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

Chapter iii. Usagara

Nature of the Country — Resumption of the March — A Hunt — Bombay and Baraka — The Slave–Hunters — The Ivory–Merchants — Collection of Natural–History Specimens — A Frightened Village — Tracking a Mule.

Under U-Sagara, or, as it might be interpreted, U-sa-Gara — country of Gara — is included all the country lying between the bifurcation of the Kingani and Mgeta rivers east, and Ugogo, the first country on the interior plateau west — a distance of a hundred miles. On the north it is bounded by the Mukondokua, or upper course of the Wami river and on the south by the Ruaha, or northern great branch of the Lufiji river. It forms a link of the great East Coast Range; but though it is generally comprehended under the single name Usagara, many sub-tribes occupy and apply their own names to portions of it; as, for instance, the people on whose ground we now stood at the foot of the hills, are Wa–Khutu, and their possessions consequently are U-Khutu, which is by far the best producing land hitherto alluded to since leaving the sea-coast line. Our ascent by the river, though quite imperceptible to the eye, has been 500 feet. From this level the range before us rises in some places to 5000 to 6000 feet, not as one grand mountain, but in two detached lines, lying at an angle of 45 degrees from N.E. to S.W., and separated one from the other by elevated valleys, tables, and crab-claw spurs of hill which incline towards the flanking rivers. The whole having been thrown up by volcanic action, is based on a strong foundation of granite and other igneous rocks, which are exposed in many places in the shape of massive blocks; otherwise the hill-range is covered in the upper part with sandstone, and in the bottoms with alluvial clay. This is the superficial configuration of the land as it strikes the eye; but, knowing the elevation of the interior plateau to be only 2500 feet above the sea immediately on the western flank of these hills, whilst the breath of the chain is 100 miles, the mean slope of incline of the basal surface must be on a gradual rise of twenty feet per mile. The hill tops and sides, where not cultivated, are well covered with bush and small trees, amongst which the bamboo is conspicuous; whilst the bottoms, having a soil deeper and richer, produce fine large fig-trees of exceeding beauty, the huge calabash, and a variety of other trees. Here, in certain places where water is obtainable throughout the year, and wars, or slave-hunts more properly speaking, do not disturb the industry of the people, cultivation thrives surprisingly; but such a boon is rarely granted them. It is in consequence of these constantly-recurring troubles that the majority of the Wasagara villages are built on hill-spurs, where the people can the better resist attack, or, failing, disperse and hide effectually. The normal habitation is the small conical hut of grass. These compose villages, varying in number according to the influence of their head men. There are, however, a few mud villages on the table-lands, each built in a large irregular square of chambers with a hollow yard in the centre, known as tembe.

As to the people of these uplands, poor, meagre-looking wretches, they contrast unfavourably with the lowlanders on both sides of them. Dingy in colour, spiritless, shy, and timid, they invite attack in a country where every human being has a market value, and are little seen by the passing caravan. In habits they are semi-pastoral agriculturalists, and would be useful members of society were they left alone to cultivate their own possessions, rich and beautiful by nature, but poor and desolate by force of circumstance. Some of the men can afford a cloth, but the greater part wear an article which I can only describe as a grass kilt. In one or two places throughout the passage of these hills a caravan may be taxed, but if so, only to a small amount; the villagers more frequently fly to the hill-tops as soon as the noise of the advancing caravan is heard, and no persuasions will bring them down again, so much ground have they, from previous experience, to fear treachery. It is such sad sights, and the obvious want of peace and prosperity, that weary the traveller, and make him every think of pushing on to his journey’s end from the instant he enters Africa until he quits the country.

Knowing by old experience that the beautiful green park in the fork of these rivers abounded in game of great variety and in vast herds, where no men are ever seen except some savage hunters sitting in the trees with poisoned arrows, or watching their snares and pitfalls, I had all along determined on a hunt myself, to feed and cheer the men, and also to collect some specimens for the home museums. In the first object we succeeded well, as “the bags” we made counted two brindled gnu, four water-boc, one pallah-boc, and one pig — enough to feed abundantly the whole camp round. The feast was all the better relished as the men knew well that no Arab master would have given them what he could sell; for if a slave shot game, the animals would be the master’s, to be sold bit by bit among the porters, and compensated from the proceeds of their pay. In the variety and number of our game we were disappointed, partly because so many wounded got away, and partly because we could not find what we knew the park to contain, in addition to what we killed — namely, elephants, rhinoceros, giraffes, buffaloes, zebra, and many varieties of antelopes, besides lions and hyenas. In fact, “the park,” as well as all the adjacent land at the foot of the hills, is worth thinking of, with a view to a sporting tour as well as scientific investigation.

