April 26.---This morning we left our fetid camp, our destination Husab, 59 kilometres from Swakupmund. The orders we received were to go out to Nonidas, and from there proceed with the artillery and their escort. We could see that a general move was on. The 3rd and 5th Brigades had struck camp at dawn, and were engaged in making great fires to burn their rubbish. Transport and guns were all moving out on the Nonidas road. A feeling of excitement and of great things impending seemed to be reflected from every face. Oh, the relief to breathe fresh air and have something to do ! At Nonidas we outspanned to allow the heat of the day to pass, and we were a little disconcerted to see no sign of guns or escort. News has come through that the Germans are attacking our extreme left, the infantry on the line at a place called Trekkoppi. A glance at the map will show that this is a very strategic move, for if they succeed in pushing us in here they might threaten our railway to Riet, or even cut our lines of communication with Swakupmund. We are glad to hear that the 2nd Kimberleys are there, a regiment of old veterans, also the Rhodesians and the I.L.H.
Yesterday about a dozen armed motor-cars were rushed through Swakupmund by train, to take part in this fight. It is an Imperial contingent, and it is said they were shipped from home thinking they were going to France, and that they did not know where they were going until they were landed at Walfisch.
The General has gone off to have a look at this fight, and we are hoping we may be diverted to take part in it. The 1st and 2nd Brigades have already left their camp at Nonidas, moving up the old line and the river towards Karibib. I visited my old friend the motor transport officer. He has more than trebled his output, and is now forwarding 1,625,000 pounds weight of stores for the troops per week. An advanced base has been formed at Riet, and there are "stacks" of stuff there.
The 3rd and 5th Brigades left Swakupmund in the early afternoon. We saw them coming towards us, over a distant ridge about five miles away, and into the intervening valley. It was a wonderful sight, for they came on at a great rate in a cloud of dust like a mighty serpent belching smoke. As the head of the column approached us, men were still pouring over the distant ridge. What a change from the lethargy at Swakupmund ! All were now laughing, joking, and shouting. Each man carried his own belongings, just an overcoat, one blanket under the saddle, a haversack containing food and tobacco. Here and there a pan or kettle was dangling from a saddle, but beyond one or two pack-mules and horses, dragged by sweating, shouting natives, there was no transport. They swarmed past us on both sides in a cloud of dust as thick as a London fog, which even hid the nearest from us. Out of the gloom an orderly rode up to me. "Colonel Mentz says you are to move on at once to Husab." And he vanished before I could reply. Evidently the German attack on our left had been beaten off, for our rush across the desert eastward was to be carried out. Our waggons were spanned in in quick time, and we followed hard on the heels of the column. As we climbed the road from the river, mountains appeared to the north and northeast. The formation of these is almost indescribable. Imagine a great cauldron of molten granite. A sudden explosion at the bottom of the cauldron would throw up the rock in every direction. Cooling, suddenly pointed, twisted masses of rock would remain jumbled together in a most irregular manner. The moon and other extinct globes must be something like this African desert. Silent, impassable, everlasting, weird.
The Boers always, if possible, choose moonlight nights for their trekking, and this one was no exception to their general rule. I have no doubt that General Botha waited for full moon before making this advance. Otherwise night marches in a broken unknown country like this would be next to impossible. The orders were for the whole column to be at Husab by dawn, and this night trek of forty miles was a series of nightmares. The Burghers move in short rushes, and then rest, which is much less fatiguing for man and beast than just jogging slowly on. During the night we passed them twice, and they passed us three times. As far as we could judge in the moonlight, the greater part of the country over which we were passing was a large plateau, and the Burghers, riding over a wide front, could not be avoided when we lay down to rest a little. It was like two men locked in an embrace rolling over and over each other. Once I awoke to see tremendous horses, as they appeared in the dust, prancing over me. When we off-saddled the second time, we made little kraals with our saddles to avoid being ridden over by commandoes coming on behind. It was very cold, and the night was fine; but a great pall of dust hung over everything like a cloud, often obscuring even the moon.
The bivouacs of the Burghers are very impressive. In the distance you would see a black patch on the sand, absolutely still and silent. This patch resolves itself into an orderly arrangement of men, saddles, and horses, perhaps arranged in long lines, each man lying with a horse and saddle at his head. Sometimes the horses are tied in circles of twenty or so, heads inwards, and the men sleep round. At other times the men would just dismount for a few minutes, and were leaning against their horses, quiet, motionless, and observant. Not a horse neighed or stirred, and on a dark night you might pass within 10 yards of a commando without realizing that they were there.
