Exploring Johannesburg and Pretoria

We hit 3 major areas of South Africa during our visit. We started in Johannesburg, went on safari farther east, headed down to Cape Town for some touring, and then headed back to Joburg before our flight home. The map might help give some context.

Henriët’s Tannie (Auntie) Engela totally took care of us for our touring in Johannesburg and Pretoria between our arrival and the wedding. On our second full day, Nolls came by in a nicely outfitted van to pick up Carla, Jeff, Andrew, and me.

Engela and Nolls discussing the afternoon’s events.

Nolls is a certified South Africa tour guide. The certified guides have to pass some rigorous tests on general South Africa history, cultures, geology, and geography and specific tests in the area they serve. You can tell the certified tour guides by the green, black, red, and yellow badgest they wear. We had quite a few of these excellent guides during our trip and they were all excellent. We had a great time talking with Nolls about South Africa.

Our first stop was the Cradle of Humankind.

The purple pin shows the Cradle of Humankind. The “A”pin shows the approximate location of Linden where Irien and Adrian live.

A number of hominid fossils were discovered there including “Little Foot” a near complete Australopithecus skeleton which is 3.3 million years old. This is the oldest hominid fossil yet discovered.

In the cave where Little Foot was discovered
The view from the Cradle of HumanKind site.

Another site was a mound that looked like a snowy peak. Actually it is the tailings of a gold mine. I think in recent years they’ve invented a method of extracting more ore from the tailings so they are going back through it.

Gold mine tailing in the distance. Adrian worked in this gold mine when he was young

After our tour, we headed to lunch where we met Engela and Trix. Jeff’s long term goal has been to eat as many different types of meat as possible. So Engela organized a lunch at Carnivore. We ate chicken, pork, crocodile, impala, kudu, and zebra.  I had some of everything, but couldn’t quite get my head around the zebra. It’s like eating a donkey. But Jeff was in food heaven.

A nice serving of chicken livers for Jeff and Andrew


Jeff’s kind of restaurant!

The next day (Thursday June 21) Nolls picked us up again and we headed to Sammy Mark’s historical house near Pretoria. Sammy Mark was born in 1843 and was a very successful business man in the 1880’s. He had five children and was set to bequeath his estate to his kids. But he had two conditions. They had to graduate from college and could not marry outside the Jewish faith. Not one of the kids met his conditions so he disinherited all of them. All the better for us I suppose. The house was fully furnished showing how a mansion of the 1880’s operated. There was a huge cast iron stove in a very large kitchen and the biggest pool table I have ever seen. On the side of the room there was a raised couch where the participants sat and had their shoes polished. There are spittoons aplenty.

Sammy Mark’s historical house

Engela follows my Burger Project blog and arranged to meet us at the best burger joint in Pretoria: Ed’s.

Carla, Jeff, Andrew, me, Engela, Trix perusing the menus at Ed’s

The burgers were indeed wonderful. An interesting South African touch is that you can order them with “veggies” instead of fries. Veggies in this case meant roasted squash and creamed spinach. I went for a combo of fries and onion rings. Also you dip your fries in “tomato sauce”; however, it’s a name thing like “chips” for fries. It’s just another name for ketchup

After lunch we dropped in to visit Henriët’s Ouma  (grandmother) Tikkie. She is a wonderful person. She offered us tea but we just visited for a few minutes before heading out on our late afternoon adventure.

Engela, Jeff, Carla, me, Jeanette (Ouma), Andrew, Trix

To cap off the day, we headed to the Voortrekker Monument Voortrekker is Afrikaans for “those who trek ahead”. When the English took over the coast lands of South Africa the Afrikaans headed inland and went many different ways. Their wagons looked very much like our pioneer “prairie schooners” (or Conestoga Wagons). Pretoria is about a mile above sea level so they had quite a trek indeed.

The inside of the monument has a series of friezes which depict the trek and the settling of the area.

Voortrekker Monument

I don’t have space to cover all of South Africa’s history in this space. A nice article can be found here in Wikipedia. It covers prehistoric times of the Bantu people settling and developing into the San people. And continues up through Dutch arrival, the English arrival and the battles between the two nationalities. It also includes information on apartheid and it’s ending.

Next article: the wedding!

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