October 25, 2008
Hermanus is another resort town on the beach. It’s much closer to Cape Town so it gets a lot of weekend visitors from the city. The big thing in Hermanus is whales. In season, they say you can easily see Southern Right Whales off shore. We happened to be in the right season, but the day we were in Hermanus it was extremely windy, and that made whale-spotting very tricky. First off, there were a lot of white-top waves, which made it harder to pick out the spurts of water from the whales. Second, the force of the wind made it hard to hold our binoculars steady (looking through the binoculars it appeared like a serious earthquake was in progress). So after a couple of hours of staring at water and feeling chilly, we didn’t have much. Pnina caught one quick glimpse of a whale through the binoculars. I saw a couple of spurts way off in the distance with my naked eye…I think.
But regardless it was a pretty town…
Also, off the coast by Hermanus there are a lot of great white sharks, so another popular thing to do is to go shark diving. They take you out on a boat, give you a wet suit (it’s cold), and place you into the water. Then they use some tuna to lure sharks towards the boat right next to the cage. Pnina had no interest in going into the icy water and both of us wanted to conserve funds for the rest of the trip, so we skipped it.
Next we drove northwest to Stellenbosch. This is the heart of the South African wine industry, kind of like Napa Valley. With more than 280 wineries it’s hard to choose where to go. We ended up going to a couple of wineries suggested by Lela, a gal who works at the Hermanus Backpackers (where we stayed the prior night). Lela leads wine tours so she knows the area pretty well. The places she suggested are more out of the way, places where (she says) you get more attention from the servers. Of course she suggested we go on her tour, not just to get her guidance but also so we could both drink ourselves silly. But the thing I had going is that Pnina hates wine, so we took our own car and Pnina was my chouffer for the day! 🙂
Waterford. This place was definitely a bit out of the way. You reach dirt roads before you reach this estate. But it’s really beautiful:
They sat us at our own table in a little courtyard. A server came out with each drink, one at a time (8 of them in total), and explained a bit about the wine. It felt like a restaurant.
I don’t remember too much of what our server explained. I do remember that the wine I liked best was a white wine (which itself is surprising – usually I like red wines; maybe it was the heat). This wine went under the Pebble Stream label (not Waterford); apparently they use the alternate label when they use imported grapes instead of their own grapes. Incidentally Waterford used to be strictly a grape producer, but they started making their own wine some time ago).
The best thing about sampling wine at Waterford is that the last three wines are paired with Belgian chocolates…
The first of them was a massala chai dark chocolate and it was awesome.
Asara. This place was much bigger. The estate includes a hotel and a couple of restaurants. When we visited we saw a wedding taking place. The wine tasting is more low key than Waterford. You pick 5 wines from a list and they bring them all out in one shot (we also took a 6th desert wine). Then you sit there in their own little courtyard and enjoy.
So by this point I had 14 wine samples. I should also mention that we skipped lunch and breakfast. My head was spinning. 🙂 Pnina tasted a couple of drops from each of these wines, and the conclusion was that nothing changed, she still hates wine.