A Horseback Riding Experience

In Mpophomeni, horses are notorious and have become a synonym with the 20 something gangs and their tattoo faced free riding robbers. So naturally when people see horses they run well away, shutting their doors behind them. This is now starting to change because of Sabelo Xaba.

It has become prevalent for great ideas to be conceived over Sunday Chillas beers at a bar. “We were just chilling and chatting over drinks one day and I said to my friend Thobelani Dlamini “You have all these beautiful horses here, why don’t we take people for a ride on them?”  That is the day Mpophomeni Horseback Tours was born.

Horse Parking lot.

With the assistant of horseman Vuyani Zondi, who is a fountain of knowledge about horses, takes care of them and calms them down when they are skittish. Their first debut was at the Mpophomeni farmers market where short rides were on offer to the young and old and they were also featured at the Howick 10km Marathon.

I (Penz Malinga) was recently sponsored by Mnandi – a Taste of Mpophomeni to go on my very first horseback experience. Arum Bydawell and her gorgeous mom Angie from Hilton came to ride along as well. Arum and Angie had previous experience with horses, I had none except for occasionally bumping into them grazing in the foothills while walking my dogs.

I was just beyond excited, a smile was glued permanently on my face from the moment I climbed on and held on to the reigns.

Penz Malingas selfie with old Mlanduli

Our most experienced rider was 8 year old Lwandle who started riding when he was 3 years old so he was well seasoned by now.

8 year old Lwandle.

Sabelo and Vuyani helped us on and explained how we were to maneuver the horses, then we were A for away. We rode through the old waste water treatment works, which is very smelly but has plenty of biodiversity and birdwatching potential. We spotted the resident blacksmith plovers, some black ducks eduda edamini , a romantic pair of Egyptian geese and a lone Yellow billed kite riding the current. We also bumped into Mr Mtshalis horses grazing and Vuyani went to whisper to them to keep away from us.

Vuyani rounding up Baba Mtshalis horses.

As we gently crossed the Umhlangeni and Umthinzima tributaries of the Umngeni river, we were leaving the township behind climbing higher through the new housing development on the ancient road alongside hundreds of common soap aloes still in flower.

We realised that none of us had bought carrots with us when we stopped for a photo opportunity at the reservoir overlooking the entire township. Luckily Sabelo had some stale bread that we enjoyed feeding our horses.Sabelo pointed out some of the pioneering houses that were built in the 1960s.

Riding across the ridge was challenging okay maybe a little bit scary, but we knew that we could put our faith in our horses to find their own way. We then made our way back, through eMadala on Mtholampilo road, keeping to people’s outer lawns because not all our horses had shoes on all the way back to an optional delicious lunch at Midmar View Restaurant.

Arum and Penz all smiles after a delightful ride.

This is accessible to everyone young and old to be enjoyed by beginners and jockeys alike.
To book contact Sabelo Xaba on cellphone number-  078 492 7515 and do follow Mpophomeni Horseback Tours on Facebook.

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Spha Mabaso

The Ndlovu family were one of the original families to settle in Mpophomeni in the 1960’s.

Originally from Endiza, Curry’s Post, they were relocated to kwaZenzele, and then to Mpophomeni when Midmar was being built.  Despite their change in circumstances and the fact they had lost all their livestock, they kept farming and still today make use of a large plot to grow vegetables for themselves and fodder for their cattle.

cattle eating turnip

Spha Mabaso, who lives with his grandfather Baba Ndlovu (uMkhulu) in Mtholampilo Street is proud of the fact that his family were pioneer settlers in the area and is determined to continue the farming tradition.  Beside their kraal they have built an area for the whole community to bring their cattle for assistance with vaccinations and dipping. Sharing their knowledge and helping their neighbours is important for the Ndlovu and Mabaso families.

livestock maintenance

“We use the old methods, no artificial fertilizers or pesticides, so our products are all organic, they always have been. I am going to build a new empire.”

spha in veggie garden

Ever since he was a little boy, Spha has loved being in the garden. He followed his grandmother around as she sowed seed and harvested imifino, learning so much from her in the process.  uMkhulu Ndlovu spent much of his working life employed by Sarmcol and is an accomplished welder. He manufactured a playground of swings for his grandchildren. The workmanship is so good that some are still in the back yard – although Spha is getting a bit big to play on them!

Mkhulu and Spha Swing

Their homestead is a creative mish mash of metal work.   “A farmer can make anything,” uMkhulu beams, proudly showing off a watering can and a wheel barrow he made himself. There are fences made with discarded bed springs, a chicken house constructed high above the ground to keep predators out, and the most interesting gate in the entire street.

Ever creative and enthusiastic Spha is looking at ways of adding value to their produce. The old guava trees planted by his grandmother still produce delicious fruit.  While eating them fresh from the tree is first prize, the surplus is turned into fermented fruit juice and next season, there will be bottled and dried guavas in his product list too.

guavas

Spha is a regular at the Mpophomeni Farmers Market. His freshly picked turnip greens, amangoza, always sell out and he can’t keep up with the demand for his speckled sugar beans.

A market shoppers

Recently he introduced a new product – iced tea.  Made using leaves of the indigenous Athrixia phylicoides, which his grandfather calls itheye lentaba.  At first, he collected leaves from wild plants in the hills, but to ensure sustainability he has now planted a hedge of Athrixia aka Bushman’s Tea in his garden.  Twigs from this shrub are traditionally used to make hard brooms too.

athrixia phylicoides

What do his customers think of the tea?  “They love it!” he grins, “with a squeeze of lemon and a bit of mint, it is really refreshing.”

Spha iced tea

The Market happens just twice a month, so Spha is planning to set up a farmstall beside his garden and invite other small farmers to sell their produce there every day.  It is Mtholamphilo Street after all – so this is just where one would expect to find ways to improve one’s health!   At the moment, the ground is covered in rubbish as people dump here, but Spha is undaunted.  He will clean it up, build a stall using recycled timber off-cuts, plant a water wise garden and install his old swing for the neighbourhood children to play on.

Spha on stall site

Next, he plans to learn to make yoghurt and cheese from any excess milk in summer – first making sure that the calves get their fair share, of course.  “Local, organic produce is the way to go,”says Spha emphatically, “we need to support one another, make the most of what we have and work hard to improve food security.”

cow at fence

There are seeds drying on the window sill for next season, a nest filled with eggs about to hatch, and are a couple of pumpkins left from the Autumn harvest. The peach trees are bursting with blossoms, the sugar cane is ready for summer, the potatoes have been planted and the onions are sprouting.  This corner of the township is set to flourish. Without doubt, this is a space to watch.

Contact Spha at Emphare Organics 071 454 0323 sphamabaso@gmail.com

Mkhulu Spha watering can