A circumstance arose here, which, insignificant though it appeared, is worth noting, to show how careful one must be in understanding and dealing with negro servants. Quite unaccountably to myself, the general of my Wanguana, Baraka, after showing much discontent with his position as head of Captain Grant’s establishment, became so insolent, that it was necessary to displace him, and leave him nothing to do but look after the men. This promoted Frij, who enjoyed his rise as much as Baraka, if his profession was to be believed, enjoyed his removal from that office. Though he spoke in this manner, still I knew that there was something rankling in his mind which depressed his spirits as long as he remained with us, though what it was I could not comprehend, nor did I fully understand it till months afterwards. It was ambition, which was fast making a fiend of him; and had I known it, he would, and with great advantage too, have been dismissed upon the spot. The facts were these: He was exceedingly clever, and he knew it. His command over men was surprising. At Zanzibar he was the Consul’s right-hand man: he ranked above Bombay in the consular boat’s crew, and became a terror even to the Banyans who kept slaves. He seemed, in fact, in his own opinion, to have imbibed all the power of the British Consul who had instructed him. Such a man was an element of discord in our peaceful caravan. He was far too big-minded for the sphere which he occupied; and my surprise now is that he ever took service, knowing what he should, at the time of enlistment, have expected, that no man would be degraded to make room for him. But this was evidently what he had expected, though he dared not say it. He was jealous of Bombay, because he thought his position over the money department was superior to his own over the men; and he had seen Bombay, on one occasion, pay a tax in Uzaramo — a transaction which would give him consequence with the native chiefs. Of Sheikh Said he was equally jealous, for a like reason; and his jealousy increased the more that I found it necessary to censure the timidity of this otherwise worthy little man. Baraka thought, in his conceit, that he could have done all things better, and gained signal fame, had he been created chief. Perhaps he thought he had gained the first step towards this exalted rank, and hence his appearing very happy for this time. I could not see through so deep a scheme and only hoped that he would shortly forget, in the changes of the marching life, those beautiful wives he had left behind him, which Bombay in his generosity tried to persuade me was the cause of his mental distraction.

Our halt at the ford here was cut short by the increasing sickness of the Hottentots, and the painful fact that Captain Grant was seized with fever. 6 We had to change camp to the little village of Kiruru, where, as rice was grown — an article not to be procured again on this side of Unyamuezi — we stopped a day to lay in supplies of this most valuable of all travelling food. Here I obtained the most consistent accounts of the river system which, within five days’ journey, trends through Uzegura; and I concluded, from what I heard, that there is no doubt of the Mukondokua and Wami rivers being one and the same stream. My informants were the natives of the settlement, and they all concurred in saying that the Kingani above the junction is called the Rufu, meaning the parent stream. Beyond it, following under the line of the hills, at one day’s journey distant, there is a smaller river called Msonge. At an equal distance beyond it, another of the same size is known as Lungerengeri; and a fourth river is the Wami, which mouths in the sea at Utondue, between the ports of Whindi and Saadami. In former years, the ivory-merchants, ever seeking for an easy road for their trade, and knowing they would have no hills to climb if they could only gain a clear passage by this river from the interior plateau to the sea, made friends with the native chiefs of Uzegura, and succeeded in establishing it as a thoroughfare. Avarice, however, that fatal enemy to the negro chiefs, made them overreach themselves by exorbitant demands of taxes. Then followed contests for the right of appropriating the taxes, and the whole ended in the closing of the road, which both parties were equally anxious to keep open for their mutual gain. This foolish disruption having at first only lasted for a while, the road was again opened and again closed, for the merchants wanted an easy passage, and the native chiefs desired cloths. But it was shut again; and now we heard of its being for a third time opened, with what success the future only can determine — for experience WILL not teach the negro, who thinks only for the moment. Had they only sense to see, and patience to wait, the whole trade of the interior would inevitably pass through their country instead of Uzaramo; and instead of being poor in cloths, they would be rich and well dressed like their neighbours. But the curse of Noah sticks to these his grandchildren by Ham, and no remedy that has yet been found will relieve them. They require a government like ours in India; and without it, the slave trade will wipe them off the face of the earth.

