I placed the sky-blue painted, handcrafted coffee cup in front of me on the floor. We sat on the concrete bench right in front of Hout Bay beach. The bay lay calmly before us, with only small waves breaking on the shore today. The “crazies,” who jumped into the icy water every morning, silently endured it – the cold of the water. Also, the strong wind that had often thrown sand in our eyes and nose at this time, remained absent. It was a peaceful start to the day, and it was time for us to move on. Tomorrow would mark three months – three months in South Africa. To be more precise, three months in the Western Cape (with a road trip to the Eastern Cape). Most of the time, we had spent around Cape Town, based in Hout Bay. Right here.
So, we still have plenty of time to share a few words about the city, the wine country, the Cape of Good Hope, and the beaches – before I finish my coffee and we head to the airport. Where to? You’ll find out on Instagram, Facebook, or in the next blog.
The Winelands - Stellenbosch and Franschhoek
South African wine has been with me for as long as I can remember. Just like Argentine wine – but I hadn’t been there yet. I’m not a sommelier, so I enjoy and judge the wine that is served to me based on mood, environment, and company.
More than the flowery language of “wine connoisseurs,” I use simple words like “fresh,” “sweet,” or comparisons like “like lychee” and “like lilac.” But what do I know? I also use “tastes like plaster” when I bite into buckwheat bread. The wine connoisseur would probably grimace at “astringent” here and all without tannins.
And so it happens that I have learned to love wine in South Africa, especially in Cape Wineland. The wine tasting is just the way I like it. Uncomplicated, with music (usually live), good food, and even more impressive surroundings. The fact that it doesn’t break the bank sweetens the experience. Saturday and Sunday are the most eventful days to visit the wineries. Of course, visiting most of the wineries during the week is also possible.
The big show is reserved for weekends. For this purpose, we got into the car and randomly headed to one of the countless wineries in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. There, the car is parked in huge guarded parking lots. Then it’s on.
Depending on the winery, all kinds of things are offered. From snacks, restaurants, picnics, small art markets, clothing markets, live music, children’s playgrounds, pottery classes, and Christmas gospels (probably only around Christmas😉) there is everything here. Each winery also provides halls, huts, and outdoor-, picnic areas for events, primarily for weddings but also for company parties and other celebrations.
The wineries themselves are often housed in charming Cape Dutch-style buildings, which are a testament to the region’s rich history. The wineries can be explored individually or collectively in various ways. By bike, scooter, horse, wine trolley (a tram on wheels), or especially with the wine train in Franschhoek. Guided or self-driven (not the wine train).
I am impressed by the variety of wines produced in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, from full-bodied reds to fresh and refreshing whites.
My favorite is the Chenin Blanc “shen-nin bla.” What’s not to love? It is versatile in style and sweetness and can adapt to various tastes. Sometimes it tastes like “buttered popcorn.” That was a joke. A “wine connoisseur” explained that the wine originates from France and can sometimes taste that way. By the way, over 50% of worldwide production takes place in South Africa. The wine region at the Cape is not just a place where grapes are grown but also an area where the history and culture of South Africa are celebrated and preserved.
Many of the wineries offer tours that bring visitors closer to the region’s history and the people who have made it what it is today. A visit to Stellenbosch elicits a promise from the visitor to come back and try more of the region’s delicious wine and explore its history and culture even further.
One safety note to mention here: be careful on the roads around the winery. An extremely interesting behavior is observed among the many visitors who get into their cars after indulging in the countless culinary delights of the region with too much wine. I’m not referring to the many cases of wine that disappear into the trunk, but rather the large amount of grape nectar that is poured from one bottle to another.
In short, driving drunk seems to be the norm here. When we brought this up to our acquaintances Paul and Stacy, they replied, “It’s far too dangerous to take the bus or, God forbid, walk here.” Understanding but firm, we shook our heads in absolute disagreement.
"The Stellenbosch Winelands is a place that enchants the senses - with its magnificent wines, breathtaking landscapes, and the warm hospitality of its people. Here, you feel like you're in paradise."
The Cape of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope. Not to be confused with Cape Horn, the southernmost point of South America. It may sound funny, but geographical knowledge in this world is highly limited. But I remain hopeful 😉
The Cape of Good Hope is a peninsula located just about an hour’s drive south of Cape Town at the southernmost point of – you guessed it – South Africa.
It is commonly mistaken for two things it is not: the southernmost point of Africa and the spot where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. Both of these actually occur at Cape Agulhas, over 200km to the east. But who cares? Even most locals have no idea. Either way, a visit there took our breath away, not just because of the hike in 30-degree heat.
