Hogsback is the central attraction of the Amathole district. It is roughly 30km from Alice and 90 minutes from Grahamstown on the R345 road. This winds through pastoral countryside dotted with rural homesteads before ascending to the town via the steep, narrow Hogsback Pass. Dense afromontane forests crowd both sides of the pass, latent with the other-worldly atmosphere that Hogsback is famous for.
The amaXhosa gathered clay in this area, and refer to it as Qabimbola ('red clay on the face'). Later the village was settled by English farmers and named for the hog-backed appearance of its mountains.
With dirt roads and ramshackle fences, Hogsback seems timeless. It is easy to fall under the spell of its misty, magical forests and cascading waterfalls and streams, and to understand why it could have inspired J.R. Tolkien’s magical world of Middle Earth. Today it still attracts artists, musicians and writers.
During summer the forests ring with calls - the brain-piercing chorus of the cicadas, the inelegant croaks of colourful Knysna turacos, and the eerie chattering of the samango monkeys.
The samangos are especially exciting as they are rarer than the common vervet monkey. This is also one of the last remaining habitats of the endangered Cape parrot, with a global population of, at most, 1 500 birds.
Hogsback’s gardens are a popular spring and summer attraction, although slightly surreal in an African context because of the settlers’ emulation of English country gardens. Winter is probably Hogsback’s most ‘famous’ season, as good snowfalls blanket the town in white, drawing many visitors.
With wonderful birdwatching and a range of accommodation - from B&Bs, backpackers and hotels, to caravan parks and campsites - Hogsback is a place that everyone should visit at least once in their lives.
Look out for
Hiking - routes of 3-20km in length wind past Hogsback’s famous waterfalls and places of historic interest, and there is the 2-day Hogsback hiking trail. The Hogsback guidebook shows the routes.
Hogsback’s dirt roads and forest trails are fun for mountain bikers. Horse riding and mountain climbing are also popular.
Trout fishing - some of Hogsback’s rivers are well-stocked, popular fly-fishing spots.
The Labyrinth at The Edge is one of the largest labyrinths in the world. The Edge is so named for its spectacular cliff-edge views.
Applegarth Gardens and Nursery – a magnificent 4ha of indigenous and exotic plants.
The Plaatjieskraal Art & Craft Trail showcases Hogsback’s artistic talent, including Diana Graham’s Ecology Shrine, the Camelot Fairy Meander and the Starways Pottery workshop.