A Typical Day in South Africa: Part 1 – The Rising Star Cave
A week or so ago I got back from South Africa after successfully completing the NESA World Explorers Paleoanthropology Expedition. It was a great experience and I learned more about South African culture and the Rising Star Cave System and Malapa Excavation Site than I ever could have imagined.
Perhaps the most common question I received regarding the expedition was "What was a typical day like?" This post, and a second one to come, will address that by describing a day at each of the excavation sites we visited.
The first part of the expedition involved what the researchers referred to as caving and exploration. This essentially involved driving the buggy into the South African bush, hiking off trail, looking for undiscovered caves or revisiting older caves with outdated GPS information. The day outlined in this post was a bit more exciting than the other two days since an extremely large number of hominid (a primate of a family ( Hominidae ) that includes humans and their fossil ancestors and also (in recent systems) at least some of the great apes) fossils were discovered, and continue to be discovered, in the Rising Star Cave System, but all of the days were jam packed with intellectual stimulation.
So, on to the day:
We (Ethan, my fellow Eagle Scout and World Explorer) were picked up from our hotel around 07:45 and driven to the Rising Star Cave site. Then, we donned some coveralls and headed into the cave with Rick Hunter (caver), Dr. Marina Elliott (researcher), Maropeng (caver) and Mathabella (caver). We started out in an easier section of the cave and worked our way up to more difficult sections such as the Superman Crawl and the Postbox. We attempted the upside down turn around, but decided to call it a day without making it through that extremely awkward section of cave.
Along the way, we also saw the Dragon's Back, a particularly treacherous, exposed, 15m climb, and the Berger Box, so named due to renowned scientist Dr. Lee Berger getting stuck in that particular section for multiple hours.
After touring the cave and helping the researchers collect water bottles which recorded the amount of sediment in the cave water, we headed for lunch at the Maropeng visitor centre. I had a chakalaka salad (a mix of beans, cabbage, and spices made into a relish) burger before touring the museum about the Cradle of Humankind.
Above is a photo of the Homo naledi bones, currently on display in the Maropeng Visitor Centre museum.
After the museum, we were dropped off at our hotel where we showered before dinner at the hotel restaurant with our exploration team (usually we ate lunch and dinner at the hotel restaurant by ourselves). Dinner was a buffet, but some highlights included snails (which we originally understood to be snake), ostrich cold cuts and extremely spicy curry.
After dinner we went to bed and prepared for our next day of exploration!
The cover photo is of Ethan and I in the Rising Star Cave at the base of the Dragon's Back climb.