Winding Down in KZN


We've been so busy in the Cape, I haven't had time to update Granny Travels! So this is a condensed version of our activities before we left KZN.

Belinda and the owl
Belinda and the owl

Breakfast with the Horses

Right down the road from Mick and Debbie's house is a race horse training facility. It's set up rather like some of the small airfields in the States with a small cafe overlooking the runway and in this case, the horse race track. We got there at 7 a.m and the horses and jockeys were already running through their paces. They came in waves from the stables, some dressed in their silks, others in jeans and t-shirts. This is not for jockey training, just horses so most of the jockeys were grooms, I suppose. Quite a few were women putting the horses through their paces.

We had a lovely breakfast outside at a picnic table, watching the horses gallop by just in front of us. I've never been much of a horse fancier, but even I could tell these were fine animals!

Breakfast at the horse training facility
Breakfast at the horse training facility

One thing I haven't got used to yet, is the crappy coffee! In a cafe and they serve instant coffee! But is is very common and when I went to get coffee this morning at the store (I must admit it was a small supermarket) the selection of real coffee was dismal!

Africa Birds of Prey Sanctuary

Close up of the owl
Close up of the owl

Africa Birds of Prey Sanctuary is also close by and we spent a very pleasant, but very hot, morning there. There is also a rehabilitation center, where injured birds, or birds people have kept as pets are rehabilitated into the wild, whenever possible. Those that are deemed unable to fend for themselves are kept at the sancturay.

There is a huge collection ranging from fish eagles all the way through to owls! Some have been there for years and identify more with their handlers than other birds. These are the ones that "fly" for visitors.

Sitting out on wooden bleachers in a small patch of shade, the birds are brought out one by one by their handlers, Jan and Belinda. The birds are free to fly out over the veld, but tend to stay close by, responding to hand and voice signals - and food treats! My favorites were the owls. The second one to be presented did not want to cooperate as there were wild predators overhead, circling, so she stayed clinging to Jan't gloved hand. She still got her rewards, but was released into her enclosure, safe from becoming prey!

Belinda, one of the handlers, a young black woman told me her story. Coming to the Sanctuary straight out of high school, she got a job waitressing in the little cafe. A popular day outing for school kids, she was recruited to interpret for them, as most speak Zulu and the handler spoke English. As she learned more, and understood the importance of conservation, she asked the owner to teach her about the birds. "Yes," she was told, "But you have to start from the bottom," meaning cleaning cages and all the grunt work. Which she did, all the while learning as she went. Now she says she still does everything, from waitressing to cleaning cages, but is also a handler and as Jan said, "mother" to all the birds.

She is part of the new generation of young people coming up in South Africa who lend hope to a situation that often looks very bleak!

Early Christmas

Festive Christmas at Mick and Debbie's house
Festive Christmas at Mick and Debbie's house

Because we would be in the Cape with Biff on December 25, we had a lovely early Christmas dinner with Mick and Debbie. So many of the traditions continue, with festive crackers (bonbons) and silly hats. And of course lots of food and presents. More stuff to pack and send to wherever I end up.

Then it was time to leave for the Cape. Zoze won't be back to KZN this trip. She leaves for New Zealand from there but I go back, via Johannesburg, at the end of January, where I will be doing some distillery visits.

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Horse Training Centre

Pope Ellis Drive, Ashburton

Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal

Phone: 072 896 3222

Africa Bird of Prey Sanctuary

Lion Park Road, Pietermaritzburg, 3730


031 785 4382