The Great South African Escape Tour - Part 5...

“All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes, a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.”

-JRR Tolkien

In the next part of our Great South African Escape 4x4 tour, we bid farewell to Rhodes, Elizma and the Rubicon and make our way towards Hogsback!

4x4, Land Rover Discovery, Rhodes, Barkley East, Gravel Road, adventure, off-road adventure, gravel travel

Leaving Rhodes we have approximately 70kms of amazing 4x4 gravel road winding through valleys of the Eastern Cape Highlands while driving alongside the Sterkspriut River. We get back onto the tar road near the Mountain Shadows Hotel and head towards Elliot via the Barkley Pass. This tarred pass has a few sharp hairpin bends and it reaches an elevation of 2018 meters at the summit. The pass is named after Henry Barkly who was governor of the Cape from 26 November 1863 to 4 June 1870.

Our refuelling stop will be at the Caltex garage in Elliot, on the edge of town. We then turn towards Ngcobo and over the Satansnek Pass (1400m), making our way to Cofimvaba.

Sheep, Sheep herder, gravel road, Xhosa woman

A few kilometres outside Cofimvaba we get back onto the gravel. The road we are travelling on heads towards Cathcart. In places, it turns to twin-track and evokes the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere. The scenery makes really great back-drops for photos with your 4x4! We will stop a lot to take in the beauty of our country.

Rhodes, Barkley East, Sheep herder, mountain, 4x4 travel, off-road travel

After a coffee stop in Cathcart, we head towards Hogsback on some beautiful 4x4 back roads. Hidden away in a remote little nook in the Amatola Mountains we find this intriguing little town surrounded by spectacular Afromontane forests. There are two legends about how the village got its name: Hogsback was taken either from Captain Hogg of the British army based here in the 1880′s, or more likely, from the shape of the 3 mountains which overlook the village. These stunning mountains are topped by rocky ridges that resemble the bristles on a hog’s back.

Hogsback, the edge, mountain, boulder, lodge, mountain lodge, cottage, hotel

Species of bamboo and butterflies - which are found nowhere else in the world - call these mighty mountains home. Mosses such as Old Man's Beard, as well as many other fragile species - too sensitive to live in areas with air pollution - grow in these parts.

Some people are of the opinion that JRR Tolkien got his inspiration for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings following visits to this fantasy land as a child. We don't know if that's true, but he definitely is connected to the village in two intriguing ways; His Xhosa nanny grew up here. As the story goes; she shared scary legends of fantastical creatures and beasts - such as a flying snake that lived in the Hog Three Mountain - with him! His son Christopher was also stationed in the nearby Queenstown during his service with the RAF and would visit Hogsback regularly. It is said that he would draw pictures of the mountains and forests; waterfalls and flowers and send it to his dad.

This little village - filled with magic and mystery - has it's own local craft beer brewery called the Hogsback Brewing Co and they do a really amazing pale ale. If you would like to get in touch with some ancestral inspiration, you can also visit the Eco Shrine art installation Created by Diana Graham. Ask your SA Adventure guide for more information. If you need to refuel your 4x4, please do so in the village so that we don’t have to do it in the morning, there is only one fuel pump in Hogsback!

Amatole, Afromontane, Forest, mushrooms, fairies, moss, Old Man's beard moss, JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Hobbiton, Middle Earth

Our accommodation for the evening is at The Edge Mountain Retreat. Surrounded by cliffs, dramatic views and unspoiled indigenous Afromontane forest with fascinating swirling mists and cloud formations, The Edge has a range of self-catering cottages (some perched on the edge of the cliff) and bed-and-breakfast rooms, a restaurant and cosy a bar, all in a beautiful tranquil garden setting. You can expect a scrumptious home-cooked meal, and some of the best craft beers on tap served at the Edge's restaurant and bar.

Great Dane, The Edge Restaurant, Craft Beer,  Beer on tap, Rustic, Eclectic

On your way to the restaurant, listen out for the beautiful call of Knysna Louries and then - as you make your way back to your cottage after dinner - keep your eyes peeled for fireflies! Enchanted Hogsback will transport your senses and imagination, and the fresh air and sounds of the nocturnal creatures in the surrounding forest will ensure a wonderful night's rest.

Gardens, The Edge Gardens, cliffs, dramatic views and unspoiled indigenous forests

Join us on our next adventure blog when we make our way through the Karoo to the magnificent Gariep dam!

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Stay Safe, Big Love, the SA Adventure Team!

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