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TThe town of Barberton once resembled the set of the classic movie Paint Your Wagon.
Tucked away in the Makhonjwa Mountains of Mpumalanga, the Barberton of the 1880s was awash with prospectors equipped with square gin bottles, picks, pans and donkeys. They lived in constant hope of a gold strike, fought off malaria with alcohol and laughed in the face of adversity.
BBut they weren’t the only characters resident in the busy little town.
There were shysters selling gold shares back on the streets of London – for 10 times their real value. There were hoteliers fleecing the miners with extravagantly priced rooms, meals, drinks and women. There were hopeful gamblers filling up barroom corners with their decks of cards and stacks of chips. There were adventurers, horse traders, priests, auctioneers, last-ditchers and dreaded tax collectors.
If you visit Barberton today, you might hear stories about Cockney Liz, a legendary Barberton resident and businesswoman, who broke many a heart. You might hear about Edwin Bray, who wandered off a footpath and discovered a magnificent golden quarry (today the site of the Sheba Gold Mine).
Barberton is comparatively quiet these days and open for tourism. Just make sure you’re on the look-out for gold.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (08)2 959 6670
Best time to visit
There’s plenty to do in Barberton year-round.
Things to do
If you’re feeling lucky, you can go on a gold-panning tour or explore a gold quarry. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can book a paragliding experience. There are also lots of hiking trails to enjoy.
What to pack
If you plan on panning gold or exploring underground, wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes. Bring your bike and get stuck into one of the area’s mountain-biking trails.
What to eat
There are restaurants, pubs and coffee shops in the area.