Category: Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 12
Written by Edward John Eyre
December 1. — After giving the natives some water, and taking breakfast ourselves, we moved on in the direction they wished us to go, followed by the whole party; at two miles they brought us to the sea over a dreadful heavy road, but upon then asking them where the water was, they now told us to our horror, that there was “mukka gaip-pe,” or, no water. The truth was now evident, we had mutually misunderstood one another; they seeing strangers suddenly appear, had taken it for granted they came from the sea, and pointed there, whilst we, intent only upon procuring water, had fancied they had told us we should find it where they pointed; upon reaching the coast both were disappointed — they at not seeing a ship, and we at not finding water.
It was now a difficult matter to decide what to do: our horses were greatly jaded, owing to the hilly and sandy character of the country; our water was reduced to a low ebb in the casks, for relying upon the natives guiding us to more, we had used it improvidently; whilst the very least distance we could be away from the water, at the sand-drifts, was twenty-five miles; if we went back we lost all our previous labour, and could not do so without leaving the dray behind, and if we went forward, it was very problematical whether water could be procured within any distance attainable by our tired horses.
The natives now asserted there was water to the north-west, but that it was a long way off. As they still seemed willing to accompany us, I determined to proceed, and pushed on parallel with the coast behind the front ridges; at nine miles the horses were quite exhausted, and could get no further, so that I was obliged to halt for the night, where a few tufts of withered grass were found under the hummocks.
Our sable friends had gradually dropped off, one or two at a time, until only three remained. These I endeavoured to make friends with, by giving them plenty of water and bread, and after taking a hasty meal, I got them to go with me and the native boy along the coast, to search for water. After going about a mile, they would proceed no further, making signs that they should be very thirsty, and enabling me clearly to comprehend, that there was no water until the head of the Great Bight was rounded. As I did not know exactly, what the actual distance might be, I still hoped I should be able to reach it, and leaving the natives to return, I and the boy pushed on beyond all the sandy hills and cliffs, to the low sandy tract bordering upon the head of the Bight, from which we were about twelve miles distant. The day was hazy, or the cliffs of the Great Bight would have been distinctly visible.
We lost a good deal of time in tracking the foot-steps of a party of native women and children, among some bare sand-drifts, hoping the track would lead to water; but the party seemed to have been rambling about without any fixed object, and all our efforts to find water were in vain; the whole surface of the country, (except where it was hidden by the sand-drifts) was one sheet of limestone crust, and wherever we attempted to dig among the sand-drifts, the rock invariably stopped us.
As it was getting on towards evening, I returned to where I had left the dray, and giving each of the horses one bucket of water and five pints of oats, was obliged to have them tied for the night, myself and the man being too much fatigued to watch them.