About six years ago, I remember coming across a Youtube video of a golf hole in South Africa dubbed “The Extreme 19th Hole.” I was immediately interested when I saw a thumbnail of the video showing a pro golfer peering over an enormous cliff, looking at a tiny Africa-shaped green below. I knew that some day, I would have to play this crazy par 3.
It’s election day here in South Africa, and the polling station is right up the road from our house. Our landlady and friend Lauren brought me along when she voted, so I got to see South African democracy in action.
Back in May, we visited the Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary just out side of Hartbeespoort, North West Provice with Rebecca and our nephew Jacob. Set in an enclosed forest on the side of an escarpment, the sanctuary is home to dozens of squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchins, and lemurs. Most of the residents were rescued from the illegal pet trade, or adopted from homes of owners who got tired of having a monkey around the house. They were cute, curious, endlessly entertaining, and most of all, mischievous.
Spencer’s parents and sister are visiting, so we are trying to show them as much of Joburg as we possibly can in a few days. In doing so, we discovered just how eclectic and diverse this place is. It was, as my Father-in-law described it, an urban adventure.
Just a short drive outside of Johannesburg, unassuming tracts of farmland and rolling hills hide the scientific garden of eden. Here, an area of just 180-square miles has produced some of the oldest hominid fossils ever found. More than 40% of human ancestor fossils found in the world have been unearthed here, and they have provided vital clues in piecing together the story of where humans came from. It was from this sites that science was able to determine that all of humanity came to be in Africa. The scientific discoveries made here, some as old as 3.5 million years, and the discoveries that continue to be made in the area, are why Cradle of Humankind is included as part of one of South Africa’s eight UNESCO world heritage sites.
Spending a year in Johannesburg makes us not-quite-locals and not-quite-tourists. We have been spending a lot of our time in the city trying to get a real feel for the place, finding hidden gems and our favorite spots. But when visitors come to town, we get to do all the real tourist stuff, like visit a lion park and ride around on the red tour bus. This is also how we ended up booking a night’s stay at the Lesedi Cultural Village.
If South Africa is known for only one thing, it is the incredible wildlife that roam its lands. Yet in the four months since Spencer and I moved here, we had yet to spot much more than lizards and house pets in the city. So with the arrival of my sister and nephew, it was time to head into the bush.
Sorry for the brief hiatus. Spencer and I have been bunkered down for the last week working hard, and haven’t done anything worth sharing. At the same time, my sister Rebecca was gearing up to make a 15 hour transatlantic flight with her two year-old son. She is very brave. They both arrived last night, tired but happy. Here is her own wise advice for surviving such a ordeal with sanity intact.
Today is Freedom day in South Africa, commemorating 22 years since the first democratic election was held here, marking the official end of institutionalized colonialism and apartheid in the country. This weekend, we got a glimpse at both South Africa’s dark past and bright future at Constitution Hill.