Leave Tanganyika — Determine to Visit the Ukéréwé Lake, alias Victoria N’yanza — Confusion about Rivers Running in and out — Idea that it is the Source of the Nile — Arrangements for the Journey — Difficulties — The March — Nature of the Country — Formalities at the Meeting of Caravans — A Pagazi Strike — A Sultana — Incidents — Pillars of Granite.
On returning to Ujiji after a rather protracted sojourn at Uvira, occasioned by Kannina’s not completing his work so quickly as had been anticipated, we found our stock of beads and cloth, which had been left in charge of the Ras-cafila, Sheikh Said, and under the protection of the Beluches and our Wanyamuézi porters, reduced to so low an ebb that everybody felt anxious about our future movements. The Sheikh, however, I must add, on a prior occasion, very generously proposed, in case we felt disposed to carry on the survey of the lake, to return to the Arab depôt at Kazé, and fetch some more African money, to meet the necessary expenses. I wished to finish off the navigation of the lake; but Captain Burton declared he would not, as he had had enough of canoe-travelling, and thought our being short of cloth, and out of leave, would be sufficient excuse for him. Though admiring so magnanimous a sacrifice on the part of this energetic Sheikh, it was voted, in consequence of my companion’s failing health, as well as from the delay it would occasion, that we should all return at once to Kazé, where we expected to meet our reserve supplies. This once agreed upon, I then proposed that, after reaching Kazé, we should travel northwards to the lake described by the Arabs to be both broader and longer than the Tanganyika, and which they call Ukéréwé, after the island where their caravans go for ivory — in short, the Victoria N’yanza — for I was all the while burning to see it. To this Captain Burton at first demurred. He said we had done enough, and he would do no more; but finally gave way when I said, If you are not well enough when we reach Kazé I will go by myself, and you can employ the time in taking notes from the travelled Arabs of all the countries round. This was agreed to at last by Captain Burton, as he said the journey hitherto had been so uninteresting, a month with Sheikh Snay would be very necessary to completing his book. Delighted at this announcement, I begged for leave to take Sheikh Said with me. Captain Burton, however, wanted to keep him, as he was a great friend of all the Arabs, and could procure him news better than any one else. I argued that the road was dangerous, and without him I thought I could not succeed, as there was no one else to argue with the native chiefs, and bring them to terms if they were headstrong. Captain Burton to this appeal finally gave way, but said I must ask the Sheikh myself, as he was not bound to go on any other line than the one we were now on. I did ask the Sheikh, some time after, at Usenyé, and he said he would see about it when we reached Kazé. Just as we were preparing to leave Ujiji, by great good fortune some supplies were brought to us by an Arab called Mohinna, an old friend whom we formerly left at Kazé, and who had now followed us here to trade in ivory. Had this timely supply not reached us, it is difficult to conceive what would have been our fate, left as we should have been with a large amount of non-marketable property, and having numbers of people to feed, whilst my companion was unable to move without the assistance of eight men to carry him in a hammock, we being totally without the means of purchase in the territory of one of the most inhospitable of all the tribes with whom we have had connection.
This timely supply was one of the many strokes of good fortune which befell us upon this journey, and for which we have so much reason to be grateful. Help had always reached us at the time when least we expected it, but when we most required it. My health had been improving ever since I first reached the lake, and enjoyed those invigorating swims upon its surface, and revelled in the good living afforded by the market at Ujiji. The facilities of the place giving us such a choice of food, our powers in the culinary art were tried to their fullest extent. It would be difficult to tell what dishes we did not make there. Fish of many sorts done up in all the fashions of the day — meat and fowl in every form — vegetable soups, and dishes of numberless varieties — fruit-preserves, custards, custard-puddings, and jellies — and last, but not least, buttered crumpets and cheese — formed as fine a spread as was ever set before a king.
But sometimes we came to grief when our supply of milk was, on the most foolish pretexts, stopped by Kannina, who was the only cow-proprietor in the neighbourhood. At one time he took offence because we turned his importunate wives out of the house, in mistake for common beggars. On another occasion, when I showed him a cheese of our manufacture, and begged he would allow me to instruct his people in the art of making them, he took fright, declared that the cheese was something supernatural, and that it could never have been made by any ordinary artifice. Moreover, if his people were shown the way to do it one hundred times, they would never be able to comprehend it. He further showed his alarm by forbidding us any more milk, lest, by our tampering with it, we should bewitch his cows and make them all run dry. The cattle this milk was taken from are of a uniform red colour, like our Devonshire breed; but they attain a very great height and size, and have horns of the most stupendous dimensions.
A year’s acclimatisation had by this time produced a wonderful effect on all the party; so that now, with our fresh supplies, most of us marched away from Ujiji in better condition than we had enjoyed since leaving the coast. The weather was very fine, the rainy season having ceased on the 15th May; we marched rapidly across the eastern horn of the mountains back to the ferry on the Malagarazi, but by a more northernly route than the one by which we came.
We reached this river in early June, and found its appearance very different from what it was on our former visit, at the beginning of the monsoon. Then its waters were contained within its banks, of no considerable width; but now, although the rains had ceased here long ago, the river had not only overflowed its banks, but had submerged nearly all the valley in which it lies to the extent at least of a mile or more. The rains about 5° south latitude had just lasted out the six months during which the sun was in the south; and now, as the sun had gone north, the rains had gone there also. This was a very important fact, by which the rise of the Nile on the other side of the axis of this mountain-group might be determined, proving, as it does, that whilst rain falls most wherever the sun is vertical, it is greatly augmented on the equatorial regions by these mountains, where also, as our maps show, is the rainy zone of the world.
After crossing the river, we hurried along by a more southernly and straighter road than we formerly came by, and reached Kazé towards the latter end of June. Here Sheikh Snay received us with his usual genuine hospitality, arranged a house especially for our use, and with him we again established our headquarters. This man, when we were formerly detained here to form our second caravan on our journey westwards, housed us, and carefully attended to our wants. He took charge of our kit, provided us with porters, and finally became our agent. Living with him, surrounded by an Arab community, felt like living in a civilised land; for the Arab’s manners and society are as pleasant and respectable as can be found in any Oriental family. Snay had travelled as much as, or more than, any person in this land; and from being a shrewd and intelligent inquirer, knew everybody and everything. It was from his mouth, on our former visit to Kazé, that I first heard of the N’yanza, or, as he called it, the Ukéréwé Sea; and then, too, I first proposed that we should go to it instead of journeying westward to the smaller waters of Ujiji. He had travelled up its western flank to Kibuga, the capital of the kingdom of Uganda, and had in his employ men who had lived and traded in Usoga. Snay, narrating his own experiences, said to me, “I was once three years absent on a visit to King Sunna, at his capital (Kibuga) in the Uganda kingdom, occupied by a tribe called Waganda. Starting from Kazé, it took me thirty-five marches to reach Kitangulé (bearing N.N.W.), and twenty more marches going northwards, with the morning sun a little on my right face (probably north by east), to arrive at Kibuga. The only people that gave me any trouble on the way are the Wasui, situate at the beginning of the Karagué kingdom; but that was only trifling, as they did not fight, and lasted but three or four marches. The Karagué kingdom (a mountainous tract of land, containing several high spurs of hill, the eastern buttresses of these Lunae Montes, and washed on the flanks by the Ukéréwé Sea) is bounded on the north by the Kitangulé river, beyond which the Wanyoro territory (crescent shape) lies, with the horns directed eastwards. Amidst them, situate in the concave or lake side, are the Waganda, to whose capital I went. Anybody wishing to see the northern boundary of the lake should go to Kibuga, take good presents, and make friends with the reigning monarch; and, with his assistance, buy or construct boats on the shore of the lake, which is about five marches east of his capital.16 North, beyond the Waganda, the Wanyoro are again met with; and there quarrels and wars were so rife, from a jealousy existing among them and the Waganda, that had these people known of a northern boundary, I still might not have heard of it. On crossing the Kitangulé river, I found it emanating from Urundi (a district in the Mountains of the Moon), and flowing north-easterly. The breadth of the river is very great — I should imagine, some five to six hundred yards — and it contains much water, overflowing as the Malagarazi does after rains. There are also numerous other little streams on the way to Kibuga, but none so great as the Katonga river. This, like the rest, comes from the west, and flows towards the lake. It has a breadth of two thousand yards, is very deep when full, but sinks and is very sluggish in the dry season, when water-lilies and rushes overspread its surface, and the musquitoes are very annoying. The cowrie-shell, brought from the Zanzibar coast, is the common currency amongst the more northern tribes; but they are not worth the merchant’s while to carry, as beads and brass (not cloth, for they are essentially a bead-wearing and naked people) are eagerly sought for and taken in exchange. Large sailing-craft, capable of containing forty or fifty men, and manned and navigated after the fashion of ocean mariners, are reported by the natives to frequent the lake (meaning the Nile at Gondokoro). We Arabs believe in this report, as everybody tells the same story; but don’t know how it happens to be so, unless it is open to the sea. The Kitangulé river is crossed in good-sized wooden canoes; but the Katonga river can only be passed in the dry season, when men walk over it on the lily leaves: cattle, too, are then passed across in certain open spaces, guided by a long string, which is attached to the animals’ heads.”
