September 17, 2005

South Africa FlagAt breakfast, Nicole informed us that the pre-tour meeting would be held at 12 noon. Our original itinerary had said that it would be at 1 pm, so we had to alter our morning plans. We had planned to go to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, but now there wasn’t enough time to do that properly. So instead we walked south on Main Road and then along the coastal road. The views were lovely and so were the houses, which were very expensive beach accommodations. At one point we could look down from the sidewalk by the rooftop parking lot and see six or seven floors of condos below us.

Eventually we reached a place where we could walk down a narrow path to Clifton Beach #2, with beautiful white sand and Atlantic waves. On the way back we stopped at a coffee shop and bought some biscotti to have at lunch, and at a grocery store where we bought a 250g jar of Marmite and some guava concentrate to make juice with on the trip.

At the meeting we met our fellow travellers. There are 17 people on the tour, which unfortunately means that the bus is full. There are two Norwegian 20-year-olds, us four Canadians, 3 Swiss, one Dutchman, and the rest are Germans. Introductions were made and Nicole gave us the tour briefing: money, behaviour, when to take malaria pills, and so on. Then we organized our day packs and loaded ourselves into the truck to start the tour.

Today we were heading out to South Africa’s wine country around Stellenbosch, which is very beautiful with grape vines in the fields surrounded by jagged mountains. First stop was the Morgenhof Wine Estate for a tour and a wine-tasting. We tried five types of wine: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, and Cape Late Bottle Vintage (which is the South African version of port). Neither of us knows much about wine but we both agreed that we preferred the Sauvignon Blanc and the Late Bottle Vintage.

Once the tasting was finished, we boarded the truck again to drive through more of the wine country to the town of Stellenbosch, which is South Africa’s second-oldest town. We spent about 45 minutes walking around and looking at the 19th-century Dutch architecture, which is fairly plain. One of the shops we went into had spices for sale; we bought a 100g packet of turmeric for only R5.50.

Back on the truck, we headed over a mountain pass to Franschhoek, where French Huguenots (Protestants) settled after they were forced out of France. There is a large monument commemorating them there. Then we retraced our route back to the Inn in Cape Town.

At 7:30 pm the group gathered in the hotel and rode the public transit bus down to the waterfront, where we had dinner together at the Quay 4 Brasserie. Paul had duck á l’orange and Rosemary had kingclip, which is a fairly dry white-fleshed fish somewhat like sole. Both were very good. We had interesting conversations with our fellow travellers but still didn’t remember their names very well. Then we caught the public transit bus back to the hotel.

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