, literally by accident, and without realizing it then, Piet’s life work found him. A certain Mr Faan du Toit who came from Caledon and used to restore wagons, lost four of his fingers while working on a wagon, and he asked Piet to help him finish the job. Piet continued helping him with the designs and some of the other work and after Mr du Toit’s death, the people kept on coming to Piet. Eventually, after many years of farming, his hobby became his work. Now farming is his hobby, says Piet, who still lives on the farm where he was born.

Carriage Wheel

“It takes a long time to build a wagon. One wheel can take longer than a week”, says Piet. “Each of the fourteen spokes is cut from solid wood and then carved into the right shape and size. It’s precision work, because the spoke must fit perfectly into the hub at the centre and into the rim on the perimeter. After assembling the wheel, the spokes and hub are attached and the outer rim is added. Everything is done by hand as in the old days and is the work of a craftsman with an inborn skill, because not every carpenter is capable of making good spokes and wheels”.

“A wheel needs to be assembled in a way that will distribute the strain evenly. It is a craft where the experienced eye achieves more than the rule, so that when the rim is put on, the contraction gives just the right effect. A wheelwright, in fact, sees the wheel as a whole while he builds it; and that is not an art to be learnt in a day. A wagon-maker also needs to know his wood”, says Piet. “The wood must not have knots and must be tough enough to carry heavy loads and withstand knocks and chipping, but it must also be flexible enough to absorb shocks. Early wagon-makers used waboom, cedar, assegai, yellow and stinkwood. It takes about 1500 kg of wood to build one wagon! Due to the scarcity and the high cost of these woods today, Piet uses oak for the spokes and oregon pine and hickory, imported from America, for the rest.


Three of Piet’s team of workers, Jan Adams, Moos (Bollie) Boois and Thomas Daniels, without whom he couldn’t do this work, are quick to say that Piet taught them everything they know about wagon and wheel making. Most of the work is done in barns on the farm.

Paint Job

Piet says that the Cape Coloureds and the Malays were some of the best wagon-makers with a long history in the crafts of tanning, upholstery and painting. The Malays were especially known as painters of wagons and they were indispensable to the industry, with everything on a wagon being painted, no matter how rare, beautiful or expensive the wood of which it is made. That’s the tradition. And only certain colours are used; dark green, post box red, sky blue, dark brown and sometimes a little white.

Every wagon-maker had his own painter, because apart from his name on the axle of the wagon, he had his own trademark in painting too, normally some flowery or feather pattern. Piet’s trade-mark is a fish. After weeks of painting, the product is varnished again and again until it shines like glass.

Apart from the occasional donkey-cart, wagons and carts that were the only means of transport in South Africa for almost three hundred years have vanished from our roads. Yet most people over the age of fifty, be it here or anywhere else in the world, still have memories of some sort of animal-powered vehicles; wagons used for living in or transport, donkey carts, or the more “classy” hansoms, cabs, buggies, spiders, landaus, tilburies, carriages and post coaches….

Cano Landau

“The wagons and donkey carts were the “bakkies”, the workers, and normally drawn by oxen, mules and donkeys”, says Piet, “…and the rest were the “Mercedes’s”, taken out of the barn normally only on Sundays to go to church or visiting. For those, horses were inspanned”.

Jan van Riebeeck, founder of the settlement at the Cape of Good Hope, did not bring any carts or wagons with him. Built for use in a flat country with scarcely a rock or stone in it, they would in any case not have been of much use here! And in Holland they used horses to draw them, whilst here van Riebeeck had only oxen, which he was very reluctant to use at first.

As early as May 1652 van Riebeeck wrote in his journal that several fine beams and two masts from a wreck were washed ashore which could have been of great use to them if only they could get them to the fort. He concluded that carts would have to be made principally for the purpose of fetching salt.

In July 1653 he wrote that they were getting 2 or 3 beams every day from the forest, drawn by oxen on a two-wheeled carpenter’s cart, made locally and going along beautifully and easily. Every day a trip was made with two oxen, and they kept eight for that purpose, training them so that one could relieve another. A later entry reads that stone for the building of the fort at the Cape would be brought on a wagon which was made of wood obtained from the indigenous forest and which would be drawn by oxen. These early carts and wagons were modelled on the Dutch farmers’wagon, but stronger and sturdier. “ It is interesting”, says Piet, “that in van Riebeeck’s time the four wheels made up half the price of the wagon – which is still the case today”.

From 1657 wagons were built by blacksmiths and carpenters as no qualified wagon-builders had arrived at the Cape up to that point as yet. In 1659 a gunsmith, Jaspar de Berge arrived. When it came to light that his real profession was wagon-building, he was quickly put to his trade!

Front Wheel

As the population grew and farmers started moving inland, more and more wagons that were designed specifically for the varying conditions were built at the Cape. For example, the wagons used in the Overberg which had to go over very rocky and steep mountains carrying heavy loads of sometimes up to a 1000 kg, were heavier, and shorter sprung, compared to the lighter, longer and unsprung wagons of the Swartland where the countryside is more even. Almost every town and village in South Africa eventually had a wagon-maker or blacksmith.

