Gert Smit’s Tomatoes (# 14)

Author's copy of Farini's account of his travels through the Kalahari

Author’s copy of Farini’s account of his travels through the Kalahari

“So that’s how Jacques and Harry got to join a patrol along the Kaplyn. It turned out to be the background of a fantastic article, for which the Jacques won the CNN African Journalist of the Year award. The Argus was, naturally, extremely happy with his efforts. His was one of the first hard-hitting reports about army-life on the border. That, as you may guess, was the price of his silence regarding Gert Smit – and it turned out well for him. By the way, the accompanying photographs – by Harry – got an honourable mention, as well.”

Gertruida knows Vetfaan has lost some of his enthusiasm for the story. But, she knows, a story doesn’t make sense if it doesn’t return to its beginning. Just like in real life, we have to travel back in time to make sense of the future. This, of course, would only serve to confuse Vetfaan, so she doesn’t say it at all.


“…and it’s all in that old Bible?” Lettie watched Gert as he wrestled the Beetle over the rutted track. They’ve been on the road for three solid days and now are nearing the point where they’d have to abandon the Beetle or turn back.

“Yes. Your father suggested we find a hide-out. His idea was that we start a new life in some small town in Botswana, but I told him that’s too risky. Too many spies, too many informers. It’ll be a matter of time before we’re discovered.

Farini's original map of his travels. The red X added to highlight the position of the ruins.

Farini’s original map of his travels. The red X added to highlight the position of the ruins.

“We were discussing this while I was packing when he noticed the Bible. He asked, and I gave him the background. I also mentioned the maps…and when he saw these, he became extremely excited.

“You see, I initially tried to follow my great-great grandfather’s stories, and didn’t pay much attention to the maps – at least, not until I was on the run to get back from Angola. Those days I spent on river islands, waiting for the later hours of the day before continuing downstream on the Cuando, were endless. Eventually I could almost recite that Bible word for word. So I started looking at the maps he drew, hoping against hope that it might help me find a way home. It was stupid, of course, to think he had something about northern Botswana in there. I was surprised to notice Lake Ngami right at the top: that isn’t far from Maun. And then I noticed the reference to the ‘ruins’.

“Ruins should refer to old buildings, meaning people once lived there but moved on. It also implies water nearby. And that, my love, seems to be a good place to hide. Your father gave me a rifle and some bullets. With water and meat – and whatever the veld supplies – we can live there a long time. Your father thinks this is the site of the Lost City of the Kalahari…”




The moment Gertruida mentioned the Lost City, Vetfaan sits up. Now, that was something that interests him! Farini’s lost city has been a subject on many a discussion in Boggel’s Place. That, and the possibility of treasure…

“It seems that Gert’s great-great grandfather, also named Gert, was a rather clever man. Not only did he keep record of the travels – apparently Farini himself copied much of what he’d written – but he was also responsible for navigation. Farini, being from the northern hemisphere, knew nothing of the night sky in Southern Africa, even less about local conditions. He relied heavily on old Gert’s knowledge, and that’s where the maps came from.”

download (10)“But hundreds of people have looked for that place, Gertruida. Even Laurens van der Post looked for it. Alan Paton wrote a book about it. It’s not there…”

“Well, you must remember that old Gert wasn’t stupid. He drew the map, pinpointing the place. But he knew Farini would publish it and that a whole bunch of people would be interested in finding treasure there. He simply led them all astray.

“Gert Smit would never have found the place if he hadn’t realised the detailed map of the Kalahari, pinpointing the ‘Ruins’, was drawn on a very specific page in the old man’s version of the New Testament….next to the story of the resurrection.

“Another clue to the real position, is the way he sketched Lake Kang on the map. He was way off. And, of course, he described it as a lake, while it really never is more than a pan…or a puddle. So, if you look at Google Earth, you get an idea of where it was.” Google Earth is yet another thing Gertruida has to explain..


