TILLIETUDLEM, 4 August 2013

Report and photos courtesy of Penny Purchase (Hike leader)

Tillietudlem is an exclusive trout and game farm with an old colonial home, tastefully restored, and a self- catering lodge overlooking a waterfall. It's situated in a remote valley off the Dargle Valley on the south side of Inhluzane. It was a finalist in the AA Excellence Awards in 2011.

This was a new hike and what a wonderful hike it turned out to be. It was "Hiking de Luxe" with our own personal guide, gentle rolling hills to climb, sightings of game, beautiful dams, a magnificent herd of Nguni cattle to view and we had a crisp, clear, sunny winter day. To top all this, at the end of the hike, we were served the most delicious lunch on the verandah of the 105 year old colonial house.

We were welcomed by the young managers of the estate, Kirsten and Gareth Alcock and baby Donovan. Matthew Haden, who manages the game farm, was our enthusiastic guide. There were 16 of us including 2 visitors from Mtunzini and one new hiker recently arrived from the UK. Also accompanying us were 2 trainee game rangers, who work on the farm. Matthew led us on an easy leisurely hike over about 10 kms of undulating brown grassland hills, commenting on the early farming practices of the Scottish settlers, the current farming plans and conservation efforts and pointing out game. We saw eland, blue wildebeest, zebra, blesbok, waterbuck and amazingly 2 fallow deer, brought in by the early Scottish farmers. We crossed several rivers and went past a small waterfall with an enticing pool …. enticing on a summer hike! Marlise's glasses fell out of her pocket and one of the rangers tracked them down. What a relief. Around the dam near the house we saw 2 spoonbills, a fish eagle, a secretary bird and cormorants. This was the first hike on the farm which Matthew had led and he was an entertaining guide.

Pic 1: Hiking group
Pic 2: Crossing a small river
Pic 3: Following a vehicle track is easier
Pic 4: Slow climb up a hill
Pic 5: Gazanias in burnt veld

Pic 6: The two rangers enjoying their snacks
Pic 7: The Pepperrells enjoying the snack stop
Pic 8: Snack time for Carolee, Annie, Felicity and Allistair
Pic 9: Moraea
Pic 10: Down to another river
Pic 11: Twinkling waterfall, lovely bumslide and an enticing pool
Pic 12: Some are twitchers and some are talkers

One of the highlights of the hike was mingling amongst the magnificent breeding herd of Nguni cattle which the game farm runs. We met Tusk, the handsome bull and king of the castle, or should I say, king of his concubines. We saw many of his offspring, endearing calves with names like Angelina and Savannah. These gentle, sociable creatures with their beautiful markings, looked at us curiously as we moved amongst them. It was a treat to view them so close up.

Pic 13 & 14: Mother and calf
Pic 15: Uncertain little black calf in the herd
Pic 16: Tusk, the Magnificent Bull King
Pic 17: Nguni tapestry
Pic 18: Mother and calf
Pic 19: Joan and Christie with the herd

Hunger had set in after 4 hours in the outdoors. The next treat was the nourishing meal which Bronwyn, Matt's fiancee, prepared for us - steaming leek and potato soup and crusty homemade rolls followed by malva pudding and custard. We enjoyed this lunch on the long side verandah of the old colonial home. Coffee and tea were enjoyed in the lounge overlooking the trout dam. Splendid value for R60 a head.

We said our grateful farewells to the charming young hosts of this old established colonial estate. This was also a first for them having a hiking group and we all agreed that it was first class too! Join the queue for the next hike to Tillietudlem. Once in a while, it's great to have a touch of luxury while hiking.

Pic 20: Delicious lunch served on the verandah of the old colonial home
Pic 21: Old colonial home with Joan and hosts, Gareth and Matthew
Pic 22: Eland