Sunday, 20 December 2015

Cruising with wine down the Breede River...


Picture this. A perfect summer's day, a picnic with cheese, wine & other delicacies and a slow cruise down the Breede River in one of the most beautiful areas of the Western Cape, the Robertson Wine Valley. Introducing Viljoensdrift and the slow boat.…

I was invited to experience their barge cruise and picnic two weeks ago. What a treat. From McGregor, where I was staying for the second weekend in a row (yes, that’s how much I love it), it’s a 10 minute drive to Viljoensdrift, scenically gorgeous too.

First thing you see on arrival at the estate is a lush green lawn dotted with people lazing about on the grass enjoying the beautiful outdoors. Inside I met Zonia Lategan one of the winemakers, Ashley Jaftha from Sales and Marketing and fortuitously, Fred Viljoen, one of two brothers who own this amazing farm. Turned out Fred and my husband Paul knew each other so while they chatted, I went with Ashley to select a few gourmet items from the well stocked deli for our on-board feast. My wine of choice was the Single Vineyard Pinotage 2014  Vitis Vinifera double gold winner 2015 and I could see why - so smooth, with “Incredible rich black red colour-superb balance…concentrated dense fruit, great complexity….”  to quote their own description. 

Feeling a bit like Red Riding Hood with my picnic basket in the crook of my arm, stuffed with delectables, I stepped onto the flat bottom boat, named Uncle Ben 2, with husband and son in tow, and off we sailed on a 50 minute cruise down the Breede. What glorious views flank the river and it was so fabulous to be able to enjoy it all over a glass or three of top notch vino, ciabatta rolls oozing ripe camembert and fig preserves, and smothered in smoked olive tapenade, boerkaas cheese and basil pesto. You should be having #fomo right about now!

The cruise costs only R50 for adults and includes a wine tasting prior to departure. For children between 3 and 12 years, it’s R20 pp.  The boat can accommodate 38 people and departs daily at 12:00pm, irrespective of the number of people. Thereafter trips are hourly depending on bookings (a minimum of 6 adults or a minimum amount of R300 will be required to let the boat depart).  Advanced bookings are essential via +27 23 615 1017 or email Check in time is 30 minutes prior to departure. Don’t be late*

With thanks to Mira Weiner from Hot Oven Marketing for this opportunity.

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Sunday, 13 December 2015

Eat, bray, love...a visit to the Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary..

The donkey, burro, ezel, asno, asino, ane, esel, asna, donkie.….this gentle long-eared creature has been mistreated and misunderstood over the centuries throughout the world. But for those living at the Eseltjierus Donkey Sanctuary near McGregor in the Western Cape (South Africa), the bad days are behind them and Life is good.   

Last weekend I visited Eseltjiesrus and met with the founder Johan van Zijl, a former psychologist who established the haven with his wife, officially opening it to the public in 2007. They have a dedicated team of volunteers working with them and David Kramer is the Patron.

Since the first two donkeys arrived, Vaal and Japie, they’ve taken in many more retired, destitute, elderly and abused donkeys from all over the region and further afield, working together with the SPCA, the police and Cart Horse Association.

Chatting to Johan, I learnt first hand about his journey into establishing the spacious 10 hectare farm, a much needed permanent refuge for the donkeys that also has a little restaurant, a shop with donkey-themed souvenirs, their own brand of wine and a small 2nd hand bookshop. Their annual fundraising book fair in McGregor is a must on the cultural calendar of Robertson and surrounds.

What was wonderful for me was the chance to get up close and personal with the donkeys who come from various parts of the Western Cape, each with a story to tell, usually very sad. Ziggy, Alice, Thabo, Eeyore the oldest, and sweet Amy amongst others. My experience with her was very special- so affectionate, nudging and pressing against me for attention and a rub behind the ears. Give me any opportunity to connect with an animal and I'm so there.

A key focus of the Van Zijl’s is education via workshops in various towns like Mamre, McGregor and Genadendal. School groups, including children from schools for the deaf, blind and autistic, regularly visit the sanctuary. “It’s therapeutic for the children, the donkeys and for everyone else”, says Johan. There’s even a resource pack available for educators and learners to use, produced in conjunction with the Western Cape Education Department. “We encourage children to develop respect for donkeys, as well as for themselves, and their dogs and cats”, he added. “Donkeys are at times seen as objects of ridicule, without any champions, and we want to raise their profile.”

It is said that a donkey teaches you that humility is a strength, not a weakness. They’re actually cleverer than horses…the expression ‘don’t be a smart ass’ has to mean something right?  Just look into a donkey's eyes and you'll see for yourself that it is a special and intelligent animal.

Visit the Donkey Sanctuary and consider doing a virtual adoption to add your support to the project. / 027-23-6251593.  


Johan van Zilj, founder of Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary


Getting to know Amy...

A contemplative space...a memorial to donkeys who have passed where you can also lay a stone in memory of a loved one...

Donkey beauty...

Die donkie is 'n wonderlike ding...

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