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Hogsback in the Eastern Cape

SOUTH AFRICA | Friday, 20 October 2006 | Views [4975]

The Hogsback Mountains

The Hogsback Mountains

Most Backpackers who travel in South Africa stick pretty much to the coastal route from Cape Town to Jo’berg and totally ignore the interior. But there are some great places to visit just off the coastal route which really reward those who seek them out. One of these is the small mountain village of Hogsback, which is very much a destination for South Africans visitors and should be for backpackers too.  

Hogsback has a magical setting in the Amatola Mountains which themselves are an extension of the Drakensburgs. The name comes from the eroded edges of basalt sills that cap the peaks and which from a distance resemble the line of hair on a hogs back. The village residents are a bohemian, arty crowd who like to put it about that the wonderful setting inspired Tolkein when he was conjuring up Middle Earth, and there are places named Hobbiton and Riverdell in the village. The problem with that theory is although Tolkien was born in South Africa (a little known fact), in Bloemfontein, he never went to Hogsback and in fact left South Africa for good when he was three years old.

Apart from craft shops and guest houses Hogsback has few sights as such, what it does have is wonderful countryside all around it. Just below the village is a reserve of Afromontane rain forest which has lots of well way marked trails in it and information boards to tell you what you are looking at. The forest is filled with birds, including the rare and endangered Cape Parrot, butterflies and monkeys as well are more elusive creatures. Running through the forest are several waterfalls which pour over the lips of the hard basalt rock and they are particularly spectacular after rain; several of the trails take you right up to them. You can also climb high onto the Hogs themselves and subject to the weather this makes a good day hike. Even if you don’t want to do anything energetic, Hogsback makes a nice place to chill out and just look at the view. 

There are numerous places to stay and eat in village, and many of them are booked solid during the summer. I stayed at a really friendly backpacker hostel called ‘Away with the Fairies’ which is run by a young English couple who came here eight years ago and never left. It has fantastic views across to the mountains; one of the hiking trails starts in the garden and the hostel have free maps and advice on where to go. They have a range of accommodation from a self contained cottage (called Hog End) to dorms. One of the best reasons to go there is the food. A Scottish genius resides in the kitchen and although there is only one set dish each evening it is always outstanding, with exotica like Kudu and Warthog on the menu. Many of the locals go there just to eat. The hostel runs a shuttle most days from East London (ask at the SugarShack hostel) so there is no reason to miss out on Hogsback because you don’t have your own car or are on the Baz Bus.

The one thing you cannot always expect is perfect weather; a rain forest is a rain forest because it rains a lot. What you can expect is the weather to be changeable; the days I was there I had a couple of days of hot sunshine and one of mist and rain, but even if it starts bad it can often clear by the afternoon.

So don’t let your trip by yet another one on the beaten track, make your way up to Hogsback, you won’t regret it.

To see more pictures of Hogsback click here

Tags: The Great Outdoors

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