The Journal of a Mission to the Interior of Africa, in the Year 1805, by Mungo Park


Chapter I

Departure from Kayee — Arrival at Pisania — Preparations there, and departure into the Interior — Samee — Payment to Mumbo Jumbo — Reach Jindey; process of dying cottons at that place — Departure from Jindey — Cross the Wallia Creek — Kootakunda — Madina — Tabajang — Kingdom of Jamberoo — Visit from the King’s son — Tatticonda — Visit from the son of the former King of Woolli — Reach Madina, the capital of Woolli — Audience of the King; his unfriendly conduct — Presents made to him and his courtiers — Barraconda — Bambakoo — Kanipe; inhospitable conduct of its inhabitants — Kussai — Nitta — trees; restrictions relating to them — Enter the Simbani Woods; precautions thereon, and sacrifice and prayers for success — Banks of the Gambia — Crocodiles and hippopotami — Reach Faraba–Loss of one of the soldiers — Rivers Neaulico and Nerico — Astronomical observations.

April 27th, 1805. — At ten o’clock in the morning took our departure from Kayee. The Crescent, the Washington and Mr. Ainsley’s vessel did us the honour to fire a salute at our departure. The day proved remarkably hot; and some of the asses being unaccustomed to carry loads, made our march very fatiguing and troublesome. Three of them stuck fast in a muddy rice field about two miles east of Kayee; and while we were employed in getting them out, our guide and the people in front had gone on so far, that we lost sight of them. In a short time we overtook about a dozen soldiers and their asses, who had likewise fallen behind, and being afraid of losing their way, had halted till we came up. We in the rear took the road to Jonkakonda, which place we reached at one o’clock; but not finding Lieutenant Martyn nor any of the men who were in front, concluded they had gone by New Jermy, &c., therefore hired a guide and continued our march. Halted a few minutes under a large tree at the village of Lamain–Cotto, to allow the soldiers to cool themselves; and then proceeded towards Lamain, at which place we arrived at four o’clock. The people were extremely fatigued, having travelled all day under a vertical sun, and without a breath of wind. Lieutenant Martyn and the rest of our party arrived at half past five, having taken the road by New Jermy.

On our arrival at Lamain we unloaded the asses under a large Bentang tree on the east side of the town. The Slatee (or master of that district of the kingdom of Kataba, called Lamain) came to pay his respects to me, and requested that I would order the bundles and asses to be removed to some other tree; assuring me that if we slept under it, we should all be dead before morning. I was for some time at a loss to comprehend his meaning; when he took me by the hand, and leading me to one of the large notches in the root of the tree, shewed me three spear-heads which appeared to have been tinged with blood, lying with their points amongst bone-ashes, and surrounded with a rope half burnt. I now ordered the bundles to be removed to another tree, presented the Slatee with a keg of liquor, and received in return a small bullock. Here we were forced to purchase water, the wells of the town being nearly dry. Slept very comfortably under the tree, and at day-break,

April 28th, set out for Pisania. We passed two small Foulah towns and the village of Collin, and reached the banks of the Gambia at half past eleven o’clock. Halted and gave our cattle water and grass: we likewise cooked our dinners, and rested till three o’clock, when we set forward and arrived at Pisania at sun-set. Here we were accommodated at Mr. Ainsley’s house; and as his schooner had not yet arrived with our baggage, I purchased some corn for our cattle, and spoke for a bullock for the soldiers.

April 29th. — Went and paid my respects to Seniora Camilla, who was much surprised to see me again attempting a journey into the interior of the country.

[Footnote: See Park’s Travels, p. 31, 357.]

April 30th. — Mr. Ainsley’s schooner arrived, and we immediately began to land the baggage and rice.

April 31st. — Gave out the ass saddles to be stuffed with grass, and set about weighing the bundles. Found that after all reductions, our asses could not possibly carry our baggage. Purchased five more with Mr. Ainsley’s assistance.

May 1st. — Tying up the bundles and marking them.

May 2d. — Purchased three asses, and a bullock for the people.

May 3d. — Finished packing the loads, and got every thing ready for our journey.

