Thursday, 21 January 2016

Simon's Town & Beyond - Touring Western Cape In South Africa

Beautiful Simon's Town Harbour, home to the South African Navy and numerous wind blown cruising sailors. After an 800 nautical mile passage from Durban we were very pleased to be here, among cruising friends and the a very friendly local sailing community. The past twelve months in the Indian Ocean had certainly taken a toll on the both us and the boat, so we were keen to start preparing Crystal Blues for the next phase of our voyage - the Atlantic Ocean.

However after a couple of weeks in port, with the urgent maintenance issues on Crystal Blues ticked off, we took some time to explore further afield, driving to the Stellenbosch vinyard area, just an hour from Simon's Town.

Stellenbosch is South Africa's third oldest settlement, founded in 1679. The wine culture here was originally started by Huguenot refugees in 1690. Home to a large university culture, the town has many classified and significant precincts - truly a beautiful village feel.

Last century the area was a center of fruit growing, however the world wide boycotts on South Africa during the notorious apartheid regime saw that industry fail. The land was again on-sold and much has been returned to viticulture. 

Of course we were keen to sample the local wines and on that day trip we enjoyed two beautiful vineyards - the locals here call them "wine farms" by the way.

Solms Delta Wine Estate was a real eye opener. Quirky varietal wines and a deeply engaged and proud local staff opened our eyes to what is possible in the new South Africa. Here the traditional occupants of the land and farm workers have been empowered through a training and a profit sharing arrangement that says much about the management - more power to them I say. A fine restaurant and a museum dedicated to traditional African music make this estate a real pleasure to visit.

Boschendal Estate (see the image below) is centered on a 300 year old homestead in a magnificent park-like setting.  A lawn big enough for a football game is bounded by huge shade trees, just perfect for lazy warm weather wine tasting.  Here the "entry level" tasting was enough for us, and we returned to Simon's Town that night with yet more "produce" to be stored in the bilges.

After almost three months in South Africa we are convinced that this country is an undiscovered tourism and travel opportunity for the rest of the world.  A vibrant food and wine culture (specially here in Western Cape) plus the powerful game park wild life experiences are all available at bargain rates, given the decline in value of the local currency. This is a huge and diverse nation, with a fascinating history and a population that is anxious to please.

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