April 27.---About 8 a.m. we arrived at Husab. The Burghers had all passed us during the night for the last time, and the ambulance was rumbling along sedately on a great Hat plain, conscious that we were more or less up to time. With dramatic suddenness we came upon a yawning chasm, as if the earth had opened at our feet. This was Husab, just a volcanic fissure about 100 yards wide. Down the centre ran a narrow path, the sides studded with little spitzkopjes, irregular ledges of rock, and caves, all below the general level of the desert. Here our friends the Burghers were resting. Men and horses were crowded up the slopes of the little kops like chamois. The effect of mirage greatly elongated the figures, the rocks, and everything. The chasm seemed to be filled with bright pink smoke, due to the sunrise upon the dust. Attenuated little fires crackled here and there, men as slender as telegraph --- poles crowding round. It was as if one had come upon some distorted, demented dwellers of the nether regions.
There is nothing at Husab beyond rocks and sand, no shelter, and the water is three or four miles away in the river-bed. Consequently, all the animals had to be taken this extra distance for a drink. Without resting, I went on ahead of the brigade to Riet, the next stage, taking the motor ambulances with me. The same primitive mountains continue on the left, and on the right is a dreary plain, the Tinkas Flats, marked on the map as a game reserve I suppose to impress the Deutschers at home; for there never was, and never will be, any game on the Tinkas Flats, nor a blade of grass for them to eat, either. The road was hot and dusty, and the motors had all their work cut out to get through. The road here was dotted with dead horses, but, except for an occasional motorcyclist, we did not see a living thing, being well ahead of all troops now. The endurance and skill of these motor-cyclist despatch-riders is truly wonderful. Freezing nights and broiling days do not deter them. In the bad places, to get through, they run the engine and also push with their feet upon the ground, zigzagging along at all angles with the vertical. How they maintain their equilibrium is a marvel. At Nabus the road enters the bed of the Swakup. Here I saw one or two acacias, the first trees of any kind we had come across in the country. The position the Germans had chosen to defend was very strong. To the south they had a great red granite mountain, Langer Heinrich; to the north the river-bed and a jumbled mass of rocks beyond. In front of the position a wide sandy slope extended for half a mile. They evacuated this place because their right at Jackalswater was turned.
Riet is a water-hole and a collection of fine trees in the bed of the river. There is but a single building, and this is only a tin shanty, now being used by us as a base hospital. The trees are quite a feature, and are a species of acacia known locally as the "anna." It grows as large as an oak, and the pods, the size of that of the broad bean, are used as food for animals. The river-bed here must be nearly a mile wide, the great trees giving it a park-like appearance; but the dust and heat are very trying, for the sand in the river-bed is of a light consistency, like flour, and the rocks on either side of the river, sweltering in the sun, seem to focus the heat rays in the river-bed. It was two o'clock when our motors pulled up at Riet, and the padre, who was with me, decided that nothing short of a bath would restore him to the normal. We voiced this modest request at the hospital, but the best they could do was a small bucket. Padre, however, espied a foot-spray pump, and at once hit upon the brilliant idea of using this in lieu of a bath. So we took the bucket and pump to the well and sprayed each other until we were clean and cool. Here I formed the mental resolution that, were I ever responsible for the health of a body of men where water was scarce, a spray pump with a fine nozzle should be a sine qua non.
Last night the enemy came down to attack Riet; but it was a very half-hearted affair, for on their way they had accidentally exploded one of their own mines, which had damped their enthusiasm considerably. Another attack is expected to-night, and the garrison, the Rand Rifles, hope to cover themselves with glory. Nobody here except padre and I seem to know there will be 6,000 Burghers here before dawn to-morrow. But no doubt the Germans are aware of this, and are making themselves scarce. So that I think our gallant infantry will draw a blank among the cold rocks to-night.
It puzzles me why a Burgher force has a sanitary service at all. The Burghers certainly like to have doctors when they go into action, but they expect nothing elaborate. Just a bandage when hit, a little something out of a flask, and the assurance that they cannot possibly recover, satisfies. But that assurance must come from a real doctor, and they shout loudly until he comes; a Red Cross orderly suffices not. Transport of wounded, hospitals and operations are things that do not worry the average Boer General. If he has a docile Africander doctor with the commando it is enough for him; and for this kind of business his idea is not very far wrong, where mobility is everything. The reason why this Northern Force is such a medley is not far to seek. The fighting leaders have Africander ideas, and the administrative leaders have European ideas. The two at present are no more miscible than oil and water.
