Even if one is like me, and doesn’t care for tourist traps or monuments (I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower several times, and my reaction is still, “so what?”), there are times where I find myself giddy like a tourist for certain places.
Being in South Africa, one of the furthest places I’ve ever been, I find myself looking at certain tourist attractions with a certain awe, much like most tourists in most other locations.
The one we visited yesterday was known as the “Cradle of Mankind,” an archaeological site where some of the most ancient human fossils have been found.
It was nice in itself just to get out of the congested urban city of J-burg (and probably more so for Molly, who has been here a month and this was her first time leaving the city), but what followed was a surprisingly pleasant experience through caves, museums, and even on the roads.
It began with a cave tour where some of the fossils were found. These caves included vast chasms where field equipment had been set up, down to extremely condensed caverns that one must double-over, squat, and cradle to get through.
This part of the tour was a fun journey into the caves where some of the oldest humans lived, yet it was also personally fun for me as I got to really delve into the new camera I was given as part of my stay here. This yielded some photos that I’m very proud of, including this one I snapped as we were leaving:
After the tour, we were invited to touch the statue of an archaeologist outside of the caves. Our guide said if you touched his nose, it would bring good luck. If you touched his hand, it would bring wisdom. I’ll let those of you who know me figure out which one I went for.
After the caves, we drove down to another part of the site where the museum was. During this time, I decided to attempt driving, seeing as how I would probably be doing a lot of driving over the next few months.
It went pretty well, to my surprise. The shifting and driving were relatively simple, but the hard part was getting used to driving on the other side of the car on the other side of the road. This led to, unfortunately, and incident where I was too far to the left and caused the car to go off the road. I tried to bring it back on the road, over-corrected, and ended up swiveling very violently, almost hitting another car on the road. I was pretty shaken up after this, more so by the fact that I had put the lives of the other passengers in the car and on the road in danger.
After this, I was pretty terrified of driving again, realizing that next time an incident occurred, I might not be so lucky. Nevertheless, I took a step forward with the same attitude I had the night before I got on the plane to come here for 6 months: “I am not allowed to fail.” So I got back on the road, making sure to drive slower until I felt I had gotten used to driving on the other side of the road. I ended up driving for roughly another hour that day, and I feel better about driving than I did the moment following the incident.
But to get back to the day at hand, after the incident we had lunch and went to a museum chronicling the birth of human life.
This, I’ve gotta say, was one of the most pleasantly surprising excursions to a tourist attraction I’ve ever been. It began with a ride, much like a log-ride at Mall of America, through water, fire, ice, and earth. We were all expecting a walking tour when we rounded the corner, only to find a boat on a river that we were supposed to get in. I think all of us were pretty surprised by the boat tour aspect, and even more so by the “Vortex Tunnel” which was right after we got off the boat. Both these things combined was a complete sensory overload, the good kind.
The tour afterwards consisted of exhibits on the first humans, interactive puzzles and info stations, and lots of inspirational quotes from famous figures like Nelson Mandela and Ghandi plastered to the walls. I think I might do a series on my blog involving these quotes, more to come soon.
All in all, this was a very overwhelming and surprising day. Everything from the museum and the caves to the incident were all surprising, some in good ways, and some in bad ways. We even got to see a white tiger on the way past a nature reserve!
I think this day may be an indicator of things to come: I will run into many surprising and unexpected things over the next 6 months, some bad, and some good. Throughout the bad however, I must keep one thing on my mind: I am not allowed to fail.