Of Hobbits and Horses: Having a look at Hogsbackby Mika Stanvliet on 30 March 2017
Hogsback. The very word conjures images of unkempt, dark green foliage, cascading water and snowy peaks looming in the distance. It’s a place where fairies are in abundance and every second home looks like it could house Bilbo Baggins. The Eastern Cape has no shortage of quirky little towns with great character, but Hogsback is truly one of a kind.
Ever since it’s become more widely known, Hogsback has been synonymous with spirituality and a deeper connection with nature. It has therefore drawn many a curious traveller to its gorgeous green heart, where they often happily get lost in the unruly flora with monkeys and magic allowing them to momentarily forget that the big, bad world exists in the reality of outside.
The road to Hogsback is lonely and winding and it is not an uncommon sight to see a donkey-drawn carriage or people travelling on horseback. This magical world is tucked away high in the Amathole mountains of the Eastern Cape and the entire town is surrounded by centuries-old forests. For anyone considering a holiday in that neck of the woods: you can look forward to the ultimate getaway from city life, dramatic natural beauty, nature-based activities, silence, tranquility and perhaps even a sighting of an otherworldly creature.
Hogsback may be a sleepy little hollow, but it still offers loads of adventurous, spiritual and fun activities to fill your days with. The favourite mode of transportation in Hogsback is horseback. Amathole Horse Trails is a company in town, and they take the rider on roads less travelled through the mountains and forests surrounding Hogsback and invite you to swim, dine and experience true natural beauty with their horses. The horses they use are friendly, well trained and easy to ride and the trails are open to experienced riders as well as those who can’t even tell the front end of an equine creature from its back. The routes vary from easy to challenging, and each promises an absolutely unbeatable Hogsback experience. There are even full moon rides for those who want to indulge in the mythical magic of Hogsback. The horses love to swim in the local dam, so if you don’t mind getting your riding boots wet, have at it!
For those less nature-inclined but equally horse-obsessed the horses can also be taken on a short nature meander that ends at one of the cute little eateries in town where you can have a meal and the horse can be treated to an apple or carrot. These trails are absolutely tailor-made to the guest and the Amathole Horse Trails team will do everything in their power to meet your needs.
What would Hogsback be without fairies? The Camelot Fairy Meander promises a magical experience in the heart of this quirky little town. A dramatic red-eyed dragon guards the entrance to the beautiful 400 m long nature walk, along which you will find ponds with trickling water, beautiful plant life, birds chirping from every tree, a mini forest walk and, of course, the delightful fairy sculptures hiding in every nook and cranny, under every leaf and in every pond. If you shut your eyes tight and keep Tinkerbell’s mantra in mind, you may even be privy to a real fairy frequenting the meander – weirder things have happened.
And of course there’s no Hogsback without the Labyrinth. Even people who’ve never been to the Eastern Cape, let alone the land of hobbits and horses, have heard about the Labyrinth at The Edge. This eleven-circuit labyrinth is similar in design to the labyrinth in the Chartres Cathedral in France, and has one of the most intricate designs you will ever find. The labyrinth is 29 m in diameter, its circumference is 91 m, the pathway is 700 m long and the total distance of the walk to the center is 1,4 km. It is one of the largest labyrinths in the world and was completed in 2002.
For many years the labyrinth has been used as a pathway to spiritual discovery, fulfillment and as a means to enhance meditative states and spiritual focus ─ it can also be used by anyone of any belief system. It is also a favourite under couples and many have used it for marriage and commitment ceremonies, as it is thought to have a protective and nurturing nature. Couples have travelled from far and wide to Hogsback to recite their vows in the middle of the labyrinth and then emerge from the maze to start their new life together.
In 1995 Diana Graham, a Hogsback resident, constructed an art installation called The Eco-Shrine. Over the years it has become a major tourist attraction and is also a favourite amongst couples looking to wed. Graham runs art workshops for scholars from the shrine and also allows it to be used for art exhibitions, meditation and concerts. The Shrine has won several local and international awards and its main purpose is to promote respect for nature. The experience of the shrine begins with a long, leafy tunnel of hazelnut trees through which you wander into a spacious garden where stands a 6 m tall tree sculpture carved from the remains of a redwood tree that had been struck by lightning. An avenue of blue hydrangeas opens up to a view of the Hogsback mountains, the forested valley and the plains stretching to the coast. And there sits the carved cement enclosure of the Eco-Shrine, resplendent with large oil paintings and mosaics. It melts into the surroundings so perfectly that you’d be forgiven for thinking that it has always been there, just part of its environment. If you were to visit the shrine, you can look forward to Graham herself showing you around and explaining the inspiration behind the installation as she goes.
Hogsback attracts people from every walk of life, but it’s especially ideal for those who love nature and those full of whimsy and wonder. If you are not opposed to admitting you might believe in fairies, you appreciate nature and its bountiful beauty, you think you might be at home in a saddle, and you can easily spot the makings of a hobbit hole, you will feel right at home in Hogsback. Go visit the pubs at the backpackers in order to get a real sense of the locals, and don’t forget to stop off at Away with the Fairies for a soak and a splendid view in the Bath at the End of the World.
If the idea of snow-capped mountains, dark green forests and barefoot locals sound like a holiday to you, or if you would like to exchange your vows in the magic of a labyrinth or the serene Eco-Shrine, TravelGround has got you covered!
Our selection of quirky stays in happy little Hogsback will soon have you planning your own adventure! Click on any of these Tolkien-worthy places to book your Hogsback holiday today!
Maple Grove in Hogsback | Trewennan | Granny Mouse House | Laragh-on-Hogsback | Hogrock Falls | Bredon Self-catering Cottage | Swallowtail Country Estate | Athanor-Hogsback | Lothlorien Cottage Hogsback
Flickr-collage 2, clockwise from top: Walking the horses back to Terra Khaya, Horses and Party Animals?, Mountain Meadow and Storage by fabulousfabs (Flickr). Bottom: IM000410 by kaspercarissa (Flickr).
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