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Beer and Biryani :: The Travelling Adventures of Matt & Donna  
Jackass Penguins at Boulders Beach, South Africa
March 03 , 2007

"Welcome to Africa" - Stellenbosch

After an extended stay in Cape Town our bags had kind of exploded around the room, so before checking out we basically had to repack everything, then walk back through the city to the train station, again, 12 Rand, first class, all the way to Stellenbosch. We probably had a 15 minute walk from the station to Stumble Inn Backpackers.

We'd planned on only spending two days in Stellenbosch, then heading east about two hours to Montagu for a couple of days, then east again to Oudtshoorn, before heading south to the coast. So immediately after checking in we started looking into our options for transport onwards. Ask anyone in South Africa about how to get around and they will say you have two options, rent a car (way to expensive), or take the Baz Bus (a bus network for backpackers that basically runs along the coast to Durban and up to Jo'burg, I didn't come halfway around the world to sit in a bus with other backpackers).

After walking into town we headed straight to the minibus ranks where we'd hoped they could take us on to Montagu about two hours east. It seems that no one travels east from Stellenbosch, and that south or north were our only options. The guy's back at the hostel seemed to think hitching was our best option, or to mini bus north to Paarl and try our luck there. With a full day winery tour lined up for the next day we decided to let it lie and see what eventuated.

The easiest and cheapest way to see the winery region is definitely on a wine tour. We took the Easy Rider Wine Tour - basically because it was cheap and ran straight out of the hostel where we were staying. As it turned out, it was an excellent day out. From 10am in the morning we were cruising through the vineyards, and by 10:30 they had cut the top off a bottle of champaign with a sword and we were into it. Our first winery was the Simonsig estate, where the drivers, keen to get everyone in a good mood started everyone off with some large glasses of white, followed by some even bigger reds. I think Donna and a couple of the other girls were well on the way after the first stop.

The rest of the day we basically hopped from one winery to the next in the Stellenbosch and Franschoek region, sampling the various wines, eating some local afrikaans food and to Donna's delight, sampling some of the locally made chocolate and ice cream.

We ended the day at the Boschedal Estate, the largest in the region and previously owned by the Rhodes family. Thanks to my excellent knowledge of the wine making industry and of the wine making process I managed to win a bottle of Shiraz Rose'.

A couple of quick points for Dad, I tried the Pinotage at a number of places and to be honest it's nothing special. Oddly enough, none of the wineries we visited in both Stellenbosch and Franschoek sold a Pinot Noir or a Hermitage. The South Africans call a Shiraz a Syrah, the grape originated in Iran and apparently this is its correct pronunciation. No over head sprinklers, all drip watered. All the grapes were hand picked thanks to cheap black labor. No dried fruit, all the grapes go to wine. No T-Trellis.

After a fairly large sleep in, we set out to organise our next days travel. With no hope of a mini bus, and the train was definitely not heading in that direction we tried a number of options, before finding a cheap City to City bus service running through our town the next evening. It wasn't going to Montagu but it would get us to Ashton which is close enough to try for a minibus north.

With this booked we wandered through the town, took in the Sasol Art Gallery, before heading back to the hostel for a quiet evening.

After cooking up a big feed of devilled sausages and mashed potato, we cracked open the Roset I'd won yesterday and settled in for the night. Next thing I know Donna is up at the bar doing shots, and before you know it the whole backpackers, staff and all, gets up and heads down to the local pub for some pints. One thing led to another and we managed to rope in a group of young female Uni students who were more than happy to take Donna, myself and a crazy Irishman out to a night club. Finally at 4pm ish when the club closed, all eight of us piled into one of the Uni girls hatchback (with one extra in the boot!) to be dropped home. I am way to old for this.

Obviously the next day was a hard core recovery session, moving from one couch to the next, getting out of the heat, and watching at least four hours of West African Idol (in that whole time not one person made it through to the next round).

At about 5:30pm we set off for the train station where our bus was supposed to pick us up. The train station is conveniently set in the middle of the black neighborhood, away from annoying things like lights, or shops. After about one and a half hours of waiting with the other derelicts, we started to think something was wrong, not only was it now dark, the station was deserted except for us, a one legged guy and a couple of other prospective passengers/muggers, but the bus was now nearly an hour late.

By 8pm the other passengers started to get worried, one young fella whom we had struck up a conversation with called around to find out what was going on, only to find out the the bus company had gone on strike that day, and no busses were coming for us. Ten minutes later a bus from the parent company arrived, saying they could take all the other passengers but our destination wasn't on their route - don't worry, he had called another bus who would pick us up in ten minutes.

Half an hour later, it's just Donna and myself, in the dark, on the side of a deserted road in the middle of a black neighborhood, and no bus. I walked to the nearest public phone, and the lady basically said, bad luck, no bus is coming for you, I'm sorry.

With nothing left to do, we walked back to the hostel, which had filled to capacity during the day thanks to the arrival of several groups of American girls. Once again, luckily for us, they kicked out a couple of people who hadn't yet arrived and gave us a premium room for the night.

"Welcome to Africa"

A massive, massive recommendation for the Stumble Inn. The guys running the place were excellent, the atmosphere and vibe were fantastic and we really loved our stay there.

Anyway, the next morning, while Donna was sleeping, I walked back into town to see what the hell was going on, the lady at the bus company didn't even know the drivers were on strike until I asked her to make some calls. With that bus canceled, her next option was to wait three days for the next available bus through to Ashton.

Clearly this wasn't an option so after leafing through the guide book we decided to head back to Cape Town and try from there. After booking a room for the night we hitched a ride with a British Policewoman who dropped us off back at the train station. Let me tell you, after three weeks of travelling, to be right back where you started from was a little bit depressing.

By the time we'd made it back to Cape Town, all the busses travelling that night were sold out, our next available trip was at 7am the next morning. Luckily for us Donna spotted a small sign next to some stairs for discount bus fairs. With nothing better on offer we headed up and thankfully for they had two tickets that night to George. Any travel was better than another night in Cape Town so we made a snap decision to drop Montagu from the destination list and head straight on to George, from there we could get a bus 60km north to Oudtshoorn, the home of the Ostrich.

With a day to kill, we wandered around the streets for a while before settling in for some Irish grub and a few ales before heading back to the bus station.

Now I think I can be forgiven for thinking that the seat number on my ticket, represented the seat where I would be sitting on the actual bus. Once the doors of the bus opened, imagine if you can 100 big black rhinos stampeding through pouring rain. The conductor screamed her head off at some of the people to save us some seats.  

Second from the back row, we were the only two whiteys on a bus full of Xhosa, with clicks and pops going off left right and centre. Our first movie was an old Van Damme classic, the second, a very bad 80’s kick boxing action movie which was shit, but the locals on the bus absolutely loved it, towards the end they were clapping, yelling and cheering the hero along as he kicked and punched his way to a happy ending.

We finally pulled into George at about 1am, the rain had eased and we were dropped off in a small dark parking lot. At least there was a phone and after calling the hostel (Outeniqua Backpackers), we were picked up in nearly ten minutes and after a short drive in the back of ute we were tucked up in bed.

The next morning we were up early, where we walked into town, because it was Sunday nothing was open, so we were left with no option but breakfast at Macca's. (Donna claims she was disgusted). Thankfully it wasn't long before the bus to Oudtshoorn arrived and we were off once again...

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