This morning, when I saw the ocean, I remembered how excited we used to be to see the sea – the Indian Ocean. The long, long drive of over 2,600kms (1,600 miles) from the farm in Zimbabwe, south to Fish Hoek near Cape Town. Some years there were four children in the back seat. My mother would be in the front next to my father who did all the driving. This meant the car was quite squashy. Sometimes one of us was allowed to sit in front. The journey took three or four days because, not only was it a long journey, but not all the roads were sealed.
The first overnight stop would be in Louis Trichardt (now called Makhado), not far from Beit Bridge – the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa. I can’t really remember the other stops, although we usually stayed in the same places each trip. I do remember Parys because, apparently, that is where I managed to push over a massive wardrobe looking for Father Christmas. The crash was heard throughout the old hotel. Of course, my parents came running. Thinking I was in, or under, the wardrobe, they struggled to lift it. I was hiding under the bed knowing I was in deep trouble. Fortunately, I’ve forgotten what happened next, I was only about five years old.
If he could, Dad would bypass Johannesburg but would stop in to see friends in Pretoria.
Once we were in the Western Cape, past the surreal landscapes in the Karoo, we would start to recognise the landmarks. The countdown had begun. The Hex River Pass; De Doorns in the Valley of the Vines (do you remember the book by Joy Packer?) then Paarl, named for the huge pearl-shaped rock above the town, meant we were not far off. We were never allowed to climb around on Paarl Rock. There was the sad story of a young boy who slipped down in one of the fissures in the rock and could not be saved. How true it is I don’t know.
Coming from a landlocked country, the ocean was the most wonderful thing for us. The first view was cause for much shouting! “I saw the sea first!” But it was usually Mum or Dad who saw it first.
All my life I wanted to live within sight or sound of the sea and now I do. Yes, still the Indian Ocean but on the Australian side. I live walking distance to the beach and can hear the breaking waves when the wind is in the right direction.