First Sight of the Victoria N’yanza — Its Physical Geography — Speculations on its Being the Source of the Nile — Sport on the Lake — Sultans Machunda and Mahaya — Missionary Accounts of the Geography — Arab Accounts — Regrets at Inability to Complete the Discovery — The March Resumed — History of the Watuta — Hippopotamus-hunting — Adventures — Kahama.
August 3d. — The caravan, after quitting Isamiro, began winding up a long but gradually inclined hill — which, as it bears no native name, I shall call Somerset — until it reached its summit, when the vast expanse of the pale-blue waters of the N’yanza burst suddenly upon my gaze. It was early morning. The distant sea-line of the north horizon was defined in the calm atmosphere between the north and west points of the compass; but even this did not afford me any idea of the breadth of the lake, as an archipelago of islands (vide Map, Bengal Archipelago), each consisting of a single hill, rising to a height of 200 or 300 feet above the water, intersected the line of vision to the left; while on the right the western horn of the Ukéréwé Island cut off any farther view of its distant waters to the eastward of north. A sheet of water — an elbow of the sea, however, at the base of the low range on which I stood — extended far away to the eastward, to where, in the dim distance, a hummock-like elevation of the mainland marked what I understood to be the south and east angle of the lake. The important islands of Ukéréwé and Mzita, distant about twenty or thirty miles, formed the visible north shore of this firth. The name of the former of these islands was familiar to us as that by which this long-sought lake was usually known. It is reported by the natives to be of no great extent; and though of no considerable elevation, I could discover several spurs stretching down to the water’s edge from its central ridge of hills. The other island, Mzita, is of greater elevation, of a hog-backed shape, but being more distant, its physical features were not so distinctly visible.
In consequence of the northern islands of the Bengal Archipelago before mentioned obstructing the view, the western shore of the lake could not be defined: a series of low hill-tops extended in this direction as far as the eye could reach; while below me, at no great distance, was the debouchure of the creek, which enters the lake from the south, and along the banks of which my last three days’ journey had led me. This view was one which, even in a well-known and explored country, would have arrested the traveller by its peaceful beauty. The islands, each swelling in a gentle slope to a rounded summit, clothed with wood between the rugged angular closely-cropping rocks of granite, seemed mirrored in the calm surface of the lake; on which I here and there detected a small black speck, the tiny canoe of some Muanza fisherman. On the gently shelving plain below me, blue smoke curled above the trees, which here and there partially concealed villages and hamlets, their brown thatched roofs contrasting with the emerald green of the beautiful milk-bush, the coral branches of which cluster in such profusion round the cottages, and form alleys and hedgerows about the villages as ornamental as any garden shrub in England. But the pleasure of the mere view vanished in the presence of those more intense and exciting emotions which are called up by the consideration of the commercial and geographical importance of the prospect before me.
I no longer felt any doubt that the lake at my feet gave birth to that interesting river, the source of which has been the subject of so much speculation, and the object of so many explorers. The Arabs’ tale was proved to the letter. This is a far more extensive lake than the Tanganyika; “so broad you could not see across it, and so long that nobody knew its length.”27 I had now the pleasure of perceiving that a map I had constructed on Arab testimony, and sent home to the Royal Geographical Society before leaving Unyanyembé, was so substantially correct that in its general outlines I had nothing whatever to alter. Further, as I drew that map after proving their first statements about the Tanganyika, which were made before my going there, I have every reason to feel confident of their veracity relative to their travels north through Karagué, and to Kibuga in Uganda.
When Sheikh Snay told us of the Ukéréwé, as he called the N’yanza, on our first arrival at Kazé, proceeding westward from Zanzibar, he said, “If you have come only to see a large bit of water, you had better go northwards and see the Ukéréwé; for it is much greater in every respect than the Tanganyika;” and so, as far as I can ascertain, it is. Muanza, our journey’s end, now lay at our feet. It is an open, well-cultivated plain on the southern end, and lies almost flush with the lake; a happy, secluded-looking corner, containing every natural facility to make life pleasant. After descending the hill, we followed along the borders of the lake, and at first entered Mahaya’s Palace, when the absence of boats arousing my suspicions, made me inquire where the Arabs, on coming to Muanza, and wishing to visit Ukéréwé, usually resided. This, I heard, was some way farther on; so with great difficulty I persuaded the porters to come away and proceed at once to where they said an Arab was actually living. It was a singular coincidence that, after Sheikh Snay’s caution as to my avoiding Sultan Mahaya’s Palace, by inquiring diligently about him yesterday, and finding no one who knew his name, the first person I should have encountered was himself, and that, too, in his own Palace. The reason of this was, that big men in this country, to keep up their dignity, have several names, and thus mystify the traveller.
I then proceeded along the shore of the lake in an easterly direction, and on the way shot a number of red Egyptian geese, which were very numerous; they are the same sort here as I once saw in the Somali country. Another goose, which unfortunately I could not kill, is very different from any I ever saw or heard of: it stands as high as the Canadian bird, or higher, and is black all over, saving one little white patch beneath the lower mandible. It was fortunate that I came on here, for the Arab in question, called Mansur bin Salim, treated me very kindly, and he had retainers belonging to the country, who knew as much about the lake as anybody, and were of very great assistance. I also found a good station for making observations on the lake. It was Mansur who first informed me of my mistake of the morning; but he said that the evil reports spread at Unyanyembé about Mahaya had no foundation; on the contrary, he had found him a very excellent and obliging person.
To-day we marched eight miles, and have concluded our journey northwards, a total distance of 226 miles from Kazé, which, occupying twenty-five days, is at the rate of nine miles per diem, halts inclusive.
4th. — Early in the morning I took a walk of three miles easterly along the shore of the lake, and, ascending a small hill (which, to distinguish it, I have called Observatory Hill), took compass bearings of all the principal features of the lake. Mansur and a native, the greatest traveller of the place, kindly accompanied me, and gave me every obtainable information. This man had traversed the island, as he called it, of Ukéréwé from north to south. But by his rough mode of describing it, I am rather inclined to think that instead of its being an actual island, it is a connected tongue of land, stretching southwards from a promontory lying at right angles to the eastern shore of the lake, which, being a wash, affords a passage to the mainland during the fine season, but during the wet becomes submerged, and thus makes Ukéréwé temporarily an island.
If this conjecture be true, Mzita must be similarly circumstanced. Cattle, he says, can cross over from the mainland at all seasons of the year, by swimming from one elevation of the promontory to another; but the Warudi, who live upon the eastern shore of the lake, and bring their ivory for sale to Ukéréwé, usually employ boats for the transit. A sultan called Machunda lives at the southern extremity of the Ukéréwé, and has dealings in ivory with all the Arabs who go there. One Arab at this time was stopping there, and had sent his men coasting along this said promontory to deal with the natives on the mainland, as he could not obtain enough ivory on the island itself. Considering how near the eastern shore of the lake is to Zanzibar, it appears surprising that it can pay men to carry ivory all the way round by Unyanyembé. But the Masai, and especially those tribes who live near to the lake, are so hostile to travellers, that the risk of going there is considered too great to be profitable, though all Arabs concur in stating that a surprising quantity of ivory is to be obtained there at a very cheap rate.
The little hill alluded to as marking the south-east angle of the lake, I again saw; but so indistinctly, though the atmosphere was very clear, that I imagined it to be at least forty miles distant. It is due east of my station on Observatory Hill. I further draw my conclusions from the fact, that all the hills on the country are much about the same height — two or three hundred feet above the basial surface of the land; and I could only see the top of the hill like a hazy brown spot, contrasted in relief against the clear blue sky. Indeed, had my attention not been drawn to it, I should probably have overlooked it, and have thought there was only a sea horizon before me. On facing to the W.N.W., I could only see a sea horizon; and on inquiring how far back the land lay, was assured that, beyond the island of Ukéréwé, there was an equal expanse of it east and west, and that it would be more than double the distance of the little hill before alluded to, or from eighty to one hundred miles in breadth.28
On my inquiring about the lake’s length, the man faced to the north, and began nodding his head to it; at the same time he kept throwing forward his right hand, and, making repeated snaps of his fingers, endeavoured to indicate something immeasurable; and added, that nobody knew, but he thought it probably extended to the end of the world. To the east of the Observatory, a six hours’ journey, probably fourteen or fifteen miles, the village of Sukuma is situated, and there canoes are obtainable for crossing to Ukéréwé, which island being six hours’ paddling, and lying due north of it, must give the firth a breadth of about fifteen miles.
