The Cradle of Humankind

Accommodation in The Cradle of Humankind

Taryn Cohn

Who would have “thunk it” that only 30 minutes from Johannesburg’s relentless streets lies the origins of mans story on earth - four million years of history. The Cradle of Humankind is a 47 000 hectare area, forty kilometres west of the city, among nondescript dusty koppies, a few shrubs and trees. (By the way addition to being the home of the hominid, it is also the Home of the Chicken Pie, a great lunch stop- but I digress)

What better place to contemplate the meaning of life than where the oldest evidence of mans ancestors on earth have been found.

The Sterkfontein valley aka the Cradle of Humankind consists of around 40 different fossil sites, 13 of which have been excavated. In 1997 Ron Clarke discovered the footbone of what was previously mistaken to be a small animal in The Sterkfontein Caves, the most significant site.  It was in fact Little Foot- the most significant archeological find of all time.

Caves are also a day out that is not soon forgotten. Not for the fainthearted or high-heeled, a visit inside the caves is a walk, climb and crawl through these millions of years of history (and a few lesser known facts).

Here are a few things I learnt:  There is limestone in my toothpaste (who knew), nothing but bats and see through shrimp live underground (take snacks), all that glitters is not gold and a tour-guide with a Colgate smile is a great asset if the lights go out.

When you emerge into the sunlight on the other end, don’t forget to give Uncle Ron’s nose (or at least that of his bronze effigy) a rub (for luck) when you come out the other end.

Additional activities in the Cradle of Humankind include Maropeng, a museum which engages with the origins of man in a fun, interactive way. For the more adventurous hot air balloon rides are also a must. Private tours hosted by the Dr. Colin Menter site director and resident archeologist of Drimolen can be organized in advance by Paleotours. These take place in the Rhino and Lion park.

A weekend out would be a little difficult without a place to stay. A nature reserve in the Cradle of Humankind, The Cradle boasts only two kinds of accommodation.

  1. The Sweet Suite, which was, to use a South Africanism, Schweet.
  2. and the Chalets.

The former is a stand alone cottage, situated alongside the signature restaurant which boasts a bath that you could easily house you and a whole family of Little Foot’s (not that I am suggesting anything untoward here). Night visitors to the Suite included a White Rhino, of which several roam the park freely. Fortunately the Leopards are a less friendly sort of neighbour and kept to themselves.

A second night, spent in a wooden cabin alongside a babbling brook was a stark contrast to the anxious city we left behind.  I must have made out at least fifteen different noises from the animals, birds and bugs as lay awake wondering why the lack of sirens I am so used made it harder, not easier, to get to sleep.

But the real gem of the Cradle is, well, The Cradle, a restaurant that looks out over 3000 hectares of nature where the menu competes comfortably with 4 million years of history. Managed by Executive Chef Adrian Cook, the Cradle does a brisk but relaxed weekend trade with a special focus on special events.

While the food was wonderful, the real answer to my existential question came from talking to Adrian himself.  Spending well over an hour with us over breakfast I came to a conclusion -the real meaning of life is to find what you love and do it well -something which he has done in an unassuming way with loads of personality and bringing a contribution to our culinary landscape that while possibly not lasting 4 million years, will not soon be forgotten.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding- which by the way was a crème brulee with just the right amount of crunch.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the Sneaky Weekender articles on this website, do not necessarily reflect the views of Finding Africa.

Easybreaks -The Cradle of Humankind
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