Other Arab and Wasuahili merchants have corroborated Snay’s statement, as also a Hindi merchant, called Musa, whom I especially mention, as I consider him a very valuable informant — not only from the straightforward way he had of telling his story, but also because we could converse with one another direct, and so obviate any chance of errors. After describing his route to the north in minute detail, stage by stage, with great precision, which was to the same effect as all the other accounts, he told me of a third large river to the northward of the Line, beyond Uganda; this he spoke of as much larger than the Katonga, and generally called the Usoga River, because it waters that district. Although he had recently visited Kibuga, and had lived with Sultan Mtésa, the present reigning monarch in place of Sunna, who died since Snay was there, he had no positive or definite idea of the physical features of any of the country beyond the point which he had reached; but he produced a negro slave who had been to Usoga, and had seen the river in question. This man called the river Kivira, and described it as being much broader, deeper, and stronger in its current than either the Katonga or Kitangulé river; that it came from the lake, and that it intersected stony hilly ground on its passage to the north-west.
This river Kivira, I now believe (although I must confess I did not until I made Snay alter his original statement about the direction of its flow, and so proved he meant this for his Jub), is the Nile itself. On a subsequent occasion, when talking to a very respectable Suahili merchant, by name Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasib, about the N’yanza, he corroborated the story about the mariners, who are said to keep logs and use sextants, and mentioned that he had heard of the Kidi and Bari people living on the Kivira river. Now, the Bari people mentioned by him are evidently those who have long since been known to us as a tribe living on the Nile in latitude 5° north and longitude 32° east, and described by the different Egyptian expeditions sent up the Nile to discover its source. M. Ferdinand Werne (says Dr Beke) has published an account of the second expedition’s proceedings, in which he took part; and which, it appears, succeeded in getting farther up the river than either of the others. “The author states that, according to Lacono, King of Bari, the course of the river continues thence southwards a distance of thirty days’ journey.” This, by Dr Beke’s computation, places the source of the Nile just where I have since discovered the N’yanza’s southern extremity to be — in the second degree south latitude, lying in the Unyamuézi country.17
Here we see how singularly all the different informers’ statements blend together in substantiating my opinion that the N’yanza is the great reservoir or fountainhead of that mighty stream that floated Father Moses on his first adventurous sail — the Nile. It must appear marvellous to the English reader how it happened that these traders obtained so much and such good information to the northward of the equator, and especially of the White Nile traders. The reasons are these:— For several years these Arabs have not only traded with Karagué, Uganda, and Usoga, but they have had trading-stations in Uddu–Uganda and in Karagué. The Uganda station has since been broken up by order of the king, as the Arabs were interfering too much with his subjects. In Karagué, on the contrary, they still have establishments; and as they cannot go into Unyoro themselves, they have induced the Wahaiya and Waziwa to bring them ivory from that country and from Kidi, in exchange for which they give beads. These Zanzibar merchants are very inquiring men, and have learnt a great deal from this source. Far more, however, they have learned from the King of Karagué, who is much respected by all the surrounding kings, and is continually exchanging presents and news with them. The King of Unyoro, for instance, whose territory extends to Madi, once sent him a present of beads and coral ornaments which must have come up the Nile, for at the same time the sailing-vessels on the Nile were heard of, and ornaments of that nature were never brought into the country from the Zanzibar side. Omitted in these accounts was a statement of Musa’s I did not believe at first concerning the rise of the Nile, which was this: The natives had told him when the N’yanza (Nile) rose, it tore up and floated away islands. Further, Abdullah told me of a wonderfully high and steep mountain beyond Karagué— doubtless the Mfumbiro — being constantly covered with clouds; and I heard from him of a salt lake — doubtless the Little Luta Nzigé— which had some connection with the N’yanza. These details were, however, so obscurely given, I feared to place them on my map at that time.
I began the formation of the new caravan for exploring Northern Unyamuézi immediately after our arrival, but found it difficult to do things hurriedly. There was only one man then at Unyanyembé who knew the coast language, and would consent to act as my Kirangozi;18 and as he had come all the way from Ujiji with us, he required a few days to arrange things at his home, in a village some distance off. Whilst he was absent the Arabs paid us daily visits, and gave many useful hints about the journey in prospect. One hint must especially be regarded, which was, to take care, on arrival at the lake, that I did not enter the village of a certain sultan called Mahaya, to whose district, Muanza, at the southern extremity of the lake, they directed me to go. This precautionary warning was advanced in consequence of a trick the sultan had played an Arab, who, after visiting him in a friendly way, was forcibly detained until he paid a ransom; an unjust measure, which the Arabs pointedly advert to as destructive to commercial interests. Further, the Arabs had learnt from travellers just arrived from Usukuma that the whole route leading to the N’yanza was in a state of commotion, caused by civil wars, and therefore advised me to go as strongly armed as possible.
To lose no time whilst the Kirangozi was away — for I had a long business to do in a very short space — I intimated to Sheikh Said and the Beluch guard my intention of taking them with me to the lake, and ordered them to prepare for the journey by a certain date. Said demurred, saying he would give a definite answer about accompanying me before the time of starting, but subsequently refused (I hear, as one reason), because he did not consider me his chief.19 I urged that it was as much his duty as mine to go there; and said that unless he changed his present resolution, I should certainly recommend the Government not to pay the gratuity which the Consul had promised him on condition that he worked entirely to our satisfaction, in assisting the expedition to carry out the Government’s plans.
The Jemadar of the Beluch guard, on seeing the Sheikh hold back, at first raised objections, and then began to bargain. He fixed a pay of one gora or fifteen cloths per man, as the only condition on which I should get their services; for they all declared that they had not only been to Ujiji, the place appointed by Sultan Majid and their chief before leaving Zanzibar, but that they had overstayed the time agreed upon for them to be absent on these travels — namely, six months. I acceded to this exorbitant demand, considering the value of time, as the dry season had now set in, and the Arabs at this period cease travelling to Zanzibar, from fear of being caught by droughts in the deserts between this place and the East Coast Range, where, if the ponds and puddles dry up, there is so little water in the wells that travelling becomes precarious.
