Somebody had rightly said, ‘Happiness is waking up without a hangover’. But that wasn’t going to happen with me on my second day in Johannesburg, thanks to the previous night’s pub adventures. After refilling my caffeine requirements, I finally managed to get my head together by 10am. Bella was up as well and we decided on our plans for the day. She had agreed to join me that day and to my lovely surprise, she offered to drive us to the places we would be visiting. We bought our breakfast from the famous supermarket chain in Jo’burg called ‘Pick and Pay’. Thanks to all the decorative flowers and a man playing romantic songs on his saxophone at the entrance, we were reminded that it was Valentine’s Day. We headed to two of the major spots for the day- the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ and ‘Sterfontein Caves’. Both were situated approximately 50 kms north from the city of Jo’burg and were renowned World Heritage sites. This would be the 5th World Heritage Site visit in my South Africa trip and I didn’t think about it while planning my trip but I was glad because when something unexpected adventures are always the best kind.
The Sterkfontein Caves are world famous for their fossil finds and as a well-known visitor destination. The caves are owned by the University of the Witwatersrand, whose scientists are credited with many famous discoveries including the world famous “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot”-an semi-complete Australopithecus skeleton dating back to more than 3 million years. The Cradle of humankind (CoH) (also called the ‘Maropeng’ which means “returning to the place of origin). Entering the place feels like stepping into the birthplace of humanity. Our first stop was the Sterkfontein Caves. Ticket for both the places (Cradle and Caves) can be bought at the caves itself which cost me about 195 Rand (15£). This included a guided tour of the caves and an entry into the Cradle of Humankind. We put our safety helmets on and followed the group into the cave and the temperature kept dropping with every step that we took. The Guide told us about the caves being gold mines and important archaeological sites. The caves were very huge and even scary at times. In fact, I wouldn’t enter the caves alone even if I get paid to do so. I banged my head against the low roof of the caves about a thousand times and truly realized the importance wearing safety helmets.
Bella told me that she had come there before but had never got to listen to the guide and I could now see why. The caves were so beautiful that by the time that I was finished with taking pictures and admiring the beauty of it, the guide was done talking. It’s a must add to your list of things to do in Jo’burg. It is fascinating and gives you a clear idea of what lies beneath our feet. While searching for the Cradle, we got lost and had to drive around for an 1 hour before we actually found it. We had a good tour of the area but couldn’t locate the CoH and had to rely on old school human navigation system at the end. The CoH was a semi spherical building covered in green grass which gave it a rather unique and eye catching look. We were joined by Bella’s friend Jonathan. A fun local guy, we got along very well. CoH is basically a museum showcasing the evolution of the human kind from billions of years ago to where we are now. That was the site where the earliest evidences of the existence of humankind had been found and it had hence been declared as a World Heritage Site. So while the whole was busy celebrating the day of love, we were busy watching broken skulls belonging to our ancestors. Not sure if that makes for the perfect Valentine’s Day picture but after all our ancestors deserve some love too.
It was early evening when we decided to go to a place called Gilroy Brewery. It was an incredibly cool open space outside the city owned by an old man called Mr. Gilroy. Located in the middle of a park and surrounded by nature, the brewery was not only famous for its beers but also for its fun loving owner. Jonathan gave me some information about the brewery and told me that this was the best place to find the real and purest South African beer. Another input from Bella came that this was the brewery where her parents had gotten married. It was Valentine’s evening and so the brewery was almost full. Live music was on and Mr.Gilroy could be seen holding a glass of beer and going from table to table, entertaining and giving tips about topics such as love and philosophy. We tried out many different kinds of beers and were the last ones to leave the brewery. The brewery closed at 6pm which was a little odd for me but Jonathan told me that since the brewery was not situated within the city, it had lesser crowds after hours so they closed early. But we were not done yet. We decided to stop by at every guy’s eye candy place called the HOOTERS. After a couple of beers, there was a special request to the manger as it was my last evening in the country and I got the chance to dance with the famous hooters girls. Jonathan made a video of it which and wasn’t very pleasant when I saw it in the morning but had been a definitely fun experience. I was passed out by the night and we reached Jonathan’s place since he lived within the city and I had an early flight. He hosted me for that night which was exceedingly nice of him.
With that night, I wrapped up my trip to Johannesburg and also, South Africa. I loved every bit of it; there were lots of emotions involved from to time. I entered the country with a lot of thoughts in mind from a lot of sources, most of which were negative. But as I was leaving that country, I had not a single negative thought in my head which was a big achievement for me. Johannesburg had been my biggest fear till I actually got there and it turned out to be the best part of the trip and a major part of that credit goes to Bella as she made sure that I was okay and had fun in the course of my stay. It was once again proved that the conventional wisdom which we form based on the things which we hear from others or see on TV is not always right.
“A traveller sees what he sees; the tourist sees what he has come to see.”
We don’t bring back souvenirs and count the number of places we visited. We bring back memories, experiences and with the experiences come the new and original opinions. A tourist can always tell you 100 things not to do in a place but a traveller will never say anything negative because negativity never inspires anyone. So never take decision about travelling based on what others experience but make your own. Thanks to everyone for being with me on this journey to South Africa. I hope you enjoyed it; coming up next is a post about the least explored part of Africa i.e. Madagascar. Till then, keep wandering. Find the full photo album of Johannesburg here.