Tag Archives: lost treasure

Trusting Liar (#5)

as31-iGertruida is the first to recover. “Klasie…?”

“Ag drop the pretence, Gertruida. You all call me ‘Liar’ behind my back, so why stop now? Might as well be on the same page, yes?” Liar’s face is flushed with anger; the muscles in his thin neck prominently bulging. “That diamond belongs to me. Hand it over.”

“What are you doing? Put away the gun…”

“No! This…,” Liar sweeps his one hand towards the horizon, “…is my place. Mine!  I earned it! And you…you have no right to be here!”

“Listen, Liar, we’re not the enemy. Whoever is looking for you with the aeroplane and the chopper….well, it isn’t us. In fact, we were worried about you and that’s why we followed you. We’re here to help, man!” Vetfaan’s voice is pleading as he takes a step closer to the distraught man. “Now, put down the gun and let’s chat about all this.”

Liar hesitates, taken aback after clearly being convinced that the group  had hostile intentions. “I…I’m not sure I believe you…”

“And we’re never sure whether we can believe you, either.” Servaas’s remark lessens the tension as a few suppressed guffaws escape. Even Liar has to smile.

“Here, here’s the diamond.” Getruida holds it out to Liar. “You take it and put down the gun. We need to talk.”

Liar seemed to deflate the moment he realised the group didn’t represent a threat of any kind. He took the diamond, stuck it in his pocket, and sat down next to his rifle. Gertruida carefully detailed their quest  to warn Liar about the  Cessna –  and to help if they could. It takes a long time to convince Liar, but such are Gertruida’s skills that he eventually apologized for his behaviour.

“I…I suppose you deserve an explanation,” Liar sighs – then he tells them a story they’ll never forget.

***

After Robey Leibrandt was arrested, Walter Kempf gained access to the only aircraft available and took off, heading for Windhoek. He left in a considerable hurry, of course, and had didn’t have the time or opportunity to plan the trip. As soon as he had the plane cruising at about 2,000 feet, he took stock of his situation. In the bulky suitcase rammed into the hold, was a number of gold coins and two shoeboxes filled with diamonds. While he was confident that he would be able to bribe his way into South West Africa to get past the officials in Windhoek, his immediate problem was fuel. The Gloster was (at that time) quite famous as a survey plane but Walter had no idea how far he could fly with the two full tanks.

He switched off the left tank and flew only on the right-side fuel supply, reckoning that would give him an idea of range. Figuring out that he might make Kimberley, he headed west. It was late afternoon when he landed near the city of diamonds, where he used some gold coins to convince a lone attendant to fill up his tanks. Not wanting to stay too long, he took off almost immediately. The police interviewed the attendant the next day, documenting the last official sighting of the Gloster.

The modern runway at Upington

The modern runway at Upington

Walter knew that flying at night would be dangerous, but fortunately the skies were clear and the moon almost full. His plan was to follow the Orange River to Upington, where he hoped to refuel again. However, when he estimated that he was about a hundred miles from Upington, the oil-pressure gauge started dropping. Peering from the open cockpit, he could see smoke from the left engine. He knew then: he was in deep trouble.

He no longer had the luxury of time to follow the bends in the river below him; now he had to plot and guess the shortest way to Upington. He veered off to the north, which was a mistake. Had he gone south, he would have picked up the road to Upington, which would have at least offered him a chance to land. Soon, however, he only had the expanse of desert beneath his wings as he switched off the overheated engine. The aircraft was still maintaining altitude, but flying the cumbersome craft under the power of the single remaining engine was beyond the capabilities of Walter Kempf. He had to find somewhere safe to land…

Walter later described his landing as a miracle. He found a straight, narrow passage between two dunes and managed to make an almost perfect touchdown. Almost. An unseen mound of sand snapped off the left wheel, causing the craft to slew around and wedge itself into a dune. With the wheel off and the propellers bent, the aircraft’s flying days were over.

The exhausted pilot surveyed the damage, correctly decided that he was marooned in the desert, and decided to wait for sunrise. Curling up in the hold behind the pilot’s seats, he slept until he was awakened by the hushed voices of three Bushmen who stood talking around the crashed plane.

***

“So there he was, surrounded by Bushmen in the middle of the desert, fleeing for his life.” Liar pauses as another thought strikes him. “You know that Robey Leibrandt was sentenced to death, yes?”

Only Gertruida nods – she knows the history. Jan Smuts eventually commuted the sentence to life imprisonment; but when DF Malan became Prime Minister, Leibrandt was released from jail.

“I still don’t see how you tie up with all this, Klasie…I mean Liar?”

Servaas gets a weak smile from the man. “Ag , you can call me anything. Truth be told, my entire life had been a lie, so I don’t object to being called what I am.” He falls silent for a moment before continuing. “You see, those Bushmen helped Walter to get back to civilisation. He only took a few gold coins with him, leaving the rest of the treasure in the hold of the plane – he thought he’d go back sometime. Anyway, after three days of heavy walking, they reached a farm, called Breekyster. The farmer and his wife took good care of Walter and he stayed there for more than a month.

