eMkondho/Piet Retief is set in a long and narrow area of the Drakensberg mountains known as Assegaai Valley. It’s close to the wetlands of Wakkerstroom and the soft southern hills of Swaziland. There’s a meeting of many cultures here; this is a landscape rich in history and legend.
eMkondho/Piet Retief is the centre of a strong regional agricultural and timber industry and is surrounded by impressive plantations and farmlands. The name Piet Retief comes from the Voortrekker leader who was murdered by the Zulu king Dingaan in 1838. There is a fascinating museum in the town where you can discover more about the region’s torrid past.
There are some fine historical buildings too, like the NG church, the Old Blockhouse and the police cells - of all things. You can also visit the historic German settlements of Wittenberg and Augsberg. There’s no shortage of outdoor action here either. Nearby eMkondho/Piet Retief is the Heyshope Dam, the second-largest dam in Mpumalanga. It offers great birding, hiking, fishing and water recreation activities.
Look out for
Heyshope Dam - This massive body of water nearby eMkondho/Piet Retief is excellent for fishing, boating and water sports.
Mandlangampisi Mountain - Check out the highest peak in southern Mpumalanga which is 2 266m high.
Oribi Conservatory - This charming reserve is dedicated to the protection of these graceful little antelope. There are great birding, hiking and botanising opportunities as well.
Swazi Heritage - Head out on a day trip to Swaziland where you can visit cultural villages, and lovely arts & crafts outlets.
Hiking - There are several famous hiking trails in this area, including the interestingly named Assegai Hiking Trail that traverses the mountains. The Pongola Hiking Trail which features beautiful mountain scenery.
Fishing - The dams, rivers and streams in the area are well stocked with indigenous yellowtail and Natal yellowfin – exciting for many an angler and fly-fisherman.
Rainbow Festival - This lively music and cultural festival is a highlight on eMkondho/Piet Retief’s calendar. It features arts & crafts, food, 4x4-ing and adventure activities as well as music.
The Assegaai Marathon - This annual 42km-long marathon is increasingly popular, attracting runners from around the country.
History & heritage - There are many memorials, battle sites and monuments in the eMkondo/Piet Retief area. These include the Zulu War Memorial, the Heinrich Filter and Nils Larsen Monument, and the graves and monument to British soldiers who died at the Battle of Intombe Drift in 1879, during the Anglo-Zulu War.