Cape Winelands.

We've passed through the Cape Winelands on several occasions but it wasn't until this visit that we realised just how large and diverse an area it covers. Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are the most well-known areas, and are the ones that we've been to previously, so this time we spent time in other places.

1. Bonnievale. This is a small town on the banks of the Breede River between Robertson and Swellendam. As well as lots of vineyards there are also orchards, cows and sheep so fruit and cheese are also produced in this area.

When driving through the Winelands the greenery of the irrigated river valleys compared with the surrounding land is very obvious.

We camped beside the Breede River which is the life blood of the farms along its route.

The farming community in the Western Cape, which uses seasonal labou,r has been in the news a lot lately as there have been strikes by workers demanding more money - their minimum wage is very low. Currently farms primarily use manual labour and employ large numbers of workers however we did see that some are starting to use mechanisation.

Peaches, picked by hand, drying in the sun.

Tractors on a wine estate.

We'd first come across Arabella wines in a small grocery in Lilongwe, Malawi where they were half the price of any of the other imported wines so when we noticed that their vineyard was close to Bonnievale decided on a visit. They breed arab horses on the farm, hence the name Arabella.

2. Tulbagh is in a lovely location. Vineyards, orchards and arable land are found in the valley which is surrounded by high mountains to the west, north and east. This view of the valley is from the West in the hills above the campsite at Isle of Sky Farm.

The Drostdyhof Vineyards are just north of Tulbagh. It's a wine that we often drink so we decided on a visit.

A Drostdy is a Magistrate's home and the old Tulbagh Drostdy now houses a museum and wine tasting for the vineyard.



One of the rooms in the Drostdy.

The wine cellar where we tasted 6 different wines.

We did some walking in the mountain foothills which gave superb views over the valley. From one lookout point we were able to see Table Mountain which is over 100km away.

A winding contour path which led to a narrow gorge.

The swimming dam at the farm was a great way to cool down after a walk.

Tulbagh lies on a fault line and small earth tremors are felt in the valley. There was nothing serious until 1969 when an earthquake killed 9 people and destroyed many houses in the town. As a result a decision was made to reconstruct and restore the 32 buildings on Church Street to their original design and declare the Street a National Monument. These buildings now house a museum, cafes, shops and accommodation as well as some private homes. Tickets for the Museum, Oude Kerk and to visit some of the houses can be purchased at the very helpful tourist information office which is next to the Museum.

Two of the restored houses.

The first church in Tulbagh was built in the 1740s and survived the earthquake. It's oldest church building in South Africa that has been preserved in its original cross shape.

The front of the Oude Kerk (Old Church).

The Church now houses an interesting museum.

There was a range of old musical instruments in the Oude Kerk Museum.

The Symphonium on the right still works and they have lots of discs for it.

3. Paarl. On a couple of occasions we stayed with Colin and Elsa in Cape Town (we'd met them 3 years ago on our Indian Ocean Islands cruise), they made us very welcome and we felt quite at home with them. One day we drove out to Paarl which is about 50km from Cape Town, walked up Paarl Rock and visited one of the vineyards

Kevin and Colin at the top of Paarl Rock on a superbly clear day.

There's a well worn path up the Rock with a chain rope to help up the steeper sections.

The Fairview WIne Estate just outside Paarl offers wine and cheese tasting (R50).

1. Cederberg.

2. Cape Winelands.

3. Cape Peninsula and West Coast.

4. Wilderness & Knysna, Garden Route.



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The Fairview estate is noted for its 'goat tower'