Monday, December 16, 2013

Stellenbosch, South Africa

Friday March 10, 2006 – Stellenbosch, Wine Country and Cape Town

We made our way to Stellenbosch, the 2nd oldest town in SA in Wine Country just outside of Cape Town. It was one of the prettiest towns I have ever seen – a very quaint university  town with Victorian style white buildings. One of those places where you can’t find the supermarket because it’s hidden in a beautiful stone building. We stayed at the appropriately named Stumble Inn, the only backpacker situated in the center of town. The next day we headed to the wineries to do a little tasting. First we visited Asara, with wonderful views where we sat outside and were served ten different wines for only 30 Rand ($5). Flo and I did a taste testing contest and I beat the frenchman! I had 7 out of 10 correct and Flo only 5 out of 10. We were off to a good start! Next we visited Spier, which was the Disneyland of wine country, with tons of activities for children. There we tasted wine and cheese. They served us three cheeses paired with an “appropriate” wine. The “expert” gave us some lessons – “I’m going to teach you how to eat cheese with wine- first you take a sip of wine, then you bite the cheese, then another sip of wine…” As he walked away Flo said “He’s going to teach me how to eat cheese with wine!” They paired Mozzarella (gasp, mozzarella is for pizza!) with a white wine, a stronger goat cheese with cranberries in it (yes, fruit in the cheese!) with red wine, and a mild white cheese with sweet white wine (sweet wine!). It was all quite good though and next we stopped at the Van Ryn Brandy Distillery, where we tried three brandies – 10 yr old brandy, 15 yr old brandy, and a creamy, dessert brandy. 3 places, 13 wines, 3 cheeses and 3 shots of brandy…

Next we stopped at Jordan winery where we tried three wines each and after that to a winery that specialized in champagne (pardon, sparkling wine!) where we tasted 6 sparkling wines. The last place was upscale and served us three wines at their fancy bar, thankfully, paired with some pretzels and peanuts. Needless to say, after 23 glasses we took a long nap back at Stumble Inn. Our wine tasting trip was definitely the highlight of South Africa!

We headed to Cape Town and took a road trip around town, stopping for a rest at the wonderful beach in trendy Camps Bay, with the huge mountain (that is in the center of Cape Town) and the mansions lining the beach. We checked into the funky Cape Town Deco Lodge, the only place in town with camping. We met Linda and Manasay, a couple from Montreal there and planned to visit the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.

We headed along the coast to Cape Point, stopping at Boulders Beach where there is penguin point. We were able to watch a ton of penguins sunning themselves on the rocks in the ocean only 2 feet from us. It was spectacular! We hiked up to the Cape Point light house where the Atlantic  and Indian Oceans meet. There were signs everywhere warning you to not feed the baboons (like in every park in Africa) but these baboons were different. We watched a baboon take a sealed sandwich right out of a woman’s hand, open it and eat it. Then the same baboon, with its baby holding on tight, jumped right through the passenger seat window of a van where a woman was sitting reading a magazine. He went to the backseat and ate a banana that was there while the lady ran out of the car screaming. He quickly finished the banana and found his next victim, stealing another sandwich from a man. Flo and I enjoyed our picnic lunch inside the car at the Cape of Good Hope.

The ride back along the coast had some of the best views I have ever seen, the road following the ocean on a cliff. We stopped in Camps Bay for coffee and milk shakes on the way home.


































Tuesday, November 26, 2013

South Africa, Wild Coast

Monday February 27, 2006 – Wild Coast – Port St. John, Coffee Bay, Cinsta, and Hogsback in the mountains


We arrived in Port St. John by night after a very long and difficult drive from Lesotho. The cows on the steep, mountain roads love to stand in the middle of the road, especially as the sun is setting. We checked into Jungle Monkey Backpackers, a relaxed guest house engulfed by the extremely green jungle, with hammocks hanging around. The next day we walked around the town, a laid back beach village where the Umzimvubu River meets the Indian Ocean. The town had two busy little streets with food shops, etc. but was a little run down. The town is full of hippies who fled there to avoid the draft during Apartheid because it was an independent area. We saw several Jerry Garcia-likes on our trip to the supermarket.

