We were up early this morning, all packed and ready for our ride to the airport. We snagged a to-go coffee and some bread and cheese from our sweet hotel restaurant staff and climbed into the van for what turned out to be a quick drive to the airport. Our flight (flight #4) to Johannesburg went without a hitch, only a few minutes late. After collecting our bags we were happy to find a gentleman holding a sign with our names on it. He had us follow along until the assigned driver pulled up. Boy, what a difference it made flying north! After cool spring weather we were hit with heat. Had to slather on the sun screen. After a lengthy drive we arrived at our destination, Maritime Bushveld Estates and were met by the gracious hosts, Brenda and Conrad. They have an extraordinary place that looks and feels like you’re in the bush when it’s just on the northwestern border of the city. The first thing we saw were the Springbok wandering by. First time I wss happy to see a type of deer. They brought us to our rooms which were actually stand alone units called rondawels – the Afrikans name for a round building. They are beyond charming, complete with thatched roofs. I loved it! We were soon met by Amos, out guide for the afternoon. A most interesting fellow – a retired history teacher who decided to guide. We headed off for Maropeng, the world heritage site for the cradle of humankind. It took us a good hour of driving out of the city environs to reach it but you see the surrounding Magaliesberg mountains. Closer in there are all sorts of mounds in the fields – termites. Arriving at Maropeng the first thing you see is something called a tumulus….apparently it’s a mounded burial ground. We went off in search of lunch first then found that the restaurant was closed due to a conference, but we were welcomed to eat at the hotel we found located behind then museum. Lunch completed we walked back to the museum but ended up basically going through it backwards. Ah, well. We still leaned about all the paleoanthropologic things associated with this area. Well done with interactive displays that would enrapt school aged children. It even included a “boat” ride through their elements – water, fire, earth and wind. Perhaps the most interesting part was the section on the discovery just made on 2013 in local caves of the bones of the homo naledi, another, earlier version of humankind.
Once through we meet back up with Amos for the drive back to the lodge. He took us back different roads which gave us the opportunity to see a number of animals in local reserves, including lions, giraffes, and a buffalo. We also used the drive to pick Amos’ brain about life here now and during his lifetime, as he lived 40 years under apartheid and the rest free. Fascinating.
Once back to the lodge we found a beautiful sunset just as we determined it was time to open a bottle of wine that we brought from our Cape Town winery tours. At 1930 we walked up to the long house to have dinner with our hosts and the other couple staying here – Brian and Betsy. We had a delightful evening over a delicious dinner that Brenda had made, including multiple vegetable dishes after learning I was vegetarian. Amazing. Their conversation was lively, the wine flowed and the evening passed swiftly. We learned that the other couple will also be joining us for our Kruger safari.