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One of the great things about our ride in the Cape Winelands is that you can arrive on any day and stay for as long as you like. So those who really want to immerse themselves in wine tastings, glorious food and fabulous riding can stay for a full week, but if you are a little short of time then you can stay for a few nights or even add a few nights onto the end of a riding safari. I added my 3 nights after the wonderful Wild Coast Trail on the Eastern Cape and it was simply the best way to end an unforgettable holiday.
South African wines are world-renowned and there are numerous vineyards in the area around Paarl, so riding between them is easy. We rode on tracks past row upon row of vines, interspersed with fruit orchards where we could pick satsuma’s and eat them on the move. The going was sandy underfoot for the most part and so there were plenty of opportunities for trotting and cantering. The horses are well schooled and there is something to suit everyone, from competition horses for experienced riders, to local Boerperds and Basotho ponies. I was perfectly matched to both a 7/8th Arab mare and a Thoroughbred mare during my stay.
After a couple of hours of riding we would stop for our first wine tasting and be offered 6 different wines to try – usually 3 whites and 3 reds, but sometimes sparkling wines and brandies – along with a board of different cheeses. We would then set off riding again for a couple of hours before arriving at another vineyard in time for lunch and a second wine tasting. The afternoon rides were always necessarily a little slower! Our guides Louis and Colleen were happy to offer more riding and less wine tastings – or vice versa – depending on the wishes of the group.
After a day of riding and wine tasting there was time to freshen up before heading out to amazing restaurants for dinner. We were always offered the entire menu to choose from and Louis would then select a wine to suit our meals. The food was beautifully cooked and presented – juicy steaks, local specialities such as springbok, fresh fish and seafood, or perhaps Italian one night, or Thai. The meals are a highlight and Louis takes care to select restaurants which will appeal to his riders. If you want to dress up you can do, but if you want to go somewhere more relaxed then that is also possible.
As well as all the amazing riding and wine tastings available, the Cape can also offer some fantastic excursions for those who wish to take a day off from riding. The well-known coastal town of Hermanus is famous for being on the migration route for Southern Right Whales and during the season (November) you can view the whales from the shoreline without even stepping on a boat. Further along the coast, Gansbaai is a hot-spot for Great White Shark cage diving – an activity which had long been on my bucket list and lived up to every expectation!
During my stay at Cape Winelands, I slept in the new Stable rooms which are on-site rather than at the nearby Spa hotel. The rooms were comfortable and each had an en-suite shower room. There was a small fridge with the essentials (milk, cheese, yoghurts, bottle of white wine!) and an easy chair which could be pulled onto the front stoep where I would sit eating my breakfast and watching the sun rise over the mountains. It is possible to pay extra to upgrade to the nearby Wellness spa hotel, but personally I loved my little room in the midst of the vineyards and in sight of the horses. I just wish I had stayed longer!
Catherine Holloway, 8th August, 2013