Only four to five hours up the road from Nieu Bethesda (the subject of my last few posts) is a similar sacred haven called Hogsback. They are like sister villages, both in the Eastern Cape. Both have extreme weather, both have high altitudes, the difference is that Hogsback is usually covered in mist and has a higher rainfall, and where Nieu Bethesda is surrounded by semi-desert, Hogsback is surrounded by unique indigenous rainforest. (Both are populated by eccentrics, hermits, artists and other earthy yet unworldly types with green fingers and a penchant for peace and quiet.)
I have been lucky enough to travel between the two towns often enough in the last few years. We have made a habit of setting up tours for my husband to perform his music in beautiful places around the Eastern Cape, while on school holidays. In the past several years we have been joined by Jazzy blues singer, Kathy Raven from Joburg. Jamie Jupiter and Kathy Raven have serenaded and entertained the stoic and unsuspecting hermit like locals with their original playful sets and quirky sense of humour and I have enjoyed documenting these events. As a matter of fact, Kathy and Jamie are preparing to go on the road again as we speak, but this time they are doing a circuit along the coast this coming Easter week end in Muizenberg- at “Slow-Life” on Friday the 18th night 8pm, (R75 cover charge) then Perigators in Pringle Bay on Saturday evening 9pm(free), and on Sunday afternoon the are doing a House concert in Hermanus(R70). (Contact me or email@example.com to book.) They will be performing around Cape Town next week end too if you are around. Catch them at Houtbay Market on Friday evening the 25th 6:30pm(free), Saturday 26th at The Alma Cafe in 20 Alma Rd, Rosebank Cape Town 7:30pm (R150 including a meal-booking essential- 021 6857377)
This is a pic I took of Jamie and Kathy performing at the Two Goats Deli (otherwise known as The Brewery) in Nieu Bethesda in December.
But back to the subject of Hogsback. We have been lucky to go on these family tours from Bethesda to Hogsback with Kathy and Brian, to perform their music. In Hogsback we stay and perform at the Starways Arts Centre, which has become a Home from Home. It is amphitheatre built into a circle of live growing trees in the indigenous forest by the legendary potter Anton van der Merwe (whose family originate from Nieu Bethesda) and his wife Gwynneth, who is an opera singer and teaches music at Rhodes University and Fort Hare. They have become like family to us.
Once you have been to Hogsback, you will always want to return. In this rare Afro-montane rainforest, high in the Amathole Mountains, one cannot help but be overwhelmed by the richness and power of the spirit of nature. (And when that happens, it tends to take one on a journey of reconnection with oneself.)
Part of what makes Hogsback so unique is that it is so different from its surroundings. The Amathole Mountains, rise up unexpectedly from the rolling hills of the Ciskei, with its curious cows and tribal villages. The dusty town of Alice- where Nelson Mandela and his comrades studied at Fort Hare University is the last stop, before setting off towards the mountains. As the road climbs, the vegetation becomes lush, monkeys swing from the trees, and bright birds flash between the branches. And when you reach the top of the wet and challenging road, you may find yourself enveloped in mist.
On entering the town the forest is pushed back in places by gardens where Azania’s, wild roses and mossy Greek Goddesses, garden gnomes and other unlikely characters stare stonily from between the leaves.
Of the many artists and crafters who display their works from their homes, (which one has to find along jungle mud- tracks in the hills), my favorites are the alchemical stoneware potters at Starways Art Centre, (more about them in a following instalment, but here’s a pic of their studio to whet your appetite.
And Diana Graham’s Eco-Shrine is amazing. Diana has set a series of oil paintings into the landscape combining sculpture, frieze work and mosaic to frame the beautiful view from her garden. This Site Specific installation is a profound statement of reverence for the earth.
Her series of paintings describe the evolution of life on earth while illustrating the interconnectedness of all cycles of life.
(More about this in an upcoming blog too.)
The labyrinth at the nearby guest- house, named “The Edge” is highly recommended. It’s especially magical on misty days but when it’s clear, the awesome views will catch your breath as the Black Eagles circle above.
And don’t forget to meander through Arboretum- with its sets of waterfalls, fields of lilies and beautiful picnic spaces
If you like horse riding- they do excellent horse trails at Bodi Khaya Backpackers. Each of these are perfect for moving meditation. The kind that allows one to process ones thoughts but remain present and alive in the moment, constantly moving through the landscape and constantly being reminded that all roads lead to home.
Its all so heavenly, you will be devising ways to move there forever.