Historical Events

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The Bushmen describe how they used a large root and would scrape and squeeze it to produce "a bitter white juice they said was better for thirst than water."

January 3, 1961

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The Heart of the Hunter

Laurens Van Der Post

Hunter-Gatherer

We did not ask them what they would have done had they not met us, but the question provoked a lively discussion among my companions. The Bushmen had no food of any kind left. They had no water, and when I asked what they used instead of water they showed me some remains of a large root rather like an outsize turnip. They had six of these fragments in the slings carried by the women, and they were eighteen souls in all. By scraping the root with a wooden knife into their hands and squeezing the crushed material, they produced a bitter white juice which they said was better for thirst than water. Water, the old father suddenly interjected, licking his lips at the memory of his last gallon-full, was much too sweet. 


For some of my companions all this was clear proof that the Bushmen would never have been able to reach the fringe of the area where the rains had broken. Others, led by Ben Hatherall, my old guide and friend, who was born in the desert and grew up with the Bushmen, stoutly maintained that except for the old couple they would have made it. Dabé thought so too. Judging by the speed with which they had recovered after their drink of water, before they had even eaten, the Bushmen were not yet damaged by their terrible experience in any fundamental way