Further, I had not only to go through a much wilder country than we had travelled in before, two and a half degrees off, to discover and bring back full particulars of the N’yanza, but had to purchase cattle sufficient for presents, and food for the whole journey down to the coast, within the limited period of six weeks. Ramji’s slaves all came back to us here, and begged we would take them into our service again. I wanted to do so, as Snay not only strongly advised me to have as strong an escort as possible, but thought that their knowledge of treating with native chiefs would be of the greatest value to me. Captain Burton, however, would not listen to my request, as he insisted they would only prove of more expense than profit to the expedition; but instead, he employed them himself, after I had gone, in repairing our damaged property, and in laying in supplies for our future journey home. I regretted the loss of these men the more, as they all so warmly volunteered to go with me. The Arab depôt now came into play to satisfy this sudden and unexpected call upon our store of cloths. There were ten Beluches fit for service, and for each of them a gora was bought at the depôt, at a valuation of ten dollars each, or a hundred the lot. In addition to this they received an advance of fifteen maunds of white beads in lieu of rations — a rate of 1 lb. per man per day for six weeks. The Kirangozi now returned with many excuses to escape the undertaking of guiding me to the lake. He declared that all the roads were rendered impassable by wars, and that it was impossible for him to undertake the responsibility of escorting me in so dangerous a country. After a good deal of bothering and persuading he at length acceded, and brought fifteen pagazis or porters from his own and some neighbouring villages. To each of these I gave five cloths as hire, and all appeared ready; but not so. Bombay’s Seedi nature came over him, and he would not move a yard unless I gave him a month’s wages in cloth upon the spot. I thought his demand an imposition, for he had just been given a cloth. His wages were originally fixed at five dollars a-month, to accumulate at Zanzibar until our return there; but he was to receive daily rations the same as all the other men, with an occasional loin-cloth covering whenever his shukka might wear out. All these strikes with the Beluches and Bombay for cloth were in consequence of their having bought some slaves, whose whims and tastes they could not satisfy without our aid; and they knew these men would very soon desert them unless they received occasionally alluring presents to make them contented. But finessing is a kind of itch with all Orientals, as gambling is with those who are addicted to it; and they would tell any lie rather than gain their object easily by the simple truth, on the old principle that “stolen things are sweetest.” Had Bombay only opened his heart, the matter would have been settled at once, for his motives were of a superior order. He had bought, to be his adopted brother, a slave of the Wahha tribe, a tall, athletic, fine-looking man, whose figure was of such excellent proportions that he would have been remarkable in any society; and it was for this youth, and not himself, he had made so much fuss and used so many devices to obtain the cloths. Indeed, he is a very singular character, not caring one bit about himself, how he dressed or what he ate; ever contented, and doing everybody’s work in preference to his own, and of such exemplary honesty, he stands a solitary marvel in the land: he would do no wrong to benefit himself — to please anybody else there is nothing he would stick at. I now gave him five cloths at his request, to be eventually deducted from his pay. Half of them he gave to a slave called Mabruki, who had been procured by him for leading Captain Burton’s donkey, but who had, in consequence of bad behaviour, reverted to my service. This man he also designated “brother,” and was very warmly attached to, though Mabruki had no qualifications worthy of attracting any one’s affections to him. He was a sulky, dogged, pudding-headed brute, very ugly, but very vain; he always maintained a respectable appearance, to cloak his disrespectful manners. The remainder was expended in loin-cloths, some spears, and a fez (red Turkish cap), the wearing of which he shared by turns with his purchased brother, and a little slave-child whom he had also purchased and employed in looking after the general wardrobe, and in cooking his porridge dinner, or fetching water and gathering sticks. On the line of march the little urchin carried Bombay’s sleeping-hide and water-gourd.
Before my departure from Kazé, Captain Burton wrote the Royal Geographical Society to the following effect:—“I have the honour to transmit a copy of a field-book with a map, by Captain Speke. Captain Speke has volunteered to visit the Ukéréwé Lake, of which the Arabs give grand accounts.”
9th July 1858. — The caravan, consisting of one Kirangozi, twenty pagazis, ten Beluches as guard, Bombay, Mabruki, and Gaetano, escorting a kit sufficient for six weeks, left Kazé to form camp at noon. The Beluches were all armed with their own guns, save one, who carried one of Captain Burton’s double rifles, an eight-bore by W. Richards.20 I took with me for sporting purposes, as well as for the defence of the expedition, one large five-bore elephant-gun, also lent by Captain Burton; and of my own, one two-grooved four-gauge single rifle, one polygrooved twenty-gauge double, and one double smooth twelve-bore, all by John Blissett of High Holborn. The village they selected to form up in was three miles distant on the northern extremity of this, the Unyanyembé district.
I commenced the journey myself at 6 P.M., as soon as the two donkeys I took with me to ride were caught and saddled. It was a dreary beginning. The escort of Beluches who accompanied me had throughout the former journeys been in great disgrace, and were in consequence all sullen in their manner, and walked with heavy gait and downcast countenances, looking very much as if they considered they had sold themselves when striking such a heavy bargain with us, for they evidently saw nothing before them but drudgery and a continuance of past hardships. The nature of the track increased the general gloom; it lay through fields of jowari (holcus) across the plain of Unyanyembé. In the shadow of night, the stalks, awkwardly lying across the path, tripped up the traveller at every step; and whilst his hands, extended to the front, were grasping at darkness to preserve his equilibrium, the heavy bowing ears, ripe and ready to drop, would bang against his eyes. Further, the heavy sandy soil aided not a little in ruffling the temper; but it was soon over, though all our mortification did not here cease. The pagazis sent forward had deposited their loads and retired home to indulge, it is suspected, in those potations deep of the universal pombé (African small-beer) that always precede a journey, hunt, or other adventure — without leaving a word to explain the reason of their going, or even the time which they purposed being absent.
10th July. — The absence of the pagazis caused a halt, for none of them appeared again until after dark. The Beluches, gloomy, dejected, discontented, and ever grumbling, form as disagreeable a party as it was ever the unfortunate lot of any man to command.
11th. — We started on the journey northwards at 7 A.M., and, soon clearing the cultivated plain, bade adieu to Unyanyembé. The track passed down a broad valley with a gentle declination, which was full of tall but slender forest-trees, and was lined on either side by low hills. We passed one dry nullah, the Gombé, which drains the regions westward into the Malagarazi river, some pools of water, and also two Wasukuma caravans, one of ivory destined for the coast, and the other conveying cattle to the Unyanyembé markets. Though the country through which we passed was wild and uninhabited, we saw no game but a troop of zebras, which were so wild that I could not get near them. After walking fifteen miles, we arrived at the district of Ulékampuri, and entered a village, where I took up my quarters in a negro’s hut. My servants and porters did the best they could by pigging with the cattle, or lying in the shade under the eaves of the huts.
Up to this point the villages, as is the case in all central Unyamuézi, are built on the most luxurious principles. They form a large hollow square, the walls of which are the huts, ranged on all sides of it in a sort of street consisting of two walls, the breadth of an ordinary room, which is partitioned off to a convenient size by interior walls of the same earth-construction as the exterior ones, or as our sepoys’ lines are made in India. The roof is flat, and serves as a store-place for keeping sticks to burn, drying grain, pumpkins, mushrooms, or any vegetables they may have. Most of these compartments contain the families of the villagers, together with their poultry, brewing utensils, cooking apparatus, stores of grain, and anything they possess. The remainder contain their flocks and herds, principally goats and cows, for sheep do not breed well in the country, and their flesh is not much approved of by the people. What few sheep there are appear to be an offshoot from the Persian stock. They have a very scraggy appearance, and show but the slightest signs of the fat-rumped proportions of their ancestors. The cows, unlike the noble Tanganyika ones, are small and short-horned, and are of a variety of colours. They carry a hump like the Brahminy bull, but give very little milk. In front of nearly every house you see large slabs of granite, the stones on which the jowari is ground by women, who, kneeling before them, rub the grain down to flour with a smaller stone, which they hold with both hands at once. Thus rubbing and grinding away, swaying monotonously to and fro, they cheer the time by singing and droning in cadence to the motion of their bodies.
The country to the east and north-east of this village is said to be thinly peopled, but, as usual, the clans are much intermixed, the two principal being Wakimbu and Wasagari. I here engaged a second guide or leader for five shukkas (small loin-cloths) merikani, as a second war, different from the one we had heard of at Kazé, had broken out exactly on the road I was pursuing, and rendered my first leader’s experience of no avail. The evening was spent by the porters in dancing, and singing a song which had been evidently composed for the occasion, as it embraced everybody’s name connected with the caravan, but more especially Mzungu (the wise or white man), and ended with the prevailing word amongst these curly-headed bipeds, “Grub, Grub, Grub!” It is wonderful to see how long they will, after a long fatiguing march, keep up these festivities, singing the same song over and over again, and dancing and stamping, with their legs and arms flying about like the wings of a semaphore, as they move slowly round and round in the same circle and on the same ground; their heads and bodies lolling to and fro in harmony with the rest of the dance, which is always kept at more even measure when, as on this occasion, there were some village drums beating the measure they were wont to move by.
12th. — The caravan got under way by 6 A.M., and we marched thirteen miles to a village in the southern extremity of the Unyambéwa district. Fortunately tempers, like butterflies, soon change state. The great distractor Time, together with the advantage of distance, has produced such a salutary effect on the Beluches’ minds, that this morning’s start was accomplished to the merry peals of some native homely ditty, and all moved briskly forward. This was the more cheering to me because it was the first occasion of their having shown such signs of good feeling as singing in chorus on the line of march. The first five miles lay over flattish ground, winding amongst low straggling hills of the same formation as the whole surface of the Unyamuézi country, which is diversified with small hills composed of granite outcrops. As we proceeded, the country opened into an extensive plain, covered, as we found it at first, with rich cultivation, and then succeeded by a slender tree-forest, amongst which we espied some antelopes, all very wary and difficult of approach.
