October 06, 2011 | By: Andrew Centofante | Tags: travel
Jane and I rented a car and headed east from Cape Town to the wine lands of Stellenbosch. Now, renting a car is not that big of a deal. It was more that I was renting a car in a foreign country. It was even more that they drive on the other side of the road, which I had never done before. Although, I guess there really is no other place to learn to drive on the other side of the road than in a foreign country. Luckily for me, not only are South Africans marvelous drivers, polite and follow road signs, but they have beautifully maintained roads and very little traffic. I was actually surprised how easily it all came to me. I don’t mean to boast, but I only hit a curb once.
As we pulled further away from Cape Town, I expected the mountains to fade off into the distance, but they continued as far as the eye could see. Each peak as majestic as the last. We pulled onto small country roads, weaving through pristine land, watching the rows and rows of grape vines go by. Our hotel, or should I say estate, had a gate that opened to a beautiful villa sitting on top of a hill looking over wine fields. The hill was nestled among several large mountain ranges in the distance. We were greeted with a glass of their Sauvignon Blanc.
We hired a driver and headed from winery to winery, trying a delicious variety of amazing wines. We had a lunch in Franschhoek, a quaint wine town just east of Stellenbosch. A place called La Petit Ferme. I had the tenderest filet and Jane had the lamb, both washed down with their house white. We worked our way back toward Stellenbosch stopping at wine estates along the way. We stopped in one place called Solms-Astor which had done an archaeological dig underneath their tasting room. They served us an amazing sparkling Shiraz which was like nothing I had ever had before.
The next day we got up early and headed down the coast towards Simons Town and Boulders Beach. Having a car was like having freedom. No one to tell us where to go or when to be somewhere. We kept along the coast, weaving up and down the mountain side. Winding roads whose edges fell sharply into the rocky ocean below. We turned one such corner into what looked like a crime scene. The car ahead of us slammed on their breaks. Bodies laying all over the road. I laughed when I realized it was a bunch of baboons. They were laying in the sun, picking bugs from each other and playfully wrestling. We weaved our way through the troop trying not to run any over. They just laid there, indifferent to our presence.
We arrived at Cape Point, a national park at the southern most tip of South Africa. There were no buildings and no trees. Just shrubs, mountains and the ocean. We drove for miles toward the tip until we got to a parking lot and had to walk the rest of the way. We trudged upwards towards a squat light house and looked out over a thin peninsula. It was a tall sharp protrusion like a ships prow pushing us forward. The ocean slamming against it, violent explosions of waves splashed high into the air, dissolving into mist and cascading down the rock face. My stomach tingled peering down from our lookout, high above the water.
We headed back towards Cape Town as the sun set. We had retreated from the day trips and guided tours. Exploring the country on a path of our choosing. Discovering the beauty for ourselves.