Perfect padkos – pity about the mess

The roadside picnic spots along every road are a boon for anyone driving through South Africa. But they’d be that bit more perfect were they litter-free.
It feels odd to be writing about food for the open road while sitting at an international airport between flights, but that seems to be a food writer’s life in these tentative post-Covid days. But no matter how far I fly away from home, the sweet, cool drive over the hot and dusty plains is always something I yearn for.
When the plane took off from Gqeberha for Joburg, from my cramped window seat I could see the tiny trails snaking up and down mountain passes 30,000 feet below. My body was up here, but my heart was still down there.
Along every road in every part of the land, there are picnic spots where we stop to refresh, stretch our legs, have cold drinks, open the flask for a cup of coffee, and take out the cold nibbles we packed for the drive. Sitting at Oliver Tambo Airport is exciting, the flight ahead to London is an exhilarating thought, especially as it’s my first flight out of the country since the pandemic struck; but nothing in the world is good enough for me any more now that I have tasted, smelt and savoured the massive, endless plains of the Karoo. Since it became home.
There were so many long months of enduring the viral menace way down there that we wondered if we’d ever get our international travel back again, yet here it is. Like Londoners during and after World War II, we know we have to get out there again, and what we went through was barely a fraction of what they endured during the Blitz.
Travel is a salve, a balm. The quiet of the country road soothes us; new sights and smells in foreign parts stimulate the parts of the mind that were dulled by Covid. We hid from a virus and were made to remove ourselves from friends and even family. But being deprived of something makes it all the more precious, more worthwhile; we see and feel its value doubly, like never before. The hug that we were denied, the touch on the shoulder that we missed and longed for.
It’s all back again, for those of us blessed enough still to be here, and for the ones who have those we love with ...