It’s that time of year in the Southern Hemisphere; beach side summer sabbaticals to save ourselves from not only the oppressive heat, but to rejuvenate and renew our enthusiasm for another year of undoubted madness.
For as long as I can remember, my family has dutifully sought out the summer sabbatical; wandering from one camp ground to the next until we eventually found our forever home away from home.
For the last 11 years, my family has been returning to a little enclave, tucked into the far south of The Golden State, also known as Bremer Bay. This annual expedition isn’t made by just my family; we have somewhat of an entourage that all gravitate south come mid Jan – in the hope of escaping the ever encroaching nag that is otherwise, daily life.
As a teen, we clambered into the kids car (hallelujah for the older guys with their licences) – cranked the tunes, the lollies and provokingly trashed talked our parents over the two way as our caravan and trailer procession made the 500km journey in one day.
This year, as I approach 25 instead of 14, the start of the journey did not have the same camaraderie or sugar hit.
Unsurprisingly and much to my dismay, in the last 11 years I have grown up (and out) and my time in Bremer is dictated not by my social summer schedule but my aptitude to juggle a full time job and negotiate RDO’s when there is non existant annual leave. The summer of Bremer 2017 meant that I had a very precious 66 hours on the ground. So you may wonder, what woman in her right mind, drives 1000km’s for 66 hours?
I too, was asking that very same question after a bout of gastro the day before making my descent upon Bremer but the call of my home away from home was far too strong to resist.
When I was younger I would have told you it was for the adventure and most importantly, the gang. A group of people who see each other altogether, once a year and cram 12 months worth of conversation, catch up’s and dishes duty into ten days.
We would seek out the biggest surfs of the many glorious beaches down that way, playing chicken as we floated on our backs and huge barrels loomed over us. It was either a last minute duck dive or a nasal passage full of sea spray that was the end result. That and laughter, always so much laughter.
Our camp was a colourful collection of individuals and tents for that matter – and it was with a true adolescent smugness that I watched others pass our sea of canvas by, wishing they were a part of the madness and the fun. There is a theme night each year and one year it was Viking Disco. I’m sure you can imagine the outfits.
We spent our days hooning down the sides of sand dunes, scampering over rocky points and humouring Dad’s attempts at fishing. We devoured novels and ice creams and jostled for Bocce champion.
Evenings were spent ladling out curries and stews and fighting for seconds. There was so many of us, we had dishes teams and even then, the dishes were spent diving out of the way of a tea towel whip or a soap suds splash. After dishes, there were cards and the many, many rounds of calling bullshit or spoons or vying for El Presidente. When we were older, it mean meandering down to the beach with a can and looking up at the billions of stars.
Being in the middle of the children, it was with a great sadness that I watched my compadres grow to be adults and move on from Bremer. Life changes and so do people, so over time Bremer was no longer a priority for all of us. The enticements of a bigger world called louder than little old Bremer and the gang grew up.
My 66 hours in Bremer were not to be so energetic this time round and instead of all of us being there at once, we were more so a relay team, tagging our siblings or friends in and out as our twentysomething adult duties required of us.
If I’m honest, this year I spent most of my time sleeping. In the hammock, on a rock, in a chair, on the beach. The gastro got me good and I needed the down time.
Bremer calls to me now, partly for nostalgia but mostly, because of family.
I will hit a quarter of a century this year and whilst I have no idea how that actually happened, it has given me a greater appreciation for the small things. It is enough to be in Bremer if to do simply nothing. While half the gang has moved on, the other half – who have on occasion referred to themselves as the ‘old relics’- are still there and spending time with the parentals isn’t nearly half as uncool as it once was. Instead of poking tongues and antagonizing, it’s this strange thing called enjoying each others company. It must be the ageing appreciation thing. Although, not all of us have grown up – Mum blackmailed me into letting her brush my hair. Her glee at her success suggested that perhaps our maturity was on par.
Bremer is my equivalent of a Times Square Ball Drop; the beginning of something new. A fresh start for round, crikey, 25. It was a solo drive with a variety of karaoke highlights from Avici to Wicked to Macklemore and Jeff Buckley. A very brief time spent in shimmering surf to holed up on the beach with makeshift hijab’s thanks to howling winds and snoozing in a hammock. Most importantly though, I was with my family – blood related or not – at our home away from home.
Given Bremer has come and gone, I cannot deny 2017 any longer. Here is a toast of the year to come and a reminder that 1000 kilometres is cheap change when the currency is priceless time with family.