Monday, August 03, 2009

South Africa 2009: Cradle of Humankind and the Lion shop

After the firefight that was our trip (I mean our high speed pursuit) through Soweto we needed a break from the fear and loathing of downtown Johannesburg. Plus I was down to my last pair of underpants, and couldn't risk soiling myself again. Not until I'd done a load of laundry, anyway.

As I've mentioned before, Alex is an archaeologist and what better place to take an archaeologist on his holiday but to... The Cradle of Humankind™!! It sounded like it'd be full of dinosaurs and gold and whatever else archaeologists look for. Vikings or something.

Our first port of call were the Sterkfontein Caves, fearsome caverns 50 miles deep and believed by the Romans to be the entrance to Hades. In fact 'Sterkfontein' is just another word for Avernus. In the picture above, Alex responds to a sign warning us of the impending horror of the cave tour...

Alex, meeting the ancestors.

Richard Dawkins: You knows it, clart...!

Alex and I hadn't survived this long by acting rashly. So we sent a pack of gormless tourists ahead of us into the caves, to pacify whatever beasts lay ahead.

Even now, almost weeks later, we wake up screaming and drenched in sweat reliving the nightmare of Sterkfontein. We were the only survivors of the party who originally went down. For three long days, we inched forward through the dark as to be unable to make out a hand right in front of our faces. Our spirits were momentarily raised on Day Two, when we thought we heard a rescue team calling to us - but they were cruelly dashed when we realised the sounds we heard were our own sobs of terror. We managed to survive by sucking on handfuls of cave gravel, and finally emerged blinking into the light after chancing upon a trail of discarded crisp packets a school party had left in their wake.

Cave guide: "I'd given you up for dead"
Alex: "Yeah, it was pretty dramatic"

Some chap who dared look upon the Gorgon.

Our guide, beaming with relief that she hadn't lost us and therefore wouldn't have to ask Nelson Mandela to apologise to Britain.

Snakes on a plain!!


Maropeng is a $50 billion state of the art construction, designed by NASA's top engineers as a visitor centre to the World Heritage site that is the Cradle of Humankind™. Our tickets to Sterkfontein allowed us entry, and by god we weren't going to let that opportunity go by.

Alex's default expression: PUMPED.

Winding it's way ever downwards from the ticket gate is a pathway to the very centre of the earth, taking you back in time with every step!!

Alex, watching the very meteor strike that took out the dinosaurs.

At the bottom of the path, 4½ million years ago - when the surface of the planet was a boiling mass of boiling stuff - we found ourselves confronted with...

...a little plastic boat. This, apparently, was the next phase of our Journey back in Time, I bet Jules Verne never had it this easy.


Deeper and deeper we went, our little plastic boat bravely braving the rapids, tectonic shifts and boiling magma which were propelling us swiftly along through the darkness. Finally, we ground to a halt, at the centre of the earth. The centre of the earth! Treading deeper than any human has hitherto trod!

We staggered into the gloom, and crossed a rickety bridge. As we did so, the eerily glowing walls began to spin - faster and faster - until we fell to our knees, begging for it to stop. What madness was this!? It was like the bastard child of Ozzy Osbourne's worst nightmare! A passing twelve year old slapped some sense into us... well, glowered at us until we let him have a turn on the Bridge of Madness.

Alex on the Mind Buggerer™.

Frankly the mind buggering bridge was the highlight of Maropeng, so that was about $49,999,999,900 misspent by the government right there. In fact, if they installed the bridges in every town in the land everyone'd be too flipped out to do anything but cower in the dirt.

Replica of some kind of ancestral proto-human skull. I clearly learned a lot from the visitor centre. I'm telling you, the money'd be better spent on mind bending bridges...

You see what I mean? This cost $50 billion??

The lion shop

This was like the only sign we saw on a fence that didn't say "Armed Response".

...and this is why. Man eating lions!!

Alex gave a quick demo on how to control a wild lion. He punched it vigorously several times in the snout, which had the effect of subduing the beast, then he whispered oaths into it's furry little ears, reminding it that he is tha daddy.

Backlit lion.

This one was dead, so we could touch it with impunity.

Anyway, despite seeing a million different types of lion, we couldn't find one that Alex's mum would like so in the end we didn't buy any. I think he eventually got her a print of an elephant stampede, which frankly was a damn sight better than a lion, which would just wee everywhere.

Backlit cloud.

Backlit giraffe.

Oh. Em. Gee. I think this might be the penultimate post. If you need to reminisce, you know where to go:

Part 8: Gold Fever


alex_sotheran said...

Snakes on a Plain: LOLZ X 1,000,0000

Craig said...

OMG Tnk U so mch!!!1

Lily Roth said...

My dear Mr. McKibbin,

My favourite bit was the baby lion. I'm feeling a bit warm and fuzzy towards all babykind at the moment, for obvious reasons. I was a little surprised that he didn't up and bite Mr. Sotheran, but I guess he liked his belly rub.

Mrs. Lily Roth