Whilst walking back to camp, I shot two red geese and a florikan, like those I once shot in the Somali country. This must have been a dainty dish for my half-starved Arab companion, who had lost all his property on first arriving here, and was now living on Mahaya’s generosity. It appears that nine months ago he was enabled, by the assistance of Mahaya, to hire some boats and men at Sukuma, and had sent his property, consisting of fifteen loads of cloth and 250 jembis or hoes, by them to Ukéréwé, to exchange for ivory. But by the advice of Mahaya, and fearing to trust himself as a stranger amongst the islanders, he did not accompany his merchandise. Sultan Machunda, a man of the highest character by Unyanyembé report, on seeing such a prize enter his port, gave orders for its seizure, and will now give no redress to the unfortunate Mansur. All Mahaya’s exertions to recover it have proved abortive: and Mansur has therefore been desirous of taking his revenge by making an attack in person on Ukéréwé, but the “generous” Mahaya said, “No; your life is yet safe, do not risk it; but let my men do what they can, and in the meanwhile, as I have been a party to your losses, I will feed you and your people; and if I do not succeed in the end, you shall be my guest until I can amass sufficient property to reimburse your losses.”
Mansur has all this time been living, like the slaves of the country, on jowari porridge, which is made by grinding the seed into flour and boiling it in water until it forms a good thick paste, when master and man sit round the earthen pot it is boiled in, pick out lumps, and suck it off their fingers. It was a delicious sight yesterday, on coming through Muanza, to see the great deference paid to the sick Beluch, Shadad, mistaken for the great Arab merchant (Mundewa), my humble self, in consequence of his riding my donkey, and to perceive the stoical manner in which he treated their attentions; but, more fortunate than I usually have been, he escaped the rude peeping and peering of the crowd, for he did not, like his employer, wear “double eyes” (spectacles).
During the last five or six marches, the word Marabu (Arab), instead of Mzungu (European), has usually been applied to me; and no one, I am sure, would have discovered the difference, were it not that the tiresome pagazis, to increase their own dignity and importance, generally gave the clue by singing the song of “the White Man.” The Arabs at Unyanyembé had advised my donning their habit for the trip, in order to attract less attention: a vain precaution, which I believe they suggested more to gratify their own vanity by seeing an Englishman lower himself to their position, than for any benefit that I might receive by doing so. At any rate, I was more comfortable and better off in my flannel shirt, long togs, and wide-awake, than I should have been, both mentally and physically, had I degraded myself, and adopted their hot, long, and particularly uncomfortable gown.
Sultan Mahaya sent a messenger to say that he was hurt at the cavalier manner in which I treated him yesterday; and, to show his wounded feelings, gave an order to his subjects that no man should supply me with provisions, or render me any assistance during my sojourn at Muanza. Luckily my larder was well supplied with game, or I should have had to go supperless to bed, for no inducement would prevail on the people to sell anything to me after the mandate had been proclaimed. This morning, however, we settled the difference, in the most amicable manner, thus: previous to my departure for Observatory Hill, I sent the Jemadar, the Kirangozi, and a large deputation of the Beluches and pagazis, to explain away the reason of my having left his house so rudely, and to tender apologies, which were accompanied, as an earnest of good-will, with a large hongo, consisting of one barsati, one dhoti merikani, and one gora kiniki, as also an intimation that I would pay him a visit the next day. This pleased him excessively; it was considered a visit of itself; and he returned the usual bullock, with a notification that I must remain where I was, to enable him to return the compliment I had paid him, for he intended walking out to see me on the morrow.
5th. — As my time was getting short, I forestalled Mahaya in his intentions, and changed ground to the Palace, a rural-looking little place, perched on a small rocky promontory, shrouded by green trees, facing the N.W. side of the lake. Mahaya received me with great courtesy, arranged a hut comfortably, and presented a number of eggs and fresh milk, as he had heard that I was partial to such fare. He is a man of more than ordinary stature, a giant in miniature, with massive and muscular but well-proportioned limbs: he must number fifty years or more. His dress was the ordinary barsati; his arms were set off by heavy brass and copper ornaments encircling the wrists, and by numberless sambo, or thin circles made from the twisted fibres of an aloetic plant, on each of which a single infi, or white porcelain bead resembling a little piece of tobacco-pipe, was strung; these ranged in massive rows down the whole of his upper arm. Just above his elbow-joints sat a pair of large ivory rings. On his forehead two small goat or deer horns were fastened by thin talismanic ornaments of thong for keeping off the evil eye; and, finally, his neck was adorned with two strings of very coarse blue beads. Mahaya has the fame of being the best and most just sultan in these quarters, and his benign square countenance, lit up with a pleasing expression when in conversation, confirms this opinion, though a casual observer passing by that dark, broad, massive face, still more darkened by a matting of short, close, and tightly-curled-up ringlets, would be apt to carry away a contrary impression.29
Before leaving Kazé I notified my intention of visiting Ukéréwé, supposing I could do so in three or four days, and explained to my men my wishes on this point. Hearing this, they told both Mahaya and Mansur, in direct terms, that I was going, and so needlessly set them to work finessing to show how much they were in earnest in their consideration of me. However, they have both been very warm in dissuading me from visiting Ukéréwé, apparently quite in a parental way, for each seems to think himself in a measure my guardian. Mahaya thinks it his duty to caution those who visit him from running into danger, which a journey to Ukéréwé, he considers, would be. Mansur, on the other hand, says, as I have come from his Sultan Majid, he also is bound to render me any assistance in his power; but strongly advises my giving up the notion of going across the water. I could get boats from Sukuma, he said, but there would be great delay in the business, as I should have first to send over and ask permission from Machunda to land, and then the collecting men and boats would occupy a long time.
As regards the collection of boats taking a long time, these arguments are very fair, as I know from experience; but the only danger would consist in the circumstance of the two sultans being at enmity with each other, as in this land any one coming direct from an enemy’s country is suspected and treated as an enemy. This difficulty I should have avoided by going straight to Sukuma (where the boats, I am inclined to think, usually do start from, though all concur in stating that this is their point of departure), and there obtaining boats direct. However, I told them that I should have gone if I had found boats ready at once to take me across; but now I saw the probability of so much delay, that I could not afford to waste time in trying to obtain boats, which, had I succeeded in getting, I should have employed my time not in going to Ukéréwé, but to the more elevated and friendly island of Mzita, this being a more suitable observatory than the former. These negroes’ manoeuvres are quite incomprehensible. If Mahaya had desired to fleece me — and one can hardly give a despotic negro credit for anything short of that — he surely would have tried to detain me under false hopes, and have thus necessitated my spending cloths in his village; while, on the contrary, he lost all chance of gaining anything by giving advice which induced me to leave him at once, never to return again to see him.
At my request, Mahaya assembled all his principal men, and we went into a discussion about the lake; but not a soul knew anything about its northern extremity, although people had sometimes travelled in canoes, coasting along its shores by the Karagué district to as far, I believe, as the Line.30 His wife, a pretty crummy little creature of the Wanyoro tribe, came farther from the north than anybody present, and gave me the names of many districts in the Uganda country, which, she says, lies along the seashore. She had never heard of there being any end to the lake, and supposed, if any way of going round it did exist, she would certainly have known it. It is well known that there is no communication between the east and west shores of the lake, excepting by a few occasional canoe-parties coasting along the southern end, because the waters are so very broad they dare not venture.31 That there can be no high mountain-range intersecting the N’yanza from the watercourses which we hear of north of the equator, as some people have supposed, is evident from the numerous accounts given of the kingdom of Uganda being so flat and marshy from the equator to 2° or 3° north latitude; whilst I must have seen any, did they exist, on the south side of the equator, being only 150 miles from it when standing on its southern shore. Now, judging from all the information given us by the several Egyptian expeditions and missionaries sent up the Nile, who came across small hills in 4½° north latitude and 32° east longitude, which are intersected by the Nile in the same way that the East Coast Range is intersected by the interior plateau rivers (Lufiji and Kingani), as we saw on our passage inwards from Zanzibar; and further, by the Arabs telling us that all the country on the same meridian, from the Line up to the second parallel north latitude, is flat and full of watercourses; and then again, by knowing the respective heights of the N’yanza on the one side, being nearly 4000 feet, and the Nile’s bed in latitude 5° N., or beyond the small hills alluded to, being under 2000 feet — it would indeed be a marvel if this lake is not the fountain of the Nile.32 The reason why those expeditions sent up the Nile have failed in discovering the N’yanza, is clearly attributable to the important rapids which must exist in consequence of this great variation of altitude between the north end of the N’yanza (which, let us suppose, is on the equator) and the position, in 4° 44’ north latitude, at which the expeditions and missions arrived, the rise of the river being 2000 feet in 300 miles.
