the same scale, each consisting of a square, carved block

rain and cloudthanks2023-12-07 12:48:45 54 7953

It was very hot jogging along the native path with the eternal olive-green bush around me. Happily there was no fear of losing the way, for the Rooirand stood very clear in front, and slowly, as I advanced, I began to make out the details of the cliffs. At luncheon-time, when I was about half-way, I sat down with my Zeiss glass - my mother's farewell gift - to look for the valley. But valley I saw none. The wall - reddish purple it looked, and, I thought, of porphyry - was continuous and unbroken. There were chimneys and fissures, but none great enough to hold a river. The top was sheer cliff; then came loose kranzes in tiers, like the seats in a gallery, and, below, a dense thicket of trees. I raked the whole line for a break, but there seemed none. 'It's a bad job for me,' I thought, 'if there is no water, for I must pass the night there.' The night was spent in a sheltered nook at the foot of the rocks, but my horse and I went to bed without a drink. My supper was some raisins and biscuits, for I did not dare to run the risk of increasing my thirst. I had found a great bank of debris sloping up to the kranzes, and thick wood clothing all the slope. The grass seemed wonderfully fresh, but of water there was no sign. There was not even the sandy channel of a stream to dig in.

the same scale, each consisting of a square, carved block

In the morning I had a difficult problem to face. Water I must find at all costs, or I must go home. There was time enough for me to get back without suffering much, but if so I must give up my explorations. This I was determined not to do. The more I looked at these red cliffs the more eager I was to find out their secret. There must be water somewhere; otherwise how account for the lushness of the vegetation?

the same scale, each consisting of a square, carved block

My horse was a veld pony, so I set him loose to see what he would do. He strayed back on the path to Umvelos'. This looked bad, for it meant that he did not smell water along the cliff front. If I was to find a stream it must be on the top, and I must try a little mountaineering.

the same scale, each consisting of a square, carved block

Then, taking my courage in both my hands, I decided. I gave my pony a cut, and set him off on the homeward road. I knew he was safe to get back in four or five hours, and in broad day there was little fear of wild beasts attacking him. I had tied my sleeping bag on to the saddle, and had with me but two pocketfuls of food. I had also fastened on the saddle a letter to my Dutch foreman, bidding him send a native with a spare horse to fetch me by the evening. Then I started off to look for a chimney.

A boyhood spent on the cliffs at Kirkcaple had made me a bold cragsman, and the porphyry of the Rooirand clearly gave excellent holds. But I walked many weary miles along the cliff- foot before I found a feasible road. To begin with, it was no light task to fight one's way through the dense undergrowth of the lower slopes. Every kind of thorn-bush lay in wait for my skin, creepers tripped me up, high trees shut out the light, and I was in constant fear lest a black mamba might appear out of the tangle. It grew very hot, and the screes above the thicket were blistering to the touch. My tongue, too, stuck to the roof of my mouth with thirst.

The first chimney I tried ran out on the face into nothingness, and I had to make a dangerous descent. The second was a deep gully, but so choked with rubble that after nearly braining myself I desisted. Still going eastwards, I found a sloping ledge which took me to a platform from which ran a crack with a little tree growing in it. My glass showed me that beyond this tree the crack broadened into a clearly defined chimney which led to the top. If I can once reach that tree, I thought, the battle is won. The crack was only a few inches wide, large enough to let in an arm and a foot, and it ran slantwise up a perpendicular rock. I do not think I realized how bad it was till I had gone too far to return. Then my foot jammed, and I paused for breath with my legs and arms cramping rapidly. I remember that I looked to the west, and saw through the sweat which kept dropping into my eyes that about half a mile off a piece of cliff which looked unbroken from the foot had a fold in it to the right. The darkness of the fold showed me that it was a deep, narrow gully. However, I had no time to think of this, for I was fast in the middle of my confounded crack. With immense labour I found a chockstone above my head, and managed to force my foot free. The next few yards were not so difficult, and then I stuck once more.

For the crack suddenly grew shallow as the cliff bulged out above me. I had almost given up hope, when I saw that about three feet above my head grew the tree. If I could reach it and swing out I might hope to pull myself up to the ledge on which it grew. I confess it needed all my courage, for I did not know but that the tree might be loose, and that it and I might go rattling down four hundred feet. It was my only hope, however, so I set my teeth, and wriggling up a few inches, made a grab at it. Thank God it held, and with a great effort I pulled my shoulder over the ledge, and breathed freely.

My difficulties were not ended, but the worst was past. The rest of the gully gave me good and safe climbing, and presently a very limp and weary figure lay on the cliff-top. It took me many minutes to get back my breath and to conquer the faintness which seized me as soon as the need for exertion was over.



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