Escape from Protectors — Cross the Kitangule, the First Affluent of the Nile — Enter Uddu — Uganda — A Rich Country — Driving away the Devil — A Conflict in the Camp — A Pretending Prince — Three Pages with a Diplomatic Message from the King of Uganda — Crime in Uganda.
Crossing back over the Weranhanje spur, I put up with the Arabs at Kufro. Here, for the first time in this part of the world, I found good English peas growing. Next day (11th), crossing over a succession of forks, supporters to the main spur, we encamped at Luandalo. Here we were overtaken by Rozaro, who had remained behind, as I now found, to collect a large number of Wanyambo, whom he called his children, to share with him the gratuitous living these creatures always look out for on a march of this nature.
After working round the end of the great spur whilst following down the crest of a fork, we found Karague separated by a deep valley from the hilly country of Uhaiya, famous for its ivory and coffee productions. On entering the rich plantain gardens of Kisaho, I was informed we must halt there a day for Maula to join us, as he had been detained by Rumanika, who, wishing to give him a present, had summoned Rozaro’s sister to his palace for that purpose. She was married to another, and had two children by him, but that did not signify, as it was found in time her husband had committed a fault, on account of which it was thought necessary to confiscate all his property.
At this place all the people were in a constant state of inebriety, drinking pombe all day and all night. I shot a montana antelope, and sent its head and skin back to Grant, accompanied with my daily report to Rumanika.
Maula having joined me, we marched down to near the end of the fork overlooking the plain of Kitangule — the Waganada drums beating, and whistles playing all the way we went along.
We next descended from the Mountains of the Moon, and spanned a long alluvial plain to the settlement of the so-long-heard-of Kitangule, where Rumanika keeps his thousands and thousands of cows. In former days the dense green forests peculiar to the tropics, which grow in swampy places about this plain, were said to have been stocked by vast herds of elephants; but, since the ivory trade had increased, these animals had all been driven off to the hills of Kisiwa and Uhaiya, or into Uddu beyond the river, and all the way down to the N’yanza.
To-day we reached the Kitangule Kagera, or river, which, as I ascertained in the year 1858, falls into the Victoria N’yanza on the west side. Most unfortunately, as we led off to cross it, rain began to pour, so that everybody and everything was thrown into confusion. I could not get a sketch of it, though Grant was more fortunate afterwards; neither could I measure or fathom it; and it was only after a long contest with the superstitious boatmen that they allowed me to cross in their canoe with my shoes on, as they thought the vessel would either upset, or else the river would dry up, in consequence of their Neptune taking offence at me. Once over, I looked down on the noble stream with considerable pride. About eight yards broad, it was sunk down a considerable depth below the surface of the land, like a huge canal, and is so deep, it could not be poled by the canoemen; while it runs at a velocity of from three to four knots an hour.
I say I viewed it with pride, because I had formed my judgment of its being fed from high-seated springs in the Mountains of the Moon solely on scientific geographical reasonings; and, from the bulk of the stream, I also believed those mountains must obtain an altitude of 8000 feet16 or more, just as we find they do in Ruanda. I thought then to myself, as I did at Rumanika’s, when I first viewed the Mfumbiro cones, and gathered all my distant geographical information there, that these highly saturated Mountains of the Moon give birth to the Congo as well as to the Nile, and also to the Shire branch of the Zambeze.
16 In ‘Blackwood’s Magazine’ for August 1859.
I came, at the same time, to the conclusion that all our previous information concerning the hydrography of these regions, as well as the Mountains of the Moon, originated with the ancient Hindus, who told it to the priests of the Nile; and that all those busy Egyptian geographers, who disseminated their knowledge with a view to be famous for their long-sightedness, in solving the deep-seated mystery with enshrouded the source of their holy river, were so many hypothetical humbugs. Reasoning thus, the Hindu traders alone, in those days, I believed, had a firm basis to stand upon, from their intercourse with the Abyssinians — through whom they must have heard of the country of Amara, which they applied to the N’yanza — and with the Wanyamuezi or men of the Moon, from whom they heard of the Tanganyika and Karague mountains. I was all the more impressed with this belief, by knowing that the two church missionaries, Rebmann and Erhardt, without the smallest knowledge of the Hindus’ map, constructed a map of their own, deduced from the Zanzibar traders, something on the same scale, by blending the Victoria N’yanza, Tanganyida, and N’yazza into one; whilst to their triuned lake they gave the name Moon, because the men of the Moon happened to live in front of the central lake. And later still, Mr Leon, another missionary, heard of the N’yanza and the country Amara, near which he heard the Nile made its escape.
