Daring to start a new life beneath the falls


Leigh Smith wanted a fresh start. She’d just gone through a divorce and craved a complete change of scenery. So Smith packed her bags and headed in the direction of Hogsback. People come and go in the small Eastern Cape village, filled with tales of myth and magic. But when Smith saw Hogrock Falls, one of 27 waterfalls in the area, she knew she couldn’t leave. She didn’t think that such beauty even existed. “I was awestruck,” Smith says.

The artist found a place to spend the rest of her life among the sound of running water and warm sunshine that pierces through the trees. “No telephone lines, no houses, it’s just wild,” she says. With the help of locals, Smith designed and hand-built a place to call home. Three years later, it still brings her joy. “Walking onto this property, there’s such an incredible energy here,” Smith says. “It’s a place of rejuvenation that you want to explore.” To share that feeling with others, she built two more cottages near the waterfall. Now, people can stay and experience the enchantment of Hogsback for themselves. The town’s attractions lie in the natural, and to some, supernatural. Visitors can meditate at the labyrinth overlooking a valley, visit the Instagram-famous bath at the edge of a cliff, and hike through the forests. Others keep a keen eye out for fairies, which only a few have claimed to see.

For Smith, it’s the simple things. “I love to go and just sit, put my feet in the water and look up at the trees,” she says. Here, there’s no pressure to do anything. Just be. “It’s a place of calm and rest,” Smith says. “It brings about a tranquility, peace, and fluidity of moving through life.” At Hogrock Falls, she is constantly reminded that we are not bound to where we are. South Africa is full of places to see and new lives to live, if we just dare to explore.