Indeed, by all accounts of the country lying between the N’yanza, as seen by the Arabs in Uganda, and let us say Gondokoro, a mission station on the Nile, in north latitude 4° 44’, which was occupied by two Austrian missionaries, Knoblecher and Dooyak, we find it is somewhat analogous to what we observed between the low Mrima or maritime plain in front of Zanzibar, and the high interior plateau, divided from one another by the East Coast Range, which is of granitic formation, the same in its nature exactly as those which they describe, and intersected by rivers so rapid and boisterous that no canoes can live upon them; as, for instance, we found the Kingani and Lufiji rivers were when passing over the East Coast Range. There the land dropped from 2000 or more feet to less than 300 in the short distance of 100 miles.
I will now proceed to give, first, the missionary account in 4° 44’ N., and then the Arab one in 2° N. — a debatable bit of ground, extending over 2° 44’, or 160 English miles. Talking of the missionaries, “these two men,” says Dr Petermann, “kept an annual hygrometrical and meteorological register with great precision and scientific regularity.33 They had various instruments with them; they fixed their station, Gondokoro, at 4° 44’ north latitude by astronomical observations, and determined the altitude of the Nile’s bed to be only 1605 feet above the sea, by numerous good barometrical observations. . . . Gondokoro is surrounded on three sides by small granitic hills, ranging about 2000 feet high, which are intersected by the Nile coming from the south, as the king of the Bari country says, from 200 to 300 miles;” which is equivalent to saying from the N’yanza, as it lies exactly on the place he directs us to.
As the Arabs do not keep thermometers, scientific instruments, or properly distributed months and seasons, I must say for them that from 2° to 6° south latitude we found the mean temperature in the hottest month, August, to be only 80°; that Uganda must be quite 4000 feet above the sea, to be higher than the lake which it borders; that the rainy season is during our winter months, but most so in the spring; and that the rivers, as we see by the Malagarazi, increase more after than before that date; that as the movement of the rains tends from the southward to the northward, advancing with the sun, the same influence that swells the Malagarazi would also affect the Uganda rivers, as they rise merely on opposite sides of the axis of the same mountains. The Arabs say, as we also have found it, “that thunder accompanies nearly all the storms, and the lightning there is excessive, and so destructive that the King of Uganda expresses the greatest dread of it — indeed his own palace has been often destroyed by lightning. The Kitangulé and Katonga rivers are affected by the rainy season in the same proportion as the Malagarazi, and flow north-easterly towards the lake.34 There the Kivira (island) river (Nile) of which they bring information, flows somewhere to the northward, and is not a slow sluggish stream like the other two, but is rapid and boisterous, showing that the country drops to the northward.” Now here, in 3° north latitude, where this river is said to flow with such great rapidity, I think will be found the southern base-line of those small hills, 2000 feet high, lying to the south of Gondokoro, as the missionaries describe them; though these hills, to any one looking at them from the northern side, where the land is low, might appear a barrier to the waters of the lake lying beyond them. This idea would not occur to any one standing on the southern side, where the land is nearly, if not quite, as high as these hills themselves. Indeed, from the levels given, the two countries about Kibuga35 (Palace of Uganda) and Gondokoro may be described as two landings, with the fall between them representing a staircase formed by the hills in question. The country in latitudes 2° and 5° north is therefore terraced like a hanging garden.36
The N’yanza, as we now see, is a large expansive sheet of water, flush with the basial surface of the country, and lies between the Mountains of the Moon (on its western side), having, according to Dr Krapf, snowy Kænia on its eastern flank. Krapf tells us of a large river flowing down from the western side of this snowy peak, and trending away to the north-west in a direction, as will be seen by the map, leading right into my lake. Now, returning again to the western side, we find that the N’yanza is plentifully supplied by those streams coming from the Lunæ Montes, of which the Arabs, one and all, give such consistent and concise accounts; and the flowings of which, being north-easterly, must, in course of time and distance, commingle with those north-westerly off-flowings, before mentioned, of Mount Kænia. My impression is, after hearing everybody’s story on the matter, that these streams enter at opposite sides of the lake, on the northern side of the equator, and are consequently very considerable feeders to it. To help at once in the argument that the N’yanza exists as a large sheet of water to the north of the equator, I will anticipate a story recorded in my diary, by adverting to it before its order of succession. On the return to Unyanyembé, a native of Msalala told me that he had once travelled up the western shore of the N’yanza to the district of Kitara, or Uddu–Uganda, where, he says, coffee grows, and which place, by fair computation of the distances given as their travelling rates, I believe to be in about 1° north lat. To the east of this land, at no great distance from the shore, he described the island of Kitiri as occupied by a tribe called Watiri, who also grow coffee; and there the sea was of such great extent, and when winds blew was so boisterous, that the canoes, although as large as the Tanganyika ones (which he had also seen), did not trust themselves upon it.
The lake has the credit of being very deep, which I cannot believe. It certainly presents the appearance of the temporary deposit of a vast flood overspreading a large flat surface, rather than the usual characteristics of a lake or inland sea lying in a deep hollow, or shut in, like the Tanganyika, by mountains.37 The islands about it are low hill-tops, standing out like paps on the soft placid bosom of the waters, and are precisely similar to those amongst which I have been travelling; indeed, any part of the country inundated to the same extent would wear the same aspect.
Its water appears, perhaps owing to the disturbing influence of the wind, of a dirty-white colour, but it is very good and sweet, though not so pleasant to my taste as the very clear Tanganyika water. The natives, however, who have wonderfully keen palates for detecting the relative distinctions in such matters, differ from me, and affirm that all the inhabitants prefer it to any other, and consequently never dig wells on the margin of the lake; whereas the Tanganyika water is invariably shunned, nobody ever drinking it unless from necessity; not so much because they consider it to be unwholesome, as because it does not quench or satisfy the thirst so well as spring-water. Whether this peculiarity in the qualities of the waters is to be attributed to the N’yanza lying on a foundation chiefly composed of iron, or whether the one lake is drained by a river, whilst the other is not, I must leave for other and superior talents to decide.
Fish and crocodiles are said to be very abundant in the lake; but with all my endeavours to obtain some specimens, I have succeeded in seeing only two sorts — one similar to those taken at Ujiji, of a perch-like form, and another very small, resembling our common minnow, but not found in the Ujiji market. The quantity of mosquitoes on the borders of the lake is perfectly marvellous; the grass, bushes, and everything growing there, are literally covered with them. As I walked along its shores, disturbing the vegetation, they rose in clouds, and kept tapping, in dozens at a time, against my hands and face, in the most disagreeable manner. Unlike the Indian mosquito, they are of a light dun-brown colour. The Muanza dogs are the largest that I have yet seen in Africa, and still are not more than twenty inches high; but Mahaya says the Ukéréwé dog is a fine animal, and quite different from any on the mainland. There are very few canoes about here, and those are of miserable construction, and only fitted for the purpose they turn them to — catching fish close to the shore. The paddle the fishermen use is a sort of mongrel between a spade and a shovel. The fact of there being no boats of any size here, must be attributed to the want of material for constructing them. On the route from Kazé there are no trees of any girth, save the calabash, the wood of which is too soft for boat-building. I hear that the island of Ukéréwé has two sultans besides Machunda, and that it is very fertile and populous. Mahaya says, “All the tribes, from the Wasukuma (or Northern Wanyamuézi, Sukuma meaning the north), along the south and east of the lake, are so savage and inhospitable to travellers, that it would be impossible to go amongst them unless accompanied by a large and expensive escort.”
