The Discovery of the Source of the Nile, by John Hanning Speke

Chapter ii. Uzaramo

The Nature of the Country — The Order of March — The Beginning of our Taxation — Sultan Lion’s Claw, and Sultan Monkey’s Tail — The Kingani — Jealousies and Difficulties in the Camp — The Murderer of M. Maizan.

We were now in U-za-Ramo, which may mean the country of Ramo, though I have never found any natives who could enlighten me on the derivation of this obviously triple word. The extent of the country, roughly speaking, stretches from the coast to the junction or bifurcation of the Kingani and its upper branch the Mgeta river, westwards; and from the Kingani, north, to the Lufigi river, south; though in the southern portions several subtribes have encroached upon the lands. There are no hills in Uzaramo; but the land in the central line, formed like a ridge between the two rivers, furrow fashion, consists of slightly elevated flats and terraces, which, in the rainy season, throw off their surplus waters to the north and south by nullahs into these rivers. The country is uniformly well covered with trees and large grasses, which, in the rainy season, are too thick, tall, and green to be pleasant; though in the dry season, after the grasses have been burnt, it is agreeable enough, though not pretty, owing to the flatness of the land. The villages are not large or numerous, but widely spread, consisting generally of conical grass huts, while others are gable-ended, after the coast-fashion — a small collection of ten or twenty comprising one village. Over these villages certain headmen, titled Phanze, hold jurisdiction, who take black-mail from travellers with high presumption when they can. Generally speaking, they live upon the coast, and call themselves Diwans, headsmen, and subjects of the Sultan Majid; but they no sooner hear of the march of a caravan than they transpose their position, become sultans in their own right, and levy taxes accordingly.

The Wazaramo are strictly agriculturists; they have no cows, and but few goats. They are of low stature and thick set and their nature tends to the boisterous. Expert slavehunters, they mostly clothe themselves by the sale of their victims on the coast, though they do business by the sale of goats and grain as well. Nowhere in the interior are natives so well clad as these creatures. In dressing up their hair, and otherwise smearing their bodies with ochreish clay, they are great dandies. They always keep their bows and arrows, which form their national arm, in excellent order, the latter well poisoned, and carried in quivers nicely carved. To intimidate a caravan and extort a hongo or tax, I have seen them drawn out in line as if prepared for battle; but a few soft words were found sufficient to make them all withdraw and settle the matter at issue by arbitration in some appointed place. A few men without property can cross their lands fearlessly, though a single individual with property would stand no chance, for they are insatiable thieves. But little is seen of these people on the journey, as the chiefs take their taxes by deputy, partly out of pride, and partly because they think they can extort more by keeping in the mysterious distance. At the same time, the caravan prefers camping in the jungles beyond the villages to mingling with the inhabitants, where rows might be engendered. We sometimes noticed Albinos, with greyish-blue eyes and light straw-coloured hair. Not unfrequently we would pass on the track side small heaps of white ashes, with a calcined bone or two among them. These, we were told, were the relics of burnt witches. The caravan track we had now to travel on leads along the right bank of the Kingani valley, overlooking Uzegura, which, corresponding with Uzaramo, only on the other side of the Kigani, extends northwards to the Pangani river, and is intersected in the centre by the Wami river, of which more hereafter.

