It was spring in the Sandveld and the sky was a deep shade of sapphire. I opened a farm gate that led me through a sea of flowers to a thatched langhuisie, snug beneath a stand of eucalyptus.
This cottage would be my home for exploring Verlorenvlei, the ‘forgotten lagoon’ of the Cape.
From the stoep, I had a sweeping view of the vlei stretching westward to where an estuarine channel connected it to the ocean. The valley is primed with histories – bloodlines coursing like water through this arid land.
Archaeologists have found evidence of human habitation reaching back 100 000 years and the caves here have the worn feeling you get in Egyptian and Greek ruins: an elemental sense of perspective.
‘Recent’ history saw hunter-gatherers (San) meeting and mixing with pastoralists (Khoi); then came the first pale faces. During his expedition into Namaqualand’s copper country, Governor van der Stel called the place Zeekoejen-valey, referring to its many hippos. Later, Dutch explorers translated the San name for the river, Quaecoma (literally a lost or forlorn marsh), and called it Verloren Vallei.