Mighty Baobab Trees
The mighty Baobab tree gets his name from his appearance – it literally means “upside down tree” because it looks a bit like a giant child uprooted a tree and stuck it back into the soil upside down. (My toddlers would do that …)
Following the N1 wind it’s way through the Soutpansberg mountain, you will pass through the Hendrik Verwoerd Tunnels, and then suddenly find yourself on another planet. Almost. The humid tropical climate you encountered in Louis Trichardt is gone, and you are in the desert.
There is one more town before the Zimbabwean border, Musina. There is a joke amongst the people of Louis Trichardt that Musina people have a lot of jackets, simply because every time they pass the tunnel they are not prepared for the drop of temperature on the other side.
There are many legends surrounding this tree. One legend describes what happens if you are never satified with what you already have;
“The baobab was among the first trees to appear on the land. Next came the slender, graceful palm tree. When the baobab saw the palm tree, it cried out that it wanted to be taller. Then the beautiful flame tree appeared with its red flower and the baobab was envious for flower blossoms. When the baobab saw the magnificent fig tree, it prayed for fruit as well. The gods became angry with the tree and pulled it up by its roots, then replanted it upside down to keep it quiet.”
The baobab looks like this for a reason. In the wet months water is stored in its thick, corky, fire-resistant trunk for the nine dry months ahead.
The baobab’s bark, leaves, fruit, and trunk are all used. The bark of the baobab is used for cloth and rope, the leaves for condiments and medicines, while the fruit, called “monkey bread”, is eaten. Sometimes people live inside of the huge trunks, and bush-babies live in the crown.
Their Afrikaans name “Kremetart” (which does not mean cream tart … but Afrikaans is funny that way) also gave name to the 175 km 4 stage bicycle race that takes place in Louis Trichardt annually.
A lot of my friends and family participate in this tough race and the whole town has a ball.
Here are some pictures of these majestic trees. You find them along the road, and some very old ones (said to be 3000 years old or even older) you can visit at special heritage sites.
There will most likely be some local Africans be waiting in the bush (I always wonder how they got there and what they do all day with the odd chance of a visitor getting lost into this remote spot) and you do well in employing them as your guide. The tales about how the bark of the trees resemble fertility symbols are very entertaining.
I have seen some amazing Baobab trees north of the Soutpansberg, and one farmer even built a private bar into the one found on his farm. Enjoy my pictures!
If you want to read more,
Here is some other blogger with lots of insight into this tree:
We all travel the milky way together, trees and men… trees are travellers, in the ordinary sense.
They make journeys, not very extensive ones, it is true:
but our own little comes and goes are only little more than tree-wavings – many of them not so much.
– John Muir