Histrical adventure riding tour

Belvedere Hydro History Tour 2021

Step back in time to when Pilgrim's Rest had electricity before London, England.
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Belvedere Hydro Electric Power Station

This Adventure tour saw the riders meet on Thursday afternoon at Busboys Tonteldoos, to be hosted by the legendary Ruth and Joe, spoiling us once again with comfy accommodation and great food and conversations.

Friday morning the epic riding started with the district roads around Vermont leading the group to Lydenburg whereafter the scenic and largely unknown Magubalaan Pass was next on the cards, offering breath-taking views onto the Long Tom Pass summit to the north, and to the east the vastness of the Lowveld. Burgers on the deck with stunning views at Misty Mountain Lodge fuelled the participants for the next leg through the forests via Christmas Pools to the historical town of Pilgrims Rest, where a visit is not complete without shaking the hand of the affable owner at Johnny’s Bar.

Magubalaan Pass

Bru Inn, situated on Robber’s Pass and consisting of cottages and a converted horse stable block – The Livery, is aptly named as the charming owner and host Eugene must use the word “Bru” at least five times in every sentence he smilingly utters, is our base for the next two nights. Celebrating National Braai Day that evening saw the braai loaded with beef strips, monster steaks, wors and Jacqui’s now famous Roosterkoek ‘braaibrootjies’ not the mention the pap, sheba and salads, ending with a traditional Malva Pudding & custard. Festivities continued well into the night with new acquaintances sharing the days stories and experiences.

Celebrating National Braai Day at BRU Inn on Robbers Pass
Fire pit at The Livery at BRU Inn on Robers Pass

After a leisurely breakfast on the stoep, the ride departed via some scenic tracks into the Vaalhoek Valley, where the old cast iron pylons that carried the power generated at the Belvedere power station to Pilgrim’s Rest can still be seen next to the road. After crossing the Treurrivier near Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the concrete strip track led steeply down into the Blyde River Canyon, where the remnants of the astonishing engineering achievement of erecting a hydroelectric power station and all the structures including beautiful homes can be seen.

Belvedere Guest House

The building of the hydropower station was accomplished within a year, with estimated building cost around R250 000. The first shovel was put into the ground on June 7th, 1910, and the first water was released on 20 June 1911. Leading to the official opening of the plant on July 31st, 1911, crowning it as the largest hydroelectric power station in the Southern hemisphere.

The turbines were imported from Pelton Water Wheel Company in Sacramento California, from where they were shipped to Lorenzo Marques, then moved via rail to Machadodorp and finally transported by ox wagons to Belvedere. The last leg of transportation must have been a horrendous task since the gradient drops quite steep at a few spots. (Definitely not a trip for the faint at heart but well suited to the adventure rider). The plant provided electricity to all the gold crushers in Pilgrim’s Rest. By 1966 the station produced 484 million units at an average cost of 0.141 cents per kWh.

Upon entering the plant, a 109 years later, you are left in awe that the structure is still standing, even though the inside is plundered, leaving only an empty skeleton forgotten at the bottom of the valley. Carried away in a wonderland of the past and how now a forgotten hydropower station once was a revolutionary part of history.

After a somewhat challenging ride up the insane steep concrete road, the tour participants were treated to a scrumptious lunch and a refreshing swim at the illusive London Waterfall. Forest roads via Robbers Pass had everyone back at Bru Inn for the final evening of good food, drinks, laughter, and the now well-established tradition of “Straff or Prestasie Dop” metered out by Thomas to anybody that did anything great or not so great on the tour. Join us next year on this iconic tour that incorporates great riding, history, great characters, and laughter. Visit Sabie Valley Rider Academy to book.

The Gang!!