Rumour has it that J.R.R Tolkien, during his time in South Africa, spent some years in the sleepy little Eastern Cape town known as Hogsback. This is where he found the inspiration to write one of the greatest literary pieces of our time – Lord of the Rings. Whether this is entirely true, we’ll never know, but it’s easy to understand why it’s so believable. About an hour’s drive from Fort Beaufort, on the R345, lies this hidden South African gem, nestled cosily in the heart of the Amathole mountains.
As you drive down the cattle laden road from Alice and pass through the rural communities with their traditionally built Xhosa huts, it’s hard to imagine that this fairy kingdom could be close by. But don’t be fooled, for entering the little pass into Hogsback is like entering a gateway into some faraway promised land.
The sheer size of the mountains, cliffs and valleys makes you feel microscopic in size, the forest renews every fibre in your being and the people welcome you like a long-lost sibling. When you enter Hogsback, there’s truly only Hogsback on your mind and in your heart. So, after a long day’s drive you better get some rest, for in the morning a host of endless activities await.
Start your day off exploring one of the numerous hiking trails through the dense mountain forest, on which you may find beautiful waterfalls (the Madonna and Child Falls is a must), multi-coloured mushrooms and gigantic trees. No doubt the walk will not only leave you mesmerized, but also somewhat famished. This is the best reason to visit the Happy Hogs Pub and Restaurant for an eisbein you are not likely to forget anytime soon; and wash it down with one of their tapped beers.
After lunch, take a drive up to The Edge and enjoy the spectacular views, walk the labyrinth and appreciate their beautiful gardens. There’s no better end to the day than an open-air bath, while gazing over the Amathole mountains (here you will see the so-called hog’s back, the inspiration behind the towns original name). Be sure to book your time-slot with Away with the Fairies Backpackers, as this should be on every visitor’s to-do list.
I can highly recommend that you also explore the town on a bicycle, which is available to rent from Hogsback Adventures (situated on the Main Road). Visiting Camelot Fairy Meander offers a stroll through a lovely garden filled with whimsical and delightful sculptures, each telling its own story. This can be followed by a trip to the Eco-Shrine by Diana Graham, an outdoor art installation worthy of the breathtaking views surrounding it.
Hogsback is a photographer’s paradise at just about any time of the year. Clouds rolling over the mountains bring misty rains on hot summer days. During winter months you may even find the town covered in snow, whereas autumn turns the forest into a canvas of a thousand shades of green, yellow, red and orange. You will find a great shot filled with contrasts and depth just about anywhere you go in and around town, but especially in the Hogsback arboretum.
Hogsback truly is South Africa’s very own fairy kingdom. If you ever head out of your way and onto the R345 past Alice, then who knows what inspiration you will find here. Have you ever been to Hogsback? I would love to hear all about it!