Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/215

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207
DEPART FROM ONDONGA—ARRIVAL AT OKAMABUTI.

that we ultimately succeeded in finding our way home. As has been already said, there were no landmarks by which we could steer.

The nights had now become bitterly cold. In crossing the Otjihako-tja-Muteya we were obliged to bivouac on this bleak and exposed plain without a particle of fuel. What with the piercing wind and low temperature, it was one of the most trying nights I remember to have spent in Africa. Indeed, I hardly ever felt the cold more during the most severe Scandinavian winter. Even the cattle were so exceedingly distressed that several of our best draft-oxen never thoroughly recovered. Our poor Damaras suffered fearfully; and it was only by huddling themselves together at the bottom of a dried-up well that they were enabled to keep the least warmth in their bodies. Timbo, however, appeared to be the greatest sufferer. One morning we were amazed at finding his dark, shiny skin suddenly changed into a pale ashy gray.

Owing to the scarcity of water at this time of the year, game was rare. Indeed, we only met with animals, such as the giraffe, the koodoo, the gemsbok, the eland, &c., that either wholly or in great part can do without water.

On the 1st of July, after about a fortnight's steady travel, we reached our encampment in safety. The two hundred miles of country we had crossed presented, perhaps, as dreary and uninteresting a prospect as can well be imagined.

In our absence, Tjopopa, with his people, left Okamabuti, and removed a few miles farther to the westward. Our men followed his example. On approaching the camp, we espied Hans perched in the top of a tree anxiously looking out for our return. The whole party was almost wild with delight at seeing us safe back, of which they began to despair. They had passed a most dreary time. The natives, though friendly, teased and annoyed them excessively with begging and even pilfering, the chief, as not unfrequently happens, hav-