Over breakfast this morning we decided that today we would take a bit of a tour around some of the nearby towns: Wellington and Paarl.
Paarl was of particular interest to us as the Taal Monument was nearby, and also the Madiba Legacy. More on both of those in a moment.
Before going any further I need to mention the weather conditions: today was mostly cloudy, with frequent patches of dense fog, and several damp and drizzly spells.
Not great for either driving or taking photos, but we were not going to let a spot of English weather put us off, no sir!
We navigated our way to Wellington, really just to see what a real, rural, non-touristy South African town looked like.
We passed row upon row of Shanty Towns on our way there.
Maybe it was the weather or maybe it was just me… but, there was something very grey and slightly depressing about Wellington. It was good to experience somewhere genuine, but we didn’t feel any need to hang around for long.
Paarl wasn’t much better, to be honest, but it had a little more going on and it also presented us with our first stop of the day.
It was raining when we arrived at the Taal Monument, a huge sculpture designed to represent the many influences that went into the creation of the Afrikaans language. It’s quite a modern looking structure, almost futuristic, which is at odds with the otherwise old fashioned nature of the area.
Each of the towers represents one of the influences that formed the basis for Afrikaans (such as European culture and African heritage).
It was whilst we were here that I used the toilet. I only mention this because it was as I walked into the facilities that I saw a poster on the wall explaining how to identify all of the dozen or so deadly snakes that live in this area (as well as a further group of non-lethal snakes… they all looked the same to me!), and what to do if you get bitten. In some cases there’s really not much you can do!
Needless to say after reading the poster I decided it was time to depart.
Fortunately the rain stopped as we left the monument, but only to be replaced by dense fog as we climbed our way up, up, up into the mountains to check out some of the supposedly stunning views.
I had hoped that we might get through it as we went higher, but the fog just kept getting worse. Eventually we gave up on the idea and headed back down the mountain.
The weather improved as the altitude dropped.
Our next stop, although we drove past it three times before realising it was what we were looking for, was the Madiba Legacy.
Madiba is the correct spelling of Nelson Mandela’s surname in Xhosa (his native language).
A statue has been put up in his honour outside one of the several prisons he spent time in during his lengthy and historical arrest.
As for the prison itself, it looked more like a school than a correctional facility, with a small playing field at the front, and a long drive way. The high fences and guards on the entrance, however, remind you that this place is secure.
As we arrived we were a little uncertain as to whether or not you can stop and take pictures (I didn’t want to end up on the wrong side of the prison guards), but given that a coach load of tourists were just driving off, we decided it would be okay.
Having ticked off everything on our short but worthy list of things to do today, we headed back to the hotel to park up the car before doing some further exploring of Stellenbosch on foot.
Having already been to the top two tourist attractions, we broadened our horizons this time in different ways: from exploring the inside of the Calvinist church (with its modern stained glass windows that started being put in place during the 1970s and only just completed last year), to a bit of retail therapy in one of the many local shops.
We also took in some of the weird and wonderful sculptures that are dotted around this artistic town.
Stellenbosch is quite an interesting place, with a heavy Dutch influence it feels very much like walking around somewhere in Europe, and it’s easy to forget that you’re actually on the southern tip of Africa – especially when it’s grey and wet.
There are differences though, and the more we explored the more we picked up on them. From the wooden animal carvings for sale (they were all either elephants, giraffes, or rhinos), to the restaurants with metal bars across their entrances and barbed wire creeping around the rooftops.
Ultimately all of this walking around lead to us having a late lunch, which consisted of a cheese platter to share, full of local cheeses (the one they looks like a slice of carrot was the best one)…
And some local fizzy wine…
After that went back to the hotel again, dropped off our shopping, spent a bit of time communicating with those folks back in Britain (including Jerry), and then headed back out for more food.
And so as I write this entry, we are back at the hotel for one last time, with full tummies and generally happy memories. The weather didn’t really stop us at all.
Tomorrow we leave Stellenbosch behind and move on to pastures new, and a transport-based adventure awaits.