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BEYOND THE KALAHARI DESERT
 A GLANCE at the maps of Africa published before the year 1850 will show how little was known about the middle of the
continent. All round the coast and a few hundred miles up the rivers there were plenty of names, but the
centre was left almost blank. Most people supposed that the Great Sahara Desert in the north stretched down to
the Kalahari Desert in the south. Cleverer men, however, thought of the enormous flow of water in the Nile,
Congo, and Zambesi, and felt sure that somewhere there must be a land of streams, forests, and hills, vast
enough to feed such mighty rivers.
In the exciting hope of pioneering this
 new land, and in the noble desire of bringing a better way of life to its peoples, Oswell and Livingstone
dared the hardship and danger of the Kalahari. Oswell was to manage the trek, and the hard and tiring task of
shooting enough game for the camp pot depended upon his quick eye, cool head, and steady hand. Livingstone was
to be interpreter and scientific observer, while the party relied upon his wonderful power of gaining the
goodwill of the natives.
They started from Kolobeng in a north-easterly direction, and for the first 120 miles their track lay through
country they had passed before. Then they struck north towards the desert, and from this point they knew
nothing of the country before them. One of the natives with them had crossed many years ago, and
thought he could remember his route, but his memory proved very hazy.
With this man as guide, they came to the wells of Serotli, on the edge of the
 desert, and found that the place was just a dip in the sand, surrounded by low scrub and a few stunted trees.
In the dip, however, were several little hollows, as though a rhinoceros had been rolling in the sand; and in
one of these hollows lay about a quart of water.
Oswell at once set the party to work with spades and land turtle-shells to deepen the holes, but hard toil
till nightfall only brought enough water to give the horses a mouthful or two each. Their guide told them that
this was their last chance of water for 70 miles, so Oswell sent the oxen back to their last watering-place.
Bellowing and moaning with disappointment and distress, the poor beasts crawled back 25 miles, and at last
found relief from the terrible thirst they had suffered for ninety-six hours.
Meanwhile four of the Serotli pits were dug out to the depth of 8 feet, and water trickled into them so
plentifully that Oswell sent for the oxen. On their
 arrival they were at once watered, inspanned, and headed across the desert. The heat was very great, and the
wheels sank so deep into the loose sand that their utmost efforts only dragged the waggons 6 miles before
sundown. On the following day they covered 19 miles without water. On the third day again these gallant beasts
struggled 19 miles through the heavy sand in the smiting heat without a drop to drink.
That night was a bad one for the leaders of the expedition. They had now come 44 miles from Serotli at a rate
of only 2 miles an hour, and the guide told them they were still 30 miles from the next water which was at a
place called Mokokonyani the bushmen of the desert.
The oxen were spent with toil and thirst, and all night lay moaning out to their masters a piteous appeal for
drink. No one knew for certain what lay before them, or whether they were in the right direction. Failure
seemed more than likely,
 but Oswell and Livingstone were not the men to know despair. At the first sign of daybreak they sent the
horses forward with the guide to try and find Mokokonyani. With the horses safe, the men could cover the
ground in safety, and hunt for food on the way.
Oswell and Livingstone intended to follow with the waggons as long as the oxen could hold out; then they would
loose the oxen on the trail of the horses in the hope that, without their burdens, they would mostly reach
water alive. Half an hour after starting, the waggons passed through a belt of scrub, and came suddenly upon
the horses at a dead halt. "Is it water?" was on every lip. No such luck was in store for them: the guide had
lost his way.
Soon the weary oxen staggered in distress, and were outspanned to rest while the leaders took counsel for the
future. Meanwhile the natives scattered through the scrub in a forlorn hope of finding
 water. Presently one of them heard the harsh croaking of a frog. No sweet music could fall softer on his ear,
for where there is a frog there is always water close by. He ran back, and reported the discovery of a patch
of marsh. Once more the jaded oxen were inspanned. The sense of water in the air seemed to revive them, and in
two brisk miles they reached relief.
For the present, at all events, the expedition was saved. And it was well for them that they came upon the
marsh, for it took them four more days to reach Mokokonyani, though on the first and third days they were
luckily able to find water by digging. It turned out that they were in the bed of a "sand river" called the
Mokokoong by the bushmen. Deep down below their feet a constant flow of water crept at a snail's pace through
the sand. The course of the stream could be roughly traced like the long-dried bed of an ancient river.
