Leaving on a Jetplane

We dropped off our rental at King Shaka International Airport and I was reminded of when I rushed back from South Africa four years ago when Ryan was taken ill. This departure definitely was not stressful at all for me. But leaving KZN was a little gut-wrenching for Zoze as she flies back to New Zealand from Cape Town, whereas I go back there after visiting the Cape.

I was also reminded of my very first departure from South Africa back in 1967, departing from the old Durban airport. It was right in the middle of apartheid sanctions so there were no foreign flights allowed. I had to take a small plane from Durban to Mozambique and then a charter to London, I think it was in a DC9 with a lot of stops along the way. Family and first-love boyfriend stood on the tarmac to wave me goodbye. Quite an experience for a very naive 18 year old. So different from today with all the security palaver.

This departure - no naïveté at all!

The Cape is both so geographically and culturally different from KZN! I have only been here once, and then only to Cape Town. The countryside reminds me, in a way, of Northern California, especially during the dryness of summer. With the drought here, the foothills are golden but the dryness is awful!

Villiersdorp is about 1 1/2 hours or so from the airport, through various suburbs and then out into the country. This area is in the Cape Winelands, with vineyards covering the foothills of the craggy mountains. It's also a huge fruit-growing area with acres and acres of apple and deciduous fruit trees!

Range after range of mountains circle the fertile valleys, with mountain passes that are quite hair raising! The other day, a guy on a road bike was ahead of us and we clocked him doing 80 kph(right around 50mph)!  Just hoping he didn't hit any rocks that had tumbled from the rocky hillside! Every time we are on the Franschhoek Pass, we stop at a spring on the side of the road for fresh water! Someone has added a spout to make it easier to fill the bottles, but it's quite a hazardous operation, as the layby (turn out) is pretty small and it's on a hairpin bend, so crossing the road to get to it requires nimble feet!

Every place I go, I look around and wonder if I could live there. Our first venture out was to Franschhoek, a beautiful little town that is well-known for it's food and wine culture. It's considered quite an expensive place to live, but it's somewhere that I think I could consider making a place for myself if I wasn't going to Belize! But then again, I really love the tropical aspect of Durban in KZN! At least at this point, it's not a decision I have to make.

Tree lined street in Villiersdorp
Tree lined street in Villiersdorp

Villiersdorp is very small and provincial. Biff and Julie have only been here a few months, but the locals are very friendly and they have made a lot of friends. Their house is lovely, with a beautiful mountain view from the back patio. But the drought is taking a toll on the garden and it's time to xeriscape!

In the other direction from Franschhoek is Worcester, a bigger town than Villiersdorp where they sometimes go to do their shopping. We took a drive out there, through miles and miles of fields and past a very big dam that is extremely low at the moment. Our ultimate destination (besides the shopping) was the Karoo Desert National Botanical Gardens, an amazing place with hundreds of indigenous plants, laid out in zones. Plants I have only seen in pictures grew out of the sand! And desert tortoises hid under bushes out of the blazing sun. Most of the flowers blooming were tiny and inconspicuous but apparently, in the spring, it is alive with brilliant blooming plants. What weren't conspicuous were the thorns! OMG! some were about 5" long and deadly!

Just because I am covering the distilleries doesn't mean I can't do other tastings, like beer and wine. We had heard about Honingklip Brewery that is reputed to be really good, so set out for a visit and to have lunch there. On the way we stopped at an amazing farm stall that goes far beyond any farm stall I have ever been to! It was very crowded so we didn't stay long, but it was loaded with delicious goodie so may have to go back! The guy who owns it apparently has a warehouse of old cars there. But much to Biff's disappointment, it wasn't open to the public.

However, we did enjoy the beer and a wonderful lunch out on the verandah.

Van de Stel Pass

Old barn on Van der Stel Pass, tweaked with Prisma
Old barn on Van der Stel Pass, tweaked with Prisma

On the way back, we went the road less traveled! Up and over Van der Stel Pass on the gravel road, stopping at an old house for tea. We were in Biff's old Merc so it was fun off-roading in it, although the road was very well-graded! The house is way out in the middle of nowhere and run by an elderly lady who lives there all on her own! It's a beautiful old place with a wide, shaded front porch and she runs it as a B&B. Behind the house, an old barn is teetering on the edge of extinction but is very photogenic! It was once a winery but it doesn't appear to be run as such any longer.

Next up: Craft Markets, wine, Christmas, wine, Morgans, wine, penguins and yes, more wine!

[box] Honingklip Brewery Botriver Rd, Bot River, 7185 Western Cape Phone: 082 542 6484

Karoo Desert National Botanical Gardens, Roux Rd, Panorama, (off National Rd) Worcester, W.Cape South Africa

GPS Co-ordinates: 19°27'01.7"E 33°37'00.2"S Long 19.44976 Lat -33.61217 [/box]

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