Cradle of Humankind

Wednesday was our first full day in Johannesburg. We have a fairly short list of things to do here so we’re going to be playing it by ear somewhat. One thing we had come across in our research was the Sterkfontein Cave Complex, and the Cradle of Humankind Museum at Maropeng. Google Maps advised it was a 45 minute drive away so we decided to give it a try.

We went to the caves first as the website advised it got busier as the day wore on, and arrived there in time for the 11am tour. Ishbel was absolutely delighted to get her first ever experience of a discount for seniors. Now that she’s over 60, she qualifies. She was even more delighted when the lady in the ticket office assumed I would also be entitled and I had to vigorously defend my youthful right to pay full whack. My boyish good looks may well be on the wane.

Everyone on the tour as issued with a hairnet, to prevent transfer of hair-dwelling bugs, and a crash helmet. It felt like overkill, but I was glad of it the couple of times my head bumped against the roof. There was a long staircase to descend into the caves and a reasonable full size walk for most of the way. Towards the end, there was a section that required quite a bit of stooping and some crawling, so the warnings at the start about claustrophobia should be taken seriously. We were glad to get to the end and the upward section back to the surface.

IMG_2933There have been quite a number of hominid fossils discovered in the caves over the years, and our guide was very knowledgeable in discussing both the palaeontology and geology of the area. I assumed he must have had a geology degree, but he didn’t. Very impressive.

After the caves, we went to Maropeng where they have an excellent exhibition on a recent (2013) archaeology/palaeontology dig where they found bones of 15 individuals from a hitherto unknown hominid species. They also had a display of the various hominids that have been known to exist over geological time. Well worth seeing.


After completing our tour, we had a cold drink. Temperature was in the 30s, so we were feeling the heat. Thereafter, we headed back to our apartment in Jozi, which I believe is the locals’ preferred abbreviation rather than Joburg. Ishbel has been navigating on this trip and has been doing a pretty good job, despite the sometimes difficult to follow road signage we’ve encountered. We decided to come back via 7th Street here in Melville, which seems to be the restaurant hub for the area. It certainly looked like wall to wall restaurants as we drove down it. We decided for tonight to start slow and take the easy walk to an Italian restaurant in 4th avenue, which is only three blocks away. We had a nice pizza – thin crust is the preferred base over here. Afterwards, we had a nightcap in a Mexican bar/restaurant just along the road from there before calling it a night.

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