Going on with the march we next came to Ndongo, a perfect garden of plantains. The whole country was rich — most surprisingly so. The same streaky argillaceous sandstones prevailed as in Karague. There was nothing, in fact, that would not have grown here, if it liked moisture and a temperate heat. It was a perfect paradise for negroes: as fast as they sowed they were sure of a crop without much trouble; though, I must say, they kept their huts and their gardens in excellent order.
As Maula would stop here, I had to halt also. The whole country along the banks of the river, and near some impenetrable forests, was alive with antelopes, principally hartebeests, but I would not fire at them until it was time to return, as the villagers led me to expect buffaloes. The consequence was, as no buffaloes were to be found, I got no sport, though I wounded a hartebeest, and followed him almost into camp, when I gave up the chase to some negroes, and amused myself by writing to Rumanika, to say if Grant did not reach me by a certain date, I would try to navigate the N’yanza, and return to him in boats up the Kitangule river.
We crossed over a low spur of hill extending from the mountainous kingdom of Nkole, on our left, towards the N’yanza. Here I was shown by Nasib a village called Ngandu, which was the farthest trading depot of the Zanzibar ivory-merchants. It was established by Musa Mzuri, by the permission of Rumanika; for, as I shall have presently to mention, Sunna, after annexing this part of Uddu to Uganda, gave Rumanika certain bands of territory in it as a means of security against the possibility of its being wrested out of his hands again by the future kings of Unyoro. Following on Musa’s wake, many Arabs also came here to trade; but they were so oppressive to the Waganda that they were recalled by Rumanika, and obliged to locate themselves at Kufro. To the right, at the end of the spur, stretching as far as the eye could reach towards the N’yanza, was a rich, well-wooded, swampy plain, containing large open patches of water, which not many years since, I was assured, were navigable for miles, but now, like the Urigi lake, were gradually drying up. Indeed, it appeared to me as if the N’yanza must have once washed the foot of these hills, but had since shrunk away from its original margin.
On arrival at Ngambezi, I was immensely struck with the neatness and good arrangement of the place, as well as its excessive beauty and richness. No part of Bengal or Zanzibar could excel it in either respect; and my men, with one voice, exclaimed, “Ah, what people these Waganda are!” and passed other remarks, which may be abridged as follows:—“They build their huts and keep their gardens just as well as we do at Unguja, with screens and enclosures for privacy, a clearance in front of their establishments, and a baraza or reception-hut facing the buildings. Then, too, what a beautiful prospect it has! — rich marshy plains studded with mounds, on each of which grow the umbrella cactus, or some other evergreen tree; and beyond, again, another hill-spur such as the one we have crossed over.” One of king Mtesa’s uncles, who had not been burnt to death by the order of the late king Sunna on his ascension to the throne, was the proprietor of this place, but unfortunately he was from home. However, his substitute gave me his baraza to live in, and brought many presents of goats, fowls, sweet potatoes, yams, plantains, sugarcane, and Indian corn, and apologised in the end for deficiency in hospitality. I, of course, gave him beads in return.
Continuing over the same kind of ground in the next succeeding spurs of the streaky red-clay sandstone hills, we put up at the residence of Isamgevi, a Mkungu or district officer of Rumanika’s. His residence was as well kept as Mtesa’s uncle’s; but instead of a baraza fronting his house, he had a small enclosure, with three small huts in it, kept apart for devotional purposes, or to propitiate the evil spirits — in short, according to the notions of the place, a church. This officer gave me a cow and some plantains, and I in return gave him a wire and some beads. Many mendicant women, called by some Wichwezi, by others Mabandwa, all wearing the most fantastic dresses of mbugu, covered with beads, shells, and sticks, danced before us, singing a comic song, the chorus of which was a long shrill rolling Coo-roo-coo-roo, coo-roo-coo-roo, delivered as they came to a standstill. Their true functions were just as obscure as the religion of the negroes generally; some called them devil-drivers, other evil-eye averters; but, whatever it was for, they imposed a tax on the people, whose minds being governed by a necessity for making some self-sacrifice to propitiate something, they could not tell what, for their welfare in the world, they always gave them a trifle in the same way as the East Indians do their fakirs.
