I have my parents to thank for my thirst for knowledge and my love for travel. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of waking up really early before sunrise, grabbing my teddy and being gently ushered to the car. My brother would fall asleep again, but I would lie awake and stare at the stars as we drove to what seemed to me at the time, some far and distant, exotic destination. Car and truck lights were few and far between in those days once you got out of the suburbs and I spent hours daydreaming what adventures we were going to have.
Once the sun started to peek out we would stop which seemed like in the middle of nowhere. Breakfast time! Hot tea poured from a flask, boiled eggs and droewors (a traditional South African snack) would be gobbled up in no time while I’d hop around to keep warm against the icy Karoo chill.
Back in the car and it was time to enjoy some entertainment I packed the day before. In my bag I would rummage through books, soft toys and a myriad of knick knacks I thought I would want to play with and settle on one of my favourite books. My brother would happily while away the hours colouring in and later, drawing. Unfortunately for me I’m prone to getting car sick. I would read for a few minutes before I would have to look up and focus on a distant point until the nausea subsided. Sometimes I would lean my head against the car window. I’d pretend two of my fingers are a galloping horse and I need to jump over any obstacles outside the window. Telephone poles were ignored as they were too tall and stretched well past the window. When I got tired I would just stare out of the window and imagine what it would be like living in the area outside the window. What did the people do and what did their houses look like inside? I’d make up stories about the people I imagined living there, the lives they led and the amazing adventures they must be having.
Activities all depended on where we went on holiday. A favourite spot when I was really young was Plettenberg Bay. It’s a beautiful coastal town where I would spend hours ‘fishing’ in the river mouth with my fishing net. I never caught anything but that wasn’t the point. We would drive through to Stormsriver and walk on the suspension bridge.No visit to Plett would be complete without a visit to Big Tree in the Knysna Forest and we’d attempt to put our arms around it.
Another favourite spot was the hot springs in Montagu. I’d spend the day in my Bentley belt (a floating device from back in my day) and cruise around the naturally heated pool. Occasionally I’d take a nap floating about. My older cousin often times joined us on these trips and would fill my mind with horror stories, like children being sucked into the filtering device of the pool. Imagine my panic after waking up from a rather delicious nap to find I have drifted right next to it. No one has ever heard a tiny kid scream so loud and seen arms and legs move so fast to get away from it.
Evenings would be spent watching sausages sizzle on the braai (barbeque) and running around playing with the other kids. We’d go searching for the best marshmallow roasting stick, and once we’ve had dinner and the sun has set, we’d huddle next to the fire to roast the squishy sugary goodness, turning them into gooey delights. After crawling into my sleeping bag, I would wonder whether the fields were haunted. I’ve heard of ghost stories and that soldiers and fighters from the Anglo Boer War still roamed the Karoo. No doubt these stories were told to me by my cousin.
We’d return from our holidays tanned and exhausted, having spent our days exploring every inch of the land. Every stream turned into an ocean as we dropped leaves into it, announcing we’re off to discover a new world. Boulders became forts and fields became battle grounds. We’d spend hours jumping in the waves at the beach trying to outdo each other or scour the shore for shells. My parents drove home bags and bags of ‘magic rocks’ my brother and I would discover while out exploring.
Holidays had a magical feeling. It was otherworldly. I still get butterflies when I pack my bag to set off on an adventure with my new travel partner, my husband. And I still carry the occasional pebble back home.