I realized it two days later, but the 14th of February 2011 marked the first year of Unravel Travel’s existence. Happy Birthday to us! The reason I didn’t notice the passing of such an important date was that we were in the middle of our Feb 2011 Buffalo Bay Surf Camp.
To say that the Surf Camp was a great success would not do justice to what our team achieved. We touched the hearts and minds of our guests who traveled half-way around the world to join us. And they touched us. (Sorry dudes, but seriously, no pun intended)
So, where to begin? Do I start with the cliff jumping that was not on the program and happened spontaneously; motivating just about everybody to do something they would otherwise not have signed up for? Do I start with the smiles on the faces of The Surfer Kids when they joined us for yet another Unravel Travel Outreach day of surfing on the 12th of Feb? Or perhaps I should start with the smiles on the faces of our Russian guests when they surfed in a tag team contest with The Surfer Kids?
I honestly do not know where to begin.
So let us start at the beginning and see where that takes us.
Early in morning on the 6th of February 2011 we picked up a group of 6 Russians at Cape Town International Airport. After months of negotiating, organizing and planning, they finally arrived. That morning we took them up Table Mountain and spent the rest of the day walking the streets of Cape Town. The next day we packed and left for the east coast via Cape Point and Boulders Beach.
The 8th of February was the official start of the Surf Camp. We had arrived at our house in Buffalo Bay, everybody was very happy with the accommodation we had arranged, our team of 4 people (Hermann, Jenya, Reinder and Alain) all knew what to do (more or less) and everybody was keen to get in the water for the first surf.
During the next few days we surfed and surfed and surfed some more until our arms ached and we felt like marinated bokkoms (dried and salted fish) and then we kept surfing because that is what we love to do. Somehow the Russians managed to keep up, most of the time.
And somehow, rather miraculously, they had strength left over to go horseback riding almost every other day with Katherine from Goukamma Horses in Buffalo Bay.
Somewhere along the line we drove to Jeffrey’s Bay to show them South Africa’s premier surf spot. On the way 5 of the 6 Russians scraped together all the courage they could find and bungee jumped 216 meters of the Bloukrans Bridge on the border between the Western and Eastern Cape Provinces. Later that day they were rewarded by surfing with dolphins at Jeffrey’s Bay Point.
The next highlight must be the elephant feeding and safari trip. To actually reach underneath the giant trunk of an almost fully grown male elephant (weighing in at 4 tons) and touch the tongue of such a magnificent creature is an experience I won’t ever forget. And I bet the Russians feel the same.
But now, as I am writing this, I realize that I am picking little pieces of information from an infinite pool of experience.
If I am going to highlight certain aspects of our camp I will most likely forget other equally profound experiences simply because my mind cannot fully comprehend what really happened during the past two weeks.
Therefore I would like to focus on what is and always will be the central pillar of our Surf Camps: Outreach
The Surfer Kids (whom you by now know as Billy, Wilmar, Marchal and Duran) joined us on the 12th of February. Unfortunately Marchal could not come as he attended a school athletics meet that day. However, Benni (our local Outreach coordinator) together with Mr Speelman (Principal at Friemersheim Primary School) organized that Bianca join us for the day. Now we have a girl on our Team of Surfer Kids. And by the looks of it she is as enthusiastic as the guys!
We started the day with a group surf session. Our Russian guests watched with interest as we coached the kids and gently pushed them into waves. We were joined by Andries from Dunn Surfboards (who gave the kids a tour of his surfboard factory during the last Unravel Travel Outreach Day)
We then held a friendly tag team surf contest and divided the Russians and The Surfer Kids into two teams: three Russians and two Kids (and their fathers) per team. I realized that this was the highlight of the entire Surf Camp as I watched people from opposite sides of the planet interact in a fun and informal way despite them having almost nothing in common. Just about the only thing they shared was their newly discovered passion for Surfing. Neither the Russians nor the Kids could speak more than two words of English and yet they were having fun together. The teams cheered and jumped up and down whenever someone caught a wave. The bigger and stronger team members helped the smaller ones to carry boards in and out of the water and at the end of the day it mattered not who won.
After our informal Surf Contest I expected the Kids to be tired but they wanted to surf some more. We went back into the water and two of the Russians helped us to push The Kids into some of the smaller waves. It was not planned, but when it happened I suspected that it would have an enormous impact on both parties. Afterwards I was told, via Jenya our Russian interpreter, that it was an incredibly emotional experience for them. Simply put: It awakened feelings they had not felt in a very long time.
The few days we had left at the Surf Camp passed by almost unnoticed. We went snorkeling and we ate seafood on the beach at a secret local spot where the fish is cooked on the coals next to your table and you eat calamari steaks with your toes in the sand.
Sadly all good things come to an end. But they make space for other good things to happen. This Surf Camp was a major step for us and I would like to thank all those involved.
Soon we will have high definition video of all our adventures available on this website thanks to our cinematographer Katlego Shibambo.
In the meantime here is a selection of the best photos from the Camp. Once again thank you to Jenya and all our other photographers for these great photos.
Stay tuned for the next one and follow us on Facebook to get regular updates on our other trips and camps!