Friday, 12 July 2013

Bikes n' Wines!

Whoever thought of this idea was crazy but brilliant… I never thought a wine tour done on a mountain bike could end well, but it was definitely one of the most fun and unique experiences I have had in Cape Town. We took the train to Vlottenburg Station, near Stellenbosch, picked up our bikes, had a vote to decide whether we wanted to do a slightly easier route or go for the “Adventure Ride” (we chose the Adventure Ride), and off we went.
First of all, the scenery: I can’t imagine a place more beautiful than South Africa, and being outside biking through wine country, with mountain ranges everywhere you turn, in the sunshine for a day was good enough in itself.
The biking: we were given mountain bikes, helmets, a bottle of water, and a pack of peanuts (we stopped for lunch on the way) and went with two guides on a 21km ride to four different wineries. I have ridden a mountain bike before, but realized as we were going that I have never actually ridden a mountain bike off of a road… so going down the dirt paths was an experience, especially the long stretch of downhill, full of pits and small ditches. After a few minutes though, I got used to the bumps and started to enjoy bouncing around on my bike through the vineyards. The rest of the biking was relatively flat and much easier to handle though, a bit of a relief after the bumps.
The wine: we stopped at four wineries during our tour. The first, LovanE, is a very small but excellent winery and guesthouse. I know almost as little about wine as I do about mountain biking, but I was blown away with the quality of the white, red and dessert wine we tasted - for example, a red wine with coffee undertones, another thing I never expected would go together but complement each other perfectly. After our first tasting, we were on our way again up a long hill in the beautiful sunshine to our second stop, Skilpadvlei, for lunch and gluhwein. Pronounced glue-wine (but don’t worry, it doesn’t contain glue – we asked), it is a warm, mulled wine. It’s a popular drink in the South African winter and I can see why – although winter here is still closer to my summer weather at home.
The LovanE guesthouse
Our third stop was Welmoed, a winery bigger than LovanE but also with excellent wine. Another interesting combination: a chenin blanc (I’m still not completely sure what that means other than it is a white wine) with honey and pineapple – I’ve never tasted anything like it and it was delicious.
Unfortunately, we were running short on time since we had to catch the train back to the City Bowl, so we did not get to fully enjoy our last stop at Spiers, although we were still able to learn about and taste a few wines. We had to sprint the last stretch back to Bikes n’ Wines headquarters so we could drop our bikes and run to the train station, but that excitement just added to the whole day. I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone visiting South Africa, even if it does sound crazy - biking is a unique and beautiful way to visit the wineries and see the breath-taking landscape, and I think we all had a great experience.
On the road again!

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