AprÓl 28.---The 3rd and 5th Brigades arrived at Riet early this morning. The bulk of them did not stay long, but watered their horses and moved on towards Salem. Later in the day the brigade trains came in, and our ambulance. After struggling through the sand for two days and nights men and animals were somewhat exhausted. Moreover nobody had had more than snatches of sleep, and we were in hopes that at least twenty-four hours' respite would be given us. But at 4 p.m. the order came to move on again to Salem. It was now gradually being borne in upon us that we were engaged in a neck or nothing rush, our objective Otjimbingwe, or even Windhuk, enemy permitting. Further, it was obvious that the transport would be out of it, for the heavy mule waggons could not be expected to live at this pace. At Swakupmund before leaving we had reduced our kit to an absolute minimum. Here again it was obvious that more things must be left behind, and we modified our ideas of what the absolute minimum was.
From Riet to Salem the river runs in a gorge with precipitous mountains on either side, and to get there at all is a matter of keeping in the river-bed, which is very sandy and loose. It was as much as the mules could do to pull the waggons through, and in addition the motor ambulances had to be towed. It took the transport four hours to do this stage of seven miles. Troops and transport trekking up the river gave it the appearance of a busy thoroughfare, although, instead of buildings on either side, we had the glorious anna-trees, and beyond the gold, the red and purple mountains. German graves were dotted here and there, generally indicated by a white cross and placed on a little hill. Against the skyline these crosses were very conspicuous, standing up like ghosts with outstretched arms pointing to man's brutal handiwork.
It was just getting dusk when we came upon a commando, off-saddled on one side of the river. Suddenly several men ran out from the group with their rifles ready, and we heard the bolts click as they crept stealthily forward. "A lion ! a lion !" passed from mouth to mouth. "Only a---old rock !" a laughing corporal predicted. And so it turned out, but we had had our thrill.
By the time we got to Salem it was almost dark. Several thousand men were trying to water as many horses at a long row of troughs. Pandemonium reigned; you could not see an inch for dust, nor hear yourself speak. In a trice I lost my bearings and all sight of my own corps. A lot of loose wire lay on the ground, horses were floundering and falling, men calling and cursing. As soon as I could extricate myself from this seething mass, I made towards some little bivouac fires on the mountain-side. Fortunately, the same idea occurred to most of our men, and by degrees, more by good luck than good management, we all got together again. Dry wood being plentiful, we lit fires on the mountain-side, and made hot drinks. The garrison, a company of the Rand Rifles, were camping in caves and so on. Their fires and ours looked like so many little infernos.
I was sitting apart, boiling a little water and waiting for my confrËres, when the sergeant in charge of a picket came up and started a conversation. With very little encouragement, he began to talk about his family in Cape Town, and produced photographs of his children. He told me how he had saved a particularly delicate one suffering from diphtheria, after the doctors had despaired, his method being the application of recently killed and opened kittens to the throat. I think he said they must be black kittens. He continued in this strain to glorify himself, to the disparagement of my noble profession, until I offered him a cigarette, and as I held a match for him he was able to see that he was addressing an officer of the medical corps, when he suddenly remembered that his corporal was not very reliable, and German scouts were prowling about.
We entertained to supper two officers of the transport. They had been engaged in most tough and exhausting work getting waggons up from the coast. They assured us it would take nine days to get provisions up to Karibib or Otjimbingwe, and they disclaimed any further responsibility of feeding the troops. For the immediate future we must "live on the land." One of these officers was the D.A.Q.M.G. Of our brigade. He said Karibib was our immediate objective. The 1st and 2nd Brigades, under Britz, were marching on this place. The 3rd and 5th Brigades, under Myburg, had for their immediate objective Otjimbingwe. Once there, the Germans would be in doubt as to whether Karibib or Windhuk was aimed at. If the Germans concentrated against Britz, we, the 3rd and 5th, were to slip into Karibib from behind; if, on the other hand, they concentrated against us at Tsaobis or Otjimbingwe, Britz might take Karibib without fighting. In the event of Karibib being captured and our receiving little cheek, we were to spread out on the railway from Karibib to Okahandya, and threaten Windhuk from the north, not from the west. If we got hold of the line from Karibib to Okahandya, then the German forces would be cut in two. Those in the south would be between Botha's army and Mackenzie's, BerrangÈ's, and Van der Venter's, who were all concentrating on Keetmanshoop. The Germans in the north, if they did not offer battle, would retire to Omaruru, possibly to Otavi and Grootfontein.