“Also on the farm was an old man – a bywoner – and his daughter: Nikolaas Cronje and Mathilda, or Mattie as everybody called her. They were common, poor labourers on the farm, a struggling father-and-daughter family impoverished by the recent Great Depression and the subsequent droughts. Oom Nikolaas, I was told, used to farm with sheep near Loxton, in the Karoo, before he lost everything. His wife died from pneumonia while they trekked from farm to farm, looking for work. Eventually they found refuge on Breekyster, where they were allowed to stay in the barn. The farmhouse was a modest affair and Walter shared accommodation with the Cronje’s.

“Walter told the old man – he had been a rebel in 1914, objecting against the government’s plans to fight the same Germans who helped the Afrikaners during the Anglo-Boer War – the whole story. Everything. As a Nazi sympathizer, the old man was overjoyed to lend a hand. He helped Walter to get ready to return to the earoplane – and he left one morning early with a backpack, a pistol and a compass.

aa3“Walter was never seen alive again. His body was found ten days later, a day’s walk from the farm. The desert had been too treacherous, too wild for him. A sidewinder snake was found nearby with a bullet hole through it’s neck. Surprisingly, both escaped being ravaged by scavengers.

“Needless to say, nobody reported the issue. Walter Kempf simply disappeared as far as the authorities were concerned.

“Old oom Nikolaas was saddened by the passing of his new friend – but not as much as the grieving Mattie, who realised she was pregnant on the very same day Walter was found. In fact, she almost miscarried… ” Liar sighs, staring at the diamond. “Maybe it would have been better if she did – I would have been spared a lifetime of misery…”

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…”

***

Farini

Farini

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…

Credit: http://www.thunting.com/

***

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.

Vetfaan’s Surprise (# 3)

The story continues…

Vetfaan is pumping the old Primus into action just as the sun rises in a red glow, when Fanny Featherbosom shuffles into the kitchen on a pair of pink slippers, adorned with an oversized Mickey and Minnie respectively. She yawns mightily when she leans against the door frame. The worried frown makes her look considerably older.

“Listen, Vetfaan, I can’t remember getting into bed. I remember showering, but after that… I didn’t do anything silly, did I? We didn’t…”

“Good morning to you, too, miss Featherbosom. No, you didn’t, and no we didn’t. I put you to bed and then had a chat with !Ka. You did, however, snore gently all night.” Vetfaan puts the kettle on the flames and smiles at the dishevelled mop of hair above the round face. “Tell you what: you go put on some clothes while I fix coffee. No Cactus this time. Then you must meet !Ka, and listen to his story. We’ve got a lot to do.”

She runs her fingers through her hair, smiles sheepishly and disappears down the corridor.  When she returns to the kitchen, she’s dressed in a pair of baggy jeans, a loose-fitting T-shirt and a pair of red sandals. Vetfaan is surprised at the speed of her return and compliments her on that. He concludes with: “You look quite nice like this.” He wants to say the lack of cosmetics makes her look much younger, but decides that may sound too familiar.

“You’re a kind man, Vetfaan. Can’t remember when last somebody said something sweet about the way I look.” She accepts the mug of coffee, sniffs at it suspiciously, breaks out in a brilliant smile and sips happily. “I’m rather thirsty.” She looks up hopefully. “And famished.”

“Good, breakfast is mielie pap and wors. I made a relish of tomato and onion. I hope you like it. You must eat well, you’ll need a lot of energy today.”

“I’ll even eat those ghastly patties they sell in England these days, I’m so hungry.” Still, she pokes a careful finger into the pap, yelps as the hot porridge burns her skin, and takes a tentative lick.

She eats with some gusto and stops several times to smack her lips in appreciation. “You sure know how to cook,” she says as she pushes back the plate.

Over a second mug of caffee, Vetfaan says she must rather put on a pair of boots, or if she hasn’t got them, some sensible walking shoes. “!Ka will be here shortly and he wants to show us something.”

“You’ll be surprised at my wardrobe. I packed for all eventualities. Who is this !Ka character you keep referring to?”

Vetfaan has to explain about his San friend before she fetches a pair of sturdy boots from one of her heavy suitcases. Vetaan has to help her get them on – her rather bulky frame makes tying the bootlaces rather awkward. Once the boots are tied to her satisfaction, they sit down in the easy chairs on the stoep. Almost immediately, !Ka walks over from his room next to the barn.

Now, !Ka is a man who appreciates women with a fuller figure, so he stops at the steps leading up to the stoep to feast his eyes on this magnificent specimen. Never in his life has he set eyes on so much splendour. This, he decides, is what a woman should look like: big, strong and extremely attractive.

After introducing the two, Vetfaan asks !Ka to repeat the news he brought last night. At first !Ka has some difficulty in addressing somebody of such great beauty, but her kind demeanour eventually wins the day and he manages to convey his story in a more-or-less coherent way.

