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Cradle of Human Culture, Garden Route

What an experience we had a couple of days ago doing the Cradle of Human Culture tour( https://www.cradleofhumanculture.co.za ) in the Garden Route. All sponsored by WESGRO( https://wesgro.co.za ) arranged by Cape Tour guides association (https://www.ctga.org ) and extra sponsors like the Diamond Gallery ( https://www.thediamondgallery.co.za) .

27 tour guides, 4 Media and 1 WESGRO representative and one coach (Bus) Captain, met early Monday morning at the V&A waterfront. The original itinerary was to stop at the De kelders caves but due to some maintenance we could not go so headed directly to Stilbaai. We stopped at the Blombos museum where Izak Venter broke the group into 2 and took us in the museum. He talked about the start of Humankind or known as Homo sapiens.  It is believed 150000 odd years ago even more that southern Africa was the change from the other Homo groups like Homo Erectus. Stone tools were found in old caves like Blombos, Paintings from ochre, some carvings and even some jewellery made from ostrich shells. Thus, meaning the brain has started to develop to change some behaviours.

With being close to the ocean and the shell middens reflecting it the diet consisted of a lot of seafood which is high in Omega fatty acids which is believed to be particularly good fo

r brain development.  Thus, the believe that the coast and seafood diet was crucial for Homo Sapien development, in those early years before google and smart phones.

Lunch was served next the restaurant and interesting enough there is a Paling gat with eels living in the fresh water. Need to do another visit to get more information about them as one of the guides did do a quick share about her knowledge of the site. 11am is feeding time so kiddies will love the experience for sure, we unfortunately missed all of that.

After Lunch we headed if to the beach to look at the ancient stone fish traps dating properly from 3000 years back and can even be much much older. They are currently maintained by some local famers and interested people. Really a good look at the ingenuity of the early humans on our shores.Our next stop was Mossel Bay where we stayed at “the Point Hotel” really on the beach. Had to close the patio door to be able to sleep as the ocean was really happy to see “tourist” in the hotel, or so I think. What a wonderful view and leaning a bit over the patio I could see the Cape St Blaize lighthouse and below it the Cape St Blaize Cave. More on the cave shortly.The evening we went to “Gannet Restaurant” and started with a Gin distillery tour. The Saint Blaize distillery is based in the same building complex. Restaurant, Protea group hotel and a distillery who make their own bottles. Was super interesting to find out they make their own Bottles as well. 3 gins one the market and then you can “make” your own gin as well and bottle with your name etc. It is a 2-hour experience and I think would be awesome to do with the miniature stills and different botanicals you can decide to add. We ended the tour with a lekker tasting just before dinner ending day 1 of The Cradle of Human culture tour.

Day 2 started after a hearty breakfast with a Zip line ( https://mosselbayzipline.co.za), the longest over the ocean in the world and spanning 1100 meters.  Walk around the corner of the hotel, sign in, weigh in, briefing, gear sorted, jump in vehicle and drive to the launch site about 10 minutes up the hill. Then a short walk the platform another briefing and clipped in on the line and whooossshhhh you go ending seconds later. A quick check of your hotel room in the hotel as you whoosh past and then smile at the paparazzi at the end of the line. Definitely an awesome adrenaline rush experience.nAfterwards an uphill walk to the other corner of the hotels to the Cape St Blaize cave.

This cave was also the 1st site for scientific Archaeological studies in South Africa done in 1888 by George Leith. But here we met Christopher Jantjies and Dr Peter Nillsen of who told us the findings and stories of the area. They are part of Point of human origins ( https://www.humanorigin.co.za ) with Peter being the founder of the Pinnacle point caves in 1997. After an extensive talk by Peter and Chris we headed of the Pinnacle point golf estate. Wow what an impressive area. Then we headed off with a walk alongside the cliffs to PP13B. The hearty breakfast definitely was worked out with the up and down walk. It really was an awesome experience to stand in one of the caves with Peter and Chris explaining the details found in the middens in and around the caves. The stone tools, ochre for painting, shells etc. The believe is the Agulhas bank thousands of years ago was grass plains and the people staying in these caves then did not had ocean front as it is now.  To many words to write in this blog to explain. Best is to come on tour, and we get Peter or Christopher to tell in their own words how who and when and of course experience it 1st hand. The photos and my scribbling really do not do the experience justice. What is really interesting in the Point of human origin tour narration is the mention of Homo sapiens not the tribes or race who has been here before or after. Which give you quite a weird insight of our early ancestors of probably a 160000 years ago.

The lower down caves all with their unique PP cave numbers got damaged by the ocean and father time so the higher dryer cave is where the scientist/archaeologists concentrate their energy on. Not that they are ignoring the smaller lower down caves. My personal favourite was how the stone tools got made or thought of been made. Where even heat treatment was used to harden the stones. One of the 1sts again in the world. Def a well worth visit even can do it as full day outing walking from Cape St Blaize cave to Pinnacle Point. About 14 km.

Wow is all I can say, cannot wait to go back and hear again what I missed the 1st time.

After this we slowly got back into the bus with stiff legs and got a great sandwich for lunch on the bus. Peter the bus Captain took over again and we headed to Knysna for an Oyster and Sparkling wine experience at the Project restaurant ( https://theprojectbar.co.za). One of 4 restaurants in the chain. We had 1 cultivated and 3 local wild Fresh Oysters to try out. Cultivated is the Crassostrea gigas and the wild ones Crassostrea margaritacea. Oysters I will not get out of the way to get but these were divine. Don’t know if it was the view of the Knysna lagoon and the heads the company or the bubbles or just all combined. Another tick list for upcoming tour itineraries for sure.

