While laying his plans
and gathering information, the opportune arrival of Messrs.
Oswell and Murray,
two wealthy Englishmen who had become enamored with African hunting,
enabled him to undertake the proposed expedition, Mr. Oswell agreeing
to pay the guides, who were furnished by Sechele.
This expedition, which resulted in the discovery of Lake Ngami,
set out from the missionary station at Kolobeng on the 1st of June, 1849.
The way lay across the great Kalahari desert, seven hundred miles in breadth.
This is a singular region. Though it has no running streams,
and few and scanty wells, it abounds in animal and vegetable life.
Men, animals, and plants accommodate themselves singularly
to the scarcity of water. Grass is abundant, growing in tufts;
bulbous plants abound, among which are the `leroshua', which sends up
a slender stalk not larger than a crow quill, with a tuber,
a foot or more below the surface, as large as a child's head, consisting of
a mass of cellular tissue filled with a cool and refreshing fluid;
and the `mokuri', which deposits under ground, within a circle of a yard
from its stem, a mass of tubers of the size of a man's head.
During years when the rains are unusually abundant, the Kalahari is covered
with the `kengwe', a species of water-melon. Animals and men rejoice
in the rich supply; antelopes, lions, hyenas, jackals, mice, and men
devour it with equal avidity.
The people of the desert conceal their wells with jealous care.
They fill them with sand, and place their dwellings at a distance,
that their proximity may not betray the precious secret.
The women repair to the wells with a score or so of ostrich shells
in a bag slung over their shoulders.
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