Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/179

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171
WAGONS LEFT BEHIND—A GUIDE.

A few days would, perhaps, have sufficed to make a temporary repair; but, as we had a journey of several months' duration before us, it was necessary to make the work as permanent as possible, and the seasoning of the wood alone, in such a case, would occupy several weeks. None of us had much experience in carpentry; but Hans was by far the most practical hand, and he boldly undertook the task. To postpone our journey to the Ovambo till our wagons were in order was now, indeed, out of the question. The season being advanced, every day became of the greatest importance; and therefore, to save time, it was resolved that we should leave the vehicles behind, and that Galton and myself should prosecute the journey without farther delay by means of pack-and-ride oxen.

Having come to this determination, our first care was to obtain accurate information of the distance, number of watering-places, and so forth; but the Damaras proved true to their nature; for, after having spent several days in cross-questioning them, we were just as far from our object as ever. Tjopopa himself was very reserved, and would neither provide us with guides nor give us the least information. He said, however, that he was just expecting a trading caravan from Ovambo-land, and that, if we remained with him till its arrival, he doubted not that we should, by the assistance of the individuals composing it, be enabled to reach that country. But no reliance could be placed in a Damara.

While in this dilemma, a man unexpectedly came to offer his services as guide. Without, perhaps, inquiring sufficiently as to whether he was well acquainted with the road, we accepted with eagerness the proposal, and did not lose a moment in making preparations for the journey. To shorten a long story, suffice it to say that we set out; but our guide almost immediately lost himself; and after we had wandered about the hills for several days, suffering the greatest anxiety of mind, to say nothing of physical privations, we were about