After crossing another low swampy flat, we reached a much larger group, or rather ramification, of hill-spurs pointing to the N’yanza, called Kisuere, and commanded by M’yombo, Rumanika’s frontier officer. Immediately behind this, to the northward, commenced the kingdom of Unyoro; and here it was, they said, Baraka would branch off my line on his way to Kamrasi. Maula’s home was one march distant from this, so the scoundrel now left me to enjoy himself there, giving as his pretext for doing so, that Mtesa required him, as soon as I arrived here, to send on a messenger that order might be taken for my proper protection on the line of march; for the Waganda were a turbulent set of people, who could only be kept in order by the executioner; and doubtless many, as was customary on such occasions, would be beheaded, as soon as Mtesa heard of my coming, to put the rest in a fright. I knew this was all humbug, of course, and I told him so; but it was of no use, and I was compelled to halt.
On the 23d another officer, named Maribu, came to me and said, Mtesa, having heard that Grant was left sick behind at Karague, had given him orders to go there and fetch him, whether sick or well, for Mtesa was most anxious to see white men. Hearing this I at once wrote to Grant, begging him to come on if he could do so, and to bring with him all the best of my property, or as much as he could of it, as I now saw there was more cunning humbug than honesty in what Rumanika had told me about the impossibility of our going north from Uganda, as well as in his saying sick men could not go into Uganda, and donkeys without trousers would not be admitted there, because they were considered indecent. If he was not well enough to move, I advised him to wait there until I reached Mtesa’s, when I would either go up the lake and Kitangule to fetch him away, or would make the king send boats for him, which I more expressly wished, as it would tend to give us a much better knowledge of the lake.
Maula now came again, after receiving repeated and angry messages, and I forced him to make a move. He led me straight up to his home, a very nice place, in which he gave me a very large, clean, and comfortable hut — had no end of plantains brought for me and my men — and said, “Now you have really entered the kingdom of Uganda, for the future you must buy no more food. At every place that you stop for the day, the officer in charge will bring you plantains, otherwise your men can help themselves in the gardens, for such are the laws of the land when a king’s guest travels in it. Any one found selling anything to either yourself or your men would be punished.” Accordingly, I stopped the daily issue of beads; but no sooner had I done so, than all my men declared they could not eat plantains. It was all very well, they said, for the Waganda to do so, because they were used to it, but it did not satisfy their hunger.
Maula, all smirks and smiles, on seeing me order the things out for the march, begged I would have patience, and wait till the messenger returned from the king; it would not take more than ten days at the most. Much annoyed at this nonsense, I ordered my tent to be pitched. I refused all Maula’s plantains, and gave my men beads to buy grain with; and, finding it necessary to get up some indignation, said I would not stand being chained like a dog; if he would not go on ahead, I should go without him. Maula then said he would go to a friend’s and come back again. I said, if he did not, I should go off; and so the conversation ended.
26th. — Drumming, singing, screaming, yelling, and dancing had been going on these last two days and two nights to drive the Phepo or devil out of a village. The whole of the ceremonies were most ludicrous. An old man and woman, smeared with white mud, and holding pots of pombe in their laps, sat in front of a hut, whilst other people kept constantly bringing them baskets full of plantain-squash, and more pots of pombe. In the courtyard fronting them, were hundreds of men and women dressed in smart mbugus — the males wearing for turbans, strings of abrus-seeds wound round their heads, with polished boars’ tusks stuck in in a jaunty manner. These were the people who, drunk as fifers, were keeping up such a continual row to frighten the devil away. In the midst of this assembly I now found Kachuchu, Rumanika’s representative, who went on ahead from Karague palace to tell Mtesa that I wished to see him. With him, he said, were two other Wakungu of Mtesa’s, who had orders to bring on my party and Dr K’yengo’s. Mtesa, he said, was so mad to see us, that the instant he arrived at the palace and told him we wished to visit him, the king caused “fifty big men and four hundred small ones” to be executed, because, he said, his subjects were so bumptious they would not allow any visitors to come near him, else he would have had white men before.
