family on the beach in South Africa, memories and nostalgia
Beach holidays in South Africa. Photo supplied

If there is one thing I love to remember about my childhood living in South Africa, it’s beach holidays…

… waking up before the sun rose, bundling into the car and staring up at the night sky as we pulled out of the driveway, barely able to contain our excitement. Soon after leaving Joburg, we’d drift back to sleep, waking at first light to eat our padkos (breakfast on the go), which was usually a hard boiled egg and a roll with cold meats, served from the front passenger seat by my mom; with a lovely piece of biltong as dessert… and snacking for the rest of the trip.

We’d play ‘I spy’ or ‘punch buggy’ in the back seats of our kombi (my spot was standing behind my mom’s seat). We knew we were close when my dad told us to start looking for the sea; with our eyes glued to the window, we’d scope the horizon to see who would spot the slightest sliver of blue ocean. It was always a game: who could see the sea first?

That first outing to the beach was always full of excitement!—The smell of suntan lotion and coconut oil. Walking on the white lines in the parking lot so as not to burn your feet on the sizzling tar scorched by the burning KwaZulu-Natal (then Natal) sun, and then running to get to the sandbar realising too late that it’s just as hot as the tar.

My brother and I never helped set up our beach base camp for the day; we threw our towels at mom and made a beeline for the waves that loomed over us and knocked us off our feet, tumbling us bollemakiesie through the sand, which was lodged in every nook and unspeakable place but only discovered after the day was done. That evening, we’d stand in the shower feeling like sandy salted lobsters, every single grain of sand scratching over our sunburn.

Just to do it all over again the next day.

My father used to throw his sandal as far as he could into the ocean and it always came back to shore; he had the same sandal for years, until one time we watched it float into the rocks. I spent hours walking on those rocks, looking for and watching all forms of sea creatures; starfish, small fish, crabs, hermit crabs and on a rare occasion, an octopus. We even caught a baby red firefish in the lagoon once, which was a truly rare find.

We would collect buckets of seashells, like gold diggers searching for precious gems, and make mom take them all the way back to Joburg with us, where they would have a prominent spot in our bathroom in a jar. One year, we spent many days collecting many (many) tiny red shells to fill up a jar – we weren’t satisfied until the jar was full to the brim and spilling over.

I’m really glad my kids got to experience this at least a little bit before we left South Africa.

Storyteller: Martin Koch

Martin Koch lives in Germany with his wife Bronwyn and their three kids. Both Martin and Bronwyn grew up in Edenvale (Johannesburg) in South Africa. He loves living in Germany and embracing his German heritage, and enjoys sharing this experience with his kids.

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