At the ninth mile was a pond of sweet water, the greatest luxury in the desert. Here I ordered a halt for half an hour, and made a hearty breakfast on cold meat, potted Tanganyika shrimps, rozelle jelly, with other delicacies, and coffee. The latter article was bought from the Kazé merchants. Towards the close of the journey a laughable scene took place between an ivory caravan of Wasukuma and my own.21 On nearing each other, the two Kirangozis or leaders slowly advanced, marching in front of the single-file order in which caravans worm along these twisting narrow tracks, with heads awry, and eyes steadfastly fixed on one another, and with their bodies held motionless and strictly poised, like rams preparing for a fight, rushed in with their heads down, and butted continuously till one gave way. The rest of the caravan then broke up their order of march, and commenced a general mêlée. In my ignorance — for it was the first time I had seen such a scrimmage — I hastened to the front with my knobbed stick, and began reflecting where I could make best use of it in dividing the combatants, and should no doubt have laid on if I only could have distinguished friend from foe; but both parties, being black, were so alike, that I hesitated until they stopped to laugh at my excited state, and assured me that it was only the enactment of a common custom in the country when two strange caravan-leaders meet, and each doubts who should take the supremacy in choice of side. In two minutes more the antagonists broke into broad laughter, and each went his way.
The villages about here are numerous, and the country, after passing the forest, is highly cultivated, and affords plenty of provisions; but unfortunately as yet the white beads which I have brought have no value with the natives, and I cannot buy those little luxuries, eggs, butter, and milk, which have such a powerful influence in making one’s victuals good and palatable; whereas there is such a rage for coloured beads, that if I had brought some I might purchase anything.
13th. — The caravan started at 6.30 A.M., and after travelling eight miles over an open, waving, well-cultivated country, stopped at the last village in Unyambéwa. The early morning before starting was wasted by the pagazis “striking” for more cloth, and refusing to move unless I complied with their demand. I peremptorily refused, and they then tried to wheedle me out of beads. In demanding cloth, they pretended that they were suffering from the chilling cold of night — a pretence too absurd to merit even a civil reply. I then explained to my head men that I would rather anything happened than listen to such imposture as this; for did the men once succeed by tricks of this sort, there would never be an end to their trying it on, and it would ultimately prove highly injurious to future travellers, especially to merchants. On the route we had nothing to divert attention, save a single Wasukuma caravan proceeding southwards to Unyanyembé. A sultana called Ungugu governs this district. She is the first and only female that we have seen in this position, though she succeeded to it after the custom of the country. I imagine she must have had a worthless husband, since every sultan can have as many wives as he pleases, and the whole could never have been barren. I rallied the porters for pulling up after so short a march, but could not induce them to go on. They declared that forests of such vast extent lay on ahead that it would be quite impossible to cross them before the night set in. In the evening I had a second cause for being vexed at this loss of time, when every mile and hour was of so much importance; for by our halt the sultana got news of my arrival, and sent a messenger to request the pleasure of my company at her house on the morrow. In vain I pleaded for permission to go and see her that moment, or to do so on my return from the N’yanza; her envoy replied that the day was so far spent I could not arrive at her abode till after dark, and she would not have the pleasure of seeing me sufficiently well. He therefore begged I would attend to the letter of her request, and not fail to visit her in the morning.
The lazy pagazis, smelling flesh, also aided the deputy in his endeavours to detain me, by saying that they could not oppose her majesty’s will, lest at any future time, when they might want again to pass that way, she should take her revenge upon them. Though this might seem a very reasonable excuse, I doubt much, if their interests had lain the opposite way, whether they would have been so cautious. However, it was not difficult to detect their motives for bringing forward such an urgent reason against me, as it is a custom in this country that every wealthy traveller or merchant shall pay a passport-fee, according to his means, to the sultan of the country he travels through, who in return gives a cow or goat as a mark of amity, and this is always shared amongst the whole caravan.
14th. — The sultana’s house was reported to be near, so I thought to expedite the matter by visiting her in person, and thus perhaps gain an afternoon’s march: otherwise to have sent the Jemadar with a present would have been sufficient, for these creatures are pure Mammonists. Vain hope, trying to do anything in a hurry in Negroland! I started early in the morning, unfortified within, and escorted by two Beluches, the Kirangozi, three porters, Bombay, and Mabruki. The necessary presents were also taken: these consisted of one barsati,22 one dhoti merikani,23 and one shukka kiniki.24 This last article was to be kept in reserve, to throw in at last and close with, as further demands beyond what is given are invariably made. After walking six miles over a well-cultivated plain, I felt anxious to know what they meant by “near,” and was told, as usual, that the house was close at hand. Distrustful, but anxious to complete the business as speedily as possible (for to succeed in Africa one must do everything one’s self), I followed the envoy across one of the waves that diversify the face of the country, descended into a well-cultivated trough-like depression, and mounted a second wave six miles farther on.
Here at last, by dint of perseverance, we had the satisfaction of seeing the palisadoed royal abode. We entered it by an aperture in the tall slender stakes which surround the dwellings and constitute the palisadoing, and after following up a passage constructed of the same material as the outer fence, we turned suddenly into a yard full of cows — a substitute for an anteroom. Arrived there, the negroes at once commenced beating a couple of large drums, half as tall as themselves, made something like a beer-barrel, covered on the top with a cow-skin stretched tightly over, by way of a drum-head. This drumming was an announcement of our arrival, intended as a mark of regal respect.
For ten minutes we were kept in suspense, my eyes the while resting upon the milk-pots which were being filled at mid-day, but I could not get a drop. At the expiration of that time a body of slaves came rushing in, and hastily desired us to follow them. They led us down the passage by which we entered, and then turned up another one similarly constructed, which brought us into the centre of the sultana’s establishment — a small court, in which the common negro mushroom huts, with ample eaves, afforded us grateful shelter from the blazing sun. A cow-skin was now spread, and a wooden stool set for me, that I might assume a better state than my suite, who were squatted in a circle around me. With the usual precaution of African nobles, the lady’s-maid was first sent to introduce herself — an ugly halting creature, very dirtily garbed, but possessing a smiling contented face. Her kindly mien induced me, starving and thirsty as I was after my twelve miles’ walk, to ask for eggs and milk — great luxuries, considering how long I had been deprived of them. They were soon procured, and devoured with a voracity that must have astonished the bystanders.
The maid, now satisfied there was nothing to fear, whether from ghost, goblin, or white face, retired and brought her mistress, a short stumpy old dame, who had seen at least some sixty summers. Her nose was short, squat, and flabby at the end, and her eyes were bald of brows or lashes; but still she retained great energy of manner, and was blessed with an ever-smiling face. The dress she wore consisted of an old barsati, presented by some Arab merchant, and was if anything dirtier than her maid’s attire. The large joints of all her fingers were bound up with small copper wire, her legs staggered under an immense accumulation of anklets made of brass wire wound round elephant’s tail or zebra’s hair; her arms were decorated with huge solid brass rings, and from other thin brass wire bracelets depended a great assortment of wooden, brazen, horn, and ivory ornaments, cut in every shape of talismanic peculiarity.
Squatting by my side, the sultana at once shook hands. Her nimble fingers first manipulated my shoes (the first point of notice in these barefooted climes), then my overalls, then my waistcoat, more particularly the buttons, and then my coat — this latter article being so much admired, that she wished I would present it to her, to wear upon her own fair person. Next my hands and fingers were mumbled, and declared to be as soft as a child’s, and my hair was likened to a lion’s mane. “Where is he going?” was the all-important query. This, without my understanding, was readily answered by a dozen voices, thus: “He is going to the Lake, to barter his cloth for large hippopotami teeth.” Satisfied with this plausible story, she retired into privacy, and my slave, taking the hint, soon followed with the hongo (present or tax), duly presented it, and begged permission in my name to depart. But as she had always given a bullock to the Arabs who visited her, I also must accept one from her, though she could not realise the fact that so scurvy a present as mine could be intended for her, whose pretensions were in no way inferior to those of the Unyanyembé Sultan. An Arab could not have offered less, and this was a rich Mzungu!