We took a drive to Second Beach, a beautiful beach with white sand and big cliffs. The water was warm but the air was a bit cool. We stumbled upon the Silaka Nature Reserve and decided to visit since it was only 5 Rand ($1) each and we saw some cute monkeys playing just outside. The roads however did not like our benz and we got stuck at least 5 times in 10 min. Deciding it was probably best to leave we could not find a place to turn around so we reversed for 20 min. out of the park as it began to rain. We explained to the guard why we were leaving so quickly and he said “Oh yes, the roads are no good for a car like this but maybe oneday you can come back…” One wonders why he didn’t warn us when we entered.

We continued along the Wild Coast to Coffee Bay, where we checked into Coffee Shack, a backpackers right on the beach that was more like staying in a frat house in Chapel Hill. The small bar was wild and if you drank with your right hand everyone yelled “BUFFALO!” and they promptly brought over a funnel for you to chug your beer. We were especially careful after we ordered our drinks and they were served in giant, practically 30 oz. plastic cups. I didn’t want to chug my sea breeze through a funnel. I somehow fell asleep that night with the sounds of “Buffalo!” in the background. The next day we visited the Hole in the Wall, a huge rock formation in the ocean with a hole in the middle from the waves crashing against it. We had a picnic lunch there with Talli, a girl from Israel.

After Coffee Bay we headed to Cinsta with Laurent and Sandrine. Cinsta had the best landscape of the Wild Coast with the most dramatic cliffs and prettiest beach.  I sunned at the pool and then we went for a walk on the beach that was amazingly beautiful and extremely windy. We saw a kite surfer doing amazing tricks in the water. We walked across the bay (literally) to Cinsta East where there was a small food shop where we picked up ice creams and sausage for dinner. Cinsta had many beautiful mansions with great views. It seems to be the Hamptons of South Africa. We cooked dinner with Laurent and Sandrine in the condo they stayed in with a wonderful view of the sea.

Flo and I headed to Hogsback, a magical village 1300m up the Amatola Mountains. It is here that JRR Tolkein was inspired to write the Lord of the Rings. It snows here 10 out of 12 months a year and although we didn’t see snow it was very cold for camping at night. We stayed at a lodge called “Away with the Fairies.” The lovely little house had a cozy lounge with burning fires at night. There was a view point in front of the house with two chairs, a stunning view, and a frighteningly scary cliff. Flo made me walk around the long way in case there was a spider or bee on me because he was sure I would freak out and fall off the cliff. We had a beer out there and watched the sunset the first night. The next morning we headed out on a hike to the waterfalls. The trail was well cared for and marked and took us through the indigenous forest, past a huge 800 year old tree to the waterfalls, which were gorgeous. We rested on a rock in the middle of the waterfall. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any fairies or hobbits. The hike, which was supposed to take 1.5 hr of course took us 4.5 hrs with a few “detours” (that’s our style).

We were getting antsy so we decided to begin making our way to Cape Town. We passed 450 km on the Garden Route and rested for the night in Wilderness, staying at Fairy Knowe, a lodge set in the oldest house in the town, over 200 years old.

Wild Coast

Jungle Monkey Backpackers

Port St. John

Port St. John

Port St. John 

Port St. John

Port St. John

Port St. John

Port St. John

Port St. John


Coffee Bay

Coffee Bay

Wild Coast

Coffee Bay

Coffee Bay

Coffee Bay

Coffee Bay

Coffee Bay

Cinsta

Cinsta

Cinsta

Hogsback

Our tent at Hogsback

Hogsback

Hogsback

Hogsback


Hogsback

Hogsback

Hogsback