When we woke up this morning, I knew something was different (besides the fact that I was in a different country). I was soon able to place my finger on it – in our room in Gabs, we only have two tiny windows, but here at Life on 3rd, we had two huge, floor-to-ceiling windows that were letting the light stream in. It was a glorious way to wake up.
After getting dressed, we headed to breakfast. We were able to order eggs cooked how we wanted (over easy), and also got fresh-cooked bacon! In addition, there were cornflakes, toast, and delicious milk.
After breakfast, Lydia (one of the owners of Life on 3rd) let us use the phone to call Bigboy, the cab driver. He gave us a wide variety of options for things we could do today, and we ended up deciding to go to the Cradle of Humankind.
The Cradle of Humankind is a conglomerate of many different things. It is centered around some 20-million year old caves where the remains of many human ancestors have been found. In addition, there are multiple museums, a gift shop and a café.
The drive out to the Cradle of Humankind itself was beautiful – we got to go through a lot of Joburg and see both rural and urban areas of South Africa. When we finally arrived, we learned that the next cave tour started in about an hour. That turned out to be perfect timing, though, because it meant that we could explore the museum by the caves beforehand.
It was really interesting to look around the museum, especially after having taken my freshman seminar about Neanderthals. There was information about early life on earth, all the way through modern humans.
At 11:30, it was time for our tour. The tour briefly went along a paved path, with stones marking important places (such as where Mrs. Ples, a skull of an early hominid was found). Then, we entered the caves!
We first went down about 100 steps into the earth. The caves were mostly dark, but at some places they actually opened up to the world above, and a thin shaft of light would appear. These caves were huge, and it was very cool to touch their sides (which were made of stalactite and stalagmite) as we wandered in and out of different parts.
Then, we came to a lake in the middle of the caves. Apparently, this lake is connected to lakes a couple hundreds of kilometres away. This seemed crazy to believe, since the lake looked so shallow from where we were standing, but our guide assured us that the lakes are at least 40 metres deep in some areas, if not deeper.
Next we got to touch some animal remains that were actually imbedded into the cave (I believe they belonged to an antelope that was over 50,000 years old!) We headed up a few stairs, and then came the fun part.
We had to literally slide on our butts to get through the next part of the cave. After that, we had to crawl on our hands and knees. It was such a cool experience, though, being able to walk through something that has been formed over the past 20 million years! I even stole a few cave rocks (whoops!)
Soon thereafter we saw daylight for real, and had reached the end of our tour. Our guide explained that we could go directly back to the main museum/café/gift shop area, or we could take a more convoluted route that would provide us with some extra information.
Alice, Jennifer and I agreed that we wanted to get the extra information, so we went on an almost boardwalk-type walkway around to the left of the caves. It had signs every few metres pointing out specific places on the horizon where different early hominid discoveries had been made. We were also able to see the current archeologists’ work stations that are still in use today (although they were unfortunately on lunch break when we were there!)
We took a lovely stone path back to the main building, and had a delicious (hamburger!) lunch. We then chatted with Bigboy about what we wanted to do next. After a quick stop at a mall to get Alice’s sim card fixed, we decided to head to the “Top of Africa” building.
When we got out of the car, I was a tad confused. We entered a shopping mall, but soon enough, I saw signs for the Top of Africa “tour.” It was somewhat like Top of the Rock in NYC or even the lovely Top of the Hub in Boston.
Once we got off on the 50th floor, we had incredible 360-degree views of Joburg. Bigboy even gave us a guided tour, showing us where the different suburbs and other areas of Joburg were. After a leisurely (indoors) walk around the perimeter of the 50th floor, we headed back down to the car, and eventually back to Life on 3rd.
When we arrived, we were a little disturbed to find that there were construction workers physically working in our rooms. In the end it was fine (we just sat in the lovely common room and read some more) but we did have to go to another room to shower.
Finally we were ready to dinner. We were all so excited for dinner because we were meeting up with the Harvard study abroad students who have been in South Africa for the past six weeks. Nick, the guy I met at the Joburg airport my first night in Africa, was there, as well as Alice’s good friend Teagan, and Catherine, the DG president!
We went to a delicious restaurant that was within walking distance from both of our B and B’s called Picobella. All 15 of us had a blast laughing and exchanging stories. When they served the water, it had lemons and strawberries in it. Kieran (one of the girls on the South Africa study abroad program) and I both freaked out at the same time and ended up feeding each other strawberries (that we had to fork out of the water pitcher) from across the table! I then had a delicious chicken and pasta dinner with a lovely walnut cream sauce.
Afterwards we headed back to the study abroad kids’ B and B and hung out and chatted in their room. Later, they nicely agreed to walk us back to Life on 3rd. After a bit of reading, we were off to bed with our heated blankets!
TGT: 1) great company (and great food!) at Picobella 2) getting to walk through 20 million year old caves 3) seeing all of Joburg from the Top of Africa floor
Until next time,