14.06.2009 - 14.06.2009
I am a nerd. Whilst not always wanting to admit it, if I am honest, i regularly display nerd-like tendencies. And thus it was that everybody was forced out of bed an hour early, solely to satisfy my requirement of visiting Olduvai Gorge, somewhere which the other tourists had never even heard of. The road to the gate of Ngorongoro National Park was wonderfully new and pristine and had the sort of hills that make me crave a bicycle (Italian incidents notwithstanding). The road from the gate on to the rim of the Crater and down the other side is rough, winding, with sheer drops and was, when we passed over it, so misty that visibility was pretty much restricted to inside the vehicle. Which is not always ideal when you are trying to drive over it. By the time we got to Olduvai a few hours later, there were a couple of relieved faces in the vehicle.
As previously mentioned, Olduvai Gorge is where Louis Leakey, Hans Beck and the team discovered signs of human habitation dating back 3.5million years, the oldest yet found anywhere on Earth. The area of Olduvai – which is actually Oldupai, but is called Olduvai because the first European to reach this point (Beck) misheard the tribesmen's pronunciation. Even now, some of the locals dislike Germans solely because Beck was responsible for getting the name wrong. - and Laetoli (where the famous footprints were found) covers a huge area, and is still largely unsearched: teams from all over the world visit every year to help with the ongoing excavations and searches and discoveries, at least on a small scale, are still common. And there is much which remains entirely unknown and/or open to various interpretations. It is just a small glimpse – but a tantalising one – into the origins of humankind.
For us, it was just a 90minute stop to peer into the Gorge, wander the museum, and hear a lecture about what we were seeing and it's discovery given by a very friendly and enthusiastic local, although one who did spend about half of his talk drilling into us the fact that it really should be Oldupai. But it was still good. I would have loved to have had more time to explore the Gorge and the surrounding areas, and to have been able to spend a week or more helping out with the digging, but sadly it is not to be. At least not now, at any rate. Now it was time to continue on our merry way, and see what we might see.