4x4 Vehicles Only

Trip Start Jan 27, 2011
Trip End May 27, 2011

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Where I stayed
Away With The Fairies

Flag of South Africa  , Eastern Cape,
Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blog Feb 27th

This weekend was our first to travel and explore South Africa on our own. The gentlemen of the group decided that we would go hiking in Hogsback, SA for the weekend.  Hogsback is where J.R.R. Tolkein got the inspiration to write the Lord of the Rings when he was a boy.  The area is filled with awesome waterfalls, dense forests, and interesting backpackers.  We crammed 10 guys into two Toyota Corollas that we rented, and we embarked on the four hour drive.  We were following the gps that I rented, and before we knew it, a half hour away from Hogsback, we were driving on an unpaved road.  The road was quite rocky, had large trenches and ruts, and was very steep in some parts.  After a half an hour of struggling on the road, we stopped the cars and decided this couldn't be the right road.  We looked around, there was no one in sight, it was 90 degrees, and the sun was super intense.  We turned around and made our way back to the highway.  We looked at a map and found out the gps made us take a round-about way to get to Hogsback.  In addition, apparently there was a sign that read 4x4 vehicles only.  So we all felt extremely stupid.  Thus we had to backtrack twenty five miles and then turn on a separate road that would take us there.  After a lot of anxiety radiating from the back seat drivers (none of which who could drive a manual) we made it to Hogsback.  The area was filled with lush valleys, rocky mountains, and dense forests.  We made it to our backpacker, "Away with the Fairies" and stretched our legs.  As you can guess from the name of the backpacker, there were some interesting characters about.  We talked to the owner and as she gave us a tour she said, “And here is where you will set up your tents.”  We all looked at each other and finally someone blurted, “Uhhhhh yeah, we don’t have tents… we were staying in the dorms?”  She replied, “These are the dorms.  You booked camping.”  Apparently there was a language barrier between English and English… who knew.  Anyway we managed to sort things out and we got a cottage for the night and were booked at another backpacker for the next night.  We went on a quick hike to see the Swallow Tail Falls and the “Big Tree.”  The hiking was pretty steep both down and up, so us college guys managed to get a pretty good sweat going.  We took pictures and enjoyed the scenery but we decided it was time to head back.

We got back to the backpacker where we sat at the bar to talk with the locals and the employees.  We learned a lot about the area but also the backgrounds of the people there.  We talked the night away over home-made pizza (which was amazing) and black labels (which is the only beer brewed in SA).  When we returned to our cottages we looked at the stars for about a half an hour before we all passed out in our beds.

The next day was much more intense.  We had planned to abseil down the Madonna and Child waterfall.  Estimated at 35-40 meters, it was pretty high and also deep in the woods.  We had to hike about two hours to get there, but there was lots to see on the way.  We hiked a 45 minute section of the hills in about ten, afterwards we were all dying, but we managed to scale the boulders to see the tallest waterfall the area had to offer.  We took pictures and to our surprise met up with a pack of dogs.  We had seen these dogs wander about, and the day before a few of them walked with us, but these dogs were turning out to be our guides rather than followers.  The dogs led us down the river and back onto the trail.  From there they led us through the woods and straight to Madonna and Child.  The falls were spectacular and we sat down and had a quick lunch.

There were 9 of us that planned on abseiling down the falls, so it would take a few hours.  The path to the top was about a quarter mile, but almost always steep and slippery.  We finally made it to the top and the view was awesome!  Unfortunately we all forget to bring our packs and thus our cameras, but I do have some awesome mental pictures!  Luckily there was shade at the top so none of us were fried, but we did have to wait awhile to abseil.  The guides ran through the instructions and before I knew it, it was my turn.  I strapped up and found myself on the edge.  The scariest part was leaning over the edge to begin repelling down.   Luckily I had abseiled before so I wasn’t too scared, but it was intense.  I made my way down, and tried not to indulge in looking at how high I was, instead I looked at the scenery.  Before I knew it, I was at the bottom.  After everyone had abseiled we had to hike back up to the top to get to the truck.  We climbed in the bed of the truck and hustled back to “Away with the Fairies.”  We had to drive to Terra Khaya the other backpacker, and let’s say it was an “interesting drive”.  We barely made it, and this place was in the middle of nowhere.  But when we got out and looked around we understood why it was there.  Terra Khaya is a self sustaining backpacker.  They use solar power for electricity, use wood for heat and cooking, have a nearby river for water, and grow their own crops and raise their own animals.  There were a few things they have to buy locally but it was really cool to see sustainable backpacker.  That night we had Kudu casserole, which is like venison casserole, and it was awesome!  Once again we lounged about, looking at the stars, but we were soon tired.  The dorm that we stayed in was one of a kind.  It was built around a tree, and there were two levels.  I was able to get a bunk on the top level; to get there you had to climb the tree.  I felt a lot like the Swiss Family Robinson.

This morning we headed back to PE, and the drive was much quicker, basically because we didn’t get lost.  We got back and settled back into Langerry.  We all had a blast in Hogsback, but we were very glad to be home.
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