Sometimes it lay
be-  tween ridges of naked limestone or banks of sand; sometimes it was lost in the level plain. In a very few
places there were sand-holes deep enough to reach the stream, and here patches of marsh formed, or water
showed in plenty, as at Mokokonyani. Otherwise there was no sign of water, though the bushmen get enough to
quench their thirst by sucking through a long reed thrust down into the sand.
The party now tried to follow the sand river, but soon lost it for two waterless days. Then they found and
followed it once more, until the underground stream disappeared in a marsh. At this point their guide again
failed them, and they went many miles out of their course without water for three days. Here again fortune
favoured them, for Oswell's eagle eye spied a bushwoman lurking in the thick scrub. He gave chase and captured
her, and for a few beads she led them to a water-hole.
 And now from a hillock they could see new and fertile country in the distance, with thick smoke rising beyond.
It must be reeds burning on the shore of the great lake, they thought, and so pushed onward.
In a few more days they suddenly burst through the thick bush upon a wide and deep river, and from the natives
on its banks they learnt that this was the Zouga, flowing from the great Lake Ngami, 250 miles up stream. It
was now 4th July and late in the season, but for twelve more days they forced and jolted their waggons along
the river bank until the oxen were nearly spent. Then Oswell and Livingstone picked out a span of the fittest,
and pressed forward with a light waggon. As they neared the lake the bush grew denser, and in the space of 5
miles they cut down more than one hundred small trees to let the waggon pass. At last, on 28th July, they
reached Lake Ngami, having taken nine weeks to cover the 600 miles between them and Kolobeng.
 Beyond the Zouga lay a fertile land of forest and plains, but the failure to reach it took away half the joy
of their discovery. They could not get the waggons across, though Livingstone, at the risk of his life from
alligators, spent many hours in the water vainly trying to make a raft. They were forced to return—Livingstone
to Kolobeng, and Oswell to England; but they made plans to come again the next year, and Oswell promised to
bring up a boat.
Next year, however, their plans failed, for Oswell was delayed, and Livingstone started without him. He took
with him his wife and children, and, in spite of the hardships of the desert, they reached the Zouga and Lake
Ngami in safety. Here fever fell upon the children, and he was forced to return. On the way back he met
Oswell, who had followed only a few weeks' march behind.
Nothing could be done that year, but in 1851 these two great men again crossed
 the Kalahari Desert, taking with them Mrs. Livingstone and the children. This time Oswell, with his usual
unselfish care for others, went a day in advance and dug out the wells, and thus the rest of the party were
saved from delay and thirst.
They passed the Zouga in safety, and then, in a lovely land of fruits, flowers, and herds, they crossed stream
after stream until they came to a point on the River Chobi 400 miles from Linyanté. Linyanté was the
headquarters of the Makololo tribe, and their wise and powerful chief hurried to meet the travellers. He was
quite overcome by his first sight of white men, but Livingstone's genial kindness soon set him at his ease,
and then no one could have done more to help them. Sebituani told them all he knew about the country in and
around his borders. Far to the north-west, he said, there lived a tribe who once sent back to him his present
of an ox, and asked for a man to eat instead. From the east there came
 black messengers from the Portuguese with calico and beads and guns in exchange for slaves.
He promised to take his white friends ten days north of Linyanté to the mighty River Seshéké, which fell, men
said, over a cliff into a chasm with a smoke and thunder that sounded many miles. Unfortunately this noble
chief, whom Oswell decribed as a "gentleman in thought and manner," died of pneumonia a few days after; but
his tribe kept all his promises to the explorers.
Leaving Mrs. Livingstone with the waggons in camp at the Chobi, the two friends went by canoe to Linyanté, and
thence on horseback to the Seshéké. Here they indeed saw a mighty river, which proved to be the great Zambesi;
but the waterfall was said to be far off, and the season was so late that once more they turned homewards.
On the way back many new plans were made. They had just been on the
 southern border of a country whence vile and brutal white men were getting slaves at the rate of eighteenpence
apiece. If only they could find a good road into this country, honest trade might put an end to this wicked
robbery of human lives. The road they had already found was too long and difficult, so Livingstone determined
to revisit Linyanté the next year, and then seek a possible path to the sea-coast. It would be impossible for
his family to go with him, and the thought of leaving them to the risks and dangers of Kolobeng was a great
trouble to his mind.
Once more the goodness of his companion came to his aid. For Oswell persuaded Livingstone to send his wife and
children to England, and also gave him the money for their outfit and expenses. He sold the ivory that had
fallen to his rifle, and handed the price of it to his friend as a share of the game on their new preserves.