WITH PRESIDENT STEYN IN THE BOSCHVELD—LOST
On September 12 we left the Krokodil River early in the morning, after first watering our cattle and filling our water-bags. Our guide did not expect to come across any water before the Sabie—a river several days’ journey further on. There were several springs on the way, but as that part of the country was so little known, because of its unhealthiness, no one could tell when the last rains had fallen.
The shrubs and bushes had grown high above the ruts made by the waggon two years ago, and were a great hindrance to us. The road we followed twisted and wound rather more than was agreeable, but it was certainly easy to follow for the lagers that came after us. The horsemen rode next to the lagers to shoot bucks. We had no ‘slaughter-cattle’ with us, so had to live on the game that we shot.
In the neighbourhood of the river we still came across birds and insects, but the further we went the more monotonous and dead Nature became. I could never have pictured such a lifeless wood to myself. No sound of insects was to be heard, no chirp or song of bird; and not even the trail of a serpent was to be seen.
There was a melancholy stillness. Traces of game were in abundance. It seemed as if only those animals lived there which, accustomed to the monotonous silence, withdrew noiselessly from the gaze of the interloper, or, in their ignorant curiosity, stood still until a hunter’s bullet warned them or put an end to their lives. To them we must have been strange disturbers of the peace. Shots fell in all directions; sometimes a whole salvo was discharged when we came upon a herd of bucks. There were many thornless trees growing in their stately height far above the usual scrub of the Boschveld. Our horses often grazed on the sweet buffalo grass that always grows under trees. Looked at from a rise, the Boschveld appeared to be nothing but trees—trees as far as the eye could see. One shuddered at the thought of what would become of anyone who lost his way there, since for miles and miles there was no water to be seen and no trail to go by. It made one hurry back to the safety of the lager, trusting to the capability of the guide.
To our great joy, the first spring contained water. It was a large pool surrounded by rocks, where the game was accustomed to drink. We arrived there towards afternoon, rested a few hours, and continued our journey with fresh courage. As the waggons moved too slowly for our liking, we rode on ahead; but the consequence was that, when it got dark and we off-saddled, we had no bedding, for nearly all the waggons were obliged to outspan when darkness set in, as there was no road.