Motorcycle sidecars have finally come into their own: They are, without question, the best way to tour the Cape.
Before tour company, Cape Sidecar Adventures, came along people didn’t realise the true vocation of these craft. We probably know them best as war machines but they were rubbish at killing the enemy, in fact it often worked the other way around.
Sidecars were first exploited during the Great War to get machine gunners to the action. However, a horse with a wonky knee could dodge bullets faster than these underpowered three-wheelers. When WW2 came along they upped the horsepower considerably, but then drivers were a little too enthusiastic with the throttle.
It was easier to dodge bullets but impossible to shoot back when ramping over European villages like they were so many rows of busses. There were probably more machine gunners killed by their drivers than by the enemy.
There was a sidecar hiatus after the war but veterans bored with civvie life upped the horsepower even more and took to the racetrack. Serious injury and death was common, particularly involving the passenger, yet it was easy to find people willing to hang out on the side of these express craft to eternity. This thrilling way of departing this world is still practiced today and is most popular during the legendary Isle of Mann TT.
Thankfully, Cape Sidecar Adventures have far more sane machines and drivers. Besides tailored trips they offer to the winelands and peninsula you have the option of designing your own trip, and chef Bruce Robertson (previously of the Cape Grace and Showroom) invited me along. Bruce wanted to explore the some of the eateries along the peninsula - nibble a bit here, tuck into a lot there, see what was on the menu and take in the sights. As he says: “The Cape Peninsula is fast becoming the haven for foodies and gastronomic ‘hide away’ treats.”
Cruising around Chapman’s Peak was an outstanding way to start. I have taken this cliff-hugging road many times on normal motorcycles and it’s wonderful to experience the biking sensation while not having to worry about surviving. Instead of trying to read the winding tarmac I took in the view as if seeing it for the first time.
It got better as we cruised along overlooking the vast Noordhoek beach and stopping at Noordhoek Farm Village where we visited chef Franck Dangereux at The Foodbarn (ex La Colombe). The Foodbarn has such a relaxed atmosphere, ensconsed as it is in an old barn, but Franck adds his fine dining style to the food in the restaurant, and a wonderful deli by day transforms into a tapas bar by night.
We didn’t make it far before we pulled into Imhoff Farm for a glass of chardonnay from the great selection in the wine shop. It’s along the Kommetjie road toward Scarborough; a family smorgasbord with activities for the kids, nurseries for the green of fingers, a free range farm shop and one of the best views on the peninsula from the tables of the Blue Water Café where owners Rael and Graham (founder of Constantia’s River Café) serve up great Cape food.
We met the seaside road again, tasted the salty air which went nicely with the Chardonnay, and cruised along Misty Cliffs towards Scarborough where Bruce’s own eatery, The Boathouse, can be found.
I think this is the best thing Bruce has ever done: It’s unique in the Cape: Table d’hôte or Chef’s Table. Bruce cooks for you in his own home, a Cape Cod style beach house overlooking the Atlantic. The top floor is the kitchen and dining area where guests tuck into gourmet meals paired with great wine. Bruce gives you his undivided attention; you’re welcome into the open kitchen and he often sits at the table to chat food, travel and everything in between making it a relaxed, intimate experience. My wife and I have lunched there a few times, meeting strangers from the US, Canada, and Germany and we’ve ended up leaving as friends – and always very late. Some afternoon tour itineraries are simply written off at the Boathouse.
After a couple of glasses of the very tasty Cederberg Bukettraub, our own itinerary was beginning to unravel, but our trusty chauffeurs steered us towards False Bay, taking in the big blue from the slopes above Simonstown then down to the busy little harbour of Kalk Bay.
This leg got me thinking about the other great advantage of sidecar travel: Experiencing the joy of motorcycling while getting completely schozzled. Legend has it the inventor of the “Sidecar” cocktail was an American Army Captain in Paris during the Great War. He named it after the sidecar in which he was driven to and from the little bistro where the drink was born. The ingredients of Cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice were fighters against the chill he was exposed to in this slow chariot. Maybe the sidecar came into it’s own back then after all.
A full day trip of eight hours (such as the Cape Peninsula tour, a tour of the winelands, a South Coast Meander (Gordon’s Bay, Pringle Bay and Betty’s Bay) on a sidecar costs R2400 for two people. This includes a driver and 150 kms of fuel.
A half day tip of four hours costs R2200 for two people.
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