At the start of the year, I was reading Daniel Lieberman's "The Story of the Human Body," which led me on a journey through human evolution. I began imagining myself as a hunter-gatherer, traversing the distance each day in search of food, while my naked feet wandered the earth and rocks, roaming the rough surface of the landscape.
One day, I went with some friends to scale a volcano, and after a few hours or so, I tried to convince myself that my fatigue was nothing, recalling, as I had read, that our bodies were made to regularly withstand hikes like these, and that our feet could do it all without the expensive sneakers I was wearing.
I felt a profound need to explore the origins of humanity. Where did we human beings come from?
Africa, I told myself.
And like one of those needs that emerge from our insides, with the Energy that makes everything come into being, the signs began to appear and events began to flow in such a way that a few months later I found myself sitting on an airplane with three friends, among them Armando del Vecchio, Dkoko's collaborating photographer.
We landed in Johannesburg, picked up the rental car, and headed to Kruger National Park, the largest natural reserve in South Africa. Our adventure began in the concrete jungle, trying not to crash the car as we got accustomed to driving on the left side of the road (or backwards, as it felt to us), in a city where electrical blackouts were so commonplace that the majority of the time there were no functioning stoplights. The excitement of not knowing what awaited us overwhelmed our senses, and we got ahead of ourselves in our minds, imagining the final photos of a Dkoko surf bikini right next to a cheetah; a hunter-gatherer girl in the African bush surrounded by elephants.
When we arrived at Kruger, things got real in a hurry; in other words, NATURE got real, and fast. Not exactly like the raccoons in Manuel Antonio that steal your snacks; here, if we got out of the car, they'd eat us alive.
"In Costa Rica, there are a ton of animals, but they aren't so big," we said. These creatures were enormous, imposing. A giant elephant ready to smash the car with a single footstep, eight giraffes crossing the savannah in front of us, four rhinos beside the path, a lion and his lioness deep into their mating ritual in the middle of the road... I can almost be sure that the four of us felt the same avalanche of emotions in those few days, very different from any we'd felt in the rest of our lives.
I felt fragile, like I was just another animal on the food chain; useless with my lack of knowledge in that land of the wild. By night, the radiant sun that burned hot by day had hidden itself below the horizon, the frigid eve filled with stars and constellations, and not far away, we heard the roar of those wild beasts, separated from us by only a few layers of mesh and razor wire.
We left the park in silence. Each of us looking out the window, lost in our thoughts.
Time to Surf! We made it to J-Bay
Sitting in the lineup, the frozen offshore wind blew hard as I rubbed my numb, tropical surfer girl hands together, in vain. Although we had been talking and worrying about sharks for weeks before the trip, with my first duckdive in that freezing water, I had forgotten about them entirely.
"Paddle before the set comes!" I told myself. "Paddle hard - the rocks are right there."
Dolphins jumped. The set bumped up on the horizon.
"Paddle as hard as you can!" And then I remembered what a friend had recommended just a few hours earlier.
"Race that shit..." he had said. I took his advice and ran with it.
Extreme happiness, my body no longer freezing, I was all smiles. Again and again, just like that, until four hours had passed as if in minutes. The everyday rainbow splashed the sky in prisms of light.
On our last day, burying my toes in the cold sand as I walked, among red seaweed and hundreds of multicolored shells, humbled and protected by my neoprene suit, I asked myself if these were our Origins: when we were just another kind of creature on the planet that didn't feel superior to any other, but rather merged with the elements, happy and grateful to behold the majesty of Planet Earth.
Pictures from Armando del Vecchio.
Translation from spanish to English by Tara Ruttenberg