Tucked away in the Amatola Mountains of the Eastern Cape I found the magic of Hogsback South Africa and expected to see fairies in the forests. Seems the entire town is truly in touch with the magic of nature.
Joan and I sadly parted ways along the beach, her to Johannesburg for a presentation and me, presumably, to Port Elizabeth. But then I looked at the map and got a wild hair to visit Hogsback, a place I’d heard a little about from another traveler during my previous visit to South Africa.
Plus of course I did a little online research and Hogsback is reported to be where JRR Tolkien got his ideas for Middle Earth. Of course several places claim that fame but I figured the place must be worth checking out.
I had picked up a pile of some tourist brochures and amongst them were lists of accommodations and places to see in Hogsback. Just the name conjures images of razor-backed mountains which I knew I’d love to see and maybe hike in. I did have a few days before meeting up with Firefly in Port Elizabeth. By name alone out of several choices I called Never Daunted to reserve a self-catering cottage for two nights. Turned out not to be near enough time so I’ll definitely return.
The drive was a little rutted due to recent flooding on the road but the VW made it just fine. Owners Josef and Elsa made me feel right at home and even helped me lug too many suite cases to my cottage. If the doors had been round and the flower surrounded cottage on one floor I’d have felt to be in a Hobbit home. All amenities supplied except the food I brought myself.
Never Daunted offers five self-catering cottages overlooking the Hogsback Mountains surrounded by flowers everywhere. I stayed in the Samango Cottage with a Queen bed, full bath, complete kitchen minus oven, sitting room with wood stove and wood, plus TV I didn’t watch and plenty of space to set up the computer. I actually got online with my Vodacom modem.
The first morning I sat on the patio enjoying coffee and checking email when I heard a thumping sound on the roof. I was totally unprepared for a Samango monkey to use the porch roof as a launching pad into the nearby trees. Not just once. This was like a game. And the second time I had the camera ready. This particular subspecies of Samango Monkey only occurs in Afromontane forests like found in Hogsback. In fact the cheeky little buggers hang out right above the cottages dropping fruit from the trees.
I never tired of the changing light on the Hogsbacks from morning to night. But I did more than just hang out at this delightful cottage.
Growing up in Illinois I frequently visited Morton Arboretum and even got married there. I love to walk amongst the natural beauty of places visited, so the Hogsback Arboretum topped my list of things to do.
The arboretum isn’t huge but does offer several short trails through a garden of trees from all over the world. I’ll admit to conflicting feelings about the non-indigenous species. But this fall colored Maple sure did bring back memories of growing up in the US Midwest.
I followed Frog Crossing then Waterfall Way to see 39-steps waterfall. And no I didn’t count the steps. Just the names alone are delightful.
The trail along the Tyhume Stream allowed me to graze on cherry plums and raspberries. I absorbed the magical and positive energy from the running water.
The brilliant flowers attracted many butterflies amongst the labeled trees. The return trail lead me into a mini grove of five California Redwoods which seemed giantly out of place.
St Patricks on the Hill
Just up the road from the arboretum, beyond the poor excuse for pavement ends, I visited St Patricks on the Hill. I’m not a religious person however do enjoy the tranquility of a place of worship that brings people together in unity filled with love.
Kenneth Hobart Houghton built the first chapel in 1935 as a private place to worship. The original design included only one rondavel but after its donation to the Anglican Church the local congregation grew and it became necessary to extend it. The second rondavel, which gives it a butternut shape, was added in 1992. Sadly, in June 2010, fire destroyed almost the entire building yet the rebuilt Chapel was completed in a year.
The caretakers continuously work to improve the Prayer Trail planting brilliantly colored flowers and laying down more stone to increase the path. I wish I’d been there for the Rhododendrons in bloom. The trail provides a spectacular view into the valley below.
Bluff Scenic Walk
However, I saw the best far reaching views during my quiet morning stroll along the Bluff Scenic Walk located by The Edge Mountain Retreat where I later had a delicious breakfast.
And I walked the Labyrinth, reported to be the largest of its kind in South Africa. Plus I dropped in to the nearby Dreamery Store full of local hand-crafted products and couldn’t resist buying the cutest little dress and a braided leather ankle bracelet.
Hogsback offers a wide variety of accommodation, ranging from full-service hotels to guest houses, self-catering cottages, Bed & Breakfast, backpacking, camping and caravaning.
The lady at the Information Center provided a lot of recommendations for even more to do than I had time for. Plus friendly locals at the Happy Hogs Pub and Restaurant also made suggestions. There’s a tower I didn’t get to and a waterfall hike that sounded like more climbing than I was interested in. In fact a local map shows many trails into the forests and mountains. I also missed the Ecology Shrine, guided bird walks and horseback riding.
As AJT Cook wrote in a tourist brochure, “There is a magic about Hogsback which cannot be reduced to cold print; but which steals away the hearts of those who visit it so that they come back year after year to recapture their first love.”
Well I tried to capture the magic of Hogsback South Africa in photos and memories. And although not my first love, though close, I do have the desire to return for further explorations.
Oh, and don’t be fooled into buying the unfired ceramic warthogs that the hawkers on the streets try to sell as they will turn into dust. I did however buy a fired one at the Information Center. Yea, I know, it’s cracked. But then so am I.
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