6 It was such an attack as I had on my former journey; but while mine ceased to trouble me after the first year, his kept recurring every fortnight until the journey ended.

Now leaving the open parks of pretty acacias, we followed up the Mgazi branch of the Mgeta, traversed large tree-jungles, where the tall palm is conspicuous, and drew up under the lumpy Mkambaku, to find a residence for the day. Here an Arab merchant, Khamis, bound for Zanzibar, obliged us by agreeing for a few dollars to convey our recent spoils in natural history to the coast.

My plans for the present were to reach Zungomero as soon as possible, as a few days’ halt would be required there to fix the longitude of the eastern flank of the East Coast Range by astronomical observation; but on ordering the morning’s march, the porters — too well fed and lazy — thought our marching-rate much too severe, and resolutely refused to move. They ought to have made ten miles a-day, but preferred doing five. Argument was useless, and I was reluctant to apply the stick, as the Arabs would have done when they saw their porters trifling with their pockets. Determining, however, not to be frustrated in this puerile manner, I ordered the bugler to sound the march, and started with the mules and coast-men, trusting to Sheikh and Baraka to bring on the Wanyamuezi as soon as they could move them. The same day we crossed the Mgazi where we found several Wakhutu spearing fish in the muddy hovers of its banks.

We slept under a tree, and this morning found a comfortable residence under the eaves of a capacious hut. The Wanyamuezi porters next came in at their own time, and proved to us how little worth are orders in a land where every man, in his own opinion, is a lord, and no laws prevail. Zungomero, bisected by the Mgeta, lies on flat ground, in a very pretty amphitheatre of hills, S. lat. 7° 26’ 53”, and E. long. 37° 36’ 45”. It is extremely fertile, and very populous, affording everything that man can wish, even to the cocoa and papwa fruits; but the slave-trade has almost depopulated it, and turned its once flourishing gardens into jungles. As I have already said, the people who possess these lands are cowardly by nature, and that is the reason why they are so much oppressed. The Wasuahili, taking advantage of their timidity, flock here in numbers to live upon the fruits of their labours. The merchants on the coast, too, though prohibited by their Sultan from interfering with the natural course of trade, send their hungry slaves, as touters, to entice all approaching caravans to trade with their particular ports, authorising the touters to pay such premiums as may be necessary for the purpose. Where they came from we could not ascertain; but during our residence, a large party of the Wasuahili marched past, bound for the coast, with one hundred head of cattle, fifty slaves in chains, and as many goats. Halts always end disastrously in Africa, giving men time for mischief; — and here was an example of it. During the target-practice, which was always instituted on such occasions to give confidence to our men, the little pepper-box Rahan, my head valet, challenged a comrade to a duel with carbines. Being stopped by those around him, he vented his wrath in terrible oaths, and swung about his arms, until his gun accidentally went off, and blew his middle finger off.

Baraka next, with a kind of natural influence of affinity when a row is commenced, made himself so offensive to Bombay, as to send him running to me so agitated with excitement that I thought him drunk. He seized my hands, cried, and implored me to turn him off. What could this mean? I could not divine; neither could he explain, further than that he had come to a determination that I must send either him or Baraka to the right-about; and his first idea was that he, and not Baraka, should be the victim. Baraka’s jealousy about his position had not struck me yet. I called them both together and asked what quarrel they had, but could not extract the truth. Baraka protested that he had never given, either by word or deed, the slightest cause of rupture; he only desired the prosperity of the march, and that peace should reign throughout the camp; but Bombay was suspicious of him, and malignantly abused him, for what reason Baraka could not tell. When I spoke of this to Bombay, like a bird fascinated by the eye of a viper, he shrank before the slippery tongue of his opponent, and could only say, “No, Sahib — oh no, that is not it; you had better turn me off, for his tongue is so long, and mine so short, you never will believe me.” I tried to make them friends, hoping it was merely a passing ill-wind which would soon blow over; but before long the two disputants were tonguing it again, and I distinctly heard Bombay ordering Baraka out of camp as he could not keep from intermeddling, saying, which was true, he had invited him to join the expedition, that his knowledge of Hindustani might be useful to us; he was not wanted for any other purpose, and unless he was satisfied with doing that alone, we would get on much better without him. To this provocation Baraka mildly made the retort, “Pray don’t put yourself in a passion, nobody is hurting you, it is all in your own heart, which is full of suspicions and jealousy without the slightest cause.”

