If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I have a real weakness for animals. Especially cute ones.
Just dip into the Gypsified archives and you will find plenty of evidence – phantom cat syndrome, alpaca cuddling with Marli, Monday menagerie, sleepy owls, lonely whales and, of course, a Sandokan overload.
So, when Vergenoegd Wine Estate’s daily duck parade started making headline news sometime earlier this year, it wasn’t very long before I developed a serious obsession.
I wanted to see them so freaking badly! I wanted to watch how they waddled into the vineyards at top speed for a hard day’s work, performing organic pest control by gobbling up snails as they went. Yet, I just never managed to schedule a time.
Fortunately, Guillaume has obviously been paying close attention since we met in 2014 and knew that this was the kind of outing that would charm my socks off on our two-year anniversary.
Since, at the time, we were both working for ourselves and had complete control over our own schedules, we were lucky enough to set out for the winelands on a Tuesday morning to see the 09:45 parade. Although it was far too cold for a day in the vineyards, the ducks were still herded out of their pens and marched proudly past the clutch of curious visitors who had gathered around just for the show.
So, how exactly does one actually herd ducks?
Three or four ‘herders’ are tasked with making sure that the ducks don’t stray off course and Denzel (Mr D for short), the duck farmer, guides them along from behind with a distinctive whistle. On Mr D’s off days, the other herders apparently have a tough time keeping the usual standard of order.
Currently about 1 070 Indian runner ducks live and work on the property, but not all of them are sent out at once, so we saw only a handful (which was still A LOT though). These ducks are exceptionally tall and skinny, making it easier for them to move through the vineyards efficiently than it would be for the more familiar plump, short-legged species we’re used to.
Since they weren’t going to be gobbling any snails on the day we visited, the ducks got herded to the backyard, where the visitors were invited to feed them from large buckets containing mielie pips and other sorts of grains.
The whole experience was so much better than I’d even imagined and I highly recommend it to anyone with a soft spot for the quirky or the cute.
Duck parades take place twice daily during the week (at 09:45 and again at 15:30) and three times a day on weekends and public holidays (at 09:45, 12:30 and 15:30). Bookings aren’t necessary, but if you like having plans in place beforehand, you can secure a spot in no time online.
After watching the ducks, we warmed up with delicious coffees at Vergenoegd’s restaurant and then headed into Stellenbosch for a stroll through town. We ended our day with a decadent and super cheap meal at Java in Church Street. They run a wicked R50 lunch special, featuring pizzas and pies and all things comforting.
All in all it was a morning well-spent and an occasion well-celebrated.