27th. — N’yamgundu, my old friend at Usui, then came to me, and said he was the first man to tell Mtesa of our arrival in Usui, and wish to visit him. The handkerchief I had given Irungu at Usui to present as a letter to Mtesa he had snatched away from him, and given, himself, to his king, who no sooner received it than he bound it round his head, and said, in ecstasies of delight, “Oh, the Mzungu, the Mzungu! he does indeed want to see me.” Then giving him four cows as a return letter to take to me, he said, “Hurry off as quickly as possible and bring him here.” “The cows,” said N’yamgundu, “have gone on to Kisuere by another route, but I will bring them here; and then, as Maula is taking you, I will go and fetch Grant.” I then told him not to be in such a hurry. I had turned off Maula for treating me like a dog, and I would not be escorted by him again. He replied that his orders would not be fully accomplished as long as any part of my establishment was behind; so he would, if I wished it, leave part of his “children” to guide me on to Mtesa’s, whilst he went to fetch Grant. An officer, I assured him, had just gone on to fetch Grant, so he need not trouble his head on that score; at any rate, he might reverse his plan, and send his children for Grant, whilst he went on with me, by which means he would fully accomplish his mission. Long arguments ensued, and I at length turned the tables by asking who was the greatest — myself or my children; when he said, “As I see you are the greatest, I will do as you wish; and after fetching the cows from Kisuere, we will march to-morrow at sunrise.”
The sun rose, but N’yamgundu did not appear. I was greatly annoyed lest Maula should come and try to drive him away. I waited, restraining my impatience until noon, when, as I could stand it no longer, I ordered Bombay to strike my tent, and commence the march. A scene followed, which brought out my commander-in-chief’s temper in a rather surprising shape. “How can we go in?” said Bombay. “Strike the tent,” said I. “Who will guide us?” said Bombay. “Strike the tent,” I said again. “But Rumanika’s men have all gone away, and there is no one to show us the way.” “Never mind; obey my orders, and strike the tent.” Then, as Bombay would not do it, I commenced myself, assisted by some of my other men, and pulled it down over his head, all the women who were assembled under it, and all the property. On this, Bombay flew into a passion, abusing the men who were helping me, as there were fires and powder-boxes under the tent. I of course had to fly into a passion and abuse Bombay. He, in a still greater rage, said he would pitch into the men, for the whole place would be blown up. “That is no reason why you should abuse my men,” I said, “who are better than you by obeying my orders. If I choose to blow up my property, that is my look-out; and if you don’t do your duty, I will blow you up also.” Foaming and roaring with rage, Bombay said he would not stand being thus insulted. I then gave him a dig on the head with my fist. He squared up, and pouted like an enraged chameleon, looking savagely at me. I gave him another dig, which sent him staggering. He squared again: I gave him another; till at last, as the claret was flowing, he sulked off, and said he would not serve me any more. I then gave Nasib orders to take Bombay’s post, and commence the march; but the good old man made Bombay give in, and off we went, amidst crowds of Waganda, who had collected to witness with comedy, and were all digging at one another’s heads, showing off in pantomime the strange ways of the white man. N’yamgundu then jointed us, and begged us to halt only one more day, as some of his women were still at Kisuere; but Bombay, showing his nozzle rather flatter than usual, said, “No; I got this on account of your lies. I won’t tell Bana any more of your excuses for stopping; you may tell him yourself if you like.” N’yamgundu, however, did not think this advisable, and so we went on as we were doing. It was the first and last time I had ever occasion to lose my dignity by striking a blow with my own hands; but I could not help it on this occasion without losing command and respect; for although I often had occasion to award 100 and even 150 lashes to my men for stealing, I could not, for the sake of due subordination, allow any inferior officer to strike Bombay, and therefore had to do the work myself.
