South Africa. Growing up, the evening before my family’s annual two week summer holiday was more exciting to me than if Christmas eve, the night before my birthday and a visit from the tooth fairy was all going to happen at the same time. My little Mum would stay up late making sandwiches and coffee for our long roadtrip the next day, my Dad would spend hours packing the car trunk and trailer for our two weeks of camping, and sister and I would try to stay out of everyone’s way and make mix tapes for our Walkmans (yes, this was back in the day). I would wake up more than once during the night, in anticipation for the day, and weeks, ahead.
On the first day of our journey my sister and I would be woken by Mum at 4 in the morning, while the stars were still shining, and get bundled in to the car in our pyjamas carrying our pillows, sleepily waving goodbye to our dogs. We’d quickly fall asleep again, and stay in dreamland until the Transkei border post, where we would be woken up to show our passports and have our cars searched (this was during apartheid in South Africa, when the Transkei was a separate homeland – imagine a country, within a country).
I remember those roadtrips well – fights between me and sister over who got to use the fold-down arm rest that separated us in the back-seat of the car. Threats from Dad to pull over and leave us on the side of the road. Stopping for bathroom breaks on the side of the road and lunches in the middle of nowhere. Mum trying to tell us educational facts about the countryside as we watched the world speed by in a blur.
About 10 to 12 hours after we set out, we’d arrive at our final destination. This area was made famous by Bruce Brown’s first Endless Summer movie, made in the 1960s. Not a bad view, hey?
You see, although I spent 18 years of my life falling asleep at night listening to waves crashing against the shore, my summer vacations still (for the most part) involved camping at the beach. My Dad, was (and still is, at 60) an avid surfer. Surfing has been a part of my life since before I could talk – even guest starring in a video my Dad’s movie-maker friend made about surfing when I was 18 months old (I assume they bribed me with sugar. And lots of it). Growing up, I read ZigZag (a South African surfer magazine) long before I read any teen girlie magazines. Jeffreys Bay (pictured above) is known around the world as one of the best places to surf. During our two week holiday here we’d watch my Dad surf, collect shells on the beach with my Mum, swim in the sea, tan on the shore, play board games and card games, climb trees around the campsite and pretend we were in The Magic Faraway Tree, eat hot dogs and drink warm coca-cola from plastic cups. Never dressed in more than a swimsuit and a tee. Always barefoot. Always getting moaned at for getting sand in the tent!
Packing the car up to go home was never as hotly anticipated as the night before we left for our holidays. As a kid, two weeks felt like a lifetime of adventures. I am still never as relaxed as when I am taking an early morning walk along the shore, smelling the salty smell of the ocean and realising how small I am. And to this day, if you ask me my favourite smell, I will say it is the smell of sunscreen. That, to me, will forever remind me of perfect summers at the beach growing up.
Here’s hoping I get to give my kids the kind of childhood memories I got to share with my folks. Someday.
This post brought to you by the 2012 20-Something Bloggers Blog Swap. Theme: Childhood Summer Vacations. Don’t forget to check out the awesome Precious and her blog partner Jemily on their blog (my post is over there today).