Garden route to the winelands...

Trip Start Mar 24, 2005
Trip End Jun 23, 2005

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

A few highlights from the past week...

We went for a couple of quick walks as we headed through from Plettenburg Bay to Port Elizabeth - at Natures Valley & Storms river mouth. Both with stunning landscapes... also went to Jeffreys bay (bit of a surfing mecca), but as the sea appeared to be colder than Brighton in winter and the outside temperature wasn't the highest either, there wasn't a huge incentive to go swimming or (attempt) surfing !

As we'd been staying at pretty quiet places (its definately off season), we were heading to Port Elizabeth for the weekend to have a chance to socialise & meet a few more people... We were pleased to find that despite it having a reputation for being a fairly undesirable stop over, we thought it was a really interesting town... We stayed at a really good backpackers too, which had lovely en suite rooms at a pretty bargainlike price. There was a really good mixed group of people there too, including a bunch of locals who worked there - so going out with them was great fun, short-cutting all the dodgy places & heading for good restaurants & bars... Its fair to say that the budgeting is being sacrified for good food & wine !

We also spent a night at a slightly twilightzoneish hick town on the way to the wine route (called Cape St Francis)... There was only one pub & restaurant in town & no sign of any people at all when we arrived - apart from the half dozen or so in the bar who did a bit of a wild west style turn & stare when we walked in ! To make matters worse, the storm which caused loads of severe flooding in Cape Town arrived that night, so we had the most violent thunderstorm I've experienced for ages that evening whilst eating (particularly good) seafood on our own in the restaurant... The meal had also been preceeded by our room being invaded by literally hundreds of varied small bugs crawling over everything in the room - including us !! I wouldn't have been surprised if the locals turned out to be aliens waiting to take over the world ... Then again, my imagination is generally a bit too overactive at the best of times ! Unsurprisingly, we left town very early in the morning with a bit of a screech of tires (no, my driving hasn't improved), heading on up the coast & back to civilisation...

We went to Outshoorn, north of the coast where loads of farmers made millions in the ostrich boom at the end of the 1800's/early 1900's... Not my fave place in the world - it felt a bit too much like a load of circus style 'attractions' based around ostriches, which, while they're hardly the most attractive animals in the world, still probably don't deserve to be used to entertain tourists by getting them to poke & prod them, ride them ... Anyway, the Cango caves (the other main attraction in the area) were very good - I've not been in loads of caves & these were huge with interesting looking formations.

Then headed onto Robertson in the wine region... Had a great time here, staying in a backpackers run by a really cool couple who have done lots of travelling themselves & really generated a good atmosphere. We went on one of their recommended walks first thing, up to a local waterfall which was really stunning - although the clambering up loads of rocks & across the river wearing my reefs wasn't ideal ! The afternoon was spent in a significantly more chilled way - a wine tour of 4 different wineries in the area... Transport was fairly rustic, with us & another couple all sitting in the back of the backpacker owners ute, relaxing on loads of duvets & pillows in the sunshine (this was a week day as well, so I'm afraid to say that slightly smug thoughts about everyone at home at work did cross my mind) !! The first was a small boutique winery, producing on a small scale using restored 50's wine making machinery they found in the outbuildings of a new farm they'd bought in 2001... It was a great tour, with the owner showing a real passion for their work. She showed us around all the equipment & talked us right through the process... before we obviously got to sample their wares ! After buying a couple of bottles we headed onto the next place, which had amazing views over the vineyards... Another very plush one where strangely people arriving in the back of a pick up weren't necessarily welcomed quite as warmly as those in the slightly more expensive hire cars (although we did all buy wine anyway because it was great !)... The best was saved for last though, the kind of wine tasting where they just ditched the bottle on the table for us all to get on & drink - marvellous !! Needless to say, we all had a great afternoon - although didn't quite make it to partying in the evening... Just as well really, 'cause I had to drive us back to Cape Town first thing the following morning !!
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