Segwaying through the Vines in Stellenbosch
Off the back of a recent trip to South Africa, Flight Centre Travel Expert James Howe tells us all about his experiences in the country's best-known wine region...
With slightly blurry heads – after being wined and dined in Stellenbosch the night before – our group made the short walk from the reception of the Spier Hotel, over to the designated Segway Tours area on a clear, sunny yet cool, May morning. We were to be taking a tour of the attached Spier Wine Farm, and I couldn't have been more excited.
We were greeted warmly by two guys clearly delighted to work in a vineyard instead of an office, to have a Segway instead of a computer, and to be wearing shorts instead of trousers. We gathered around to watch them demonstrate the basic functionality of the Segways, with just the right balance between bravado and seriousness, before taking it in turns to practise getting on and off and starting and stopping. Once we get our heads around controlling the machine with the position of your feet and leaning forward to speed up, even the basic circular practise course became fun, as each member of the group strived to get around without hitting a cone.
As soon as everyone felt comfortable on the Segways we were entrusted with our very own vehicles, each adjusted to match our heights, and we set off in single file for the vineyards. Set against a stunning mountainous backdrop we made our way up a slight hill stopping at various points to test our skills of control and take pictures of the scenery.
The pace quickened as everyone became more comfortable with the machines and the terrain, which the Segways handled with ease. The lack of grapes didn’t detract from the beauty of the vineyards and the brown of the earth, green of the vines, blue of the sky and yellow of the sun made for the most natural of settings. Our guides kept us topped up on relevant knowledge of the area, wine production and anything else we cared to ask them, reinforcing our view of South Africans as being truly genial of hosts. In the right season, you can taste the grapes straight off the vines giving an interesting contrast to the varietals in their fermented form. Once we’d had our fill, we wound our way back down the hill at a leisurely pace, zig-zagging and pushing the Segways close to their maximum speed before finishing back where we started, with the cobwebs well and truly blown away.