Old Gert’s Bible:

…And so the third day arrived and the Lord rose from the stone slab in the cave where they had put him. It was Sunday, so He stretched and walked out to the garden. Here He met some of His friends and family, who mistook Him for the gardener.

 And verily, He walketh towards the sun for an hour and a half, and He came upon the Apostles, who would have slept on, had He not woken them at that hour. And, having been found, the Apostles thereafter confirmed the way ahead.


“I don’t understand, Gert.” Lettie looked up from the hand-written Bible. “Why do you think this is so important?”

“When your father looked at the Bible and studied the map, he glanced at the preceding page and immediately pounced on the word ‘apostle’. He said it was out of place.”

Lettie nodded – her father never started or ended a day without reading from the Scriptures. He really knew his Bible. “Soooo…?

“He told me the twelve followers of Christ were called ‘disciples’ during the time Jesus was amongst them. They only became ‘apostles’ after the Ascension.”

” An apostle is a messenger, right?”

“That’s right, Lettie. That’s why the map was drawn on that specific page: to tell whoever inherited the Bible the resurrection and the map are linked. New life. Lost and found. Messengers to tell us where to look – he wrote they’d confirm the way ahead. We’re going to find the twelve messengers my love.  We’ll hide in the Lost City. And we’ll wait for the war to end…”


The Canberra Times dated 19th may 1931:

                                                    The lost City of the Kalahari 

Mr. Piet Grobler minister for lands in South Africa set upon an expedition to the Kalahari Desert to look for an ancient lost city alleged to be buried there. The Lost City was first described by an American man called Farini. Not much is known about him. He and written a book in 1871, claiming he had discovered a lost city in the Kalahari Desert.

Farini's sketch of the ruins

Farini’s sketch of the ruins

It is from Farini’s 1871 book we have this description of his discovery. He related this story that his caravan of a few white men and Hottentot natives were heading from a North West direction came across a small hill with a long line of stones resembling the Great Wall of China. The Stones were of enormous size and once side has looked like it had been faced and had cement attached to it in places.

They followed the wall for about 1 mile and discovered it was semi circle inside the wall was oval structures that had small entrances. Farini set to work his natives in an excavation and found a floor and what appeared to a Plinth of which the lower portion was fluted. They Search for any sign of script but found none. Farini natives became superstitious and refused to dig further. Farini did sketches and took some photographs of the site. This is allegedly in his book. 

Farin believed that there was at one time in history a chain of forts for a people came here in search and trade in gold and gems and the network stretched across Africa.

The account of the lost city was verified the bush people and by a surveyor by the name of Mr Roger Jackson who claimed that some natives found a strange idol in the Kalahari that resembled a Buddha that was given to a missionary and sold.

Another man known by the name of Anderson is to have known a lot about it. And Gert, a man who accompanied Farini also mentioned the lost city to Mr Boreherds of Upington. It appears by all accounts the ruins cover an area much larger than the ruins at Zimbabwe. 

Interesting enough there is a story of a free booter called Scotty Smith who spoke of the locality…



And as the two lovers headed deeper and deeper into the red sands of the Kalahari, Major Gericke sat in his bungalow listening to an old vinyl record, feeling particularly sad. Will he ever see his daughter again? Will they find a safe place to stay? What if…? He reached for the bottle of Bombay the journalists had left behind, hoping to escape the thoughts that haunted him so.


5 thoughts on “Gert Smit’s Tomatoes (# 14)

  1. Harold Green

    Amos, now haven’t you just turned the large full fiber bag upside down and poured out all the slimy snakes. They’re slithering around in all directions. So Vetfaan, snap to! I think that Gertruida is just warming up. Boggel, wipe the fluids off your bar, pop a cork or two and put out some new snap caps. It’s hunker down time!

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      Like we say over here: Lekker! It means more than ‘nice’ or ‘okay’. It’s an expression of joy, even of anticipation. Almost sounds like lacquer – but with multiple uses when one gets a compliment or appreciates something. Boggel! Service, please!


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