Most of our days of late have continued to be lacking in adventure but necessarily productive. Dallas found his way back to the engine rooms and cleaned up the fuel in both tanks. I’ve been trying to patch things up, including the dinghy (one of the chains that it hangs on has hose around it but still caused it to chafe through almost to the core) and cushion covers in the salon.

Last week I had the serendipitous opportunity to meet one of my best friends from high school in Cape Town for a trip up to the Stellenbosch region. I’ve actually known Ryan since 2nd or 3rd grade, and each year for the last 16 years, he has organized a reunion of some of our best friends from high school for a Christmas dinner. While attending the dinner last month, I learned of his business trip to Cape Town, and I’m sure you can guess my response when he asked if I wanted to join him in heading to Stellenbosch for wine tasting!

The trip from Cape Town to Stellenbosch coulda/shoulda/woulda been easy if it weren’t for the fact that determining our mode of transportation was left up to me. Haha. No, seriously. My reputation in the planning department precedes me! Dallas is definitely the planner, but since he wasn’t going and Ryan was en route, the logistics were up to me. I located the train timetables and figured out a plan for getting to CT, meeting Ryan, and then catching the train to Stellenbosch for the winery tour that I booked reservations for, but somehow I missed that the train from CT to Stellenbosch was not direct at that particular time/day. The result was that Ryan and I rode the train until the end of the line, only to look at each other and say, “could we have passed Stellenbosch without noticing?” No, we learned. We should have transferred to a different train 4 stops back. So now what? I called the tour company, and they suggested that it would be faster for us to catch a minibus (a small van that serves as a taxi) than to backtrack on the train. Initially we tried to find a minibus stop, but it turns out there is no such thing. People just stand on the side of the road until one of the minibuses comes screeching to a halt to pick them up. In our case, there were two minibuses that stopped, and young men riding in the front from both buses emerged to fight over who would get our business. The minibus that won was spray-painted black with a graffiti design on the sides and appeared to be at least as old as our boat. Ryan and I squeezed inside among the 12 others packed in like sardines, and off we rode with hip hop music blaring at full volume. Did I mention Ryan had just arrived the previous evening? I think he was quickly immersed into South African culture – thanks to my error! We eventually made it to our destination, but not before the minibus broke down (dirty fuel apparently)! Fortunately the next minibus stop was only a couple of blocks away, as it was sunny and HOT, and we were supposed to be tasting wine, not hiking!

We went to four wineries on our tour and sampled some very approachable and reasonably priced wines. The Cape region is particularly known for Pinotage, which is a blend of Pinot Noir and Hermitage or Shiraz. I found it to be smooth on the front end but spicy on the back end. Our favorite wine of the day, though, was the Shiraz Reserve from Spiced Root. Mmmmm. This came from the Fairview winery which in general was very nice and had a variety of fantastic cheeses displayed for purchase and tasting. 

stellen The climate and geography of this region is similar to Northern CA

wine groupRyan and others from the Easy Rider Wine Tour

Part of the fun of going on an organized tour was the chance to meet others who were doing the same thing. In our case, there was a great group of tourists from Italy, Ireland, Australia, Japan, the U.S., and South Africa. By the time we got to the last winery, I had met most people and was sharing my observations about how violent Australians can be with a few others at our table, only to discover that the couple sitting across from me who I had not yet met was from Australia. Oops. Fortunately they were in total agreement with what I said!

The Western Cape region really is an excellent tourist destination, and we are reluctant to leave. However, we are excited about the next stage of our journey as well. Our next stop will be Namibia, the country northwest of South Africa that is famous for its red deserts. We will then begin our Atlantic crossing, stopping at St. Helena en route to Recife, Brazil. We are trying to time it so that we can be in Brazil for Carnival, which means that we will be able to stick around here (Simon’s Town) for another couple of weeks before we need to embark. This should give us plenty of time to address must-do boat maintenance tasks (e.g., fixing bilge pumps as usual and diagnosing the problem with the propane sniffer alarm that keeps going off…), see our friends in Cape Town again, and if weather permits, climb Table Mountain!