Date: 17 March 2019
Leader: Penny Purchase
Report courtesy: Penny Purchase

[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]

Tillietudlem is a game and trout farm in the far reaches of the Dargle Valley. There are 2 access points to this rather remote settlement: one is along the Dargle Valley road past Everglades and on to a very rough dirt road, requiring robust 4X4s. We chose the other route, on the Boston road. 7kms after Boston, we turned right on to the tarred Impendle road. After 7 kms we met Bazil Roth, the farm manager, at the south gate of the farm. A good dirt road led us to Hleka Manzi Lodge, the fishermen's cottage. There we were joined by Kostya and Patricia, who'd taken the route their GPS took them on but the much rougher road. We were a big group of 22 eager hikers: Lindy Anne, Sue and Stuart Saville, Cathy and Alistair Nixon, Carolee Thompson, Katy Hart, Charlie Guiot, Sue Rowley, Pete Comrie, Daryl Jacobs, Amy Jacobs, Gill Plummer, Erica and Clive Rossam, Anita Cohen, Frances Chisholm, Linda Bruss, Eric Essenwein, Kostya and Patricia., and myself, Penny. Regretably, I had to turn 2 people away as the group was too big and they applied too late. Visitor, Patricia decided not to hike as her shoe wear was inadequate for rough ground.

Bazil was an amazing guide. He told us about the farm and that his boss, Chris Wilkinson, has a passion for conservation. The farm is in the mountain mistbelt grasslands eco system, which is a threatened eco system. There is plenty of game and a large herd of breeding Ngunis. They are clearing the farm of wattle and aliens to bring it back to its former condition when the early Scottish settlers, the Ogram family, came to the area in the 1860s.

It was a slow, steady hike with Bazil stopping often to explain a point. He is an acredited tour guide and has a love of the environment. We spotted a fish eagle, a secretary bird, 2 cranes in flight and a jackal buzzard. We saw herds of zebra careering down the hills and herds of blue wildebeest and eland in the distance. We encountered a juvenile puffadder and Bazil quizzed us on the difference between a poisonous animal and a venomous one( poisonous ruins your insides and a venomous one attacks from the outside) Bazil pointed out the tiny creatures we encountered too. We saw a green caterpillar with insect eggs on its back. Bazil explained the life cycle of this parasitic fly. He showed us the remains of the millipedes, which a scorpion had feasted on near its burrow. We came across the skull and horns of a blue wildebeest, which Carolee wanted to take home as a trophy on the bonnet of her car! Walking back along the dam wall, we viewed the the Ogram Country House, the old colonial farmhouse, built by the Ogram family from Scotland, now a comfortable guest lodge.

One of the most memorable experiences of the hike, was mingling amongst the herd of curious, placid and sociable Ngunis. We enjoyed them and they seemed to enjoy us! Beautiful animals, spectacular hides, gleaming in the sun. Bazil was justifiably proud of his breeding herd, some of the Ngunis he had hand reared. He informed us about his anti-poaching techniques.

Back at the fisherman's lodge, we were very ready for the feast of cream scones, marmite scones, tea and filter coffee laid out for us. For R50 a head, it was a most generous spread. Thank you, Tillietudlem.

Refreshed, some of the hikers explored the fast flowing river alongside the lodge. Some, like Charlie and Kostya and Carolee swam in the cool water, while Linda, Daryl and Amy had a hilarious time under the small frothy waterfall, fully clothed, but wet and wild! Yet others, enjoyed relaxing on the spacious deck of the lodge.

It was a wonderful day in our beautiful Midlands, with so many outstanding elements - Bazil being a superbly informative guide, the picturesque environment, the gentle terrain, the perfect summer weather, the fellowship of a large, pleasant group, the joy of hiking and swimming - and the cherry on the top - the scrumptious tea and scones awaiting us! Thank you Tillietudlem, we'll certainly come again!

1.Hiking group
2 Friendly Ngunis, a wonderful breeding herd
3. Peaceful herd
4. Bazil Roth, Tillietudlem manager telling us the lore of the Nguni herd
5. Bazil with his hand reared Nguni, from calf to cow
6. Mother and calf
7..A bridge to where?
8. Over the river, a safe way to cross
9.Spot the snake

10. Dem bones with Carloee and Bazil admiring
11. Carolee fancies putting this on her car bonnet!
12. Hike the hills

13.The lodge, once the home of early Scottish pioneers, the Ogram family
14. The blue and green of the beautiful Midlands landscape
15. Ngunis and hikers - who is admiring who?
16. the fishermen's self catering cabin from the river
17. The setting of the fishermen's cabin
18. River and rapids, good for fishing and swimming
19. Satisfied group after enjoying tea and cream scones on the deck of the cabin
20. The curious Ngunis say goodbye to us