Starting on a march with a large mixed caravan, consisting of 1 corporal and 9 privates, Hottentots — 1 jemadar and 25 privates, Beluchs — 1 Arab Cafila Bashi and 75 freed slaves — 1 Kirangozi, or leader, and 100 negro porters — 12 mules untrained, 3 donkeys, and 22 goats — one could hardly expect to find everybody in his place at the proper time for breaking ground; but, at the same time, it could hardly be expected that ten men, who had actually received their bounty-money, and had sworn fidelity, should give one the slip the very first day. Such, however, was the case. Ten out of the thirty-six given by the Sultan ran away, because they feared that the white men, whom they believed to be cannibals, were only taking them into the interior to eat them; and one pagazi, more honest than the freed men, deposited his pay upon the ground, and ran away too. Go we must, however; for one desertion is sure to lead to more; and go we did. Our procession was in this fashion: The Kirangozi, with a load on his shoulder, led the way, flag in hand, followed by the pagazis carrying spears of bows and arrows in their hands, and bearing their share of the baggage in the shape either of bolster-shaped loads of cloth and beads covered with matting, each tied into the fork of a three-pronged stick, or else coils of brass or copper wire tied in even weights to each end of sticks which they laid on the shoulder; then helter-skelter came the Wanguana, carrying carbines in their hands, and boxes, bundles, tents, cooking-pots — all the miscellaneous property — on their heads; next the Hottentots, dragging the refractory mules laden with ammunition-boxes, but very lightly, to save the animals for the future; and, finally, Sheikh Said and the Beluch escort; while the goats, sick women, and stragglers, brought up the rear. From first to last, some of the sick Hottentots rode the hospital donkeys, allowing the negroes to tug their animals; for the smallest ailment threw them broadcast on their backs. In a little while we cleared from the rich gardens, mango clumps, and cocoa-but trees, which characterise the fertile coast-line. After traversing fields of grass well clothed with green trees, we arrived at the little settlement of Bomani, where camp was formed, and everybody fairly appointed to his place. The process of camp-forming would be thus: Sheikh Said, with Bombay under him, issues cloths to the men for rations at the rate of one-fourth load a-day (about 15 lb.) amongst 165; the Hottentots cook our dinners and their own, or else lie rolling on the ground overcome with fatigue; the Beluchs are supposed to guard the camp, but prefer gossip and brightening their arms. Some men are told off to look after the mules, donkeys, and goats, whilst out grazing; the rest have to pack the kit, pitch our tents, cut boughs for huts, and for fencing in the camp — a thing rarely done, by-the-by. After cooking, when the night has set it, the everlasting dance begins, attended with clapping of hands and jingling small bells strapped to the legs — the whole being accompanied by a constant repetition of senseless words, which stand in place of the song to the negroes; for song they have none, being mentally incapacitated for musical composition, though as timists they are not to be surpassed.

What remains to be told is the daily occupation of Captain Grant, myself, and our private servants. Beginning at the foot: Rahan, a very peppery little negro, who had served in a British man-of-war at the taking of Rangoon, was my valet; and Baraka, who had been trained much in the same manner, but had seen engagements at Multan, was Captain Grant’s. They both knew Hindustani; but while Rahan’s services at sea had been short, Baraka had served nearly all his life with Englishmen — was the smartest and most intelligent negro I ever saw — was invaluable to Colonel Rigby as a detector of slave-traders, and enjoyed his confidence completely — so much so, that he said, on parting with him, that he did not know where he should be able to find another man to fill his post. These two men had now charge of our tents and personal kit, while Baraka was considered the general of the Wanguana forces, and Rahan a captain of ten.

My first occupation was to map the country. This is done by timing the rate of march with a watch, taking compass-bearings along the road, or on any conspicuous marks — as, for instance, hills off it — and by noting the watershed — in short, all topographical objects. On arrival in camp every day came the ascertaining, by boiling a thermometer, of the altitude of the station above the sea-level; of the latitude of the station by the meridian altitude of the star taken with a sextant; and of the compass variation by azimuth. Occasionally there was the fixing of certain crucial stations, at intervals of sixty miles or so, by lunar observations, or distances of the moon either from the sun or from certain given stars, for determining the longitude, by which the original-timed course can be drawn out with certainty on the map by proportion. Should a date be lost, you can always discover it by taking a lunar distance and comparing it with the Nautical Almanac, by noting the time when a star passes the meridian if your watch is right, or by observing the phases of the moon, or her rising or setting, as compared with the Nautical Almanac. The rest of my work, besides sketching and keeping a diary, which was the most troublesome of all, consisted in making geological and zoological collections. With Captain Grant rested the botanical collections and thermometrical registers. He also boiled one of the thermometers, kept the rain-gauge, and undertook the photography; but after a time I sent the instruments back, considering this work too severe for the climate, and he tried instead sketching with watercolours — the results of which form the chief part of the illustrations in this book. The rest of our day went in breakfasting after the march was over — a pipe, to prepare us for rummaging the fields and villages to discover their contents for scientific purposes — dinner close to sunset, and tea and pipe before turning in at night.

