Cape Winelands, Heading Home

Our last few days in South Africa…. It’s been a great ten weeks: we’ve seen a lot and learned a lot. We had a relaxing time in the Cape Winelands, with Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and the Franschhoek Motor Museum our particular highlights.

Overview: 8 days, 512 km

We ended our last post at Langebaan on the west coast. Tuesday was spent doing some food shopping and driving down to Berg River Resort near Paarl in the Cape Winelands. We were about to do something completely unheard of (for us) – stay on the same camp site for six nights.

In what later turned out to have been a very lucky move, I had emailed a couple of camp sites in the area to ask whether they had chemical toilet emptying facilities (only a minority of South African camp sites seem to have these, and we needed to make sure that our last camp site before returning the NAVI-SOK was one of them). Berg River Resort replied and said that the chemical toilet emptying was no problem, but that as it was a holiday weekend and they’d be very busy, they couldn’t guarantee that they’d have space as they operated on a first come first served basis.

A quick check online confirmed that yes, Thursday was “Human Rights Day” in South Africa. In these situations, you never know if someone is exaggerating or not, but we decided to play it safe and get ourselves set up on one camp site from Tuesday. Berg River Resort had replied to our email, so they got our business…..

As it turned out, they were not fibbing about the site being busy. It was full to bursting from Wednesday evening…… Phew – we were glad that we’d arrived early and nabbed a spot. Full camp sites would’ve been a very nasty surprise at this stage in our trip.

Staying on a packed camp site was actually ok. The neighbours were all very nice and guarded our pitch for us each day…..

You don’t need five full days to look at the Cape Winelands (unless, of course, you want to visit a lot of different vineyards). After a busy few weeks touring South Africa, though, it was nice to have a reasonably lazy last few days. The climate in this part of the country is pretty human-friendly too:

We did a day trip on Wednesday to Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch is a lovely town, very upmarket. It has a university and we did see plenty of studenty types around, but they all seemed to be frequenting nice cafes and there wasn’t a book or a laptop in sight…..

Stellenbosch had lots of fabulous old buildings:

Oooh, you can even buy them:

4.2 million rand is about £240,000 before you ask…. “Charming slave lodge” isn’t a description I’d previously seen in an estate agent’s window!

Most of the businesses in central Stellenbosch were restaurants, bars, coffee shops, art galleries and the like. “It’s all very trendy” said Mark, and so it was – it could easily all have been the work of the same interior designer.

The Village Museum in the centre of Stellenbosch gave us four houses from different periods to look at. Mark was very taken by the first house (early 18th century) and in particular the idea of keeping a rifle above the front door:

We also had a look around the botanical gardens, which were as clean and tidy as everything else in Stellenbosch:

Mark was perplexed by the dentist’s advertising slogan:

Sorry – the LAST thing we want is a surprising experience chez the dentist…. Thankfully, Mark’s gnashers seem to have survived this trip intact, so we had no need to make any further enquiries….

Thursday Afrikaans Language Monument on Paarl Mountain. As Mark would say: “Art…. Fart”. Here’s the explanation of what the various parts represent, followed by a few pics:

Paarl Mountain is a big granite outcrop:

On Friday we visited Franschhoek, another very attractive and upmarket town.

Like Stellenbosch, there is no shortage of restaurants or art galleries….. Mark wondered whether “the village tart” has quite the same meaning in South Africa as it does in the UK?

Outside an art gallery – Mark questioned whether the security measures were wholly appropriate given South Africa’s history of slavery?

The first farms in this area were granted to French Huguenots who arrived in the late 1680s fleeing religious persecution in France. The name Franschhoek means “French corner”. Franschhoek has a very good Huguenot Museum which explains the general story very well:

Of the 160,000 or so Huguenots who fled France, about 300 or so came to the Cape (as a comparison, around 50,000 went to England). Here’s Mark perusing some information about who arrived, where they were from, their prior occupation, and where they settled:

The Huguenot Memorial at one end of the main street:

On Saturday, we travelled to Worcester. One of the main attractions was the journey over the Du Toitskloof Pass. It’s not particularly high or winding, but it does go through some stunning scenery:

View from the pass (including Paarl Mountain and, in the distance, Table Mountain):

The open air museum in Worcester was, if we’re honest, quite disappointing.

