(Warning: this post contains no food and no drinks, it’s crazy, I know)
I was avoiding work the other day (this happens so often, I’m not able to point out the specific day), and came across a cure for a very unusual hangover.
After spending 6 months abroad (most of this spent on the only island in the world where it feels like the whole world has decided to have a camp in someone’s back yard. Manhattan I miss you) I was left with a feeling that can only be described as travel hangover (and yes it did take me a week to get used to having to pick up my car keys every time I left the house).
Turns out we are not the only people to feel this way, but luckily others out there have discovered a wonderful cure for this!
The cure we have found works the best for us is, to become a local tourist.
So where would we start? Well it almost made sense to start our mission to explore our own country, than where what might be the most import “beginning” of all time took place. I am of course talking about Maropeng, the birth place of mankind!
Maropeng is south-west of Pretoria, down the Krugersdorp highway, and if you get the directions right, less than an hours drive.
We headed out one Sunday morning, with a typical crisp clear winter’s morning sky above us.
A little tip, don’t just plug Maropeng into you GPS, unless you feel like taking the very long scenic route there. The plus side to this was that the ex-biker in me did get to watch us get passed by numerous bikes on their breakfast runs.
We arrived just after opening time at Dinokeng itself, and after paying R10 to get into the parking lot, we found a nice shady spot under a thorn tree to leave the car, and made our way to the Maropeng Visitors Centre.
We only paid to go to the visitors centre, but there is an option to pay an increased entrance fee, which will then also get you access to the Sterkfontien Caves.
I’m just going to put it out there now already, I was very very impressed with the visitor’s centre in general, and the entire experience was world-class.
Once into the visitor’s centre, you will walk down a ramp which details the big bang, and the formation of our solar system.
We were then presented with a sign warning us that we might get wet ahead. With a small amount of trepidation, we continued on.
Turns out that built into the centre is a small water ride, similar to those found at most amusement parks, where 4 people sit a tube, and bob along an artificial river. The boat ride takes you back through the creation of the earth, through snow, wind, fire and water. I really liked this, as it is not something I have ever before experience in a “museum”.
After the boat ride, you walk through a vortex simulating the big bang! Thoroughly enjoyable despite my susceptibility to motion sickness.
You are now in the museum proper.
The museum itself covers a number of themes, starting from the beginning of the world, the path to humanity, what it means to be human, bipedalism, development of the jaw and diet, stone tools, the development and control of fire, development of language, living with others, peopling the world, creative explosion and finally onto sustainability.
Most of the exhibits are quite hands on, meaning that most kids shouldn’t get too bored too quickly. The museum is almost tunnel like in appearance, with the middle of the tunnel housing most of the pieces, with the side of the tunnel being given over to thought provoking pieces (for example water conservation, education etc).
The final part of the museum houses an original fossil display, with the pieces all being loaned to Maropeng from various archeological sites from around South Africa.
We had the pleasure of having most of the place to ourselves, which in my opinion is the best way of actually exploring a museum. Thats not to say that the museum was deserted, and it was getting seriously busy when we made our way out.
Once you exit the museum, there are some quite breathtaking views over the Highveld, backdropped by the Magaliesberg Mountains in the background.
We didn’t eat at the museum, instead we headed on back to trusty Pretoria for lunch, but there are restaurants in the area for those who would like to try them.
My advice, enjoy the museum, embrace your inner child and try out some of the hands on exhibitions, and take the time to enjoy this World Heritage site! Definitely don’t miss out on the opportunity to speak to an extinct Dodo bird, or even the Quagga. Match up gene pools, and if your brave enough, sticking your hand into concealed boxes to try to guess the object.