Wine Flies Wine Tours’ new Forgotten Route – Train to the Karoo takes travellers on a journey into South Africa’s hinterland of old, tracing the steps of diamond miners and early explorers in to South Africa’s wild.
Curated and commandeered by maverick tour operators and Wine Flies owners, Francois van Binsbergen (Lord Francois) and Riaan Renke (Baron Renke), the adventure reflects the host company’s curious and quirky attitude.
The Lords of Wine Flies paint a vivid picture of yesteryear thanks to their playful nature, bohemian attire and the tour’s attention to detail, reminding travellers of a by-gone era.
“We realised long ago that people prefer their tours with a bit of storytelling” says van Binsbergen, “and so we created this tour to tell stories that have been collecting dust for some years. We want travellers to immerse themselves in the imagination of a time gone by, but we don’t expect them to leave their Instagram and Twitter behind. There’s also plenty of time to pause and take it in; why rush with that much history all around you?”
The two day adventure into the Karoo includes visits to iconic landmarks and Anglo-Boer battle regions, meetings with local winemakers and storytelling sessions with everyone from hotel proprietors to Karoo musicians. In short, it’s a cultural and visual adventure, the road less travelled to its Garden Route counterpart.
After an informative tour of key historic sites in Cape Town’s city centre, the adventure begins, on a Friday, from the Kimberley Hotel – site of departure for many a diamond-studded dreamer in the late 1800s when Kimberley’s promised land beckoned. From there it’s a bus ride to Rawsonville, where guests are hosted by the winemakers themselves at Kirabo Wine Farm, then all aboard the Shosholoza Meyl, for the ‘train’ part of the journey. Although it is not the luxurious steam train of old, the experience of the landscape by rail, through lunch and tall tales, recalls an era of ‘slow travel’ – a time gone by where a trip was as much about the journey as it was about the destination.
The train ride ends in Matjiesfontein, the atmospheric and historic Victorian town that marks the pinnacle of the British Empire. Guests stay at The Lord Milner Hotel, a treasure trove of historical artefacts and ghost stories, where they enjoy a night bus tour and a traditional Karoo lamb braai beneath the stars – all to the sounds of local musos around an old piano.
On Saturday morning, after a hearty breakfast, the tour begins the scenic trip home via a traditional biltong maker in Laingsburg, into the breathtaking Seweweekspoort Pass, a stop at an Anglo-Boer War Fort and lunch at the famed Ronnie’s Sex Shop, where guests can sample the local brew. Guests arrive back in Cape Town the same evening, although travellers can make their way onwards to the Garden Route via the Baz Bus, from a connection point in the Heidelberg.
As much an experience for couples and individuals as it is for parties of friends or colleagues, it’s an appealing and affordable ride through time and a beautiful country that.
* Spend two days and one night on The Forgotten Route for R1 250 per person (lunch and drinks excluded).
For more information or to book, call 021 423 2444, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.theforgottenroute.co.za. Alternatively, follow on Facebook at Wine Flies Wine Tours or on Twitter @WineFliesZA.