This complicated matters more than ever. I knew Bombay to be a generous, honest man, entitled by his former services to be in the position he was now holding as fundi, or supervisor in the camp. Baraka, who never would have joined the expedition excepting through his invitation, was indebted to him for the rank he now enjoyed — a command over seventy men, a duty in which he might have distinguished himself as a most useful accessory to the camp. Again I called the two together, and begged them to act in harmony like brothers, noticing that there was no cause for entertaining jealousy on either side, as every order rested with myself to reward for merit or to punish. The relative position in the camp was like that of the senior officers in India, Bombay representing the Mulki lord, or Governor–General, and Baraka the Jungi lord, or Commander-in-Chief. To the influence of this distinguished comparison they both gave way, acknowledging myself their judge, and both protesting that they wished to serve in peace and quietness for the benefit of the march.

Zungomero is a terminus or junction of two roads leading to the interior — one, the northern, crossing over the Goma Pass, and trenching on the Mukondokua river, and the other crossing over the Mabruki Pass, and edging on the Ruaha river. They both unite again at Ugogi, the western terminus on the present great Unyamuezi line. On the former expedition I went by the northern line and returned by the southern, finding both equally easy, and, indeed, neither is worthy of special and permanent preference. In fact, every season makes a difference in the supply of water and provisions; and with every year, owing to incessant wars, or rather slave-hunts, the habitations of the wretched inhabitants become constantly changed — generally speaking, for the worse. Our first and last object, therefore, as might be supposed, from knowing these circumstances, was to ascertain, before mounting the hill-range, which route would afford us the best facilities for a speedy march now. No one, however, could or would advise us. The whole country on ahead, especially Ugogo, was oppressed by drought and famine. To avoid this latter country, then, we selected the southern route, as by doing so it was hoped we might follow the course of the Ruaha river from Maroro to Usenga and Usanga, and thence strike across to Unyanyembe, sweeping clear of Ugogo.

With this determination, after despatching a third set of specimens, consisting of large game animals, birds, snakes, insects, land and freshwater shells, and a few rock specimens, of which one was fossiliferous, we turned southwards, penetrating the forests which lie between the greater range and the little outlying one. At the foot of this is the Maji ya Wheta, a hot, deep-seated spring of fresh water, which bubbles up through many apertures in a large dome-shaped heap of soft lime — an accumulation obviously thrown up by the force of the spring, as the rocks on either side of it are of igneous character. We arrived at the deserted village of Kirengue. This was not an easy go-ahead march, for the halt had disaffected both men and mules. Three of the former bolted, leaving their loads upon the ground; and on the line of march, one of the mules, a full-conditioned animal, gave up the ghost after an eighteen hours’ sickness. What his disease was I never could ascertain; but as all the remaining animals died afterwards much in the same manner, I may state for once and for all, that these attacks commenced with general swelling, at first on the face, then down the neck, along the belly and down the legs. It proved so obstinate that fire had no effect upon it; and although we cut off the tails of some to relieve them by bleeding, still they died.

In former days Kirengue was inhabited, and we reasonably hoped to find some supplies for the jungly march before us. But we had calculated without our host, for the slave-hunters had driven every vestige of humanity away; and now, as we were delayed by our three loads behind, there was nothing left but to send back and purchase more grain. Such was one of the many days frittered away in do-nothingness.

This day, all together again, we rose the first spurs of the well-wooded Usagara hills, amongst which the familiar bamboo was plentiful, and at night we bivouacked in the jungle.

Rising betimes in the morning, and starting with a good will, we soon reached the first settlements of Mbuiga, from which could be seen a curious blue mountain, standing up like a giant overlooking all the rest of the hills. The scenery here formed a strong and very pleasing contrast to any we had seen since leaving the coast. Emigrant Waziraha, who had been driven from their homes across the Kingani river by the slave-hunters, had taken possession of the place, and disposed their little conical-hut villages on the heights of the hill-spurs in such a picturesque manner, that one could not help hoping they would here at least be allowed to rest in peace and quietness. The valleys, watered by little brooks, are far richer, and even prettier, than the high lands above, being lined with fine trees and evergreen shrubs; while the general state of prosperity was such, that the people could afford, even at this late season of the year, to turn their corn into malt to brew beer for sale; and goats and fowls were plentiful in the market.

