We were told to meet at 08h00 at a coffee shop just a few minutes walk from our hotel. From that point on, we'd head to the main train station and go to Stellenbosch station, about an hour away. We arrive at the coffee shop to find a man from BnW telling us the ride had been cancelled. He said the train to Stellenbosch had been sabotaged and no trains were leaving today. This was a little concerning -- sabotage? What exactly does that mean? Who is sabotaging the train. Come to find out, it was more just vandalism -- people were stealing the copper off the power lines. Whew.
We were able to move our reservation over to Sunday vs. Saturday. Surprisingly we were the only people on the tour. Our tour guide, whose name I forget, was an 18 year old kid, who was quite knowledgeable about wine. He grew up drinking wine with his attorney parents. We met at the coffee shop, and walked to the train station -- we took the train to Stellenbosch without incident. The trains looked a little old and not all that well maintained. I don't know if all lines were like this or if it was just this one.
Our tour took us to 3 different wineries plus one brandy distillery. Our guide gave us the option of visiting the distillery first or last. We opted to do it last, as it was right near the train station and would make a nice way to close out the day. The bikes were well maintained and in pretty good shape...unlike us. No where in the literature did it mention that this ride would be on mountain bikes through the vineyards proper. I expected us to be riding on pavement or at least hard packed trail trails...nope. We rode quite a bit on loose sandy trails. I should mention that it was 35C when we started the ride. The first part of ride was smooth and easy...but about 4 minutes in we had to go up a very steep hill -- VERY steep. There was a 120 meter increase in elevation in just a couple kilometers. This was torture. I worked my hardest and couldn't make it up the hill. I made it about 60% up before I had to get off and walk my bike up. MS also ran into an issue, but he made it up about 75% before he had to walk it. I'm so happy we were the only ones on the tour - I would have been horribly embarrassed if there were others watching me crap out. It was bad enough with MS and the 18 year old guide.
Once we reached the top of the hill (mountain??) we had a short ride to the first winery, where we did a quick tasting and had a flavorful lunch. We were so exhausted from this first part of the ride, I was uncertain I could finish it. We drank a ton of water immediately then headed to the tasting before the lunch was served. Unlike every other tasting I've done, we only got a small amount (truly a taste). I've been lucky enough to do tastings with industry people and get very full pours. I'm glad the pours weren't large -- It would have killed me off, I'm sure.
The brandy distillery was nice, but definitely my least favorite of the visits. I was in no mood for Brandy when it was 35C and I was exhausted. At least the service at the distillery was top notch and it was fully air conditioned with LOTS of water.
When I go back to South Africa (when, NOT if), I want to do this tour again. I've been riding my bike much more here and I think I am now able to do the first elevation completely -- I'd probably struggle, I am confident I'd finish and not need to walk any of it.
If South Africa is on your short list, I say you MUST do this tour. It is absolutely amazing and well worth eating up an entire day in South Africa. just do it!