Given that the South African road network comprises over 700 000 km and that the distance between major towns can be over 100 km, several roadside picnic spots have been established along the main roads. These provide one with the opportunity to safely pull right off the road in order to take a rest from driving. Most have tables and seats and many have either shady trees specially planted there or wooden structures to provide welcome shade on a hot day. No other facilities are provided except for a receptacle in which to put one’s rubbish. Here is a typical one in the Northern Cape:

I noticed on our recent trip through the Western Cape that long-haul truck drivers make good use of these spots in which to sleep in their cabs for a while before continuing on their journey. Other motorists stop to eat the food they have either packed for their journey (called padkos – road food in this country) or purchased in a town they have passed through. We stopped at this picnic spot outside Aberdeen:

Unfortunately some of these welcome stopping places have been vandalised or left in such a filthy state that one cannot really use them; others have become targets for potential thieves … all of which means that one has to look around very carefully before stopping. I am pleased to say that most offer the safe and welcome respite travellers need.

Apart from the welcome shade on a particularly hot day, we could also enjoy a pleasant view from the table – one of several:

A large truck was parked further ahead from us, the driver fast asleep, so we could enjoy the rest and scenery in peace on our own … or so we thought. A quick movement caught my eye and, after much searching, I found that we were being watched after all:

This lone monkey watched us closely without bothering us at all. Here is another example of a roadside picnic spot we stopped at to change drivers on our way home:




  1. Welcome respite indeed. It’s sad that people often do not clear up after themselves.
    The greenery and the blue sky are such a cool contrast to the heat.


    • It is a marvellous idea for the distances between towns can be very long indeed and drivers can do with safe places to pull off the roads to rest / eat/ change drivers.


    • Western Cape roads … I cannot say the same of those in the Eastern Cape – cannot vouch for the pristine nature of the picnic sites in this province either.


      • Just driving from my house to the Mall, 8km, is somewhat of an ‘off road’ experience at times. It is difficult to know what to say ,but if we were to use another road metaphor then going downhill seems appropriate.


  2. I remember as a kid stopping at similar picnic areas before the US interstate highway system was put in. The picnic tables/pavilions in Virginia always seemed to be neat and well-kept and freshly painted in black and white. The modern interstate rest areas, however, seem to lack the same attention of cleanliness. Not sure I’d want to be watched by a monkey, though!


    • Monkeys can be a real nuisance. Oddly enough there was only this one monkey – no sign of any companions – and it kept to itself, which pleased me no end.


  3. What a good idea to provide safe and shaded places to stop. A pity they don’t also come with a loo, even if it had to be a composting one. That is often what I am most in need of on a long drive!


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