Looking on the bright side, though, it was free and the shepherd’s hut (below) did not contain a former prime minister scribbling his memoirs….

We’d decided to visit Franschhoek Motor Museum on Sunday morning. It wasn’t that far to drive from the camp site and we’d be back in plenty of time to pack up and give the NAVI-SOK a final clean before handing him back on Monday.

The area around Franschhoek is just vineyard after vineyard after vineyard. The motor museum is in the grounds of one of said vineyards. Driving up the estate road was like entering the grounds of the poshest of stately homes; not a leaf or blade of grass out of place.

The overall effect continued at the museum. There’s a reception building (on the left in the first photo below) then four identical buildings housing the exhibits:

The collection here consists of around 220 cars, with 80 on display at any one time. That all made sense when we got there – the photo below shows one half of the first building:

Yep, ten cars. All very neat and tidy!

The first building housed older stuff. The 1903 Model A Ford was the first motor car produced by Ford and apparently was originally only available in…. red. I have filed that bit of information away in my mental trivia section.

The 1925 Bugatti type 23 certainly looked the part:

Mark really liked this 1932 MG Midget J2:

The second building was closed (they did state this on their website and had apparently reduced the entry prices accordingly, so we had no complaints).

The third building held some true horrors, including some huge American monsters of the 1960s and 1970s and, naturally, a Delorean.

We found plenty to gawp at in the fourth building, though. Here’s my favourite, a 1956 Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk2 Spyder:

Apparently they only made three of these. Mark was kept busy at the other end of the building, which held a number of much more modern (post 2000) vehicles. It’s strange to see cars newer than the one you drive at home in a motor museum!

There’s no shortage of Ferraris here, if you like that sort of thing….

Sunday afternoon saw us, as mentioned above, packing and cleaning. The site had pretty much emptied out on Sunday morning, so were suddenly alone…….

Monday arrived. Bye bye NAVI-SOK, you’ve been great….. What we hadn’t realised when we booked (and would have had no way of finding out) was that a big cycle race ended on Sunday. Pretty much the entire fleet of big motorhomes (which they rent out under the “Maui” brand) had been out for ten days and were all being brought back on Monday morning. There were vans and skinny lads in cycling shorts everywhere (which did beg the question – do they not own any other clothes?). The result was that the NAVI-SOK was given the most cursory of inspections and we were rapidly on our way…..

We failed to go up the Cape Town cable car again on Monday afternoon. The weather was fine and we could see the top station (unlike when we arrived back in January and the cable cars were just disappearing into a cloud:

We could see the little red cable car at the top station, but it wasn’t moving – the whole thing was closed as it was too windy! Oh well, some things just aren’t meant to be. We headed down to the V&A Waterfront for a wander around then got some food. I’ll spare you the photo of Mark’s burger for fear of turning into one of those folk who feel the need to document every meal. Mark’s attention was attracted by this, which Mark seemed to be interpreting as a command rather than a suggestion:

There then followed a comedy conversation between Mark and our very helpful waiter on the nature and merits of Zulu blonde… “mmmm, very fruity” said the waiter. I tried not to snigger. It wouldn’t really have mattered what he said to be honest – Mark was always going to try a pint….

The two spoons in front of Mark, in case you’re wondering, were brought by our smiling waiter who didn’t seem to want to accept that Mark was having pudding but I wasn’t – so had decided that we must be intending to share. Mark soon put him straight on that front:

Staying in a hotel overnight was a strange experience after ten weeks in a van. The very firm foam mattress in the NAVI-SOK suited me just fine. The hotel bed felt like a suffocating great big marshmallow in comparison. Oh well…..

The journey back to the UK went according to plan. By rights, we should now be packing up SOK for an imminent departure to Krakow and then south into Slovakia and Hungary (continuing our journey that was cut short in 2017) but that has unfortunately had to be shelved for the present due to governmental Bungling with a capital B. Our backup plan has swung into action – we’ll be off to the Isle of Man for a month again in May – June, getting back a few days before Mark heads off on his boys’ motorbike trip to the Pyrenees. We’ll do some shorter trips in the UK in the interim….

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