Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Two days ago, the Director (who shall forthwith be known as DOOM) asked me if I had "seen the sights" in Pretoria.

I was momentarily confused. "," I replied.

"Well, I must take you before you go! I'm going out there on Wednesday - make sure to bring walking shoes and a hat. Do you have a hat?"

I was still confused. ""

He got up and fetched one of his own Indiana Jones style field hats and handed it to me. He told me that he thought I could go to Sterkfontein first while he had an appointment, and then he'd take me to Swartkrans and Kromdraai. It was at that point when I realized he meant SITES not SIGHTS, and I was off to see the main attractions in South Africa's "cradle of humanity", a series of paleontological sites.

First up was a museum complex called Marupeng which is supposed to be about the journey from the formation of the earth through all of human evolution. Incongruously, the building is shaped like a tradition European burial mound, a decision that DOOM said he strenuously objected to. The museum opens with an odd little segment about the diversity of people in the world, before seguing into a strange boat ride through the four elements. Unfortunately, the boats are meant to work on inertia and with only me in the boat... I got stuck. There are no cameras and no walkways (this is Africa, after all), so I stood up and sort of rocked back and forth through the narrow opening until my seaworthy little craft eked through. The museum had reasonable information, but I thought it was a bit difficult to navigate as there was no set path through the exhibit.

odd entrance to Marupeng Museum

Then it was off to Sterkfontein, where I took the guided tour of the caves and excavations. It was quite interesting, though the last five minutes were bit harrowing - lots of steep, narrow passages. I knew there was a reason I didn't want to go cave exploring. A small child was on the tour with us and went running through these passages, shouting, "These aren't so small!" I wanted to shout back, "If you were four feet taller, YOU'D BE SINGING A DIFFERENT TUNE."

Cave Formations

an entrance to the cave

After this was a 1 km hike to Swartkrans. Part of the 1 km hike required the fording of a small stream. A small muddy stream. So what was the first thing I did? Set my foot in about an inch of mud. In trying to pull it out, it slipped out from under me. Luckily the PUDDLE OF MUD broke my fall. My entire left side, from my ankle to just above my knee was coated in a nice layer of mud. But there was nothing to do but wait for it to dry and carefully flake it off.

The evil roaring river of death!!!!! Okay, so it was like a three inch puddle. You got a problem with that?

The last site I saw was Kromdraai, where they recently had a break in. A bunch of equipment was stolen, and then the theives felt the need to absolutely trash the place. Tables turned over, boxes full of breccia over turned, the tops of stools ripped off and thrown around. DOOM said it lookes like King Tut's tomb. It's unfortunate that thieves feel the need to be vandals as well. It's easier to replace the stuff without having to worry about cleaning out all of your carefully catalogued belongings and sending them to the rubbish pile.

On the way back, I saw a huge eyesore of a building up atop a gigantic hill. I asked DOOM what that was, and he said it was the Voortrekker monument.

The story that he told me about it was this:

The original colonists were the Voortrekkers, and they were a very devout lot. They moved into the region to escape religious oppression back home. When they moved to the Tshwane area, they encountered the Zulu people. They waged war against one another, with the Zulu having superior numbers and superior knowledge of the land, but with the Voortrekkers having superiors weapons. Finally, they decided to sign a peace accord. They wrote it in Dutch and had translators tell the terms to the Zulu. All of the heads of the Voortrekkers went to the Zulu camp to present this treaty. The Zulu chief pointed at the group and said that they were sorcerors, and they were immediately killed by the Zulu tribe. This prompted the "Bloody Battle". Before the battle, the Voortrekkers prayed to their God and said that if they won, they would build a monument and pray to their God every day at that monument. They did win the war, so they built a small monument which was then expanded upon in 1936. It became a symbol for white domination and black oppression. Thus, in 1994, "Freedom Park" was built on the top of the nieghboring mountain, as a symbol for the end of the aparteid. So freedom and oppression now face each other over a small valley.

And now I am resting.


  1. Such a jaded person should be left under their rock and NEVER taken out - not one good thing to say - how sad!

  2. I've had plenty of good things to say but talking about all butterflies and rainbows doesn't make for good reading.