Skirting the hills on the left, with a large low plain to the right we soon came on one of those numerous rush-drains that appear to me to be the last waters left of the old bed of the N’yanza. This one in particular was rather large, being 150 yards wide. It was sunk where I crossed it, like a canal, 14 feet below the plain; and what with mire and water combined, so deep, I was obliged to take off my trousers whilst fording it. Once across, we sought for and put up in a village beneath a small hill, from the top of which I saw the Victoria N’yanza for the first time on this march. N’yamgundu delighted me much: treating me as king, he always fell down on his knees to address me, and made all his “children” look after my comfort in camp.
We marched on again over the same kind of ground, alternately crossing rush-drains of minor importance, though provokingly frequent, and rich gardens, from which, as we passed, all the inhabitants bolted at the sound of our drums, knowing well that they would be seized and punished if found gazing at the king’s visitors. Even on our arrival at Ukara not one soul was visible. The huts of the villagers were shown to myself and my men without any ceremony. The Wanyambo escort stole what they liked out of them, and I got into no end of troubles trying to stop the practice; for they said the Waganda served them the same way when they went to Karague, and they had a right to retaliate now. To obviate this distressing sort of plundering, I still served out beads to my men, and so kept them in hand a little; but they were fearfully unruly, and did not like my interference with what by the laws of the country they considered their right.
Here I had to stop a day for some of N’yamgundu’s women, who, in my hurry at leaving Maula’s, were left behind. A letter from Grant was now brought to me by a very nice-looking young man, who had the skin of a leopard-cat (F. Serval) tied round his neck — a badge which royal personages only were entitled to wear. N’yamgundu seeing this, as he knew the young man was not entitled to wear it, immediately ordered his “children” to wrench it from him. Two ruffianly fellows then seized him by his hands, and twisted his arms round and round until I thought they would come out of their sockets. Without uttering a sound the young man resisted, until N’yamgundu told them to be quiet, for he would hold a court on the subject, and see if the young man could defend himself. The ruffians then sat on the ground, but still holding on to him; whilst N’yamgundu took up a long stick, and breaking it into sundry bits of equal length, placed one by one in front of him, each of which was supposed to represent one number in line of succession to his forefathers. By this it was proved he did not branch in any way from the royal stock. N’yamgundu then turning to the company, said, What would he do now to expiate his folly? If the matter was taken before Mtesa he would lose his head; was it not better he should pay one hundred cows All agreeing to this, the young man said he would do so, and quietly allowed the skin to be untied and taken off by the ruffians.
Next day, after crossing more of those abominable rush-drains, whilst in sight of the Victoria N’yanza, we ascended the most beautiful hills, covered with verdure of all descriptions. At Meruka, where I put up, there resided some grandees, the chief of whom was the king’s aunt. She sent me a goat, a hen, a basket of eggs, and some plantains, in return for which I sent her a wire and some beads. I felt inclined to stop here a month, everything was so very pleasant. The temperature was perfect. The roads, as indeed they were everywhere, were as broad as our coach-roads, cut through the long grasses, straight over the hills and down through the woods in the dells — a strange contrast to the wretched tracks in all the adjacent countries. The huts were kept so clean and so neat, not a fault could be found with them — the gardens the same. Wherever I strolled I saw nothing but richness, and what ought to be wealth. The whole land was a picture of quiescent beauty, with a boundless sea in the background. Looking over the hills, it struck the fancy at once that at one period the whole land must have been at a uniform level with their present tops, but that by the constant denudation it was subjected to by frequent rains, it had been cut down and sloped into those beautiful hills and dales which now so much pleased the eye; for there were none of those quartz dykes I had seen protruding through the same kink of aqueous formations in Usui and Karague; nor were there any other sorts of volcanic disturbance to distort the calm quiet aspect of the scene.
From this, the country being all hill and dale, with miry rush-drains in the bottoms, I walked, carrying my shoes and stockings in my hands, nearly all the way. Rozaro’s “children” became more and more troublesome, stealing everything they could lay their hands upon out of the village huts we passed on the way. On arrival at Sangua, I found many of them had been seized by some men who, bolder than the rest, had overtaken them whilst gutting their huts, and made them prisoners, demanding of me two slaves and one load of beads for their restitution. I sent my men back to see what had happened, and ordered them to bring all the men on to me, that I might see fair play. They, however, took the law into their own hands, drove off the Waganda villagers by firing their muskets, and relieved the thieves. A complaint was then laid against Nyamgundu by the chief officer of the village, and I was requested to halt. That I would not do, leaving the matter in the hands of the governor-general, Mr Pokino, whom I heard we should find at the next station, Masaka.