6th. — As no further information about the lake could be gained, I bade Mahaya and the Sheikh adieu, leaving as a token of recollection one shukka merikani for the former, one dhoti kiniki for his wife, and a fundo of beads for the poor Arab, and retraced my steps by a double march back to Ukumbi. Whilst passing alongside the archipelago, I shot two geese and a crested crane. What a pity it seemed I could not pluck the fruit almost within my grasp! Had I had but a little more time, and a few loads of beads, I could with ease have crossed the Line, and settled every question which we had come all this distance to ascertain. Indeed, to perform that work, nobody could have started under more advantageous circumstances than were then within my power — all hands being in first-rate condition and health, and all in the right temper for it. But now a new and expensive expedition must be formed, for the capabilities of the country on the eastern flank of the Mountains of the Moon, and along the western shores of the N’yanza, are so notoriously great that it is worthy of serious attention. My reluctance to return may be easier imagined than described. I felt as much tantalised as the unhappy Tantalus must have been when unsuccessful in his bobbings for cherries in the cherry-orchard, and as much grieved as any mother would be at losing her first-born, and resolved and planned forthwith to do everything that lay in my power to visit the lake again.
7th. — We made a march of fourteen miles, passing our second station in Urima by two miles, partly to avoid the chief of that village, a testy, rude, and disagreeable man, who, on the last occasion, inhospitably tried to turn us out of a hut in his village, because we would not submit to his impudent demand of a cloth for the accommodation — a proceeding quite at variance with anything we had met in our former receptions; and we resisted the imposition with a pertinacity equal to his own. Besides this, by coming on the little extra distance, we arrived at the best and cheapest place for purchasing cows and jembies.
8th. — Halt. I purchased two jembies for one shukka merikani, but could not come to any terms with these grasping savages about their cows, although their country teems with them, and they are sold at wonderfully cheap prices to ordinary traders. They would not sell to me unless I gave double value for them. The fauna of this country is most disappointing. Nearly all the animals that exist here are also to be found in the south of Africa, where they range in far greater numbers. But then we must remember that a caravan route usually takes the more fertile and populous tracks, and that many animals might be found in the recesses of the forests not far off, although there are so few on the line. The elephants are finer here than in any part of the world, and have been known to carry tusks exceeding 500 lb. the pair in weight. The principal wild animals besides these are the lion, leopard, hyena, fox, pig, Cape buffalo, gnu, kudu, hartebeest, pallah, steinboc, and the little madoka, or Saltiana gazelle. The giraffe, zebra, rhinoceros, and hippopotamus are all common. The game-birds are the bustard, florikan, guinea-fowl, partridge, quail, snipe, various geese and ducks, and a very dark-coloured rock-pigeon or sand-grouse. The birds in general have very tame plumage, and are much more scarce, generally speaking, than one finds in most other countries.
The traveller on entering these agricultural districts meets with a treatment quite opposite to what he does from the pastoral tribes, such, for instance, as the Somali, Gallas, Masai, &c. &c. Here they at once hail his advent as a matter of good omen, or the precursor of good fortune, and allow him to do and see whatever he likes. They desire his settling amongst them, appreciate the benefits of commerce and civilisation, and are not suspicious, like the plundering pastorals, of every one coming with evil intentions towards them. The Somali, about as bad a lot as any amongst the rovers, will not admit a stranger into their country, unless accompanied by one of their tribe, who becomes answerable for the traveller’s actions, and even with this passport he is watched with the eyes of Argus. Every strange act committed by him, no matter how simple, absurd, or trifling, is at once debated about in council, and always ends to Viator’s disadvantage.
They add to everything they see or hear, by conjuring up the most ridiculous phantoms; and the more ridiculous they are, the more firmly do they at last believe in them themselves. The worse their grounds are, the more jealously do they guard against anybody’s seeing them; and woe betide any one who should frequent any particular spot too often: he is at once set down as designing a plot against it, to fortify the place and take it from them; this idea is their greatest bugbear. Among that tribe blood shed by any means — by the stealthy knife or in fair fight — is deemed meritorious and an act of heroism. No one is ever sure of his life unless he has force to carry him through, or can rely on the chief of the clan as his pillar of safety. This latter plan is probably the safer one, for, as the old adage goes, “There is honour amongst thieves;” so with these savages it is a matter of importance to their honour and dignity, according to their quaint notions of rectitude, to protect their trust to their utmost; whereas, on the contrary, were that trust not reposed in them, they would feel justified in taking any liberties, or act in opposition to any of those general laws which guide the conduct of civilised men.
I would not, however, desire the African agricultural people to be considered models of perfection. Individually, or in small bodies, the mass of them are very far from being so, for they would commit any excesses without the slightest feelings of compunction. The fear of retribution alone keeps their hands from blood and plunder. The chiefs and principal men, if they have no higher motives, keep their different tribes in order, and do not molest travellers without good cause, or from provocation, as they know that protecting the traveller is the only way in which they can keep up that connection with the commerce of the coast which they all so much covet. It may be worthy of remark that I have always found the lighter-coloured savages more boisterous and warlike than those of a dingier hue. The ruddy black, fleshy-looking Wazaramo and Wagogo are much lighter in colour than any of the other tribes, and certainly have a far superior, more manly and warlike independent spirit and bearing than any of the others.38
9th. — We started early, and crossed the Jordans by a ferry at a place lower down than on the first occasion. After leaving the low land, we rose up to the higher ground where we had first gained a sight of the N’yanza’s waters, and now took our final view. To myself the parting with it was a matter of great regret; but I believe I was the sole sufferer from disappointment in being obliged to go south, when all my thoughts or cares were in the north. But this feeling was much alleviated by seeing the happy, contented, family state to which the whole caravan had at length arrived. Going home has the same attraction with these black people that it has with schoolboys. The Beluches have long since behaved to admiration, and now even the lazy pagazis, since completing their traffic, have lighter hearts, and begin to feel a freshness dawn upon them. We soon entered our old village in Néra, having completed fourteen miles. Here the chief, who had travelled up the western shore of the N’yanza, assured me that canoes like the Tanganyika ones were used by the natives, and were made from large trees which grew on the mountain-slopes overlooking the lake. The disagreeable-mannered Wasukuma (or north men) are now left behind; their mode of articulation is most painful to the civilised ear. Each word uttered seems to begin with a T’hu or T’ha, producing a sound like that of spitting sharply at an offensive object. Any stranger with his back turned would fancy himself insulted by the speaker.
The country throughout is well stocked with cattle, and bullocks are cheap, two dhotis, equal to four dollars, being the price of a moderate-sized animal; but milch cows are dear, in consequence of the great demand for sour curd. Sheep and goats sell according to their skills; a large one is preferred to a shukka, equal to one dollar; but a dhoti, the proper price of three small goats, is scarcely the value of the largest. The bane of this people is their covetousness. They do not object to sell cheaply to a poor man, yet they hang back at the sight of much cloth, and price their stock, not at its value, but at what they want, or think they may get, obstinately abiding by their decision to the last. Cattle are driven from this to Unyanyembé, and consequently must be cheaper here than in those more southern parts: still I could not purchase them so well; indeed, a traveller can never expect to buy at a reasonable rate in a land where every man is a sultan, and his hut a castle — where no laws regulate the market, and every proprietor is grasping. Bombay suggests that to buy cattle cheap from the Washenzi (savages), you should give them plenty of time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the transaction, for their minds are not capable of arriving at a rapid conclusion; but friend Bombay forgets that, whilst waiting to beat them down a cloth or two, four or five are consumed by the caravan in waiting. The women, especially the younger ones, are miserably clad here; a fringe, like the thong kilt of the Nubian maidens, made of aloe fibres, with a single white bead at the end of each string, is the general wear; it is suspended by a strap tied round the waist. Hanging over the belly, it covers about a foot of ground in breadth, but not more than seven or eight inches in depth. The fibrous strings, white by nature, soon turn black, and look like India-rubber, the effect of butter first rubbed in, and then of constant friction on the grimy person. The dangling, waving motion of this strange appendage, as the wearer moves along, reminded me of the common fly-puzzler sometimes attached to horses’ head-stalls. Amongst a crowd of fifty or sixty people, not more than two or three have a cloth of native make, and rarely one of foreign manufacture is to be seen. Some women have stood before me in the very primitive costume of a bunch of leafy twigs.
