Africa The High Plains
AFRICA THE HIGH PLAINS The high plains or terraces are remarkable for their extraordinary change of aspect in the succession of the seasons. During the summer heats they are perfect deserts, answering to the term applied to them, karroos, signifying, in the Hottentot language, "dry" or "arid." But the sandy soil being pervaded with the roots and fibres of various plants, is spontaneously clothed with the richest verdure after the rains, and becomes transformed for a time into a vast garden of gorgeous flowers, yielding the most fragrant odours. Adapted thus to the support of graminivorous animals, the karroos are the resort of antelopes, zebras, quaggas, and gnus in countless herds, and of the carnivorous beasts that prey upon them, the lion, hyaena, leopaid, and panther. These quadrupeds, however, with the elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, giraffe, buffalo, and ostrich, have been largely banished from their old haunts by the advancing footsteps of civilised man, and are only found in the more secluded parts of the interior. The country has a singular and superb flora, but it comprises few native plants useful to man : many such have been now introduced. Heaths of varied species and great beauty abound; and geraniums are treated as common weeds. Many highly productive districts occur; corn, wines, and fruit being the chief objects of cultivation in the neighbourhood of the Cape, while the more inland settlements are grazing farms. Some fine natural forests clothe the sides of the mountains; but in general the colony is deficient in timber trees, as well as in navigable streams, perennial springs, and regular rain. A great deposit of rich copper ore occurs near the mouth of the Orange; and salt is obtained for consumption and sale from salt lakes.
The climate is exceedingly fine and salubrious. There are two seasons, characterised by the prevalence of certain winds. During the summer, which lasts from September to April, the winds blow from south-east, cold and dry; durin,, the winter, namely from May to September, north-west winds prevail. In the most elevated regions the winters are occasionally severe, and snow and ice occur.