May 4th. — Left Pisania at half past nine o’clock. The mode of marching was adjusted as follows. The asses and loads being all marked and numbered with red paint, a certain number of each was allotted to each of the six messes, into which the soldiers were divided; and the asses were further subdivided amongst the individuals of each mess, so that every man could tell at first sight the ass and load which belonged to him. The asses were also numbered with large figures, to prevent the natives from stealing them, as they could neither wash nor clip it off without being discovered. Mr. George Scott and one of Isaaco’s people generally went in front, Lieutenant Martyn in the centre, and Mr. Anderson and myself in the rear. We were forced to leave at Pisania about five cwt. of rice, not having a sufficient number of asses to carry it. We were escorted till we passed Tendicunda by Mr. Ainsley, and the good old Seniora Camilla, and most of the respectable natives in the vicinity. Our march was most fatiguing. Many of the asses being rather overloaded, lay down on the road; others kicked off their bundles; so that, after using every exertion to get forward, we with difficulty reached Samee, a distance of about eight miles. We unloaded our asses under a large Tabba tree at some distance from the town, and in the evening I went with Isaaco to pay my respects to the Slatee of Samee.

The Slatee of Samee, as well as the Slatees of Lamain and Kutijar, is subject to the King of Kataba; but their subjection is not easily defined. If a slave runs away from one to another, he cannot be reclaimed unless the other chooses to give him up. The Slatee was very drunk, and when I told him that I was come to pay my respects to him and would give him one jug of rum, he told me he would not allow me to pass unless I gave him ten jugs; and after a good deal of insignificant palaver, I was obliged to give him two jugs.

May 5th. — Paid six bars of amber to the Mumbo Jumbo boys, and set out for Jindey early in the morning. Found this day’s travelling very difficult; many of the asses refused to go on; and we were forced to put their loads on the horses. We reached Jindey about noon. Purchased a bullock, and halted the 6th; fearing, if we attempted to proceed, we should be forced to leave some of our loads in the woods.

[Footnote: For a description of Mumbo Jumbo, see Park’s Travels, p. 39.]

At Jindey they dye very fine blues with the indigo leaves. I readily embraced the opportunity, during our halt, to make myself acquainted with the process, which I saw in all its different stages.

Mode of dying Cotton of a fine blue colour with the leaves of the Indigo Plant.

A large quantity of wood-ashes is collected (the woods preferred for the purpose are the mimosa nitta, and mimosa pulverulenta,) and put into an unglazed earthen vessel which has a hole in its bottom; over which is put some straw. Upon these ashes water is poured, which, filtrating through the hole in the bottom of the vessel, carries with it the potass contained in the ashes, and forms a very strong lye of the colour of strong beer: this lye they call sai-gee, ash-water.

Another pot is filled not quite quarter full of the leaves of the indigo plant, either fresh or dried in the sun (those used at this time were dried), and as much of the sai-gee poured on it as will fill the pot about half full. It is allowed to remain in this state for four days, during which it is stirred once or twice each day.

The pot is then filled nearly full of sai-gee and stirred frequently for four days more, during which it ferments and throws up a copper-coloured scum. It is then allowed to remain at rest for one day, and on the tenth day from the commencement of the process the cloth is put into it. No mordant whatever is used; the cloth is simply wetted with cold water, and wrung hard before it is put into the pot, where it is allowed to remain about two hours. It is then taken out and exposed to the sun, by laying it (without spreading it) over a stick, till the liquor ceases to drop from it. After this it is washed in cold water, and is often beat with a flat stick to clear away any leaves or dirt which may adhere to it. The cloth being again wrung hard, is returned into the pot; and this dipping is repeated four times every day for the first four days; at the end of which period it has in common acquired a blue colour equal to the finest India baft.

The Negro women, who practise dying, have generally twelve or fourteen indigo jars, so that one of them is always ready for dipping. If the process misgives, which it very seldom does with women who practise it extensively, it generally happens during the second four days or the fermenting period. The indigo is then said to be dead, and the whole is thrown out.

In Kajaaga and Kasson they spread the cloth in the sun, and dry it after every dip: they then beat it with a stick, so as to make the indigo leaves fly off it like dust. Both practices have for their object the clearing of the cloth, so as to admit the indigo equally to all parts of it. The process abridged is,

Four days indigo and a small quantity of sai-gee.

Four days fermenting in a large quantity of sai-gee.

One day at rest.

Four days dipping the cloth, four dips per day.

Thirteen in all.

