Walk the winelands

Walk the winelands

It’s easy to think the Cape winelands are all about indulging in a bacchanalian excess of food and wine. It’s true, the reputation of winelands restaurants are rising faster than a twice-baked gruyere soufflé, but it’s not the only reason to head for the vineyards of the Cape this summer. 

Instead of letting your belt buckle out another notch rather lace up your boots, for these four estates offer a wonderful way to work up an appetite. 

La Motte Hiking Trail, La Motte Estate 

I wouldn’t blame you for leaving your walking shoes in the car at this gracious Franschhoek property. There’s a fine gallery of Pierneef artworks on display, restaurant tables in the shade of ancient oaks, and a rather elegant cellar for tasting the wines from cellar master Edmund Terblanche. 

But at a mere five kilometers the La Motte Hiking Trail is an easy one, even for the unfit. 

Skirting the historic estate buildings, the path winds around Sauvignon Blanc vineyards where it pays to look out for Cape Eagle Owls in the owl boxes placed amid the Stone Pines. The route then wanders up the rump of the Wemmershoek Mountains where Ericas, Sugarbush Proteas, Tolbos and Blushing Bride line the path. On a rocky outcrop a wooden bench surrounded by Fan Aloes is a fine place to catch your breath and admire the view. In the shade of a Rockwood Tree a camera trap waits patiently for the leopard, caracal and spotted genet that roam here, before the path drops down past beds of rustling restios on the banks of a stream. 

With regular trail markers, river stones etched with a vuvuzela-styled footprint, it’s an easy path to follow on your own, but guided walks are also offered in the company of affable local guide Jacquin Daniels. After your walk delve into the innovative ‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’ from chef Michelle Theron at Pierneef à La Motte restaurant. 

Self-guided R50pp. Guided (Monday mornings) R100pp

www.la-motte.com/experience/hiking-trail

Length: 5kms/2 hours

Fish Eagle Hiking Trail, Van Loveren Family Vineyards

With a bewildering array of wines for every palate and pocket, Van Loveren Family Vineyards is one of the most popular destinations in the Breede River Valley, and with good reason. The tasting room is stylish, airy and spacious; and Christina’s restaurant offers great-value bistro-style cooking. 

Yet few visitors venture down the path past the cellar and over the low-water bridge across the Breede River. This is the start of the Fish Eagle Hiking Trail, a moderately challenging track that takes walkers atop the sandstone ridge high above the vineyards. The path meanders along the banks of the Breede for a kilometre or so, before striking sharply uphill and along the ridge. The views make the legwork all the more worthwhile, as the valley’s patchwork of vineyard and orchard open up to your right.

The eponymous Haliaeetus vocifer are often seen and heard on the trail, with excellent information boards placed at regular intervals to help explain the geology and ecology you’re walking through. The final stretch of the trail is a leisurely amble alongside the vineyards and back across the Breede to the tasting room. 

R40pp

www.vanloveren.co.za

Duration: 7.5kms/3.5hrs

Porcupine Trail, Waterford Estate

The wines of Kevin Arnold have made Waterford Estate one of the most sought-after cellars in the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ outside Stellenbosch, but few visitors realise the charms hiding just behind the cellar. 

“I decided to bring in green belts to allow the free movement of small antelope, so wherever we have agriculture we must have corridors for wildlife,” explained Arnold in the elegant tasting room. “The trail is all about exploring those corridors.”

Guided walks led by the capable Chris Faure, who also conducts the 4x4 ‘Wine Drive’ on the property, begin with a brief wander through the cellar before striking out through the fynbos corridors that criss-cross the estate. 

Faure is passionate about indigenous medicinal herbs and as you wander he’ll often stride off into the fynbos when a plant catches his eye; perhaps the Bloublomsalie and Buchu steeped as a herbal tea, or the Sugarbush Proteas used to make a suikerbessiestroop.

While much alien vegetation has been cleared, and fynbos replanted, the large poplar forest has been left alone, as it is a refuge for a wonderful array of wildlife. Porcupine quills litter the trail, while at a log crossing over a stream Faure shows off images of the large-spotted genet and caracal caught here by camera traps. 

Although stretching to five kilometers of walking, it’s an easy trail alongside forest, fynbos and vineyard. Tackled at a gentle pace, it’s suitable for most levels of fitness.

Guided walks by appointment. R250pp; includes chocolate-and-wine pairing.

www.waterfordestate.co.za

Duration: 5kms/2hrs

Klapmutskop Hiking Trail, Delvera

Chances are you’ve never noticed the Klapmutskop, as you speed along the R44 between Stellenbosch and Paarl. But pull off at Delvera Estate, buy a permit at the Dirtopia office and you’ll soon discover a treasure hiding in plain sight. Up past the vineyards belonging to Delheim Wine Estate, and the dome-shaped koppie comes into view. For decades shrouded by forests of Bluegum, wildfires in 2000 and 2007 revealed the secret of the mountain: a remarkable forest of Breede River Yellowwoods cladding the upper slopes.

After the steep walk through the vineyards the well-marked path contours gently up the Klapmutskop, providing wonderful views of the Stellenbosch winelands and distant Table Mountain. Near the summit the path is shrouded by the cool and quiet of the forest; not at all a bad place to take a seat for a while. Neither is the summit, with its impressive 360° views of the winelands. 

The route home circles gently downhill before joining the road back through the vineyards. If your legs still have some energy, Dirtopia offer excellent single-track mountain biking routes on the estate too. Also look out for the popular full moon walks up the peak.

R30pp

www.delvera.co.za

Duration: 9.75km/4hrs

First Published: 2015-12-06 Sunday Times Travel Weekly

Who is OnAnotherPlane...

RIchard Holmes headshot web smallRichard Holmes is a freelance travel, food and lifestyle writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. His work on African and international destinations has appeared in a wide range of consumer publications both in South Africa and abroad.