The Mystical and Misty Mountain Realm of Hogsback (Hectic Route Day 9)

We enter the misty and mystical village of Hogsback and become characters in our own fairy tale on Day 9 of our Johannesburg to Cape Town road trip, the Hectic Route,

Can Fairy Tales Come True?

You know those children's tales about magical, mystical realms that float on top of the clouds? Well, the residents of Hogsback must've been told those stories one time too many as kids.

They dress like extras in The Chronicles of Narnia (…at least the white residents do). They live in fancifully designed hobbit-like abodes with names plucked from fairy tales. And they surround themselves with labyrinths, shrines, crystals, and signs with magic mushrooms all over them.

Basically, they think they live in a land of fairy tales above the clouds.

Crazy, right?

What's crazier is that by the end of our day in Hogsback, we started to believe it too.

Highway heading to Hogsback with clouds and forest ahead
Somewhere in those clouds is Hogsback.

Through the Portal

The first two hours of the drive to Hogsback from Cintsa, the previous stop on our Joburg to Cape Town road trip (a.k.a. the Hectic Route) was unexceptional—semi-arid hills pocked with rustic rondavels, goats, and cows.

But then we hit the mountain and plunged straight into a dense tunnel of thick green vegetation, then into the mist, the paved road turned to gravel and then we entered Hogsback, a tiny one-road hamlet of apparently 1,000 residents.

Hogsback is completely unlike any other town we'd seen in South Africa so far.

Or anywhere, for that matter.

It was as if we'd gone through a portal to a whole new realm.

Highway going through tunnel of trees
One minute we were in a desert. The next, we were in a verdant tunnel.
Guys walking along misty road
As we got closer, the paved road became dirt and the the mist got thicker.
Hogsback Inn Entrance
Most of the buildings in Hogsback would be ideal settings for filming a fairytale.

A Curious Place

Following the guidance of the helpful lady at Hogsback's tourist info office, we spent what remained of our morning exploring the nooks and crannies of the village.

At Crystal Corner we wandered around its exotic gardens and wondered what sort of rituals the people here might practice in the mini-Stonehenge-like rock circle.

Then at The Edge, a cliffside retreat where there was no edge to be seen because of the dense mist, we rambled around the labyrinth, popped into the local curio shop to buy some locally-made goods, and ate lunch at the restaurant, the highlight of which was the white chocolate poppyseed cake.

Everywhere we went, troupes of Samango monkeys kept an eye on us from high up in the trees around us and dozens of millipedes the size of fountain pens crossed our paths.

We started to wonder if there really was something mystical about Hogsback.

Misty dirt road towards Crystal Corner
The road to Crystal Corner
Mystical tree at Crystal Corner's gardens
The Wishing Tree at Crystal Gardens in Hogsback.
The Labyrinth at the Edge
The labyrinth at the Edge, yet another strange place of ritual in Hogsback.
Close-up of a millipede
When dozens of black millipedes like this cross your path, is that a sign?

Waterfalls, Woods, Loeries, and Parrots

Following lunch, we decided to go fairy and gnome hunting go for a hike.

Confused by the hand-drawn, not-to-scale map the otherwise helpful lady at the town tourism office had given us, we made the wise decision to park at (a popular place to stay in Hogsback, particularly with the party-oriented Baz Bus crowd) and get directions from them.

Setting off from the hostel, we followed the well-marked trail along a two-hour, three-waterfall hike they recommended.

The hike wasn't as spectacular as others we'd done earlier on our road trip at Cathedral Peak and the Wild Coast and the highlights—the Big Tree, an 800-year-old yellowwood, and Swallow Tail, Bridal Veil, and Madonna and Child waterfalls—were somewhat underwhelming (maybe they'd be nicer in the sun with more water), but it was a pleasant, gentle hike nonetheless.

Highlights for us included finding some cool mushrooms along the trail (maybe they're behind the "mystical" way people act here…) and distinctly hearing and faintly seeing some Knysna louries and Cape parrots in the treetops. The tropical-looking birds felt out of place in such a cool and temperate environment (we were told it can snow just about any time of year!), but we'd started to believe anything's possible in Hogsback.

Hiking trail marker in Hogsback
Swallow Tail waterfalls
Swallow Tail is the first waterfall we passed on our hike.
Kim below Bridal Falls in Hogsback
Bridal Falls, the second waterfall on the hike.
Chris looking up at Madonna and Child falls
Madonna and Child, the nicest and final of the three waterfalls on our hike.
Mushrooms along our hike in Hogsback
I bet if you ate these you might start really living in a fairy tale.
A fungus along our hike in Hogsback
Kim hiking in Hogsback

Off the Grid

When we read Terra-Khaya Eco Lodge describe itself as being "a home for happy wanderers, adventurers, freethinkers, nature lovers, spiritual beings and the open-minded," we worried the place might be a bit too hippy for us.

But we liked the idea of it being totally off-the-grid, eco-friendly, and, of course, unconventional, so we checked it out.

We loved it.

Set on a large property with horses, gardens, and streams, Terra Khaya has one architecturally-impressive and fairy-tale-worthy main building and a bunch of individual cabins and structures scattered around.

We stayed in one of these private cabins. For 425 rands ($30 US) a night, it was a fantastic deal.

So was the buffet dinner, which cost 95 rands each. The flavor wasn't out of this world, but the ingredients were fresh and healthy and the fireside, candle-lit ambiance certainly enhanced the experience.

By the time we cleaned up in the wood-fire heated outdoor showers and settled down to bed in our single-kerosine lamp lit shack, our initial skepticism about Hogsback's mysticalness had completely evaporated.

We might not fully believe in fairies or want to dress up like hobbits just yet, but we're certainly open to the idea of coming back for a longer stay.

Truck at entrance of Terra Khaya

Kim walking towards Terra Khaya Eco Lodge's main building
The main building of Terra Khaya Eco Lodge
Funky interior of Terra Khaya
Dogs at Terra Khaya
Dogs chilling out in front
Chris in his room at Terra Khaya
Chilling in our private bungalow.
Dinner at Terra Khaya
Communal dinner at Terra Khaya

Lamp in our cabin at Terra Khaya

Quick Tips for Visiting Hogsback

  • Bring binoculars if you can. Take them with you on whatever hike you do to get a better look at the birds and monkeys.
  • Stay at Terra Khaya. The rooms may not have electricity but we'd highly recommend Terra Khaya. You can charge your phones and laptops in the main building.
  • If you do the three waterfall hike, park your car at Away With the Fairies (much safer than leaving it on its own on the side of the road), do the hike one way, and hitch a ride back on a shared taxi because the walk along the road is long and mostly unpleasant.
  • Bring warm clothes. Really warm clothes. Hogsback residents told us it can snow (!!!) at just about any time of the year.

Next Up (Hectic Route Day 10):
A Day in the South African Wild West

Karoo desert skull and mountain

How to Have an Even Better South Africa Road Trip than Ours

South Africa Road Trip Planning tips cover image of a sign saying bon voyage in xhosa
"Hamba kakuhle" means "bon voyage" in Xhosa.

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