Set in the popular area known as the Midlands Meander, approximately 2hrs from Durban is where one can find Hleka Manzi Lodge. The Zulu words Hleka Manzi, directly translated means lost or laughing water and how apt a name for this lodge overlooking a stream that slowly meanders into a cascading fall. There is a deep sense of calm about this place and one cannot help but feel the stresses and worries of the day ebb away as the tranquil setting works its magic.
Having visited Tillietudlem many years ago (when the bean must have been about 2 years old) we decided it would be an ideal getaway for the whole family and, we were also testing the waters for accommodation that would be suitable for my little niece RM and her mum Pips. But, being as considerate as we are… we decided to go first because, you know, one must know what one is welcoming ones family into. That’s our story and we’re sticking with it.
Granted, I can be a bit lazy sometimes and as I scrolled their Facebook page, I decided to send a message directly. Yes, I know, one should really phone or send an email instead. Petra was quick to answer my message and proceeded to give me her cellphone number to continue the conversation on WhatsApp. (Big brownie points awarded here)! Petra asked me for the dates we were looking to book, the guest names as well as what vehicle we would be traveling in. Telling Petra that we would be in our trusty (or sometimes not so trusty) landy, a brief conversation continued on all things landy as her partner Bazil also has a landy. (Some more brownie points awarded).
Petra sent the booking confirmation through via mail giving us more detail on the lodge we would be staying at and we paid a 50% deposit upfront which secured our dates. We were all set to hit the road!
The road there
We took the Dargle route to get to Tillietudlem as it allowed us a quick pop-in at Piggly Wiggly to stock up on some eats from the Pantry. I’m a huge fan and cannot resist a visit whenever in the area.
After our brief stop, we took the turn-off to Tillietudlem which is well signposted here. However, that was about to change. Petra had given me directions but… I had not listened and, failed to bring a map. We saw a signpost for Tillietudlem on route but then things got a bit hazy. So hazy in fact that we ended up in Boston. Oops. Hubby now fussing as I was cutting into his fishing time, insisted I telephone Petra and LISTEN to the directions. Petra quickly had us on the right track again and we entered using the alternative entrance to Tillietudlem. There are two access points but, note to those in low cars…the entrance we used is not advisable as you could do some serious damage as the road is BUMPY. Definitely advisable to only try this one in a 4×4.
As we drove, we spotted Eland as well as Wildebeest. We made our way to the reception area which is also where Petra and Bazil stay while on the reserve. We were greeted by a family of Ridgebacks as well as their pups. The men then started talking all things landy and, hubby was now in deep negotiations to try and adopt one of the Ridgeback pups. I was very firm in my insistence that we were not bringing a Ridgeback home. My brother had a Ridgeback named Richard and boy, he was a ball of energy (the Ridgeback I mean, not my brother…lazy sod). The talk of adoption was tucked away for now and Petra and Bazil gave us directions to our cottage. As one approaches you can’t see much of the cottage but… if you take in the view from the opposite side…magnificent!
Now we’re here…
We unpacked and the man and young man were shoo’d off so that I could have a bit of peace and quiet, take a few snaps and find my bearings a bit. Also, I knew that the man was itching to get a line in the water and the bean needed to expend some energy. The lodge overlooks a valley and you are spoilt with views for days! Right, wine poured, book taken out and…relax! There is absolutely no cellphone signal at Hleka Manzi Lodge. I really mean… NO SIGNAL! One is forced to put those devices down and to really appreciate your surrounds and spend quality time with self and family.
Bazil popped in to give us some Nguni wors as a kind of welcome gift which, let me tell you, went down a real treat! So much so that we ordered more to take home!
The man and man cub returned within the hour with tales of fish caught. Bean had caught a fairly big trout within the first 15 minutes and the man also had tales of success to share. Man and man cub happy! The bean then proceeded to take a few snaps of the accommodation himself (he loves getting in on the action) and started raising points for consideration in mum’s writings. First, he did not think that it was a suitable place for RM, my niece, as he said that Pips would constantly be worrying about the 2 year old playing on the verandah which overlooks the stream below. He said that Pips would need to keep a close eye on RM even though the verandah was secure because little ones like to climb and RM…loves to climb! Second and more important was that enough seat covers were supplied making for the ideal fort building material. This was a big plus. There were two fire places, one inside for ambience and warmth and another outside for braais and good times.
At the mention of braais, hubby decided that it was indeed time to light the fires. And so, our first day came to a very successful close. Alas, not for RM. The search for accommodation suitable for the climbing one continues.
We explored the land a bit, taking a walk down to the small waterfall and then ventured to do a small game drive. Some of the species that can be found on the property are African Wild Cat, Antbear, baboon, Black Back Jackal, Blesbuck, Bush Buck, Bushpig, Caracal, Duiker, Eland, Leopard, Mountain Reedbuck and even the elusive Oribi as well as Waterbuck and Zebra to name a few. The birdlife is absolutely spectacular and we had a Malachite Kingfisher as our daily visitor at Hleka Manzi Lodge.
We stopped to appreciate the large herd of Nguni cattle which the lodge boasts as not only indigenous to the area but beautiful and loving creatures. We can attest to this as we had one of the younger calves taking a keen interest in the landy and proceeded to follow us around. Their unique colours are quite something.
In October 2019 Tellietudlem was officially declared a Nature Reserve after much hard work and time being invested by Chris Wilkinson and his team who make the place what it is today. Going forward, the land may only be used for conservation and can never return to intensive agriculture…even if it changes ownership. Huge round of applause deserved!
And so we unwind
A very busy and eventful day exploring the beauty that can be found here. The man and little man tried their luck at fishing again in the late afternoon and happy to say, luck was on their side. The evening was then spent sharing tales of fishing, what we had seen, what we had learnt and with a little chill taking to the air…the fires were built and the braai meat thrown on the coals and yes, a sip of wine was enjoyed as well.
Hleka Manzi is well worth the visit and the Bean gave it a solid 9 out of 10 rating! The only detraction was that it didn’t suit RM in his view.
RATING: 9 out of 10
Wood supplied daily
Well stocked trout dams
Full DSTV Bouquet for those not wanting to miss the sport
Self-catering with a well-appointed kitchen
Coffee and tea supplied but bring your own filter coffee as they do have a plunger
Electric blankets for those cold winter months
Sleeps 8 in 3 twin rooms and 1 double room
2 bathrooms one with a shower and one with a bath
No Wifi or Cellphone signal but you can use the phone at reception should you need to make calls
Not suitable for very small children as you do need to keep an eye on them at all times and the balcony
Telephone:033 234 9045/6
Walking and Game Drives