My childhood is filled with adventurous, crazy and wonderful memories. I think it is very fair to say that I had a very extraordinary childhood, and that the experiences I went through shaped the person I am today… and I am so grateful for that.
The only regret I have in life is that I took my childhood for granted… what I would give to be a kid again. I never knew just how special it was until I had kids of my own that I have had to raise in the big city. The things we did as kids are unheard of here, especially these days – where flying a paper jet has been replaced by drones and apps. Don’t you wish you could take a single childhood memory and blow it up into a bubble and live inside it forever?
It is extremely hard to choose a memory that stands out to me, there are so many magical moments that shaped my life. At least once a year all the kids from my dad’s work would head out to the old farm-house on Witberg, situated somewhere in the middle of the Kalahari – in between Upington and Olifantshoek. Uncle Piet and auntie Babsie would bring out this massive old Mercedes truck with mattresses scattered all over the floor. We’d pile in and make the journey out to the middle of nowhere. To us it was luxury travel at its best, we’d laze around chatting and telling each other stories over the deafening rattling of the corrugated iron truck bed and fight over who would open all the farm gates once we got there (no-one ever wanted to do it).
We loved that place… the old white house nestled inbetween red sand dunes and surrounded by cactus plants. The house smelled like homemade butter, sun, burnt-out fireplace, and hot water in old brass pipes. It smelled like childhood. Like chaos and excitement, like homemade soaps and braai. The night winds were icy cold, bringing in the smell of the Kalahari through drafty windows. The days were hot, harsh and unforgiving – we never noticed. We were too busy making memories that will stick with us our whole lives.
Sometimes we slept in bunk beds in the old barn next to the horse stables, and sometimes we would make Christmas beds on the creaky wooden floor in the main house. No matter what, we always stuck together. We all grew up together, and even though we fought and drove each other insane – we were one big family, brothers and sisters bound together not by blood, but by fate. During the day we’d explore the Kalahari. We would tie makeshift sleighs to the back of the 4×4’s and get pulled up and down the monstrous sand dunes. We would tumble-down and dread having to climb back up. We’d get back to the house and take turns on the hessian bag swing – we’d fight for our turn – until it was time to have a bath and your skin would be on fire from being scraped by the rough material. It took days to get the red sand out of your hair, not to mention other body parts. We would gather around the fire while our dads told us ghost stories of old Khoi San tribes that were buried on the land, and we would wait for darkness to completely swallow up the Kalahari before piling into the 4×4’s for a little game of tag…
Our game of tag was a little different… we would split up in teams, each team would get onto the back of their bakkie and hope whoever’s dad was driving was the fastest driver. It required a spotlight, layers of clothing and a lot of adrenaline. The aim was to shine the spotlight around, and the moment you hit the eyes of a springhaas – to get off the bakkie at record speed – tackle it and get it on the back of the truck. At the end of the night, whoever caught the most won. We never actually won anything – but it was so much fun. I know it sounds cruel, and I would never let my kids do this (when you know better, you do better) but the springhasies were never harmed, they were released at the end of the game (which would be around sunrise). Us on the other hand – how we never required tetanus shots goes beyond me. We had broken knees and arms, cut up bodies, twisted ankles – but we carried our battle wounds with pride. On the last night we would put up a play for all the parents, it was the only part of our visit that I absolutely hated.
Other memories consist out of looking for amethyst stones in the hills surrounding the farmhouse on Klein Pella (leopards roamed the very same spots and you could hear them hunting the baboons at night), soaking up the sun in the dry river beds while camping and swimming in the orange river and riding the river currents on old tractor tyres. I told you, my childhood was very different.
I remember sitting with my grandpa while he carved animals out of wood for me and flying paper jets in the lusern fields. We traveled all over South Africa when I was a kid, and it is something I would love to do with my kids. I want to take them to other African countries – and it’s not impossible as you can easily get cheap flights to places like Zanzibar. I want them to experience other cultures and landscapes – just like I did as a child. I want them to be innocent, to look away from their screens long enough to find joy in something as simple as flying a paper jet.
What are your favourite childhood memories? Enjoy the nostalgia with me and take up the Paper Jet Challenge! You can win a trip for two to Zanzibar – a place that is extremely high on my must-visit bucket list. I dream of visiting the island with my family and lazing on the beach. I want to visit the spice farms, go snorkeling, take in the local wildlife and island hop with the dolphins! Other prizes include Travelstart vouchers and Ryze Tello Minidrone! It is a competition you don’t want to miss.
- In collaboration with Travelstart