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Thursday 23 Feb 2012
Cape Town, South Africa

Stellenbosch wine tour

Up early at 5 to get the bus to the airport at 6. Dropped the key off at check-out, no questions asked about the bar bill thankfully. Being Africa the bus came at 6.30 (in which time I could have had some brekkie!) and I was soon off to Cape Town on the 7am flight.

On arrival I was sure I wouldn't have any issues renting a car again, as the mining conference was well over. I needed to hire a car to get down to Stellenbosch pronto as I only had one day left and if I wanted to experience a wine tour I was best off driving there directly. Unbelievably virtually every car rental at the airport was booked up! I checked each of the kiosks outside the terminal and after an hour's searching I somehow managed to come away with 2 offers: a bus or a shiny new Mercedes!

My Merc
My Merc

As I wasn't planning on driving a bus half-pissed around vinyards, I opted for the Merc. I was a bit nervous driving the Merc as Dad has always prevented me from driving his, and at 89 euro/day it wasn't cheap. "Sod it, might as well go out in style!". I made sure to spend 30 minutes getting "instruction" from the rental office attendant on how to use every bloody gadget properly as I didn't want to risk breaking something.

It was literally the last car available and just in the nick of time as a couple came into the office just as I was heading off. Glad I got the 7am flight from Windhoek after all!

It was a damned nice drive, with excellent acceleration despite being an automatic transmission, and I made sure to get a GPS. This proved to be essential later on while navigating Stellenbosch's antiquated one-way system of roads.

Stellenbosch is famous as the wine-capital of the western cape. I had originally planned to stay in Cape Town and get a tour over to Stellenbosh but the British couple I met in Hwange recommended I stayed in the town itself. When I arrived 30 minutes later, I could see why. It was a very pretty university town with a laid-back feel with winding streets that led you past white-washed Dutch colonial houses. It's where the Capetonians go to get away from it all.

I didn't really want to risk driving the Merc around the vinyards as I planned to enjoy myself so was hoping there would be a bus or cycle-tour. I checked into a hostel and by pure chance the "Vine Tours" bus was just about to leave! So, wearing the stinking clothes that had been on me since the day before, I dropped my bags and legged it for the bus ...

Stellenbosch vine tour
Stellenbosch vine tour

Since I started the tour around 2pm I wasn't going to experience the full gamut of vinyards on the daily tour, but rather got to see 3 in total. It was more than enough and we did it at a nice relaxed pace, plus we got to drive through a township on the way to the first vinyard "Simonsig" which made for an interesting experience (up until now I'd only ever seen townships from a distance). A little like the favellas in Rio, but not quite as dangerous in this town.

The first thing I noticed was just how cheap the wine-tastings were compared to the tastings I did in Argentina. For less than 3 euro you could get 6 glasses of wine. The surroundings in each vinyard were distinct but all quite beautiful as you sat in lush century-old gardens and admired the view from old Dutch-styled verandas.

Aftermath of the wine...
Aftermath of the wine tour...

While enjoying a huge cheese platter (and a full free glass of red) I hooked up with several people who happened to be on the same bus tour (the tour was a hop-on-hop-off sort of affair and I'd been playing catchup!). I met an English couple who would end up joining me for dinner later... and for an interesting mad drinking session in an Irish bar after! As the day wore on we progressively got drunker (and the vinyard staff progressively got less patient about telling us the history of each wine) and the day fast became a blur. I bought 2 bottles of red, one of which we greedily consumed over dinner, the other I was gonna take home with me (I got a specially-made polystyrene wine bottle flight-case which survived being chucked into my backpack! "Simonsig 2008 Pinotage", a vintage wine and perfect mother's day gift Wink

And then onto a night of heavy boozing with local students in a bar called Springboks... can remember rather little although I had a dream about driving the Merc through the streets in a drunken stupour, tailed closely by local police ... erm I'm sure it was a dream

Brilliant way to end the trip, although I had a long detox period when I got home Laughing

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Sithern Efrika

Travel blog by peterforan

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Great White Shark cage diving


20 days to sample the "other" down-under... a trip covering parts of South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe in February. Cape Town to Vic Falls get the treatment, while I mix in a safari or two... Now where did I put that elephant gun?

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