Cape of Good Grape

Six Members of the HMWS are touring South Africa, visiting Cape Winelands and the Kruger between 14 and 26 November 2012. This is their daily trip log.

D minus One – Dr. Stephen Cameron wroteWe are sure you will have a great trip to South Africa. The itinerary is great and the visits are ideal.  Make sure you are shown the Chukar Partridges on Robben Island if you get there – the only place in Africa where they exist, introduced by a past Governor General for shooting!” – Best wishes, Stephen & Ann

Day 1, Wednesday 14th: Drove to Ackworth. Peter opened a bottle of Pierre-Gimonnet Collection 2000 before we  took the taxi to Manchester. The flight to Heathrow was uneventful and we took the ageing BA Jumbo to Cape Town from sleek Terminal 5. It was an uncomfortable overnight flight and inflight meals were pretty ordinary.

Day 2, Thursday 15th: We landed in warm and sunny Cape Town at 8.45 in the morning. Paul from Southern Destinations met us at the airport and drove us past Cross Roads township and endless vineyards to Majeka House in Stellenbosch. After a swim we drank Sauvignon Blanc in the garden before fresh asparagus, new potatoes and smoked trout for lunch. We drove to Frenchhoek to taste at Boekenhoutskloof with winemaker Jean Smit. After a visit to Huguenot monument, we retuned to Majeka House for sundowners and a walk in the vineyards before dinner (fresh fish, springbok steak, Chocolate Mousse, Rainbow Cabernet Franc 2010).

Majeka House

Day 3, Friday 16th: Another glorious day! After a sumptuous breakfast at Majeka House, we drove the short distance to Vilafonte to taste Series M and C, vintage 2010 with Mike Ratcliffe. “With the 2010 vintage I have achieved what I wanted to do with these two wines: Mike said. We drove to Warwick Estate afterwards to taste the full range on the terrace overlooking the lake watching Cape Canaries, White Eyes and Whydahs frolic in the thick foliage. The tasting was followed by a Gourmet Picnic. Back at Majeka House, we swam, drank tea and lazed in the warm sunshine and then, walked in the woods looking at Helmetted Guineafowl feeding in the vineyards. In the evening we took a taxi to Stellenbosch, walked along buzzing Church Street and had a great dinner at Apprentice Restaurant staffed by catering students (smoked mussels with pickled squid and fennel, pan-fried hake, strawberries, washed down with copious amounts of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir).

At Boenkenhoutskloof winery

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Day 4, Saturday 17th: Incredibly blue skies! We drove to Stellenzicht for the morning tasting in the garden and then to Ken Forrester for a tasting of fantastic Chenin Blanc before heading to the hills above Somerset West for a superb tasting lunch at the incredibly beautiful Waterkloof Winery. After a rest and a swim and more Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc on the terrace, we took a taxi back to Stellenbosch in the evening to drink excellent Pinot Noir and dine on grilled mixed game at the smart Wein Huis.

Day 5, Sunday 18th: Another brilliant day. Moved to More Quarters in Cape Town. Took the cable car to the top of Table Mountain and spent an hour or so walking and enjoying the view. Spent a couple of hours on the beach. The sea front was buzzing and the seafood cafes were packed. After a picnic lunch on the beach, we checked in at More Quarters, our home for the next two days. G&Ts were poured for “pre-sundowners” and  we drove to the Water Front in the evening and took a sailing boat out in to the Bay for a sunset cruise. We sipped sparkling rosé Shiraz as the sun dipped behind Table Mountain and the odd Jackass penguin and seal bobbed up and down in the shimmering water. That evening, dinner was grilled King Clip, squid and prawns washed down with Chardonnay and Black Label beer at the Ocean Basket.

Day 6, Monday 19th: After meeting our South Africa agent Ilze Fox at breakfast, we drove to the Waterfront to board the ferry to Roben Island. During the tour of the island, we visited the Leper cemetery and church, lime-stone quarry where political prisoners toiled and the Maximum Security Prison with cell number 4 in which Nelson Mandela spent 18 years. Huge flocks of sacred ibis, cormorants gulls, egrets, and penguins and the odd Chukar Partridge were spotted. Back in Cape Town, we had a quick lunch and toured the Cape Malay Bo Kaap area with colourful houses with our guide. In a private house, we were given a demonstration of Malay cooking and the meal we cooked was consumed with relish. We cancelled our dinner reservation at Africa Cafe.

Bo Kaap

Cape Malay cookery class in Bo Kaap

Day 7, Tuesday 20th: Took the Premier Classe Train from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

On Premier Classe Train

Day 8, Wednesday 21st: Arrived in Johannesburg. Met by agent and driven to CT Hotel near O R Tambo airport. Dinner at the hotel.

Day 9, Thursday 22nd: South African flight to Nelspruit at 11.10 am. Met at airport and driven to Sabi Sands (~2 hrs.) At Notten’s Bush camp for three nights. First game drive after ‘high tea.’ Herds of elephant, rhino, buffalo. impala, kudu, zebra, giraffe and a lepord observed at close quarters. Sundowners in the bush. Dinner at the lodge.

Sun Downers

Day 10, Friday 23rd: Early morning game drive. More of the big four. Bush walk after breakfast. Cooling off in the pool sipping chilled white wine. High Tea and evening game drive. Sun Downers in the bush and dinner at the lodge.

Day 11, Saturday 24th: Fabulous morning game drive with close encounters with leopards and elephants. Great bush walk after breakfast. G&Ts back in the lodge and relaxed afternoon before high tea. Fine evening drive culminating in a sighting of a lion at dusk. Now we have the big five in the bag!

Day 12, Sunday 25th: Morning game drive mainly for birds. After another sumptuous breakfast, we spend the morning relaxing on the deck, sipping chilled Chenin Blanc. We are driven to a small airfield in the Kruger National Park for the flight to Johannesburg in a light aircraft. On the way to the air strip, we stop to watch a pride of lions at the roadside. In Johannesburg, we are driven to O R Tambo International Airport for our overnight flight to London. We kill time in the Premier Lounge until the 21.55 departure. At Heathrow, the chaotic and user unfriendly security system proceeds at a snail’s pace and as a result, we miss our connection to Manchester and had to re-book for a flight an hour later. Our pre-booked taxi was waiting at the airport for the drive back home in the midday rain and gloom.

Tour Party: Jane & Bridget Greenwood (Leeds), Peter & Carol Murphy (Ackworth) and Bernard & Ramani Dias (Harrogate).

Agents in South Africa were Southern Destinations (highly recommended) and flights were arranged by Trailfinders.

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