Misfortunes here commenced anew: the bullock she was desirous of giving was out grazing, and could not be caught until the evening, when all the cattle are driven in together. Further, she could not afford to lose so interesting a personage as her guest, and volunteered to give me a shakedown for the night. I begged she would consider my position — the absolute necessity for my hurrying — and not insist on my acceptance of the bullock, or be offended by my refusing her kind offer to remain there, but permit our immediate departure. She replied that the word had gone forth, so the animal must be given; and if I still persisted in going, at any rate three porters could remain behind, and drive it on afterwards. To this I reluctantly consented, and only on the Kirangozi’s promise to march the following morning. Then, with the usual farewell salutation, “Kuaheré, Mzungu,” from my pertinacious hostess, I was not sorry to retrace my steps, a good five hours’ walk. We re-entered camp at 7.20 P.M., which is long after dark in regions so near to the equator. All palaces here are like all the common villages beyond Unyamuézi proper, and are usually constructed on the same principle as this one. They consist of a number of mushroom-shaped grass huts, surrounded by a tall slender palisading, and having streets or passages of the same wooden construction, some winding, some straight, and others crosswise, with outlets at certain distances leading into the different courts, each court usually containing five or six huts partitioned off with poles as the streets are. These courts serve for dividing the different families, uncles and cousins occupying some, whilst slaves and their relatives live in others. Besides this they have their cattle-yards. If the site of the village be on moist or soft ground, it is usual, in addition to the palisading, to have it further fortified by a moat or evergreen fence.
15th. — We left Unyambéwa at 7 A.M., and reached a village in the Ibanda district, having marched seven miles over flat ground, growing fine crops in some places, with the remainder covered by the usual slender forest-trees. The road was very good and regular. In the afternoon the three porters arrived with the sultana’s bullock, and were attended by her nephew and managing man, and by some of her slaves as drivers. The nephew asked first for more presents in her name; as this was refused, he requested something for the drivers. I gave them a cloth, and he then pleaded for himself, as he had sacrificed so much time and trouble for me. I satisfied him with one fundo of beads (a bunch of beads sufficient to form ten khetes or necklaces), and we parted: a full khete is a string of beads double the length of the fore-arm, or sufficiently long to encircle the neck twice. The Beluches, finding that nothing but the coarsest grains were obtainable with the white beads they had received, petitioned for and obtained a shukka, but under the proviso of their always assisting me to urge on the lazy porters. This they not only agreed to do, but also declared themselves willing to execute any orders I might give them: they looked upon me as their Ma, Bap (mother and father, a Hindostani expression, significant of everything, or entire dependence on one as a son on his parents), and considered my interests their interests.
16th. — We started at 6 A.M., and travelled eleven miles to Ukamba, a village in the district of Msalala, which is held by a tribe called Wamanda. The first four miles lay over the cultivated plain of Ibanda, till we arrived at the foot of a ridge of hills, which, gradually closing from the right, intersects the road, and runs into a hilly country extending round the western side of the aforesaid plain. We now crossed the range, and descended into a country more closely studded with the same description of small hills, but highly cultivated in the valleys and plains that separate them. About twelve miles to the eastward of Ukamba live a tribe called Wasongo, and to the west, at twenty miles’ distance, are the Waquanda. To-day was fully verified the absolute futility of endeavouring to march against time in these wild countries.
The lazy pagazis finding themselves now, as it were, in clover, a country full of all the things they love, would not stir one step after 11 A.M. Were time of no consequence, and coloured beads in store, such travelling as this would indeed be pleasant. For the country here, so different from the Ujiji line, affords not only delightful food for the eyes, but abounds in flesh, milk, eggs, and vegetables in every variety. The son of the Mséné Sultan, who lives between Unyanyembé and Ujiji, and became great friends with us when travelling there, paid me a visit to-day. He caught me at work with my diary and instruments, and being struck with veneration at the sight of my twirling compass and literary pursuits, thought me a magician, and begged that I would cast his horoscope, divine the probable extent of his father’s life, ascertain if there would be any wars, and describe the weather, the prospects of harvest, and what future state the country would lapse into. The shrewd Bombay replied, to save me trouble, that so great a matter required more days of contemplation than I could afford to give. Provisions were very dear when purchased with white beads, for they were not the fashion, and the people were indifferent to them. I paid him one loin-cloth for four fowls and nine eggs, though, had I had coloured beads, I might have purchased one hen per khete (or necklace). Had this been a cloth-wearing instead of a bead-decorating nation, I should have obtained forty fowls for one shukka (or loin-cloth), that being the equivalent value with beads, equal, according to Zanzibar money, to one dollar. It is always foolish to travel without an assortment of beads, in consequence of the tastes of the different tribes varying so much; and it is more economical in the long-run to purchase high-priced than low-priced beads when making up the caravan at Zanzibar, for every little trader buys the cheaper sorts, stocks the country with them, and thus makes them common.
17th. — This day, like all the preceding ones, is delightful, and worthy of drawing forth an exclamation, like the Indian Griff’s, of “What a fine day this is again!” We started at 7 A.M., and travelled thirteen miles, with fine bracing air, so cold in the morning that my fingers tingled with it. We were obliged here to diverge from the proper road viâ Sarengé, to avoid a civil war — the one before alluded to, and to escape which I had engaged the second guide — between two young chiefs, brothers of the Wamanda tribe, who were contending for the reins of government on the principle that might ought to give the right. Our new course led us out of the Msalala into the Uyombo district, which is governed by a sultan called Mihambo. He paid me a visit and presented a sheep — a small present, for he was a small chief, and could not demand a hongo. I gave in return one shukka merikani and one shukka kiniki. Here all the people were very busily engaged in their harvest, cutting their jowari, and thrashing it out with long sticks.
The whole country lies in long waves, crested with cropping little hills, thickly clad with small trees and brushwood. In the hollows of these waves the cultivation is very luxuriant. Here I unfortunately had occasion to give my miserable Goanese cook-boy a sound dressing, as the only means left of checking his lying, obstinate, destructive, wasteful, and injurious habit of intermeddling. This raised the creature’s choler, and he vowed vengeance to the death, seconding his words with such a fiendish, murderous look, his eyes glistening like an infuriated tiger’s, that I felt obliged to damp his temerity and freedom of tongue by further chastisement, which luckily brought him to a proper sense of his duty.
18th. — We left at 7 A.M., and travelled ten miles to Ukuni. The country still continues of the same rich and picturesque character, and retains daily the same unvarying temperature. On the road we met a party of Wayombo, who, taking advantage of the Wamanda disturbances, had lifted some forty or fifty head of their cattle in perfect security. I saw two albinos in this village, one an old woman with greyish eyes, and the other young, who ran away from fright, and concealed herself in a hut, and would not show again although beads were offered as an inducement for one moment’s peep. The old lady’s skin was of an unwholesome fleshy-pink hue, and her hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes were a light yellowish white. This march was shortened by two pagazis falling sick. I surmised this illness to be in consequence of their having gorged too much beef, to which they replied that everybody is sure to suffer pains in the stomach after eating meat, if the slayer of the animal happens to protrude his tongue and clench it with his teeth during the process of slaughtering. At last the white beads have been taken, but at the extravagant rate of two khetes for four eggs, the dearest I ever paid.
19th. — The caravan proceeded at 6 A.M., and after going eight miles re-entered the Msalala district’s frontier, where we put up in a village three miles beyond the border. The country throughout this march may be classed in two divisions, one of large and extensively cultivated plains, with some fine trees about; and the other of small irregularly-disposed hills, the prevailing granitic outcrops of the region. There is no direct line northwards here, so we had to track about, and hit upon the lines between the different villages, which enhanced our trouble and caused much delay. At this place I witnessed the odd operation of brother-making. It consists in the two men desirous of a blood-tie being seated face to face on a cow’s hide, with their legs stretched out as wide to the front as their length will permit, one pair overlapping the other. They then place their bows and arrows across their thighs, and each holds a leaf: at the same time a third person, holding a pot of oil or butter, makes an incision above their knees, and requires each to put his blood on the other’s leaf, and mix a little oil with it, when each anoints himself with the brother-salve. This operation over, the two brothers bawl forth the names and extent of their relatives, and swear by the blood to protect the other till death. Ugogo, on the highway between the coast and Ujiji, is a place so full of inhabitants compared with the other places on that line, that the coast people quote it as a wonderful instance of high population; but this district astonished all my retinue. The road to-day was literally thronged with a legion of black humanity so exasperatingly bold that nothing short of the stick could keep them from jostling me. Poor creatures! they said they had come a long way to see, and now must have a good long stare; for when was there ever a Mzungu here before?
