The Abbot Pfanner Trappist Trail – is a long-distance pilgrimage trail in South Africa that has been established in the beautiful Southern KwaZulu Natal, nestled between the Southern Drakensberg, the Midlands Mistbelt 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 aim is that the trail will eventually 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).
Please note that there are different options available to suit the needs of the group. We can cater for a “Spiritual” experience to a more “Relaxed” option for those that would just like to enjoy the area. Please contact us with your needs and requirements.
The pilgrimage start at Mariannhill Monastery and the burial place of Abbot Francis Pfanner. The bus will take us to Reichenau Mission for a special blessing. This was the first satellite mission built by the Trappist’s in 1886, about 18 km from Underberg in the Southern Drakensberg. From Reichenau the trail meanders through rural villages and country towns, visiting 8 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 8 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. We promise you stunning walking, through gorgeous landscapes in what Alan Paton described in Cry the Beloved Country as “the fairest valley in Africa.” Some of the landscape is ancient and sacred and you might see the shy gwalagwala bird with its brilliant colours, which in Swaziland, only members of the Royal are allowed to wear. Your trail guide is familiar with the plants, folklore and much of the history of the trail and knows a lot about the 8 historic Mission churches you will visit.
Note: This is a challenging trail, not so much because of the daily distances, but because it passes through remote, rural areas with no access to taxis or other transport, and very few villages. Some of the small, rural villages have a tuck shop – called a Spaza – which sell cold drinks and sweets but are little more than a lean-to shack. Although there is a back-up bus it is not possible to support the group on more than 20% of the trails and walkers need to be able to carry their water and snacks each day.
Although it’s possible to do the trail unguided, it’s advisable to use a guide. Most of the trails are marked however parts are very overgrown or the route markers damaged or removed. Some places routes need to be changed due to circumstances outside of the guides control.
DETAILS OF THE WALK
• Groups are restricted to 6 minimum and a maximum of 12 people.
• They will be accompanied by a Group Leader and a local Zulu speaking trail guide (for security).
• Participants will be given an Abbot Pfanner Trappist Trail ‘ pilgrim record’ to have stamped at the missions, a booklet containing descriptions of daily stages, and information leaflets on each of the 9 missions.
• You will be able to purchase a Trappist cross to hang on your day-pack, Abbot Pfanner pins, novenas and booklets which are available at Mariannhill and most Missions.
• You will be staying in a Mission (or two) as well as small B and B establishments, lodges and country guest farms. Only a couple of single rooms will be available.
• Meals – some places offer dinner, bed and breakfast, others will cater for us, and one is self-catering.
• Provisions to make a light lunch will be provided by the accommodation at an extra cost of R15 – R25 pp. There are only two supermarkets on this trail so it is advisable to make your lunches where provisions are offered.
• Some of the missions are two days walk apart so the group will be collected from a pre-arranged place and transferred back there the next day.
• Luggage will be transferred between overnight stops. Space is limited to one small tog bag per person and a day pack
• When you return to Mariannhill you will be given the Abbot Pfanner Trappist Trail pilgrimage certificate.
Please note that the itinerary and routes is “circumstance depending” and may change due to weather, group fitness and other circumstances outside of the guide’s control.