28 October 2009

Deep in the Heart of the Winelands: CouchSurfing Without the Couch

Paid more for the taxi ride from the lodge in Cape Town to the train station (R20) than the train ("first class") from Cape Town to Stellenbosch (R12). I love public transportation. [White] locals I spoke with over the next two days seemed impressed by my ability and willingness to take the train. Odd, seemed fine to me. Maybe they should try it.

Upon arriving in Stellenbosch Sunday morning, I was immediately struck by the scent of jasmine and maybe honeysuckle in the air as I walked to the place I was staying. In case you're wondering, the name of said establishment is the Stumble Inn. Catchy name and a decent (and CHEAP) enough place to stay, but I wouldn't call it home for an extended visit to the Winelands. After depositing my affairs, I quickly went out for a stroll around town. Stellenbosch is a beautiful small town with white buildings and oak lined streets, lots of small shops and cafes, and a generally good vibe. In addition, I went to a place for lunch that had a good wine selection as well as wireless internet access! (of course for a fee)

I had connected with a few local CouchSurfers before arriving and, although none of them could host me, we made plans to get together while I was visiting. Sunday night I went over to the flat of some super nice students, Carel & Ericka, for tasty tasty TASTY hamburgers. I brought with me a bottle of Ethnopio, a SA red blend that turned out to be quite pleasant to drink with Ericka's burgers. This was my second CS experience since arriving in Africa, and we're two for two to date.

On Monday I again demonstrated my enterprising nature in sorting out a train to Paarl (R8.50). Paarl had been on my itinerary since the moment I found out the Taalmuseum or Afrikaans Language Museum was there. After a fairly lengthy delay getting to Paarl, I meandered through a city where I sensed people actually live and work to find the museum. The woman who greeted me at the museum is a cultural historian who went out of her way to give me much more information than I would have expected to get on a one-to-one basis. It was an incredibly informative visit that I'm very happy I made time for. Disappointingly, I didn't get to the taal monument, however, since I needed to catch a train back to Stellenbosch.

The train back to Stellenbosch arrived just in time for me to be picked up by another CSer, Leendert, who had invited me to go with him, his sister, and a friend to JC le Roux for champagne (sparkling wine & méthode cap classique) tasting. Again, another wholly positive CS experience! It was a pleasure to meet Leendert, Rosanne, and Jackie; and the champange & nougat pairing we had was a real treat.

By coincidence, I had been on Facebook a couple of nights prior at the same time as an IU friend. He mentioned that he had a good friend in Stellenbosch who he subsequently got me in touch with. Said Stellenbosch friend and I arranged to have dinner Monday night. Following a brief period of recuperating following the champagne tasting, I was ready for dinner with Dawie and François. Although not connections through CS, I'll lump them into the category of fantastic quasi-strangers who I met via some online social networking medium and walked away hoping to see again someday.

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