“There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling,
and they are lovely beyond any singing of it. The road climbs seven miles into them, to Carisbrooke;
and from there, if there is no mist, you look down on one of the fairest valleys of Africa.” ©
The Abbot Pfanner Trappist Trail - the first long-distance pilgrimage trail in South Africa - is being established in the beautiful southern regions of KwaZulu Natal, between the Southern Drakensberg, the Midlands Mist Belt and the Eastern Cape.
Strung out across the hills and valleys between the Drakensberg and the sea are twenty-two Trappist missions, like the knots on a string of Rosary beads. Established over a century ago by extraordinary Trappist monks, led by Abbot Francis Pfanner, the Mission churches are hidden treasures that we want to share with the world.
The trail will extend for ± 250 km through stunning countryside, farms, grasslands and forests, home of the rare Blue Swallow, Cape parrot, Purple-crested Lourie (gwalagwala) and the Black-winged Plover (titihoya).
“About you there is grass and bracken and you may hear the forlorn crying of the titihoya, one of
the birds of the veld. Below you is the valley of the Umzimkulu, on its journey from the Drakensberg
to the sea; and beyond and behind the river, great hill after great hill; and beyond and behind them,
the mountains of Ingeli and East Griqualand.” ©
The pilgrimage will start at Reichenau Mission, the first satellite mission built by the Trappists in 1886, about 18 km from Underberg in the Southern Drakensberg, and will end at Mariannhill Monastery the burial place of Abbot Francis Pfanner near Pinetown. From Reichenau the trail meanders through rural villages and country towns, visiting 9 of the historical Trappist missions, each with a beautiful church designed by Brother Nivard Streicher, a humble German monk, over a century ago. The missions include Kevelaer, Centocow, Lourdes, Emaus, Maria Hilf, Mariathal and Einsiedeln, before arriving at the ‘Mother Mission’ at Mariannhill near Pinetown 14 days later.
As you follow in the footsteps of the Trappist monks and Sisters of the Precious Blood, who served at the missions, you will learn about the history of the Trappists and their missions; fascinating folk-lore and legends, the landscape, and the fauna and flora of this wonderful trail.
Initially, the first 14-day accompanied walks will be offered by amaWalkers Camino - dates and costs to be advised. Once the pilgrimage is properly established, churches, clubs and other interest groups will be able to organise their own group walks on the APT Trail. For security reasons, solo pilgrimages or walks without trail guides are not recommended.
Quotes from ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ by Alan Paton with permission