Off on a day trip to Hogsback from East London! Terry, Tony, and the boys dragged themselves from their beds and into the car. Tyres, oil, water and petrol had been checked, and all that was necessary was to get to Hogsback. Onto the freeway from East London, 60 km to King Williams Town, and then left in King Williams Town until you leave King Williams Town, then immediately turn right and travel for 60 km.Shortly before Alice, turn right. And then look out for Hogsback, 30 km further. Easy enough.
In true South African and Eastern Cape tradition, our country villages are that tiny that they can be missed if travelling at speed. However, most South African villages can be seen from a distance, if one is looking out for them. And in true South African tradition, there is an exception to all rules.
Hogsback is the small village exception.
The road leading into Hogsback winds its way upward, with a lush overgrown cliff-face on the left, and a fast receding rest of South Africa waaaaay down there, on the right.
There is no sign that says “WELCOME TO HOGSBACK”. There are no dusty-gardened homes on the village outskirts. There is no traffic cop waiting under a tree just before you get into the village.
You’re halfway through the village of Hogsback before you realize you’ve arrived!
Our day trip arrival in Hogsback went largely unnoticed by the locals, except for the chap selling rural artifacts at the entrance to the Forestry area at Oak Avenue. We didn’t buy anything right away, as we wanted to get into our first walk as soon as possible.After a slight navigational hiccup, we ended up at the start of the Hogsback walk leading to the foot of the Kettlespout Falls, and not leading to the top of the falls as planned. Leaving the car in the charming dinky sized parking area, Terry and the boys took some photographs at the nearby stream before they all set off on the trail. Within metres it was easy to see just why Tolkien used Hogsback as his inspiration for the Hobbit chronicles. Even the most hardened sceptic would not have been surprised to find a fairy fluttering just above the undergrowth, or an elf perched jauntily on a rock next to the walking trail. Terry and the boys managed the walk comfortably. Tony struggled. Middle-age, pot-belly and skinny legs are not a good basis for a sedentary website designer to use for Hogsback forest walks.
However, all is well that ends well. Even though Terry, Tony and the boys did not get to the end of the walk, once again due to mis-navigation, all concerned did enjoy the walk. Even the old guy. They decided to call off that particular meander, and continue to the actual intended walk, being the walk to the top of kettlespout. The road was found. The parking area was found. The walk was found. A relatively easy walk to Kettlespout with only one spot that daunted Tony, who is a tad afraid of heights.
The actual viewing point was another matter for Tony. It is natural to be wary of robust and lively boys anywhere there is even the faintest possibility they could fall. From Kettlespout its a long fall. While Terry hounded and herded the boys, Tony cowered on the bench. The actual river that gushes off the lip of the cliff is in fact nothing more than a little stream, easily crossed without getting your shoes wet.After getting back to the car, Terry, Tony and the boys decided on the Madonna and Child Falls as their next Hogsback waterfall destination. Terry, Tony and the boys did stop to acquire a pair of mini warthogs. From there they drove back into the main road of the Hogsback village, and swung left into Wolfridge road, past Woodlands restaurant, and then directly to the Madonna and Child parking area. At the parking area they found another local selling decorated Hogsback walking sticks. Terry, Tony and the boys left him there and made their way downward. Ever downward. Once again the magic of the area was bared. Until one can actually see the falls, tumbling off the cliff face, one does not realize they are there. The area below the falls is rocky, and not large. To get to any really close viewpoint one needs to believe in the Darwin Theory of evolution, and apply it. This however does not detract from the absolute and sheer beauty of the Madonna and Child Waterfall.
It would have been the easiest thing in the world to stay down there.
The worst habit mankind has is eating. It’s impossible to get away from it. Especially with two boys. Even more difficult if there is no packed lunch. There was nothing else to do but go back up.
