Wonder Cave

Madi and I got up late in the morning because our room is pretty cold. There are sheets on our bed and then very thick blankets on top. I got ready and we were all set to run to breakfast but then Madi couldn’t find her phone. We check everywhere in the room. There are very limited places where it could be because we woke up to the alarm on her phone. We searched up until the last minute when we had to go and meet the rest of the group to walk to school. The problem is we need to lock up all of our personal items because in the past if things have been left out, they have been stolen. But we couldn’t find her phone so we just had to hope that if it was lost enough for us, ut was lost enough for whomever tries to steal it.

We walked to the university and it was a bit closer than before because they had more gates open. We went upstairs to the 18 floor again and had a security briefing. A big burly white South African man came in and told us all of the horror stories and why we had to keep safe. South African accents are so much fun. A mix of British, Dutch, African, and weirdly Austrialian to me. The gist was stay in packs and be aware. If someone does threaten you, give them what they want. Their government is corrupt (look up President Zulu) and I was like shoot everyone is unsafe. He even told a story of people biting people to give them aids. All in all freaked out. He even pulled out his pocket knife for that added effect. Will never be alone. Or even with only four gals. No worries.

The briefing freaked us all out sufficiently but it didn’t say anything I didn’t expect. Unlike Peru and Mexico, I felt safe in the streets but here I don’t. There is no one on the streets so I am always on edge. Our professor came back and we learned about colonization. The Portuguese came for a shipping route and thought SA was too wild and dangerous. The Dutch came and thought it was perfect for a pit stop on their way to India. They didn’t want to colonize but that is what ended up happening. They brought slaves and more people and then the British took over. We discussed South African slavery and compared and contrasted it to the new world slavery. It is interesting how they brought slaves to Africa and how they reacted with their owners and the native people. There were a lot less slaves than there we in America but they were more isolated and alone. Our professor would always start to go on feminist asides and then go lbut whatever” because we would already see her point. We also discussed current SA politics and how their president compared to Trump.

It was a day when we jumped from one thing to the next. We hopped on a bus straight from the uni and didn’t have time to stop at our rez for lunch so luckily we had our sandwhiches prepacked (note the SA lingo of uni (campus) and rez (residents hall aka guest house aka hotel resort). 

Our first stop was the Sterfonkein Cave. It is a world heritage site and is where they found the early hominids of Little Foot and Ms P. They predate Lucy. Our cave guide was this really nice African man who spoke 7 languages. His accent was interested because he really rolled his r and added clicks when he was thinking or changing topics. It was a neat cave but noting to crazy because there had been miners that have taken away the limestone beauty. There was a really deep lake though in the cave. They don’t even know how deep it is and when they went down with a team, one of them never returned. After 6 months, they found his body in an underground lake and he had carved into a rock that he loved his mom and his wife. Spooky. No more cave explorations. It reminded me of a radio lab about deep cave diving in Africa that is one of my top 5 favorite episodes because it is so sad and spooky and really resonates. There was a museum before the cave tour that was very well done. I love a well done Museum.

Up next, the cave of wonders. But it wasn’t just the cave that was amazing. The cave was on a game reserve. On our drive to the cave, we drove past ostrich, giselles, a giraffe, and wildebeasts. Our driver was slow through the drive so it was perfect. The wonder cave is a commercial cave so there was a little eating place picnic table set up while we waited for our tour. 

Photo by http://www.elianafrench.com/

A big young guy in short kakis came out to lead us down in the cave. It was an old limestone mine from the Italians but they didn’t destroy too much of it. We went down a few stairs into the natural opening and then split up into groups of 9 to get on a shoddy old elevator. It was one of the old ones with the old gate so when we went down we could see the cave walls around us and then the opening of our the cave. It was a pretty large sized cavern (larger than Sturfrokein from before) there were prettier columns and formations. One that looked like a jelly fish and one that looked like a lady praying. 

The guy took us through the whole cavern pointing out the formations and old monkey bones. There was an earthquake a long time ago in the cave so there was a large pile of loose rocks. The story is that the monkey was by the old second natural opening during the earthquake, fell in, broke his little legs, and died in the cave. Sad monkey. The area where the Italians mined was still there and they showed us the old equipment they used. We emerged from the cave to find a mom and baby warthog by the picnic area so we all watched the baby pumba. The sun was setting when we rolled out on the cave so it was rather pretty.

Instead of going straight home, we were going to a BBQ “Braai” with the history and tourism students from the University of Pretoria. The bus stopped at a bottle shop to pickup drinks. I got this strawberry coke product I thought looked cool but it tasted like medicine. At the braai, we mingled with the students a bit and then we were introduced to the crowd and given a little beaded animal. I was given a scorpion and then traded for an ostrich. The other students seemed old to me but they were all our age. We had the best meal yet, chicken, sausage, shredded oats that tasted like grits, and a warm chocolate cake thing.

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