At 11 p.m. we received orders to move on to Tsaobis, forty odd miles of river-bed and desert. There was no water between here and Tsaobis, and no doubt the Germans would destroy the wells or poison the water at this latter place. Ambushes and mines were highly probable. The troops had moved on towards Tsaobis at 6 p.m. The Germans were expected to defend it, so the ambulances must move up without delay. The base hospital from Riet had to-day been advanced to Salem.
It was now Wednesday night. Nobody had rested since Sunday. We had traversed eighty miles of desert, much of it on foot, every step an effort. In an exhausted condition we were called upon to do another forty miles to Tsaobis, possibly another sixty to Otjimbingwe. It did not need much reflection to realize that defeat or delay at either of these places would reduce us to a very critical state from thirst and fatigue, possibly from hunger, too.
Here our O.C. decided to push on with the ambulances, leaving the heavy transport behind to give the mules twenty-four hours' rest. As the road still ran in the river-bed, it was necessary to employ some of our mules to drag the motors through the sand until the road emerged from the river. We set off at midnight. The river was full of holes and gullies, and had it not been moonlight our waggons would very soon have come to grief. As it was, it took us all our time to get them along, and after an hour's hard work the two miles of river-bed were accomplished and a fairly decent road seemed to lie before us. We were quite without a guide, and had nothing but the spoor of the column to direct us. Scouts had told us that after leaving the river-bed the road was quite practicable for motors. So we sent back the teams of mules we had used for the motors so far. The cars started off, and the rest of the ambulance followed. We had not gone more than a mile when we could hear that the motors in front were in difficulties, and we very soon came up with them in the river, again up to their axles in sand. Those of us who had the energy pushed them for three hours through the sand, finally emerging from the river again at 5 a.m. We were utterly done, neither man nor mule equal to another step. Referring to the map, I found that we had averaged a mile an hour since we left Salem. Two hours' rest were allowed. It was freezing hard, and the rocks we were on were like ice. In the confusion at Salem my orderly had mislaid my blankets, and I was much too cold to sleep at all, so sat drumming my feet on a rock, moodily contemplating the joys of a campaign without blankets.
April 29.---We had trekked so badly during the night that even our short rest had to be curtailed, and before dawn, without refreshment, we pushed on. A stiff climb brought us out of the gorge on to the high veldt, where grass and a few trees began to appear. The grass was perfectly white from the frosts, and, until it became light, was invisible. The trees were all stunted acacias, just one here and there. To our right were the great granite mountains, bare, cold, and desolate. An undulating plain lay before us, as far as the eye could reach. On the horizon, perhaps fifteen miles away, we could see a cloud of dust rising up to the sky, no doubt caused by the tail end of the two brigades in front of us. We pushed on with all eagerness, well knowing that every moment it was getting hotter and hotter. At eleven we stopped a little while for refreshment, the sun being so hot that we were glad to have the shade of the waggons. We turned our horses and mules loose for them to graze. No doubt the animals would consider the word "graze" rather too euphemistic in this connection; for the grass, such as it was, needed careful looking for.
An "indaba" was held. Here we were, still thirty miles from Tsaobis, and our brigade, for all we knew, might by now be heavily engaged. Two officers were sent on in the motor ambulances, with orders to get to Tsaobis as soon as possible, to return and report to the rest of the ambulance if necessary. The O.C. and I with the mounted men were to push on as fast as we could. The dismounted men and the ambulance waggons were to do the same. This meant breaking up our unit most horribly, for our heavier transport was already twenty-four hours behind. It practically came to each man and each waggon making for Tsaobis as best he or it could. We had not gone very far when a man stood up and stopped us at the entrance to a drift across a small river; he pointed out a mine area, and showed us how to avoid it. By making a dÈtour we all passed safely over. After we had gone on a little way, it occurred to me that sooner or later a man left at a lonely drift to warn troops and convoys would either go to sleep, move on, or in some way or other fail to warn people of the danger. So I returned with the intention of putting up notices. Just as I got back to the drift, I was horrified to see an ambulance waggon making straight for the mined area, the leading mules being about where the contacts were supposed to be. It was tricky work getting the waggon off. The few brief moments seemed like an eternity. Past, present, and future were blotted out; my feet seemed to be the only things that mattered, and it was as if they were quite detached from me, and a long way away. "Look where you put your feet ! Look where you put your feet !" rang in my ears to the exclusion of every other sound. How strange to put my foot down next time, and not to see it, not to see anything, now or ever !
