Bikes n Wine n Brandy n Bruises MzansiBride

Winona Griggs

Biking through Stellenbosch’s Wine Route: A Unique Way to Explore

Hey there! Let me tell you about this awesome adventure I had in the Stellenbosch Wine Route. You know, sometimes we South Africans tend to rely too much on our cars, including me. But boy, did I discover a different way to explore this weekend getaway!

It all started when I stumbled upon Bikes ‘n Wine. This amazing initiative was created by two UCT students who were tired of the typical student jobs. They came up with this brilliant idea: an eco-friendly tour of the Stellenbosch Wine Route using only bicycles and the train. Can you believe it?

Bikes ‘n Wine offers three fantastic tours to choose from. First, there’s the Vineyard Meander, a 9km journey that brings you closer to nature. Then, there’s the Platinum Package, a 14km ride that provides a bit of luxury along the way. And finally, there’s the Adventure Ride, their most popular and affordable tour, covering 21km and taking you to four wineries. It’s great value for money!

As someone who hasn’t ridden a bike in a long time, I was a little worried about cycling such a long distance. However, I was assured that the Adventure Ride route wouldn’t be too difficult. So one sunny Saturday in spring, I met up with Van, our guide (who is also a UCT student), and a group of interns from Germany and the Netherlands at Eco Cafe on Long Street.

We grabbed some bagels and lattes and made our way to Cape Town station. This was the first time I had taken the train in over 15 years (hard to believe, I know!). The new Cape Town station is really impressive – it’s modern, clean, and beautiful. Unfortunately, the platforms haven’t changed a bit and they’re still the same old, ugly concrete ones.

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Hey there! Guess what? You won’t believe the price of a return ticket to Stellenbosch – it’s just R25, and get this, it’s already included in the tour price! But here’s the thing, the ride takes over 45 minutes because there are quite a few stops along the way. Even so, it’s totally worth it because you can relax and have a nice chat, not having to worry about crazy traffic on the N2 or N1. Honestly, who needs that stress? Plus, you won’t have to fret about getting caught for drunk driving on the way home. Phew!

Now, picture this – we arrived at the little rural platform in Stellenbosch and it was just a quick two-minute walk to where they keep the bikes. This guy named Van got us all set up with these awesome, sturdy Giant mountain bikes, cool helmets, and even water bottles. We were feeling pretty fancy! And then, get this – we looked like a bunch of wobbly geese on wheels as we followed Van down a dirt path next to the railway line. Our first stop was only 500 meters away, this charming place called Welmoed. Can’t wait to tell you more!

Hey there, just a quick reminder before we dive in – it’s against the law to ride a bicycle while intoxicated on a public road. But lucky for us, we weren’t riding on any public roads during our little excursion (unless you count those wine farm driveways, but I don’t think we can). So, I didn’t hesitate to gulp down that delicious wine rather than spitting it out. And, let me tell you, the wines at Welmoed are absolutely worth swallowing.

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Speaking of which, it only took us a quick five-minute ride on a flat dirt track from Welmoed to Spier. Feeling a bit adventurous and already a little tipsy from starting the wine at 9:30 in the morning, I foolishly thought this whole “Adventure Ride” was going to be a piece of cake.

I was feeling pretty good after tasting the new Cap Classique at Spier. It made me even more excited to take the long, winding path through the woods to the Van Rhyn Brandy distillery. The only reason I fell behind a bit was because I wanted to capture some beautiful scenes next to the Eerste Rivier with my camera.

Van Rhyn Brandy almost did me in. I’m not used to drinking brandy, especially the really good stuff. I’m not sure if it was the 10-year-old or the 12-year-old that caused it, but they were both so delicious that I had a hard time staying focused when I left the parking lot. Van took one look at us and decided it would be a good idea to get some lunch in our systems before we tackled what he called ‘The Hill’.

So, after devouring some delicious pizza and bobotie at Barrique and enjoying a refreshing artisanal beer, we were ready to take on The Hill. It was a challenge, but we tackled it with determination and a sprinkle of humor to keep our spirits high. Surprisingly, I managed to conquer the whole hill without having to dismount and push my bike. However, I did notice a mysterious bruise on my leg that I have no recollection of obtaining—just one of the hazards of biking after a few drinks, I suppose.

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With The Hill behind us, we had one final tasting to go. But to be honest, my appetite for wine was close to being satisfied, and I was more intrigued by the downhill ride back to the bicycle shed. A couple of us couldn’t resist the urge and sped down without any concern for the correct path. Poor Van had to keep whistling and directing us back on track. After a quick pause to take in the breathtaking view, we raced against time to catch the four o’clock train.

As we returned to the bicycle shed, we bid farewell to our trusty bikes and helmets. As a parting gift, they presented us each with a bottle of wine. Funny enough, my wine hunger returned just at that moment, allowing me to savor the bottle in the evening. Looks like I’ll have to make another trip to replenish my stock ��

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