Women protest pass laws on August 9, 1956 – Photographer unknown
My mother called me the other day to say that she (to my father’s slight financially-related disapproval) had started the process of planning a trip to the Kruger National Park when my sister and her husband are back in the country for a month next year. This conversation is one which formed the basis for an often-repeated theme during my childhood. My mother would go through the many motions of planning, booking, re-planning, consulting calendars, changing dates, checking avai lability, re-booking, adding rooms, checking distances, paying deposits etc. etc. etc. in the seemingly endless process of organising my family in our yearly pilgrimage to the game reserve.
Sure, my father would pack the car and drive it all day for days on end, but if it wasn’t for the initiative and organisation of my mother, my father would have had nowhere to drive to in the first place.
Once the egg-mayo sarmie padkos (read: 6 easy padkos recipes) my mother had packed us had run out (usually within the first couple of hours if my father and I had anything to do with it), we often stopped off at whatever version of the petrol-pump-retail-fast-food-mega-complex was most convenient. Behind the counter of the Steers, there would always be a woman smiling, waiting to take my order, another woman to cook my delicious burger and MSG-loaded chips, and yet another to hand my food to me over the counter. They didn’t receive the same banter that the (all-male) pump-jockeys outside received, nor the R2 tips.
When we arrived at the Malelane gate, there would be a (usually smiling) woman behind the desk, ready to fill in, process, stamp and hand us our entrance permit.
Mornings in the park would always start with mum’s homemade muesli – her rusks would be dotted out throughout the day, along with dried fruit, biltong and whatever other snacks she had packed into the car before leaving home. Meals in the evening were always planned by her, and she would pass to my father whatever it was that he should cook on the braai.
Part of the annual routine was to go on one night drive in the park – almost always taken by a personable male guide or ranger who got to interact with us in a relatively casual, friendly manner. He would give us interesting information and a good time, and in return he would get a tip of some description at the end of the drive. These guys became the celebrities of our trips to the bush. Very seldom did we have a personal interaction of the same kind with the women who, every day, would come into our rondavels, clean up, make our beds and make sure the short-term home felt nice to return to after a long hot day driving through the park. These women made every day comfortable, constantly having to work around the erratic movements of families leaving late, arriving early, needing extra bedding and moving cutlery from one little rondavel to the next – depending on where the family decided to eat at that evening.
Over the years women started becoming one of the main sources of interest for me in the park. I remember having a very short conversation (it was before the development of my now immaculate skills in flirtation) with two beautiful young foreign women (I think probably Spanish, although I don’t remember clearly) while on a night-drive in 2006 during the soccer world-cup. I don’t remember anything else about that night-drive. My mother, on the other hand, could probably tell you which camp we were staying at and exactly what we saw that evening.
Conversation with my father can be interesting, no doubt, but if you want the real deal in Maughan-Brown family intellectual extension, having my sister and mother around is a must. I probably learnt more about the art of argument listening to my father and sister go at each other over long-haul journeys to and from Kruger than at any other time in my life. Not to mention my sister cultivating a taste for Bob Dylan in me (not always by my own choice, I admit) over those very same journeys.
All this is just to make a point of actively recognizing the hard work, organization, patience, dedication, love, intelligence and good looks of women, without which things like bushveld holidays, comfortable beds, romantic dreams and Steers burgers would not be possible.
Happy Women’s Day.
This article, Happy Women’s Day, was originally posted on the Getaway Blog by Paul Maughan-Brown.