Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/189

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181
OTJIKOTO—REMARKABLE CAVERN.

Otjikoto, "one of the most wonderful of Nature's freaks," is situated at the northern extremity of those broken hills which take their rise in the neighborhood of Okamabuti, and in the midst of a dense coppice. So effectually is it hidden from view, that a person might pass within fifty paces of it without being aware of its existence. Owing to its steep and rugged sides, cattle have not access to the water; and even a man can only approach this enormous well by means of a steep and slippery footpath. No perceptible difference could be observed in the height of the water; and the Ovambo informed us that, as long as they and their fathers remembered, it had always been the same. It is difficult to imagine how or whence Otjikoto receives its supplies. A spacious cavern, only visible and accessible from the water, may possibly be the grand reservoir.

After gratifying our curiosity, Galton and myself, standing in need of a bath, plunged head foremost into the profound abyss. The natives were utterly astounded. Before reaching Otjikoto, they had told us that if a man or beast was so unfortunate as to fall into the pool, he would inevitably perish. We attributed this to superstitious notions; but the mystery was now explained. The art of swimming was totally unknown in these regions. The water was very cold, and, from its great depth, the temperature is likely to be the same throughout the year.

We swam into the cavern to which allusion has just been made. The transparency of the water, which was of the deepest sea-green, was remarkable; and the effect produced in the watery mirror by the reflection of the crystallized walls and roof of the cavern appeared very striking and beautiful. In this mysterious spot, two owls and a great number of bats had taken up their abode. On approaching

    was dry at the time, we ascertained that the bottom was flat, or nearly so. In various other places we also met with similar basins, but on a still smaller scale than Ornjo.