We made some danger-signals with red bandanas from the necks of two orderlies, and long splints from the ambulance waggons. Then we rolled big stones into the drift on both sides, scrawled notices, and put them up. Never shall I forget the trials of this noon and afternoon; the sun blistered even the sand. Being now far behind, I travelled on alone several miles. Nothing but sand, rocks, dust, intolerable heat, thirst, and fatigue. I overtook a vet. and a scout travelling together. They seemed more woebegone than I. We pursued the endless track together. I asked the vet. how long horses would be able to endure these conditions without water. He thought three days, mules not so long. We began to see signs that the troops in front of us were in trouble. Dead horses lay in the road, sometimes with a brown patch beside them, showing how their agonies had been terminated. Men had discarded their rations, their blankets, their mess-tins, in the mad rush. These things were to be seen in the road, and particularly at spots where they had bivouacked; everything a soldier uses might be seen, except rifles and water-bottles.
We passed an old Burgher escorting a young man who from excitement and fatigue had gone off his head; both they and their horses seemed in extremis. Without interest or notice of their surroundings, they were mechanically crawling along, the old man some 20 yards in front of the youth, whose wild and haggard aspect proclaimed his unhappy condition. I suggested to the old man that he should remove the lunatic's rifle, but he said it was not necessary, and it kept the youth quiet to think he was pursuing an enemy. I felt a little nervous that he might take me for the enemy in question, but he sat there clutching his rifle like an automaton without appearing to see us. Late in the afternoon I overtook the men of the ambulance struggling along, and we rested awhile under the shade of a bank. The men showed great restraint in not drinking the water out of their water-bottles, and every man seemed to realize that he might be ten times more thirsty to-morrow. Blankets, haversacks, and tins of bully beef were strewn in the road more and more thickly the farther we went. I picked up a large twelve-pound tin of beef and fastened it to my saddle, but I could not persuade others to do the same. Salt beef without water seemed too great a mockery. The argument that they might be hungry to-night rather than thirsty did not seem to appeal to them. Under great privation men seem very soon to disregard the future or the making of plans concerning it; present miseries are all-absorbing. It is a dangerous condition to arrive at, and is speedily followed by the "let us lie down and die" state of mind if the circumstances do not improve.
Towards evening we began to overtake bodies of men trekking after the troops, engineers, ammunition carts, and so on. All were silent, and the animals looked ready to drop. At sunset we overtook our motor-cars at Franke's Well. We had encouraged ourselves with the expectation of finding water here, but the stones we threw in fell down with a dry, dry thud, and, looking down, one could see the well had been partially filled in with rocks. The men in the motor cars told us that Tsaobis had been occupied by our troops, but whether there was water there or not they could not say. The motorists had had a most gruelling day, frequently having had to push the cars, and when we came up they were engaged in pulling one of the cars up a steep hill with a rope.
When the sun went down we felt much happier, less thirsty, and more capable of effort. The unwisdom of trekking during the day was made most clear to us, but in this case, in our endeavour to keep up with the troops, we were bound to go day and night. Soon we saw camp fires blinking in the distance, but they never seemed to get any nearer, and it was nine o'clock before we rode into Tsaobis. There was only a single building here, a police barrack, looming large and white in the moonlight and dust. Men and horses were moving about like ghosts in all directions, but mostly towards the sound of a pump that we could hear going.
