On Sunday we took a trip to the Cradle of Humankind, starting off with a tour of Maropeng and then making our way, after ice-creams, to the Sterkfontein Caves. The last time I was here was in December 2006 and I was pregnant with Koko. We couldn’t come to the “Cradle” and not visit the caves too.
The Sterkfontein Caves are owned by the University of the Witwatersrand, whose scientists have been responsible for the main excavations of the World Heritage Site. They are credited with many of the famous discoveries including the world famous “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot”, an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton dating back more than 3-million years.
Before going down into the cave, we went through the exhibit where they show some of the artifacts they have recovered on this site, and many others. Tools, bones, animals and even dinosaur fossils!
Going down into the cave there are almost 300 stairs! It was rather nerve racking going down all those stairs with kids in tow.
Our guide, Fanyaya, gave us a rather amusing rendition of the history of the caves, the formation of the stalactites and stalacmites, the Italian limestone miners and the discoveries of “Little Foot” and “Mrs Ples”. We then went further down into the cave to the underground lake, of which the source is unknown, where diver Pieter Verhulsel lost his life after getting lost in the underwater caves he was exploring (once his life line/rope was severed underwater).
We then explored the caves even further, going deeper underground, down ladders, through small spaces on hands and knees and eventually coming out to the next, almost, 300 stairs going up. By this point, I was exhausted and the kids were bouncing off the walls from excitement. We finally made it to the top of the stairs to the exit where they have two busts. Professor Emeritus Phillip Tobias that pays tribute to his memory and contribution to the field of palaeoanthropology and The statue of palaeontologist Dr Robert Broom for his discovery of Australopithecus Africanus, better known as Mrs Ples.
By this stage, I had collapsed and had to lie down so that my heart palpitations could subside. Scary stuff.
When we were done, we decided to go have some lunch and a cold drink. Its been a HOT few days here in Johannesburg and this head wave has taken us all by surprise.
I highly recommend doing this tour with your family AFTER visiting Maropeng. It’s rigorous exercise and not for the faint hearted. The children loved it and it was so informative.