Xhosa, The Transkei and Coffee Bay.

Tucked in cozy nook in the Amathole Mountains, Hogsback and the surrounding old growth forest, waterfalls and the canopy and odd shaped twists, turns and hanging strands of foliage and tree branches apparently was the inspiration for South African-born J.R. Tolkien and his wildly popular series of Fantasy books including The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. The scenic views of mountains, meadows, valleys and waterfalls along with the miles of hiking trails through the surrounding forest makes Hogsback perhaps the most beautiful and quiet village on the Eastern Cape. Barely commercialized yet populated with a few dozen guest houses, B&Bs, country inn/hotels and a couple backpackers, I chose to take residence in yet another dormitory at Away With The Ferries Backpackers. With basic accommodations, a beautiful garden and amazing lookout point, my time in Hogsback was brief but fulfilling.

Making my way to the mountain hamlet of Hogsback the photos below follow my route:

Dirt Road2Hogsback

Valley Ugieagain

Hogsback2Coffeebay Scene

Hogsback View
The view from Hogsback.

Hogsback Flower

Venturing back toward the coast, I was eager to explore what the South African tourist marketing and branding clan have dubbed The Wild Coast. Rugged cliffs tumble into a rough sea which is known to toss and wreck ships, yet gentle coves and sandy beaches offer some of the best surfing and swimming in South Africa. Stretching for about 200 miles from East London to Port St. John, the Wild Coast is located in what is referred to as the “transkei”, an apartheid-era name given to the area which at one time was the most impoverished and crime-ridden regions of the country. But the ‘transkei’ I discovered after taking about 50 miles of dirt roads from Hogsback and following the mountains in the foothills I entered the “transkei” where it butts up against the mountains that stretch northward toward the island nation of Lesotho.

Valley Ugie
Valley as I started climbing toward Hogsback. This was the first place I noticed these round houses.

Township Architecture

Stopping near Eliot I was again blown away by the lack of some sort of urban planning in these generic townships. But that’s me, the boys that greeted me as I stopped along the road were eager to try a few words of English and to smile for my camera.

Township Boyz

Taking a route from Queenstown north to Dordecht to Endwe, Eliot Ugie and finally in Maclear riding south toward Mthatha and then to the coast to Coffee Bay. It was about in the area of Ugie that I first spotted the colorful round houses that distinguish the homes of the friendly Xhosa people. The language that shares the same name is a wild tongue of clicks and hisses. The people live very simple lives living off the land with the barest of necessities. Walking the roads in colorful dresses, sometimes with their black faces chalked white and sporting a colorful wrapped headdress which holds the women’s hair, the Xhosa people are the first I’ve encountered that make me feel as if I’m in Africa.

Stopping along the road where I had to test my riding acumen avoiding the intense mine-field of potholes while hard-breaking as sheep, goats and cattle cross the road seemingly on a whim, I tried to have a conversation with an elderly gentleman sporting a stick used to keep his cattle in line. Unfortunately we spoke different languages yet still managed to have a conversation as I gazed into a bright green valley dotted with these colorful houses. So beautiful, so primitive and yet so intoxicatingly scenic.

Xhosa Man Doc
This Xhosa man spoke no English, yet me managed to have a complete conversation about how beautiful I found the place he lived.

Transkei Roundhouse

Xhosa Valley Wild Coast
Coffee Bay1
Coffee Bay looking down on Bonvu Paradise.

Coffee Bay3
The beach at Coffee Bay.

It took me more than an hour to ride the forty some-odd miles from the N2 to the tiny town of Coffee Bay where I found the friendly staff at Bonvu Paradise welcome me with a generous portion of Malay Chicken Curry, a room for $12 and a vibrant pub. With dorm rooms, camping just a stones throw to the beach, private rooms, kitchen, outdoor fire pits and tropical vegetation, I settled in and successfully wrote myself current with this blog while listening to the local music band jam on their drums. Here at Bonvu there’s a drum factory. The band, headed by Bonvu owner, will participate in the opening ceremonies for the World Cup (Football) in 2010 to be held in Cape Town – something the country and that city are eagerly awaiting — they’re even building a new stadium.

The pub at Bomvu Paradise.

Ahhh. To be free of stress. To be sipping a Windhoek Lager and relish knowing that I am now current. Ahhh. But the photo work has yet to be done.