Hidden away in the Amatola mountains of the Eastern Cape is a marvellous little village called Hogsback. One of the explanations for its name is because it is dominated by three mountains and the rocky ridge of one looks like the bristly back of a warthog. The village is situated in a lush indigenous forest and because its high altitude it is much cooler than the surrounding plains. To call it a village is a misnomer, it is a quaint collection of small bed and breakfast places as well as self- catering cottages. There is no main street with lots of shops, but there are a couple of country stores that sell necessities, and a petrol station and a tea garden, some unusual restaurants and all tucked away from the road somehow. If you weren’t looking out, you’d drive right through Hogsback and wonder when you were going to get there!
The main attraction is the peace and quiet. The enchantment of the forests permeates everything. Some of the names of the places we stayed were in keeping with the rather otherworldly mood: Back o’ the Moon, and Away with the Fairies ( although that name does have connotations of craziness!), Lothlorien, Misty Fell and Merlin Cottage gives you some idea of the atmosphere encompassing Hogsback. We went to a delightful tea-garden on the Saturday morning and there was a young man there who looked so elf-like that I would believe there are fairies and elves living in the forest! He was not a fairy you understand, more like Legolas, ageless and wise, youthful and resilient at the same time. He was sitting with his long legs stretched out and he was prosaically drinking tea in a party of ordinary mortals, but I thought he probably retreated into the emerald shadows of the forest afterwards. I didn’t dare ask for a photograph!
Although the village is almost invisible, there is a great deal to keep you busy there are hikes and drives and just ambling through glorious dappled green caverns armed with camera and binoculars; the birdlife is phenomenal. You set of with the sun shining and towards lunchtime you have to jog back to your cosy cottage before the mist descends and the rain begins, to a build a fire and sip a glass of wine or two and cosy up with a book.
One clear and warm evening, we had a barbecue and later when the stars were out we lay on loungers warmly wrapped against the gathering dew and watched the night sky wheel over us, in all its magnificence. This sight is something we so look forward to when we get out of range of city lights glaring into the sky. Living as we do, in the light-pollution of a big city, one can forget that Up There are unimaginable wonders. I find it a humbling experience to contemplate that ‘The heavens declare the infinite glory of God’. I think city dwellers have lost touch with their Maker because they no longer see this thunderous evidence of his greatness.