Put 10 keen ‘garden’ ladies on a coach and what do you have – anticipation galore. Excitement was in the air as we boarded our flight to Port Elizabeth at 10:35 on Saturday 30th September. We were all determined to have the greatest time away from the city! On arrival in Port Elizabeth we were met by Bethwell of Van Rensburg Tours who was going to be our driver for the next 6 days.
First stop was Nanaga Farm Stall where the ladies all purchased what this farm stall is famous for – their pies – (most popular being the spinach and feta; followed by a wild boar pie)!
Then it was time to take the road to Hogsback – a long road of 314km – this was made longer by stopping at The Village Farm stall, for tea/coffee, milk tart and a chat! We only arrived in Hogsback at dusk – about 6.20 pm (a cool 5 ½ hours to do 314km!!!) Everyone was tired and this was compounded by an error at check in at our hotel, the Arminel, where the rooms allocated to us where not the ones chosen during our recce trip some 3 months previously! – long story short we all decided to go straight into dinner at 19h00 and then go to our ‘temporary’ rooms, which were welcome at the end of a L.O.N.G day.
Sunday morning dawned and a few ladies had to move rooms but all seemed to have been sorted out and our first stop after breakfast was the Eco Shrine where Diana was waiting to take us on a guided tour of her unique property. We were all thrilled as at the end of our visit the mist disappeared and the famous Hogsback became visible! What a treat to see this famous mountain. The Edge Hotel was our next stop where a few walked the Labyrinth; some just sat and chatted; and enjoyed a light lunch. After this we went onto the Mirrors Gallery & Crystal Corner where Ken greeted us with such warmth. We watched his slide show of his amazing photography and then wandered around his garden which is amazing.
Dinner tonight was at Happy Hogs where a Mongolian Braai had been pre-ordered. A few ladies opted out of cooking their own dinner – as they rightly said, “We’ve come on holiday to get away from cooking”. Anyway, their staff obliged and stepped in and cooked the dinner. It was ended with a delicious chocolate log, which was sublime.
Monday morning and we had an appointment with Carol Neith who took us to see Mistlea, a stunning award-winning rose garden (obviously we were too early to see these in bloom) but the forest on the property and mature azaleas and water features were terrific. Next garden to view was Hurry – so-called by the wife of the property as when they started their garden her husband was always in a “hurry”. A fabulous way to spend a Monday morning.
Lunch today was, once again, at Happy Hogs where pretty soon everyone found ‘just the right, light lunch’!
After lunch we headed up to Trevor Webster who lives with his wife, Ann at Elangeni. Trevor has written several books on Hogsback and enthused with his stories. Ann meanwhile had made a delicious lemon cake and scones with homemade berry jam which were delicious. Trevor’s book is called “The Story of Hogsback” latest edition being printed in 2016. After tea we all went up to St Patrick’s Chapel where very moving stories were told with us all sitting in the pews. Later we went down to the Hogsback Inn and into a room off their bar where superb old photographs are displayed.
By now the ladies were beginning to feel weary so we returned to our hotel and freshened up and out to dinner at the Hog and Hornbill pub where Lana reportedly makes the best fish and chips! The beer battered fish was delicious and with us being the only people in the pub, a good time to chat & chat!
To bed and to dream of quiet, peaceful Hogsback!
Tuesday morning and Ann Webster had volunteered to take us to another very special garden – Hidden Away. This beautifully landscaped, artistic garden also has roses, azaleas and clivias on a bank. The owner’s wife took us all on a walk about – we only had a ½ hour as another group of 26 people were scheduled to arrive and by 10h00 we were out of this little piece of paradise.
We had been warned that rain might be coming on Tuesday afternoon so our visit to Applegarth nursery was changed to 10h30 and on arrival Sandy took us on a walk-about! A full hour in temperatures of 30+ made everyone parched and ready by 12h30 to have a lunch break and something long and cold to drink. We went to Butterly Bistro and a welcome break this was!
A few ladies headed up to the garden of Carol, who had led our tour one day – An artistic cottage garden with beautiful views and herb garden. After this we still had time to spare and we headed up to the Starways Pottery studio. Amazingly this little shop is open to anyone and has a sign “Come in and if you find anything you like – just buy and leave your cash on my cash box in my office” – how long will this work – certainly in a city like we all come from – it would be a no-no!
Dinner tonight was at the Arminel Hotel. A delicious dinner and fortunately all the group were safely in their rooms when the wind came up – with a bit of thunder! At around 9.30 pm the lights went out – meaning that the whole of Hogsback was without power.
Waking up on Wednesday a few of us managed to stretch out the last bit of hot water for a shower and Arminel managed superbly to get us all fed for breakfast!
We visited the garden at Nuttwoods Park – an amazing mature and interesting garden with different ‘rooms’ – wow this was an amazing garden. Weather was closing in and getting quite cool – such a contrast to Tuesday when we had all been sweltering in heat!
We headed to Jikani for a bit of retail therapy and then off to Away with the Fairies Backpacker accommodation where they had a unique bath on a ledge overlooking the most amazing scenery. Wow this blew our breaths away and we were intrigued to meet two lovely looking young girls from Belgium heading off to have a bath on the cliff!
The Arminel Hotel made us lunch – hot soup with delicious sandwiches – they even lit a fire because by now the weather was closing in and becoming cold! We had an appointment with Ian at Amathole Essential Oils and headed up the hill in rain to keep our time – sadly no-one was there, which left us all so disappointed – amazing how people can do this!
Dinner tonight was at Nuttwoods Park where Neil and Atilla host you to a superb 4 course dinner in their beautiful home – what a treat and a fabulous way to end our time in Hogsback.
Thursday morning and we headed to an early breakfast and were on the road by 08h30 to make our way back to PE but this time via the Ecca Pass only 270km…….everyone arrived in Grahamstown for an early lunch, feeling much happier about the shorter road, albeit with a ‘stop-and-g’ situation; although we were very lucky to not have to stop at any – going straight through! A light lunch at Café Delizzia and we arrived at the airport by about 14h00 for our wait for our flight at 16:20 via SA Express – a delightful quick flight back to our home city.
FLOWERS ALWAYS MAKE PEOPLE BETTER, HAPPIER & MORE HELPFUL;
THEY ARE SUNSHINE, FOOD AND MEDICINE FOR THE SOUL
Please excuse the few photos which are in the incorrect orientation. We will correct these.