Like a transplanted English village, Hogsback sits in the Amatola mountains. It is full of such quaint multi-cultural names as Tidbury’s Toll, Cookhouse, Lower Blinkwater, Tyume Post and Braunschweig. It has a population of only 500 residents, many of them very eccentric. It is an enchanting area of forests and mountains that we had been hearing about for weeks as we traveled through South Africa.
This is an area inland from the coast. It was about a three hour drive from the last town we were at of Cintsa. Most people believe the towns name comes from the three barren looking mountains that have a ridge of trees along the top. They really do look like the backs of the wild hogs in the area. They are respectively called Hogsback one, two and three.
The Inspiration For J.R. Tolkien’s Books
This area is said to have been the inspiration for the books of J.R. Tolkein. He was born in Bloemfontein. It is a city several hundred kilometers away, but his family was said to visit Hogsback area when he was a child. The beautiful scenery certainly does look like it could have inspired the writing of the books. Many areas have names from the Tolkien stories like Middle Earth and The Shire.
A Great Backpackers
The backpackers we stayed in is called Away With the Fairies. It suits the name. It sits in an enchanting setting with many places to sit and enjoy the tranquility of the area. We had heard several great reviews about this place, and it certainly lived up to them.
The walls of the backpackers main bar, eating area and rooms are artistically decorated with fairies, gnomes and other mystical creatures. You can stay in rooms with names like Frodo, Bilbo and Gandalf’s Rest. The room we stayed in was in a separate little cabin on the property. It was very cute and cozy. They have a variety of other choices including dorm style rooms and camping.
The real star of this hostel is the food. They have a chef who was trained in Europe. No word of a lie, he serves five star gourmet food. You wouldn’t believe the primitive conditions and kitchen he makes it in. We had the most delicious vegetarian meal. It was a tower of butternut squash stuffed with peppers and feta along with some other veggies and a savory sauce.
We unfortunately stocked up with our own groceries prior to coming here, otherwise we would have tried many more meals. We had some of the best social evenings at this backpackers. The evening meal was served at a large common table. We met many interesting people and shared travel stories.
Opportunities For Viewing Rare Wildlife
There are two animals we looked forward to seeing during our stay here. One is the rare Samango monkey. It visits in the nearby trees on a daily basis. The even rarer Cape Parrot can be spotted in the trees around the property, usually in the early evening. There are only about 300 of them in existence. We did get to see a few of the monkeys and parrots during our stay. We also saw many of the beautiful Laurie birds, they have bright green and blue colours and when they fly the underside of their wings are brilliant red.
Glad We Didn’t Go On That Hike, The Dog Ate A Monkey!
There are many walking trails and hikes right from the backpacker grounds, it’s perfect if you are staying without a vehicle. The hikes range from walks as short as half an hour up to a seven hour return trip up one of the Hogsback mountains. We didn’t have quite enough energy the first day to do the longer ones. Unfortunately the following days of our stay there waas a mist obscuring most of the views.
A few people left early one day before the mist set in to go to the top of Hogsback One. Everyone left behind at the hostel was getting worried about them. The mist had set in quite heavy and they had been gone well beyond the time it took to do the hike. We were relieved when they finally returned. They took the three resident dogs with them. It was a good thing because they got lost and one of the dogs sat at a trail head showing them which way to go. On the way back we were told one of the dogs attacked and killed a Samango monkey. Apparently the feisty little Jack Russell made a good time of eating him. Ughhhhh, poor monkey!
The Eco Shrine
The Eco-Shrine is within a short driving distance from the backpackers. A lady has built a Gaelic version of Stone Henge on her property that looks out into a valley. It has many large cement structures aligned around a central pond filled with koi and lily pads. The structures have her oil painting artwork featured in them. She does very unique images that are very spiritual and depict the earth and nature. When the mist rolls in from the valley the whole place has a very mystical feeling to it.
Being Chased Down The Road By Men With Mud Pigs
Funny enough we had been warned about being chased by men with pigs. Every time you drive your car or walk down one of the dirt roads around the Hogsback area you will have men running after you. They have small mud hogs they are trying to sell. They run frantically after you holding up the pigs and yelling something out in Xhosa. The scary thing is they seem to have no issues with running right in front on the car! I regret not buyin one, they were kind of cute. I was told they were not fired and would turn gooey at the first exposure to any moisture.