COMPETITION: LITERALLY LOST 70

This excerpt has been taken from a work of travel literature. Readers are invited to tell us: a) where is the action taking place? b) who is the author? Blackwell's Bookshops will award pounds 30-worth of book tokens to the first correct answer out of the hat. Answers on a postcard to: Literally Lost, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL. Usual competition rules apply. Entries to arrive by this Thursday. Literally lost 69: The book was `The Happy Isles of Oceania' by Paul Theroux. The action took place in Vanuatu . The winner is Keith Taylor of London.

ew written records have come down to us from the first settlers - they were more at home with a gun than a pen - but the early travellers wrote at length of the Karoo. If their journals are to be believed, few of them ever crossed it under happy conditions. They halted at Lioness Fountain, Hunger Fountain, Bare Place, Dry Foot Fountain, and a hundred more that bore such names. Weather - great frosts, great heat, great floods, great droughts - ruled their lives as it does ours today. If they were not baking they were freezing. Many wrote of the extreme cold and the sudden drops in temperature that left them by night shaking with misery. Some found the oil in their lamps became so thick they did not labour to trim them but chose to work by firelight instead. Others suffered tornadoes that overturned their wagons, threw down men and horses, and tore shrubs out of the ground.

The summer heat of this wide upland world can today scarcely be imagined by those even a hundred miles to the south. My first memories are of heat like the heat of blazing ovens; of shutters, and sunbeams making a hot bright path through a chink in a dark blind, of soil too hot to walk on barefoot and rocks too hot to touch. Heat, I suppose, is the most positive and formidable thing on the Karoo, and the beginning and sometimes the end of many a Karoo story.

The first explorers and naturalists who crossed the Karoo found the journey frightening, something to recount again and again. It seemed to them, looking across the smooth and arid plains, that the air trembled as though they were looking at a flame. They hid themselves in the shade of the wagons; they saw a tree miles ahead on an empty plain and dreamed of shade; they fastened their saddles and cloaks to the branches of the thorn trees they found along the rivers to cast a denser shade; they bound up their faces to protect them from the scorching winds.

Waterholes and fountains (springs) were the core of their lives. But waterholes did not always lie along the road; they were sometimes marked by pieces of white cloth tied on the branches of a nearby tree - and when there was a tree, as often as not a lion would be in occupation. They saw mirages, shimmering lakes enclosing floating mountains, and dreamed of water. They cast themselves down upon the edges of the muddy streams and drank like cattle. "I came to a pool of mud," cried one; "the little water it contained was almost boiling - tears of delight came into my eyes." Wild with thirst, he later shot a gemsbok in milk and milked her straight into his mouth. "It was the sweetest beverage I ever tasted," he swore.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: International Project Coordinator / Account Coordinator

    Circa £26,500 DOE: Guru Careers: An International Project Coordinator / Accoun...

    Guru Careers: Plumber / Maintenance Operator

    £25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Plumber / Mainten...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen