The Magical Village of Hugel-Bugel

Part 2 of a 3-part series about the Cederberg Heritage Route. Read Part 1 here and Part 3 here.

When I left off at the end of my previous post, my two friends and I had just arrived via donkey cart in Heuningvlei, a traditional farming village in the Cederberg Wilderness Area. We were welcomed by three adorable children.

You met the boy on the left in my previous post.

I’m sort of at a loss on how to describe Heuningvlei. First, I’m incapable of pronouncing the word, which means ‘honey lake’ or ‘honey swamp’ in Afrikaans. It’s pronounced something like ‘HYEN-ing-fly’ but that’s not quite right. My friend Michelle (a fellow American non-Afrikaans speaker) christened the village ‘Hugel-Bugel’ and the name stuck.

Hugel-Bugel, which is home to about 25 families living in white-washed houses, was founded nearly two centuries ago by the Ockhuis family — descendants of Dutch settlers who intermarried with indigenous South Africans. The Ockhuises eventually sold their ownership rights to the German Rhenish Missionary Society. Today, Hugel-Bugel is an outpost of the Moravian Mission based at the nearby town of Wupperthal. Make sense? I thought not. But don’t worry, you don’t need to understand the complicated history to see that Hugel-Bugel is a freakin’ cool place to visit.

Ladies of Hugel-Bugel.

Nina romps with the children of Hugel-Bugel. The older kids go to boarding school in Wupperthal so we only met the little ones.

A few minutes after we arrived we met Isaac, one of the Hugel-Bugel elders. He showed us to our guest house, which is called ‘the School House’. Apparently it was the village school a long time ago, but more recently it was the home of a woman named Anna and her family. Anna is elderly now and moved to a nearby town to live with one of her children.

When we walked into the house, it felt like Anna had just left a few moments ago.

A store room adjacent to the kitchen in Anna’s house. Not all the houses in Hugel-Bugel have indoor running water, so I suspect the community might share Anna’s kitchen for various purposes.

The house is filled with hand-made knick-knacks like this.

Isaac chatted with us for a few minutes then left us to settle in. After choosing our beds for the night (there were lots to choose from — Anna must have lots of kids), we went out to explore the village.

It was quiet and there weren’t many people around, perhaps because it was near dinnertime. We snapped photos of the bucolic scenery, enjoying the afternoon light.

Pretty sheep.

I can’t think of an appropriate caption for this photo.

Suddenly we were engulfed by a stampede of donkeys and sheep, who run free in Hugel-Bugel. I guess it was their dinnertime too.

Hungry donkeys and sheep stampede through the village. We loved this. 

At 6:30 we reunited with Isaac. He walked us over to Daleen’s house, where we would have dinner.


Daleen, one of the village matriarchs, is in charge of tourism in Hugel-Bugel. She welcomed us warmly. Daleen had an endearing habit of chattering to us in Afrikaans, then catching herself and translating what she just said into English.

We had a feast of fried chicken (best I’ve ever tasted), sweet potatoes, beets, and an interesting (but strange) salad made of beans, bananas, and mayonnaise. I made the mistake of feeding a chicken scrap to Daleen’s cute cat, who had no name. Thus encouraged, he became a ferocious lion, howling and sinking his claws into my leg, to the amusement of my friends. Daleen scooped him up in a huff and banished him outside.

I got a nice pic of Cat-With-No-Name at breakfast the next morning. Can you see the evil in his eyes?

We had make-your-own trifle for dessert — a bowl of custard, a bowl of red jello (called jelly here), and a bowl of canned pears, which we assembled into individual trifles. I’m really sorry I didn’t get a picture of those. Trifle, along with grated-cheese-and-butter sandwiches, seem to be staple foods of the Cederberg.

I didn’t get any good pictures of Daleen or the food she cooked us. It was too dark inside. But I did get a nice shot of her house, which is set a bit apart from the rest of Hugel-Bugel.

Stomachs filled, we walked, shivering, back to Anna’s house. It gets really cold in Hugel-Bugel on summer evenings. I wanted to go outside and look at the stars, but instead the three of us brushed our teeth, burrowed into our beds, and slept like dead people.

End of Part 2. In Part 3, the finale, I will tell you about our big hike across Krakadouw Pass.

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  • Reply Kathryn McCullough November 3, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    What a charming place, Heather. I especially love your “I can’t think of a caption for this photo” caption. Looking forward to the next installment.

    • Reply 2summers November 4, 2011 at 9:45 am

      Thanks Kathy! Really, what can you say other than “Here is a fluorescent pink teddy bear and a pair of sneakers on a washing line.” And that would just be stating the obvious. I mean, this is Hugel-Bugel we’re talking about. Of course there’s a florescent pink teddy on the washing line. Makes perfect sense!