It is a small place where Mother Nature has done her best, and someone was smart enough to turn it into a national park.
Unfortunately, that “someone” also decided to charge 400 Rand for a day’s entry. Tourists pay precisely four times more than South African locals. Talk about equal treatment!
Just a few hundred meters after entering, we were greeted by a herd of Bontebok, an antelope species native to the area. Soon after, we saw our first “wild” zebras. They grazed not far from us and were unbothered by our presence.
More Bonteboks, birds, zebras, and ostriches followed, many of them on the beach. Strolling along a lonely beach with antelopes lying or standing just a few meters away is quite something. Wow. And then there are the baboons – mischievous monkeys that should never be fed, according to a sign. I made up the “mischievous” part.
When Nina picked me up from a hike, 30 of the funny creatures, which personally reminded me of my uncle Max, jumped onto her car in a curve. A fantastic event that I missed out on. Who goes hiking in 30-degree heat anyway?
Besides the many different and beautiful animals here, the national park is also home to the most minor plant kingdom on earth. It houses 1,100 plant species, many endemic to this region. 1,100 in this small space. To put it into perspective: In this small region, where you can drive down every road in one day, there are more plant species than in all of Great Britain or New Zealand.
Of course, we took the classic photo at the sign “Cape of Good Hope”. From there, a nice walking path leads to the old lighthouse. Along the way, you can enjoy the best views of the Cape of Good Hope. Even though the parking lot around the lighthouse was already crowded with tour buses and hordes of Indian tourists crowding the paths, toilets, and viewpoints around noon, there were few people on the walking path.
Diaz Beach is located along the way. White sandy beach, turquoise ice-cold water, surrounded by steep cliffs. It is the southwesternmost beach in all of Africa. We didn’t have to share it with anyone. From the parking lot of the lighthouse, a funicular takes you “up” to the old lighthouse.
The 585 meters “up” can be comfortably covered on a very wide path in a few minutes. Along the way, we found the best views of the coast. The lighthouse was put into operation in 1860. Shortly thereafter, the builders realized that only a few ships could see the light due to low-hanging clouds.
So a new lighthouse was built way down at sea. A small path (no train runs here) led us down to another observation platform in about 15 minutes, from which we could admire the new lighthouse.
“Looks like we’ve arrived at the end of the world, but what a view!” I said to Nina, looking south.
"The Cape of Good Hope is a place that awakens longings and makes dreams come true. The raw beauty of nature, the sound of the ocean and the endless horizon are unforgettable experiences that touch the soul."
CapeTown / Kaapstat / Kap stadt
Cape Town is considered one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world, and it is a complete package – beautiful, unique, adventurous, daring, and truly one-of-a-kind.
With obvious natural beauties like Table Mountain, Clifton, Camps Bay, Cape Point, Chapman’s Peak, the Cape Winelands, and so much more, it’s not hard to understand why.
The simple truth is: from the first moment we set foot in the Mother City, we were captivated by its magic. To quote Justin Timberlake: Can’t stop the feeling.
One of the best things about Cape Town is that there is NEVER a shortage of things to do, see, explore, and experience. Ocean? Check! Mountains? Check! Beach? Check! Plenty of exceptional wine? Check (see above)! Adventure, thrills, and excitement around every corner? CHECK! Getting your phone stolen by a down-and-out drug addict? Check! Not to mention the many world-renowned restaurants, trendy hotspots and rooftops, the pulsing energy, the rich heritage, history, and culture, the delightful artistic flair and creative expressions, the iconic landmarks, the spectacular natural wonders, the breathtaking beaches (coming up), oh and let’s not forget the people.
At this point, I need to pause briefly to recall the wonderful people we had the pleasure of meeting here. Hang on. Still going. Ahh. Wonderful.
Kapstadt die “Mother City”?
And last but not least, the beaches. Visually speaking, the beaches of the Mother City are among the most beautiful in the world. We love to relax, sun-kissed and with salty hair, on the sand and doze off to the sound of the waves or read a good book.
For us personally, three things spoil the beach idyll around Cape Town.
And it’s not the dreaded crowds of people you might know from southern Spain, the Italian Adriatic coast, or Florida’s spring break beaches.
I’m talking about the wind, the icy water, and the smell of sewage entering the ocean. The latter seems to be caused by the country’s increasingly severe electricity problem and, let’s say, “waste management issues”. It’s not like Durban, where over 800 kilometers of beach and coastline were so heavily contaminated with sewage that severe health damage can occur.
We are confident that Cape Town will also tackle this problem.
Well, my coffee is now finished, and we must hurry to catch our flight.
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