But far worse clad than these are the Wataturu, a tribe living to the eastward, and the Watuta, living to the westward of this place, besides the Warori and others.
Of the first mentioned, the Wataturu, a people living a little to the northward of Turu, I have only seen a few males, and they were stark naked. The Wataturu despise any one who is weak enough to cover his person, considering that he does so only to conceal his natural imperfections. Their women are currently reported to be as naked as the men, but I did not see any of them, and cannot vouch for it.
The Watuta, on the other hand, require a special notice, because they are the naked Zulu Kafirs whose peculiar costume, if such it may be called, has caused so much risibility at the Cape of Good Hope. In the very first instance, I am inclined to believe these Watuta were Cushites, who migrated from the shores of the Caspian Sea, across Arabia and the Red Sea, to Abyssinia. There, mixing with the negro aborigines, they became in process of time woolly-headed. Later still, they broke off from the parent stock, lost their original name, and took instead that of Masai. By some unaccountable means they then separated from the Masai and migrated south to the Cape of Good Hope; here they appear to have changed their name to Kafir, from which a branch of the tribe were called Zulu Kafirs. These Zulu Kafirs becoming restless, after a time migrated again to the west of the Nyassa, and there settled with their flocks and herds, devastating the Babisa’s country. From thence again they have been migrating in detachments north, up the east side of the Tanganyika Lake. Whilst doing so they came at Fipa on the Wapoka, another offshoot of the Cushite–Abyssinians, who, crossing the Nile, took the name of Wahuma, and have spread as far down south as Fipa, where their name, in course of time, had changed from Wahuma to Watusi, and from Watusi to Wapoka, in the same way as the Watuta had changed their name from Masai to Kafir and Zulu Kafir, and again from that to Watuta. Now, these Watuta are still pushing northwards, fighting, plundering, and conquering wherever they go. They have knocked the Watusi out of the southern hills of Urundi, overlooking the Tanganyika Lake, and have spread to the southern limits of Usui, devastating the countries en route, in the same way as they have done on the west of the Nyassa. Strange as it may appear, neither these Watuta nor the Watusi know anything of their common origin. They are very different in physical form and appearance from one another; for, whilst the Watusi alias Wahuma retain their Abyssinian type, the Watuta alias Zulu Kafirs are much more like the Somali and Masai — thus, I think, showing that the Wahuma have detached themselves at a later period than the Kafirs from the parent stock. The Wahuma are certainly the finer-looking people of the two, but the Watuta are rougher in nature. Both, however, are strictly pastoral, though the Wahuma in the equatorial regions affect to maintain large kingdoms.39
It is to be hoped that India, when once aroused to the advantages of dealing more extensively with this country, will never lose sight of the fact that the negro as well as more enlightened man can detect the difference between good and poor stuffs; that the nation which makes the strongest stuffs will be considered to be the honestest; and the more lasting the material, the more readily it will be taken. In sending cloths great care should be taken that every piece be of the same length, and always evenly divisible by cubits, or eighteen-inch measure. If the Lion and the Unicorn, figuring on the outside of each piece — Thân or Gora, as it is called respectively in India and Africa — were security of its being English manufacture, and, by being so, sure to be of uniform quality and size, much respect would be given to it; and “Shukka Anglési” (English shukka) would soon take the place of “merikani,” which are by different mills, and of different lengths and qualities. The only reason for the negro taking a large goat-skin in preference to a shukka, is because it is stronger.
On coming here I had the misfortune to make my donkey over to Bombay, to save his foot, which had been galled by too constant walking; for though unable to ride, he was too proud to say nay, and was therefore placed upon it, carrying the gun consigned to his charge, Captain Burton’s smooth elephant. Now Bombay rode much after the fashion of a sailor, trusting more to balance and good-luck than skill in sticking on; and the consequence was, that with the first side-step the donkey made he came to the ground an awkward cropper, falling heavily on the small of the stock of the gun, which snapped short off, the piece being thus irredeemably damaged. At first I rated him heartily, for this was the second of Captain Burton’s guns which had been damaged in my hands. I then told Bombay of the circumstances which led to the accident to the first gun. It occurred whilst hippopotamus-shooting on the coast rivers opposite to Zanzibar; and as Bombay had a little experience in that way to relate, we had long yarns about such sport, which served to improve our Hindustani (the language I always conversed with him in), as well as to divert our useless yet unavoidable feelings of regret at the accident, and also killed time.
One day, when on the Tanga river near its mouth, I was busily engaged teasing hippopotami, with one man, a polesman, in a very small canoe, just capable of carrying what it had on board, myself in the bows, with my 4-bore Blissett in hand, while Captain Burton’s monster elephant-gun, a double-barrelled 6-bore, weighing, I believe, 20 lb., was lying at the stern in the poler’s charge.
The river was a tidal one, of no great breadth, and the margin was covered by a thick growth of the mangrove shrub, on the boughs of which the sharp-edged shells of the tree-oyster stuck in strings and clusters in great numbers. The best time to catch the hippopotamus is when the tide is out and the banks are bared, for then you find him wallowing in the mud or basking on the sand (when there is any), like jungle-hog, and with a well-directed shot on the ear, or anywhere about the brain-pan, you have a good chance of securing him. I especially mention this, as it is quite labour in vain, in places where the water is deep, to fire at these animals, unless you can kill them outright, as they dive under like a water-rat, and are never seen more if they are only wounded. I, like most raw hands at this particular kind of sport, began in a very different way from what, I think, a more experienced hunter would have done, by chasing them in the water, and firing at their heads whenever they appeared above it; and even fired slugs about their eyes and ears, in hopes that I might irritate them sufficiently to make them charge the canoe. This teasing proved pretty successful; for when the tide had run clean out, only pools and reaches, connecting by shallow runnels the volume of the natural stream, remained for the hippopotami to sport about in; and my manoeuvring in these confined places became so irritating, that a large female came rapidly under water to the stern of the canoe, and gave it such a sudden and violent cant with her head or withers, that that end of the vessel shot up in the air, and sent me sprawling on my back, with my legs forced up by the seat — a bar of wood — at right angles to my body; whilst the poler and the big double gun were driven like a pair of shuttlecocks, flying right and left of the canoe high up into the air.
The gun on one side fell plump into the middle of the stream, and the man on the other dropped, post first, on to the hippopotamus’s back, but rapidly scrambled back into the canoe. The hippopotamus then, as is these animals’ wont, renewed the attack, but I was ready to receive her, and as she came rolling porpoise-fashion close by the side of the canoe, I fired a quarter of a pound of lead, backed by four drams of powder, into the middle of her back, the muzzle of the rifle almost touching it. She then sank, and I never saw her more; but the gun (after lying on the sandy bottom the whole of that night), I managed, by the aid of several divers, to find on the following day.
Bombay says that on one occasion, when coming down the Pangani river in a canoe with several other men, an irritated hippopotamus charged and upset it, upon which he and all his friends dived under water and then swam to the shore, leaving the hippopotamus to vent his rage on the shell of the canoe, which he most spitefully stuck to. This, he assures me, is the proper way to dodge a hippopotamus, and escape the danger of a bite from him. On another occasion, when I was hippopotamus-hunting in one of the boats of the Artemise, in an inlet of the sea close to Kaolé, I chased a herd of hippopotami in deep water, till one of the lot, coming as usual from below, drove a tusk clean through the boat with such force that he partially hoisted her out of the water; but the brute did no further damage, for I kept him off by making the men splash their oars rapidly whilst making for the shore, where we just arrived in time to save ourselves from sinking.
The day previous to this adventure, I bagged a fine young male hippopotamus close to this spot, by hitting him on the ear when standing in shallow water. The ivory of these animals is more prized than that of the elephant, and, in consequence of the superior hardness of its enamel, it is in great requisition with the dentist.
Hippopotami are found all down this coast in very great numbers, but especially in the deltas of the rivers, or up the streams themselves, and afford an easy, remunerative, and pleasant sport to any man who is not addicted to much hard exercise. The Panjani, Kingani, and Lufiji rivers are full of them, as well as all the other minor feeders to the sea along that coast. If these animals happen to be killed in places so far distant from the sea that the tidal waters have not power to draw them out to the ocean depths, their bodies will be found, when inflated with gas, after decomposition, floating on the surface of the water a day or two afterwards, and can easily be secured by the sportsman, if he be vigilant enough to take them before the hungry watchful savages come and secure them, to appease their rapacious appetites. Mussulmans will even eat these amphibious creatures without cutting their throats, looking on them as cold-blooded animals, created in the same manner as fish.
