The Lost City of the Kalahari Part 11.
After a week the scene changed. The advance riders returned and reported – no Tsamma in the north and only a little to the west. The ground was becoming hard and crossing would take about three days.
After a discussion with all, it was decided to head west. Farini and the two Coloureds set off early the following morning on a reconnaissance of the area – he had to know what lay ahead, their lives depended on it.
They travelled for hour upon hour through thick monotonous grass with here and there a Noi bush or a Witgat tree; he wondered how the Kalahari ever could be called a Desert with so much vegetation, the grass nearly reaching the horses’ backs.
Every now and then they would ride up the highest sand-hills, with the objective of surprising game that might be in a hollow on the other side, and surveying the country, where ever they looked to expanse of grass stretched as far their eyes could see.
Even when dry the grass was like ordinary hay and the Tsamma would last a year in the dry season. He imagined that this grass would grow very well in other countries with sandy soil.
He decided to collect some seeds for later use and stopped to do so. Dirk and Klaas went for a rest under a tree while Farini collected of the dry seeds, while digging into the sand to see how deep the roots penetrated he noticed that the sand was quite moist eight to nine inches below the surface.
Although te recent rains were quite heavy he was convinced that by digging water would always be readily available.
He considered that in the hands of an energetic race, this country could surely be made one of the most productive grazing-lands in the world. The long droughts were the only drawbacks. However the grass remained green and edible for long periods without water. He imagined that the rainwater would soak through the limestone sub-stratum where it was stored and could be extracted during periods of need.
His musings were cut short by the sight of a herd of Gemsbok, grazing a short distance off at the foot of a dune. He quietly approached Dirk and Klaas, softly awakened them and pointed towards the antelope.
They hunters were downwind of the slowly approaching, grazing Gemsbok. They decided to await the approach, in silence and not stirring a limb it seemed ages before the animals came into range. They were admiring these majestic King of the Desert with their strong long straight sharpened horns and ashy grey hide with white and black markings.
All of a sudden the Gemsbok became very alert, they were still 250 yards away, and then a Lion with a single spring bounded from behind a bush, and grabbed the closest Gemsbok by the throat and pulled it down. The rest of the herd, did not flee as expected, they formed a half circle and charged their enemy.
The grass was high and they could not clearly see all that was happening, they could hear the rattling of the sharp horns. Taking advantage of the situation, the hunters crawled closer, on command they all rose and fired the Gemsbok ran off, over a sand-hill, there was no sign of the Lion. Farini turned to look at the horses, just in time to see them in full stampede up the hill to their right followed by Dirk and Klaas. Farini ran after the horses and found them about half a mile on the other side of the hill, he beckoned that they come towards him and they in turn beckoned to him to come to them, while they were moving at a brisk pace away from him.
When caught up with them Farini was in a violent temper with his cowardly companions, who explained that they followed the horses to save them, as there were two Lions in pursuit . . . .
Farini told them to go and fetch the saddles and was promptly told “tomorrow, as we now have to protect the horses, the Lions may eat them”. Farini told the two to take the horses to the top of the hill and as he was not afraid, he would fetch the saddles.
Farini took Dirk with him together with Klaus’s gun to ensure that the last mentioned would not run away with the horses and leave them stranded, the assented very reluctantly. On the way Dirk tried to dissuade Farini on the way for fear of the Lions, maybe waiting in ambush. He was wasting his breath as the saddles and what else had to be retrieved.
Nothing would induce the two to move any further, the Gemsbok could be recovered the following morning as the Lions would only et the inside, and would leave the skin and the outer meat for them. The Lion is bad tempered and will fight; he would not have attacked the Gemsbok unless he was disturbed in his afternoons sleep . . . .
Farini told them that he would then go alone if they were too afraid. He then worked his way slowly down the hill towards the hollow where the gemsbok lay, carefully examining every bush or bunch of grass likely to conceal a Lion. Just as he got to the bottom of the dune he heard something moving behind him, in a flash he turned around raising his rifle to his shoulder. There was nothing to be seen, he heard another rustling in the grass, he would have fired the next moment – when Dirk yelled “don’t shoot, it is me Dirk, he had followed Farini, unnoticed and when he saw Farini turn and raise the rifle he shouted otherwise he surely would have been shot.
Just in front of them was a low san-hill and to the side of it a bush, they walked up the hill, Farini tested the wind and found it was blowing straight towards the bush.
There was a sound possibly coming from the bush and they very carefully approached it, then they saw it, twenty yards further was Lion, its back towards them on top of a Gemsbok who was still kicking, another Gemsbok laying still, next to them and a third a bit further seemingly in its last agonies.
Farini aimed at the Lion, at a spot where the head and neck came together and fired and reloaded, there was no movement, and how could he have missed and fired again, still no movement except for the movement of the Gemsbok.
He cautiously went closer, determined to fire should there be any movement, then he noticed one Gemsbok horn sticking out of the Lion’s shoulder and the other through its neck, at the hip a further two horns were visible – those of the Gemsbok laying next to them. The Lion had impaled itself into the horns of the two Gemsbok, it was stone dead. Farini tried to lift the skewered Lion but could not move it. When Dirk was very sure that the Lion was dead he nimbly assisted.
Moving the entangled carcasses to the shade seemed impossible, Dirk suggested that they cut the Lion open across the back and quarter it, this would spoil the skin. Dirk was told to fetch Klaas and the horses. The Lion would be skinned from the hind part as he lay and then take away the hind quarters. This enabled them to remove the entrails, and then it was easy to cut along the belly to the forelegs, which were soon skinned and cut off.
During this process it was found that one horn had pierced its heart, it must have died almost immediately, but not before it had torn the neck and shoulder of its prey completely to pieces.
The Gemsbok were hauled away by the horses from the grass to the top of the hill, here a skerm was built to protect them during the night until the wagon arrived.
Dirk and Klaas were soon asleep, but the excitement of the day kept Farini awake during his watch, he studied the bright stars in the dark Kalahari night, while listening to the snoring duet.
At about 02:00 he got his relief awake enough to trust him to do his watch. The fire was stoked and he dozed off.
It was broad daylight when Dirk came and whispered” there is a man coming towards us”.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
Done 144 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.