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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Gauteng, South Africa: Our origin and the Cradle of Humankind at Sterkfontein Caves

Plans to visit the apartheid museum on Monday did not materialize because it’s closed on Mondays. We had to make a decision to visit there today or visit the Cradle of Humankind and the Sterkfontein caves. We decided that since we saw so much at Constitution Hill yesterday, it might be a good idea to go to the caves. I think we were all feeling a bit of sensory overload after two days of such intense history.
I am including the website for the Sterkfontein caves for those of you who want to read more about it. This is a World Heritage site – protected for future generations. One website is:
http://www.sa-venues.com/attractionsga/cradle-of-humankind.htm

I was so amazed at the history of the site. Some of the bones date back to over 3.5 million years. The caves were really something. If you’re claustrophobic, this is not a good place to go but it was worth it for me – even if I’m slightly claustrophobic. The stalactites and stalagmites were not drippy like the ones I saw in South Dakota but they were very much older. We went many feet below the ground – a total of about 119 steps to get below the surface and some additional ones once inside. Seeing such a site makes you wonder if civilization as we know it started there and we all share one common heritage, what was the point of apartheid?
We had lunch at the museum restaurant and left for the Botswana border. On the way there, I was browsing through a book that Karim bought about the displacement of the San people. There were many stories that were similar to the stories of the First Nations people of Canada.
We decided that it would be a good idea to use a smaller border crossing. We decided on Ramotswa and headed for that general direction. I say “general direction” because I think we made a wrong turn off and ended up on a very long gravel road. That wasn’t so bad but we then had to do a detour into a little village and it was getting dark and we had no idea where we were. We stopped and asked for directions and people were generally helpful but not always clear. Fortunately, none of us were panicked. Besides we had some sleeping bags if we got stuck and had to sleep under the stars.
It turned dark quickly and we were still driving. We finally got to the border and the agents cleared us without incident except for Choloe. The agents were counting the days she left and returned to Botswana and gave her some additional days on her visa. Canadians can stay in Botswana for 90 days per year without a visa so that’s what they were doing – making sure that she could stay the maximum amount of time without applying for a visa.
We dropped off Reynold in Otse and returned to Gaborone about 8:30pm. I want to go back to Jo’burg to visit the apartheid museum. I heard about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and found the website @ http://www.doj.gov.za/trc/trc_frameset.htm but I feel like an idiot for not knowing anything about it.
I promise that I will do more reading about the history of SA including the more recent events. It was a good weekend but I have to say that I was feeling mentally exhausted. I had a shower and went to bed with no supper.

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