Following on from my previous South Africa posts, from Cape Town we hired a small white Toyota car. This was an historic occasion as it was to be my first time driving overseas. South Africans drive on the left, so a gentle baptism was expected.
Our first trip was to be the Wine Route visiting Franshoek and Stellanbosch, plus a couple of vineyards along the way.
Armed with a map of the route, we soon found ourselves on open roads in the countryside passing vineyards, big skies and purple Jacaranda trees.
First stop was Franschhoek with its white wood buildings and Zulu themed stores.
We never really were able to relax however due to the fact that as soon as we parked up, a twenty-something local sought money to look after our car.
My previous experience of such things was attending football matches in Manchester. The tried & trusted formula there was to agree to pay them after the match to ensure they did their job, or a least did not vandalise your car.
I attempted the same tactic this time, but I think that something may have been lost in translation. The scruffy looking chap then proceeded to follow us everywhere, loitering outside shops that we entered.
We curtailed our visit just to get rid of him, handing him a few rand as we left for no particular reason. Our car was undamaged though, no thanks to him!
Next stop was a fabulous winery called Seidelberg near Paarl. They offered free wine-tastings, a pleasure that I was unable to enjoy due to my driver status. Twelve glasses were lined up for the tasting of the vineyard’s own produce. Reds, through to rosé, on to whites and finally sparkling. Despite only taking a sip from each glass, Mrs Wilbur was pretty tipsy by the time the tasting was over!
It was now time for lunch. We sat outside in the warm sunshine for a delicious salad, augmented by the one glass I allowed myself. Mrs Wilbur had water!
After buying a few bottles, we were off and heading for Stellenbosch where we would be spending the night. More scenic rural roads and a few ostrich filled fields as well to provide an amusing spectacle.
Stellenbosch was a lot bigger than Franschhoek and it seemed far more geared up for tourists. We had a quick walkabout after hotel check-in, but could not be bothered to visit any shops.
Next day we hit the road again, drove up into the hills for some splendid views of row upon row of vines, visited another winery called Eikendal and then headed for our next destination, the luxury Westin Western Cape Hotel near Kleinmond.
The hotel was a surprise for Mrs Wilbur and she was treated to several spa treatments & fine cuisine. Our room overlooked a blue lagoon and golf course, perfect for an early morning stroll during which we encountered a rather sleepy looking owl.
We were reluctant to leave but were booked to stay in Hermanus further down the Cape, a place where we were hoping to see Southern Right whales.
We had been recommended to take a longer scenic route to get there along a cliff hugging road above Gordon’s Bay. The road was perhaps the most awesome one I had ever driven with us stopping several times to take it all in.
We decided to stop at nearby Betty’s Bay for lunch, where we ate some delicious locally caught white salmon. Our friendly hosts asked us whether we had been to see the penguins at Boulders Beach near Cape Town.
When we replied that we would be doing so in a few days time, they replied by recommending us not to bother, but instead to take a slight detour to see the African penguin colony close by at Stoney Point.
This we did and without another soul around watched entranced as the flightless birds dived, swam, fed & gossiped. The cormorants seemed to be watching with the same level of amusement as us – more likely they were eyeing up the fish I suppose.
After Mrs Wilbur posed in front of the noisy gaggle we were off again and soon checking into our Hermanus hotel for two nights.
We were right on the cusp of the end of the whale watching season and I was therefore delighted when informed that whales had been spotted the day before.
We were to have no such luck, spending hours next day looking through binoculars in the forlorn hope of spotting some giant mammals. Every now and again we got a false alarm as a boat honed into view, but just like later in 2015 when we had a fruitless time in Iceland, we were to be whale free.
We still enjoyed our time in Hermanus, enjoying some lovely clifftop walks amongst colourful fynbos (plant life clinging to the rocks) as the waves crashed dramatically below.
We also enjoyed some gorgeous seafood and bought impressive handmade souvenirs from a local market that are still proudly displayed at home.
We finished our trip with two more nights in Cape Town as you can read about on this blog.