READER STORY

Join Shirley Kokot on a laid-back, three-day walk­ing tour of the Over­berg coast be­tween Her­manus and Betty’s Bay.

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‘We’ve just had the best of both worlds,” said my hus­band Mike, his face aglow with con­tent­ment and lots of clean air. This com­ment fol­lowed a three-day slack­pack­ing trail that be­gan in Her­manus and ended at Stony Point near Betty’s Bay. What’s so spe­cial about that, you might ask? It’s the de­tails of the ex­pe­ri­ence that lent cre­dence to Mike’s words… The trail is called the Bio­sphere Breaker Way and it was far more than a walk in na­ture. Sure, our days were filled with breath­tak­ing views as we strolled along fyn­bos-clad moun­tain slopes and down to the shore­line, but they were also filled with fas­ci­nat­ing snip­pets of in­for­ma­tion about the his­tory, flora and fauna of the re­gion, from a trio of SATOUR-ac­cred­ited guides – and oth­ers – who shared their knowl­edge and en­thu­si­asm freely. We met our guides and the other tram­pers on a Sun­day evening at the Au­berge Bur­gundy, a lux­u­ri­ous guest­house in Her­manus where we spent two in­dul­gent nights. Us ladies had an equally in­dul­gent time ex­plor­ing all the lit­tle shops in town. The trail isn’t a hike from one point to an­other. Al­though it has a be­gin­ning and an end point, walk­ers are taken to var­i­ous places of in­ter­est by shut­tle bus, which al­lows for a more leisurely walk­ing pace. You only need to be mod­er­ately fit to en­joy this trail, which

is great for some­one like Mike who was still re­cov­er­ing from a spinal fu­sion pro­ce­dure. The first out­ing was a fyn­bos walk in Fern­kloof Na­ture Re­serve be­hind Her­manus. We paused for re­fresh­ments at Oli­fants­berg, with a splen­did view of Walker Bay be­low. Af­ter that, we met up with Con­rad Wegelin – one of the founders of the Breaker Way – in the vine­yards at Bouchard Fin­layson Win­ery in the Hemel-en-Aarde Val­ley. Con­rad ex­plained the vine-grow­ing process – how the vines are cul­ti­vated in a nurs­ery by graft­ing a stalk of a par­tic­u­lar cul­ti­var onto hardy root­stock. The Boland town of Wellington is the heart of this in­dus­try and be­cause the work is still largely done by hand, it re­quires many work­ers to graft hun­dreds of thou­sands of vines each year. In years gone by, dur­ing peak vine-grow­ing sea­son, chil­dren would be re­cruited into the work­force and given the job of bind­ing the graft with twine to se­cure it. This meant that they missed school and had to ex­plain their ab­sence to their teach­ers upon their re­turn. And so the Afrikaans term for tru­ancy – stokkies­draai (lit­er­ally, bind­ing sticks) – found its place in the lan­guage. Of course, be­ing on a well-known wine farm in a val­ley where noth­ing can be seen but earth and sky, called for some wine tast­ing! The owner of the es­tate, Peter Fin­layson, was one of the pi­o­neers of pinot noir in South Africa and we found that his rep­u­ta­tion for ex­cel­lent wines is well de­served. Leg­end has it that the val­ley was once home to a leper colony. Those who trav­elled from Cale­don to the coast felt ner­vous be­cause of the dan­gers as­so­ci­ated with the dis­ease, and they’d speak of their feel­ings of “on­rus” (un­rest) dur­ing the pas­sage. This is how the name of the On­rus River, and later the coastal town, was born. (The other story is that the name On­rus comes from the “rest­less” pound­ing of surf against the rocky coast.) Af­ter our wine-tast­ing ses­sion, we were shut­tled back to Her­manus, sup­plied with wellington boots and es­corted around the Heart of Abalone farm at the New Har­bour. The farm must have lim­ited poach­ing to some ex­tent. It em­ploys more than 500 peo­ple and pro­duces tonnes of abalone that is mostly shipped to Asian mar­kets. Our host on this tour was the founder of the com­pany, Jo­han Hugo. It was fas­ci­nat­ing to see how the tini­est abalone “spats” de­velop over years into fully grown adults, in hun­dreds of tanks that are con­tin­u­ally flushed with sea wa­ter. Thirty years ago, abalone farm­ing was done dif­fer­ently: The spats were raised in tanks then put back into the sea to ma­ture. But this al­lowed for dis­eases to spread to the stock, so the process was adapted into what it is now. The largest abalone could be eight years old and about 20 cm in di­am­e­ter, but at the farm they’re har­vested younger to be used in var­i­ous recipes. My youth­ful mem­o­ries of cook­ing per­lemoen re­call much heavy arm work to ten­derise the flesh with a mal­let, fol­lowed by minc­ing, mix­ing with bread­crumbs and cook­ing in wine for some time. We were treated to very dif­fer­ent dishes af­ter our tour – the high­light be­ing some two-year-old abalone the size of 50 c pieces, pre­pared in an Asian sauce. Fresh, del­i­cate and de­li­cious.

FOOD & FRESH AIR. Knowl­edge­able guide John Boyce (top) re­gales the group with tales of ship­wrecks. Jo­han Hugo (above), founder of Heart of Abalone, shows how baby abalone are grown. This slack­pack­ing trail in­cludes plenty of stops like an al­fresco lunch in the Ko­gel­berg Na­ture Re­serve (above left).

VI­TA­MIN SEA (pre­vi­ous page). Fill your eyes with views and your lungs with fresh air on the board­walk from the la­goon to the Klein­mond har­bour.

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