Chile has a deservedly good reputation for their wines When we visited the country in 2015 we explored the Colchagua Valley and started our enjoyment of Chilean wines. This time we visited three wineries in the Casablanca Valley which is located between the Pacific Ocean and Santiago. The cooling affect of the ocean means that the Valley mainly grows white wines and Pinot Noir. Fortunately the wineries also have vineyards elsewhere and so we were able to taste a variety of wines. We visited and enjoyed William Cole, Indomita and Emiliana. A case of William Cole wines made it back to London with me.
I hiked the Green Mountain Trail in the Elgin Valley near Cape Town from 18th March to 22nd March 2013. The highlights of the trail are:
- 4 hiking days
- 1,200m height gain over the 4 days
- 60% on jeep track
- 50% on or near cultivated land: 50% in nature
- 40% on private land
- 2 guest houses
- 5 wine tastings
This is a well organised, luxurious trail with relatively long distances over easy terrain. There is a wide diversity of flora and many birds close to cultivated land.
The group comprised nine of us with most of the party in their sixties:
Bill and Pat are Britons who have been expatriates for most of their working life and are now swallows between Cape Town and the south of France.
Jane is a Briton who has lived in many places in the world and has now settled in Cape Town.
Judy is an American who has lived in many places in the world and has now settled in Cape Town.
Bill, Pat, Jane and Judy have known each other for many years. Through her sister Judy knows
Peter and Susan who are widely travelled Americans living in Vermont.
Eberhard and Gabi are Germans who have been expatriates with Siemens for much of their working lives and are now swallows between Swellendam, South Africa and northern Bavaria in Germany.
Mike Wakeford is an experienced mountain guide and was our lead guide for the four days. The trail normally has different lead guides on the first two days from the last two days but on this occasion we were lucky to have Mike leading us all the way. He was the perfect guide – confident, sensitive, caring, low key with good knowledge of the flora, birds, geography and history. He was supported by Christopher for the first two days and John on the latter two days. Warren, a potential stand in for Mike when he leads trips to India, accompanied us for the first two days.
Hiking day 1 is 18kms long with a height gain of about 500m and took us about six hours with another hour for lunch. Broadly speaking it is a gentle 9kms hike up jeep track and then a gentle 9kms decline. The hike starts on private land on the Twaalfontein Farm near the Theewaterskloof Dam and ascends the Groenlandberg to a point near the peak where we overlooked the Elgin Valley. The jeep track allowed Cha from Porcupine Hills to bring us a delightful lunch. The hike was in the core of the Kogelberg Conservancy managed by Cape Nature and ended on the R321 at the entrance to the Cape Nature Boland Hiking Trail. This is the hardest day, principally because of the distance. We were taken back to the guest house in a mini coach which was used whenever we needed to be transported.
Day 2 is 15kms long with a minimal height gain and took us about six hours with another hour for lunch and an hour for a wine tasting at the end of the day. We started on the R321 about 2kms from our end point on the previous day, closer to Grabouw. We hiked in the Elgin Valley on the slopes of the Groenlandberg which we had ascended the previous day. For most of the day we were hiking through private land in the fynbos just above the cultivated lands of three farms. Although the distance was less than yesterday it took us the same time because the route today was mainly on paths which were slower going than the jeep track of yesterday. This was an attractive route although one was always aware of the cultivated land close by. We passed through the Molteno Brother’s farm and then on to the Oak Valley Farm where Alison Green from Wildekrans Country House brought us a delightful lunch. Many of the party opted out at lunch and left with Alison. The hardy remainder then had a hot hike on to the Paul Kluwer farm and then on his farm roads through his crops and vineyards to the main farm buildings where we had a wine tasting.
Day 3 is 13kms long with a minimal height gain and took us about four hours. We started, where we had finished yesterday, at the Paul Kluwer farm and walked through his farm past the performance area and then past workers bringing in the apple harvest. Our route took us on to a forestry area that had not been maintained and was not very attractive. We finished by walking through the wilder parts of another farm before arriving at Wildekrans Country House for a swim before an alfresco lunch. This was the least attractive day because we were walking mainly on jeep tracks and mainly through cultivated land or failed forests.
Day 4 is 11kms long with about 450m height gain and took us about four hours. This was the best of the hiking days. We left Wildekrans Country House in Houwhoek and initially followed the old wagon trail towards Botriver and then turned on to a path that took us into the mountains. We were conceptually following the route of the N2 and could often hear the traffic, but this was the wildest part of the four day trail and I loved it. We eventually descended to the west of Botriver and arrived at Beaumont Wines. We were met by the owner, Jane Beaumont, who took us into her home, where we changed for a swim in the dam in front of her house before enjoying a wonderful lunch on her veranda. A wonderful way to finish the trail. The coach had picked up our luggage from Wildekrans Country House and then took us back to Porcupine Hills where we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.
We had five wine tastings en route. We tasted Winters Drift wines from the Molteno Brothers on the first evening at Porcupine Hills. Alison let us taste Oak Valley wines at the lunch she brought us on the second day of hiking when sat in the shade and looked over the Oak Valley vineyards. A few hours later we had a wonderful tasting of Paul Kluwer wines which were accompanied by gorgeous cheeses. On the last night at Wildekrans, before dinner, we tasted XXX wines and the next day over a fantastic lunch at Beaumont we tasted their wines. Because of the terroir of this area the wines are principally white, with the occasional pinot noir and very few reds.
We stayed the first two nights at Porcupine Hills Guest House and the last two nights at Wildekrans Country House which were both very comfortable with great food.
This is a fun, interesting walk.
We enjoyed a wonderful walking wine tour of Rioja in October 2011