A short stage brought us to Ikamburu, included in the district of Nzasa, where there is another small village presided over by Phanze Khombe la Simba, meaning Claw of Lion. He, immediately after our arrival, sent us a present of a basket of rice, value one dollar, of course expecting a return — for absolute generosity is a thing unknown to the negro. Not being aware of the value of the offering, I simply requested the Sheikh to give him four yards of American sheeting, and thought no more about the matter, until presently I found the cloth returned. The “Sultan” could not think of receiving such a paltry present from me, when on the former journey he got so much; if he showed this cloth at home, nobody would believe him, but would say he took much more and concealed it from his family, wishing to keep all his goods to himself. I answered that my footing in the country had been paid for on the last journey, and unless he would accept me as any other common traveller, he had better walk away; but the little Sheikh, a timid, though very gentlemanly creature, knowing the man, and dreading the consequences of too high a tone, pleaded for him, and proposed as a fitting hongo, one dubuani, one sahari, and eight yards merikani, as the American sheeting is called here. This was pressed by the jemadar, and acceded to by myself, as the very utmost I could afford. Lion’s Claw, however, would not accept it; it was too far below the mark of what he got last time. He therefore returned the cloths to the Sheikh, as he could get no hearing from myself, and retreated in high dudgeon, threatening the caravan with a view of his terrible presence on the morrow. Meanwhile the little Sheikh, who always carried a sword fully two-thirds the length of himself, commenced casting bullets for his double-barrelled rifle, ordered the Wanguana to load their guns, and came wheedling up to me for one more cloth, as it was no use hazarding the expedition’s safety for four yards of cloth. This is a fair specimen of tax-gathering, within twelve miles of the coast, by a native who claims the protection of Zanzibar. We shall soon see what they are further on. The result of experience is, that, ardent as the traveller is to see the interior of Africa, no sooner has he dealings with the natives, than his whole thoughts tend to discovering some road where he won’t be molested, or a short cut, but long march, to get over the ground.

Quite undisturbed, we packed and marched as usual, and soon passed Nzasa close to the river, which is only indicated by a line of trees running through a rich alluvial valley. We camped at the little settlement of Kizoto, inhospitably presided over by Phanze Mukia ya Nyani or Monkey’s Tail, who no sooner heard of our arrival than he sent a demand for his “rights.” One dubani was issued, with orders than no one need approach me again, unless he wanted to smell my powder. Two taxes in five miles was a thing unheard of; and I heard no more about the matter, until Bombay in the evening told me how Sheikh Said, fearing awkward consequences, had settled to give two dubuani, one being taken from his own store. Lion’s Claw also turned up again, getting his cloths of yesterday — one more being added from the Sheikh’s stores — and he was then advised to go off quietly, as I was a fire-eater whom nobody dared approach after my orders had been issued. This was our third march in Uzaramo; we had scarcely seen a man of the country, and had no excessive desire to do so.

Deflecting from the serpentine course of the Kingani a little, we crossed a small bitter rivulet, and entered on the elevated cultivation of Kiranga Ranga, under Phanze Mkungu-pare, a very mild man, who, wishing to give no offence, begged for a trifling present. He came in person, and his manner having pleased us, I have him one sahari, four yards merikani, and eight yards kiniki, which pleased our friend so much that he begged us to consider his estate our own, even to the extent of administering his justice, should any Mzaramo be detected stealing from us. Our target-practice, whilst instructing the men, astonished him not a little, and produced an exclamation that, with so many guns, we need fear nothing, go where we would. From this place a good view is obtained of Uzegura. Beyond the flat alluvial valley of the Kingani, seven to eight miles broad, the land rises suddenly to a table-land of no great height, on which trees grow in profusion. In fact it appeared, as far as the eye could reach, the very counterpart of that where we stood, with the exception of a small hill, very distant, called Phongue.

A very welcome packet of quinine and other medicines reached us here from Rigby, who, hearing our complaints that the Hottentots could only be kept alive by daily potions of brandy and quinine, feared our supplies were not enough, and sent us more.

