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NNamed after the three distant ridges of the Amathole range of mountains that resemble the back outlines of running wild pigs, the little town of Hogsback has become an arts and crafts colony, a photographer’s preferred location, a nature lover’s haunt and a honeymoon couple’s top choice of romantic hideaways in the Eastern Cape.
Driving up into the dreamy winter mists of the Amathole Mountains from Alice towards the Eastern Cape village of Hogsback, you find yourself in another realm.
There are numerous theories as to why many people seem to connect South African-born author JRR Tolkien's fantasy world, Middle-earth (the setting of The Lord of the Rings and other works), with this little village deep in the Eastern Cape forests.
SSome say his son was a British air force officer in these parts, and that he sketched scenes from Hogsback and sent them home to his father.
Hogsback, Eastern Cape
IIt doesn't really matter. Within an hour of arriving here, you just know there has to be fairies, trolls, elves and wizards lurking about in these woods. And when you go looking for lodgings, you come across charmingly named places like Arminel, Away with the Fairies, the Eco-Shrine, Camelot, Lothlorien, King's Lodge and Nutwoods.
Like any enchanted forest, the walks are legendary. They vary from easy strolls to longer, more challenging adventures – all usefully graded. It's the custom to buy a walking stick – a traveller's memento – from one of the crafters in the village.
WWhen you visit the Eco-Shrine, greet the angels at the gate, walk the labyrinth and the 400m garden meander called the Fairy Realm, look out for the rare Cape parrot, and feel the magic.
Hogsback was named, it is said, for the three ridges on the Amathole Mountains that resemble the outlines of a hog's back. These mountains are the spiritual domain of the Xhosa people, who call this area Qabimbola (after the red clay from the area they adorn their faces with).
And when the mountain mists clear, you're left with an astounding view of waterfalls, valleys and one of South Africa's most prized forest strongholds.