Vietnam had been great for us. Some routine, stability, familiarity, new friends, warm people but still encapsulated in a simple easygoing lifestyle. As we’d been forewarned, a month in Hoi An would go very quickly. Colombia was our next chosen destination, and some inroads had been made with regards to contacts and some work at a local football charity. Becky diligently researched how we’d get to Colombia and as luck would have it, the cheapest way would be to go via Cape Town. Becky and I discussed at length whether visiting Cape Town would be detrimental to our journey, especially for the kids, but we agreed that it was probably the right time to pop our heads in and say ‘howzit’ on our old stomping ground. We’d successfully negotiated one continent; this was the perfect interlude to go and reconnect with friends and family, internally reset and reflect, and then move onto the next continent and challenge. Tickets were booked but we would keep it a surprise from the kids, and also keep it on the low with our friends and family in Cape Town.
The news was broken to the kids on Tiana’s birthday. She opened an envelope saying that as part of her present she could have a party with her mates back in Cape Town, as we would make a detour there on route to South America. The shock and outpouring of emotion when both T and Rico found out the news will live with us forever; there wasn’t a dry eye in the house! The ensuing week was just talk from the kids about seeing their friends and how to surprise them; what they’d eat, where we would visit – excitement levels were in overload. For Becky and I it was more of a covert mission to get a gazillion things done, try and meet up with people, but most of all make sure the kids spent some quality time with their mates; it had to be a logistical masterpiece.
The days ticked down, the excitement grew, but strangely enough none of us felt 100% ready to go back to Cape Town. Rico had battled the most out of all of us on the journey so far, due to missing his mates, but he had made good friends in Hoi An and enjoyed our day to day simple routine and the freedom of cruising around town on bikes. He told me he felt a bit strange about going back; wondering if he would still be remembered and how he would be received by his friends. We reassured him that in these 9 months away he had become a new person, but not a lot would have changed with his friends.
It was always going to be a strange trip: coming ‘home’ to no home, that wasn’t really a home anymore. Difficult to describe.
Goodbyes and promises to reunite in further exotics far flung places were exchanged with our Hoi An crew, and then we were Africa bound. It was a proper mission: a flight to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, and complicated transfer between terminals, a flight to Singapore – two hour dismount from the plane and then re-boarding; a flight to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and then finally a flight to Cape Town. From leaving Hoi An to arriving in Cape Town it was close to 30 hours travelling.
Stepping off the plane, the hot African air engulfed us and as we walked along the gantry looking over into the arrivals hall, it felt like we had never left. Vietnam and the 9 months prior seemed like a blurry dream.
There was a tight time schedule as we had to pick up a hire car, and get to our old hood, where the first of numerous surprises had been planned. The stress and bickering started as soon as we got in the car after a ridiculous queue at the hire company….welcome back!
Our good friends Meagan and Caine had offered us their guest suite in the beautiful new home and made us feel so welcome. We were in an out and all over the shop – returning sporadically with different friends and children, which they didn’t mind at all. Our feet never touched the ground; collecting and dropping off kids, meetings, accountants, attorneys, storage, lunches, dinners, coffees – tight timelines, but we somehow managed to make it work. My mind was in overload which reflected in my lack of sleep, but adrenaline pulled me through.
Three days in, and my body waved the white flag, so trips to my chiropractor and doctor were needed. After assessing me the former told me I was a mess -always nice to hear from a professional- and that my energy levels were all over the place, my left brain was overloaded and my right brain shut down: rest was in order. I told him it was virtually impossible on this whirlwind trip but I’d try to slow it down.
Getting my bike out of storage was one of the first things I did, and after replenishing the tyres with sludge Caine and I went for a spin up the mountain and proper catch up, just like old times. It was proper soul food, the views, the smells, the aching legs – I’d missed it so much.
Prior to our return to Cape Town, we discussed with the kids that it was imperative that we would try and arrange with their school for them to do a presentation to their peers. They weren’t impressed with the idea but we believed it was important on many levels. We got in touch with the school and they kindly agreed to arrange a time for the kids to speak to their respective years after one of the assemblies. During the week the kids were made to run through their presentation to different family friends during various meet ups for practice for the main event, and under duress they duly performed.
All during our travels we had told the kids, whenever we did return to school they would be welcomed like rockstars. Prior to the presentation the kids were on the sports field during break time, and it was so nice seeing them mobbed, hugged and high-fived and receive such a heroes welcome.
When it came to the presentation, I think Becky and I were more nervous than they were, but to see them have the bravery and courage to get up on stage was a proud moment. Rico, being at that awkward age for a boy more than held his own, but Tiana blew us away with her clarity and delivery. They got more relaxed as the presentation progressed, and there was a lot more unscripted humour and ad-libbing. A huge opportunity and feat for a 10 and 11 year old , and I know there wouldn’t be many kids of their age willing to stand up and speak in front of 250 of their peers and teachers.
Watching them on stage reminded me of listening to a 18 year old speak at one of the ‘Pecha Kucha’ (https://www.pechakucha.com/) events a number of years ago in Cape Town. She spoke about how her parents bought bicycles for the whole family, kitted them out and cycled around Africa for a year. Fast forward a few years and here were our kids speaking to people about adventure travel with their parents.
The days ticked down, and I was anxious about what lay ahead; a new continent, new work, new languages, and above all else the kids having to say their goodbyes again. Hopefully this brief trip had taught them that life goes on, nothing much changes and that real friendships are always there despite the distance and time.
Becky took the kids to her Mum’s house in Pringle Bay, and I continued my little missions around Cape Town, running on virtually empty and a few hours sleep.
In the blink of an eye we were sat back in the departure lounge, just as we were 9 months ago. I looked at my family with immense pride: there were no tears, no protestations about the ensuing journey – these were hardy world travellers now; yes there was a new continent to explore and there was trepidation of what lay ahead, but we were different human beings to the last time we sat in the departure lounge in Cape Town international airport. Hasta luego Cape Town.