The first awakening

Posted by Super User

Apart from our annual caravan trips to the East Coast when I was still at school, travel was never a priority to my family.  The first time I ever left the borders of South Africa was in my final year of university. By this time I was already 24 years old!
My best  friend Jacques, invited me on a road trip to Mozambique, along with another friend Paul and his girlfriend Monique. I contemplated the thought: white sandy beaches and cheap rum; could I think twice?!  So, the four of us set out with Citi Golf and Venter trailer, utterly unprepared for and blissfully ignorant of the sandy roads (only to be traversed by four-wheel drive bakkies) awaiting us.

After an interactive, expensive border crossing, and a two-hour traffic official interrogation session, we arrived at Tofu Beach; far later than we planned.  The effort that we had just been through was eclipsed by the site that met us:  A silvery full moon (the only source of light present), shining over a stretch of palm trees that reaches as far as the eye could see.  Ocean-roar and fresh breeze instantly energized me; beckoned me to go exploring.  The sea always reminds me of our caravan vacations, rekindles my childlike sense of adventure.

 

My friend was exhausted after the long drive, so he and the other lady decided to turn in. Exhaustion, right..! I was basically left with a stranger to explore this new paradise, but I was too excited for my spirit to be dampened.  A bottle of wine, some beach towels and an entourage of stray beach dogs accompanied us on our late-night walkabout.  I can almost write a whole book about that evening alone. The rest of the vacation did not fail to live up to the high expectation promised to us by the first night.

That trip was the birth of many things: a new friendship, an understanding of the need for foreign roadside insurance, but most importantly; a craving – nay- hunger for traveling.  I recall the exact moment when this first awaking occurred.
 
It was a hot and humid evening when we went out for dinner. I saw a little girl running around with hair braids that made me jealous.  True to my nature, I decided right there and then that dinner could wait, I’ve got to have me those braids too!  The language barrier made communication difficult, but I managed to convey that I was looking for a hair braider.  The girl pointed me in a direction and off I was again, followed by a hungry trio of friends.  

We entered a small room resembling a restaurant.  The hungry hoard decided that they would dine right there, and the lady in charge of the house came to welcome us.  I, again in very broken Portuguese and English, pointed and pulled and platted my hair and she eventually just yanked me on the arm and I disappeared behind the kitchen door.  I managed to shout; “Come look for me if I’m not done in four hours!” shortly before losing sight of my friends.

What lay beyond that kitchen door is difficult to convey with words…  I remember more of what I felt than what I saw.  An open, low lit, courtyard. It was just after sundown and a local radio station was playing – a talk show with some intermitted music.  All in Portuguese of course.  The air was moist and spicy, but comforting.  Women and children were hurrying across the courtyard, borrowing and lending food and spices; I assume they were all busy preparing dinner.  The running children churned up little clouds of orange dust that turned into sultry courtyard dancers.  The dusty dancers dispread as soon as a song ended and the talk show host started his next discussion.

There I sat, bam smack in the thick of it all, on a little rusty iron and wooden chair, underneath a big tree.  An elderly woman, (even her wrinkles had wrinkles) approached me and started combing her fingers through my hair.  We didn’t speak a word.  The radio continued playing and she started braiding my hair while I watched the vibrant goings-on around me; this was bliss, this was heaven. And it was in that moment, right there, where I felt it for the very first time: something that would change me forever, and that would somehow shape me in the years to come.  Wanderlust.  I think that is what they call it, although by definition it is merely a strong desire to travel, but to me it is much more than that.  It’s the need, the yearning, the addiction to that nostalgia, that feeling of being so completely different and yet so divinely the same when experiencing other cultures in a truly authentic way.  Those moments make me feel as if anything is possible, and that is my drug.

A day or two later my Wanderlust inspiring braids and I went horse riding on the beach

I have experienced moments like those many times since, although I think I sometimes forget how powerful those emotions and experiences can be.  Those are the moments that inspire and motivate.  One thing is certain; I have not even come close to quenching the thirst for more of it.  If I may indulge in a cliché: The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only one page.  Thanks Saint Augustine!  I cannot agree more, that is why I moved to Cape Town two years ago.  The Mother City is awe inspiring and mind awakening. I never want to live anywhere else.  

There is a culture shock and a new experience around every corner.  Here I get to travel the world without leaving the city; a tapestry of diverse people with whom I fell in love, at first sight, I daresay. But my travel-bum is itching. I feel I have been in this one place for too long now.  It’s time to broaden the horizons and share some moments again.  How and where, well, that remains to be discovered! Watch this space…