Rising 700 m above the surrounding plains, the Soutpansberg stretches 130 km from Vivo in the west to near Thohoyandou in the east. Dominating the scenery above Louis Trichardt is the 1 719-m-high Hanglip (‘hanging lip’), a name that is probably a corruption of Hangklip (‘hanging rock’). The Soutpansberg range is said to have been named by the renegade, Coenraad de Buys, who arrived in the area long before the Voortrekkers. With a price of one thousand rix dollars on his head for participating in the Graaff-Reinet rebellion of 1795, De Buys fled to the Eastern Cape and later trekked north with his half-caste wife, children and followers. In 1820, he reached a large salt pan at the base of the Soutpansberg, known in Venda as Letshoyang, or ‘the place of salt’. Deeply affected by the death of his wife, De Buys abandoned his clan, who remained here and established a settlement which became known as Buysdorp. The Soutpansberg and the areas to the north and southwards to the Letaba River are home to the Venda people, a name meaning ‘land’ or ‘world’.
LOUIS TRICHARDT [ALSO KNOWN AS MAKHADO]
Situated at the foot of the Soutpansberg, Louis Trichardt lies in an area rich in culture and history. The Voortrekker leader Louis Trichardt and his party stayed here from May 1836 to August 1837, before Trichardt set off on his ill-fated attempt to find a route to the sea. In October 1898, General Piet Joubert led a commando across the Doorn River in preparation for an attack on the Venda chief, Mphefu. The commando struck camp on the farm Rietvlei, where a portable iron fort was erected. In November, the Venda were subjected to a three-pronged attack in which the royal village was burnt. Mphefu and his subjects were forced to flee across the Limpopo River into Zimbabwe. A town was established the same year on the farms Rietvlei and Bergvliet and named Trichardtsdorp in honour of Louis Trichardt. The name was later changed to Louis Trichardt. The old portable fort (known as Fort Hendrina) can be seen in the town. The Church of the Vow (one of two in the country) was erected after the defeat of the Venda. The Venda people are accomplished decorators and crafters, and there are many art and craft shops to tempt visitors on South African holidays.
...was established in 1836 by the Voortrekker leader Andries Potgieter and was originally named Zoutpansbergdorp. After Potgieter’s death in 1852, the town came under the control of Stephanus Schoeman who named it after himself. By 1855, the population of the settlement numbered 200, and Schoemansdal had established itself as the centre of the lucrative ivory trade. To obtain ivory, white hunters supplied the Venda with arms and ammunition, but there was no control over the number of weapons in circulation. Various factors, including the introduction of taxation, strained the initially cordial relations between the Voortrekkers and the Venda. This led to the abandonment of the town in 1867 and the establishment of Pietersburg. After the Voortrekkers left, the village was destroyed by the Venda and left to the elements. The historic town has been carefully reconstructed and is now an open-air museum.
Albasini Dam, on the Luvuvhu River, was named after the famed Portuguese hunter and trader, João Albasini, who was buried here together with his family. Highly regarded as a hunter, Albasini would employ up to 500 men on his safaris to carry ivory to Lourenço Marques (Maputo). He opened trading routes from Mozambique into the interior and established trading posts in the Lowveld in the 1840s. In 1847, Albasini moved to Ohrigstad, and when that settlement was abandoned in 1850 he moved to Lydenburg. Still later, he lived at Schoemansdal, and in 1858 was appointed Portuguese vice-consul to the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR).
...was built as the capital of the South African homeland of Venda alongside the former administrative centre, Sibasa. The territory became ‘independent’ in 1979, but was reintegrated into South Africa in 1994. Thohoyandou was named after a legendary 19th-century Venda leader, and the name is said to mean ‘the head of the elephant’.
Set amid lush forest, the Phiphidi Falls cascade gently down a sloping rock face on the Mutshindudi River. In the forest above the falls is a cemetery where ancestors of the Tshivase royal family are buried. From time to time, offerings are placed on a rock above the falls.