Great excitement, Traveltime’s first international tour. We were approached in July 2018 to host a flower tour for a group Americans, as part of their South African / Botswana visit. Having worked on this for many months, I felt apprehension at meeting the group of 9 at the V&A Hotel early on Monday 26th August.
No reason to feel any apprehension at all – what a friendly bunch of people. Three ladies from Texas, a few from LA and Jim from Galena, Illinois. There was much bantering amongst the group who had only met about 24 hours before our tour started.
Our first stop was the Carmien Tea Rooibos tea factory high up on Piekenierskloof Mountain Pass. It was very cold up here today. We started off visiting the creche for children of employees; this was followed by seeing where they dry the Rooibos; their packaging plant and ended with a tasting of 5 of their teas (all accompanied with a fruit or biscuit to match the flavours!) A unique experience for the Americans.
This was followed by a Wine, Tea and Food Pairing lunch with Steve at Hebron. His restaurant is halfway going down the Piekenierskloof mountain pass. He served us the following: –
Smoked trout croquette with aioli & tea smoked tomato dressing – paired with Carmien Soothe Green Rooibos, Fennel and Aniseed and a delicious Piekenierskloof Chenin Blanc.
Main course was Lamb neck which Steve debones and marinates overnight – served with a Carmien Focus Masala Chai & Turmeric tea and a glass of Piekenierskloof Shiraz.
Dessert was a sticky banana sponge with ice cream, butterscotch and sesame brittle – served with Carmien Rooibos Red Mocha and Piekenierskloof Straw wine.
A delicious lunch and the group were so full of praise for Steve and this different lunch – a private dining room made it more special for us all!
Making our way from Citrusdal to Clanwilliam we found a field of beautiful flowers – our leader Jim had this to say about the patch of flowers – “When we finally reached a good spot for 1000’s and 1000’s of wild flowers, we stopped the bus and walked into what seemed an unbelievable movie set. 4 of the group are from Southern California, and 3 from Texas and all of them enjoy their own profusion of wildflowers, but today this really excited them all”
We checked in at the Yellow Aloe Guest House in Clanwilliamour, our home for the next 2 nights. Many of the Americans were vociferous about this wonderful guest house and garden – they particularly loved the Yellow Weaver birds and their nests.
Dinner tonight was a ‘braai’ at Michaels on Park. This meal was huge and most of us left much of the meat Michael braaied for us! Sadly, just too much to eat and enjoy!
Tuesday saw us heading off to Nieuwoudtville at just after 08h30. We arrived in Vanrynsdorp and had to stop just out of town at a mountain range (very similar to Table Mountain) and we all crossed the road and many photos were taken. Their pleasure in our country, was infectious! A short stop at Baghdad Café for a coffee for 3 of us and then up the Van Ryns Pass and onto Nieuwoudtville arriving at Hantam National Botanical Gardenjust in time for our tour with Eugene. Eugene with his quiet, very knowledgeable attitude very soon ‘won us all over’. He had such a lot of information to share about endangered species found in Hantam – what a fabulous hour we spent with him.
Lunch at Die Waenhuis (The Wagon House) in Papkuisfontein farm was, as usual, fabulous. Shortly after this the group left on an open Landrover to see the wildflowers. Willem van Wyk is so knowledgeable and eager to share his farm. A very enjoyable afternoon.
Dinner tonight was at Rheinholds and I know the Americans enjoyed the buffet meal of very fresh food.
Wednesday saw us heading off to the Clanwilliam flower show – Jim had this to say “This is not like an American flower show. Volunteers spend these two months travelling all over the area, and even into Namaqualand to gather wildflowers from the root up, preserving them in an amazing display of living beauty in the Clanwilliam church. The beauty is exceptional, but the work these volunteers do for a show that lasts only 6 days a year is extraordinary”
Lunch was at the New Charlies Brewhouse and a welcome break before their tour at Evita se Perron in Darling.
We then checked into the Darling Lodge Guest House where Stephan and Oliver run a fabulous lodge.
Dinner tonight was exceptional – we were hosted at the home of Debbie and Shaun McLaughlin. Debbie of Hilda’s Kitchen had also arranged a fabulous evening for us with Nic Pentz the Owner of Groote Post Wine estate hosting the wine pairing. (Jim said they were treated like the most precious of friends)!
Smoked salmon and rocket tart paired with two of Groote Post’s white wines.
Mains were a Gourmet lamb bunny chow served with a range of homemade sambals and toasted coconut – again paired with 2 Groote Post red wines.
Dessert was a white chocolate cheesecake with naartjie coulis – paired with a dessert wine.
What a memorable evening this was!
After breakfast we headed to the West Coast National Park – Jim had this to say about Sam Epstein one of his non-veteran travellers who got so excited seeing his first ostrich in the park “It’s so much fun to feel fellow travellers excitement on this trip – because these folk are so incredibly enthusiastic”
I felt very proud to share their excitement with them.
Our day in the WCNP was made more special as we had a step-on guide, Elmarie who took us into Church-haven normally not accessible to the public! Elmarie has a very loving personality and she endeared herself to this group. Not only did she provide a fabulous picnic lunch, but she imparted SO much information on the day – a very special time indeed. I personally loved watching how the sea gulls benefited from our lunch when the group shared their ciabattas with them! A warming experience.
Friday dawned and sadly we had to get the group back to the V&A waterfront by 12h00 – a quick stop at Darling Sweet had them stocking up on toffees and soft caramels!
Jim summed up my thoughts exactly when he said “So yes, we saw an awful lot of fantastic flowers – but the bonus outdid the experience, and the people experience became the grandest memory”
Travel well throughout South Africa, the EWT group will always leave me with special memories, and it was indeed an honour and privilege to share the tour with you!