We could not get the Sultan’s men to chum with the Wanguana proper; they were shy, like wild animals — built their huts by themselves — and ate and talked by themselves, for they felt themselves inferiors; and I had to nominate one of their number to be their chief, answerable for the actions of the whole. Being in the position of “boots” to the camp, the tending of goats fell to their lot. Three goats were missing this evening, which the goatherds could not account for, nor any of their men. Suspecting that they were hidden for a private feast, I told their chief to inquire farther, and report. The upshot was, that the man was thrashed for intermeddling, and came back only with his scars. This was a nice sort of insubordination, which of course could not be endured. The goatherd was pinioned and brought to trial, for the double offence of losing the goats and rough-handling his chief. The tricking scoundrel — on quietly saying he could not be answerable for other men’s actions if they stole goats, and he could not recognise a man as his chief whom the Sheikh, merely by a whim of his own, thought proper to appoint — was condemned to be tied up for the night with the prospect of a flogging in the morning. Seeing his fate, the cunning vagabond said, “Now I do see it was by your orders the chief was appointed, and not by a whim of Sheikh Said’s; I will obey him for the future;” and these words were hardly pronounced than the three missing goats rushed like magic into camp, nobody of course knowing where they came from.

Skirting along the margin of the rising ground overlooking the river, through thick woods, cleared in places for cultivation, we arrived at Thumba Lhere. The chief here took a hongo of three yards merikani and two yards kiniki without much fuss, for he had no power. The pagazis struck, and said they would not move from this unless I gave them one fundo or ten necklaces of beads each daily, in lieu of rations, as they were promised by Ladha on the coast that I would do so as soon as they had made four marches. This was an obvious invention, concocted to try my generosity, for I had given the kirangozi a goat, which is customary, to “make the journey prosperous”— had suspended a dollar to his neck in recognition of his office, and given him four yards merikani, that he might have a grand feast with his brothers; while neither the Sheikh, myself, nor any one else in the camp, had heard of such a compact. With high words the matter dropped, African fashion.

The pagazis would not start at the appointed time, hoping to enforce their demands of last night; so we took the lead and started, followed by the Wanguana. Seeing this, the pagazis cried out with one accord: “The master is gone, leaving the responsibility of his property in our hands; let us follow, let us follow, for verily he is our father;” and all came hurrying after us. Here the river, again making a bend, is lost to sight, and we marched through large woods and cultivated fields to Muhugue, observing, as we passed long, the ochreish colour of the earth, and numerous pits which the copal-diggers had made searching for their much-valued gum. A large coast-bound caravan, carrying ivory tusks with double-toned bells suspended to them, ting-tonging as they moved along, was met on the way; and as some of the pagazis composing it were men who had formerly taken me to the Victoria N’yanza, warm recognitions passed between us. The water found here turned our brandy and tea as black as ink. The chief, being a man of small pretensions, took only one sahari and four yards merikani.

Instead of going on to the next village we halted in this jungly place for the day, that I might comply with the desire of the Royal Geographical Society to inspect Muhonyera, and report if there were really any indications of a “raised sea-beach” there, such as their maps indicate. An inspection brought me to the conclusion that no mind but one prone to discovering sea-beaches in the most unlikely places could have supposed for a moment that one existed here. The form and appearance of the land are the same as we have seen everywhere since leaving Bomani — a low plateau subtended by a bank cut down by the Kingani river, and nothing more. There are no pebbles; the soil is rich reddish loam, well covered with trees, bush, and grass, in which some pigs and antelopes are found. From the top of this enbankment we gain the first sight of the East Coast Range, due west of us, represented by the high elephant’s-back hill, Mkambaku, in Usagara, which, joining Uraguru, stretches northwards across the Pangani river to Usumbara and the Kilimandjaro, and southwards, with a westerly deflection, across the Lufiji to Southern N’yassa. What course the range takes beyond those two extremes, the rest of the world knows as well as I. Another conspicuous landmark here is Kidunda (the little hill), which is the southernmost point of a low chain of hills, also tending northwards, and representing an advance-guard to the higher East Coast Range in its rear. At night, as we had no local “sultans” to torment us, eight more men of sultan Majid’s donation ran away, and, adding injury to injury, took with them all our goats, fifteen in number. This was a sad loss. We could keep ourselves on guinea-fowls or green pigeons, doves, etc.; but the Hottentots wanted nourishment much more than ourselves, and as their dinner always consisted of what we left, “short-commons” was the fate in store for them. The Wanguana, instead of regarding these poor creatures as soldiers, treated them like children; and once, as a diminutive Tot — the common name they go by — was exerting himself to lift his pack and place it on his mule, a fine Herculean Mguana stepped up behind, grasped Tot, pack and all, in his muscular arms, lifted the whole over his head, paraded the Tot about, struggling for release, and put him down amidst the laughter of the camp, then saddled his mule and patted him on the back.