On arrival there at the government establishment — a large collection of grass huts, separated one from the other within large enclosures, which overspread the whole top of a low hill — I was requested to withdraw and put up in some huts a short distance off, and wait until his excellency, who was from home, could come and see me; which the next day he did, coming in state with a large number of officers, who brought with them a cow, sundry pots of pombe, enormous sticks of sugar-cane, and a large bundle of country coffee. This grows in great profusion all over this land in large bushy trees, the berries sticking on the branches like clusters of hollyberries.
I was then introduced, and told that his excellency was the appointed governor of all the land lying between the Katonga and the Kitangule rivers. After the first formalities were over, the complaint about the officers at Sangua was preferred for decision, on which Pokino at once gave it against the villagers, as they had no right, by the laws of the land, to lay hands on a king’s guest. Just then Maula arrived, and began to abuse N’yamgundu. Of course I would not stand this; and, after telling all the facts of the case, I begged Pokino to send Maula away out of my camp. Pokino said he could not do this, as it was by the king’s order he was appointed; but he put Maula in the background, laughing at the way he had “let the bird fly out of his hands,” and settled that N’yamgundu should be my guide. I then gave him a wire, and he gave me three large sheets of mbugu, which he said I should require, as there were so many water-courses to cross on the road I was going. A second day’s halt was necessitated by many of my men catching fever, probably owing to the constant crossing of those abominable rush-drains. There was no want of food here, for I never saw such a profusion of plantains anywhere. They were literally lying in heaps on the ground, though the people were brewing pombe all day, and cooking them for dinner every evening.
After crossing many more hills and miry bottoms, constantly coming in view of the lake, we reached Ugonzi, and after another march of the same description, came to Kituntu, the last officer’s residence in Uddu. Formerly it was the property of a Beluch named Eseau, who came to this country with merchandise, trading on account of Said Said, late Sultan of Zanzibar; but having lost it all on his way here, paying mahongo, or taxes, and so forth he feared returning, and instead made great friends with the late king Sunna, who took an especial fancy to him because he had a very large beard, and raised him to the rank of Mkungu. A few years ago, however, Eseau died, and left all his family and property to a slave named Uledi, who now, in consequence, is the border officer.
I became now quite puzzled whilst thinking which was the finest spot I had seen in Uddu, so many were exceedingly beautiful; but I think I gave the preference to this, both for its own immediate neighbourhood and the long range of view it afforded of Uganda proper, the lake, and the large island, or group of islands, called Sese where the king of Uganda keeps one of his fleets of boats.
Some little boys came here who had all their hair shaved off excepting two round tufts on either side of the head. They were the king’s pages; and, producing three sticks, said they had brought them to me from their king, who wanted three charms or medicines. Then placing one stick on the ground before me, they said, “This one is a head which, being affected by dreams of a deceased relative, requires relief”; the second symbolised the king’s desire for the accomplishment of a phenomenon to which the old phalic worship was devoted; “and this third one,” they said, “is a sign that the king wants a charm to keep all his subjects in awe of him.” I then promised I would do what I could when I reached the palace, but feared to do anything in the distance. I wished to go on with the march, but was dissuaded by N’yamgundu, who said he had received orders to find me some cows here, as his king was most anxious I should be well fed. Next day, however, we descended into the Katonga valley, where, instead of finding a magnificent broad sheet of water, as I had been led to expect by the Arabs’ account of it, I found I had to wade through a succession of rush-drains divided one from the other by islands. It took me two hours, with my clothes tucked up under my arms, to get through them all; and many of them were so matted with weeds, that my feet sank down as though I trod in a bog.
