I’m a garagiste’, I enjoy wine and I guide many wine tours in the Cape Winelands. Without a doubt my favourite winery is Annandale. Many people ask why I am so enthusiastic about this cellar. Well for a start, it is housed in an old historic buildi
ng that was built in the late 1600′s. It is beautiful and peaceful here and it as a very small intimate destination. Theses days it seems to me that many of the wineries are status symbols of wealthy individuals and corporations. The tasting rooms are enormous, opulent and ostentatious and cost so much to build and maintain that the owners can never honestly hope to make a return on their investment. Annandale is about wine, honesty and character.
And when I talk of character, I am not only referring to the heritage and aesthetic of Annandale but also to the wines produced here and mostly to the owner and winemaker – Hempies du Toit. Hempies in a down-to-earth man with a real passion for making superb wine. His focus is on superb quality wines made in the traditional way without compromise or short-cuts. For this reason he limits his range to a few single-cultivar wines and two blends. You won’t find flash and glitz here to seduce you or distract you from the wine. Tastings are done in a small old cellar. In the summer swallows fly in through the windows to tend their chicks. Hempies’s giant Boerbul dog (Bliksem) or his miniature horse may stroll in to greet you while you taste wines that demand your attention and no one cares how you dress. Hempies believes that good wine deserves long periods of maturation on wood and his Cabernet Sauvignon spends a minimum of 6 years at the farm before he deigns it ready for release. His Shiraz spends a minimum of 4 years in barrel and is so famous that much of it is normally sold before it is bottled.
Hempies recently hosted me and a group of VIP’s for a private wine tasting. I consider all my guests to be VIPs but let me know whether you can recognise any of these . . .
Is it possible for something to more perfect than perfect?
Today’s walk was just that.
It started-off OK:
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It was still pretty good when we stopped for a snack
but then it just got crazy beautiful to the point where we were laughing with disbelief and joy
St. Stephen’s Church on Riebeek square in central Cape Town is the only Dutch Reformed church named after a saint. But the story runs a little deeper than that. The building was erected during the first British occupation as a theatre which opened on
the 17th November 1800; consequently making it the oldest theatre in South Africa and the only theatre to become a church. Back under Dutch regime for a little while it was called the Afrikaansche Schouwburg or simply the Komediehuis.
With the official emancipation of slavery in the Cape in 1838, freed slaves were brought into the Christian society by both the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Not even a year later the theatre building was purchased for £3484 and converted to a church for ex-slaves as well as a school for Colored children. In response to these actions, people protested by stoning the Church. The Church was named after the Christian martyr that was stoned to death: St Stephens.
The building, repeatedly menaced with demolition, was proclaimed a historical monument in 1965 and continues to function as a church. It also hosts a music store, café and trendy shops beneath the church, a place that had previously been used for storage.
Most of us are unaware of the fact that Jan Van Riebeek only spent ten years of his life at the Cape. The legacy he left behind however is one of epic proportion. Statues, Street names, river names, school names, suburb n
ames, town names, you name it, it’s called Riebeek.
But who was the man before and after the Cape? To begin with, he was born in Culemborg in the Netherlands as Johan Anthoniszoon van Riebeeck on 21 April 1619 as the son of a surgeon. Jan grew up in Schiedam, where he married 19-year old Maria de la Quellerie on 28 March 1649. The Van Riebeeks had eight children of which most did not survive, but their son Abraham van Riebeeck, born at the Cape, later became Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. Van Riebeek joined the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1639, that’s at 20 years old. He served at a number of posts, including being an assistant surgeon in Batavia (Indonesia). He visited Japan and took his most important position as the head of the VOC trading post in Tonkin, Vietnam. However, he was called back from this post as it was discovered that he was conducting trade for his own account. Consequently, around 1651, he was requested to command the initial Dutch settlement at the Cape. He landed at what was to be Cape Town on 6 April 1652 and fulfilled his duties for the VOC. He was to build fortifications, establish gardens for fresh produce and trade livestock for the trade route station. Van Riebeeck was the commander of this colony at the Cape of Good Hope until 1662. After that, he was promoted to Secretary to the Governor-general of the Dutch East Indies and served there from 1665 to 1677. His wife, Maria, died in Malacca (Part of Malaysia) on November 2, 1664 (age 35), en-route to van Riebeeck’s new assignment. Van Riebeeck died in Batavia (now Jakarta) on the island of Java in 1677. Of his 58 years of life only ten contributed to the Cape, and for that he will be remembered forever.
In my opinion, the walk through The Wolfberg Cracks in the Cederberg must be one of the most spectacular one-day walks in South Africa. It certainly involves the most fun. I never tire of doing this walk and I was fortunate to lead the route again re
cently on a perfect day.
The approach can look a little daunting, but provided one gets started before the day becomes too hot it is actually a pleasant approach to the cracks.
Once the cracks are reached one has a choice between the easy or the exciting routes. We chose the exciting route and the caving and scrambling began immediately. A torch makes it much easier to negotiate the darker sections.
After some more scrambling and getting through a few caves we emerged into the chamber which, with its massive arches always reminds me of a magnificent cathedral.
Thereafter the crack narrows and the fun really begins, with climbs over boulders and crawls through holes.
And once we emerged on the top the views were wonderful. Down below we could see the expanse of the Cederberg Wilderness as well as the farm “Dwarsrivier”, where David Nieuwoudt crafts his delicious Cederberg Wines .
We descended via the easy crack. Most conveniently the Driehoeks River runs right along the end of the walk and we dived-in for a very refreshing swim.
The Kings Block House is a historical site on Devils Peak. Named after King George III of Great Britain, high on the Eastern flank of Table Mountain is the highest of a series of Block Houses built by the British in 1796, as a defensive and lookout position. Kings block house was placed the
re as from that point it was possible to see False Bay on the Eastern side of the Cape Peninsula and from there it was possible to signal via the other blockhouses to Cape Town's Castle warning them of approaching ships entering False Bay. Kings Block House remains intact but in poor condition but it could be restored to its former condition given the necessary funding and effort. What do you think of this? Is it necessary to restore and keep the Block House or is it just a waste of time and money to do so?
There are often beautiful days in Cape Town . . . and then there are days of heaven. Today was such a day, with mild temperatures of 20 deg C, cloudless skies and barely a breath of air. Both False Bay and The Atlantic seaboard were as still as wishing-wells.
I was fortunate to host Mike & Pip Tait from Newcastle on a tour of the Cape Peninsula. Mike was particularly keen that we would see whales and other wildlife. He has traveled elsewhere three times in the vain hope of seeing whales.
We visited the Penguin Colony at Boulders Beach, and by the time we reached the gates of Cape Point Nature Reserve we had seen five whales – all fairly far away.
We saw Eland, Bontebok, Red Hartebees, Ostrich and Cape Mountain Zebra before stopping for a delicious picnic lunch and bottle of Tanzanite Cap Classique (by Melanie Van Der Merwe). We laid-out the picnic on the rocks, with three southern right whales lazing less than 50 metres away. What a day!