Experiences of a med student with an incurable travel bug.

Though I’d already done a wine tour in Stellenbosch, I was excited to go again when Stephanie set us up with a great deal – her dad has connections with these guys who own a winery here, and they had offered to give us a wine tour and tasting, for FREE! What college kid is going to turn down anything free, especially wine?! So early on Saturday morning we got ourselves on a train to Stellenbosch. We enjoyed brunch at a little café before heading to Beau Joubert, the winery, around 1. Here we met Andy, our tour guide for the day, who happens to be a Green Bay native! A great afternoon ensued, in which Andy gave us a private tour of the place and let us sample 11 – yes, eleven – different wines, some of them right out of the cooling tanks and aging barrels. He even drove us through the vineyards and out to the wooded area of their grounds where they have fresh spring water they’d like to bottle. Through it all we were talking about all things Wisconsin, with a mix of South Africa; any time you find a stranger from home you both just get so excited to talk about the things you both know and understand (ie: Brett Favre).

After this pleasant day we headed back to the train station to catch the train home, thinking we’d reached the end of the day’s adventures. We had checked to see what time the train went back to Cape Town, so when it arrived as expected, we hopped on and settled in for the ride home. The compartment doors slid shut, and the train did indeed depart – in the opposite direction. Having been here for a while, we’re used to things going wrong; in fact, it’s more unnerving when things go right. This, however, posed a few more problems than we had bargained for that night. It was now getting dark, and we were heading in the wrong direction on a form of transport we’d been told by everyone in the city not to take after dark. Ok, not a big deal, there were five of us and there were plenty of people around. We just asked a fellow passenger how we could get to Cape Town. She told us not to worry, the train would turn around soon (relative term, of course) and go back to Cape Town. Great! We were set.

The train did indeed turn around after a while and head back toward Cape Town. We had arranged for a taxi to come pick us up when we arrived at the station as it was now too late to take a minibus, so we just waited for the train to pass all the other stops. When the train pulled into the Belville station, we didn’t think anything of it, it was just another stop on the line. Then the lights turned off and the train locked down. Perfect. So we open the compartment door and wait for the employee walking the length of the train to reach us; we asked about getting to Cape Town, and he informed us that the train was just stopping there in Belville that night. Ok then, wonderful. He did walk us to the police station about 100 meters away where we could devise our next plan of action. The police didn’t mind us loitering in their station too much, but they were reluctant to give us a ride home without charging us. So, we got our cab driver to come allllll the way out to Belville to pick us up and drive us home. During the wait, Molly nearly got herself arrested for taking a picture of the police station; they let her off with a lengthy lecture on needing to ask people for permission before taking their pictures, and having her prove to them she had deleted the picture. Mind you, the picture was of the station from the outside, so while there was some of the station’s window in the picture, you couldn’t see anyone inside….

Eventually our taxi arrived and delivered us safely to our homes. He was even more defiant than we were about the police not bringing us back; he insisted that it’s their job to get stranded people, such as ourselves, to safety. The thing is though, like most things here, what the police are supposed to do and what they actually do are two very different things, often determined or influenced by lack of financial and other resources.


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