Passing by the old village of Mbuiga, which I occupied on my former expedition, we entered some huts on the western flank of the Mbuiga district; and here, finding a coast-man, a great friend of the little sheikh’s, willing to take back to Zanzibar anything we might give him, a halt was made, and I drew up my reports. I then consigned to his charge three of the most sickly of the Hottentots in a deplorable condition — one of the mules, that they might ride by turns — and all the specimens that had been collected. With regret I also sent back the camera; because I saw, had I allowed my companion to keep working it, the heat he was subjected to in the little tent whilst preparing and fixing his plates would very soon have killed him. The number of guinea-fowl seen here was most surprising.

A little lighter and much more comfortable for the good riddance of those grumbling “Tots,” we worked up to and soon breasted the stiff ascent of the Mabruki Pass, which we surmounted without much difficult. This concluded the first range of these Usagara hills; and once over, we dropped down to the elevated valley of Makata, where we halted two days to shoot. As a travelling Arab informed me that the whole of the Maroro district had been laid waste by the marauding Wahehe, I changed our plans again, and directed our attention to a middle and entirely new line, which in the end would lead us to Ugogi. The first and only giraffe killed upon the journey was here shot by Grant, with a little 40-gauge Lancaster rifle, at 200 yards’ distance. Some smaller animals were killed; but I wasted all my time in fruitlessly stalking some wounded striped eland — magnificent animals, as large as Delhi oxen — and some other animals, of which I wounded three, about the size of hartebeest, and much their shape, only cream-coloured, with a conspicuous black spot in the centre of each flank. The eland may probably be the animal first mentioned by Livingstone, but the other animal is not known.

Though reluctant to leave a place where such rare animals were to be found, the fear of remaining longer on the road induced us to leave Kikobogo, and at a good stride we crossed the flat valley of Makata, and ascended the higher lands beyond, where we no sooner arrived than we met the last down trader from Unyamuezi, well known to all my men as the great Mamba or Crocodile. Mamba, dressed in a dirty Arab gown, with coronet of lion’s nails decorating a thread-bare cutch cap, greeted us with all the dignity of a savage potentate surrounded by his staff of half-naked officials. As usual, he had been the last to leave the Unyamuezi, and so purchased all his stock of ivory at a cheap rate, there being no competitors left to raise the value of that commodity; but his journey had been a very trying one. With a party, at his own estimate, of two thousand souls — we did not see anything like that number — he had come from Ugogo to this, by his own confession, living on the products of the jungle, and by boiling down the skin aprons of his porters occasionally for a soup. Famines were raging throughout the land, and the Arabs preceding him had so harried the country, that every village was deserted. On hearing our intention to march upon the direct line, he frankly said he thought we should never get through for my men could not travel as he had done, and therefore he advised our deflecting northwards from New Mbumi to join the track leading from Rumuma to Ugogi. This was a sad disappointment; but, rather than risk a failure, I resolved to follow his advice.

After reaching the elevated ground, we marched over rolling tops, covered with small trees and a rich variety of pretty bulbs, and reached the habitations of Muhanda, where we no sooner appeared than the poor villagers, accustomed only to rough handling, immediately dispersed in the jungles. By dint of persuasion, however, we induced them to sell us provisions, though at a monstrous rate, such as no merchant could have afforded; and having spent the night quietly, we proceeded on to the upper courses of the M’yombo river, which trends its way northwards to the Mukondokua river. The scenery was most interesting, with every variety of hill, roll, plateau, and ravine, wild and prettily wooded; but we saw nothing of the people. Like frightened rats, as soon as they caught the sound of our advancing march, they buried themselves in the jungles, carrying off their grain with them. Foraging parties, of necessity, were sent out as soon as the camp was pitched, with cloth for purchases, and strict orders not to use force; the upshot of which was, that my people got nothing but a few arrows fired at them by the lurking villagers, and I was abused for my squeamishness. Moreover, the villagers, emboldened by my lenity, vauntingly declared they would attack the camp by night, as they could only recognise in us such men as plunder their houses and steal their children. This caused a certain amount of alarm among my men, which induced them to run up a stiff bush-fence round the camp, and kept them talking all night.