To return to the narrative. Lamina Foffono, one of my fellow travellers in my former journey from Mandingo to Gambia, hearing that I was come to Jindey, came from Wallia to see me. He told me that Karfa was in health, but had not received the musket I sent him by Captain Brand.

At five o’clock had a strong puff of wind from the south-east, which raised the dust and had exactly the appearance of a tornado.

May 7th. — Left Jindey, but so much were our asses fatigued, that I was obliged to hire three more, and four drivers to assist in getting forward the baggage. One of the St. Jago asses fell down convulsed when the load was put upon him; and a Mandingo ass, No. 11, refused to carry his load. I was under the necessity of sending him back to Jindey, and hiring another in his place.

We travelled on the north side of the Wallia Creek till noon, when we crossed it near Kootakunda. Swam the asses over; and the soldiers, with the assistance of the Negroes, waded over with the bundles on their heads. Halted on the south side of the creek, and cooked our dinners.

At four o’clock set forwards, passed Kootakunda, and called at the village of Madina to pay my respects to Slatee Bree. Gave him a note on Mr. Ainsley for one jug of liquor. Halted at Tabajang, a village almost deserted; having been plundered in the course of the season by the King of Jamberoo, in conjunction with the King of Woolli. Our guide’s mother lives here; and as I found that we could not possibly proceed in our present state, I determined either to purchase more asses, or abandon some of the rice.

May 8th. — Purchased two asses for ten bars of amber and ten of coral each. Covered the India bafts with skins, to prevent them from being damaged by the rain. Two of the soldiers afflicted with the dysentery.

May 9th. — The King of Jamberoo’s son came to pay his respects to me. Jamberoo lies along the north side of the Wallia Creek, and extends a long way to the northward. The people are Jaloffs, but most of them speak Mandingo. Presented him with some amber. Bought five asses and covered all the gunpowder with skins, except what was for our use on the road.

May 10th. — Having paid all the people who had assisted in driving the asses, I found that the expense was greater than any benefit we were likely to derive from them. I therefore trusted the asses this day entirely to the soldiers. We left Tabajang at sun-rise, and made a short and easy march to Tatticonda, where the son of my friend, the former King of Woolli, came to meet me. From him I could easily learn that our journey was viewed with great jealousy by the Slatees and Sierra–Woollis residing about Madina.

May 11th. — About noon arrived at Madina, the capital of the kingdom of Woolli. We unloaded our asses under a tree without the gates of the town, and waited till five o’clock before we could have an audience from his majesty. I took to the King a pair of silver mounted pistols, ten dollars, ten bars of amber, ten of coral. But, when he had looked at the present with great indifference for some time, he told me that he could not accept it; alleging, as an excuse for his avarice, that I had given a much handsomer present to the King of Kataba. It was in vain that I assured him of the contrary; he positively refused to accept it, and I was under the necessity of adding fifteen dollars, ten bars coral, ten amber, before his majesty would accept it. After all, he begged me to give him a blanket to wrap himself in during the rains, which I readily sent him.

The other presents must all be proportionally great, and the sum of the whole presents at Woolli is as follows:

To the King,
A pair of pistols. Bars.
Dollars 25
Amber 20
Coral 20
White baft 5
70 bars.
To Montamba the King’s own son,
Amber, 5
Coral 5
To Slatee Deena,
Amber 1
Coral 5
To Sadoo, Jatta’s son,
Amber 5
Coral 5
To Samboo, Jatta’s second son,
Coral 5
To Whulliri, the Prime Minister,
Dollars 2
Coral 5
To Dama, Whulliri’s younger brother,
Coral 5
To Soliman, the King’s chief slave, Bars.
Amber 4
Coral 4
To Dimba Serra,
Coral 6
To different people,
Coral 10
To the King, 70
Total 140 bars.

[Footnote: There is some mistake here; what Mr. Park calls 71, appears to be no more than 67; and even according to him, the total ought to be 141. The true amount is 67+70=137.]

May 12th. — Had all the asses loaded by day-break, and at sun-rise, having obtained the King’s permission, we departed from Woolli. Shortly after, we passed the town of Barraconda, where I stopped a few minutes to pay my respects to Jemaffoo Mamadoo, a very eminent Slatee.

[Footnote: Mentioned in Park’s Travels, p. 31.]

