Subtitle: Country People Mission With Particular Reference to the Largest Tribe, The Kwanyama
Author: Hermann Tönjes
Publisher: Namibia Scientific Society
Soft-cover, 15x21 cm, 283 pages, many bw photos, 1 map
The first part contains a brief description of the country, its fauna and flore, as well as the climatic conditions. The second part gives an overview over the work of the Rhenish Mission in Southwest Africa.
Ovamboland is situated in the far north of our colony South West Africa, and separated from Hereroland by a vast steppe. The name of the region is quite unknown to its inhabitants themselves; in all probability, it was coined by their neighbours to the south, the Herero. The area we know as Ovamboland today is a vast expanse in the north-west and the north which reaches to the Kunene and the Okavango and, in the Caprivi Strip in the east, to the Zambezi. Its southern boundary is formed by the steppe mentioned earlier.
As opposed to Hereroland with its massive, majestic mountain ranges, Ovamboland is a vast plain with hardly any noticeable undulations. The soil is generally of a sandy nature; surface rock is an extreme rarity in this part of the country. A certain type of rock, which is not very hard, is often found 1-1,5 m beneath the surface, especially in sandy soil. In most cases, however, breaking through this rock is possible with implements as simple as a sharp pick-axe.
Despite the generally meagre precipitation, Ovamboland boasts a lush vegetation. Unlike Hereroland, one finds large stands of deciduous trees throughout the region, and these provide the weary traveller with welcome shade during the hot season. Visitors are especially surprised at the lush vegetation of the area if they approach it from the south, i.e. from Hereroland. From Okaukuejo, two routes lead northward over the plain which the Ndonga call ombuga. The first runs via Okahakana and Noholongo, and although it is the longer of the two and there are sections through which it is difficult to pass with waggons, it has the advantage that there is always water at the two places mentioned earlier, even during the dry season.
The second route runs via Okondeka, Ekatumare and Ekuma. This route is considerably shorter than the first, but has the distinct disadvantage that one seldom finds potable water along the way during the latter part of the dry season, i.e. from August or September onward. No matter which route one chooses, the progress of waggons and mounts through the sandy plains of the ombuga is slow. The lack of water is the most unpleasant aspect of travelling through this area. During good rainy seasons, though, it is quite often the case that such quantities of water gather in certain parts of the ombuga that it is absolutely impossible to cross them with waggons.
The greater part of this plain is covered with grass that stands about a metre high. Now and again, one also spots an isolated tree or shrub, and the numbers increase as one proceeds northward. What is especially astonishing is the abundance of game on this plain; even lions and leopards are no rarity. When I was so fortunate to cross the ombuga in July 1904, I met with the former at Ekuma. We had found our last drinking water at Okaukuejo, and the supply we had with us was beginning to run low after three days. The draught animals, too, were suffering from the lack of water. Travellers coming from Ovamboland and headed south told us that there was abundant and good water at Ekuma, and this encouraging news made us continue on our journey with new heart. What- ever people and animals were not required at the waggon set off ahead,mand we finally arrived at Ekuma around 8 o'clock in the evening.
In the hope of being able to quench my thirst, I immediately took my large enamel cup and rushed down to the water to test it, only to be "bitterly" disappointed! The water was so salty that it proved impossible to drink even the minutest quantity; coffee and tea made with this water also tasted horrible. What should we do? We had to continue on our journey as soon as possible, but both man and beast required a few hours of rest. It was, therefore, decided that we should spend the night here and would set out again early the next morning. Immediately on our arrival, I noticed that my herdsman was roaming through the tall grass, peering around him searchingly and fearfully. When I wanted to know what he was doing, he replied:
"There is some-thing here!" "What could there be?" I called back. "You're afraid, and that is why you're seeing all kinds of things!" Very soon, most of the people who had come with the waggon were fast asleep; the draught animals had settled quite close to the waggon, not moving more than ten paces from it. I was lying at the fire in my folding chair, the starry sky above me and the wonderfully silent night around me. All of a sudden, one of the oxen leapt up, bellowing loudly. Everybody was up in no time at all. My people grabbed burning branches from the fire and rushed to the other side of the waggon, where the oxen had been lying. All of them had run off, and it required a considerable effort to bring them back; when we counted them, not one was missing.
What had happened? A lion had crept up on our camp and fallen upon one of my best oxen. The yelling of the people and the fact that they were carrying burning branches had driven him off and he had even left off his prey; but for a long time afterwards his roaring resounded through the silent night - which was soon answered from the other side of the camp - showing that he was not in the best of moods after the foiled attack. For us, it was a most unpleasant situation. If one looks at these beasts through solid bars, their proximity is not in the least alarming. It is an altogether different matter, though, when they roam in the open veld around us in the dark of night and one can expect a visit at any moment. [...]