Summer’s here, and what better way to celebrate the return of the sun than saddling up for a crank into Hobbit Country? Hogsback encapsulates the perfect mountain biking escape, with everything from cool forest cruising for the whole family to super-tubing singletrack to blow your mind.
Situated within the mountainous Amathole region of the Eastern Cape, the languid village of Hogsback is perched on an inland escarpment rising 1 400 metres above sea level. The elevated altitude and resultant high rainfall have blessed the region with cool summers, abundant water and forests lush with ancient trees, splashes of dainty flowers and the roil of blackberry and bramble.
Nature lovers, artists, hikers and anglers all come to Hogsback to seek regeneration at the altar of the Great Outdoors, but it’s mountain bikers who arguably rate as the chosen pilgrims of these ethereal environs. The ridges and valleys are overrun with forestry roads and footpaths and, after nearly a decade of neglect, the single-track trails are again being groomed.
Crank out of the village along Wolfridge Road past Madonna and Child waterfall (four kilometres), then take a right along the cliffs overlooking the Tyume Valley until you reach Robinson Dam (about eight kilometres). A steep jeep-track climbs left past the dam through stands of pine; keep going until you reach a left-hand turn to the Blackwoods single-track section at the 10-kilometre mark.
This takes you back to the days of Hogsback’s original single-track, and for the next 10 minutes you’ll certainly “˜be away with the fairies’ as you bomb through emerald heaven. Meander on through Tree Ferns Alley and across a cascading stream until you connect back via Hobbiton and Arboretum Road onto the home straight (17 kilometres).
Summer may be back, but the fairytale forests of Hogsback are cool and shady, so best you pack something to take the chill off just in case. Local brand Capestorm manufactures quality technical apparel on par with the best imported brands, so buy proudly SA. Combine their Matrix padded pants (R495) with the rugged AK47 MTB Shorts (R825) for a perfect combination of long-lasting comfort and bomb-proof quality. The Refuge Ripstop fabric is nearly indestructible, while stretch panels allow for ease of movement, plus the shorts look good enough to wear in the pub afterwards. www.capestorm.co.za.
All-Mountain or cross-country “¦ it’s your choice. The frame you decide on is a personal preference, but for the forest trails at Hogsback I’d lean towards All-Mountain geometry. I tried out the Silverback Mercury 1 (R19 950) and GT Sensor 1.0 (R23 000), both of which handled faultlessly. Go to www.obike.co.za or www.silverbacklab.com to choose.
Off the bike
The area around Hogsback village is an outdoor playground of note: trout fi shing, 4×4 trails, horse rides, rock-climbing, trail running, superb walks or the multi-day Amathole Hike are just a few of the attractions in the area. The friendly Hogsback Arminel Village is the perfect family venue, with lots on offer for all ages.
Visit www.hogsback.co.za for more information on the area and accommodation options that are available.
Turn off the N2 onto the R63, then take the R345 to Hogsback. Away with the Fairies backpackers on Hydrangea Lane is signposted – ask any local for directions.
Hogsback MTB trail fast facts
- Grading: Intermediate (some technical sections)
- Duration: Two hours
- Configuration: Circular from 17 km
- Start point: Hogsback Arminel Village or guided rides from Away with the Fairies backpackers
- Terrain: Gravel road, jeep-track and superb single-track
- Entry requirements: Permit from Away with the Fairies backpackers
- Cell reception: Reasonable
- Contact: Tel 045-962-1031, www.awaywiththefairies.co.za.
Click here for great, affordable accommodation options in Hogsback.