Mystical Hogsback A WEEKEND WITH MOM

I had often heard about, but did not know much about the village of Hogsback, which is a little village high up in the Amathole Mountains in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Spending a few days with my late mother, Cynthia Glendinning, in Hogsback during September of 2015 was a magical experience that I would like to share.

Dedicated with love to my mom Cynthia Glendinning; 23/06/1936 - 06/02/2017
Our September visit co-incided with the Spring Festival.
The village overlooks the rivers and slopes of the Tyume Valley. It got its name from nearby mountain peaks which resemble the bristles of a hog’s back. Hogsback is also known by its Xhosa name Qabimbola, which means “Red Clay On The Face”, which is used during initiation rites. (Photo: RF123: Panoramic view of the Eastern Cape rural area from Hogsback peak, South Africa - Morkel Erasmus)
The Azaleas are usually at their best during the first two to three weeks of October.

Hogsback is an enchanting, tranquil place that begs to be explored. Mom and I enjoyed leisurely walks exploring the indigenous forests which lead to beautiful waterfalls, a majestic ancient Yellowwood tree and the breathtaking beauty of nature. The forest walks take one through the mystical forests, past the many waterfalls and streams and up towards the local peaks where you can have a magnificent view over the entire Amathole basin.

Waterfalls in the local area include the Madonna & Child, the Thirty Nine Steps, the Swallowtail Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls, the Tyume Falls and the Kettle Spout Falls. The vegetation in the Hogsback area is lush with cherry blossoms, rhododendrons, azaleas and lilies everywhere. There is also a rich variety of birdlife (more than 100 species), which includes the rare Cape Parrot (which I believe are less than a few hundred left) as well as the beautiful Knysna Lourie, and many more.

Hogsback Waterfall - John Charalambous • Hogsback - Gavin Firkser • Pair of Knysna Turacos - Anton Frolich

Hogsback is an enchanting place.

Yellowwoods and the magnificent beauty of nature.

Many forest walks to be explored.

It isn't hard to believe that fairies once lived here.

I also hope to visit Hogsback during the winter months when the snow has fallen on the higher ground which, I understand, is a breathtakingly beautiful experience. The most likely months for snow are June to August and some of the photos taken during this time of the year are spectacular.

It is rumoured that the famous author, JRR Tokien, spent time here as a young child which possibly influenced his later writing of the ‘Lord of the Rings’. Tolkien was born in the Free State town of Bloemfontein in 1892, but he went back to England with his mother and brother when he was just three years old, never to return to South Africa. Some say the family visited Hogback in those early formative years of his life, while others claim that his nanny came from the Hogbacks area and told him magical tales of her home at the foot of the Hogs mountains where, according to Xhosa legend, the giant flying snake resides. Tolkien’s son also apparently visited Hogsback several times, sending home stories and drawings of the captivating knolls, streams and forests he explored.

In this special place it isn’t hard to believe that hobbits could well trundle out of the woods, their hairy bare feet oblivious to the snowy paths. The local amenities in Hogsback reflect this play on things ‘otherworldly’, with shop names like, The Fairy Realm, Mistyfell fruits and jam, Middle Earth organics, Rivendell campsite, The Ring hardware and bottle store, and the Enchanted Treehouse.

Being a “baby boomer” myself and remembering the Sixties Hippie era, I felt almost a home coming when we arrived in Hogsback, as if I had stepped back in time. The place is full of resident artists, painters, poets, musicians and photographers and I was told by the locals that community life thrives. I loved the local atmosphere and seeing friendly folks walking around the village with beads in their hair and wearing no shoes; there was that old feeling of freedom and non-conformity that I always enjoyed as a teenager in South Africa back in the 1970’s.

The Hogsback Labyrinth is perched on 'The Bluff’ and offers a spectacular view of the surrounding Amathole mountains, a deep gorge with pristine untouched forests, and the villages nestling in the Eastern Cape Thuyme Valley below. The Hogsback Labyrinth is one of the biggest in the world - an eleven circuit Labyrinth with a diameter of 29 metres. Walking the Hogsback Labyrinth is said to be a spiritual experience, a place to pray and meditate. I certainly agree with this.

Hogsback Labyrinth

The artist, Diana Graham built the local ‘Voice of the Earth Eco-Shrine’ and says; “I built the Eco-Shrine in 1995 because I felt impelled to make a place where art and nature, science and a sense of the sacred come together.” This unique outdoor garden is decorated with mosaics, sculptures and oil paintings, and offers breathtaking views of the Eastern Cape mountains, waterfalls and valleys. It is definitely worth a visit.

Voice of the Earth Eco Shrine


Explore the Hogsback Camelot Fairy Meander, which is a 400m garden pathway adorned with sculptures of fairies, gnomes, flowers and ponds. Nearby you will also find the Big Tree, an ancient 2000 year old yellowwood tree called the Eastern Monarch, which at more than 36m high is the biggest tree in the Eastern Cape.

Hogsback Amathole Horse Riding Trails offer rides through the beautiful Amathole Mountains and Hogsback forests. You can swim with the horses in a local dam and picnic on the surrounding mountains.

You can hike up Gaika's Kop (1700m), from which you have a panoramic view of the Elandsberg Mountains, and on a clear day one can even see the coastline which is some 120 km away.

Take home a piece of the magic when visiting Hogsback Crystal Corner; you can choose from a range of crystals, beautiful gemstone jewellery and Chakra stones.

Buy a walking stick from one of the crafters in Hogsback village, a souvenir of your time in this unforgettable part of the Eastern Cape.

Take the Hogsback Plaatjieskraal Arts & Crafts Trail, which takes you to places like Starways Pottery & Gallery, Mafika Pottery and Wrought & Rustic where metalwork art is crafted. You can also browse the artworks on the walls of Somerset Gardens & Art Gallery and afterwards enjoy lunch at Butterfly's Bistro, where you can sit and eat under large oak trees in a big, tranquil garden. During the winter days you can warm yourself near a ceramic wood-burning fireplace, while enjoying delicious pizzas, pastas and homemade cakes.

On the first Saturday of each month the popular Hogsback Farmer’s Market takes place just outside the Butterfly Bistro. On the grass under the trees you will find many stalls selling home cooked fare, dairy products and delicious homemade breads.

Hogsback Annual Events

Hogsback Country Xmas in July offers locals and visitors the opportunity to enjoy laid back family entertainment in the form of art, music, sport, and food.

Hogsback Arts Spring Festival in September

The Hogsback Garden Club invites you to celebrate spring in the Eastern Cape by visiting the most exquisite gardens brimming with azaleas and irises under the shade of Japanese Cherry, Maple, Tulip and Dogwood trees.

Many little farm chapels can be seen around the Hogsback area.

Church on route from Cathcart to Hogsback, Eastern Cape (Photo by: Witstinkhout)

Mom and I loved Hogsback. She especially enjoyed the holistic massages offered at The Edge Mountain Retreat and she kept asking me when I thought we could go back for another massage session. Guest houses offering bed and breakfast accommodation are plentiful and self catering accommodation is also popular for countryside holidays.

I look forward to visiting Hogsback again, exploring this magical place with its’ lovely forest walks and waterfalls, and unique local cultural experience, with my husband and son.


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