Hawkes Bay Winetasting on a Bike!

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Hawkes Bay and its surrounding areas has some of New Zealands most stable climate and is therefore an ideal place to grow wine grapes. Tour operators running wine tasting day trips are plentiful, but renting a bike will save you money which instead could be used for the two to ten dollar fees that most wineries charge for tastings of two to ten wines.
Full of ambitions I started my first tastings when the wineries opened at ten it the mornings, in hope that I over the two days would be able to visit all of Hawkes Bay’s 32 wineries.
On my first day I cycled to Te Moana Peak, down through Havelock North, across TukiTuki river and then from Haumoana into town. With a distance closer to a hundred kilometers I had visited ten wineries where most were open for tastings. Luckily I had someone picking me up afterwards, cooking me a good dinner and letting me retreat to my comfortable bed early in the evening.
With a small hangover and soreness in my bum and legs I started off with a ten am tasting close to Takapau, cycled from there through Fernhill and Puketapu into the city. About the same distance as the day before but this time visiting thirteen wineries. For the tastings I asked to only try the single grape red wines, where most of the wineries then dropped the tasting fees. When arriving in the city I visited the New Zealand wine center to learn about the history and process of wine making and try the virtual wine tasting. Both unfortunately and to my relief there were no-one working with the virtual wine tasting when I got there saving me the 25$ and probably a hangover the next morning.
In two days I covered most of the wineries and learned a whole lot about New Zealand wines. An absolute favorite of the wines would be the 2013 Marzemino, but I also especially enjoyed the 2013 Syrahs from the region. The most personal and friendly wine tastings were at Clearview Estate and Alpha Domus whereas the least were Elephant Hill and Trinity Hill.
The last couple of days have definitely made me want to do more tastings in the future and I will for sure try to do some when I am in Auckland next week or in Israel a couple of weeks after that.

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Stingrays, Winetasting and Sunrises in Gisborne

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Gisborne is known as the surfing capital of New Zealand and the regional capital of New Zealand’s Eastern Cape.
The region is known for its good conditions to grow fruits, nuts and wine grapes. Right when we got to Gisborne we went to a place called Smash Palace where we had ordered wine tasting, which I expected to be a quiet nibbling session of a few wines. What we actually got was much better. We were served several beers, ciders and wines in an informal setting where we were first trying to set words to the tastes before the bar manager Darell gave us his expert opinions. The highlight was when our pizzas arrived, where we got to flambate them shouting “hambre ay ay ay!” while wearing broken glasses and a Mexican hat helmet.
We got up at five thirty the next morning to watch the sunrise and then walk out with some barracuda bait to feed the stingrays that were coming up at low tide. At first we had around ten eagle rays murring up our legs wanting food and some petting on the back, just like a dog would. At the end we were also lucky enough to see a huge short tip ray weighing more than a hundred kilos. When that tried to climb us for food we had to lean on our walking sticks in order not to be knocked over into the water. The stingray feeding was quite an interesting experience,  also because these animals were actually wild unlike the ones at stingray farms up on the east coast.

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Some huge kingfish also came up to get some food from us

Hunter Valley and Barrington Tops

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Driving from Sydney we got a chance to stop by Cessnock in the Hunter Valley to do some wine tasting. The McGuian winery pulled out around ten different wines for us to taste, which made the rest of the drive up to Barrington Tops more fun.

As soon as we arrived the Twistops Retreat in Barrington Top we were asked to put on wetsuits and get ready to go tubing in the river. There were some rapids that managed to tilt a couple of us, but most of it was just a chilled ride down the river in the sun.
When we got back the chef had prepared dinner for us right in time for sunset and a rugbymatch on TV. The rest of the evening was spent playing pool, dart and table tennis with a couple of beers.
The Twistops lodge was far off the beaten track, with absolutely no phobebseevice, and it was great to have an evening to just sit back and relax out in the nature where plenty of wild kangaroos were jumping around. Tomorrow we will be early up to do some surfing.
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The Wine Region of Cafayate

Around 200 kilometers south of Salta is a valley called Cafayate which is known for its good conditions for growing wine, having around 240 sunny days a year. I had booked a 12 hour day trip that would take me there starting with an early hotel pickup at our hotel in Salta around 7 o’clock. The first part of the trip we were just people up more and more old spanish speaking people, that snored the first hours of the drive. Our guide had not made it any easier either, speaking non stop for the four and a half hours it took us to reach Cafayate. The second half of the drive was through some pretty spectacular mountains as well, but with her pointing at every rock, telling us that they looked like frogs, munks, seals, ships, castels etc it was also a bit hard enjoying even that.It was first when we went down the mountains and into the small town of Cafayate that things looked a bit more promising. Our guide told us that she was not licenced to guide in wineries so she let us off the bus, free to do a wine tour of Domingo Hermanos and to explore the town by our own for a few hours. Since everyone but me and a Taiwaneese guy were Spanish native speakers, the tour was done in Spanish only. We were shown the whole process of producing wine, from the wine yard where the grapes grow, through the machinery, storage tanks and finally to the highlight that everyone had been looking forward to: the wine tasting. The tasting was not like I have tried before where we would get a littlebit in the bottom of the glass, but here they poured three almost full glasses for each to drink, one white and two red.

The Taiwaneese guy had been sitting next to me on the bus the whole day without saying a word, but after the tasting he suddenly had gotten the curage to come up to me and ask if I wanted to look around the town and have dinner with him, and with a new gotten friend the long ride home went much quicker taking me back to our group in the evening for a last night out in Salta.

 

Day Trips from Cape Town

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There are several day trips I would recommend from Cape Town, and with car rental in South Africa being both cheap and easy, there are many possibilities for exploring the surroundings of the city. The hardest part is usually getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road, but after the first few kilometers this usually isn’t a problem. If driving sounds scary, there is always also the option of taking the train/Metrorail or just jumping on one of the many share cabs/minivans which are used instead of local buses.
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If you want to go to relax at the beach and are tired of touristy Camps Bay, or just want to catch some good waves for surfing, then Muizenberg is a good place to go. It can be reached in about a half an hour by car from Cape Town, or a bit less than an hour if you want to go by Metrorail/train. Here it is also possible to rent surf gear, plus you can buy some cheap and good ice cream by the beach. This is also where you can see the famous colorful beach houses.

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If you are interested in hiking, Cape Town also offers some excellent trips that can be done in less than a day. Then I would recommend starting with Lions Head (easy/just a couple of hours), then go up table mountain and take the cable car or rappel down (medium/almost full day) or cross all the Twelve Apostles (hard/several days). You should be able to see all the way to Robben Island from all of these places and get a great view of Cape Town. 

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Stellenbosch and Belleville are also places I would recommend as day trips by car or train, but as these places are known for good dining and wine tasting, it might be smart to take the train. It is then important to bear in mind that traveling by train at night is not advisable, so if you are planning on returning late it might be better to spend the night or order a taxi for the way back to taxi. We had to chose the latter when going back from Belleville, and the taxi bill grew pretty large compared to the few rands we had spent on going there by train! 

But the ultimate daytrip from Cape Town is to go south to Cape Point visiting places as Fish Hoek and Simons Town/ Boulder Beach along the way. I’ll write an own post about this coming up in  a few days..

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