Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/213

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THE RIVER CUNENÈ—PRISONERS AT LARGE.

of sand-banks at its mouth, which compels it to take a subterraneous course. Occasionally, however, it breaks through these barriers. This was exceedingly interesting, inasmuch as it explained the cause of its mysterious disappearance.

The Ovambo themselves gave us to understand that they often extended their trading excursions to the Cunenè, and even crossed it by means of canoes. The people dwelling on its south bank were called Ovapangari (a few of whom we saw in Ondonga) and Ovabundya. The latter were represented as living among "many waters," which we conjectured meant the confluence of some of the branches.

Our curiosity to see the Cunenè was greatly aroused, though, in order to accomplish this object, it would be necessary to overcome many difficulties. Pleasant as our arrival and stay at Ondonga had generally been, it was in some respects attended with much inconvenience. The freedom we had enjoyed to such perfection among the Damaras ceased with our entrance into Ovambo-land. We could hardly stir half a mile from our camp without having first obtained the permission of our despotic friend, and much less could we think of returning or proceeding. We had left half our party behind us in a savage and inhospitable country without a sufficiency of provisions. Our own stores were very deficient in animal food. No pasturage was left in Ondonga but corn-stubble, or rather corn-stalks; and of this, as well as of water, the inhabitants were extremely tenacious. The consequence was that the poor cattle daily fell off in condition. We were already two long weeks' journey distant from our camp at Okamabuti, and to undertake an excursion to the Cunenè, and return, would occupy fully another fortnight, making thus, at the very least, a whole month's actual travel. This, we feared, was more than our emaciated cattle were equal to. Yet, notwithstanding all these formidable difficulties, the enterprise was of such great importance that we determined not to give it up without a struggle. Unless