Little over a week ago if you had asked me “What is in Elgin?” my answer would have been short: Apples, and the best pies from Peregrine Farm Stall. Elgin, after all, is known as the home of Appletiser and produces 60% of the apples grown in South Africa. But that was last week… now I know that the Elgin Valley’s treasures are vast and varied.
METRORAIL | HGTS | SOCIALLY UNFORGETTABLE
In a partnership between Socially Unforgettable, Metrorail and HG Travelling Services, we joined a team of journalists, bloggers, social media marketers and video journalists that set off on a #RailLoveRevolution #ElginEscape quest to uncover the hidden gems of the Elgin Meander. We spent two days delving into adventure and taste sensations unlike any other.
TRI ACTIVE LODGE
Hosted by Tri Active Lodge, we arrived with a sense of anticipation but absolutely no idea of what was in store for us. Cany Bugler and her team welcomed us with true Overberg hospitality and led us to our luxury tents – the first of a number of firsts for me over the next two days. Though not currently a wheelchair-friendly establishment but with plans to this effect, staff went out of their way to assist with my wheelchair-bound son and make his, and our, stay comfortable and as effortless as possible. After a delicious lunch of wraps and chips, we were loaded back into the bus with a few surprises on the cards.
Our first stop was Nature Discovery at the Elgin Country Club where activities include wine tours, dirt biking, quad-biking and, a discovery for all of us, E-bikes. These mountain bikes have assisted power for the less energetic adventurers who still want to join the rest of the family or group for an amble through the forest trails.
OUDE MOLEN DISTILLERY
Oude Molen Distillery heralded the first taste sensation of our trip through Grabouw. Our tour set out with a cinema-style history of ‘The Father of South African Brandy’, Rene Santhagens’ learnership in brandy-making, his arrival in the Cape and subsequent founding of Oude Molen. Afterwards, we were taken through the cellar, learning about the process involved in producing a top quality product and sampling the fine brandies. The distillery can host 120 people seated for wine-tasting and offers personalised bottling options.
Next it was back in the bus to Elgin’s railway station, called the “51 Miles” because it is 51 miles from Cape Town to Elgin. The station which had been left abandoned and derelict, has been restored and revamped by Winter’s Drift and now proudly boasts a lovely restaurant and Tasting Station for Winter’s Drift wines, which offered our next taste exploration in the valley.
Just when we thought the day’s adventures were over with as we arrived back at Tri Active Lodge, our next surprise awaited us, taking the form of Willem, our task master in the obstacle course we were about to tackle. Split into two teams we made our way over, under and through a range of webs, beams and ropes before heading indoors for some challenges in other forms. We discovered the value of working individually with the encouragement of our team, as well as together for the benefit of the team, and without a doubt I see how Tri Active’s teambuilding activities can benefit corporate groups.
The day’s escapades developed a few healthy appetites, and after savouring yet another scrumptious Tri Active meal, we were brought back to the essence of Elgin – its apples. A representative from Everson’s Cider tantalised our taste buds with selections of their real, preservative-free, hand-crafted ciders. We sampled four ciders, including a pear cider, but it was the mulled cider that got everyone excited. This spice infused cloudy cider, served unchilled, or better yet, warm, delights with hints of cinnamon, cloves and aniseed comparable to apple pie, hot cross buns and chai tea.
CAPE CANOPY TOUR
Day two saw the adrenalin stepped up a notch or two. We woke to strong winds, but we were mistaken if we thought that would stop the Elgin adventure. After a hearty breakfast we were off to experience the Cape Canopy Tour. Safety first, one of the guides explained how it all works before kitting us out in jackets, harnesses, gloves and hats. As if the canopy tour itself wasn’t enough, the vehicle trip into the upper reaches of the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve with spectacular views was a thrill all of its own. The canopy tour encompasses 13 platforms, with 12 ziplines and one swing bridge. I will admit, shamefaced, that my extreme fear of heights and the howling wind got the better of me and I got as far as being clipped onto the first line before chickening out. The rest of the group went on to enjoy the tour and arrived back beaming about the experience and with an awe-inspiring appreciation for the vision of the owner, Ryan Larks, in creating this unique tour of the pristine valleys. I have vowed to return on a day where the weather plays along to soothe my height fear and experience this joy for myself.
These two days provided invaluable insight into the valley’s offerings. Close enough to Cape Town for a day trip, but with plenty to do and see to make a holiday of it, Elgin will have travellers visiting time and again.