20th. — We broke ground at 6 A.M., and after travelling through high cultivation six miles, were suddenly stopped by a guard of Wamanda, sent by Kurua, a sultan of that tribe, and chief of the division we were marching in. Their business was to inform us that if we wished to travel to the Lake, the sultan would give directions to have us escorted by another route, as his eldest brother was disputing the rights of government with him along the line we were now pursuing; and added, that our intentions would be only known to him by the part we might choose to take. These constant interruptions were becoming very troublesome; so, as we were close to the confines of these two malcontents, I was anxious to force our way on, and agreed to do so with the Beluches. But the tiresome, lazy, flesh-seeking pagazis saw a feast in prospect by the sultan’s arrangement, and would not move an inch. Further, the Kirangozi requested his discharge if I was otherwise than peacefully inclined. The guard then led us to Mgogua, the sultan’s village, a little off the road.
Kurua is a young man, not very handsome himself, but he has two beautiful young wives. They secured me a comfortable house, showed many attentions, and sent me a bowl of fresh sweetmilk, the very extreme of savage hospitality. In the evening he presented me with a bullock. This I tried to refuse, observing that flesh was the prime cause of all my hindrances; but nothing would satisfy him; I must accept it, or he would be the laughing-stock of everybody for inhospitality. If I gave nothing in return, he should be happy as long as his part of host was properly fulfilled. Salt, according to the sultan, is only to be found here in the same efflorescent state in which I saw it yesterday — a thin coating overspreading the ground, as though flour had been sprinkled there.
21st. — Halt. I gave the sultan, as a return present, one dhoti merikani and six cubits kiniki, what I thought to be just the value of his bullock. His kindness was undoubtedly worthy of a higher reward, but I feared to excite these men’s cupidity, as there is no end to their tricks and finesse whenever they find a new chance of gain, and I now despaired of accomplishing my task in time. However, Kurua seemed quite happy under the circumstances, and considered the exchange of hongo a bond of alliance, and proclaimed that we were henceforth to be brothers. He then said he would accompany me back to Unyanyembé, on my return from the Lake, and would exchange any of his cows that I might take a fancy to for powder, which I said I had there. The quantity of cattle in Msalala surpasses anything I have seen in Africa. Large droves, tended by a few men each, are to be seen in every direction over the extensive plains, and every village is filled with them at night. The cultivation also is as abundant as the cattle are numerous, and the climate is delightful. To walk till breakfast, 9 A.M., every morning, I find a luxury, and from that time till noon I ride with pleasure; but the next three hours, though pleasant in a hut, are too warm to be agreeable under hard exertion. The evenings and the mornings, again, are particularly serene, and the night, after 10 P.M., so cold as to render a blanket necessary. But then it must be remembered that all the country about these latitudes, on this meridian, 33° east, is at an altitude of from 3500 to 4000 feet. My dinner to-day was improved by the addition of tomatos and the bird’s-eye chili — luxuries to us, but which the negroes, so different from the Indians, never care about, and seldom grow.
The cotton-plant is as fine here as at Unyanyembé or Ujiji, and anything would grow with only the trouble of throwing down the seed. It is a great pity that the country is not in better hands. From all I can gather, there is no fixed revenue paid to these sultans; all their perquisites are occasional hongos received from travellers; a percentage on all foreign seizures, whether by battle or plunder; and a certain part of all windfalls, such as a share of the sportsman’s game-bag, in the shape of elephants’ tusks or flesh, or the skins of any wild animals; otherwise they live by the sweat of the brow of their slaves, in tilling their ground, tending their cattle, or trafficking for them in slaves and ivory. It seems destined that I should never reach the goal of my ambition. To-day the Jemadar finds himself too unwell to march, and two other Beluches say the same. This is an effectual obstacle; for the guard declares itself too weak to divide, and the sultan blows on the fire of my mortification by saying that these are troubled times, and advises our keeping all together. He says that his differences have been going on these five years with his eldest brother, and now he wishes to bring them to a crisis, which he proposes doing after my return, when he will obtain powder from me, and will have the preponderating influence of Arab opinion brought to bear in his favour by the aid of their guns — an impressive mode which Africa has of proving right in its own way.
22d. — After much groaning and grumbling, I got the sick men on their legs by 7 A.M., and we marched eight miles to Senagongo, the boma25 (palisade) of Sultan Kanoni, Kurua’s second brother. These two younger brothers side together against the eldest. They are all by different mothers, and think the father’s property should fairly be divided among them. It is a glaring instance of the bad effects of a plurality of wives; and being contrary to our constitutional laws of marriage, I declined giving an opinion as to who was right or wrong.
To avoid the seat of war my track was rather tortuous. On the east or right side the country was open, and afforded a spacious view; but on the west this was limited by an irregularly-disposed series of low hills. Cultivation and scrub-jungle alternated the whole way. The miserable Goanese, like a dog slinking off to die, slipped away behind the caravan, and hid himself in the jungle to suffer the pangs of fever in solitude. I sent men to look for him in vain: party succeeded party in the search, till at last night set in without his appearing. It is singular in this country to find how few men escape some fever or other sickness, who make a sudden march after living a quiet stationary life. It appears as if the bile got stirred, suffused the body, and, exciting the blood, produced this effect. I had to admonish a silly Beluch, who, foolishly thinking that powder alone could not hurt a man, fired his gun off into a mass of naked human legs, in order, as he said, to clear the court. The consequence was, that at least fifty pairs got covered with numerous small bleeding wounds, all dreadfully painful from the saltpetre contained in the powder. It was fortunate that the sultan was a good man, and was present at the time it occurred, else a serious row might have been the consequence of this mischievous trick.
23d. — Halt. We fired alarm-guns all night to no purpose; so at daybreak three different parties, after receiving particular orders how to scour the country, were sent off at the same time to search for Gaetano. Fortunately the Beluches obeyed my injunctions, and at 10 A.M. returned with the man, who looked for all the world exactly like a dog who, guilty of an indiscretion, is being brought in disgrace before his master to receive a flogging; for he knew I had a spare donkey for the sick, and had constantly warned the men from stopping behind alone in these lawless countries. The other two parties adopting, like true Easterns, a better plan of their own, spent the whole day ranging wildly over the country, fruitlessly exerting themselves, and frustrating any chance of my getting even an afternoon’s march. Kanoni very kindly sent messengers all over his territory to assist in the search: he, like Kurua, has taken every opportunity to show me those little pleasing attentions which always render travelling agreeable. These Wamanda are certainly the most noisy set of beings that I ever met with: commencing their fêtes in the middle of the village every day at 3 P.M., with screaming, yelling, rushing, jumping, sham-fighting, drumming, and singing in one collective inharmonious noise, they seldom cease till midnight. Their villages, too, are everywhere much better protected by bomas (palisading) than is usual in Africa, arguing that they are a rougher and more war-like people than the generality. If shoved aside, or pushed with a stick, they show their savage nature by turning fiercely like a fatted pig upon whoever tries to poke it up.
24th. — The march commenced at 7 A.M.; and here we again left the direct road, to avoid a third party of belligerent Wamanda, situated in the northern extremity of the Msalala district, on the highway between Unyanyembé and the Lake. On bidding the sultan adieu, he was very urgent in his wishes that I should take a bullock from him. This I told him I should willingly have accepted, only that it would delay my progress; and he, more kindly than the other chief, excused me. Finding that none of our party knew the road, he advanced a short way with us, and generously offered to furnish us with a guide to the Lake and back, saying that he would send one of his own men after us to a place he appointed with my Kirangozi. I expressed my gratitude for his consideration, and we parted with warm regard for one another. Unfortunately, Bombay, who is not the clearest man in the world in expressing himself, stupidly bungled the sultan’s arrangement, and we missed the man.
To keep the pagazis going was a matter of no little difficulty; after the fifth mile they persisted in entering every village that they came across, and, throwing down their loads, were bent upon making an easy day’s work of it. I, on the contrary, was equally persistent in going on, and neither would allow the Beluches to follow them, nor enter the villages myself, until they, finding their game of no avail, quietly shouldered their loads and submitted to my orders. This day’s journey was twelve miles over a highly-cultivated, waving country, at the end of which we took up our abode in a deserted village called Kahama.
