Stellenbosch, South Africa

January 3, 2008 - Stellenbosch, South Africa

We originally planned on spending three nights on the Garden Route but decided to head back West early so we could have two nights in Stellenbosch, the wine region and University town close to Cape Town.

It meant for a lot of driving in a single day but we figured it was worth it (especially Namita, since she wasn't behind the wheel). The weather didn't cooperate for the drive. It rained almost the entire way, sometimes really downpouring. Fortunately, South African drivers are very good and courteous. The highways in South Africa are also very good. The national highways (N2) are sometimes 4 lanes but most often are only 2 with very wide, paved shoulders. There is a unique standard driving practice for highways in South Africa. If a fast travelling vehicle comes up on a slower one, the car in front pulls into the shoulder but doesn't slow down, allowing the faster car to pass. Once the car passes, the driver flashes their hazards in appreciation. This avoids the need to enter the oncoming traffic lane to pass but requires the driver to plan ahead and behind them at all times. It makes it rather tight in the middle when passing is taking place on both sides of the road at the same time.

The skies cleared up and the sun came out just as we made it over the mountains and entered the quaint and picturesque town of Stellenbosch.

As we got into Stellenbosch, our first priority was to find a place to stay.  Though not as busy as the Garden Route, finding accomdations in Stellenbosch was not easy.  We spent a very long time searching for a place to stay.  Given we required 2 nights of accomodation, we were hoping not to change hotels.  However, after 2 hours of searching, I was definitely losing my patience (being both tired and hungry) and was willing to stay at different hotels over the 2 nights.  Dave on the otherhand really wanted to avoid changing hotels. I was surprised by his patience and perseverance during the search.  He had been driving all day (in the rain) and his Vertigo was acting up, so I thought for sure he would want to quickly pick a place to settle in.  In the end, we found a quaint B&B (Caldedon Guesthouse) that had a room available for 2 nights. 

After checking in, we headed to the main strip to eat.  We found a restaurant that had a good menu and also allowed for wine tastings (our first in the region).  To my surprise, I was favouring the whites over the reds (especially the Sauvigon Blanc). 

The next day we planned on visiting some of the wineries in the region.  Not having done a lot of research beforehand we relied on the owner of the B&B to help us figure out the day's agenda.  Rather than taking an organized tour, he suggested some wineries that he thought we would enjoy and that we could also drive to.  To alleviate our concerns about drinking and driving, he explained that tasting wine was very different than drinking wine. 

The first winery (Beckenberg) we visited provided a more in-depth tour of the wine making process in general as well as some of the specifics to the Stellenbosch region.  Their wine cellar (bank) was built into the side of the mountain and is where we tasted 9 different varieties.  We had planned on having lunch at the second winery (Delmei) but after sharing a cheese plate with our wine (which we thoroughly enjoyed) we decided to skip lunch and head to Franshoek (a smaller town in the wine region).  There we strolled the main strip of this quaint town and stopped to have lunch on a patio. 

After a fairly long day of wine tasting, we headed back to our B&B to relax and take a dip in the pool before dinner.  We decided to try out authentic African food (for the first time on the trip).  Dave ordered a game platter and got to try 3 new meats (Wildebeast, Kudu, Springbok).


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