Trains. Wine. Bicycles.

According to our planned itinerary, we had already stayed in Cape Town two days longer than we were supposed to…  Why not make it a week longer?!?  So that’s what we did.  After all, there was still so much to see, including Stellenbocsh the town and university where most of my friends from South Africa went to school. It’s the wine capital of the region and with stunning views to match, we just couldn’t miss it, but we also couldn’t book a tour.  Either the tours were too expensive or it was too short of notice.  Our only option was to brave the wild and take public transportation in the form of a train.  We’d been warned that they were less than awesome, but it wouldn’t be our first time on the train so we figured we’d save ourselves $50 and go for it.  In the end it wasn’t so bad. We met a nice business man who gave us inside information about everything… ever… whether we wanted it or not.  So we were happily on our way until CRACK! BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM… The first being the sound of a rock smashing against the side of our car and the others being the sound of my heart hammering in my chest.  I saw it happening: a group of teenagers sitting on an embankment next to the tracks.  The arm of a boy taking aim and the rock catapulting through the air, just barely missing our window.  One of the other passengers was particularly affected since in a similar incident his friend had been hit by a rock in the back of the head and was left bleeding profusely while the kids on the side of the road continued their game, laughing.

Well, we arrived at Stellenbosch, thumping hearts and all.  Jan-Jan, the business man, went his way and we went ours.  We left one nice man only to meet another: Ezra.  Ezra was on his mid-morning walk around town when he saw us looking at a map.  Like most people in the Cape Town area would do, he offered his assistance. Lucky for us, his assistance included extensive knowledge on the geography, plants, and animals of the area, since he was some sort of eco tour guide by trade.  He walked us around town pointing out all the old buildings and telling us about the famous vineyards and wine farmers that had shown up over time.  While Ezra was incredibly nice, he was also a bit pushy, insisting that we go to a vineyard that neither Noel or I were too keen on going to.  So we said our goodbyes hopped on our old-fashioned rented bikes, and went on our merry way… in the opposite direction Ezra had suggested.

Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch: wine fields surrounded by mountains.

 

It was quite a productive little cycle around town, by the end of it I had mastered the art of putting a bike chain back on its cogs. YAY! So dirty, oily hands and sweaty bodies, we arrived at Lanzerac.  After a quick debate, we decided that 50 Rand (around $9.25) wasn’t too bad a price to pay for a wine and chocolate tasting.  And Yes! It was nice!  They paired up certain chocolates with the wines (like a Turkish Delight paired with a Rose wine), told us how to coat our mouths with the chocolate before taking a sip… oh yes! We were QUEENS!  Black-oil-fingered, sweaty queens!  We finished our wine tasting and cellar tour and made our way (if a bit giggly and reckless) back to town, with just enough time to cycle around the Stellenbosch campus trying to picture all our friends there… unsuccessfully. It’s hard to place people you’ve only known in Seoul, Korea in picturesque Stellenbosch…

fixed bike? check! dirty hands? check!

 

our selection of wines and chocolate. mmmmm

 

Hey, look stellies! I'm in your university town!

All pleasant day trips must come to an end, so back onto the train we went. This time the train was absolutely packed! People squashed in like sardines.  Of course, this is nothing new to a Seoulite like ourselves… we just minded our business, watching the embankments for flying rocks. We were on guard for rocks and thieves, but what we weren’t on guard for was the explosion of activity that happened at the Bellview stop.  Not a real explosion, don’t worry.  We were screeching to a halt when all at once everyone on the train leaped out of their seats and ran, pushing and shoving for the doors.  My second instinct (after “we’re going to die, this is it”) was to duck as if someone had shot a gun or to cower in a corner of the train if a fight had broken out or something.  There was yelling and chaos everywhere, in the train, outside the train, in my poor little struggling nerves.  I finally had enough wits about me to stand up and look around.  I saw police everywhere, obviously something was going on. A man put his stuff down on the seat across from us and chuckled.  He was at ease, maybe he knew what was going on. “Don’t worry”, he said, “the police are checking for tickets”… My mind started computing, police are looking for tickets, people are running… ahhhhhhhhhh wow. So our train car went from sardines to maybe like 10 people. Huh. And my mind went from restful contemplation to scared out of itself.  At least we had tickets.  Which is more than I can say for Mr. Chuckles across from us.  He conveniently “misplaced” his ticket and took so long looking that the police gave up on him and let him be.  He hopped off at the next stop.  Way to work the system, Mr. Chuckles!  We spent the rest of the evening recovering our nerves with a heavy dose of facebooking.  It worked well, we were right as rain in no time, try it. 

(Scary train + beautiful town + tipsy cycling + scary train part II) x facebook = right as rain.

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