Sunday, October 14, 2007

South Africa: Away With The Fairies

Leaving the coast, we headed inland toward Hogsback, which had reached mythic status in our heads as the home of the Away with the Fairies backpacker lodge. Every guidebook raved about the beauty of the region, but we had met few people who had actually gone there.

The region makes big news of the fact that J.R.Tolkien vacationed there with his family, and many believe that it was the inspiration for the natural landscape in the Lord of the Rings. As such, everything is named Hobbit Hollow real estate or Lothlorien pub-n-grub or Middle Earth nursery. And, indeed, the setting absolutely lives up to the hype---it´s beautiful, lush, and resplendent with waterfalls. The only problem is that Tolkien was only three years old when he was on holiday here. Oh well...
Despite all that, we checked into our Hobbit House hut that we shared with some charming Londoners, and head out to enjoy the riches of Hogsback. Gorgeous hiking, the highest and scariest tree-house we´ve ever seen (Kathleen white-knuckled it the whole time), and the Rugby World Cup Semi-Finals (England vs. France). Admittedly, we know nothing about rugby, but it was cool to be in a place where folks were rabid with national pride. Some ex-pat Brits were sporting flags shaved into their heads and God Save the Queen hotpants, while the South Africans were pouring Springbok shots (Amarula and mint liquor) and the French were knashing their jaws.

On one hike, we ended up under an amazing waterfall, where some locals convinced us we had to swing and scoot behind the waterfall to look through it. This picture of Eric being helped in the process cracks us up, because it looks like an add for a San Francisco bathhouse or something.

On an entirely different note, one thought that came to mind in Hogsback was the notable lack of children compared to our East African adventures. We had become so accustomed to kids (especially under the age of 5) being everywhere we looked, running out to say hi, grabbing our hands, and playing in the streets. Not that this was necessarily a good thing for Eastern Africa, as large families in the face of looming poverty are a recipe for disaster. But it was interesting to note that the face of South Africa seemed so much more like home.

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