Emily: Rugby, the Beach, “Bikes ‘n Wines” Tour

January 30, 2009

On Sunday we went to the rugby stadium to watch the Stormers vs. Saracens pre-season game, and I discovered that I love rugby. It’s a lot faster than American football, and it seems a little more hardcore since they don’t use pads. The rules are a little more intuitive, and they do fun things like pick each other up, and gain ground in giant huddles – like the opposite of tug-o-war. The Stormers won, and everybody went home happy.

Monday morning we took the train to the Muizenberg beach, a popular surfing spot, and laid out on the cold, windy beach. The only cloudy day since I’ve been here, and we still got sunburned. Surfing lessons and board and suit rental are offered for cheap, and one of these days I’m gonna do it. Two friends went for a jog and saw a dead penguin and a dead (and rotting) seal on the way, so there’s definitely a lot of marine life to see, however I’ve been told that the water is too cold for the Great Whites here. On Monday night a few of us went out to eat at the Buena Vista Social Café, a Cuban restaurant with live music. The food was alright, but I’ll definitely be back for Salsa dancing on Sunday nights.

The next morning we took a taxi to Downtown Cape Town, and then walked to the Bo-Kaap neighborhood. There are colorfully painted houses on narrow roads, and it reminded me a lot of New Orleans. Bo-Kaap is known for its culture and history. It is a largely Muslim neighborhood, full of old Mosques. Many of the inhabitants are descendants of the people from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Malaysia, who were captured in the 17th and 18th century and enslaved by the Dutch-East Indian Trading Company. We walked past a house that was being auctioned off after its owners couldn’t pay the mortgage. Unfortunately, tourism and gentrification seem to be displacing a lot of the original residents, and threatening the local culture.

Yesterday morning we got up bright and early for a bike and wine-tasting tour of neighboring Stellenbosch and its wineries. We signed up for our tour with Bikes ‘n Wines and met out tour guides in Cape Town. They took us on the hour-long train ride to Stellenbosch, where we rented our bikes and helmets. From there we took off to our first wine-tasting at the Spier Estate. They gave us a punch card for 5 different wines, and some people selected to try different cheeses as well. It was delicious and beautiful, and they had their very own Cheetah (?!?!). From there we biked gravel and sand paths to Stellenbosch Hills where we had our second wine tasting. We then biked UPHILL to our third winery and lunch destination, The Skilpadvlei vineyard. Lunch was delicious and inexpensive, and the place was gorgeous. We tasted 3 more wines before we left. Our pathway out was through deep, treacherous sand, and a lot of people wiped out. It was all downhill, so it was difficult to control your bike or stop on the slippery gravel. We finally made our last destination, short on time, and downed a refreshing glass of chilled champagne before we raced back to the bike rental shop.

Today I’m busy getting ready for the semester, running errands, and taking a break. We’re starting our orientation with UCT tomorrow, and it will last to the 6th (although some days are optional). I then have another week-long break during which we’ll (hopefully) be driving through the Garden Route and/or going on a safari before the semester begins. I’m both excited and nervous for classes to start, and it will be nice to get involved with some volunteer organizations (possibly Habitat), clubs, and maybe a women’s rugby team?

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