25th. — We got under way at 7 A.M., and marched seven and a half hours, when we entered a village in the district of Nindo, nineteen miles distant. After passing through a belt of jungle three miles broad, we came upon some villages amidst a large range of cultivation. This passed, we penetrated a large wilderness of thorn and bush jungle, having sundry broad grassy flats lying at right angles to the road. Here I saw a herd of hartebeests, giraffes, and other animals, giving to the scene a truly African character. The tracks of elephants and different large beasts prove that this place is well tenanted in the season. The closeness of the jungle and evenness of the land prevented my taking any direct observations with the compass; but the mean oscillations of its card showed a course with northing again. This being a long stage, I lent my ass to a sick Beluch, and we accomplished the journey, notwithstanding the great distance, in a pleasant and spirited manner. This despatch may in part be attributable to there being so much desert, and the beloved “grub” and the village lying ahead of us luring the men on.
26th. — We broke ground at 7 A.M., and, after passing the village cultivation, entered a waterless wilderness of thorn and tree forest, with some long and broad plains of tall grass intersecting the line of march. These flats very much resemble some we crossed when travelling close to and parallel with the Malagarazi river; for the cracked and flawy nature of the ground, now parched up by a constant drought, shows that this part gets inundated in the wet season. Indeed, this peculiar grassy flat formation suggests the proximity of a river everywhere in Africa; and I felt sure, as afterwards proved true, that a river was not far from us. The existence of animal life is another warranty of water being near: elephants and buffaloes cannot live a day without it.
Fortunately for my mapping, a small conical hill overtopped the trees in advance of our track, at twelve miles from the starting-point. We eventually passed alongside of it, and travelled on six miles farther to a village in the cultivated plain of Salawé, a total distance of eighteen miles. The whole country about here was covered with harvest-workers, who, on seeing my approach, left off work and followed me into the village. As nothing proves better the real feelings and natural propensities of a nation than the impulsive actions of the children, I will give a striking instance, as it occurred to me to-day. On seeing a child approach me, I offered him a handful of beads, upon which the greedy little urchin snatched them from my hand with all the excited eagerness of a monkey. He clenched tight hold of them in his little fists, and, without the slightest show of any emotions of gratitude, retired, carrying his well-earned prize away with a self-satisfied and perfectly contented air, not even showing the beads to his parents or playmates. I called Bombay’s attention to this transaction, and contrasted it with the joyful, grateful manner in which an English child would involuntarily act if suddenly become possessed of so much wealth, by hurrying off to his mamma, and showing what fine things the kind gentleman had given him. Bombay passed on my remark, with a twelvemonth’s grin upon his face, to his inquiring brother Mabruki, and then explained the matter to his sooty friends around, declaring that such tumma (avaricious) propensities were purely typical of the Seedi’s nature.
At the usual hour of departure this morning, the Kirangozi discovered that the pagazis’ feet were sore from the late long marches, and declared that they could not walk. To this the Jemadar replied that the best asylum for such complaints was on ahead, where the sahib proposed to kill some goats and rest a day. The Kirangozi replied, “But the direct road is blocked up by wars: if a march must be made, I will show another route three marches longer round.” “That,” answered the Jemadar, “is not your business: if any troubles arise from marauders, we, the Beluches, are the fighting men — leave that to us.” At last the Kirangozi, getting quite disconcerted, declared that there was no water on the way. “Then,” quoth the energetic Jemadar, “were your gourds made for nothing? If you don’t pack up at once, you and my stick shall make acquaintance.” The party was then off in a moment.
On the way we met some herdsmen driving their cattle to Unyanyembé, and inquired from them the state of the road. They said that the country beyond a certain distance was safe and quiet, but corroborated the Kirangozi’s statement as to warriors being in the immediate neighbourhood, who came and visited this place from the west, where is the northern extremity of the Msalala district. Several varieties of antelopes were seen, and the Beluches fired at an ostrich. As in the last place, no milk could be obtained, for the people, fearing the Wamanda, had driven off their cattle to the northward. It is evident, from the general nakedness of the people, that cloth or beads do not find their way much here, which is accounted for by so few merchants ever coming this way. Hardly a neck here is decorated, and they seldom wear anything but the common goat-skin covering, hung over the shoulder by a strap or string like a game-bag, which covers only one hip at a time, and might as well be dispensed with as far as decency is concerned; but at night they take it off, and spread it on the ground to protect themselves from the cold and moisture of the earth. This district is occupied by a tribe called Waumba; to the east of it, thirty miles distant, are the Wanatiya, and thirty miles westward the Wazinza tribes.
27th. — At 6 A.M. we crawled through the opening in the palisading which forms the entrances of these villages, and at once perceived a tall, narrow pillar of granite, higher than Pompey’s at Alexandria, or Nelson’s Monument in Charing Cross, towering above us, and having sundry huge boulders of the same composition standing around its base, much in the same peculiar way as we see at Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain. This scene strikes one with wonderment at the oddities of nature, and taxes one’s faculties to imagine how on earth the stones ever became tilted up in this extraordinary position; but farther on, about five miles distant, we encountered another and even higher pillar, that quite overtopped the trees and everything about it. This and the former one served as good station-marks for the journey, the latter being visible at eight miles’ distance. After the first eight miles, which terminates the cultivated district of Salawé, the track penetrated a waterless desert of thorn and small tree-forest, lying in a broad valley between low hills. As the sick Beluch still occupied my steadier donkey Ted, I was compelled to mount the half-broken Jenny — so playful with her head and heels that neither the Sheikh nor any other man dared sit upon her. The man’s sickness appears to be one of those eccentric complaints, the after-effects of African fevers: it was attended with severe pain, and swelling extending over the stomach, the right side, the right arm, and the right half of the neck, depriving him of sleep and repose. In every position, whether sitting, lying, standing, rising up, or sitting down, he complained of aching muscles. I purchased a goat and sheep for the men for one dhoti merikani.
28th. — Halt. This stoppage was for the restoration of wounded feet, the pagazis’ being all blistered by the last four long marches. I now slaughtered and gave the two purchased animals to the men, as no one grumbled at my refusing the last bullock, a recognised present for the whole party, though nominally given to the Sahib. These people, like the Arabs, and all those who have many wives, seem to find little enjoyment in that domestic bliss so interesting and beautiful in our English homes. Except on rare occasions, the husband never dines with his wife and family, always preferring the exclusive society of his own sex: even the boys, disdaining to dine with their mothers, mess with the men; whilst the girls and women, having no other option, eat a separate meal by themselves.
29th. — We started at 6 A.M., and marched thirteen miles to a village at the northern extremity of the district. The face of the country is still very irregular, sometimes rising into hills, at other times dropping into dells, but very well cultivated in the lower portion; whilst the brown granite rocks, with trees and brushwood covering the upper regions, diversify the colouring, and form a pleasing contrast to the scene; added to this, large and frequent herds graze about the fields and amongst the villages, and give animation to the whole. Amongst the trees, palms take a prominent part. Indeed, for tropical scenery, there are few places that could equal this; and if the traveller, as he moves along, surrounded by the screeching, howling, inquisitive savages, running rudely about and boisterously jostling him, could only divest himself of the idea that he is a bear baited by a yelping pack of hounds, the journey would be replete with enjoyment.
Crossing some hills, the caravan sprang a covey of guinea-fowls, and at some springs in a valley I shot several couple of sand-grouse, darker in plumage than any I ever saw in Africa or India, and not quite so big as the Tibet bird. The chief of the village offered me a bullock; but as the beast did not appear until the time of starting, I declined it. Neither did I give him any cloth, being convinced in my mind that these and other animals have always been brought to me by the smaller chiefs at the instigation of the Kirangozi, and probably aided by the flesh-loving party in general. The Jemadar must have been particularly mortified at my way of disposing of the business, for he talked of nothing else but flesh and the animal from the moment it was sent for, his love for butcher-meat amounting almost to a frenzy. The sandstone in this region is highly impregnated with iron, and smelters do a good business; indeed, the iron for nearly all the tools and cutlery that are used in this division of Eastern Africa is found and manufactured here. It is the Brummagem of the land, and has not only rich but very extensive ironfields stretching many miles north, east, and west. I brought some specimens away. Cloth is little prized in this especially bead country, and I had to pay the sum of one dhoti kiniki for one pot of honey and one pot of ghee (clarified butter).
