SA, Wine, Wildfire, and Wildlife

We left Capetown, and headed east to the famous wine area of Stellenbosch, this is surprisingly close to the city, taking no more than a couple of hours. After a drive around the very affluent town, we carried on to find a winery to do a bit of tasting. We are lucky enough to have a friend that works in the wine trade (Kate, who met us in Morocco with Richard and Jocie, about seven months ago), who had kindly emailed us a few winery’s that might be worth looking at. Then strangely enough, Jac decided that this was worth doing some planning for (the first time this trip), and hey presto we ended up at the far end of a tiny road, at Jordan Wine Estate. We obviously arrived in Colonel K, feeling very under dressed (this is a posh gig), and went to find out how all this tasting works.

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We were told that we could choose between tasting three, or six different wines, we decided to make a day of it and go for the six! The lovely Helen was very good with us wine heathens, and seemed extremely knowledgeable about not only the wines but also the farm itself.

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 The place is so relaxing, and the setting at the end of the Kloof (valley) is quite breath taking, along with the area outside used for the wine tasting, there is also a restaurant, and the less formal ‘Bakery’, where we had lunch after we had finished the six wines.

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This is good quality wine produced here, in fairly low quantities (though enough to supply British Airways Business Class), and the cost of tasting six of their wines was less than £2.50 per person, and this was deducted from the cost of any bottles that were purchased. We ended up buying 8 bottles, for approx £42.00. The lunch from the Bakery was some of the best food we have eaten all trip, and was less than £15 for the two of us including drinks (more wine for Jac). This was an immensely enjoyable day at Jordan’s, and it is a place we would recommend going to if you are around the Stellenbosch area. But as always, it was time to leave and extract Colonel K from under the huge weeping willow tree that we tried to hide it under.

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We drove to a camp near Stellenbosch and found a quiet spot deep into a conifer forest, and settled down for the evening.

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Sometimes wildlife just comes to you, and can do the strangest things. In this instant we were watching a very busy tree squirrel, scuttling about, both on the ground and then in a tree, when all of a sudden a Goshawk landed on the branch next to it.

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Then quickly the squirrel jumped away from the Goshawk, and landed off in the next tree. About a minute later the bird flew into the same tree as the squirrel, a branch below. What happened next really surprised us, the cute little squirrel, jumped down onto the same branch and leapt at the Goshawk! That was one mean squirrel, that sent the Goshawk off packing.

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From Stellenbosch, we drove south down to Betty’s Bay, on the way passing a couple of surfing spots. Here sharks are a constant threat to surfers, and high up on the cliffs they operate a series of flag signals, operated by a lookout who’s job it is to watch the clear waters for any sign of large sharks that may come in close.

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The day we were there the black flag with the white shark was being shown, this indicated that spotting conditions were poor, this seemed a bit of a cop-out, considering it was clear blue skies and the ocean seemed clear, perhaps its just to cover the spotters butt. The sign also shows that the last time that a large shark was spotted was 03-01-16, just two days before! There were dozens of surfers in the water below us.

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There was also another reminder of the dangers of surfing here.

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Once at Betty’s Bay, we were treated to our first sight of wild African Penguins. We were hoping to see maybe 5 or 6 birds here, but there were hundreds and hundreds of them. They were in the middle of their 3 week fasting period, and during this period they shed their plumage, and can look very scruffy.

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This haven for wildlife is ironically on the site of an old Whaling Station, and some of the buildings are still here, including this watch tower that was used to notify the people on land of a whaler ship that was arriving (not as a lookout for whales). It is now resident to penguins and a huge number of Cape Cormorants.

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From Betty’s Bay, we followed the coast  until we got to Cape Overberg (or more commonly known as the Whale Coast, not the whale spotting season at the moment), and at Gansbaai, we turned inland to the delightful town of Stanford. This is a really unspoilt little town, with lots of buildings dating from Victorian times to the 1930’s.

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We stopped here for lunch, and parked the Daf outside which caused a bit of a stir, with lots of people asking us questions about our trip so far and the truck itself. As we were sitting there eating lunch, we noticed that there was a bush fire some distance away, and quite a lot of emergency vehicles were heading that way.

About 5km out of town we were stopped at a police road block due to the bush fire ahead of us. We were behind about 3 cars, and waited about five minutes before the police deemed it safe for us to carry on.