Wagon and carriage-making turned into a big industry. At one stage there were forty-seven wagon-makers in Paarl alone ! The valley between Paarl and Wellington where the first wagon-maker set up his forge and workshop in the time of Governor Tulbagh became known as Val de Charron by which it is still known – Wagenmakersvallei.

In 1835 a certain Captain J E Alexander wrote a tribute to Cape wagon wheels which he found superior to the wheels then used by the British artillery, “Dutch wheels are made of three or four kinds of wood…the nave, yellow-wood; for the spokes, assegai; for felloe, red els or white pear. There are many more spokes than in our wheels, in all fourteen for a large and ten for a small. The tyre is put on in one piece and hot, so as to draw and bind the whole of the wheel firmly together. The wagon, too, is long and elastic and it is quite astonishing to an uninitiated observer what intense effort is employed in the building of Cape wagons without injury”.

Up to the 1820s the roads were nothing more than tracks and a journey in bad weather from Cape Town to Caledon could take up to thirteen days! Travelling in those days could be very dangerous and hazardous – as these roads were mostly bad, and especially after crossing a severely steep and rocky mountain pass or fording deep rivers with muddy beds, wagons often needed repairs.

Piet says almost every town and village had a “garage” – the blacksmith and his forge, and the wagon-builder and his work-shop. And believe it or not, reckless driving also took its toll ! Early in the 1700s the first laws were brought in to deal with “furious and negligent driving” and in 1798, under British occupation, all owners of carts and wagons had to paint their registered number, name and district on their vehicles and keep left when driving. When a wagon arrived within two miles of Cape Town, the oxen had to be led by a voorloper or touleier and eventually the cracking of whips in towns was also forbidden.

After the discovery of diamonds and gold, the overland traffic grew rapidly. More than two thousand loads of metal were transported from Paarl via the now forgotten highway to Kimberley when they started mining…a trip of almost six months.

During the first Witwatersrand gold rush more than sixteen thousand wagons left the railhead at Ladysmith in a year, loaded with picks and explosives, flour and blankets and the impatient gold-diggers themselves. The freight rates were so high that each journey paid the cost of the wagon!

The wagons built during this time were so strong that if they slipped off a rough track or capsized on a rocky mountainside, they were hauled back, new oxen were found and the journey was continued.

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Sabie’s Summer Splendour

Lilium Formosanum

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin…
And yet, I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these
Matthew 6 vs 28-29

White lilies begin to bloom around Sabie during the spring and summer months each year. These are Lilium Formosanum. They look wonderful – they smell wonderful too!

Urban legend has it that a lady buried on the Long Tom pass about 25 to 30 years ago had expressed a wish, that when she died, lilies should be planted around her grave. Her family, chose to plant the beautiful white Chinese lily, Lilium Formosanum.

Lilium Formosanum

From late August through early October, this lily bears eight or more 10-inch-long, deliciously scented, pristine-white trumpets (sometimes blushed pink both on the inside and the outside) upon each stem. After the flowers fade, the stalks turn upward, opening elegantly as the seeds ripen and the pods dry to form a weather-resistant candelabra to adorn the winter garden or to use in dried arrangements.

Native to Taiwan, Formosa lilies grow easily from seed sown in early spring, often blooming that same year. Self-seeds freely.

Lilium Formosanum

This Chinese plant found a very compatible home in the soil and climate of the escarpment. It flourished. Naturally, as nature encourages, it propagated itself. The seeds of the Formosa lily being papery and light are easily blown along by wind, or the `whoosh’ of passing timber trucks that carry the seeds along the roads around and off the Long Tom Pass. Each year the beautiful flowers can be seen further and further away from the pass, and small clusters can even be found as far afield as Hoedspruit and towards Tzaneen.

Lilium Formosanum

The good news is that being Non-indigenous these flowers can be enjoyed quite legally in our homes, so there’s no need to hide the fact that you’re picking them! This lily thrives in sun or shade, in the ground or in pots. They work and play well with others, including tropical and woodland plants, suiting most garden situations.

Wild flower expert Jo Onderstall has been watching the spread of these lilies over the past years and says that although they are classed as a weed, they appear to be totally benign, having no adverse affect on the surrounding environment. Should this situation change , then steps would need to be taken to eradicate them, but this does not seem to be likely in the foreseeable future, which is great news !

Apart from Sabie, the whole Escarpment, Lowveld and Bushveld regions offer so much in the way of a variety of beautiful  flowers. there are veld species, exotics, indigenous. or cultivated garden species. There is always  a flower in bloom, whatever the season.

A Snippet from the pen of Ginny Cormack.

Join us on a Flower Safari throughout the region, in groups of from 10 to 45 patrons for a flower feast. We can also faclitate Flower tours to Namaquland and the West coast.

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