“While following the spoor of a klipsringer, Madam, I crossed a few dunes. This place I don’t know. It’s far. And when I crossed another dune, there I saw something I’ve never seen before. Hai! How a wagon could have got there, I do not know, but there it was. An old wagon, from many years back. And some bones. Man bones. Woman bones. And child bones. They are there, in the sand. It is far.”

“That’s what he told me last night, Fanny. I don’t know what it means, but !Ka came to me to help. He says people must know about it – it is wrong to leave those remains out in the desert. According to his custom, unburied corpses bring bad luck. He believes those spirits roam about, causing hardship to all. That is why, be believes, the klipspringer got away. He says those are white people’s bones, so white people must say words over them and bury them. Then the spirits will go away.” Vetfaan hesitates. “He also brought this.””

burgers_pondHe fumbles around in his pocket and produces a shiny coin. “I don’t know much about old coins, but the Burger Pond is legendary. See, it says here: Thomas Francois Burger. I know they are very rare, and of great value. These were the first gold coins ever struck for South Africa, and if I’m right, it was done in London and less than a thousand were produced. Look at the date; 1874.”

“I love old stuff!” Fanny claps her hands together in delight. “My, what an adventure! Are we leaving straight away?”

To !Ka, this is the way for a woman to react. He can see how here eyes light up and how excited she is. Surely !Kaggen sent this woman at the right time to cross paths with him. He, !Ka, is being rewarded for doing the right thing. That klipspringer was not for hunting…it was a guide, sent to bring them all together to do what must be done. He gets up respectfully, averting his eyes to the ground so as not to offend this wonderful lady, and waits at Vetfaan’s pickup. This, he knows, will be a day he’ll remember for a long time. Oh, how many stories will he tell his children around camp fires in the future! Yes, !Kaggen is good. He is blessing him…

Vetfaan gathers some provisions and loads a container with water, some pots and a kettle on the old Ford. Because !Ka put so much emphasis on the place being ‘far’, he adds sleeping bags and a bundle of wood. ‘Far’ may mean many things for the San people…

Fortunately, the pickup is large. !Ka is small. They all fit into the cab when they drive off.

Vetfaan smiles when he notices how close his two passengers sit. !Ka, he knows already, adores this woman. And Fanny seems not to mind at all.

Fanny has a sudden urge to tell the two men about her life in London. About the way she always felt she didn’t belong. How men avoided her and she always ended up as the lone wallflower while the others danced the night away. And how she eventually decided, bugger it, and started feeding herself into obesity. If men didn’t like her, at least she doesn’t have to worry about her figure. And then it got out of hand and she ended up looking like…this.

She can’t get the words out. Instead, she asks !Ka if he ever reads books.

“Hai, Madam! We have no books. I read the veld and the animals. I read people. And I read the weather. What more do I want to know? I hear about places on the other side of the sea. I’ve seen the sea once. It is too wet for me. I like the desert and my people. So, I know what I need. That’s enough. I think white people, they know so much they forget about important things. We Bushmen aren’t like that.”

The discussion in the cab becomes a lively one, with all of them participating and arguing – in great respect, following !Ka’s example – until they reach a series of sand dunes just after midday.

“We stop here. It is too hot – the sand will be loose and the truck will get stuck. Mister Vetfaan can make camp here for the night. Tomorrow, when the sand is cold, we can cross. We must leave before the sun rises. It is still far, but not so far. We’ll be there tomorrow.” Vetfaan knows his friend so well – and !Ka is so convincing – that he selects a lone thorn tree to park the Ford under.

“I don’t want to eat tonight, Vetfaan. My appetite…”

“Nonsense, Fanny, you love eating?”

“I made a decision today, Vetfaan. I’m too fat. I need to do something about it and I’m starting right now. Enough is enough. I want my life back.”

“Gee, Fanny, what brought that about?”  Vetfaan stands back. Women!

“Something  !Ka said about us knowing so much and being so stupid. He’s a wise fellow. It’s time for me to face the basics.”

!Ka looks up in surprise. “Madam wants to lose fat? Why? You look like a woman should.”

“Oh, !Ka…you’re just as sweet as Vetfaan!” Using the simplest of terms, she tries to explain why obesity is a life-threatening condition. !Ka argues that elephants and rhinoceroses die when they’re too thin. Vetfaan already has the fire going under a pot by the time when !Ka finally nods his understanding. Yes, it’s all about knees and hips, he agrees. If they get worn out, you can’t hunt or run any more. Yes, it makes sense.

“Come, Madam. We go get some medicine for you.”

“What? Is there a pharmacy out here?” She scans the horizon for signs of civilisation.

!Ka laughs so much, he has to wipe away the tears on his withered cheeks. “Oh yes, Madam. The veld is filled with medicine. And it’s free. Come, I show you…”

(To be continued)