On Monday, Jacob and I headed an hour out of town again to check out where the oldest evidence of human kind was discovered. The whole area is called Maropeng, and there are 2 sites involved: the Sterkfontein Caves and The Cradle of Humankind. Jacob and I decided to start with the caves.
I won’t give you a giant history lesson here, but the caves were discovered in the early 20th century and in them, fossils of the oldest remains of humans discovered on the planet. Which means, as far as we know, that humankind began in Africa. This, of course, was when the continents were still all joined together, but geographically, Africa’s where it’s at.
At the site, the guide lead us into the cave, which is huge. It’s 119 steps to get down into the cave and 109 to get back out, with winding paths while you’re in there, and beautiful, expansive chambers. There are also very tight passages that we basically had to squeeze and crawl through, which allowed my mind to start wandering in the direction of The Descent. I was pretty glad when we saw the light of day again.
Within the caves, there are still active excavation sites where they are searching for more fossils. They haven’t found anything older than what has already been found, but you never know in all of that limestone. There is also a beautiful, yet creepy lake in the cave. Nobody knows how big it is because the only people who have tried to explore it and size it have not made it out alive. My university, Wits, runs the cave site now, and they don’t allow anybody to go into the lake anymore, so it remains a mystery.
Once we were done with the caves, we headed over to the Cradle of Humankind site. Here they have a very cool museum that basically details how Earth came to be what it is today and how humans developed from their earliest machinations to what we are today. But first, it was lunchtime. We went to the onsite restaurant, Tumulus, and sat outside on the deck. It was a clear day, so we got the see amazing views of the rolling countryside. For lunch Jacob and I shared a Haloumi starter, which is this squeaky cheese that is super popular out here. Jacob had a chicken and prawn curry and I ordered a Caesar salad for lunch, not sure what I would get, and laughed when my plate was delivered to me. It was a salad, but definitely not of the Caesar style. It had greens, tomatoes, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, and the kicker: pineapple. There were croutons on it though. It was, however, delicious. Jacob and I both had a glass of South African wine, and then we were on to the museum.
The museum starts with a journey from the present to the past, visually depicting the different eras that the planet has gone through on the wall, with some interesting illustrations. Then, you go on a short boat ride back to the present, which starts you off at the beginning, and takes you through things like the ice age, and volcanoes and such. A little cheesy, but totally fun. Best of all, it finishes with one of those vortex corridors that you see in haunted or fun houses, where you walk through a spinning tube of stars so you feel like you’re walking on a slant the whole time. Those always entertain me.
Another highlight of the museum was actual fossils, including some of the old skeletons that have been excavated. Humans were really small back then…I definitely wouldn’t have fit in. After we were done at the museum, Jacob and I drove back into town to Sandton city, which is another big mall so I could find an appropriate dress for dinner in Cape Town. Attached to the mall is the Sandton Sun, which is a hotel that has a bar called San, which sports a terrace with an amazing view of the city. We had ourselves a sundowner there before heading back to my room to get ready for dinner.
For dinner, Jacob and I went to a steakhouse called Turn ‘N Tender so that Jacob could get a proper South African steak. He also had the chance to try biltong and boerewors, and we shared a delicious bottle of South African wine. It had only been 3 days and we were already getting meated out. For dessert we shared an amazing Bar One cheesecake. Bar One is a candy bar, kind of like a milky way, and combined with cheesecake it was heavenly. Once again we found ourselves exhausted, and rushed home to pass out.