“So where do you stay?” is one of the questions visitors ask regularly when chatting to business owners in Pilgrim’s Rest. The answer usually gets them looking around in disbelief and repeating “Where?!”
Yes, most business owners and/or managers stay right there in the living museum. Some of the residential houses are in the main street and occupants regularly find tourists wandering in, believing that the house is one of the museums. This inconvenience is however compensated by the wonderful views of the valley while sipping a beer on the front veranda at the end of a busy day.
Recently a new business owner even got permission to move into what used to be the proprietor’s residence and the back of the shop in the olden days. The majority of the residential houses are however on the hill behind the village. If you take a drive on the roads leading away from the main street, up the hill, you will come across many houses of all shapes and sizes. There are also a few lovely houses scattered here and there in the other hills surrounding the village.
Most of the buildings are corrugated iron and some are brick and mortar. All are old – large spacious rooms, small windows, wooden floors and real fireplaces that are well used in winter. Some of the houses still date from the diggers’ era while the majority were built during the mining era – either owner-built or constructed by Transvaal Gold Mining Estates as accommodation for their employees.
Pilgrim’s Rest is a town like no other in South Africa – there is no municipality. Officially it’s situated on a farm, owned by the government and administered by the Mpumalanga Department of Public Works. Like the business premises, the houses can only be rented and, because of the heritage status, no permanent structural additions to the houses are permitted.
You can also experience a night or two in one of the old corrugated iron houses. A number of options are available and you can call the Information Centre on 013 768 1060 for booking details.