Wine, Rocks, and Roses: October 14 – 22

Mike and I had been making our way east along the coast of South Africa for 2 weeks and now it was time to head west back towards Cape Town through the mountains on Route 62, which is the counterpart of the Garden Route.

On Friday, we left Storms River and headed to Oudstshoorn which is known as the Ostrich capital of the world. We made our way over a mountain pass to a valley which we followed to Oudstshoorn. The coast had been rainy and foggy and the valley was warm and sunny – perfect! We knew we were getting closer to the town when there started being ostrich farms on both sides of the roads. We stopped at the hostel to secure a room and were informed that every room in the town was booked due to a marathon race tomorrow. So we went to lunch to think through our options. The next town was quite a ways down the road, so we decided to try one last option at the campground. Surely they would have room for our tiny little tent. Well, after much pleading, the women finally decided we could squeeze into their overflow spot so we had a place to sleep! I knew that tent would be handy on this trip:)

After making our home for the evening, we drove to the Cango Caves. If you have been following our blog, you might have seen a picture from this adventure already! The Cango Caves are huge limestone caves and full of stalagmites and stalactites, some dating back 2.5 million years. The only way into the caves is through a guided tour and we opted for the ‘adventure’ tour. The first 3 chambers we visited were huge with beautiful columns and formations. Then the adventure started with the Tunnel of Love – a small passage that squeezed you from all sides. We had to crab walk through this section, but it wasn’t too bad. The next passage was called Devil’s Chimney and was a bit like climbing a chimney when rock climbing. I squeezed into it, then made a few vertical moves and then slithered on my belly toward the light at the other end. Finally we went through the letterbox. For this, we had to slide in on our bellies, headfirst, then midway through, rollover onto our backs and then slide out feet first into the next chamber! It was awesome, and I really enjoyed our tour! Our tour guide was a hoot too. He called me “Mrs. Oregon” and Mike “Mrs. Oregon’s McDreamy” because we discussed Grey’s Anatomy together, and how this season was going to start:)

We continued our drive east on Saturday to a small town called Montagu where we planned to spend 3 nights. The drive was pretty, and we passed many fruit farms, which reminded me of Hood River at home. Montagu is a really small town surrounded by mountains with red rock and known for its rock climbing with 400+ routes! We stayed at the Montagu Rose B&B. Our room had big windows overlooking the well-manicured flower garden and red mountains and was filled with colorful artwork. There was even a small bottle of Muscadel, a local dessert wine! The couple running the B&B, Ben – a retired professor and Deoni an artist, made us feel at home and watched over us in a way that made us feel well taken care of. They went out of their way and made sure we had a cell phone when we went hiking and even had their gardener wash our really dirty car! It was a nice treat.

On Saturday afternoon, we tried to taste at a few local wineries, but they all close by 1pm on Saturday. So instead, we sampled some dried fruit and relaxed in our homey room. That evening, we went to dinner and most places were packed, and we were hopelessly underdressed, but we eventually found a small place and had another amazing gourmet dinner! We are definitely eating well in South Africa!

Sunday, we headed to a wine festival in the neighboring town, Roberston. Mike had discovered the festival while looking through brochures, and we tailored our trip to make sure we would be able to attend – we were not disappointed! The venue was on a river bank overlooking vineyards and mountains. There were 40 wineries with 300+ wines to sample, and our tasting fees were included in our entrance fee with all proceeds going to the local hospice. We arrived at 9:45am and decided it wasn’t too early to start tasting.  We tasted at many different booths, and for the first time I had to make use of the spittoons! We took our time and checked out craft booths and the local farmer’s market between tasting, where we bought our yummy picnic lunch from… homemade bread, local olives, and local goat cheese! After having our fill of tasting, we sat beside the river to review our tasting notes to determine which wine we should buy. We finally settled on 6, 1 for each day we had remaining in South Africa, totally to $35!!

It was time to rock climb on Monday morning and our guide, Justin, picked us up right after breakfast. He drove us the quick 5 minutes to his house to get our shoes and harnesses and then we walked to the area to rock climbing. The area was beautiful up on a hillside so we could overlook the town and also the mountains. Justin put up the first route, but after figuring out that we knew what we were doing he let me lead the rest of them! It was great climbing – long routes and a variety of moves. The last route of the day was Moby Dick (5.10b). Moby was a bulge ¾ of the way up that you had to climb around in the most awkward moves ever! I lead it clean, which I was stoked about because I haven’t climbed since May! We both enjoyed every minute of climbing and really enjoyed getting to know Justin who has also climbed all over the world including Smith Rocks in Oregon!

It was time to leave Montagu on Tuesday, and we were sad to say goodbye, so we started the morning with a great little hike right outside town. It was short but climbed steady to the top of a hill that overlooked the town and where we climbed the day prior. It was a nice way to start the morning before our 2 hour drive to Stellenbosch. The drive was really nice, and we started to get into green mountains with rocky summits. Mike and I, still high on yesterday, were scoping out potential alpine routes along the way! We stopped for lunch in Franschhoek, foodie heaven according to the guidebook. Our lunch was at a winery, so we also sampled their wine. Both food and wine were delicious! The remainder of the drive was quick, and we settled into Stellenboshch. The downtown was nice so we window shopped for the evening and planned our wine route for the next day. 

On Wednesday, we tasted at 3 wineries outside of Stellenboshch. The first winery was know for its white wine and views. In our experience, if a winery boasts about its views, the wine is not good, and well it held true. We don’t really enjoy chardonnays, and that is what they do well we found out. The rest of their wine was not great. The next winery was Hidden Valley, and we had tried their wine before at our anniversary dinner, so we were excited to taste some more! We were not disappointed in the wine, and the wine pourer was one of the best! She had us compare and contrast their wines and was full of knowledge but not snooty!  Last but not least we went to Rust en Vrede (Rest and Peace) one of the oldest wineries in the area and known for its red wines. We tried 5 wines, each better than the last. After tasting, they offered lunch in their wine cellar of steak and came with a glass of their wine. So we enjoyed a fabulous lunch and they continued to top off our wine glasses throughout the meal! Wow! It was hard to leave the winelands and head back to Cape Town.

The next 3 days were spent in Cape Town primarily catching up on journals, blogs, and the flights for our next 6 months of travel (we have yet to purchase, but hope to this week!). The highlights included a haircut for both of us and a trip to a huge shopping center to get new shoes for Mike and a guidebook for India! We did get to visit the District 6 museum which tells the history behind a neighborhood that got demolished due to Apartheid. 30,000 people were forced out of their homes and businesses to the outside of the city. The museum was very personal with many of their stories, and we both really enjoyed it. I also convinced Mike to go to afternoon tea with me again. It was nice to indulge in savory and sweet foods one last time before we leave for India!

South Africa has been amazing and I have loved every minute. As we were leaving we were trying to figure out when we could come back! I’m sure glad I added a 3rd week way back when we were planning this portion of the trip, and we could have used a 4th week!


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1 Response to Wine, Rocks, and Roses: October 14 – 22

  1. Mary says:

    South Africa sounds amazing and so much you and Mike’s “style” with climbing and wine. Sounds like a great stopping place.

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