Monday, August 31, 2015

Groenkloof Nature Preserve and the Cradle of Humankind

On Sunday morning, June 20, 2010, Susan, Nancy and I headed out past the Voortrekker Monument

to Groenkloof Nature Preserve, located just outside downtown Pretoria, for a morning walk.  The park has footpaths and mountain bike paths, as well as some dirt roads for game drives.  Apparently the park is a local favorite - Susan explained that South Africans are very proud of the natural heritage of their country and love to take weekend walks.  Groenkloof has a family of giraffe and naturally we were hoping to see during our walk.  We did get to watch them while driving toward the entrance on the N21, but not on foot. 

We had a nice encounter with the cute rock dassies shown in the photo. 

We also learned about water holes in the park where the giraffe  can often be spotted, and will plan to take that footpath another day.

In the afternoon, we visited the Cradle of Humankind, a 47000 hectare site to the west of Johannesburg containing multiple paleontological sites where a large fraction of the most important recent hominid fossils have been found.

 We started at the Maropeng Museum;

in addition to a Disneyish "boat ride through time" and a footbridge "through the vortex," the museum displays fossil replicas and has a number of excellent exhibits about human origins, many of them interactive.  There was a fascinating ecological, anti-consumerist twist as well; note the photo of a collection of leftist posters. 

Then on to the Sterkfontein Caves, perhaps the most important fossil site in the Cradle, where we took a tour of the cave; among other things, we saw a fossil of an antelope's rib.

While at the Cradle, I ran into Eli Greenblum and his family; I had talked to Eli, a teammate on my over-55 soccer team back in the Montgomery County, Maryland rec league, about getting together while in South Africa but this was a serendipitous meeting.  We took a picture together.  (Amazingly enough, we ran into each other again at the 2014 World Cup).

Before heading home, we visited Gilroy's, a micro-brewery in Muldersdrift.  Most beer in South Africa is Budweiser-ish, but we sampled some excellent ales and Craig bought three cases. 

Craig posing with his beer

While at the brewery, we caught the last ten minutes of New Zealand's humbling of Italy.  Imagine - at this World Cup the mighty Euro powers England, France, Germany and Italy are at risk of not advancing out of their groups!

That night, we were off to the airport to pick up son Sam, whose teaching schedule was finally over; the following morning, our objective was Pilanesberg National Park so that Sam, too, could go on safari.  We'd be going straight to the U.S. embassy from there for a barbecue and pep rally before the US v. Algeria game.

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