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Digital Subscriptions > Travel Africa > April-June 2018 (82) > THE LOST CITY

THE LOST CITY

Inspired by the legend, Adam Cruise follows in the footsteps of other explorers and goes in search of the Lost City of the Kalahari, tracing clues and gathering evidence as he travels along remote trails of the Kgalagadi to the Aha Hills

Botswana

The track I was following eventually vanished in the tall, yellow grass, and with some dificulty I turned the heavy truck around and headed back the way I had come. After a kilometre I found another path, branching off to the left. Though it was also indistinct, and I had no idea where it would take me, I swung the vehicle and began nosing my way cautiously along the new route. In the searing Kalahari temperatures, my GPS had, once again, been fried on its mount on the windscreen. However, I knew that the new track was heading roughly north, and north was the general direction I wanted to go. I continued driving until the sky soffened to the pastel violet of dusk, then eased my foot off the accelerator and allowed the sand to bring the truck to a slow halt in a dense thicket of tall trees. With night approaching fast, there was just time to pitch my tent and gather a heap of dry wood. I lit a large fire to keep away the nocturnal predators who had already begun to yip, cackle and roar; then threw some rice and tinned vegetables into a pot. I poured the evening’s obligatory glass of warm wine, leaned back against a twisted log and watched the furnace-red sun sink behind the long grassy ridge of a dune. Oh well, I thought, I may be lost, but I am precisely where I want to be.

The reason I was in the Kalahari — my umpteenth such adventure over a period of a decade — had its roots in a paper delivered to the Berlin Geographical Society on 7 November 1885. The paper’s presenter, Gilarmi Antonio Farini, had three months earlier completed what he claimed was an epic journey through southern Africa. Though the paper described a new route into uncharted territory, the audiences, both in Berlin and at a similar presentation the following year to the Royal Geographical Society in London, remained singlemindedly unconvinced. As far as the venerable gentlemen were concerned, the explorer’s foray into the Kalahari was a substandard expedition, and nothing new had been discovered — or at least nothing to tempt further consideration. Farini would have disappeared into anonymity — at least as an explorer — if it were not for this passage dropped, almost as an afierthought, into the middle of his paper:

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