A Segway Gliding Tour through Spier’s vineyards

Posted by Charles Starling on 30 June 2011

‘This is what water skiing would feel like if you ever managed to get up!’ my rather irreverent partner shouted at me over her shoulder. And it was fun. Great fun. Much better than a quad bike and completely silent. And I didn’t have to swallow great mouthfuls of water trying to stand up.

I had been looking forward to this tour for two reasons. The first was the opportunity to ride a Segway. And the second was that I truly was interested in seeing and learning about Spier’s farming philosophy.

Being a somewhat frustrated urban farmer, (I farm in my heart), I was intrigued to have found out previously that the food I was eating at Spier’s restaurant, called Eight at Spier, was all free range and produced organically within a kilometre of where I was eating it. It was a real farm-to-table experience.

Part of my Fair Trade in Tourism weekend included a Segway Gliding Tour and so I grabbed it with both hands. If you haven’t been out to Spier for a while, this is reason enough to schedule a visit. The tour lasts about two hours and offers a genuine and fun way to experience Spier’s vision of sustainability, striving to balance commercial success with their social and environmental objectives.

We started out with a brief lesson (aren’t we quick learners!) and a couple of swings around the obstacle course. Thirty seconds was all it took to strip away years of maturity, we all felt like teenagers again and were anxious to be off. We headed off alongside the coursing Eerste River and through swirls of autumn colours. The red and gold leaves soon gave way to the protea garden. To be honest, at that stage we were still having too much of a blast to really focus on the scenery.

Once we had moved on from the proteas and their abundance of birds, we headed up towards the vineyards, first passing Spier’s water treatment plant where recycled water is filtered and naturally cleaned through a series of stone beds and a reed pond, before being pumped back into a holding dam. This recycling allows Spier to farm with up to 30% less water than neighbouring farms.

I love horses. I really do. But with Segways there are no saddles, no stirrup shortening, no awkward and vaguely painful trotting, and absolutely no disobedience. It was the perfect way to experience the Spier Wine Farm and its vineyards.

It was a glorious day to be gliding smoothly along a dirt road between rows of vineyards. We passed the wine cellar and the presses and then headed up towards their organic vegetable gardens. En route we stopped to have a closer look at their free-range chickens, which I had been lucky enough to sample the previous day. The chickens are housed in large outdoor coops that are moved every few days and serve as a natural source of manure for the soil, while the chickens also clear up insects and other pests.  They really are free range and other than the food and the security of the coop at night drawing them back, they are free to wonder around with all the space in the world.

We glided along dirt roads and around puddles, took a short interlude to chase some free range mutton (sorry if your lamb chop is tough) and then stopped at Spier’s vegetable garden. Everything in the salad you might enjoy at Eight at Spier, as well as the vegetables on your plate, are grown here organically, and with love. When we enquired about the speakers that were visible on the shed wall we were told that they served to play classical music to the herbs and vegetables, increasing their yield and quality. This really is about caring and balancing business with sustainability. In the middle of the field stood what must be the happiest scarecrow in the world, with his own mood music.

The route back took us past some pretty impressive bulls who seemed not that respectful towards us, and rather dismissive of the fence separating us from them. We stopped and chatted to one of the farm workers collecting free-range eggs from their large portable chicken coops.

The last stop before heading back was the hill which is the highest point on the farm.  It afforded beautiful views of the Stellenbosch Mountains, Cape Town and the majestic Table Mountain.

It felt odd at the end of the tour to be standing back on the ground. Walking seemed a lot less natural and comfortable than simply leaning and adjusting your weight. And also a lot slower.

I had forgotten that the tour also included a free wine tasting. And several tastings of excellent wine later, and some delicious cheese, biscuits and olives. I felt that gliding feeling coming on all over again.

For more information on the Segway Gliding Tours visit their website at www.segwayglidingtours.com

For more information on these or other Fair Trade Tourism adventures, visit the FTTSA website, or join FTTSA on Facebook.

Spier Wine Farm is certified by Fair Trade in Tourism.

Contact Spier

Web www.spier.co.za
Tel 021-881-8400

Eight at Spier

Web www.spier.co.za/what_to_do_at_spier/eight_at_spier
Tel 021-809-1188

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