This morning we marched on as usual, with one of the Hottentots lashed on a donkey; for the wretched creature, after lying in the sun asleep, became so sickly that he could not move or do anything for himself, and nobody would do anything for him. The march was a long one, but under ordinary circumstances would have been very interesting, for we passed an immense lagoon, where hippopotami were snorting as if they invited an attack. In the larger tree-jungles the traces of elephants, buffaloes, rhinoceros, and antelopes were very numerous; while a rich variety of small birds, as often happened, made me wish I had come on a shooting rather than on a long exploring expedition. Towards sunset we arrived at New Mbimi, a very pretty and fertile place, lying at the foot of a cluster of steep hills, and pitched camp for three days to lay in supplies for ten, as this was reported to be the only place where we could buy corn until we reached Ugogo, a span of 140 miles. Mr Mbumi, the chief of the place, a very affable negro, at once took us by the hand, and said he would do anything we desired, for he had often been to Zanzibar. He knew that the English were the ruling power in that land, and that they were opposed to slavery, the terrible effects of which had led to his abandoning Old Mbumi, on the banks of the Mukondokua river, and rising here.

The sick Hottentot died here, and we buried him with Christian honours. As his comrades said, he died because he had determined to die — an instance of that obstinate fatalism in their mulish temperament which no kind words or threats can cure. This terrible catastrophe made me wish to send all the remaining Hottentots back to Zanzibar; but as they all preferred serving with me to returning to duty at the Cape, I selected two of the MOST sickly, put them under Tabib, one of Rigby’s old servants, and told him to remain with them at Mbumi until such time as he might find some party proceeding to the coasts; and, in the meanwhile, for board and lodgings I have Mbumi beads and cloth. The prices of provisions here being a good specimen of what one has to pay at this season of the year, I give a short list of them:— sixteen rations corn, two yards cloth; three fowls, two yards cloth; one goat, twenty yards cloth; one cow, forty yards cloth — the cloth being common American sheeting. Before we left Mbumi, a party of forty men and women of the Waquiva tribe, pressed by famine, were driven there to purchase food. The same tribe had, however killed many of Mbumi’s subjects not long since, and therefore, in African revenge, the chief seized them all, saying he would send them off for sale to Zanzibar market unless they could give a legitimate reason for the cruelty they had committed. These Waquiva, I was given to understand, occupied the steep hills surrounding this place. They were a squalid-looking set, like the generality of the inhabitants of this mountainous region.

This march led us over a high hill to the Mdunhwi river, another tributary to the Mukondokua. It is all clad in the upper regions with the slender pole-trees which characterise these hills, intermingled with bamboo; but the bottoms are characterised by a fine growth of fig-trees of great variety along with high grasses; whilst near the villages were found good gardens of plantains, and numerous Palmyra trees. The rainy season being not far off, the villagers were busy in burning rubble and breaking their ground. Within their reach everywhere is the sarsaparilla vine, but growing as a weed, for they know nothing of its value.

Rising up from the deep valley of Mdunhwi we had to cross another high ridge before descending to the also deep valley of Chongue, as picturesque a country as the middle heights of the Himalayas, dotted on the ridges and spur-slopes by numerous small conical-hut villages; but all so poor that we could not, had we wanted it, have purchased provisions for a day’s consumption.

Leaving this valley, we rose to the table of Manyovi, overhung with much higher hills, looking, according to the accounts of our Hottentots, as they eyed the fine herds of cattle grazing on the slopes, so like the range in Kafraria, that they formed their expectations accordingly, and appeared, for the first time since leaving the coast, happy at the prospect before them, little dreaming that such rich places were seldom to be met with. The Wanyamuezi porters even thought they had found a paradise, and forthwith threw down their loads as the villagers came to offer them grain for sale; so that, had I not had the Wanguana a little under control, we should not have completed our distance that day, and so reached Manyonge, which reminded me, by its ugliness, of the sterile Somali land. Proceeding through the semi-desert rolling table-land — in one place occupied by men who build their villages in large open squares of flat-topped mud huts, which, when I have occasion to refer to them in future, I shall call by their native name tembe — we could see on the right hand the massive mountains overhanging the Mukondokua river, to the front the western chain of these hills, and to the left the high crab-claw shaped ridge, which, extending from the western chain, circles round conspicuously above the swelling knolls which lie between the two main rocky ridges. Contorted green thorn-trees, “elephant-foot” stumps, and aloes, seem to thrive best here, by their very nature indicating what the country is, a poor stony land. Our camp was pitched by the river Rumuma, where, sheltered from the winds, and enriched by alluvial soil, there ought to have been no scarcity; but still the villagers had nothing to sell.