The following day, 10th August, we made a halt to try our fortune again in purchasing cows, but failed as usual; so the following morning we decamped at dawn, and marched thirteen miles to our original station in Southern Néra. Here I purchased four goats for one dhoti merikani, the best bargain I ever made. Thunder had rumbled, and clouds overcast the skies for two days; and this day a delicious cooling shower fell. The people said it was the little rains —chota barsât, as we call it in India — expected yearly at this time, as the precursor of the later great falls.
As Seedi Bombay was very inquisitive to-day about the origin of Seedis, his caste, and as he wished to know by what law of nature I accounted for their cruel destiny in being the slaves of all men, I related the history of Noah, and the dispersion of his sons on the face of the globe; and showed him that he was of the black or Hametic stock, and by the common order of nature, they, being the weakest, had to succumb to their superiors, the Japhetic and Semitic branches of the family; and, moreover, they were likely to remain so subject until such time as the state of man, soaring far above the beast, would be imbued by a better sense of sympathy and good feeling, and would then leave all such ungenerous appliances of superior force to the brute. Bombay, on being made a Mussulman by his Arab master, had received a very different explanation of the degradation of his race, and narrated his story as follows:—“The Arabs say that Mahomet, whilst on the road from Medina to Mecca, one day happened to see a widow woman sitting before her house, and asked her how she and her three sons were; upon which the troubled woman (for she had concealed one of her sons on seeing Mahomet’s approach, lest he, as is customary when there are three males of a family present, should seize one and make him do porterage), said, ‘Very well; but I’ve only two sons.’ Mahomet, hearing this, said to the woman, reprovingly, ‘Woman, thou liest; thou hast three sons and for trying to conceal this matter from me, henceforth remember that this is my decree — that the two boys which thou hast not concealed shall multiply and prosper, have fair faces, become wealthy, and reign lords over all the earth; but the progeny of your third son shall, in consequence of your having concealed him, produce Seedis as black as darkness, who will be sold in the market like cattle, and remain in perpetual servitude to the descendants of the other two.”
12th. — We returned to our former quarters, the village of Salawé; but I did not enjoy such repose as on the former visit, for the people were in their cups, and, nolens volens, persisted in entering my hut. Sometimes I rose and drove them out, at other times I turned round and feigned to sleep; but these manoeuvres were of no avail; still they poured in, and one old man, more impudent than the rest, understanding the trick, seized my pillow by the end, and, tugging at it as a dog pulls at a quarter of horse, roused me with loud impatient “Whu-hu” and “Hi, hi’s,” until at last, out of patience, I sent my boots whirling at his head. This cleared the room, but only for a moment: the boisterous, impudent crowd, true to savage nature, enjoying the annoyance they had occasioned, returned exultingly, with shouts and grins, in double numbers.
The Beluches then interfered, and, in their zeal to keep order, irritated some drunkards, who at once became pugnacious. On seeing the excited state of these drunkards, bawling and stepping about in long, sudden, and rapid strides, with brandished spears and agitated bows, endeavouring to exasperate the rest of the mob against us, I rose, and going out before them, said that I came forth for their satisfaction, and that they might now stand and gaze as long as they liked; but I hoped, as soon as their legs and arms were tired, that they would depart in peace. The words acted with magical effect upon them; they urgently requested me to retire again, but finding that I did not, they took themselves homewards. The sultan arrived late in the evening, he said from a long distance, on purpose to see me, and was very importunate in his desire for my halting a day. As I had paid all the other sultans the compliment of a visit, he should consider it a slight if I did not stay a little while with him. On the occasion of my passing northwards he had been absent, and could not entertain me; so I must now accept a bullock, which he would send for on the morrow. A long debate ensued, which ended by my giving him one shukka merikani and one dhoti kiniki.
13th. — Travelling through the Nindo Wilderness to-day, the Beluches were very much excited at the quantity of game they saw; but though they tried their best, they did not succeed in killing any. Troops of zebras, and giraffe, some varieties of antelopes roaming about in large herds, a buffalo and one ostrich, were the chief visible tenants of this wild. We saw the fresh prints of a very large elephant; and I have no doubt that by any sportsman, if he had but leisure to learn their haunts and watering-places, a good account might be made of them — but one and all are wild in the extreme. Ostrich-feathers bedeck the frizzly polls of many men and women, but no one has ever heard of any having been killed or snared by huntsmen. These ornaments, as well as the many skulls and skins seen in every house, are said to be found lying about in places where the animals have died a natural death.
14th. — We left, as we did yesterday, an hour before dawn, and crossed the second broad wilderness to Kahama. At 9 A.M. I called the usual halt to eat my rural breakfast of cold fowl, sour curd, cakes, and eggs, in a village on the south border of the desert. As the houses were devoid of all household commodities, I asked the people stopping there to tend the fields to explain the reason, and learnt that their fear of the plundering Wamanda was such that they only came there during the day to look after their crops, and at night they retired to some distant place of safe retreat in the jungles, where they stored all their goods and chattels. These people, in time of war, thus putting everything useful out of the way of the forager’s prying eyes, it is very seldom that blood is spilt. This country being full of sweet springs, accounts for the denseness of the population and numberless herds of cattle. To look upon its resources, one is struck with amazement at the waste of the world: if instead of this district being in the hands of its present owners, it were ruled by a few scores of Europeans, what an entire revolution a few years would bring forth! An extensive market would be opened to the world, the present nakedness of the land would have a covering, and industry and commerce would clear the way for civilisation and enlightenment.
At present the natural inert laziness and ignorance of the people is their own and their country’s bane. They are all totally unaware of the treasures at their feet. This dreadful sloth is in part engendered by the excessive bounty of the land in its natural state; by the little want of clothes or other luxuries, in consequence of the congenial temperature; and from the people having no higher object in view than the first-coming meal, and no other stimulus to exertion by example or anything else. The great cause, however, is their want of a strong protecting government to preserve peace, without which nothing can prosper. Thus they are, both morally and physically, little better than brutes, and as yet there is no better prospect in store for them. The climate is a paradox quite beyond my solving, unless the numerous and severe maladies that we all suffered from, during the first eight months of our explorations, may be attributed to too much exposure; and even that does not solve the problem. To all appearance, the whole of the country to the westward of the East Coast Range is high, dry, and healthy. No unpleasant exhalations pollute the atmosphere; there are no extremes of temperature; the air is neither too hot nor too cold; and a little care in hutting, dressing, and diet should obviate any evil effects of exposure. Springs of good water, and wholesome food, are everywhere obtainable. Flies and mosquitoes, the great Indian pests, are scarcely known, and the tsetse of the south nowhere exists. During the journey northwards, I always littered down in a hut at night; but the ticks bit me so hard, and the anxiety to catch stars between the constantly-fleeting clouds, to take their altitudes, perhaps preying on my mind, kept me many whole nights consecutively without obtaining even as much as one wink of sleep — a state of things I had once before suffered from. But there really was no assignable cause for this, unless weakness or feverishness could create wakefulness, and then it would seem surprising that even during the day, or after much fatigue, I rarely felt the slightest inclination to close my eyes. Now, on returning, without anything to excite the mind, and having always pitched the tent at night, I enjoyed cooler nights and perfect rest. Of diseases, the more common are remittent and intermittent fevers, and these are the most important ones to avoid, since they bring so many bad effects after them. In the first place, they attack the brain, and often deprive one of his senses. Then there is no rallying from the weakness they produce. A little attack, which one would only laugh at in India, prostrates you for a week or more, and this weakness brings on other disorders: cramp, for instance, of the most painful kind, very often follows. When lying in bed, my toes have sometimes curled round and looked me in the face; at other times, when I have put my hand behind my back, it has stuck there until, with the other hand, I have seized the contracted muscles, and warmed the part affected with the natural heat, till, relaxation taking place, I was able to get it back. Another nasty thing is the blindness which I have already described, and which attacked another of our party in a manner exactly similar to my complaint. He, like myself, left Africa with a misty veil floating before his eyes.
