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Lodges in the Wilderness   By: (1855-1943)

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Lodges in the Wilderness By William Charles Scully Published by Herbert Jenkins Limited, London. This edition dated 1915.

Lodges in the Wilderness, by William Charles Scully.

LODGES IN THE WILDERNESS, BY WILLIAM CHARLES SCULLY.

CHAPTER ONE.

THE BUSHMANLAND DESERT ITS NATURE AND EXTENT DESERT TRAVELLING THE "TOA."

The world moves rapidly and with increasing momentum. Even regions remote from those communities which the stress of increasing population and the curse of unleisured industrialism send spinning "down the ringing grooves of change," are often so disturbed or overwhelmed by the overflow of what threatens to be an almost worldwide current of morbid energy, that within a strangely short period their character is apt completely to alter and their individuality to become utterly destroyed.

I do not know how the Great Bushmanland Desert has fared in this respect not having visited it for several years but if some unlikely combination of circumstances were to take me once more to Aroegas or Koisabies, to the tiny spring of living water that trickles from the depths and lies like a precious jewel hidden in the dark, narrow cavern at Inkruip, or to where the flaming, red belted cone of Bantom Berg glares over the dragon folds of the dune devil sprawling at its feet, I should go in fear of finding empty sardine tins and broken bottles lying among the fragments of prehistoric pottery and flint implements which were but recently the only traces of man to be found in those abodes of solitude.

The Bushmanland Desert is but little known. A few nomads some of European and some of mixed descent hang on its fringe. Here and there ephemeral mat house villages, whose dwellers are dependent on the sparse and uncertain bounty of the sky, will, perhaps, be found for a season. But when the greedy sun has reclaimed the last drop of moisture from shallow "pan" or sand choked rock saucer, the mat houses are folded up and, like the Arabs, these dwellers steal silently away from the blighting visage of the Thirst King. But the greater portion of Bushmanland may be ranked among the most complete solitudes of the earth. The lion, the rhinoceros, and, in fact, most of the larger indigenous fauna have disappeared from it with the autochthonous pygmy human inhabitants; nevertheless it is a region full of varied and distinctive interest. The landscape consists either of vast plains, mirage haunted and as level as the sea, arid mountain ranges usually mere piles of naked rock, or immense sand dunes, massed and convoluted. The latter often change their form and occasionally their location under stress of the violent winds which sweep down from the torrid north.

The tract is an extensive one, probably upwards of 50,000 square miles lie within its limits. It is bounded on the north by the Gariep or Orange River but as that flows and eddies at the bottom of a tremendous gorge which is cut off from the plains by a lofty, stark range of mountains, coal black in colour for their greater extent and glowing hot throughout the long, cloudless day, the traveller seldom sees it. The western boundary is the Atlantic Ocean; the eastern an imaginary line drawn approximately south from the Great Aughrabies Falls to the Kat Kop Range. If we bisect this line with another drawn due east from the coast to the Lange Berg, we shall get a sufficiently recognisable boundary on the south. From the tract so defined must be deducted the small area surrounding the Copper Mines, and a narrow strip of mountain land running parallel with, and about sixty miles from the coast. This strip is sparsely inhabited by European farmers.

The occasional traversing of this vast tract lay within the scope of my official duties. My invariable travelling companion was Field Cornet Andries Esterhuizen (of whom more anon) and a small retinue of police, drivers, and after riders... Continue reading book >>




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