The towns of Waterval-Boven and Waterval-Onder are situated at the foot of the escarpment east of Machadadorp, a two-hour drive from Gauteng.
The area around the Elands River Falls was given the names "Waterval Boven" and "Waterval Onder" which means "above the falls" and "below the falls" respectively. The history of the area is closely tied with that of the railway that was built between Pretoria and Delagoa Bay, and the Nederlandsche Zuid Afrikaansche Spoorweg, the Dutch rail company, who established a railway supply depot here in 1895. A section of the rack rail, which was used to pull the locomotive and carriages up the steep gradient, can still be seen at the entrance to the railway tunnel.
The towns of Waterval Boven and Waterval Onder are rich with South African (Anglo-Boer) War history and the area was fiercely contested by the British towards the end of the war. Visitors can see a memorial at the station which commemorates the many men who lost their lives while building this section of the railway, while it is still possible to take a walk through the historic ZASM tunnel through which the trains used to pass. At the end of the tunnel is a beautiful waterfall that moves along the Elands River. Krugerhof, now a provincial heritage site in Waterval Onder, is where President Paul Kruger lived for a month before going into exile in Austria in 1900. Both the old railway tunnel and the five-arched bridge have been proclaimed provincial heritage sites.
The malaria-free Waterval Boven and Onder are situated within Mpumalanga's Highlands Meander, which is a nature lover's paradise. Bird lovers will not be disappointed, while the wild flower displays in summer are spectacular and of particular interest is the fact that this area is home to Africa's only breeding community of wild Black Leopard. The highveld reaches a dramatic end at Waterval Boven, at the Mpumalanga Escarpment, where the landscape drops abruptly into the Lowveld.
There are many activities to keep travellers happy, and some of these include excellent trout fishing opportunities, walks and hikes, horse-riding and backpacking. One of the best ways to see the countryside is by steam train. The historic Oosterlyjn Express steam train retraces President Kruger's route between Machadodorp and Waterval Boven, and includes a cosy pub lunch. On the last Sunday of every month, visitors can enjoy some of the most scenic locomotive routes in South Africa, by taking a vintage train trip from Waterval Boven to Waterval Onder.
Waterval Boven is renowned for its awesome rock climbing and abseiling, as well as other adventure sports like paragliding, handgliding and hot-air ballooning. The Boven area boasts three well-stocked dams and six kilometres of fine river fishing and is a fly-fishing mecca.
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