The Waganda all said that at certain times in the year no one could ford these drains, as they all flooded; but, strangely enough, they were always lowest when most rain fell in Uganda. No one, however, could account for this singular fact. No one knew of a lake to supply the waters, nor where they came from. That they flowed into the lake there was no doubt — as I could see by the trickling waters in some few places — and they lay exactly on the equator. Rising out of the valley, I found all the country just as hilly as before, but many of the rush-drains going to northward; and in the dells were such magnificent trees, they quite took me by surprise. Clean-trunked, they towered up just as so many great pillars, and then spread out their high branches like a canopy over us. I thought of the blue gums of Australia, and believed these would beat them. At the village of Mbule we were gracefully received by the local officer, who brought a small present, and assured me that the king was in a nervous state of excitement, always asking after me. Whilst speaking he trembled, and he was so restless he could never sit still.
Up and down we went on again through this wonderful country, surprisingly rich in grass, cultivation, and trees. Watercourses were as frequent as ever, though not quite so troublesome to the traveller, as they were more frequently bridged with poles or palm-tree trunks.
This, the next place we arrived at, was N’yamgundu’s own residence, where I stopped a day to try and shoot buffaloes. Maula here had the coolness to tell me he must inspect all the things I had brought for presentation to the king, as he said it was the custom; after which he would hurry on and inform his majesty. Of course I refused, saying it was uncourteous to both the king and myself. Still he persisted, until, finding it hopeless, he spitefully told N’yamgundu to keep me here at least two days. N’yamgundu, however, very prudently told him he should obey his orders, which were to take me on as fast as he could. I then gave N’yamgundu wires and beads for himself and all his family round, which made Maula slink further away from me than ever.
The buffaloes were very numerous in the tall grasses that lined the sides and bottoms of the hills; but although I saw some, I could not get a shot, for the grasses being double the height of myself, afforded them means of dashing out of view as soon as seen, and the rustling noise made whilst I followed them kept them on the alert. At night a hyena came into my hut, and carried off one of my goats that was tied to a log between two of my sleeping men.
During the next march, after passing some of the most beautifully-wooded dells, in which lay small rush-lakes on the right of the road, draining, as I fancied, into the Victoria Lake, I met with a party of the king’s gamekeepers, staking their nets all along the side of a hill, hoping to catch antelopes by driving the covers with dogs and men. Farther on, also, I came on a party driving one hundred cows, as a present from Mtesa to Rumanika, which the officers in charge said was their king’s return for the favour Rumanika had done him in sending me on to him. It was in this way that great kings sent “letters” to one another.
Next day, after going a short distance, we came on the Mwarango river, a broad rush-drain of three hundred yards’ span, two-thirds of which was bridged over. Until now I did not feel sure where the various rush-drains I had been crossing since leaving the Katonga valley all went to, but here my mind was made up, for I found a large volume of water going to the northwards. I took off my clothes at the end of the bridge and jumped into the stream, which I found was twelve yards or so broad, and deeper than my height. I was delighted beyond measure at this very surprising fact, that I was indeed on the northern slopes of the continent, and had, to all appearance, found one of the branches of the Nile’s exit from the N’yanza. I drew Bombay’s attention to the current; and, collecting all the men of the country, inquired of them where the river sprang from. Some of them said, in the hills to the southward; but most of them said, from the lake. I argued the point with them; for I felt quite sure so large a body of flowing water could not be collected together in any place but the lake. They then all agreed to this view, and further assured me it went to Kamrasi’s palace in Unyoro, where it joined the N’yanza, meaning the Nile.
Pushing on again we arrived at N’yama Goma, where I found Irungu — the great ambassador I had first met in Usui, with all his “children”— my enemy Makinga, and Suwarora’s deputation with wire — altogether, a collection of one hundred souls. They had been here a month waiting for leave to approach the king’s palace. Not a villager was to be seen for miles round; not a plantain remained on the trees, nor was there even a sweet potato to be found in the ground. The whole of the provisions of this beautiful place had been devoured by the king’s guests, simply because he had been too proud to see them in a hurry. This was alarming, for I feared I should be served the same trick, especially as all the people said this kind of treatment was a mere matter of custom which those great kings demanded as a respect due to their dignity; and Bombay added, with laughter, they make all manner of fuss to entice one to come when in the distance, but when they have got you in their power they become haughty about it, and think only of how they can best impose on your mind the great consequence which they affect before their own people.
