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A great way to explore a destination and truly feel like you are – at least temporarily – part of it is on two wheels. Gordon’s Bay, a coastal town less than an hour from Cape Town, is a great place to pedal. On a bicycle, travellers can cycle the mostly flat streets of the city and enjoy other must-see attractions of the Western Cape. All of this is possible, and facilitated, by Rent a Bicycle, a company based in Gordon’s Bay, which since 2007 has provided travelers from all over the world with the opportunity not only to rent a bike, but also to experience cycling in South Africa in a thoughtful way, through adventure, culture and nature-focused tours.
Rent a Bicycle encourages visitors to have a different experience of South Africa’s culture and natural beauty by bicycle Photo credit: Ricardo Dominguez
During our time in the city, the owner of the company, the friendly Ryno, took us on a journey through the charming wineries of Stellenbosch. Always attentive, he shared a lot of interesting tales with us about the region’s top attractions, details about how his wife’s support was instrumental in getting him to leave the pharmaceutical industry, as well as promising plans for Rent a Bicycle in the future.
Bicycles lined up at Somerbosch Wine Farm Photo credit: Nathalia Marangoni
This chat could not happen at a better time: our tour was held on December 31, 2018, and, as we were experiencing the last day of the year, we were happy to explore the slightly bumpy terrain of the properties while, like Ryno, reflecting on the past and creating mental resolutions for the coming year. These lovely, contemplative moments happened while feeling the breeze touch our face in the sun, as we were going through gentle climbs and descents between the vineyards.
During our ride, mountains like Devil’s Peak and Table Mountain could be seen at a distance, framed by vineyards Photo Credit: Nathalia Marangoni
The 20-kilometres route was chosen with our level of cycling experience in mind, that is, because we were not experienced riders, Ryno took us on a tranquil ride, with very few technical stretches and upright ascents. As we approached crux points, Ryno would ask us to stop and advised us about what kinds of precautions to keep in mind when riding there, which gave us great security to explore every bit of the property.
Landscape at Somerbosch Wine Farm Photo credit: Nathalia Marangoni
Our starting point was the Somerbosch Wine Farm. Exploring it is possible by purchasing a permit (R50) at the front desk, which allows cyclists and mountain bikers to tour their cycling tracks in an organized manner, while at the same time contributing to their maintenance. There, we were able to enjoy breathtaking views of some of Cape Town’s most iconic mountains in the distance – Devil’s Peak and Table Mountain predominantly – while enjoying the local fauna and flora. We were able to see the blue crane, the official bird of South Africa, and also know more about the local vegetation.
During a part of the tour, Ryno told us about the occurrence of invasive plants in the region, mostly of Australian origin, showing us some examples. These plants can threaten the survival of the much-acclaimed fynbos, a typical biome of the Cape that consists of shrubby vegetation, being known for its high degree of endemism and for needing to go through recurring fires to continue to survive. Its plants and flowers are so impressive that a lot of tourists fascinated by botany visit the region annually to see the different spectacular species.
View of Ken Forrester from the wine tasting verandah Photo credit: Nathalia Marangoni
Is there a better way to understand the topic than by observing the vegetation closely? I don’t think so. After talking and cycling a bit more, we left Somerbosch on our way to our next destination. Peace reigned on the roads connecting one winery to another. On the way, we passed some properties inhabited by zebras and small species of antelopes and were followed (and sometimes surpassed) by little cyclists who were enjoying themselves in the region. After a few minutes sharing the track with a few cars passing by, we arrived at the Ken Forrester winery. After the entrance gate, we descended a tree-lined avenue until we reached a house of Cape colonial architecture, with a shaded porch quite conducive to a break and a refreshing wine tasting.
Wine being served at Ken Forrester Wineyards Photo credit: Nathalia Marangoni
Specialising in the Chenin Blanc grape variety, very popular in South Africa, the winery offers four different types of tasting, one focused solely on white wines. The experiences cost between 60 and 100 rands, a very fair price. We tasted four different wines, (the Chenin Blanc varieties were especially aromatic and stood out for their tropical flavours) had some much-needed water, put on our helmets and cycled back towards the Somerbosch Wine Farm for the last lunch of 2018. It is possible to do a second wine tasting over there too, after this last part of the tour, if you are more of a wine aficionado than a cyclist.
Lunch at Somerbosch Bistro Photo credit: Nathalia Marangoni
Because of the festive season, we had to limit our experience to two wineries, but at other times it’s possible to visit more properties. Speaking to Ryno about your preferences is essential in creating a tailor-made excursion for you and your companions, respecting your limitations and fears, but always maximizing opportunities for leisure and contemplation.
At the end of the tasty lunch at Somerbosch, under leafy trees and with a cheese board at my disposal, I was happy to come to the conclusion of two things:
1. South Africa is amazing when explored on foot or by bicycle, as the richness of its flora and fauna is best witnessed at a slower pace with attention to detail. I also think about how blessed the country is, boosting so many accessible, natural areas that are protected with so much love and care;
2. Cycling is certainly one of my resolutions for 2019: in addition to having a low environmental impact, the practice allows us to put the body to work during the holidays, discover our limits, know destinations in our own time and disconnect from the worldly distractions and cell phone notifications that would be very tempting if we didn’t have our hands on the handlebars.
Panoramic photo with Ryno, founder of Rent a Bicycle, parking his bicycle at Ken Forrester Photo credit: Nathalia Marangoni
If discovering irresistible South African attractions is among your resolutions for the coming year, go to the Rent a Bicycle website and learn about the different tours offered in the Western Cape province. If you need them, Ryno and his team bring bikes to your doorstep and will be excellent companions during your visit to the Rainbow Nation.
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Born and raised in Latin America's most populated city, São Paulo, Nathalia was 13 years when she first heard about Cape Town on a TV show. After studying Journalism, she worked for a few years at a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering female entrepreneurs, a job that allowed her to travel through different regions of Brazil, interviewing and photographing really strong women. The experience led Nathalia to feel empowered enough to move from her hometown and finally see Cape Town with her own eyes: an old wish that became a life-changing experience.
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