We (mostly Chris) indulge in the wines, liqueurs, beer, and food of the Robertson Wine Valley on Day 13 of our Johannesburg to Cape Town road trip, The Hectic Route.
A Day of Indulgence
I’m a big believer in self-control. I regularly do multiple-day fasts, exercise religiously (
even especially when traveling), and am rarely spend money superfluously (how else could I afford to spend so much time on this very un-lucrative, but very enjoyable, blog?).
But every once in a while, I throw that self-control out the window and indulge.
I indulge hard.
Today, as we puttered around the Robertson Wine Valley, was one of those special days.
To truly enjoy a day of indulgence, you have to earn the right to have it.
That’s why we kicked off the day with a hike to the Barrydale Waterfall.
It took us a while to find the trailhead (see Tips below for directions) but, once we did, it was clear sailing. We fast-walked the slight uphill to the waterfall in just under an hour, I went for a pre-indulgence purifying swim in the tannin-stained waters, then we jogged back in forty minutes.
What a fantastic way to start the day!
Shaking it Up
Normally, I don’t eat breakfast, but seeing as today was a day of indulgence, not only did I have a morning meal, but I ate something I may have never had for breakfast before:
And not just any milkshake. A “Chili Chili Bang Bang” milkshake from Diesel & Creme in Barrydale.
It had freshly cut chilies hand-blended with a fork into creamy chocolate ice cream and heaps of whipped cream on top. Yum.
Even if you don’t like milkshakes, Diesel & Creme is worth checking out for its funky Afrikaans roadside diner bric-a-brac. If the owner’s around, ask him to show you some custom touches, like the stained glass that, at precisely noon, shines a red light directly onto the toilet bowl.
But, really, get a milkshake for your own little indulgence.
A Berry Swell(-endam) Spot
After driving to Swellendam, the third oldest town in South Africa, and stretching our legs with a quick wander along its pretty main street, we headed to the Wildebraam Berry Estate on the outskirts of town.
Blackberries and youngberries—a blackberry-raspberry hybrid—were in season at the farm, so we pecked away at them then did a free tasting of their ten flavored liqueurs.
Fittingly enough, one of the flavors was chocolate chili, the same as the milkshake I just had!
That flavor, as well as lemon and youngberry, were my favorites. Kim liked lemon too, and rooibos.
As we left Wildebraam, I realized I’d had a dessert for breakfast and dessert wine and berries for a mid-morning snack. It was backward, but perfectly fitting for a day of indulgence.
The Robertson Wine Valley
Thank goodness today was Kim’s turn to drive.
The Robertson Wine Valley has so many wineries with so much to taste in such generous sample sizes that it would be a shame to have to spit it all out.
Plus, it’s such a picturesque area (especially when the jacarandas are in bloom) that you want to keep your eye on the scenery and not the road.
With so much to see and taste, we made haste and managed to indulge in three Robertson wineries—a decadent one, a charming one, and a fun one.
For Decadence: Van Loveren
We soon realized we weren’t the only ones to have received this advice. The lush—so lush it was almost jungle-like—estate teemed with people, especially at Christina’s bistro.
Making our way to the tasting area, a teenaged grandson of the Van Loveren family and his two buddies generously allowed us to taste pretty much their entire range, from dry whites to rich ports to marula creams.
For Charm: Springfield Wine Estate
Our friend Justin knows two things very well.
The first is fynbos. He is the guy to talk to if you want to learn about it. We’d done a fantastic tour with him that gave us a true appreciation of this unique-to-South-Africa, World-Heritage biome.
The second is wine. So when he told us we must (South Africans are bossy types who always say you “must” do things) go to Springfield Estate, we listened.
Kim wholeheartedly confirmed Justin’s recommendation. She enjoyed Springfield’s wines more than Van Loveren’s and preferred the more intimate lakeside setting.
I was getting too deep in my indulgence to tell the difference between the wines, to be honest.
For Fun: Excelsior Wine Estate
At Excelsior Wine Estate, we sampled four of their red wines in their tasting room that’s uniquely perched on stilts atop a lake, then had a fun time deciding which we wanted to mix and match to create our own blend.
Once we’d chosen our varietals, shiraz with cabernet sauvignon, we blended them, corked the bottle, and stuck on our custom-designed label to create a truly one-of-a-kind Hectic Route Red.
Since I’m not an oenophile but enjoy unique and interactive experiences, this was my favorite winery of the three.
Capping it off in Robertson
Since I’ve yet to develop a true appreciation for wine (it’s one of my goals for our six months in South Africa) and generally prefer beer, in Robertson we stopped off at Four Cousins (which is also owned by Van Loveren) for a flight of their craft creations.
Then for dinner we went to what seemed to be the only non-chain restaurant in Robertson, the surprisingly-busy Bourbon Street. Since it was the day of indulgence, I ordered the biggest thing on the menu, their braai platter, and washed it down with a couple of pints of stout (on special for only 20 rands, which is about $1.40 US, each!).
Then, at last, I’d reached my limit.
I could indulge no more.
- Barrydale waterfall hike directions. Here’s the location of the turnoff just outside of town and here’s where the trail starts. The trail itself is well-defined and easy to follow.
- Don’t stay in Robertson. Of our entire Hectic Route road trip, it’s the only town we regret staying in. The city itself didn’t have any special charm (the main strip is on a busy highway), we weren’t fans of the owners of the place we stayed at, and the only restaurant was Bourbon Street, which we found to be a pretty generic pub-type place.
- Stay in McGregor instead. McGregor has a lot more charm than Robertson and will give you a head start on the following day of the Hectic Route.
Next Up (Hectic Route Day 14):
Finish Off in Style En Route to Cape Town
How to Have an Even Better South Africa Road Trip than Ours
For everything from safety tips to how to find the best rental car to what our absolute favorite experiences are, check out our South Africa road trip tips.