  • Reply Jeroen November 3, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Evil-Cat looks like a Parlotones bandmember.

    • Reply 2summers November 4, 2011 at 9:43 am

      I’m ashamed to say I have no idea what any of the Parlotones look like. (Or sound like. I’m horrible)

  • Reply eremophila November 4, 2011 at 1:02 am

    Grins at picture of washing line:-) Sadly I can’t think of anything worthy of such a great shot……
    Love this trip off the beaten path:-)

    • Reply 2summers November 4, 2011 at 9:42 am

      Yeah, that washing line was awesome. I have to credit my friend Michelle for spotting it — I nearly walked right past.

  • Reply greenfizzpops November 4, 2011 at 6:20 am

    That’s an interesting challenge. I’ll bite 🙂

    HERE-ning-flay – where the i in ning is flat (like an eh)

    • Reply 2summers November 4, 2011 at 9:41 am

      I’m sure that’s a better attempt than any of mine! Seriously, I asked about 5 different people to pronounce it for me and never got close to getting it right.

  • Reply miadidthis November 4, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Oh I love this. Enchanting! What an amazing country we have – there are just so many little strange places to discover. Love it. And the photo of the teddy bear and shoes on the washing line is just priceless.

  • Reply Catherine November 4, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Hi, 2summers, I haven’t been in touch for a while but do know that I look forward to your posts every week and always enjoy them…thanks for allowing me to escape from my much more boring than yours everyday life and for giving me ideas for future trips…this is definitely one we will take!please keep on exploring this amazing country …best regards,

    • Reply 2summers November 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm

      Thank you very much, Catherine! I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts. And do try out the Cederberg Heritage Route — it’s a totally unique experience, as you can obviously tell.

  • Reply amblerangel November 6, 2011 at 1:09 am

    I truly laughed at the donkey and sheep stampede. Hilarious! The description and the picture.

    • Reply 2summers November 6, 2011 at 8:30 pm

      I’m glad you appreciated that. It was funnier in person, believe me.

  • Reply Fidel November 6, 2011 at 9:30 am

    I love the photo of the stuffed animal hanging out to dry.
    Good luck in the SA Blog voting!

    • Reply 2summers November 6, 2011 at 8:28 pm

      Thanks Fidel. Funny how sometimes the most random photos are the ones people respond to the most. Glad everyone likes that shot.

  • Reply Jenna November 6, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Hi Heather,

    I’m so glad that I finally found my way to your blog! Martina told me about it a last weekend at breakfast and ever since I have been meaning look it up 🙂
    I’m also an America living in Joburg, and have been in SA since Jan 2008. I love it here with all of the diversity and beautiful scenery, but do miss some things from home (obviously!). Hope to keep in touch and maybe meet up in person one of these days – your photos are really amazing!


    • Reply 2summers November 6, 2011 at 8:18 pm

      Thanks so much Jenna, and welcome to my blog. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying it. I hope we cross paths soon!

  • Reply joshimukard November 7, 2011 at 11:40 am

    Very nice pics. I liked the ‘Pretty sheep’ one, the one below that without a caption, the Cat and the last one.

    • Reply 2summers November 7, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      Thanks Joshi. Everyone likes the one without a caption! I’m glad I decided to use that.

  • Reply Owls November 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm


  • Reply namratainberlin November 8, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    the light in the ‘pretty sheep’ pic is unbelievable!

    • Reply 2summers November 8, 2011 at 10:36 pm

      I know seriously. The light was magical in Hugel-Bugel.

  • Reply Stephanie November 8, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Great pictures and what a wonderful opportunity you had to go there. Looks like a magical trip and I second the other reader’s on the sheep and clothesline pics. Amazing!

    • Reply 2summers November 8, 2011 at 10:36 pm

      Thank you Stephanie, and thanks for reading!

  • Reply Patrick Ockhuis April 18, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Heuningvlei is very beautiful, I am proud of my birth place, Patrick Ockhuis van Antie Lise

    • Reply 2summers April 18, 2012 at 8:07 pm

      Thanks so much for commenting Patrick. You have every reason to be proud. A beautiful place indeed.

  • Reply Nyain June 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    I’m sitting here in India, miles away from home and missing SA a lot. Whenever I feel homesick, your blog always transports me back. Brilliant writing, I love your pieces on JHB too. Can’t wait til I get back in Jan!

    • Reply 2summers June 23, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      Thanks so much, I’m very glad my blog helps you to remember home. And I’m glad you’re coming back soon!

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