Wandering through Wellington is absolutely wonderful. The roads are nice and wide, peak traffic is a breeze and you are surrounded by the most gorgeous farms and mountain ranges. As we already know, when you drive through a place, you miss a lot. The finer details of the scenery are lost as you rush by, which is why it’s always a good idea to get out of the car and into your surroundings.
One of the best places to do this is at Welvanpas Family Farm. A great estate in the heart of Wellington, it is one of the oldest family run farms in the country. Currently in the hands of the 11th-generation Retief family (it has been owned by the Retiefs for more than 305 years!), the farm offers great mountain bike and hiking trails to explore. I visited the farm with a range of media who were there to discover the Drakenstein area. I opted for a hike, thinking that it would be a leisurely stroll through the vineyards. Boy, was I wrong.
Our guide had a walking stick that was almost as long as he was. He wore multi-coloured pants and had an uber-cool beard. He was like an Afrikaans Gandalf, ready to guide us through the wilderness on a quest. This should have been my first clue that this was going to be a serious hike. The full hiking trail is 7 km and goes all the way through the mountains. You walk alongside a river, through forests and vineyards filled with incredible flora.
We kept walking up and up, and my short legs and ridiculous level of (un)fitness meant I was soon lagging behind. The group graciously waited for me to catch up (numerous times) and while they had time to catch their breath, I struggled on. We walked through areas of stunning wilderness with endearing names such as Popular Forest, Fairy Forest and Fern Forest.
Just when I thought I was dying, and contemplated living in that forest for the rest of my life, we reached a point that took what little breath I had left, away. All that uphill walking brought us to a viewpoint that overlooked the vineyards, and Groenberg, Sneeukop and Hawekwa Mountains. Afrikaans Gandalf whipped out some yummy snacks and we stayed for a while, taking it all in.
To my utter relief, we took a short cut back to the wine farm, rather than doing the full route. We passed a great waterfall on our way back (where I fell, because the universe likes laughing at me) and headed to the farm’s cafe, where we enjoyed delicious home-made bobotie, koeksisters and tea. Afrikaans Gandalf jokingly asked if I broke a nail on the hike, but I didn’t care. I was safely off the mountain and doing what I do best – eating.
When the stitch in my side subsided, I was so grateful I went on the hike. I got to see one of the most beautiful parts of the Cape. The next time you pass through Wellington, take a detour to Welvanpas and go experience nature up close.
Photography courtesy Annzra Denita