There are other disorders, but so foreign to my experience that I dare not venture to describe them. For as doctors disagree about the probable causes of their appearance, I most likely would only mislead if I tried to account for them. However, I think I may safely say they emanate from general debility, produced by the much-to-be-dreaded fevers.
15th. — The caravan broke ground at 4 P.M., and, completing the principal zigzag made to avoid wars, arrived at Senagongo. Kanoni, followed by a host of men, women, and children, advanced to meet the caravan, all roaringly intoxicated with joy, and lavishing greetings of welcome, with showers of “Yambo, Yambo Sanas” (“How are you?” and, “Very well, I hope?”) which we as warmly returned: the shakings of hands were past number, and the Beluches and Bombay could scarcely be seen under the hot embraces and sharp kisses of admiring damsels. When recovered from the shock of this great outburst of feelings, Kanoni begged me to fire a few shots, to apprise his enemies, and especially his big brother, of the honours paid him. No time was lost: I no sooner gave the order than bang, bang went every one of the escort’s guns, and the excited crowd, immediately seeing a supposed antagonist in the foreground, rushed madly after him. Then spears were flourished, thrust, stabbed, and withdrawn; arrows were pointed, huge shields protected black bodies, sticks and stones flew like hail; then there was a slight retreat, then another advance — dancing to one side, then to the other — jumping and prancing on the same ground, with bodies swaying here and bodies swaying there, until at length the whole foreground was a mass of moving objects, all springs and hops, like an army of frogs, after the first burst of rain, advancing to a pond: then again the guns went off, giving a fresh impulse to the exciting exercise.
Their great principle in their warfare appears to be, that no one should be still. At each report of the guns, fresh enemies were discovered retreating, and the numbers of their slain were quite surprising. These, as they dropped, were, with highly dramatic action, severally and immediately trampled down and knelt upon, and hacked and chopped repeatedly with knives, whilst the slayer continued showing his savage wrath by worrying his supposed victim with all the angry energy that dogs display when fighting. This triumphal entry over, Kanoni led us into his boma, and treated us with sour curd. Then, at my request, he assembled his principal men and greatest travellers to debate upon the N’yanza. One old man, shrivelled by age, stated that he had travelled up the western shores of the N’yanza two moons (sixty days) consecutively, had passed beyond Karagué into a country where coffee grows abundantly, and is called Muanyé. He described the shrub as standing between two and three feet high, having the stem nearly naked, but much branched above; it grows in large plantations, and forms the principal article of food. The people do not boil and drink it as we do, but eat the berry raw, with its husk on. The Arabs are very fond of eating these berries raw, and have often given us some. They bring them down from Uganda, where, for a pennyworth of beads, a man can have his fill.
When near these coffee plantations, he (our informer) visited an island on the lake, called Kitiri, occupied by the Watiri, a naked lot of beings, who subsist almost entirely on fish and coffee. The Watiri go about in large canoes like the Tanganyika ones; but the sea-travelling, he says, is very dangerous. In describing the boisterous nature of the lake, he made a rumbling, gurgling noise in his throat, which he increased and diversified by pulling and tapping at the skin covering the apple, and by puffing and blowing with great vehemence indicated extraordinary roughness of the elements. The sea itself, he said, was boundless. Kanoni now told me that the Muingira Nullah lies one day’s journey N.N.W. of this, and drains the western side of the Msalala district into the southern end of the N’yanza creek. It is therefore evident that those extensive lays in the Nindo and Salawé districts which we crossed extend down to this periodical river, which accounts for there being so many wild animals there: water being such an attractive object in these hot climes, all animals group round it. Kanoni is a dark, square, heavy-built man, very fond of imbibing pombé, and, like many tipplers, overflowing with human-kindness, especially in his cups. He kept me up several hours to-night, trying to induce me to accept a bullock, and to eat it in his boma, in the same manner as I formerly did with his brother. He was much distressed because I would not take the half of my requirements in cattle from him, instead of devoting everything to his brother Kurua; and not till I assured him I could not stay, but instead would leave Bombay and some Beluches with cloth to purchase some cows from his people, would he permit of my turning in to rest. It is strange to see how very soon, when questioning these negroes about anything relating to geography, their weak brains give way, and they can answer no questions, or they become so evasive in their replies, or so rambling, that you can make nothing out of them. It is easily discernible at what time you should cease to ask any further questions; for their heads then roll about like a ball upon a wire, and their eyes glass over and look vacantly about as though vitality had fled from their bodies altogether. Bombay, though, is a singular exception to this rule; but then, by long practice, he has become a great geographer, and delights in pointing out the different features on my map to his envying neighbours.
16th. — We came to Mgogua this morning, and were received by Kurua with his usual kind affability. Our entrance to his boma was quiet and unceremonious, for we came there quite unexpectedly — hardly giving him time to prepare his musket and return our salute. Though we were allowed a ready admission, a guinea-fowl I shot on the way was not. The superstitious people forbade its entrance in full plumage, so it was plucked before being brought inside the palisade. Kurua again arranged a hut for my residence, and was as assiduous as ever in his devotion to my comforts. All the elders of the district soon arrived, and the usual debates commenced. Kurua chiefly trades with Karagué and the northern kingdoms, but no one could add to the information I had already obtained. One of his men stated that he had performed the journey between Pangani on the east coast of Africa and the N’yanza three times, in about two months each time. The distance was very great for the little time it took him; but then he had to go for his life the whole way, in consequence of the Masai, or Wahuma, as some call them, being so inimical to strangers of any sort that he dare not stop or talk anywhere on the way.40 On leaving Pangani, he passed through Usumbara, and entered on the country of the warring nomadic race, the Masai; through their territories he travelled without halting until he arrived at Usukuma, bordering on the lake. His fear and speed were such that he did not recognise any other tribes or countries besides those enumerated.
Wishing to ascertain what number of men a populous country like this could produce in case of an attack, and to gain some idea of savage tactics, I proposed having a field-day. Kurua was delighted with the idea, and began roaring and laughing about it with his usual boisterous energy, to the great admiration of all the company. The programme was as follows:— At 3 P.M. on the 17th, Kurua and his warriors, all habited and drawn up in order of battle, were to occupy the open space in front of the village, whilst my party of Beluches, suddenly issuing from the village, would personate the enemy and commence the attack. This came off at the appointed time, and according to orders the forces were drawn up, and an engagement ensued. The Beluches, rushing through the passages of the palisaded village, suddenly burst upon the enemy, and fired and charged successively; to which the Wamanda replied with equal vigour, advancing with their frog-like leaps and bounds, dodging and squatting, and springing and flying in the most wild and fantastic manner; stabbing with their spears, protecting with their shields, poising with bows and arrows pointed, and, mingling with the Beluches, rushed about striking at and avoiding their guns and sabres. But all was so similar to the Senagongo display that it does not require a further description. The number of Kurua’s forces disappointed me — I fear the intelligence of the coming parade did not reach far. The dresses they wore did credit to their nation — some were decked with cock-tail plumes, others wore bunches of my guinea-fowl’s feathers in their hair, whilst the chiefs and swells were attired in long red baize mantles, consisting of a strip of cloth four feet by twenty inches, at one end of which they cut a slit to admit the head, and allowed the remainder to hang like a tail behind the back. Their spears and bows are of a very ordinary kind, and the shield is constructed something like the Kafir’s, from a long strip of bull’s hide, which is painted over with ochreish earth. The fight over, all hands rushed to the big drums in the cow-yard, and began beating them as though they deserved a drubbing: this “sweet music” set everybody on wires in a moment, and dancing never ceased till the sun went down, and the cows usurped the revelling-place. Kurua now gave me a good milch cow and calf, and promised two more of the same stamp. Those which were brought by the common people were mere weeds, and dry withal; they would not bring any good ones, I think, from fear of the sultan’s displeasure, lest I should prefer theirs to his, and deprive him of the consequent profits. My chief reason for leaving Bombay behind at Senagongo was, that business was never done when I was present. For, besides staring at me all day, the people speculated how to make the most of the chance offered by a rich man coming so suddenly amongst them, and in consequence of this avariciousness offered their cattle at such unreasonable prices as to preclude the transaction of any business.
