In the early hours of the morning, you hear the waves pounding on the beach. Later, when the sun rises, you hear the siren of the passenger train as it comes around the corner along the seafront. As you walk onto the beach, you hear the cry of the seagulls.
Getting away from the familiar is a joy. It’s so good to be away from the inland suburban life, where you wake up to the sound of heavy early morning traffic. You get used to it, of course, but hearing the sounds of nature is wonderful.
You won’t find the beach empty no matter what time you wake up in the morning for a run or a walk. These days, it seems that there are so many more people who are health-conscious. Walking on the beach gives them fresh air and exercise.
But it doesn’t matter. You walk through the people. As I walk down the beach, I forget the people and it’s just me, the sand, the shore, the waves breaking on the beach, and the wind against my face.
I enjoy going down to the sea. To experience being part of the seashore and the sea life. I can be left to my own thoughts, clear my head and roll back in time to when I knew this beach as a boy. Then there were hundreds of sandpipers around the dunes. You don’t see them anymore. The dunes are much different. There are fewer dunes and urban pollution has meant that dune rehabilitation is a necessity.
I remember walking with our family dog along the beach when I was very young. He was a great big dog that enjoyed the beach, running into the surf and chewing on seaweed. I could walk on my own with him. He was my protector.
In the summer evenings, when the light still shines until late, I enjoy being with friends, chatting, and watching the sea.
Darkness comes, and I listen to the sea running in against the shore through the night.
When you’ve grown up by the sea, the sea remains in your blood. You can feel it in your soul. It calls you back. No matter how long you’ve been away from it.
I’ve also kept the sea inside of me and can call it up at will. I lie in bed in the early mornings far away from the sea and, like a moving picture, I scan various parts of the sea that I love so much. I imagine the sound of waves breaking against the rocks and the white foam rushing down back into the water. I can picture those beautiful birds, terns, winging their way south to hunt for food.
There are other places I hold dear. More recent places.
When I cross the border post a short distance from Upington into Namibia, I have a feeling of release and adventure. The first thing I long for is a cold beer at a small cafe a few kilometres after we’ve crossed the border. There you can drink some of the finest beers.
The dry, open land spreads in front of you as you drive northwards. The black rocks of the mountains. The Kameeldoring (Acacia erioloba) trees. The isolation. Passing farms where you see no one, not even livestock.
When you reach your destination, you are so happy to see friends who you haven’t seen for a very long time. Out on the farm in the Kalahari, the people are warm and hospitable. They enjoy seeing you and making sure that you are there to relax and have a good time.
Waking up in the hot Kalahari that only gets hotter as the day progresses. Drinking coffee outside and watching the farm animals, taking in the landscape of Kameeldoring trees growing out of the hot, red sands. After breakfast, at leisure to do what you please.
A walk into the Kalahari veld envelops you with nature. The sound of the hissing and clicking of insects. The wind blows through the tall Kameeldoring trees, their shade so welcome from the burning hot sun.
At night you can see the stars, thousands upon thousands of them, or should I say millions and millions of them. The Milky Way is brighter way out on a country farm where there are no city lights.
The food is good, the company too, and that lovely feeling when you are tired from a long day and all you want is to go and sleep.
But sometimes, even late at night, it’s still so hot that you crave to cool your body down. That’s when you strip and jump into the corrugated iron farm dam and paddle around, looking up into that vast black sky with all those white stars.
Travelling and visiting beautiful places makes you long to stay. I never want to leave. But in the end, you have to pack the car, say goodbye, and take the long road home.
I’m not sure if I could handle a wandering life, but being a wanderer makes life exciting. And it makes you realise many things, including an appreciation of all sorts of places and people. It enriches your life.
You never know when you will be able to return. You never know if it’s your last goodbye. You never know if you will see the places you love again. It’s best, I think, to enjoy them as much as you can while you can.