After sending a party of Beluch to track down the deserters and goats, in which they were not successful, we passed through the village of Sagesera, and camped one mile beyond, close to the river. Phanze Kirongo (which means Mr Pit) here paid us his respects, with a presentation of rice. In return he received four yards merikani and one dubuani, which Bombay settled, as the little Sheikh, ever done by the sultans, pleaded indisposition, to avoid the double fire he was always subjected to on these occasions, by the sultans grasping on the one side, and my resisting on the other; for I relied on my strength, and thought it very inadvisable to be generous with my cloth to the prejudice of future travellers, by decreasing the value of merchandise, and increasing proportionately the expectations of these negro chiefs. From the top of the bank bordering on the valley, a good view was obtainable of the Uraguru hills, and the top of a very distant cone to its northward; but I could see no signs of any river joining the kingani on its left, though on the former expedition I heard that the Mukondokua river, which was met with in Usagara, joined the Kingani close to Sagesera, and actually formed its largest head branch. Neither could Mr Pit inform me what became of the Mukondokua, as the Wazaramo are not given to travelling. He had heard of it from the traders, but only knew himself of one river beside the Kingani. It was called Wami in Uegura, and mouths at Utondue, between the ports of Whindi and Saadani. To try and check the desertions of Sultan Majid’s men, I advised — ordering was of no use — that their camp should be broken up, and they should be amalgamated with the Wanguana; but it was found that the two would not mix. In fact, the whole native camp consisted of so many clubs of two, four, six, or ten men, who originally belonged to one village or one master, or were united by some other family tie which they preferred keeping intact; so they cooked together, ate together, slept together, and sometimes mutinied together. The amalgamation having failed, I wrote some emanicipation tickets, called the Sultan’s men all up together, selected the best, gave them these tickets, announced that their pay and all rewards would be placed for the future on the same conditions as those of the Wanguana, and as soon as I saw any signs of improvement in the rest, they would all be treated in the same manner; but should they desert, they would find my arm long enough to arrest them on the coast and put them into prison.

During this march we crossed three deep nullahs which drain the Uzaramo plateau, and arrived at the Makutaniro, or junction of this line with those of Mboamaji and Konduchi, which traverse central Uzaramo, and which, on my former return journey, I went down. The gum-copal diggings here cease. The Dum palm is left behind; the large rich green-leaved trees of the low plateau give place to the mimosa; and now, having ascended the greater decline of the Kingani river, instead of being confined by a bank, we found ourselves on flat open-park land, where antelopes roam at large, buffalo and zebra are sometimes met with, and guinea-fowl are numerous. The water for the camp is found in the river, but supplies of grain come from the village of Kipora farther on.

A march through the park took us to a camp by a pond, from which, by crossing the Kingani, rice and provisions for the men were obtained on the opposite bank. One can seldom afford to follow wild animals on the line of march, otherwise we might have bagged some antelopes to-day, which, scared by the interminable singing, shouting, bell-jingling, horn-blowing, and other such merry noises of the moving caravan, could be seen disappearing in the distance.

