Robbers Pass in Thaba Chweu Rural, Mpumalanga
Starting just after Joubert Bridge Robbers Pass links Pilgrim’s Rest in the east with Orighstad in the west covering a stretch of 26,1km of the R533. The road is the original road that the settlers travelled on with their ox wagons but today it is a modern tarred highway that winds through Kranskloof, Phelindaba and the Morgenzon Forestry station. At Rowersklippe (Robbers Stones), which is the summit of the pass, three gravel roads lead off in different directions. One goes to the Doornhoek Forestry Station, the second leads to Crystal Springs Mountain Lodge and the third takes the traveller to the lookout tower overlooking Van der Merwe’s Reef valley.
The official government map of the pass shows Rowerspas (Robbers Pass) as a one kilometre stretch of gravel road from Doornhoek but over the years the pass has been construed to be from Pilgirm's Rest to the T-junction with the R36.
Jock of the Bushveld
Percy FitzPatrick had a dog called Jock who used to travel with him on this route. FitzPatrick wrote a book on the dogs adventures during their travels. The book became famous and has been made into a movie.
Before the Anglo Boer war the army made use of breeding studs in Dullstroom where they bred horses for the many coaches from Pretoria that serviced the Pilgrims Rest and Natal area. During the war the horses were all used one night under Commandant Muller to stampede the 1st Liverpool Regiment of the British army. After the stampede the horses wondered off and migrated to Nelspruit, to a village called Kaapschehoop as well as to the Morgenzon area north of Pilgrim's Rest. The horses have survived in the wild and are occasionally spotted in the pass by travellers.
In 1899 highway men robbed a stage coach and got away with 10 000 pounds worth of gold and the robbers were never found. Thirteen years later in 1912 another robbery took place in the very same location but this time it was silver that was taken by a man called Tommy Dennison. His horse was recognised while he was foolish enough to pay off his debt in town with the stolen silver. He was arrested and went to jail for 5 years after which he returned to the town and opened the Highwayman’s Garage. It is due to these events that the pass got its name.
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