The Amatolas 

Amatola (meaning the place of many young calves) is so called because her beautiful glades and forests were ideal for rearing cattle.  Often referred to as well as the Restless Frontier, this area was the scene of many of the battles of the Frontier Wars.  Towns and villages like King Williams Town (named after the reigning monarch William IV) Seymour, Fort Beaufort, Alice (named after one of Queen Victoria’s daughter’s) and Keiskammahoek all feature Forts dating back to that time. Rich in historical evidence of the struggles of the Xhosa people against the British settlers, the area is also now well known for the wonderful walking and hiking trails in the Amatola Mountain range.   

Here the village of Hogsback, sitting on the edge of the Amatola escarpment is a magnet for visitors with its magical swirling mists, English country gardens, and its many forested walking trails.   The village appeals to folk who enjoy an alternative lifestyle – away from the harsh reality of the country at large.  Artists, potters, poets, musicians all thrive in the beauty and tranquility of the village and its surrounds and their talents are much in evidence.  It’s good birding country too, with the Cape Parrot, which feeds, breeds and roots in the Yellowwood Forests a particular attraction.  Scenic waterfalls, dark mountain pools, and views that stretch out far into the distance are the hallmarks of a stay in Hogsback.   Every year they have a Christmas in July Festival – a family weekend of fun and laughter and sometimes some snow, and then in the Spring they open their Gardens and their talents to the world…..something not to be missed.  

The University of Fort Hare in the little town of Alice on the main R63 route (just before you turn off to Hogsback) is the alma mater of many an African leader including our own Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and the late Seretse Khama of Botswana. For those interested in viewing a fine collection of the works of many black contemporary South African Artists – this is the place to do so.  

For the very adventurous or serious walker the Amatola Hiking Trail (starting just outside King Willam's Town and ending near Hogsback) is one of South Africa’s finest, but is considered tough even by regular hikers.  The full 106km is completed over 6 days and 5 nights with an average of 8-9 hours of walking a day.   Weather conditions are unpredictable with a heatwave, heavy rain, snow and gales possible all in one 24 hour period but the beauty of the forests, the waterfalls, the flora and the fauna make it an memorable, if tough experience.