18th. — Halt. My anticipations about the way of getting cows proved correct, for Bombay brought twelve animals, which cost twenty-three dhotis merikani and nine dhotis kiniki. Kurua now gave me another cow and calf, and promised me two more when we arrived at the Ukumbi district, as he did not like thinning one herd too much. I gave in return for his present one barsati, five dhotis merikani and two dhotis kiniki, with a promise of some gunpowder when we arrived at Unyanyembé, for he was still bent on going there with me. Perhaps I may consider my former obstruction in travel by Kurua a fortunate circumstance; for though the eldest brother’s residence lay directly in my way, he might not possess so kind a nature as these two younger brothers.
Still I cannot see any good reason for the Kirangozi abandoning the proper road: there certainly could be no more danger on the one side than on the other, and all would have been equally glad to have had me. It is true that I should have had to pass through his enemies’ hands to the other brother, and such a course usually excites suspicion; but, by the usual custom of the country, Kurua should have been treated by him only as a rebellious subject, for though all three brothers were by different mothers, they are considered in line of succession as ours are, when legitimately begotten by one mother. Some time ago the eldest brother made a tool of an Arab trader, and with that force on his side threatened these two brothers with immediate destruction unless they resigned to him the entire government, and his rights as senior. They admitted in his presence the justness of his words and the folly of waging war, as such a measure could only bring destruction on all alike; but on his departure they carried on their rule as before.
Bombay, talking figuratively with me, considers Kurua’s stopping me something like the use the monkey turned the cat’s paw to; that is, he stopped me simply to enhance his dignity, and gain the minds of the people by leading them to suppose I saw justice in his actions. Pombé-brewing, the chief occupation of the women, is as regular here as the revolution of day and night, and the drinking of it just as constant. It is prepared from bajéri and jowari (common millets): the first step in the manufacture is malting in the same way as we do barley; then they range a double street of sticks, usually in the middle of the village, fill a number of pots with these grains mixed in water, which they place in continuous line down the street of sticks, and, setting fire to the whole at once, boil away until the mess is fit to put aside for refining: this they then do, leaving the pots standing three days, when fermentation takes place and the liquor is fit to drink. It has the strength of labourers’ beer, and both sexes drink it alike. This fermented beverage resembles pig-wash, but is said to be so palatable and satisfying — for the dregs and all are drunk together — that many entirely subsist upon it. It is a great help to the slave-masters, for without it they could get nobody to till their ground; and when the slaves are required to turn the earth, the master always sits in judgment with lordly dignity, generally under a tree, watching to see who becomes entitled to a drop.
In the evening my attention was attracted by small processions of men and women, possessed of the Phépo, or demon, passing up the palisaded streets, turning into the different courts, and paying each and every house by turns a visit. The party advanced in slow funereal order, with gently springing, mincing, jogging action, some holding up twigs, others balancing open baskets of grain and tools on their heads, and with their bodies, arms, and heads in unison with the whole hobbling-bobling motion, kept in harmony to a low, mixed, droning, humming chorus. As the sultan’s door was approached, he likewise rose, and, mingling in the crowd, performed the same evolutions.
This kind of procession is common at Zanzibar: when any demoniacal possessions take place among the blacks, it is by this means they cast out devils. While on the subject of superstition, it may be worth mentioning what long ago struck me as a singular instance of the effect of supernatural impression on the uncultivated mind. During boyhood my old nurse used to tell me with great earnestness of a wonderful abortion shown about in the fairs of England — a child born with a pig’s head; and as solemnly declared that this freak of nature was attributable to the child’s mother having taken fright at a pig when in the interesting stage. The case I met in this country was still more far-fetched, for the abortion was supposed to be producible by indirect influence on the wife of the husband taking fright. On once shooting a pregnant doe waterboc, I directed my native huntsman, a married man, to dissect her womb and expose the embryo; but he shrank from the work with horror, fearing lest the sight of the kid, striking his mind, should have an influence on his wife’s future bearing, by metamorphosing her progeny to the likeness of a fawn.
19th. — We bade Kurua adieu in the early morning, as a caravan of his had just arrived from Karagué, and appointed to meet at the second station, as marching with cattle would be slow work for him. Our march lasted nine miles. The succeeding day we passed Ukumbi, and arrived at Uyombo. On the way I was obliged to abandon one of the donkeys, as he was completely used up. This made up our thirty-second loss in asses since leaving Zanzibar. My load of beads was now out, and I had to purchase rations with cloth — a necessary measure, but not economical, for the cloth does not go half as far as beads of the same value. I have remarked throughout this trip, that in all places where Arabs are not much in the habit of trading, very few cloths find their way, and in consequence the people take to wearing beads; and beads and baubles are the only foreign things much in requisition.
As remarks upon the relative value of commodities appear in various places in this diary, I shall endeavour to give a general idea how it is that I have found this plentiful country — quite beyond any other I have seen in Africa in fertility and stock — so comparatively dear to travel in. The Zanzibar route to Ujiji is now so constantly travelled over by Arabs and Wasuahili, that the people, seeing the caravans approach, erect temporary markets, or come hawking things for sale, and the prices are adapted to the abilities of the purchasers; and at such markets our Sheikh bought for us, and transacted all business. It is also to be observed that where things are brought for sale, they are invariably cheaper than in those places where one has to seek and ask for them; for in the one instance a livelihood is the consequence of trade, whereas in the other a chance purchaser is treated as a windfall to be made the most of. Now this line is just the opposite to the Ujiji one, and therefore dear; but added to those influences here, the sultans, to increase their own importance whilst having me their guest, invariably gave out that I was no peddling Arab or Msuahili, but a great Mundéwa, or merchant prince of the Wazungu (white or wise men), and the people took the hint to make me pay or starve. Then again, not having the Sheikh with me, I had to pay for and settle everything myself; and from having no variety of beads in this exclusively bead country, there was great inconvenience.
Kurua now joined us, and reported the abandoned donkey dead. A cool shower of rain fell, to the satisfaction of every thirsty soul. It is delightful to observe the freshness which even one partial shower imparts to all animated nature after a long-continued drought.
27 This magnificent sheet of water I have ventured to name VICTORIA, after our gracious Sovereign. Its length was not clearly understood by me, in consequence of the word Sea having been applied both to the Lake and to the Nile by my local informants; and there was no recent map of the Nile with the expedition by which I might have been guided.
28 I now think the breadth is over one hundred miles.
29 Mahaya said he was of Wahinda extraction, or from the princes of the Wahuma; but this I do not believe, for his features bore the strongest possible testimony against him.
30 The King of Uganda has sent presents by boat to Machunda, Sultan of Ukéréwé, coasting along the western shore of the lake. Mtésa told me this himself, and asked me if I knew Machunda personally.
31 The Waganda also send boats for salt to the Bahari (Lake) Ngo, at the north-east corner of the lake.
32 On my return to England I constructed a map representing this view, and lectured on the same in presence of Captain Burton, who then raised no objections to what I said.
33 In England geographers doubted this; and after it was printed, Dr Petermann had reason to change his opinion. However, Knoblecher was not far wrong, as I have since made the latitude of Gondokoro 4° 54’ north.
34 The rising of the Katonga still puzzles me.
35 Kibuga means palace.
36 There are three cataracts between the N’yanza and Gondokoro: 1. from Ripon Falls to Urondogani; 2. from Karuma Falls to Little Luta Nzigé; 3. from Apuddo to near Gondokoro.
37 Captain Burton, by way of having a special Lunæ Montes of his own, calls these mountains a “mass of highlands, which, under the name of Karagwah, forms the western spinal prolongation of the Lunar Mountains.” See his ‘Lake Regions,’ vol. ii. p. 144.
38 There are exceptions to the rule in the instance of the Waganda, who are of an earth-red colour; for these men never fight excepting in overpowering numbers.
39 The history of the Wahuma has been given in ‘The Discovery of the Source of the Nile.’ The Watuta also have been alluded to, for they were fighting on my line of march. I heard then of the arrival of a recent detachment from the west of the Nyassa, and subsequently I heard they had invaded Usui.
40 The Wahuma are a link between the Masai and the Kafirs, so far as I can judge of the common origin of this migratory pastoral race. The ethnologist ought to look well into this matter, and treat it without regard to change of language or names, as time will efface and create both anew.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55