The first part of the journal of Edgar Williams.
The Journal of Edgar Williams 1897
September 6 1897
At last, I have returned to solid ground. After a hellish sea voyage, of which I will say little, lest I be plagued by nightmares for evermore, I find myself, via Cape Town, in Johannesburg. I have not ventured far beyond the safe confines of my hotel, save to contact Sir Wilfred Gibson who has been of much use in the preparations for my reluctant overland expedition. Even here though, in the tranquil garden surroundings of my lodgings, I fancy I hear the sounds of the gold-obsessed locals plundering the Earth and revelling in their own debauchery.
There will be time enough in the coming weeks for contact with unsavoury types, so I will retire early and think of my darling Amy, my sole reason for being. As I stare up at the night sky, I am sure that I can see her perfect features etched among the stars, gazing down at me with those diamond eyes.
September 7 1897
We struck north early this morning, leaving behind the heathen gold diggers and swapping their antics for the sparse and scrubby land that will lead me to the key to my Amy’s heart: the Lion’s Whisker.
The party has been swelled by the addition of several somewhat shady characters. I feel safe when near my chief guide, a reliable fellow named Adame, who was recommended by Sir Wilfred, but I must admit to an unhealthy degree of unease when surrounded by the rest of the company. The Canadian seems harmless, but of the Australians I will ensure that I keep my wits when they are around. The Guatemalan on the other hand seems almost totally without guile and is apparently here for the sheer pleasure afforded by the exploration of an unknown country. The young English couple are also strangely secretive and I cannot help but wonder at their motives for travelling with me. I hope against hope that their reasons are as pure as my own, but I fear that the likelihood is not great.
Oh, my Amy, how the thought of you keeps up my spirits during these long dark days. Here Mother Nature surrounds me in all her worst forms, the cries of her spawn permeating my previously serene dreams of you. I only pray for a swift resolution to my journey so that I may be returned to you in blissful England.
September 8 1897
We were awoken at some ungodly hour by the sounds of the local wildlife in a dawn chorus of the like undoubtedly heard in Hell. By the time I had wiped the sleep from my eyes, the rest of the party was impatiently waiting, eager to satiate whatever dark desires drive them on.
As our caravan winds its way through the monotonous landscape, all scrubby bush and twisted burnt trees, my eyes are kept alert, on the lookout for the lion that will take me away from this ghastly place. Alas, my guide dashes my hopes for a swift resolution, as this is not good lion territory. Instead, if we are lucky (ha! lucky!), we may see giraffe or possibly some kind of antelope.
This afternoon a cry went up from one of the over excitable Australians. To hear him call, you would have thought he had found the mines of Solomon himself. Now that might have been cause for celebration. Instead, the oaf had managed to sight his first giraffe, a great beast standing some fifteen feet tall, chewing away under the limited shade of an acacia tree. Actually, I must admit a certain thrill when I caught sight of the animal myself. To see such an unusual creature standing so placidly a mere stone’s throw away is a curiously moving experience and one I suspect I may not forget for some time.
I was extra vigilant for the rest of the day, hoping that I might be the next to spy something exotic. And, looking back now as I write this at camp, I find it strange that I did not automatically hope that it might be a lion.
Tomorrow, our route takes us deeper into Botswana, out of the great Kalahari and into a desolate hole known as the Okovango Delta. This is however, where I am reliably informed that we may find the elusive lion.
Amy, you are still in my thoughts.
September 9 1897
Our trek has led us deep into the unexplored heartland of the vast Okovango Delta, an unchartable mass of swamp and grasslands. Our mode of transport is ‘makoro’, a primitive form of canoe, hacked from the remains of the sausage tree. Progress has been slow but steady, as our polers are in no mood to hurry the day along. Spirits among my fellow travellers are high, and they seem to relish the next few days to be spent in this wilderness. The polers themselves are cheerful fellows, laughing and joking amongst themselves in their native tongue, occasionally bursting into brief snatches of song. Some of the Australians seem to have picked up a few words here and there and are able to join in the hi-jinx. This has only added to my feelings of isolation within the group and I have barely uttered a word the whole morning, left alone with my own morose thoughts.
Just as we were about to set camp for lunch, an incredible event occurred. We were pushing through a particularly thick section of reedy marsh when my glance fell idly to one bank of the wide sweeping river. There to my amazement were not one but two mighty elephants, bathing in the cool waters. This was an even greater thrill than the sighting of the giraffe, as it was all my own. Amazingly no one else had seen the beasts, caught up as they were in an amusement of their own, so I had several moments of private viewing pleasure before I felt obliged to share my discovery. How glad was I when I did though, as it brought me closer to the group and when we sat down for lunch, I no longer felt totally alone.
After our brief stop by the tranquil waters for lunch and a rest, we set off on foot for our first game hunt proper. After my earlier triumph, my hopes were high and I eagerly followed close in the footsteps of our guide. However, he seemed not to share my interest in lions and instead chose to lecture us on topics such as the baobab and sausage trees, and certain unsavoury habits of the local wildlife.
As the afternoon wore on, and the heat refused to dissipate, we failed to catch even the barest glimpse of anything resembling a lion. A troop of rather coarse baboons did make an appearance, and despite my initial reservations, I found myself fascinated by their behaviour. Their actions were almost human in many respects and I begin to wonder if there is not much to be learnt from this strange land.
I was further enthralled by the appearance of more elephants and to watch them as they romped beneath the setting umber sun was a strangely affecting experience.
Back now at camp, I reflect on the first day of the search for the key to my Amy’s heart and I find myself in a certain state of confusion. I had hoped, nay expected, to have found my lion by now, and yet I do not feel as down at heart as I should expect. Could this land of ancient wonder be starting to affect my mind? There is certainly something bewitching about these dark skies above me and the sound of life being lived all around.