Leaving the park, we now entered the riches part of Uzaramo, affording crops as fine as any part of India. Here it was, in the district of Dege la Mhora, that the first expedition to this country, guided by a Frenchman, M. Maizan, came to a fatal termination, that gentleman having been barbarously murdered by the sub-chief Hembe. The cause of the affair was distinctly explained to me by Hembe himself, who, with his cousin Darunga, came to call upon me, presuming, as he was not maltreated by the last expedition, that the matter would now be forgotten. The two men were very great friends of the little Sheikh, and as a present was expected, which I should have to pay, we all talked cheerfully and confidentially, bringing in the fate of Maizan for no other reason than to satisfy curiosity. Hembe, who lives in the centre of an almost impenetrable thicket, confessed that he was the murderer, but said the fault did not rest with him, as he merely carried out the instructions of his father, Mzungera, who, a Diwan on the coast, sent him a letter directing his actions. Thus it is proved that the plot against Maizan was concocted on the coast by the Arab merchants — most likely from the same motive which has induced one rival merchant to kill another as the best means of checking rivalry or competition. When Arabs — and they are the only class of people who would do such a deed — found a European going into the very middle of their secret trading-places, where such large profits were to be obtained, they would never suppose that the scientific Maizan went for any other purpose than to pry into their ivory stores, bring others into the field after him, and destroy their monopoly. The Sultan of Zanzibar, in those days, was our old ally Said Said, commonly called the Emam of Muscat; and our Consul, Colonel Hamerton, had been M. Maizan’s host as long as he lived upon the coast. Both the Emam and Consul were desirous of seeing the country surveyed, and did everything in their power to assist Maizan, the former even appointing the Indian Musa to conduct him safely as far as Unyamuezi; but their power was not found sufficient to damp the raging fire of jealousy in the ivory-trader’s heart. Musa commenced the journey with Maizan, and they travelled together a march or two, when one of Maizan’s domestic establishment fell sick and stopped his progress. Musa remained with him eight or ten days, to his own loss in trade and expense in keeping up a large establishment, and then they parted by mutual consent, Maizan thinking himself quite strong enough to take care of himself. This separation was, I believe, poor Maizan’s death-blow. His power, on the Emam’s side, went with Musa’s going, and left the Arabs free to carry out their wicked wills.

The presents I had to give here were one sahari and eight yards merikani to Hembe, and the same to Darunga, for which they gave a return in grain. Still following close to the river — which, unfortunately, is so enshrouded with thick bush that we could seldom see it — a few of the last villages in Uzaramo were passed. Here antelopes reappear amongst the tall mimosa, but we let them alone in prosecution of the survey, and finally encamped opposite the little hill of Kidunda, which lying on the left bank of the Kingani, stretches north, a little east, into Uzegura. The hill crops out through pisolitic limestone, in which marine fossils were observable. It would be interesting to ascertain whether this lime formation extends down the east coast of Africa from the Somali country, where also, on my first expedition, I found marine shells in the limestone, especially as a vast continuous band of limestone is known to extend from the Tagus, through Egypt and the Somali country, to the Burrumputra. To obtain food it was necessary here to ferry the river and purchase from the Wazaramo, who, from fear of the passing caravans, had left their own bank and formed a settlement immediately under this pretty little hill — rendered all the more enchanting to our eyes, as it was the first we had met since leaving the sea-coast. The Diwan, or head man, was a very civil creature; he presented us freely with two fine goats — a thing at that time we were very much in want of — and took, in return, without any comments, one dubani and eight yards merikani.

The next day, as we had no further need of our Beluch escort, a halt was made to enable me to draw up a “Progress Report,” and pack all the specimens of natural history collected on the way, for the Royal Geographical Society. Captain Grant, taking advantage of the spare time, killed for the larder two buck antelopes, and the Tots brought in, in high excited triumph, a famous pig.

This march, which declines from the Kingani a little, leads through rolling, jungly ground, full of game, to the tributary stream Mgeta. It is fordable in the dry season, but has to be bridged by throwing a tree across it in the wet one. Rising in the Usagara hills to the west of the hog-backed Mkambaku, this branch intersects the province of Ukhutu in the centre, and circles round until it unites with the Kingani about four miles north of the ford. Where the Kingani itself rises, I never could find out; though I have heard that its sources lies in a gurgling spring on the eastern face of the Mkambaku, by which account the Mgeta is made the longer branch of the two.


Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30