From here we headed to Plettenberg bay and stayed over in the Bay view hotel ( https://www.bayviewhotel.co.za). Here we got spoiled again by the hotel and Plettenberg bay tourism with local dignitaries from council and government joining us and a talk by Mike Kantey of the Plett Historical Society. Some more gin tasting provided by Adi’s Kitchen where we had dinner and a good breakfast again. A good end for most of us. Some guides ended in the penthouse and the batteries for some of them the morning was not fully charged. Was so much fun to talk loud to the party animals and keep them on their toes the rest of the morning.

Wednesday morning after Breakfast bus was loaded and we headed to Rob berg reserve. Patty Butterworth the CEO of Plettenberg bay Tourism ( https://www.plett-tourism.co.za ) met up and gave us a rundown of the area. I was drooling a bit as at the water below we could see the outline of a wreck. SO, some of the info I lost due to looking at ways of getting to it in future for a scuba dive. Anyways the group split into 2 where group no 1 went to Nelson Bay cave with a guide Petrus and Group 2 the other way with a guide and Madam CEO. A quick hike around the area gave spectacular views with round smooth river stones high up on the mountain. Showing a good possibility that perhaps the keurboom river ran here thousands of years ago. The river mouth now across the bay far away. Nelsons bay Cave was 1st excavated in the 1960’s. Stone age artefact has been found and is now declared a world heritage site as part of the Cape floral Kingdom.  The cave was home to lots of people over a long period of time dating back to 125 000 years.

A much easier walk to get to from the road compared to the Pinnacle point Cave. A small exhibition can be viewed inside the cave and is open to the public. A great window in the past with shell middens and reading on the boards. Can spend more time at the caves and just walking on the reserve with great views beaches and mountains.

Then it was time to head to Oudtshoorn via George where we had lunch with locals at ‘The Pot Restaurant” nice beef curry and rice with roosterkoek. (bread baked on the fire). The desert was my favourite, traditional koeksisters. An extremely sweet syrupy plaited dough deep fried and then dunked in ice cold syrup. The well-known Outeniqua pass took us into Oudtshoorn in the klein Karoo. Coming from a high coastal rainfall region and within minutes you arrive in the semi-arid dry Klein Karoo.

Our last night on the road we slept at Swartberg Manor. The Setting was so beautiful with lush green fields around and sheep and lambs baaing and a couple of cattle mooing. We were welcomed with a glass of Cape Vintage wine (South African version of Port). And then had a lovely braai ending with another traditional dessert for me, Malva poeding. And then more prices were drawn. On the buss raffles was bought for fund raising and then every evening drawn and some lucky draws. Being the last evening all the prices came out and I was lucky enough to have my name drawn and won a very welcome cash price from The Diamond Gallery. Sleep however did not come early as I tried some Star trail photography, but the full moon did play a trick on me, but I were able to get some ok shots. At the end I took my bedding out of the room leaving my roommate all alone and slept on the stoep(veranda) on the day bed. How nice to sleep almost in the open. When I woke, I could see the whole valley below with sun winking over the far-off mountains. Such a great experience.

After Breakfast we headed down to the Famous Cango Caves. This is really a great attraction all need to visit and experience themselves. Thousands of year-old stone / stalagmite, stalactite formations in all shapes and sizes to be seen.  The guide in the caves was Steve Mouton who conveyed the stories of the caves and areas extremely well.

We 1st had a talk by Jeremy van Wyk about Local Khoi culture and cultural information. How words came to be etc. Really interesting again to hear words that could not be pronounced changed into something almost similar over the years. Just before we left, he blessed us with a local herb called Kooigoed (helichrysum odoratissimum). Such an awesome way to end a great educational before going for lunch and wine tasting at Karusa and then taking the 4-hour odd drive back to Cape Town.

The Karusa wine was good but the Sherry really stood out for me. Think was my 1st sherry tasting at a vineyard.

Please note the Cradle of Human culture is different from the cradle of Humankind but do link up. We just did a high light tour of the coastal journey and there is much much more to see and do on this route. Then up the Westcoast of South Africa, The artists journey is also available. Art, Culture Archaeological and all over tourism attractions on these routes can be stopped at and experienced.

Big applause to WESGRO for sponsorship and then the CTGA executive committee running and planning the trip so perfectly. You all rock like the Diamonds Gallery hash tag #capetownrocks.

The other sponsors were. Mossel bay Tourism , Knysna tourism office, Tulbagh Tourism, Essere Lodge, Wittedrift Manor, Readers Restaurant, Lemberg Wine Estate, Nelson Wine, Krone Wine, Rijk’s wine estate and Hotel, Saronsberg cellar, Culinary tactics and Goedgedagt trading. Apologies for those I missed, that why the CTGA exec is not named as I will miss someone. Still bit sour I did not win some of the lekker wines, but now must make a trip to the beautiful Tulbagh valley again.

AND AGAIN: Thank you for all that made this post covid 19 Cradle of Human Culture tour such a huge success and giving hope to all our tourism partners around our area that the tourism industry will stand up again.

PS: photos can be viewed on my face book page: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=DiveInnCT&set=a.127718962694050