30th. — The caravan started at 6 A.M., and travelled four miles northwards, amidst villages and cultivation. From this point, on facing to the left, I could discern a sheet of water, about four miles from me, which ultimately proved to be a creek, and the most southern point of the N’yanza, which, as I have said before, the Arabs described to us as the Ukéréwé Sea.26 We soon afterwards descended into a grassy and jungly depression, and arrived at a deep, dirty, viscid nullah (a watercourse that only runs in wet weather), draining the eastern country into the southern end of the creek. To cross this (which I shall name Jordan) was a matter of no small difficulty, especially for the donkeys, whose fording seemed quite hopeless, until the Jemadar, assisted by two other Beluches, with blows and threats made the lazy pagazis work, and dragged them through the mud by sheer force. This operation lasted so long that, after crossing, we made for the nearest village in the Uvira district, and completed a journey of eight miles. The country to the eastward appeared open and waving, but to the north and far west very hilly. The ground is fertile, and the flocks and herds very abundant. Hippopotami frequent the nullah at night, and reside there during the rainy season; but at this, the dry half of the year, they retreat to the larger waters of the creek. Rhinoceroses are said to pay nightly visits to fields around the villages, and commit sad havoc on the crops. The nullah, running from the south-east, drains the land in that direction; but a river, I hear, rising in the Msalala district, draws off the water from the lays we have recently been crossing, to the westward of our track, where its course lies, and empties it into the creek on the opposite side to where the nullah debouches.
31st. — On hearing that a shorter track than the Sukuma one usually frequented by the Arabs led to Muanza, the place Sheikh Snay advised my going to, I started by it at 8 A.M.; and after following it west-ward down the nullah’s right bank a few miles, turned up northwards, and continued along the creek to a village, eight miles distant, at the farther end of the Urima district, where we took up our quarters. The country has a mixed and large population of smiths, agriculturists, and herdsmen, residing in the flats and depressions which lie between the scattered little hills. During the rainy season, when the lake swells and the country becomes super-saturated, the inundations are so great that all travelling becomes suspended. The early morning was wasted by the unreasonable pagazis in the following absurd manner.
It will be remembered that, on starting from Unyanyembé, these cunning rascals begged for cloth as a necessary protection against the cold. This seemed reasonable enough, if they had not just before that received their hire in cloth; for the nights were so cold that I should have been sorry to be as naked as they were; but their real motive for asking was only to increase their stock for this present occasion, as we now shall see. Two days ago they broke ground with great difficulty, and only on my assuring them that I would wait at the place a day or two on my return from the Lake, as they expressed their desire to make a few halts there, and barter their hire of cloth for jembés (iron hoes), to exchange again at Unyanyembé, where those things fetch double the price they do in these especially iron regions. Now, to-day these dissembling creatures, distrusting my word as they would their own brethren’s, stoutly refused to proceed until their business was completed — suspecting I should break my word on returning, and would not then wait for them. They had come all this way especially for their own benefit, and now meant to profit by their trouble. Fortunately, the Jemadar and some other Beluches, who of late had shown great energy and zeal in promoting my views, pointed out to them that they were really more bound to do my business than their own, as they had engaged to do so, and since they could never have come there at all excepting through my influence and by my cloths; further, if they bought their hoes then, they would have to carry them all the way to the Lake and back. The Kirangozi acknowledged the fairness of this harangue, and soon gave way; but it was not until much more arguing, and the adoption of other persuasive means, that the rest were induced to relinquish their determination.
1st August. — This day’s march, commenced at 6 A.M., differs but little from the last. Following down the creek, which, gradually increasing in breadth as it extended northwards, was here of very considerable dimensions, we saw many little islands, well-wooded elevations, standing boldly out of its waters, which, together with the hill-dotted country around, afforded a most agreeable prospect. Would that my eyes had been strong enough to dwell, unshaded, upon such scenery! but my French grey spectacles so excited the crowds of sable gentry who followed the caravan, and they were so boisterously rude, stooping and peering underneath my wide-awake to gain a better sight of my double eyes, as they chose to term them, that it became impossible for me to wear them. I therefore pocketed the instrument, closed my eyes, and allowed the donkey I was riding to be quietly pulled along. The evil effects of granting an indulgence to those who cannot appreciate it, was more obvious every day. To secure speed and contentment, I had indulged the pagazis by hiring double numbers, and giving each only half a recognised burden; but what has been the return? Yesterday the pagazis stopped at the eighth mile, because they said that so large a jungle was in our front that we could not cross it during daylight.
I disbelieved their story, and gave them to understand, on submitting to their request, that I was sure their trick for stopping me would turn to their own disadvantage; for if my surmise proved true, as the morrow would show, I should give them no more indulgence, and especially no more meat. On our arrival to-day there was a great hubbub amongst them, because I ordered the Jemadar and Kirangozi, with many of their principal men, to sit in state before me; when I gave a cloth to the soldiers to buy a goat with, and, turning to the Kirangozi, told him I was sorry I was obliged to keep my word of yesterday, and, their story having proved false, I must depart from the principle I had commenced upon, of feeding both parties alike, and now they might feel assured that I would do nothing further for their comfort until I could see in them some desire to please me. The screw was on the tenderest part: a black man’s belly is his god; and they no sooner found themselves deprived of their wonted feast, than they clamorously declared they would be my devoted servants; that they had come expressly to serve me, and were willing to do anything I wished. The village chief offered me a goat; but as it came at the last moment before starting, I declined it.
To-day’s track lay for the first half of the way over a jungly depression, where we saw ostriches, florikans, and the small Saltiana antelopes; but as their shyness did not allow of an open approach, I amused myself by shooting partridges. During the remainder of the way, the caravan threaded between villages and cultivation lying in small valleys, or crossed over low hills, accomplishing a total distance of twelve miles. Here we put up at a village called Ukumbi, occupied by the Walaswanda tribe.
2d. — We set out at 6 A.M., and travelled thirteen miles by a tortuous route, sometimes close by the creek, at other times winding between small hills, the valleys of which were thickly inhabited by both agricultural and pastoral people. Here some small perennial streams, exuding from springs by the base of these hills, meander through the valleys, and keep all vegetable life in a constant state of verdant freshness. The creek still increases in width as it extends northward, and is studded with numerous small rocky island-hills covered with brushwood, which, standing out from the bosom of the deep-blue waters, reminded me of a voyage I once had in the Grecian Archipelago. The route also being so diversified with hills, afforded fresh objects of attraction at every turn; and to-day, by good fortune, the usually troublesome people have attended more to their harvest-making, and left me to the enjoyment of the scenery. My trusty Blissett made a florikan pay the penalty of death for his temerity in attempting a flight across the track. The day’s journey lasted thirteen miles, and brought us into a village called Isamiro.
16 Here is the confusion again of the Nile and the lake as one water. The Nile was in reality five marches east of Kibuga, and the boundary of the lake one march to its southward. Snay obviously meant it so, for it was the river he thought was the Jub, but I did not understand him.
17 See Dr Beke’s paper on ‘The Sources of the Nile,’ printed 1849.
18 Kirangozi— leader of a caravan.
19 Sheikh Said has since declared, in “the most solemn manner, that Captain Burton positively forbade his going.” This happened when we were at Usenyé, and immediately after I first asked the Sheikh.
20 Captain Burton started with two huge elephant-guns, one double rifle, one pea-rifle, one air-gun, two revolving pistols, and a cross-bow, all of which he used for display to amuse the Arabs.
21 Sukuma means north, and the Wasukuma are consequently northmen, or northern Wanyamuézi.
22 Barsati— a coloured cloth.
23 One dhoti = 2 shukkas; 1 shukka = 4 cubits, or 2 yards, merikani (American sheeting).
24 Kiniki— a thin indigo-dyed cloth.
25 Boma— a palisade. A village or collection of huts so fortified is called so also.
26 This, I maintain, was the discovery of the source of the Nile. Had the ancient kings and sages known that a rainy zone existed on the equator, they would not have puzzled their brains so long, and have wondered where those waters came from which meander through upwards of a thousand miles of scorching desert without a single tributary.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00