Mountain Biking in Hogsback
Hogsback is an ancient and enchanted place that lies on the R345 between Alice and Cathcart in the Eastern Cape. It is possibly most famous for its link to Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” novel and is claimed to have inspired the novel and subsequent Tolkien scenery, whether true or not, the town certainly looks as though it has been dreamed up by a fantasy novelist.
Some of the things that makes Hogsback so special is that it is incredibly, almost magically, well-populated with indigenous forest, trout rivers and waterfalls – according to one guide Hogsback has one of the highest densities of waterfalls in a single area – and on bicycle back, we were about to go and hunt down nine of them.
Neels Du Toit from Hogsback Adventures and Cycle Roots is probably one of the most down to earth and honest to good people we have had the privilege of meeting, as well as being an absolute trove of knowledge regarding all things Hogsback, Neels is fascinated by adventure and wildlife and has a strong desire to share this magical “Middle Earth” with as many people as possible.
Adventure lovers ourselves, we quickly signed up for the mountain biking in Hogsback activity on offer as abseiling was impossible due to the previous day’s heavy rainfall. Strapped up and briefed on safety we headed out for our tour of Hogsback’s enchanted insides. Starting in the Arboretum we made our way to our first waterfall aptly named 39 Steps and stopped for a quick drink of crystal clear mountain water there.
The mountain biking routes through the forest are breath-taking and we drank in views that simply floored us. We stopped often to take pictures and Neels would show us different trees and interesting phenomena specific to the area. We learnt of Samango Monkeys, special frogs and even about different leaves.
We passed the bottom of Kettle Spout waterfall and headed onwards towards the top of Madonna and Child. We cautiously walked across the top of the flowing waterfall, an experience I will enjoy forever, and ended up standing on a dry rock with water gushing down all around us.
Later on we stopped for lunch and rested on the edge of a mirror-like lake before heading down through the fern forests into Neels’ pride and joy; his hand-made single track. Our adrenalin peaked around the twists and turns of the forest and our mountain bikes, fit for the challenge, ate up the red pine-needle laden track called Puff adder Run.
I never wanted it to end but the bike clearly needed a breather because, mysteriously, my tube decided to pull slightly out of the wheel resulting in a puncture. Neels, prepared as ever, whipped out a fresh one, replaced it in no time and pumped up the new tube with a small canister of compressed CO2! I was extremely impressed.
Nearing the end we came across one final challenge – crossing a flowing river on the bike! Luckily it had been paved with concrete beneath so it definitely looked scarier than it was but it certainly splashed our legs and provided some hilarious entertainment! All in all we had an incredible time out and the route, just 18.5km long, provided us with memories that are going to last a lifetime.
Neels and the team don’t only offer mountain biking adventures but also, hikes, guided tours, abseiling and birding too. This is a must-do in Hogsback and without a shadow of a doubt is the best way for even a mildly fit person to see and learn about Hogsback in a limited time.
Contact Cycle Roots:
Address: Cycle Roots, Hydrangea Lane, Hogsback, Eastern Cape
Telephone: +27 (0)73 567-9487
Photographs © Vaughan & Lauren McShane