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Published: March 13th 2014
So Liv joined us late last night after many a flight delay and the trauma trio were finally reunited! An early start for us today - lots to do!! First stop - the 'Cradle of Humankind'. With me at the wheel we set off on the hour long journey to Maropeng. Despite a few wrong turns and stops for directions (plus a couple of speed bump mishaps (they come out of nowhere!!)) we eventually made it to Sterkfontein caves. This was the site of the discovery of two sets of human remains over 1.2 million years old which went along way towards helping our understanding of the classification system and evolution of man (basically we were hairier and smaller...Iwan boy I'm looking at you!!! 😉). Unfortunately the caves were closed until April, but we were assured that after the exhibition section we would be able to see the cave entrance or exit. After a peruse of human, wooly mammoth and sabre tooth tiger skulls we met at the far end of the display to go on a tour, the only other person on the tour being a solo Chinese tourist...time for my 'dick of the day' moment...
our South African tour guide explained to us that the caves had been closed for the past week due to heavy rain. I jokingly said perhaps it was due to an American tourist getting stuck down in the crawl spaces (rubbing my belly making a fat gesture (Huw Rhys Davies would have been proud))...
...let me tell you, our Chinese-American co-tourist was not best pleased!! Instant enemy!! Good luck getting into the US now!!
Forgiving and forgetting (I hope!) we went on to look at the entrance to the cave. The steps were impressive stretching nearly 100 metres underground. We could see an impressive entrance hall with a statue at the entrance...but could we get in?! Of course we could!! This is South Africa!! Jumping the fence and bribing the tour guide (with a Polaroid photo!) we peered down into the depths of the (gold-mining) cave where the human ancestral remains were found. Impressive stuff!
Next stop, the cradle itself. But not before wolfing down a life-changing 4 course buffet with beers overlooking the surrounding mountains. And all for £11...I could get used to this!!
The Cradle exhibition
started with a water raft ride that took us 'back through time' to a time of earth, wind, fire and water...with atmospheric water sprays, fire blasts and whirlwinds to boot! Next stop a 'time travel' spinning tunnel...not the best idea after a big buffet. Sick as dogs we stumbled into the 'origins' exhibition - a reflection on the evolution of mankind, our behaviours and practices and the footprint we have left. Feeling thoroughly humbled (and a little sleepy still from our buffet lunch) we headed back to the car in the scorching sunshine.
En route home we noticed a sign to the Mahatla wedding venue and resort. From the sign, this place looked incredible...like a South African princes palace but with more places to buy mohitos!! We had to see it (just for a taste of the high life) but how were we going to catch a glimpse?!!! It was pretend wedding time! With our badly thought out excuse in hand we drove up the winding, tree-covered driveway and approached the security guard. Using all of our British charm we were in!!! The grounds were certainly palatial with vine groves, botanical gardens and topiary in abundance and
A BC sundial
Just about where I landed myself in it with our American friend!
the chalets were something else...would take more than the first year of FY1 paychecks to stay a night here I think!! With our fill of 'how the 1% live' we decided to make a move...but what was this, the guard at the entrance had arranged a full viewing and sit down meeting with the owner in our absence!!! Our excuse was not strong enough to keep up with that!!! Turning down the meeting we were on our way...hopefully the security guard wasn't going to get fired because of us...seemed very unhappy!!!
Next spontaneous visit, the 'Lion and Rhino' game reserve. Whilst the park itself was closed (with a return inked onto our to-do list) we took an hour to stop at the 'Neck Deck', a rooftop restaurant adorned by a giraffe sanctuary!!! Perfect moment for a second Neck-and-Neck Ed and I enjoyed a frosty beer before the three of us went for some giraffe feeding over the balcony...their tongues are so long!! Definitely a favourite!
Hurrying back to pick up Alan from the airport after his weekend at his Uncles 50th wedding anniversary, he regaled us with musings about life, the universe and everything
over a 300g steak dinner. Anecdote after anecdote came about past 'swans'...boy did we have big shoes to fill!! With 180 past student visitors from all of the world we had internationally renowned speakers and scientists, Olympic swimmers, iron-men and supermodels to compete with!! So long as we didn't make it onto the swan 'black-list' we'd be happy we agreed!!
Making our way up to bed, we halted...what were these buttons on the wall.... PANIC BUTTONS OF COURSE!! Ahh!! If pressed they call the heavily armed security team patrolling the area who call us for a code. In true pious spirit Father Alan had selected 'Joseph' for 'all is good' and 'Jesus' for 'JESUS...COME AND SAVE ME!'...let's hope we wouldn't need one of those...after all Alan had only been armed robbed once in the last 8 years!!
After a fascinating first weekend we fell asleep a little nervous. It was first day of placement tomorrow and it was all becoming very real that we were going to be working our socks off in one of the busiest departments of the busiest hospital in the busiest and most dangerous city in World!!! Were we going
to love it or hate it?!! At least we had the trauma trio to keep our feet on the ground!
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