The Lost City of the Kalahari Part 32.
Following the banks of the river, the sand waves to the north were still clearly visible. Passing through Swartmodder, a place with two stone houses they came across a brick farm house, the residence of a French Canadian, named De Jay, who had come to this country many years ago and made his fortune from hunting on the Kalahari.
In one season alone he cleared 60000 shillings, nearly losing his life, however another time after abandoning his wagons and oxen in the sands he was now the owner of 40000 morgen of land, on which he had built two stone dams and opened out two running springs. His land now carried 1540 head of cattle and 10000 sheep.
De Jay told them that during the wet season the mist could be seen from a distance and during the dry the divides into several channels, four or five streams had to be swum before anyone could get close enough to see anything but a series of yawning chasms, rugged rocks rushing rapids and steep cliffs.
Farini reckoned the greater the challenge – the greater the reward.
Two days later they set off with gifts of butter and mutton and bread also with full particulars of the easiest route.
As the descended the banks became more rugged and the scenery grander, a strong wide stream was flowing between the lofty banks only broken by frequent ravines which led away from the river on the one hand to a sandy plain on the other.
They came across a number of Hottentots camping in a beautiful valley, hemmed in by a wall of precipitous brown rocks, where water and grass was abundant, and their cattle looking sleek and shiny.
They offered to sell Farini a boy and a rather comely girl, her light bronzed skin colour, high check bones and almond shaped eyes reminded Farini of a Chinese – the Hottentots seemed to have a more or less decidedly Celestial expression of countenance. The offer was declined, instead some meat and milk was exchanged for tobacco and coffee.
They spent the evening camping at a lovely spot, beneath a high cliff and near some Camel-thorn trees their wide spread branches decorated with gaily coloured cheerful birds.
After dinner while peace had set in, the serenity abruptly came to an end when the oxen who were lying chewing the cud, stamped with a roar, the leaders were around to the fore wheel, dragging the yokes and chains to which they were tied, after them; then snap went the riems, away went four of the oxen, the others in their effort to follow pulled the wagon over on top of them, absolute chaos.
It took some time righting things again, getting the wagon up took much time it was eventually achieved by fixing ropes to the under wheels, passing the ropes over the wagon and then attaching the ropes to the oxen, in this way it was again rolled back onto its wheels again.
The runaways bellowing in the distance in alternate tones of dismay and defiance.
The next day the missing cattle were recovered and soon the party was creeping along the dry river-bed of one of the side streams of the river, between high cliffs which narrowed in the distance, seemingly barring their passage.
Suddenly the oxen stopped and the Busman that was leading them called out that there was no road. Farini and Lulu found their passage barred by a huge fallen rock. They decided to sink the rock into the sandy surface as there was no way in which they could turn back. The only other alternative was to dismantle the ox wagon and that would be near impossible.
Many hours of sweaty toil was spent and eventually the rock had sunk deep enough for the oxen to climb over with the wagon following.
Passing through the cleft, they came across the wildest country they had imagined. Picking their way around numbers of immense rocks that had fallen from the almost perpendicular cliffs, they seemed to have reached a dead end, then suddenly turning a sharp corner they came in sight of a Hottentot tending a large flock of sheep.
They were told that about two miles further they would come across a werf were some men were digging a well.
Arriving at the werf they found the diggers an Englishman named Harper and his Afrikaner brother-in-law, all in very good humour – they had just struck plenty of good fresh water. . . .
Their breakfast of fresh eggs and goat’s was a treat and supplemented by Farini’s it turned into a real feast.
Farini was told that now that the water was low they would be able to wade and swim to get close to where the fall fell into an abyss; they would not be able to get to the foot. Only one man had succeeded in doing so – a Hottentot and he had never come back.
They plodded along.
The following day they made preparations for the falls. By utilizing the riems they managed to make rope of four hundred feet long, they also built a little raft.
After crossing one stream by wading they found themselves on an island covered with trees and flowering shrubs, most of them well armed with vicious thorns, in most places so thick that it was almost impossible to get through them. They had frequently to turn back and try and find another route.
Guided by the roar of the falling water, they now creeping on their hands and knees, slipping over patches of wet mud, or jumping over or wading through pools of water, then climbing over rough rocks or smooth boulders they eventually reached the other side of the island, past whish flowing a rushing torrent; whit with anger, foaming with rage as it found its course impede by a multitude of cold grey rocks.
They sought a likely-looking place to cross the rapid and bruised their shins and tore their clothes as they jumped from one projecting rock to another, only to find themselves confronted when half-way across by an intervening space, too wide to leap, too deep to wade and too swift to swim.
Then trying again in another direction and yet another, then they found a broad patch of reed-covered mud, too soft and slippery to give a foothold, they crossed and recrossed the different channels several times, finding themselves seemingly worse off than the previous.
At last they came to a place with a practicable shallow, turning up their pants, they carefully felt their way across. The bottom was flat rock, covered with a thin layer of greasy mud.
At last they reached the edge of the water; standing behind a mighty rock whose steep sides trembled with the jarring of the water, Farini prepared himself to climb a jumble of angular granite rocks with here and there a dead end or a deep chasm which equally barred their progress.
At every step the roar of the rushing water grew louder and louder, eventually they had to shout to make themselves audible – they were clearly now very close to the Falls, then suddenly they came in sight of a cloud of mist rising like white fog, or like a bank of white powdered snow.
Between them and the chasm down which the cataract plunged was a deep bed, whose precipitous sides- as smooth as polished marble- enclosed a large pool of water.
The only way of getting to the Falls seemed to lie across the basin, which at high flow would no doubt be full to overflowing and add its quota to the general din, but which was now laying placidly reflecting the rays of the burning sun.
A troop of Baboons scampered away down the rocks on their approach. Farini and Lulu followed them down the face of the grey granite walls, depending upon the crevices and projecting corners to give hand and foothold.
Running round the pool he saw a gorge in front of him, at the end of which he caught glimpse of a great waterfall half encircled by the halo of clear beautiful rainbow.
Only a part of the cataract was visible, the rest being hidden behind the projecting cliffs of veiled behind the mist.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
Convenor of the AIKONA Group.
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
Done 142 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.