Here I was also brought to a standstill, for N’yamgundu said I must wait for leave to approach the palace. He wished to have a look at the presents I had brought for Mtesa. I declined to gratify it, taking my stand on my dignity; there was no occasion for any distrust on such a trifling matter as that, for I was not a merchant who sought for gain, but had come, at great expense, to see the king of this region. I begged, however, he would go as fast as possible to announce my arrival, explain my motive for coming here, and ask for an early interview, as I had left my brother Grant behind at Karague, and found my position, for want of a friend to talk to, almost intolerable. It was not the custom of my country for great men to consort with servants, and until I saw him, and made friends, I should not be happy. I had a great deal to tell him about, as he was the father of the Nile, which river drained the N’yanza down to my country to the northward. With this message N’yamgundu hurried off as fast as possible.
Next day (15th) I gave each of my men a fez cap, and a piece of red blanket to make up military jackets. I then instructed them how to form a guard of honour when I went to the palace, and taught Bombay the way Nazirs was presented at courts in India. Altogether we made a good show. When this was concluded I went with Nasib up a hill, from which we could see the lake on one side, and on the other a large range of huts said to belong to the king’s uncle, the second of the late king Sunna’s brothers, who was not burnt to death when he ascended the throne.
I then (16th) very much wished to go and see the escape of the Mwerango river, as I still felt a little sceptical as to its origin, whether or not it came off those smaller lakes I had seen on the road the day before I crossed the river; but no one would listen to my project. They all said I must have the king’s sanction first, else people, from not knowing my object, would accuse me of practising witchcraft, and would tell their king so. They still all maintained that the river did come out of the lake, and said, if I liked to ask the king’s leave to visit the spot, then they would go and show it me. I gave way, thinking it prudent to do so, but resolved in my mind I would get Grant to see it in boats on his voyage from Karague. There were not guinea-fowls to be found here, nor a fowl, in any of the huts, so I requested Rozaro to hurry off to Mtesa, and ask him to send me something to eat. He simply laughed at my request, and said I did not know what I was doing. It would be as much as his life was worth to go one yard in advance of this until the king’s leave was obtained. I said, rather than be starved to death in this ignominious manner, I would return to Karague; to which he replied, laughing, “Whose leave have you got to do that? Do you suppose you can do as you like in this country?”
Next day (17th), in the evening, N’yamgundu returned full of smirks and smiles, dropped on his knees at my feet, and, in company with his “children,” set to n’yanzigging, according to the form of that state ceremonial already described. 17 In his excitement he was hardly able to say all he had to communicate. Bit by bit, however, I learned that he first went to the palace, and, finding the king had gone off yachting to the Murchison Creek, he followed him there. The king for a long while would not believe his tale that I had come, but, being assured, he danced with delight, and swore he would not taste food until he had seen me. “Oh,” he said, over and over again and again, according to my informer, “can this be true? Can the white man have come all this way to see me? What a strong man he must be too, to come so quickly! Here are seven cows, four of them milch ones, as you say he likes milk, which you will give him; and there are three for yourself for having brought him so quickly. Now, hurry off as fast as you can, and tell him I am more delighted at the prospect of seeing him than he can be to see me. There is no place here fit for his reception. I was on a pilgrimage which would have kept me here seven days longer but as I am so impatient to see him, I will go off to my palace at once, and will send word for him to advance as soon as I arrive there.”
17 See p. 211.
About noon the succeeding day, some pages ran in to say we were to come along without a moment’s delay, as their king had ordered it. He would not taste food until he saw me, so that everybody might know what great respect he felt for me. In the meanwhile, however, he wished for some gunpowder. I packed the pages off as fast as I could with some, and tried myself to follow, but my men were all either sick or out foraging, and therefore we could not get under way until the evening. After going a certain distance, we came on a rush-drain, of much greater breadth even than the Mwerango, called the Moga (or river) Myanza, which was so deep I had to take off my trousers and tuck my clothes under my arms. It flowed into the Mwerango, but with scarcely any current at all. This rush-drain, all the natives assured me, rose in the hills to the southward — not in the lake, as the Mwerango did — and it was never bridged over like that river, because it was always fordable. This account seemed to me reasonable; for though so much broader in its bed than the Mwerango, it had no central, deep-flowing current.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00