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Exploring Africa Since 1688

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Beyond the Winelands: Elgin, Elephants and Tomatoes

The most visited part of the Cape Wine lands, other than the wine farms in Cape Town itself, is the triangle formed by the towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl. It's not surprising- Fine wines, spectacular scenery, and culinary delights abound and they are all steeped in history. Naturally the beauty and history doesn't end abruptly at the edge of this triangle. Some of my favorite areas are just beyond this artificial boundary.

Take Elgin/Grabouw. I first explored the area during kloofing* expeditions in my university days and then later when my brother lived and farmed there in the early 90's. The drive to Elgin is amazing from whichever direction you approach. You can drive over the spectacular pass from Franschhoek valley where legend has it that during 1836, the last elephants of the area, a mother and calf, were seen leaving the valley on what came to be the Franschhoek pass. Equally spectacular but busier is the approach over Sir Lowry's pass where False bay stretches out behind you. This is a fruit farming area of astounding beauty.

You'll find mostly Apples in Elgin but there's plenty of diversity. Food & Wine magazine has just featured a story 'Best Tomato Recipes from Andreas Viestad'. Andreas Viestad is a food writer and TV host from Norway who unexpectedly found himself becoming a tomato farmer in Elgin. After a visit to South Africa to research his second book he started a project called the Garden of Elgin in collaboration with Dr. Paul Clüver on his family’s vineyard.

“I want to be able to make the same tomato salad every day, and have it taste different...” says Andreas Viestad

You'll find the article here. He shares his cooking philosophy and his very best tomato recipes

You won't see any elephants in Elgin today however you can find some not too far from Elgin at Aquila Private Game Reserve and Sanbona Wildlife Reserve where you'll also find the rare white lions.

Other favorite areas to visit are the Hex River valley just beyond Paarl (and over another incredible pass), Ceres (home of the fantastic Ceres fruit juices) and Montagu.

Watch out if you visit. You might just find yourself farming in Elgin.

* Kloofing, also known as canyoning, is the art of following a mountain stream down its course by floating, jumping and swimming. Kloofing takes place in a river gorge deep in the mountains. Some of the most spectacular kloofs including Suicide gorge are in the Western cape mountains near Elgin.

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