ULTIMA THULE COTTAGES: ENJOYING THE SIMPLE THINGS IN LIFE
O&A’s Cindy Bottomley decided to trade in the stresses and strains of the city for a peaceful stint in the county. We’re just glad that she made it back!
WORDS AND IMAGES: CINDY BOTTOMLEY
Ultima Thule Cottages is a self-catering hideaway on a working farm so if, like us, you are looking for a place to disengage from the chatter of everyday life and to refocus, then you are heading in the right direction.
A few weeks ago, we decided that it was time to clear our heads in some good old country air. This was somewhat last minute.com, but we needed to get a couple of days break fairly close to home and found Ultima Thule Cottages in Curry’s Post, approximately 1hr 33 mins (120 kms) from Durban, driving on the N3.
We were looking for somewhere peaceful, simple and uncluttered – a place that would be unpretentious and unassuming.
Definition of Ultima Thule: the farthest point, the limit of any journey, the point believed by the ancients to be farthest north (collinsdictionary.com)
As soon as I found my boots firmly on a whole new kind of terra firma in the beautiful KZN Midlands, I must say I had one very important question. Why does everything ‘up the hill’ seem bigger, better, colder?
The hydrangeas are taller, the arum lilies bigger, the fruit trees fuller and the air crispy and fresh. Even the weeds have beautiful flowers that cover the ground like a colourful carpet!
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A WORKING FARM
Entering through the gate, you can hear that swooshing sound of the wind in the pine trees that lets you know you are out of the city. The farm sits just over a hill which overlooks the beautiful countryside. I believe you are able to see the Drakensberg, but this was not the case for us due to the mist.
It is a working farm, so you can go and watch the cattle with the guinea fowls scurrying around and huge chickens pecking at the ground, the biggest rooster strutting his stuff and crowing. It’s lovely.
There are two cottages on the farm – Boutique Cottage, which can be home to 2 adults, and Land’s End Cottage which accommodates four people, including children.
Ours was Boutique Cottage. This is a lovely space for two with everything you need including heater and an electric blanket which we really needed as it was a misty, icy weekend.
This might seem a strange comment – but it was so clean and, by that, I mean noticeably clean.
The quaint cottage is small, but I prefer the word cosy because that’s exactly what it is. The only thing you need to bring is your food, clothes and your stressors so you can dump those at the door.
When we got there, a braai had been set up for us in the alcove as it was cold and raining, so we couldn’t braai in the outdoor braai.
Collin and Liz, the owners, are two wonderful, friendly people who have owned their farm for many years. They really are welcoming and easy going. You feel a bit like you are home from home. I think that you could ask them for anything and they would do their best to help you.
For example, I mentioned how beautiful the oranges which were growing everywhere looked. So, Collin brought us some to try and, the next day, Liz took me to pick some to take home.
I found it quite amusing that even though Liz said the oranges were past their best, they still were the best oranges that I have ever tasted. I can’t even say that they were the best because everything just seems better when you are away. Even when I got home, I took some home, they were still the best, really juicy and so sweet.
And loadshedding? No problem. Collin starts up the generator so you can continue as usual. And yes, if you are wondering, there is Wi-Fi.
There is a dam on the farm but it is quite a hike as it is situated in the valley. Well, getting to it wouldn’t be a problem for many, but it’s the long climb up that could be quite challenging for some. But I thought it would be well worth a look. As mentioned, the weather was misty and raining, so we went to a part of the path where we could look down on the dam instead.
We trekked through the field where the cattle were to go and see if we could find the path down to the dam and, suddenly, all the cattle started following us. Well, I scooted out of there as I have seen far too many YouTube videos of people’s supposedly hilarious encounters with these dubiously friendly bovines!
THE FINE ART OF UNWINDING
This is a place that is wonderful to unwind and recharge your batteries. You could paint, journal, read a book, or just chillout on the loungers watching the clouds. Slowing down and just being idle, doing whatever…very slowly … is what this is all about.
If you do get the urge to venture out and explore the area, the farm is twenty minutes from the centre of Howick and is close to many shops, stalls and restaurants in the Midlands area. For the more adventurous, Karkloof Canopy Tours is only about 24 kms away.
But, for us, it was more about letting out hair down than engaging in some hair raising stunts.
Our journey wasn’t so much about meeting the wildlife and, as it was cold, and perfect for snuggling down. Unusually, we didn’t do that much walking. But, if you are a birder, then this is a great place to encounter the likes of the Black Headed Oriole, the Bokmakierie, Burchell’s Coucal (the rain bird) Cape Robin, Crowned Eagle, Red Breasted Cuckoo, Diederiks Cuckoo, Southern Boubou, green wood hoopoe, fish eagle and various sun birds.
Too soon, our sojourn was over and we found ourselves heading back to the city.
Is it just me, or does everyone leave these places wanting to move into what seems to be a quieter slower type of life where you have the time to literally smell the roses, or in this case, pick the oranges?