Tillietudlem Hike
1 March 2020
Leader: Penny Purchase, Report and photos: Penny Purchase

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

More than 20 hikers signed up for this popular hike in a remote valley in the Dargle, between Nhlasane and Impendle. I limited the number to 22. We had 7 new members and 3 visitors. We hope they’ll come again.

We met at Fairways shopping centre to sort out transport. High clearance vehicles were preferable. As the access road to Tillietudlem farm was in good order, we took the Dargle Valley road not the Boston route.

Bazil Roth, the farm and lodge manager, greeted us warmly and ushered us to the verandah of the lovely old colonial Ogram House, with its splendid view over the trout and otter dam, full from the recent plentiful rains. Bazil told us the history of the early Scottish settlers, the Ogram family and about the current owner, Chris Wilkinson, who is a passionate conservationist.

Bazil led us on an 8 km hike past the dam and up following a river course and over green hills of grass, good for grazing. The day started off cool but we were soon stripping jackets off as the sun baked down on us. Bazil is a fountain of knowledge about the natural environment, having been a tour guide. We stopped often to hear his comments, although with a biggish group, it wasn’t always easy to hear him. We saw 2 fish eagles and heard their haunting cry. We saw raptors and cranes and heard about the otter families in the trout dam … plenty of fish there! We learnt about the larva of the Monarch butterfly and the conservation projects on the farm and the wattle eradication. The graceful fallow deer will eventually have to be moved off the farm as they are not indigenous, having been introduced by the early settlers.

A highlight of the hike was mixing with the prize herd of Nguni cattle on a grassy hill. Their gentle and curious nature made it easy for us to mingle with them, admiring their wonderful hides. Bazil told us some of their Zulu names and their breeding habits. From the Ngunis, we approached the road and any who wanted a lift back to the house, could hop on to a waiting bakkie.

Tea, filter coffee, lemon cake, chocolate muffins and cool lemon water awaited the band of hot, hungry hikers at the old house. Welcome refreshments at R50 a head. We relaxed our weary feet, reflecting on the beauty of this game farm in a lovely, secluded valley off the Dargle valley. Some of the party left for home, others I guided to the fisherman’s lodge, Hleka Manzi. On the way we saw a large herd of wildebeest and zebra. The fisherman’s lodge has a huge wooden deck overlooking the rushing river. We all agreed it would make a wonderful weekend getaway venue in this superb hiking country ….. we’ll keep dreaming of that ….

It was a pleasant hike in every respect, much enjoyed by the seasoned hikers and newbies alike – with Bazil being an entertaining guide, with the easy pace, with the beauty of the environment, the splendid weather, the delicious refreshments and an enthusiastic group of eager hikers. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday in summer!

1.Briefing from Bazil Roth, manager of the estate and our guide, on the verandah of the Ogram House.
2. Hiking group of 22 with 7 new members and 3 visitors
3.Through the lens of expert photographer, Dave Sclanders
4.The falls are full after plentiful rain

5.Larva of Monarch butterfly
6.Larva safe in the palm of Bazil’s hand
7. Listening to our knowledgeable guide, Bazil
8. Black could threaten rain but none came fortunately
9. Up and up

10. Summer flowers
11. Summer flowers
12. A distant storm .... we hope

13. Gentle, curious Ngunis
14. What a fine figure
15.Beautiful herd of prize Ngunis
16.Protective mother with her calf

17. The herd amongst the herd
18. Wonderful Nguni herd enjoying the rich green veld
19. Sarah, Pat and Heather taking a break
20. Edible mushroom

21. A bit of welcome downhill
22.Up again through rolling grassland
23. The lovely old colonial house built by the Scottish Ogram family and beautifully restored
24. Pat and Sarah enjoying a coffee break on the verandah

25. Happy hikers enjoying tea, coffee, lemon cake and muffins
26. From the deck of Hleka Manzi, the fisherman’s lodge
27.View from the deck of the fisherman’s lodge
28. Wildebeest herd at one of the dams we pass, as we say goodbye to a lovely day at Tillietudlem