It all started on a whim; something to the tune of “why not. What have we got to lose?” Then the fateful call from DSTVs marketing department a few weeks later changed all the acuities and made the anticipation a reality. As a matter of fact, being speechless and totally gobsmacked comes to mind.
Anyways, the whole affair revolved around a DSTV initiative to reward its viewers, and a partner, for being loyal subscribers. The prize: a 4 days all-expenses-paid excursion to the fairest Cape that included much wine tasting, VIP status at the TOPS Gugulethu Wine Festival, a tree-planting ceremony, sight-seeing excursions and some me-time.
The flight down to Cape Town was as usual a busy one but rather uneventful. The only excitement was the replacement of the satirical ‘beef or chicken?’ by ‘tea or coffee?’.
The arrival was a bit chaotic with all the ‘winners’ trying to make sense of the received instructions but eventually, with all the initial butterflies being shooed away, all were settled into their respective colourful sponsor-adorned transporters. The trip to the hotel, the Protea Fire and Ice, was uneventful but this too was soon replaced by enjoyment when first the Hotel Manager and then our smiling DSTV hostess welcomed and addressed the attendees to the melodic tunes of clicking glasses filled with a cape sparkling wine.
The rooms were cosy and clean, and warm given the inclement cape weather raging outside, with a spacious shower, toilet and basin area. The bed was an enormous affair covered by a comforting duvet, practical throw and supportive pillows.
Breakfast was likewise a welcoming affair with much food, help-yourself tit-bits and excellent sweet choices at ones beck-and-call. The coffee waitron completed the package by filling and refilling all the inviting cups.
The excursion package began in earnest on the first evening with a trip to the Nederburg Wines Estate; the same one that is currently playing host to the Masterchef South Africa TV series. The evening package not only included wine tasting but a four course Nouveau meal, lectures by two wine sommeliers, joviality and the ever-present ambience-capturing TV camera – something that we all would be getting used to over the course of the four days.
The second day called for a deviation to the scheduled itinerary due to the continuing inclement weather which made the trip to the famous Cape Town Cable Car a thing to be desired but not experienced. Some decided to go sight-seeing at the V & A Waterfront to while away the time to the next programmed excursion. This came soon enough with the Alto Wine Estates playing the gracious hosts complete with a roaring fire, hot soup, sizzling tasty food and heart-warming wine. What made this experience memorable relates to the fact that we each had a turn at bottling our own wine – the yet unreleased soft-on-the-nose Alto Rouge - complete with designer label, cork and love; all in all, an extraordinary experience.
The day was concluded by a visit to the vibrant Bay Harbour Market in Houtbay: an initiative that encompasses live music, exciting food stalls and a vibrant flea-market all under one roof. Of course, being the guests of honour was a highlight in itself: we were welcomed by the General Manager of the Bay Harbour complex and interviewed by the DSTV production executive as to our experience so far. As part of the DSTV excursion package, we were also issued with VIP Cards and shopping vouchers to use and abuse to our hearts content. In typical Cape Town fashion, we all partook of the festivities until closing time at which time our gracious drivers, again adorned in their highly colourful sponsor-painted transporter vans, picked us up and whisked us away to the hotel in an atmosphere of jolly mirth, jokes and fast-quips by the imbibed passengers.
Sleep came none too soon.
The third day arrived to clear skies and pleasant temperatures which enhanced the breakfast fare. At 09h30 we were driven away to the family owned M’Hudi Wine Estate in Stellenbosch for brunch and more wine. On arrival, we were greeted by sunshine, vast expanse of vines and a homely wine-tasting barn that was decked by tasteful paintings. The affable patriarch gave new meaning to the term; endearing storytelling.
Brunch consisted of five courses lovingly cooked by the estate matriarch and served by the ever-smiling waitrons while the estate sommelier explained the wine pairing on offer.
The afternoon was concluded by a visit to the Tembaletu School for the Disabled in Gugulethu where we were greeted by youthful voices singing in unison and thrilled teachers keeping the exuberant learners in control all the while adding their voices to the youthful choir.
The tree-planting ceremony was overseen by the school horticulturist and the much loved patron, Mzoli: a well-known character that has used, and continues to use his hard-earned prosperity to the benefit of the Gugulethu community. Twenty trees were planted by all in attendance.
The evening festivities were held at the TOPS Gugulethu Wine Festival in Gugulethu. The mix-of characters and ethnicities present gave the whole affair a cosmopolitan feel that was warm, welcoming and friendly; even the food queues were orderly and sociable.
Once again, sleep came easy.
Sunday morning arrived quickly, a perception that was heightened by the fact that all suitcases had to be packed and prepared for transporting the previous evening due to the second change in the itinerary - as the sun was shining, a trip to the famed Table Mountain was organised literally in situ.
Given the time constraints of travel, sight-seeing and airport bookings, the excursion to the top of Table Mountain occurred virtually problem free; although some attendees were rather stressed by the ever-looming return flight schedule. Yet it all happened on schedule. After saying our goodbyes to the mountain Dassies, Table Mountain, Cape Town, Drivers and DSTV hosts, we all departed fully satisfied.
The return flight was quiet, unfussed and bland: a fitting end to an exciting weekend of festivities, travel and camaraderie.