Let me clarify that I am not a non-drinker. I’m no party animal, but I do enjoy a glass of wine. So I was ecstatic to be invited to participate in #Stellenblog, a blogging campaign in Stellenbosch.
There were some non-drinkers in our group, and at the start of the trip I wondered how much fun they would have hanging out for a week in the wine-drinking capital of South Africa.
At the end of the week, when I looked through all my Stellenbosch photos, I found they told an unexpected story. There was lots of wine-drinking, to be sure. But the most memorable activities of the week had nothing to do with wine, or any alcohol for that matter.
So I decided to put together a little guide for non-drinkers. If you don’t like wine, or don’t drink at all, here’s a list of activities to keep you busy on a multi-day visit to Stellenbosch.
1) Take a Segway Tour
Back when I lived in Washington D.C., I used to watch group Segway tours glide past and silently make fun of them. I should have known that someday my own Segway time would come.
Our group spent two nights at the Spier Wine Estate, and on the second day we did a Segway tour of the farm. Riding a Segway was so crazy fun (like, I really didn’t want to give it back) and it was a great way to see Stellenbosch’s beautiful farmland and visit some of Spier’s unique projects.
Old clothes find new life as planters at Tree-preneurs, a sustainability project at Spier. Tree-preneurs was our first stop on the Segway tour.
I don’t have many photos from the Segway tour because we were warned repeatedly by our hosts not to shoot and Segway simultaneously. (And unlike several of my fellow bloggers — ahem — I don’t have a Segway death wish.) Trust me though, this was a blast and also relatively affordable in my opinion: Segway tours at Spier start at R300 (about $22).
2) Pat the Thoroughbreds
The Avontuur Estate, in addition to making great wine, breeds famous thoroughbred horses. I could have spent hours strolling the Avontuur farm, taking pictures of the horses and stroking their velvety noses.
3) Hang at a Weekend Market
South Africa is crazy for weekend markets, and Stellenbosch is no exception. Our group visited the Blaauwklippen Family Market on a Sunday and had a fun, relaxing afternoon.
Hannah (left) and Leah, the two cutest children in Stellenbosch, with a man who I assume is Mel from Mel’s Fresh Cut Flowers. Hannah and Leah are the daughters of Mariette from Destinate, who organizes Stellenblog.
4) Have a Coffee
Blue Crane Coffee, a brand-new coffee shop downtown Stellenbosch, is a must-visit for all coffee enthusiasts.
The fabulous Liz Ogumbo relaxes with a coffee outside Blue Crane.
5) Taste Vinegar
No, seriously. Vinegar tasting is a thing, and we did it at Rozendal Guest Farm and Vinegar Cellar.
These botanical vinegars are extremely tasty (and non-alcoholic) and you really can drink them — in small sips, of course. They also make a great base for salad dressing.
Best of all, the vinegar tasting room at Rozendal has some of the best feng shui I’ve ever experienced.
The guys from I See a Different You relax on the retro couch at Rozendal.
6) Take a Hike
Stellenbosch has fantastic hiking, which I mentioned briefly in my previous post. We only managed a quick walk through the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve with Adventureshop Stellenbosch, but I’m excited to do more hiking the next time I go back.
This is me trying to look casually outdoorsy as Lauren shoots my photo in a pine forest in Jonkershoek.
7) Ride in a Sidecar
Riding in a motorcycle sidecar around Stellenbosch was the most unexpected adventure of the week. This is one of those activities I never would have thought of for myself, but my goodness it was fun. I would do it again in a second.
Our motorcycle ride was with Cape Sidecar Adventures, which does tours all over the Cape region. These tours aren’t cheap — a half-day ride costs R3500 (about $260) — but if you’re looking to splash out on a unique way to see Stellenbosch then this is the way to do it.
8) Visit Kayamandi
And now, a moment of seriousness.
There is a lot of wealth in Stellenbosch, and that wealth is what most tourists see. It appears so casual and so effortless.
It’s easy to forget, while sipping wine in a 19th century manor house or eating a gourmet meal in a high-end restaurant, that this wealth was amassed on the backs of people of color who have been marginalized and exploited throughout South Africa’s history. Kayamandi, Stellenbosch’s Xhosa township, is a legacy of that history.
Thembi, on behalf of Stellenbosch Route 360, took us on a rambling walk through Kayamandi, where about 30,000 people live. I loved the colors, the people, and the cats of Kayamandi.
Colors of Kayamandi. The brightly colored houses remind me of the traditional thatched rondavels in the Eastern Cape, where many Xhosa people originally come from.
We also ate an incredible meal in Kayamandi (see #9 below).
“Township tours” are controversial and often misunderstood, for a variety of reasons that I don’t have time to discuss in this post. (I might write a dedicated post on township tourism soon though.) But let me just say that our tour of Kayamandi was fun, historical, and culturally rich, and I think every Stellenbosch visitor — and every Stellenbosch local, for that matter — should take it.
Let us not forget that great food doesn’t have to be accompanied by great wine to taste good. We had so many amazing meals in Stellenbosch and the non-drinkers enjoyed them as much as the drinkers did.
Trout on a bed of squid ink is plated and garnished in the kitchen at Delaire Graff Restaurant. Soon after shooting the picture, I was eating the food off one of these plates. It tasted as good as it looked.
Piles of meat at the Hoghouse BBQ and Bakery at Spier.
Starters from our legendary boerebraai dinner at Middlevlei, where I was introduced to a Western Cape specialty called the braaibroodjie. Unfortunately I didn’t get a good photo of my braaibroodjie because it was too dark and frankly, I was too hungry. Take my word for it though: No visit to Stellenbosch is complete without a braaibroodjie.
These are the non-drinking-related things I did during seven days in Stellebosch. There are many more activities I didn’t get to.
In my next Stellenbosch post, I’ll finally get to all of the delicious things I did drink during my visit to the winelands. There were many.
I wrote this post in partnership with #Stellenblog. Opinions expressed are mine.