ON WINTER weekends us city types don't want to get out of bed too early to take long drives.

That's why The Cradle, a 3000 hectare World Heritage site is an ideal weekend jaunt for jaded city slickers. It's a short distance, no more than an hour's drive from both Jozi and Pretoria, and there's more than enough in The Cradle to soothe you back to normal.

If you do find yourself early on a Saturday in The Cradle, on Kromdraai Road, weaving through the misty countryside, you'll be in the company of ribbons of cyclists - the Cyclelab riders - who move in almost endless echelons into the heart of The Cradle and out again from the Montecasino area. So if you want to find the area without looking on a map, follow the riders from about 6am onwards.

Hot air balloons also drift slowly through the mists over this ancient countryside.

The Cradle gets its name from the fossils that have been discovered in this area.

The fossils are older than ordinary human fossils. They belong to creatures known as hominids that came before humans and are millions of years older.

They made this area their home for a long time. Our ancestors are said to have lived in this area for more than 3million years.

Maropeng is a centre set up to educate people specifically about these "Cradle of Humankind" fossils, and can be found on the lower end of The Cradle, along the N14.

Maropeng means "place of origin" in Setswana.

It is virtually in the heart of this area that you'll find the world famous Sterkfontein Caves, the site of some of the greatest discoveries in the fossil record, and new discoveries are uncovered each day.

But if you only want to dedicate half of an afternoon to soothing your senses, you don't have to visit Maropeng or the caves.

There's The Cradle restaurant, about 20 minutes from Montecasino off the Kromdraai Road. It has beautiful sweeping views from a deck featuring tasteful décor. It's a great place to have a drink with the elegant quiet of nature as a backdrop.

The Cradle is the perfect place for a quick back-to-nature experience.