No music to my ears will ever resemble the rhythmic squeak of that little hand pump. But, alas ! the sudden revulsion of feeling akin to dismay to find it dry ! "Where's water ? Where's water ?" everybody was asking. "There's a dam five miles away with plenty in," somebody said. "No, that dam is dry; I been there," said another. "It isn't; houses could swim in it half an hour ago." And so on. We heard that some people were digging for water in the river and getting a little. Like a man who has seen another fail to get his pennyworth out of an automatic machine, I tried the pump handle. Not a drop came. Stones fell down with even a drier thud than at Franke's. One of our men climbed down and reported it dry. I noticed a little water in a cement trough under the pump, and I scooped out a billytin-ful. It looked like strong chocolate in the moonlight. I strained it through a towel. It then looked like strong coffee. We decided not to drink it. My old horse " Joffre "sucked it up, tin and all almost, and swallowed it in one frantic gulp. I then took a sponge and mopped up another tinful muddier than the first. I offered this to our sergeant-major's horse, and was almost trampled by the other horses in my efforts to do so. We decided to try the river. We climbed over some rocks and a dead horse or two to get into the river-bed. Men and horses---the latter at least half frantic---were struggling, slipping, and thrusting, in their endeavours to do the same. By going farther down the river-bed I found a hole already dug, 6 feet deep, the moonlight reflected at the bottom. I jumped down the sides, falling in as I tried to get to the water. By scooping away with my mess-tin I managed to hand up to the O.C. enough water to give ten of our horses about a gallon each. Then at dawn we desisted and lay down, our thirst slaked a little with water that appealed to the palate rather than to sight.
The Germans had managed to slip out of Tsaobis before our men got round them. As to their numbers I could gather nothing definite, but it is probable that there were not more than a hundred. The commandants had intended to remain at Tsaobis until to-morrow, but General Botha came up and ordered an immediate advance to Otjimbingwe. This was a very fine effort, and the tired troops moved out at 3 a.m. I was glad when they went, for some of their hungry horses were on the opposite side of the wall against which I was lying, and to hear them chewing at sticks and tree-trunks was not very cheerful.
April 30.---I suppose Tsaobis owes its existence to the fact of having a little water under normal conditions, for beyond this it has nothing to recommend it. The police camp and a pump are on the bank of a small river surrounded by a few decrepit-looking trees. Opposite the camp are three regular little spitzkopjes which give the place a quaint appearance. The greater part of the day was spent by us in getting water out of the river-bed. Hundreds of men were engaged in the same way, digging holes in the sand 5 or 6 feet deep, and then waiting for a little muddy water to collect at the bottom. Fortunately, the ambulance had spades, but many poor fellows were digging the sand with meat-tins, billy-tins, or even their hands. At times there was a good deal of competition for the best situations, but on the whole the thirsty men exercised much self-restraint. I had found a good hole the night before, a long way up the river and among some secluded rocks. So I went there again, but was disappointed to see the tousled head of a Burgher pop out of it, and so had to begin operations anew. By working all morning we managed to get sufficient water for our needs, and, by allowing it to settle for an hour or so, really decent drinking water was obtained. We treated some with alum, which quickly made it quite clear and limpid, although it detracted considerably from its palatableness.
There was no grazing for animals in the vicinity, and there were many hungry men, too. An officer in charge of the rear-guard came to us saying they were literally starving. After a little consideration I gave him the big tin of bully I had picked up, but we could spare nothing else. I said he had better open the tin before leaving. Great was the tension until it was discovered that the meat was fresh. During the day we fed several stragglers who seemed to be on the verge of collapse. In an outhouse, too, we found some men who were not well enough to proceed. We collected water, food and bedding, for them, and left them to their fate.
Our transport turned up during the afternoon. One mule had to be shot. The condition of these animals made us set to work to lighten the waggons still further, and much useful kit and equipment was left behind here, including one of our operating-tables, tents for hospital, and much bedding. The Colonel in charge of our brigade had gone off, leaving us only the vague instructions "to follow the spoor of the ammunition carts." Hardly liking to act upon such orders, we managed to get into communication with the Chief of Staff, who ordered us on to Otjimbingwe at sunset.
As soon as it was cooling and the animals had rested a little, we moved out on the Otjimbingwe road. This trek was almost enjoyable, although we walked the greater part of the night, our horses being so done up. From various distant hills we could see the Germans signalling with lamps to one another, and occasionally a rocket went up. General Botha with his body-guard was trekking immediately in front of us. He had six splendid mules in a Cape cart, and of course we did not expect to overtake him.
About 11 p.m. we halted in a nice open place among some acacias, where there was plenty of grass and firewood. We made a fire and enjoyed some chocolate, turning the horses loose. I gathered a big bundle of grass as well for my horse, and gave him a handful of mealies, the last he was likely to have for some while. We got a few hours' rest by a big fire, the night being as cold as the day had been hot. By 4 a.m. we were trekking again, stiff, tired, hungry and thirsty, and cold. However, we were cheered to see the country improving at every step, and as we neared Otjimbingwe saw indubitable signs of cattle and plenty of grass.