Thursday, May 25, 2006

Wine & sunshine

This is going to be a quick one as the computer in this Internet cafe is slow and annoying.

We went up to the town of Stellenbosch. We couldn't get a room in the backpackers we wanted to stay at so they sent us down the road to an empty place. It was nice there and the woman who owns it was lovely, but I couldn't help feeling like we were intruding on their family life as they were obviously not geared up for guests, it being the off season. Stellenbosch is a nice little university town, but mainly famous for being smack bang in the middle of a wine region. I tried to get Gemma to drive me round the wineries to go on lots of tastings but she wasn't having it. We booked on a tour instead. It being the off season has a good effect of their not being many people on the tours, and the people that are on them are a bit older. The group we had were all cool and we ended up being the latest group back according to our guide. We visited wineries in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franshoek tasting all the way. I was a little addled by the end of it. We went out with the guide and an english girl from the tour on the evening to get some food and some beers. Gemma ordered a wine in one bar and it came in a 500ml tetrapak carton!

After Stellenbosch we drove through the Overburg to Hermanus. The drive there was beatiful, a road literally hanging over the side of the mountains, with the mountain on your left hand side and the ocean crashing on the right. Again, stunning. In Hermanus we stayed in a cute little holiday apartment. It rained so we pretty much stayed in. During a break in the rain we took a clifftop path for a walk and saw more of our new favourite, the Rock Dassie. These ones were in the bin and eating cardboard boxes and stuff.

From Hermanus we went to the Garden Route Game Lodge, where we stayed for the night.They have a pretty good off season deal, so we were impressed by what we got. A nights accomodation in really quite plush rooms, an evening and morning game drive, reptile house tour, cheetah breeding centre tour and dinner and breakfast for just R660 each (12 rand to the pound at the moment).The evening game drive was cool, including temperature wise. It continued drizzling but we got to see lions, elephants, buffalo, bontebok, springbok, rhino, zebra and giraffe. Unfortunately it started getting quite dark and the animals were all a little way away so the photos don't really do it justice. Dinner was lovely -I had ostrich, which was very tasty. The morning drive was very good too, we were more prepared this time and wrapped up well. Gemma had two pairs of trousers on. Halfway through the drive the landrover slid back down the hill and off the path. The guide had to radio in to have us picked up and get a tow. I'm sure if I'd been more attentive I could have learned some Afrikaans swear words when the mechanic turned up! We stocked up on breakfast then saw lots of snakes and crocodiles in the reptile house. The game lodge has a cheetah breeding program (to have wild releases and so zoos don't have to stock from the wild). We went in an enclosure with two cheetahs. Gemma was bricking it. She was so scared she barely heard a word the guide said while we were in there. The sun got its hat on and the rain disappeared.

We drove on through Mossel Bay, which is a built up and horrible industrial town, so we breezed straight through. We ended up in Buffalo Bay, a tiny little village of holiday apartments and a backpackers on the beach. When I say on the beach, I mean built right into the dunes. New owners had just moved in and were in the process of renovating the place. It will be a lovely spot when they are finished. We drank a bottle of champagne that we bought on the wine tour on the beach as the sun went down, then sat round the fire with the owner of the backpackers -downing the rest of the wine we bought and marvelling at how many stars we could see. A stunning spot.

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