Photos: Come visit Hogsback with the fairies

Henry

If you want to go a little bush in the bush, you should go play in the far foothills of the Amatole mountain range in the Eastern Cape, and Hogsback should definitely be the very first place to play on your list, write Jacques Marais.

The village

There are many regions to visit in South Africa, but at the top of my list are Knysna and the Garden Route forests, the beautiful Tsitsikamma area near Storms River Mouth, and then of course the Amatole Gorges in the Eastern Cape around Hogsback.

This tourism region’s name comes from the isiXhosa word “amatole”, which means calves and refers to the many foothills that ‘graze’ here in the shadow of the Winterberg. It is also against these ridges where the native forests of the region shine in all their glory.

Imagine for a moment that you find yourself in Tolkien’s Middle Earth – a magical place where waterfalls tumble down, where tree giants several centuries old strain skyward, and where places with names like Hobbiton, Illiearth and Applegard play hide and seek.

Yes-no, welcome to Hogsback, a town where time apparently stands still. Here you can quietly sip a hand-crafted beer in front of a crackling hearth, walk through a fairy garden in the evergreen forests, or patrol the streams with a fly fishing rod in search of perch and trout.

Feel free to visit www.hogsback.co.za for more options.

Things to do there

Here in the Amatole Hills you can play to your heart’s content, with more than half a dozen outdoor options to choose from. The indigenous forests with giant yellowwood and other trees, clear mountain streams and jet-black cliffs teem with lories, ribbucks and wild boars, and there is a great chance that you will see animals while walking or cycling.

Those suffering from single-track fever can literally choose a Hogsback course in any direction. Wolfridge road leads eastwards out of the village, circles above the Madonna and Child waterfall, and is a good choice if the whole family wants to pedal together.

Turn right towards the river along a dirt road above the Tyume valley, with beautiful panoramas over the surrounding grasslands. It gets steeper from here, but bites hard past Robinson Dam on the way to ‘The Hog’.

This is where the real cycling fun kicks in, because after about 2 km of climbing you turn sharply left to explore the single track routes. These mountain bike trails swoop and soar through the leafy green forests, and you’ll swing furiously between giant tree ferns and trees draped with old man’s beard moss.

Hogsback abounds with walking and running routes too, including the excellent six-day Amatola walking route which winds here through the peaks and valleys. The route starts at Maden Dam, near King Williams Town, and then crosses and traverses for 100 km into Hogsback itself.

There are so many other options for adventure here in this corner of the Eastern Cape. Go fly fishing for wild trout; take a trip to a waterfall on one of the day hikes; look through the binoculars for birds such as loons and crowned eagles; unwind on a labyrinth walk at The Edge; or go looking for snow in the winter forests… the options are endless.

Please visit www.mtbroutes.co.za for more information on the Hogsback routes.

How come a person there: Follow the N2 highway eastwards, then turn left along the R63. Look out for the R345 turnoff to Hogsback – the town is located about 150 km from East London, and you can take on the dirt road with a normal sedan car.

Stay and eat here: There are loads of great accommodation in the village, including the beautiful Arminel Hotel where you can get lost in a luxurious cottage among the trees. Plus, there are dozens of other authentic guest houses and backpacker lodges such as The Edge and Away with the Fairies where you can relax.

  • Arminel Hotel is great for families. Visit katleisure.co.za for more information or to make a booking.
  • Away with the Fairies is authentic and earthy. Visit awaywiththefairieshogsback.com.
  • The Edge boasts all the scenery your heart could desire. Visit theedge-hogsback.co.za for more information.

Route:

Difficulty: The single track is technical in places, but completely rideable
Time: 90 minutes to two hours
Starting point: Top of Wolfridge road
GPS coordinates: S32°36. 105′ / E026°56. 455′
Terrain: Dirt road, service roads and single track
Map: Available at Hogsback’s tourism office

Rent your bike: Hogsback Adventures at www.hogsbackadventures.co.za

  • Send Jacques a message at @jacqmaraisphoto or visit jacquesmarais.co.za.