We reached the village of Bambakoo at half past ten o’clock. Bought two asses, and likewise a bullock for the soldiers.

May 13th. — Departed from Bambakoo at sun-rise, and reached Kanipe, an irregular built village, about ten o’clock. The people of the village had heard that we were under the necessity of purchasing water at Madina; and to make sure of a similar market, the women had drawn all the water from the wells, and were standing in crowds, drawing up the water as fast as it collected. It was in vain that the soldiers attempted to come in for their share: the camp kettles were by no means so well adapted for drawing water as the women’s calabashes. The soldiers therefore returned without water, having the laugh very much against them.

I received information that there was a pool of water about two miles south of the town; and in order to make the women desist, I mounted a man on each of the horses, and sent them away to the pool, to bring as much water as would boil our rice, and in the afternoon sent all the asses to be watered at the same place. In the evening some of the soldiers made another attempt to procure water from the large well near the town, and succeeded by the following stratagem. One of them having dropped his canteen into the well, as if by accident, his companions fastened a rope round him, and lowered him down to the bottom of the well, where he stood and filled all the camp kettles, to the great mortification of the women, who had been labouring and carrying water for the last twenty-four hours, in hopes of having their necks and heads decked with small amber and beads by the sale of it. Bought two goats for the soldiers.

May 14th. — Halted at Kussai, about four miles east of Kanipe. This is the same village as Seesekunda, but the inhabitants have changed its name. Here one of the soldiers, having collected some of the fruit of the Nitta trees, was eating them, when the chief man of the village came out in a great rage, and attempted to take them from him; but finding that impracticable, he drew his knife, and told us to put on our loads, and get away from the village. Finding that we only laughed at him, he became more quiet; and when I told him that we were unacquainted with so strange a restriction, but should be careful not to eat any of them in future; he said that the thing itself was not of great importance, if it had not been done in sight of the women. For, says he, this place has been frequently visited with famine from want of rain, and in these distressing times the fruit of the Nitta is all we have to trust to, and it may then be opened without harm; but in order to prevent the women and children from wasting this supply, a toong is put upon the Nittas, until famine makes its appearance. The word toong is used to express any thing sealed up by magic.

Bought two asses. As we entered the Simbani woods from this town, Isaaco was very apprehensive that we might be attacked by some of the Bondou people, there being at this time a hot war between two brothers about the succession: and as the report had spread that a coffle of white men were going to the interior, every person immediately concluded that we were loaded with the richest merchandize to purchase slaves; and that whichever of the parties should gain possession of our wealth, he would likewise gain the ascendency over his opponent. On this account, gave orders to the men not to fire at any deer or game they might see in the woods; that every man must have his piece loaded and primed, and that the report of a musket, but more particularly of three or four, should be the signal to leave every thing and run towards the place.

May 15th. — Departed from Kussai. At the entrance of the woods, Isaaco laid a black ram across the road and cut its throat, having first said a long prayer over it. This he considered as very essential towards our success. The flesh of the animal was given to the slaves at Kussai, that they might pray in their hearts for our success.

The first five miles of our route was through a woody country; we then reached a level plain nearly destitute of wood. On this plain we observed some hundreds of a species of antelope of a dark colour with a white mouth; they are called by the natives Da qui, and are nearly as large as a bullock. At half past ten o’clock we arrived on the banks of the Gambia, and halted during the heat of the day under a large tree called Teelee Corra, the same under which I formerly stopped in my return from the interior.

[Footnote: Probably the tree mentioned in Park’s Travels, p. 854.]

The Gambia here is about 100 yards across, and, contrary to what I expected, has a regular tide, rising four inches by the shore. It was low water this day at one o’clock. The river swarms with crocodiles. I counted at one time thirteen of them ranged along shore, and three hippopotami. The latter feed only during the night, and seldom leave the water during the day; they walk on the bottom of the river, and seldom shew more of themselves above water than their heads.

At half past three o’clock in the afternoon, we again set forward, and about a mile to the eastward ascended a hill, where we had a most enchanting prospect of the country to the westward; in point of distance it is the richest I ever saw. The course of the Gambia was easily distinguished by a range of dark green trees, which grew on its banks. The course from Teelee Corra is represented in the following sketch.