Terry and the boys managed the walk comfortably. Tony struggled. Middle-age, pot-belly and skinny legs are not a good basis for a sedentary website designer to use for Hogsback forest walks.When Terry, Tony and the boys crested the Great Madonna and Child Waterfall Parking Area Summit, the boys decided that they needed Hogsback walking sticks.
Fortunately the local entrepreneur was still there, and was more than eager to sell two sticks to a foursome that didn’t have small notes. He didn’t have any change. A problem stared them in the face on three fronts.The boys wanted, needed, had to have, couldn’t live without sticks. The seller wanted, needed, had to have, couldn’t live without selling sticks.
Thinking quickly, the entrepreneur averted a national socio-ethnic trade related confrontation. He suggested that he hand two walking sticks over, and that the foursome leave the money for them with the manager of the Hogsback Supermarket. This was an offer Terry and Tony had to accept. The consequences of not accepting would be catastrophical. It was also extremely unusual to encounter this level of trust from a stranger. This man was willing and prepared to part with items he made and sold, as a livelihood, with no immediate payment. Modern culture tells us not to trust anyone, even if you do have a Brittanica sized contract.
Terry, Tony and the boys found the little Hogsback supermarket, found an assortment of really cold soft drinks, left the money with the manager. The next assignment for Terry, Tony and the boys was food. Find a place to feed at. In the course of their Hogsback travels, Terry, Tony and the boys had passed Woodlands Restaurant several times, and it seemed as good a place as any to eat at. The decision to stop at Woodlands was probably the best decision of the day. Terry, Tony and the boys sat outside, in the shade of several massive oak trees. Service was prompt, and friendly. Not just to take our order, but in the delivery time for the meals. Terry, Tony and the boys were surprised at a number of little things. The quality of the meals was excellent. The quantity provided per plate was absolutely sufficient. The condiments basket was delightful. The muffins were fresh. The juices were cold, and tasty.
Well done Woodlands.
After lunch, Terry, Tony and the boys had intended tackling the Swallowtail Falls. Intended. Post-lunch lethargy hit. Hard. It was decided that Swallowtail Falls, the Big Tree and Bridal Veil Falls would have to wait for a return trip.To complete the day’s day trip agenda, Terry, Tony and the boys went to visit St Patrick on the Hill.
This delightful little church, set in a garden type landscape, is built from sandstone, with a thatch roof. Terry, Tony and the boys explored as much of the church as they could, taking many photographs.
In any other setting, St Patrick on the hill would have been just another tiny church. In the magical Hogsback village, St Patrick is a cathedral.
The call of nature dragged Terry, Tony and the boys from St Patrick. A quick visit to the facilities at Woodlands had Terry, Tony and the boys relaxed. As it was still fairly early, and Terry, Tony and the boys had as yet barely scratched at the Hogsback things to do and see scenario, it was agreed that a visit to the eco-shrine would be a good idea. Unfortunately the eco shrine was closed that day. This is not a problem, as Terry, Tony and the boys look forward to again driving down the tree-canopied driveway leading to the eco-shrine.
Back on the road, it was turn left, stay left, until The Edge.
Terry, Tony and the boys made their way to the edge at The Edge, and the Labyrinth, via the delightful restaurant at The Edge. From The Edge’s edge there is a spectacular view of the cliff face on the opposite side of the valley, and the valley further off to the left. The chalets at The Edge all share this wonderful and awesome view.
Approximately 50 metres from the fence that separates the edge and falling down a sheer cliff, is the Labyrinth. Terry and Tony sat. The boys walked the Labyrinth.
In closing. This is so cliche, but so true. It was with reluctance that they had to leave Hogsback, and its awesome gigantic presence, intermingled with its underlying magic.
In arriving at a destination such as this, it is unavoidable to take a part of its magic away with you.
The very action of taking from that magic, results in your having to leave a piece of yourself behind.
To return to.
© copyright Tony Flanigan 2014
written February 2009
Hogsback photos by Terry, Tony, Basti and Zooty, taken in Hogsback in January 2009.