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Published: August 27th 2015
Before I continue, I should explain who's who. Lindsey's parents are Gandalf and Sharon. Lindsey's sisters and Alison and Claire. Alison is engaged to Nathan and Claire has a boyfriend, Grant.
One evening Grant announced it was likely to snow on Saturday, near a place called Tulbagh. He wondered if we'd like to see it. We said "yes". It is funny how excited South Africans get at the prospect of snow.
Tulbagh is a small town in a huge valley, formed from the confluence of several mountain ranges, about an hour and a half's drive North West of Cape Town. Lindsey and I chose to take the route that looked most scenic (from the map) - Bain's Kloof Pass. It was an absolutely delightful road to travel: an excellent surface, clear traffic and absolutely breathtaking scenery. We stopped for photographs from the top of the pass and towards the snow capped mountains.
We soon pulled into the town. The main street, (Van der Stel St) is wide, fringed with palm trees and lined with buildings which have fallen from their former glory. In every direction we could see the mountains. The streets were crowded... We later realised it
was payday and everyone was out to spend their wages. Two police cars were patrolling which seemed like overkill in a town of such a small size. We were noticeably tourists but generally we felt safe. After we'd done some shopping we wandered down the road. There wasn't much of interest on Van der Stel, just bed and breakfasts, a few supermarkets of various grades and a couple of bottle stores (off-licences). We walked a bit further and then turned down a little side street.
Behind Van der Stel, was Church Street; the two streets were separated by about 20 metres but could have been in different towns. Church street had been restored to its former state following a fire a couple of decades ago. It was a pretty avenue of Cape Dutch houses lined with trees and flowers of all kinds. Each house had a sign declaring its original purpose. The houses were now restaurants, hotels or gift shops. Many were closed for winter but still they looked pretty. A sign on the end shop announced it was open for chocolate tasting. Beyond there, we were quickly back into the newer part of Tulbagh which comparatively now looked
Having explored the town we needed to find our accommodation which was down an obscure dirt road. Eventually we got there and the owner showed us to our room. Claire and Grant arrived shortly afterwards and then we waited for Alison and Nathan to arrive before we ate. After dinner we introduced everyone to Bohnanza, or "the bean game" as we call it, one of our favourite games. Everyone was too tired to enjoy it and we went to bed as soon as it was over.
In the morning it was nice to sit down together for a fried breakfast and good to get to know each other (Lindsey and I hadn't met Grant and Nathan before arriving in South Africa). Whilst we were eating, Grant called the snow place and was told there was no snow. This disappointing news was stoically received by the South Africans. To console ourselves we made a plan to do wine and chocolate tasting instead.
My first order of business was to get cash. As everyone in town had just been paid this was not going to be quick. We joined the queue with about 30 people in front.
Every transaction seemed to take forever and many were doing more than one, some were so long that I wouldn't be surprised if houses hadn't changed hands. The crowd was generally quite good natured though and for me it was a good opportunity to observe their culture. Every so often someone would walk past hawking a box of food, or bags of frozen chicken, though none of it looked appealing. Especially off-putting were the bags of "walkie talkies"... The heads and feet of chicken. I can't imagine how one is supposed to cook the.
As we neared the front of the queue the good natured buzz of the crowd changed and there were suddenly sharp exchanges. It appeared one man was trying to push in and the whole crowd was getting angry. He being admonished by a short Afrikaans-speaking, Coloured woman. The man, who seemed very drunk, claimed to be struggling with the machine. At one point he started trying to get Lindsey and me to intervene. I got the feeling he was appealing to us as we are white and he expected us to bring justice which was extremely disconcerting. We didn't understand what was going on and
didn't want to upset the crowd which by this point was getting quite animated. Not knowing what we could do, we ended up guiltily walking away.
Following this "cultural experience", we went to the local winery which advertised wine tasting. When we got there there we found we had been brought there under false pretences: was no tasting available. We had coffee instead. Alison and Nathan had to leave but Claire, Grant, Lindsey and myself went on to the end of Church Street for chocolates. We tasted eight chocolates with a glass of port. I found most of the flavour combinations quite odd. Afterwards we had pancakes which were being sold from a little gas stove. It was a shame the pancakes were served with cinnamon sugar rather than the more traditional lemon and sugar but I enjoyed it anyway.
When we had finished our chocolate we decided to head back to Cape Town via Stellenbosch where we could do more chocolate tasting, this time paired with wine. It's such a hard life! We had the delight of driving back over Bain's Kloof Pass and this time Lindsey drove so I could take photos.
After about an
hour we arrived at the Waterford Estate which was a beautiful old vineyard. We were led to a shaded table on the edge of a courtyard and were each brought three pieces of chocolate and three glasses of wine. The chocolates were all weird and I wasn't keen on any of them. I didn't really understand the pairing either. The wines on the other hand were very enjoyable. We thought about buying a bottle but when we reached the counter the staff were so disorganised and it was hard enough just to pay for the experience so we gave up trying to buy and left. The car park was lined with naartjie (tangerine) trees. I picked one and struggled to peel it. It was worth the effort though, inside was the sweetest fruit I have ever tasted.
That evening, Lindsey and I had tickets to the theatre to see West Side Story. Unfortunately I couldn't really get in to it as I didn't find the characters very believable but Lindsey enjoyed it. We got home that thoroughly tired. It had been an extremely enjoyable day.
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