A mile and a half east of Prospect hill, is another on the north side of the road, from the top of which we had a charming view to the south. The course of the river is from the E.S.E.; no hills on the south side of it, the whole country being quite level. About ten miles E.S.E.; the river passes near an elevated table land, which looks, like an old fortification. At sun-set reached a watering place called Faraba, but found no water.

While we were unloading the asses, John Walters, one of the soldiers, fell down in an epileptic fit, and expired in about an hour after. The Negroes belonging to our guide set about digging a well, having first lighted a fire to keep off the bees, which were swarming about the place in search of water. In a little time they found water in sufficient quantity to cook our suppers, and even supply the horses and asses in the course of the night.

Being apprehensive of an attack from the Bondou people, placed double sentries, and made every man sleep with his loaded musket under his head. Latitude by mer. alt. of the moon, 14° 38’ 46” N.

About three o’clock buried John Walters, and in remembrance of him wish this place to be called Walters’s Well.

May 16th. — Departed from the well as soon as day dawned, and reached the Neaulico at half past eight o’clock. This stream is nearly dry at this season, and only affords water in certain hollow places which abound in fish. Saw Isaaco’s Negroes take several with their hands, and with wisps of grass used as a net to frighten the fish into a narrow space. One of the fish was a new genus.

Saw in the bed of the river some Negroes roasting a great quantity of flesh on temporary wooden stages erected for the purpose, as represented in the following sketch.


This half roasting and smoaking makes the meat keep much longer than it would do without it. The flesh was part of a Da qui which they found on the road; a lion had killed it during the night, and eat one leg of it.

At four o’clock P.M. departed from the Neaulico. At five, passed the ruins of Mangelli, where I formerly slept, and at six o’clock halted for the night at Manjalli Tabba Cotta, the ruins of a village so called. The wood during this day’s march is in general small, and the road is much interrupted with dry bamboos. Plenty of water at the resting place. After dark took out the telescope in order to observe an immersion of Jupiter’s first satellite —

H. M. S.
The satellite immerged by watch 14 10 35
Rate + from London 0 5 48
Too slow by eclipse at Kayee 0 0 5
-- -- --
Mean time by watch 14 16 28
Time by Nautical Almanack 14 16 51
Equation 0 3 58
-- -- --
Mean time at Greenwich 14 12 53
14 12 53
-- -- --
Watch too fast 0 3 35

Longitude by three sets of sights taken next morning in order to find the apparent time at the place 13° 9’ 45” W.

It is difficult to account for such a difference in the rate of going of the watch in the course of one month; but the excessive heat and the motion of riding may perhaps have contributed to it; for I think my observation of the immersion was correct.

May 17th. — Left Manjalli Tabba Cotta, and after a fatiguing march of twelve miles, reached Bray, a watering place. Endeavoured to take the meridional altitude of the sun, by the back observation with Troughton’s pocket sextant; and after carefully examining his rise and fall, with the intervals betwixt each observation, I was convinced that it can be done with great accuracy, requiring only a steady hand and proper attention. This was a great relief to me; I had been plagued watching the passage of the fixed stars, and often fell asleep when they were in the meridian.

We left Bray at three o’clock, P.M. and carried with us as much water as we possibly could, intending to rest at Nillindingcorro till the moon rose; but there being no water, our guide continued our march to the river Nerico, which we reached at eight o’clock, all the people and asses very much fatigued. Face of the country during this day an open and level plain with bushes and Cibi trees, making the prospect rich, though not grand. Saw plenty of lions’ excrement in the wood: they deposit it only in certain places, and like the cats, claw up the ground in order to cover it.

May 18th. — People employed all the morning in transporting the baggage and asses across the river; and as both men and asses were very much fatigued, I thought it best to halt on the east side of the river till the afternoon, as it would afford the soldiers an opportunity of washing their clothes.

° ' "
Observed Mer. Alt. Sun 168 35 0
Diameter 0 32 0
-- -- --
1/2 169 7 0
-- -- --
84 33 30
Correct for refraction and parallax 4
-- -- --
84 33 26
-- -- --
Zenith Distance 5 26 34
Declination 19 31 25
-- -- --
Latitude 14 4 51

The breadth of the stream of the river Nerico is about sixty feet, the depth of water four feet, its velocity is two miles an hour. The heat of the stream at two o’clock 94° Fahrenheit.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59