. . start thinking of going on “trips up north” ?
As a colonial, I had long contemplated making an expedition into the regions north of the Cape Colony and Natal, but not until that year was I able to see my way clear to accomplish it.
At that time the Cape Colony was not so well known as it is now, and Natal much less; more particularly beyond its northern boundary, over the Drakensberg mountains, for few besides the Boers had ever penetrated beyond the Free State and Transvaal; and when on their return journey to Maritzburg, to sell their skins and other native produce, I had frequent conversations with them, the result was that nothing was known of the country beyond their limited journeys. This naturally gave me a greater desire to visit the native territories, and, being young and full of energy, wishing for a more active life than farming, although that is active during some part of the year, I arranged my plans and made up my mind to visit these unknown regions, and avail myself of such opportunities as I could spare from time to time to go and explore the interior.
That’s a quote from Andrew A. Anderson in his book “Twenty-Five Years in a Waggon in South Africa – Sport and Travel in South Africa”. * He started his trek in August 1863.
So the answer I suppose, is: As long as we’ve been here.
Well, as colonials we had also long contemplated making an expedition into the regions north, so in 2003 we got off our butts and went.
Back to our Andrew A Anderson: He left Natal and sallied into the Vrystaat, stopping first at a soon-to-be-famous town.
‘The great change in climate and vegetation is very perceptible on leaving fair Natal for the cold, dreary, open, and inhospitable Free State. Harrysmith, in 1863, was a poor, dull, sleepy, town, only supported and kept alive by a few transport riders on their way to the Transvaal and the small villages of the Free State.
‘I remained two days to gain news and information about the locality, and the various roads to the north; game being plentiful in all directions, principally blesbok and springbok, wildebeest or gnu, quaggas, hartebeest, and others. The ostrich was also plentiful. I decided to follow the game up, taking the advice of my Natal friend, who had recently returned from his shooting excursion. I took the road leading east, and less frequented than the others, which eventually leads to the newly-formed town of Wakkerstroom.——-ooo000ooo——-
Later, Anderson relates a story he heard – second hand! – pinch of salt, I reckon:
‘As an instance of their boldness at times, for, generally speaking, they are cowardly, the following was related by Mr Botha, a respectable, educated Boer farmer, and is quite true. It happened to his uncle.‘
“Journal.—Apes river, between Pretoria and Waterborg. Arrived at the Outspan, remained until next night at twelve, then started the waggon off on the springbok flats (twenty miles without water). The party consisted of L. Botha, P. Venter, and the servants, one waggon with span of sixteen oxen, one cart and two horses. Venter and Botha remained at the Outspan place with the cart and horses and a bastard Hottentot boy called Mark, twelve years old.
“The waggon had been gone half-an-hour when they heard the rattling of wheels in a manner which made them think that the oxen must have had a ‘scrick’ (scare) from a lion, as that place is full of them. Mark, who was sleeping alongside the fire, was called up to bring the horses. The lazy fellows there won’t do anything themselves*, not even when there is a ‘scrick’ from a lion. They were soon going to render assistance to the waggon, going at a jog trot (even then they did not hurry*), when Mark, who was on the front seat, called out, ‘Baas, de esel byt de paarde’ (‘The donkey bites the horse’), and immediately the cart stopped, and a lion was seen clasped round the fore-quarters of the favourite horse. Before the gun was taken up, down went the horse; meanwhile the gun was levelled at the lion, but the cap missed. Another was searched for, but it would not fit, as it was small and the nipple a large military one (so like a Boer!*). The lion now was making his meal off the horse, lying at his ease alongside the splash-board, eating the hind-quarter, Botha trying to split a cap to make it fit in vain; so Venter took the gun, and Botha made up powder with spittle to make it stick, and Venter was to take aim and Botha to do the firing with a match. Just as it ignited, the lion sprang right into the cart between them, and gave Venter a wound on the head and scratched his hand with his claw, and bit off a piece of the railing, sending the gun and Mark spinning out of the cart, and with that force that the lion fell down behind the cart. He then came round, as fast as he could, on to the dead horse, and continued his feed; but, not in the same cool manner, but making a growling, like a cat with meat when a dog is near, and now and then giving an awful roar, which made the cart, men, and all shake again. The other horse, which is a miracle, stood quite still, never attempting to budge an inch. After the lion had fed he went away, and Botha got out, intending to unharness the remaining horse, but no sooner was he on the ground than he heard the lion coming on again at full speed. He threw himself into the cart, and the lion stopped in front of the living horse, which tried to escape but was held fast by the pole-chain after breaking the swingle-trees. The lion gave one jump on to the horse, and with one bite behind the ears killed him. Botha was lying on the front seat, with his legs hanging down alongside the splash-board, when the lion came and licked the sweat of his horse off his trousers, but did not bite, Botha remaining quite still, which was the only chance, in the dog-cart from ten o’clock, when first attacked, until near daybreak, when the lion left;”
Saith Anderson: ‘This is a most remarkable case of boldness in a lion, when not wounded.’*Anderson’s contempt for the Boers was typical of Poms. This arrogance led to the ‘mighty British Empire’ suffering a crashing defeat against the Boers in the First Anglo Boer War in 1880.
*Anderson’s book is free to read at Project Gutenberg.
Read about the amazing Project Gutenberg here.