Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/319

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STERILE COUNTRY—GREAT NAMAQUA-LAND.

eruptions, had a sunburnt and crumbling appearance, and were almost wholly destitute of vegetation. The soil in the neighborhood of the mountains consisted of pure sand, and was covered with low and succulent shrubs, from which our cattle, hitherto accustomed to revel in the almost boundless savannas of Damara-land, turned with disgust. The country for several weeks' journey in advance of us was represented as of a similar nature.

We began now seriously to tremble for the poor beasts, which had already lost flesh. Upward of two months' traveling had to be performed before we could reach our destination.

With the exception of that portion of Namaqua-land and Damara-land bordering on the coast, the part of the country I speak of has the most inauspicious appearance I ever saw. Its sterility arises probably from being situated near the limit, not only of the "thunder-rains," but of the regular rains ("mist-rains," as they are called in the colony), and the consequent frequency of great droughts. Indeed, scarcely any rain falls here in some years.

 

 

CHAPTER XXVI.

Great Namaqua-land.—Its Boundaries and Extent.—Its Rivers.—Nature of the Country.—Vegetation and Climate.—Geological Structure.—Minerals.—"Topnaars" and "Oerlams."—Houses.—Mythology and Religion.—Tumuli.—Wonderful Rock.—Curious Legend of the Hare.—Coming of Age.—The Witch-doctor.—Amulets.—Superstitions.—A Namaqua's notion of the Sun.—Marriage.—Polygamy.—Children.—Barbarous Practice.—Longevity.—Singular Customs.—Ornaments.—Tattooing.—Arms.—Idle Habits.—Fond of Amusements.—Music and Dancing.—Spirits.—Mead.—Domestic Animals.

Having now brought my narrative to a period when I am about to leave Great Namaqua-land, it may be well to say a