African Camp Fires eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 275 pages of information about African Camp Fires.

Nevertheless somewhere here dwelt the Kudu, so in we plunged.  The rest of the day—­and of days to follow—­we spent in picking a way through the thorn scrub and over loose rocks and shifting stones.  A stream bed contained an occasional water hole.  Tall aloes were ablaze with red flowers.  The country looked arid, the air felt dry, the atmosphere was so clear that a day’s journey seemed—­usually—­but the matter of a few hours.  Only rarely did we enjoy a few moments of open travel.  Most of the time the thorns caught at us.  In the mountain passes were sometimes broad trails of game or of the Masai cattle.  The country was harsh and dry and beautiful with the grays and dull greens of arid-land brush, or with the soft atmospheric tints of arid-land distances.  Game was fairly common, but rather difficult to find.  There were many buffalo, a very few zebra, leopards, hyenas, plenty of impalla, some sing-sing, a few eland, abundant wart-hog, Thompson’s gazelle, and duiker.  We never lacked for meat when we dared shoot it, but we were after nobler game.  The sheep given us by Naiokotuku followed along under charge of the syces.

When we should run quite out of meat, we intended to eat them.  We delayed too long, however.  One evening the fool boy tied them to a thorn bush; one of them pulled back, the thorns bit, and both broke loose and departed into the darkness.  Of course everybody pursued, but we could not recapture them.  Ten minutes later the hyenas broke into the most unholy laughter.  We could not blame them; the joke was certainly on us.

In passing, the cachinnations of the laughing hyena are rather a series of high-voiced self-conscious titters than laughter.  They sound like the stage idea of a lot of silly and rather embarrassed old maids who have been accused by some rude man of “taking notice.”  This call is rarely used; indeed, I never heard it but the once.  The usual note is a sort of moaning howl, impossible to describe, but easy to recognize.

Thus we penetrated gradually deeper and deeper into this wild country; through low mountains, over bush-clad plains, into thorn jungles, down wide valleys, over hill-divided plateaus.  Late in the afternoon we would make camp.  Sometimes we had good water; more often not.  In the evening the throb of distant drums and snatches of intermittent wailing song rose and fell with the little night breezes.



Our last camp, before turning back, we pitched about two o’clock one afternoon.  Up to this time we had marched steadily down wide valleys, around the end of mountain ranges, moving from one room to the other of this hill-divided plateau.  At last we ended on a slope that descended gently to water.  It was grown sparingly with thorn trees, among which we raised our tents.  Over against us, and across several low swells of grass and scrub-grown hills, was a range of mountains.  Here, Mavrouki claimed, dwelt roan antelope.

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African Camp Fires from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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