‘Piekniek onder die Baobab Boom’ (Picnic under the Baobab Tree)
by Naretha Pretorius
When we were children (in the 1970’s and 1980’s), having a picnic next to the road was common practice. A road trip and holiday was that of packing a picnic basket; a flask of coffee, ‘beskuit’ (‘rusks’, an Afrikaans invention of hard baked biscuits that you dip in your coffee), sandwiches, boiled eggs and biltong or ‘droeë wors’ (meat sticks). We would make a ‘pitstop’ on our way by finding a suitable tree and quiet space. We would unpack everything, stretch our legs and enjoy the beautiful South African scenery, being excited as we are getting closer to our destination. The field was our toilet, we used to say in Afrikaans “vang ‘n veltie’ (to pee in the field)… what a cool experience that was! You would climb over the fence and find a hind and seek spot behind a bush, you become one with nature, and the experience was somewhat exhilarating knowing that cars might be driving by, your family might hear you tinkle and the fear of a snake or spider in the bush that is about to bite your bum! Picnics were so common, that the municipalities later even built us picnic benches.
We no longer do that. We no longer use the concrete picnic benches; they are now desolate structures, reminding us of times gone by. It is deemed too dangerous. Our picnic benches were replaced by a Total, Engen or BP Garage with a Wimpy restaurant or a Steers burger joint.
I miss those picnics. With every road trip we take now, I still stop next to the road to pee in the field! And one day, I will pass this tradition on to my children, for the sake of the experience.
Below an engraving on Jesmonite of a family picnic in our Blue Volvo station wagon, my father’s pride and joy, under a Baobab tree somewhere in the northern regions of South Africa.