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We were at the bottom of a long drag uphill, and without any form of run up the Daf was only ever going to climb this one slowly! The few cars in front of us shot off at a fast rate, and the 6 or so cars that had pulled up behind us as we waited, very soon overtook us and disappeared over the crest of the hill. As we got closer to the top of the hill two things became apparent, firstly it was obvious that the police had once again closed the road behind us, and secondly, us and the fire were converging at the top of the hill.

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 It was very windy and we could see the bush fire spreading towards us at an alarming rate. Should we stop, or carry on towards the fire? We decided to close all the windows and carry on. We hit the top of the hill at exactly the same time as the fire reached the road!

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The heat inside the cab through the glass was unbelievable and it was a very scary situation to find ourselves in. I’m sure that the police would not have let us through the road block had they known how slow our trusty Leyland Daf was. But all three of us came out of the little drama unscathed (again).

This is the other side of the road, as you can see it had already blown some fire across the road as we got there. Photos courtesy of Jac, in the passenger seat.

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After the drama of the bush fire, we turned off the tarmac and drove across the farmland of Cape Overberg, this 80km or so, has got so many birds of prey, inc buzzards, kites, and goshawks, at times they were sat on virtually every other fence posts.

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We also spotted this flock of Blue Crane’s in the wheat field.

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 Next we visited Cape L’Agulhas, this is the most Southerly Point on the African Continent (not Cape of Good Hope), and is also the meeting point of the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Its a lovely spot and with virtually no tourists (very different to Cape Hope), a very pleasant place to spend a night.

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We managed to get the truck within 150 metres of the most Southern Point.

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Then had to walk the rest of the way!

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We had read in the guide book that there is a protected fishing village called Waehuisrans, (or the English name of Arniston), it is a bit of a long detour to get to it, but it is a lovely place, with locals still living in the traditional stone cottages.

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And of course there is a stunning beach here.

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Jac had spotted a place at the top of the Overberg Peninsular, called De Hoop Nature Reserve, that offered accommodation and camping, so we headed there next. As we went over the top of the pass, we were shown what to expect, lots of sand dunes, lakes, and veld areas.

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This really is a hidden gem, and instead of just overnighting here as we planned we stayed for four nights. There are lots of wildlife here (though sadly no big game or predators), with many species of Antelope, Baboons, Zebra, and lots of birdlife, including Ibis, and the very rare and endangered African Oyster Catcher.

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They have set out some mountain bike routes too, so obviously we took advantage of these and one day did a 25km round trip to the dunes and the coast, this was fantastic experience cycling through the veld, constantly on the look out of the numerous snakes here, and traversing the rocky sections.

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But the jewel here is definitely the coast at De Hoop, the numerous rock pools are full of fish, and there is colourful coral growing in most of them, you have everything from huge sand dunes to rocky cliffs.

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On the way back to the lodge we came across a place where I guess something had attacked a porcupine, there were dozens of the super sharp quills across our path.

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We visited the beach once more while at De Hoop, this time driving down in the truck, and walking quite a long way along the coast, and spending more time exploring the beautiful crystal clear rock pools. 

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Surprisingly we also came across this big bees nest clinging on the rocks above the beach, the flowers here are plentiful but tiny, and the bees must surely have to work hard here.

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From Cape Overberg, we will head up to Windhoek, Namibia, crossing the Great Karoo before hitting the border, meeting our friends James and Nicky at the end of January. We are going to travel through Northern Namibia with them for 11 days, before leaving them and heading over to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique etc. We are really looking forward to seeing them in Windhoek, and hope they enjoy Southern Africa as much as we do.

Thanks for reading our blog.

 

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

   

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments on “SA, Wine, Wildfire, and Wildlife

  1. We greeted you and camped next to you last night in our Landcruiser motorhome.We are from Cape Town and does shorter trips and tours through our own country, as we are both working and the SA Rand not such a strong currency. Lovely to see that you enjoyed our Cape Town, winelands, Overberg etc! Have a save journey and come to Cape Town again! Johan and Elaine Mocke.

    Like

  2. As usual, fantastic —– turning cold here, it’s winter at last!
    All the best
    Andy & mandy

    Like

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