CHAP. A.] BREAKING IN PACK-OXEN. 23
many distant mountains were visible from both stations, I could begin triangulating. The mountains of the Swakop, on the other side of tae desert plain to our north, were clear is the blue distance. A few peaked hills were more in the foreground, and I took the bearings, as well as the natives could point out, of the place we were first to aim, for. Our first stage is a very difficult one. It occupies sixteen hours' actual travelling, exclusive of all stoppages. There is no grass for the oxen, nor water either ; though a few cup-fulls of the latter can be found in a granite rock after the first twelve hours' journey ; and there is generally so thick a mist on the plain, that, travelling, as people generally do, all through the night, there is every probability of losing the path. The consequence is, that the plain is covered with false waggon-roads in every direction, and a great number of oxen have died on the way. The natives of the place are no better than the strangers ; as soon as they lose their road they go wandering about not only till daylight, but till the fog clears away and shows them where they are. Losing the way is the rule here, and not the exception ; and a person who has crossed the plain without doing so, rather plumes himself upon the feat.
Stewartson, on his ox, was to be the guide. My men were all to walk ; Andersson and myself to ride the horses, giving a mount now and then to the men. The chestnut mule and four oxen were to be packed with my belongings, one other ox with Stewartson's.
The ceremony of breaking in the black ox had next to be performed, and in this way ; the whole herd was driven close up together, and then, Stewartson, with a long thong of leather (a rcim), noosed like a lasso, crept in amongst the creatures, and pushed the noose with a stick round the leg of the victim, holding on at the other end of the thong like grim death. The ox bellowed, and kicked, and galloped on three legs; the herd dispersed, everybody ran to help, and soon the animal, looking highly wroth and disgusted at the treatment, was brought to a standstill, and another noose thrown over his horns ; then, by lugging at the thongs, the beast was tumbled over, his nose pierced with a stick ; some old worthless bags were filled with sand, and tied firmly on his back, and he was let go, to plunge and bellow, and to vent his sulkiness on, and tell his story to his fellow-oxen.
Next morning, the packing operation was again gone through, as the pack had become loose; and this was repeated for two or three more days. Now that the ox had a nose-stick, it was much easier