Cross Country Insurance Consultants have always been about travel. Our motto “Take us with you” says it all. Whilst we are quintessentially Insurance Consultants, deep in our roots, in our DNA if you will, is the desire for travel, for adventure, for living the outdoor life… It is an ethos that is wholly embraced by our CEO, Ian Georgeson – who chooses the open road as often as is humanely possible.
Beyond the advertising slogans, life truly IS about the journey. We subscribe to the notion that the adventure begins the moment you drive out the gate. One should view every moment as part of an exciting expedition, and endeavour to find all the quirky and unique attractions along the way!
Jozi’s roads are always busy – even as the dawn breaks…
Our Cross Country Team’s trip began, as is always the case, before sunrise – one chilly winter’s morning in July. The deep pink/gold of the dawn was just starting to colour the sky. A five-minute coffee-stop in Midrand, and we were on our way before the traffic became too heavy. As you’ve gathered from the past few newsletters, our destination was Mpumalanga – or more precisely, Pilgrim’s Rest.
The sky was rather strange and, for most of the morning, the sun and the clouds painted an ever-changing, somewhat surreal, canvas.
Sebastian (L) and Ian (R) in front of a traditional phone booth.
Our first stop out of Jozi was in Dullstroom. “Pickles & Things” is a delightful little restaurant that serves a variety of delicious breakfasts.
On entering from the cold weather, we were greeted by warm fires and hot colours…
When in Dullstroom, trout is surely the way to go ?. Whilst the delicious breakfasts renew your energy, we noticed that there is now a recharging station, proudly brought to you by Audi, in the adjacent parking lot (for electric cars). To be honest, it is the first I have noticed – in Dullstroom no less!
Refuelling options for both you and your electric vehicle…
With tummies full, the open road once again beckoned. Once you’ve turned right on the R533, before arriving in Pilgrim’s Rest you will encounter Robbers Pass. Mountain Passes South Africa states that Robbers Pass “is a long pass of 20,6 km which includes a summit height of 1789m ASL and 68 bends, corners and curves to keep drivers honest.”
The sign for Robbers Pass greeted us under a moody sky that morning…
As with all things relating to Pilgrim’s Rest, there is a rich and interesting history to this pass. On December 9, 1897, a stagecoach was held up and two masked and armed highwaymen robbed it of £10 000 worth of gold. They were never brought to justice.
On October 20, 1969 The Star apparently published the first-hand recollection of Willem Albertus Koeleman, who was in the coach on that particular day. Koeleman and his brother, Ben Koeleman, were the owners of the W & B Koeleman Hotel at Krugerspost. Krugerspost was a well-known halfway station between Ohrigstad and Lydenburg. Stagecoaches stopped there a few times a day on their way to the Pilgrim’s Rest gold fields and Lorenzo Marques (Maputo).
“It happened in the early morning of December 9, 1897, not far from Pilgrim’s Rest on top of a steep hill knows as Poniesnek. I was 26 and on my way to Lydenburg. A piece of rusted corrugated iron had damaged the hoof of my horse and I had to take the stagecoach. My employer handed me about R16 000 in gold and cheques to take to Lydenburg. I also had some money of my own. Three other travellers from Pilgrim’s Rest were also in the coach and they had gold bars to the value of R24 000 with them. It was still early, and a thick mist covered the mountains as the mule-drawn coach slowly wound its way uphill. On top of Poniesnek the driver pulled the mules to a halt at the usual resting place. It was a sandy patch of level ground, surrounded by a large number of boulders.
“Suddenly the coach doors flew open and two masked men and an armed highwayman shouted at us with their pistols in hand, to put our hands up. We did as we were told, and they ordered us out of the coach to one of the boulders where they bound and gagged us. I was so frightened. I left the leather bag of our employers in the coach. A second masked man appeared and ordered one of the traders on the coach to move the five boxes out of the coach and put it in bags. Then they came to us and took all our personal cash. The robbers then unharnessed the mules, jumped on their horses and disappeared in the mist. I walked to the coach and luckily my employers’ bag of money was still lying on the seat in the coach.
“The mining commissioner JJ Joubert arrived sometime later with a number of armed men. They followed the robbers to Sabie and found their horses in the bush. The robbers were never found, neither was the gold. But there were strong rumours that the new barman in Pilgrim’s Rest had a finger in the pie. Nothing could be proved. But an old worked-out gold mine suddenly came to life and produced rich ore. A new company was formed to buy the mine.”
The second robbery (in the exact same spot) happened 15 years later (1912). Not only was Tommy Dennison’s horse recognised, he also paid off his debts in town with the looted silver! Tommy was arrested and sentenced to jail for five years – after which he returned to Pilgrim’s Rest (as a local celebrity) to start the Highwayman’s Garage. The location where the robberies took place was renamed as Robber’s Pass. Never a dull moment in the back of beyond ?!!
Ian taking a moment to appreciate the view.
Once you’re over Robbers Pass, you slowly begin to wind your way down the hills, and the views are simply stunning!
But more about that next week…
Jacqui Ikin & The Cross Country Team