"Nelspruit? Aren't you looking for Mbombela?"
Nelspruit is the provincial capital of Mpumulanga, and probably best known as the gateway to the Kruger National Park.
Nelspruit owes its origins to the development of the regional railway system, and a railhead was developed here in 1892 on the line between Pretoria and Lourenco Marques (now Maputo) in Mozambique. Since then, it has developed into the regional service centre for the surrounding agricultural, forestry and toruism industries, and also attracts a lot of cross border trade from Mozambique.
In truth, Nelspruit is a perfectly pleasant place, but offers few tourist attractions that would attract visitors to the city based on its own merits. However, it is a good stop off if you're doing a road trip to stock up on groceries and other consumables. For example, the Riverside Mall is an upmarket complex that offers an excellent range of shops and services that should allow you to recharge your batteries and provisions before you head back out on the road (and in summer, the air conditioning provides welcome respite from Nelspruit's characteristic heat).
The Mpumulanga Provincial Legislature building (see photos) is located over the road from the Riverside Mall and is an imposing complex designed in a pleasing Afrocentric style. I wish that more new buildings in South Africa were being designed in this sort of innovative style that is congruent with its setting, rather than serving up an unremitting diet of rehashed fake Tuscan splendour!
As of 2009, Nelspruit was renamed Mbombela (siSwati for 'many people together in one place') although the name Nelspruit was retained in the short term to avoid confusion during the 2010 Soccer World Cup. This of course begs the question as to why it is considered acceptable to confuse people after the event is over! It also makes me feel very grumpy that the poorest of the provinces in South Africa (Limpopo and Mpumulanga being the prime culprits) feel it a particular priority to spend tens of millions on road signage and all the other attendant costs associated with name changes when the money could be much better spent on housing, education and healthcare. Investment in social development and improved service delivery would go an awful lot further towards eradicating the tragic legacy of apartheid that gaining political 'brownie points' through name changes but there you go - just call me a reactionary old fart!