When two of my most free-spirited hippie friends proposed a trip to Hogsback my first thought was ‘Why the hippie hype around Hogsback?’ I recently visited this oasis in the Eastern Cape and have an answer for you.
As cheesy as this may sound, Hogsback provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday reality and a rather beautiful escape at that. In fact, it is the area that inspired the Lord of the Rings movies. Don’t, like me, however, dismiss it as just another place for hippies to consume the earth’s magical grass, buy land, and then decide to become self sustainable. The area certainly does attract the alternative type of people and occasionally you will come across people who have taken their “hippie-ness” a little too far; the lady who sells crystals as a prime example; but the majority of Hogsback’s permanent residents are just looking for a little peace and quiet out in the countryside.
So why the hippie hype?
Hogsback personifies freedom. From any point in the village you can set off into the expanse of indigenous and non-indigenous forest and become engulfed in one of the area’s numerous hiking trails. It really is something quite unique and gives meaning to a quote from the movie Into the Wild: “It must not be denied to us that being footloose has always exhilarated us- it is associated in our minds with freedom ….” I believe that it is this area’s untainted freedom that draws so many people to it.
We did the well-known hike up to the Madonna and Child waterfall. Beautiful? Yes certainly. Tough? No, not at all. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t tough hikes in the area though- the Amatola trail ends in Hogsback and its last stretch is known for being rather tough due to the wet and steep conditions you find yourself in. In fact, in summer, the village of Hogsback is always laced in a light drizzle; hence, how ferns and other water-loving plants are prolific in the area and give it that exotic look and feel of a rainforest.
Besides hiking, Hogsback provides the perfect setting for some R&R; whether you set up camp in a hotel, B&B or backpackers. If you choose to go the self catering route, however, then pack food, because there is only one (very basic) shop in the village. This shop had an ATM, but it didn’t work, so taking money is a good idea too. Both backpackers in the village (Terra-Khaya and Away with the Fairies) are really wonderful; two of the best I have come across in South Africa. As I stayed at Terra-Khaya and really loved it, here is my most unbiased take on the two backpackers in Hogsback.
Away with the Fairies vs Terra-Khaya
Both are situated on a mountain side and thus have exquisite views of the expansive forest below. As Fairies is on a cliff-top, it probably wins on the view dimension, however, where Fairies is situated in the village, Khaya is higher up and outside the village, which gives it a more rustic appeal. Also, Khaya is an eco farm that prides itself on conscious sustainable living- it is 100% grid free and uses only solar and fire energy (created by burning invasive wattles). At Khaya there are no plug points or TV, where Fairies has both plug points and a big screen TV with DSTV. Also, Fairies has a bar, where Khaya doesn’t. Both offer their unique activities, however, with Fairies offering rock climbing and abseiling and Khaya, horse-riding.
My most unbiased opinion is that I definitely prefer Khaya. It has a more authentic feel about it; even the buildings are made entirely from recycled materials. Also, picking wattles for 3 hours a day gets you free dinner and bringing an indigenous plant gets you a free night’s stay. It really is a place that lives up to its “green-living” ideology. I think what I appreciated the most, however, was that the owner is incredibly grounded- he is there to live an alternative existence, but not one characterised by exploiting locals or local mushrooms. I, for one, can appreciate this a lot; especially after having met my fair share of Transkei backpacker owners.