Our roadtrip up South Africa’s east coast had already been filled with adventure (and a few mishaps) by the time we reached Hogsback in the Eastern Cape. Situated in the Amatola Mountains and named after three ridges which (apparently) look like the bristles on a hog’s back, Hogsback turned out to be one of my favourite places on our east coast trek.
Although there is plenty in Hogsback to amuse and delight, including The Labyrinth and the Eco shrine, our primary goal was to do some serious hiking and take in the truly spectacular landscape that the area has to offer. With so many trails on offer we were at something of a loss as to which hikes we could safely and comfortably do in the two days that we were going to be there …
Luckily people in the area are incredibly friendly and only too eager to help. We were soon advised by a local that we had to tackle Tor Doone, a peak which allows an amazing view of the surrounding area. Apparently Tor Doone is also popular with bikers and we saw a few bikers as we began our hike, making me slightly envious and also regretful that I had left my trail bike at home.
But one can hardly feel too regretful or depressed amongst the swathes of indigenous forest which resemble a lush landscape on Middle Earth more than a typical South African landscape. No wonder then, as we learned afterwards, that legend has it that the Amatola forest inspired Tolkien’s vision for the forest of Mirkwood in Lord of the Rings. Yellowwoods and white stinkwoods are plentiful here and one really has to keep one’s eyes open in order not to miss any of the natural richness.
After stopping for a delicious packed lunch and a sighting of several birds of prey that we circled lazily above us (some of our party said they were buzzards) we continued along the path and up to the Tor Doone peak. Although we were advised that the hike was easy enough, the Contour Path on Tor Doone was fairly tiring for inexperienced hikers such as ourselves but it was well worth the view of the area that we got from the peak. History buffs will also be interested to know that a commemorative plaque marks the remains below the peak where Fort Mitchell, a British outpost, once stood.
The second day of our time in Hogsback found us exploring the town a little and then heading out for a short walk on the grassland plateau. Although we didn’t get to see much of the local fauna, we were told that the endangered Cape Parrot can sometimes be found in this area, as well as many other species of birdlife and monkeys. Other walks in the area include a two-day circular hike (which sounds fantastic) Elandsberg, the Gaika’s Kop, one of the highest peaks in the area and a former Xhosa stronghold, and hikes up the three ‘Hog’ ridges.