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Two Weeks in South Africa, 1999

Cape Town and Stellenboesch

After this, I simply drove into Cape Town. As per the map I followed the N2 until it disgorged me into town. I got a bearing on Strand St., and on that street I saw a hotel which advertised rooms for 250, and I stopped there. Around the corner from the hotel was the Marco's Restaurant, with African food and music, perfect for my needs. I had the crocodile special, which tasted like pork chop, but with bones like a fish, not the best combination. Anyway, the music was good, until the band played Guantanamera, and then I understood that their musical talent was in part an ability to prolong innocuous lyrics.

Next morning I had a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and other buffet treats. The coffee was weak, but I had an expresso at a cyber cafe. As in Durban, I exhausted my goals quickly, and was ready to make a drive around the Cape. This proved to be a stunning experience. The cape is something like the whole west of the USA encapsulated, or at least the Big Sur area. Chapman Peak was in particular a place worth spending a few moments to take photos in either direction, either to the bay of Hout or back down the mountainside along the road to the Cape.

In the Cape park itself, baboons graced rocks overlooking the rugged seascapes. At the Cape of Good Hope, a group of tourists off a bus were draping themselves over the sign as I appeared. There wasn't much else to detain me there. Such points are interesting to attain as milestones in life and travel, and it was interesting to see what early explorers saw as they rounded the Cape (fantastic mountain viewscapes, no bars).

I headed up the False Bay side and was quickly in an area as Californian as the one I had left: slow traffic, traffic lights, nondescript intersections. I negotiated this area for the good part of an hour trying to work my way east and then noticed that right in my path to the airport lay the dreaded Cape Flats, the no-go township area the LP had warned me about. Somehow I found a road around that, but the shanties of squatters topped dunes that could be viewed from the N2 to Stellenboesch. What a contrast between the squalor of the township areas around Cape Town and the Atlantic side suburbs with their California dwellings, or the genteel wine-country atmostphere of the university town of Stellenbosch. Even the wine growing town of Franschhoek had its township ghetto right outside the attractive, monumented, town center. It makes you wonder how people can live in such circumstances, on either side of the tracks.

In Franschhoek, where I arrived a bit late in the day, I just managed to visit 4 wineries, but 2 wouldn't let me taste, the latter even though I'd arrived 20 min before closing. Special function they said. A bit disappointed there.

So I raced back to Stellenboesch, about 35 km away on the back roads. Fortunately there were no funeral corteges on the road like the one I had passed on the way to Franschhoek with its processionists walking slowly behind the hearse vehicle, taking up the oncoming lane of the two way highway so that cars behind were waiting in a queue of about 20 vehicles, and piling on. But what a day for a funeral. With the fine weather, cool and sunny, and the pristine surroundings in the valley, it could have been a 4th of July picnic. The deceased must have been black, judging from the family walking just behind the hearse, but the participants, a couple hundred of them, came from all races in the community.

I was still racing the clock as I hit the stop and go traffic eking through the traffic lights on the roads bypassing Stellenboesch. This time I was racing not to make a wine tasting but to reach the Tourist Information office, where when I arrived thankfully before closing, the staff helped me in every way I asked. A room? How much did I want to pay? I thought 150 would be about right, so with the snap of a finger (plus a phone call) a b&b was booked for me. And where could I taste wine in the evening in Stellenboesch? There was exactly one such place, and a map of the town was produced and x'ed at the venue requested. Oh, and where could I use the phone? How about this one here? The young lady at the counter dialed the two numbers I requested to call and handed me the phone each time. In this way I was easily able to reconfirm my booking to Jo'burg with the SAA office at the airport back in Cape Town, and to contact Cobus's step mother in Claremont, where I'd be going next day to collect a wetsuit on my way to the airport for delivery to one of my diving students in Abu Dhabi. I was on such a roll at the travel office that I should have requested to call my mum, and had I really been on the ball, perhaps a date with the attractive young lady herself to the Wynhuis that evening. But I didn't push the limits of my successes.

I followed the map I was given and despite the lack of marked roads, managed to pattern match down the California highway to the turning into the posh neighborhood where I'd be sleeping that night (reminded me of California, rural setting in verdant rolling hills, a bit marred from the roadside by businesses and their advertising).

As I turned the corner along a railway line, a pony-drawn cart whizzed past along the embankment, a pleasant contrast with the traffic on the street. The street where I was going to stay faced on a pond. The house with its self-catering guest quarters in back was well furnished and cleaned just so by the black help. The rooms I had taken had a tv, fridge, cooker, knicknacks in the bathroom, and was spotlessly clean and tastefully decorated. The usual great value for just $25.

After a rest and a shower, I went into Stellenboesch for a taste of the wines at the Wynhuis. The town was crowded with people at leisure for the long weekend about to begin, with Heritage Day just around the corner, a day of music and partying and sport throughout South Africa. I finally found parking not far from my destination, which I hadn't actually been able to find from the car. The town had a safe feel to it, and I hauled my computer with me as I asked directions to the winery. Eventually I found it, a typically tasteful watering and eating hole well stocked with local wines. The waiter who saw to my pleasure the rest of the evening made it easy for me to accomplish my goal of tasting the various wines. There was a special price for tasting 6 wines, so I started with those. Next I ordered a glass each of two I hadn't tasted. The waiter asked, a whole glass each? Well, I thought, how about half a glass each (the better to order two more different ones later. The waiter understood, and from then on brought me wine by the half-glass. Eventually I confided that I was getting hungry. The waiter immediately rushed off to check bookings in the restaurant for me and returned to report that it was booked out, but that was no problem, as he could set a table in the tasting room for me. Soon I was drinking half-glasses of wine at my table, working on this dispatch on my computer, and cutting into a pair of scrumptuous fillet steaks, after having polished off an appetizer of ostrich breast laid out like salmon to cover the bottom of a large plate. When the battery konked out on my laptop, I polished off my last glass of wine and found my way home.

That night I awoke with a sore throat and mouthfuls of saliva and mucous. I was constantly having to swallow. The room was cold, so I pulled the blanket tight around me. I wasn't shivering, but I must have managed to warm myself, because I was soon breaking into a cold sweat. Either that or, it was the onset of the symptoms of malaria. I've had the disease before, and cold and hot, plus malaise, were its symptoms then. Hopefully, it was just a case of overheating. I'll know if it happens again a few nights from now. I don't know why I slacked off on malaria profalaxis. I knew I was in malarial areas, but the mossies didn't seem to be biting, so I just didn't bother.

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Last updated: January 16, 2000