Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/151

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143
TROPICAL PHENOMENON.

"The Damaras," they said, "are now watching us from a distance; and, as soon as we shall have gone to sleep, they will suddenly fall upon us, and assegai us."

Timbo, John St. Helena, and John Allen evidently believed them, and looked wretchedly uncomfortable. As for myself, though there certainly was nothing at all improbable in the story, I felt less apprehensive than annoyed, well knowing the bad effect it would have on the timid and superstitious minds of my men.

On the third day, about noon, we reached the northern side of Omatako, where we struck a small periodical river of the same name. To our dismay, however, we found it perfectly dry; and, as we had then already been twenty-four hours without a drop of water, I was afraid to proceed any further. Just as we were about to retrace our steps, the river, to our inexpressible delight, came down with a rush. To those of my readers who are not conversant with the mysteries of a tropical climate, it may appear almost impossible that a dry water-course should in the space of five minutes, and without any previous indication, be converted into a foaming torrent; yet, in the rainy season, this is almost an everyday occurrence. Not a cloud obscured the transparent atmosphere at the time, but on the preceding night there had been vivid lightning and heavy thunder in the direction of the source of the river, which sufficiently accounted for the phenomenon.

On this river I saw for the first time the gigantic footprints of elephants. The natives told me that these animals come here in great numbers in the winter-time, and when the water begins to diminish they return slowly northward. Hans assured me that their tracks are still to be seen as far south as the River Swakop, close to its embouchure.

From this point we had a very good prospect of the country. Several interesting mountains presented themselves to the view. To the north, the Konyati, Eshuameno, Ia