On we went again to Marenga Mkhaili, the “Salt Water,” to breakfast, and camped in the crooked green thorns by night, carrying water on for our supper. This kind of travelling — forced marches — hard as it may appear, was what we liked best, for we felt that we were shortening the journey, and in doing so, shortening the risks of failure by disease, by war, by famine, and by mutiny. We had here no grasping chiefs to detain us for presents, nor had our men time to become irritable and truculent, concoct devices for stopping the way, or fight amongst themselves.

On again, and at last we arrived at the foot of the western chain; but not all together. Some porters, overcome by heat and thirst, lay scattered along the road, while the corporal of the Hottentots allowed his mule to stray from him, never dreaming the animal would travel far from his comrades, and, in following after him, was led such a long way into the bush, that my men became alarmed for his safety, knowing as they did that the “savages” were out living like monkeys on the calabash fruit, and looking out for any windfalls, such as stragglers worth plundering, that might come in their way. At first the Wanguana attempted to track down the corporal; but finding he would not answer their repeated shots, and fearful for their own safety, they came into camp and reported the case. Losing no time, I ordered twenty men, armed with carbines, to carry water for the distressed porters, and bring the corporal back as soon as possible. They all marched off, as they always do on such exploits, in high good-humour with themselves for the valour which they intended to show; and in the evening came in, firing their guns in the most reckless manner, beaming with delight; for they had the corporal in tow, two men and two women captives, and a spear as a trophy. Then in high impatience, all in a breath, they began a recital of the great day’s work. The corporal had followed on the spoor of the mule, occasionally finding some of his things that had been torn from the beast’s back by the thorns, and, picking up these one by one, had become so burdened with the weight of them, that he could follow no farther. In this fix the twenty men came up with him, but not until they had had a scrimmage with the “savages,” had secured four, and taken the spear which had been thrown at them. Of the mule’s position no one could give an opinion, save that they imagined, in consequence of the thickness of the bush, he would soon become irretrievably entangled in the thicket, where the savages would find him, and bring him in as a ransom for the prisoners.

What with the diminution of our supplies, the famished state of the country, and the difficulties which frowned upon us in advance, together with unwillingness to give up so good a mule, with all its gear and ammunition, I must say I felt doubtful as to what had better be done, until the corporal, who felt confident he would find the beast, begged so hard that I sent him in command of another expedition of sixteen men, ordering him to take one of the prisoners with him to proclaim to his brethren that we would give up the rest if they returned us the mule. The corporal then led off his band to the spot where he last saw traces of the animal, and tracked on till sundown; while Grant and myself went out pot-hunting and brought home a bag consisting of one striped eland, one saltiana antelope, four guinea-fowl, four ringdoves, and one partridge — a welcome supply, considering we were quite out of flesh.

Next day, as there were no signs of the trackers, I went again to the place of the elands, wounded a fine male, but gave up the chase, as I heard the unmistakable gun-firing return of the party, and straightway proceeded to camp. Sure enough, there they were; they had tracked the animal back to Marenga Mkhali, through jungle — for he had not taken to the footpath. Then finding he had gone on, they returned quite tired and famished. To make the most of a bad job, I now sent Grant on to the Robeho (or windy) Pass, on the top of the western chain, with the mules and heavy baggage, and directions to proceed thence across the brow of the hill the following morning, while I remained behind with the tired men, promising to join him by breakfast-time. I next released the prisoners, much to their disgust, for they had not known such good feeding before, and dreaded being turned adrift again in the jungles to live on calabash seeds; and then, after shooting six guinea-fowl, turned in for the night.

Betimes in the morning we were off, mounting the Robeho, a good stiff ascent, covered with trees and large blocks of granite, excepting only where cleared for villages; and on we went rapidly, until at noon the advance party was reached, located in a village overlooking the great interior plateau — a picture, as it were, of the common type of African scenery. Here, taking a hasty meal, we resumed the march all together, descended the great western chain, and, as night set in, camped in a ravine at the foot of it, not far from the great junction-station Ugogi, where terminate the hills of Usagara.


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