A valley of despond, and hot-bed of malaria. — Myriads of vermin. — The Makata swamp. — A sorrowful experience catching a deserter. — A far-embracing prospect. — Illness of William Farquhar.-Lake Ugombo. — A land of promise. — The great Kisesa. — The plague of earwigs.
The distance from Bagamoyo to Simbamwenni we found to be 119 miles, and was accomplished in fourteen marches. But these marches, owing to difficulties arising from the Masika season, and more especially to the lagging of the fourth caravan under Maganga, extended to twenty-nine days, thus rendering our progress very slow indeed — but a little more than four miles a-day. I infer, from what I have seen of the travelling, that had I not been encumbered by the sick Wanyamwezi porters, I could have accomplished the distance in sixteen days. For it was not the donkeys that proved recreant to my confidence; they, poor animals, carrying a weight of 150 lbs. each, arrived at Simbamwenni in first-rate order; but it was Maganga, composed of greed and laziness, and his weakly-bodied tribe, who were ever falling sick. In dry weather the number of marches might have been much reduced. Of the half-dozen of Arabs or so who preceded this Expedition along this route, two accomplished the entire distance in eight days. From the brief descriptions given of the country, as it day by day expanded to our view, enough may be gleaned to give readers a fair idea of it. The elevation of Simbamwenni cannot be much over 1,000 feet above the level, the rise of the land having been gradual. It being the rainy season, about which so many ominous statements were doled out to us by those ignorant of the character of the country, we naturally saw it under its worst aspect; but, even in this adverse phase of it, with all its depth of black mud, its excessive dew, its dripping and chill grass, its density of rank jungle, and its fevers, I look back upon the scene with pleasure, for the wealth and prosperity it promises to some civilized nation, which in some future time will come and take possession of it. A railroad from Bagamoyo to Simbamwenni might be constructed with as much ease and rapidity as, and at far less cost than the Union Pacific Railway, whose rapid strides day by day towards completion the world heard of and admired. A residence in this part of Africa, after a thorough system of drainage had been carried out, would not be attended with more discomfort than generally follows upon the occupation of new land. The temperature at this season during the day never exceeded 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The nights were pleasant — too cold without a pair of blankets for covering; and, as far as Simbamwenni, they were without that pest which is so dreadful on the Nebraska and Kansas prairies, the mosquito. The only annoyances I know of that would tell hard on the settler is the determined ferocity of the mabungu, or horse-fly; the chufwa, &c., already described, which, until the dense forests and jungles were cleared, would be certain to render the keeping of domestic cattle unremunerative.
Contrary to expectation the Expedition was not able to start at the end of two days; the third and the fourth days were passed miserably enough in the desponding valley of Ungerengeri. This river, small as it is in the dry seasons, becomes of considerable volume and power during the Masika, as we experienced to our sorrow. It serves as a drain to a score of peaks and two long ranges of mountains; winding along their base, it is the recipient of the cascades seen flashing during the few intervals of sunlight, of all the nullahs and ravines which render the lengthy frontage of the mountain slopes so rugged and irregular, until it glides into the valley of Simbamwenni a formidable body of water, opposing a serious obstacle to caravans without means to build bridges; added to which was an incessant downfall of rain — such a rain as shuts people indoors and renders them miserable and unamiable — a real London rain — an eternal drizzle accompanied with mist and fog. When the sun shone it appeared but a pale image of itself, and old pagazis, wise in their traditions as old whaling captains, shook their heads ominously at the dull spectre, and declared it was doubtful if the rain would cease for three weeks yet.
The site of the caravan camp on the hither side of the Ungerengeri was a hot-bed of malaria, unpleasant to witness — an abomination to memory. The filth of generations of pagazis had gathered innumerable hosts of creeping things. Armies of black, white, and red ants infest the stricken soil; centipedes, like worms, of every hue, clamber over shrubs and plants; hanging to the undergrowth are the honey-combed nests of yellow-headed wasps with stings as harmful as scorpions; enormous beetles, as large as full-grown mice, roll dunghills over the ground; of all sorts, shapes, sizes, and hues are the myriad-fold vermin with which the ground teems; in short, the richest entomological collection could not vie in variety and numbers with the species which the four walls of my tent enclosed from morning until night.
On the fifth morning, or the 23rd April, the rain gave us a few hours’ respite, during which we managed to wade through the Stygian quagmire reeking with noisomeness to the inundated river-bank. The soldiers commenced at 5 A.M. to convey the baggage across from bank to bank over a bridge which was the most rustic of the rustic kind. Only an ignorant African would have been satisfied with its small utility as a means to cross a deep and rapid body of water. Even for light-footed Wanyamwezi pagazis it was anything but comfortable to traverse. Only a professional tight-rope performer could have carried a load across with ease. To travel over an African bridge requires, first, a long leap from land to the limb of a tree (which may or may not be covered by water), followed by a long jump ashore. With 70 lbs. weight on his back, the carrier finds it difficult enough. Sometimes he is assisted by ropes extemporized from the long convolvuli which hang from almost every tree, but not always, these being deemed superfluities by the Washensi.
Fortunately the baggage was transferred without a single accident, and though the torrent was strong, the donkeys were dragged through the flood by vigorous efforts and much objurgation without a casualty. This performance of crossing the Ungerengeri occupied fully five hours, though energy, abuse, and fury enough were expended for an army.
Reloading and wringing our clothes dry, we set out from the horrible neighbourhood of the river, with its reek and filth, in a northerly direction, following a road which led up to easy and level ground. Two obtruding hills were thus avoided on our left, and after passing them we had shut out the view of the hateful valley.
I always found myself more comfortable and lighthearted while travelling than when chafing and fretting in camp at delays which no effort could avoid, and consequently I fear that some things, while on a march, may be tinted somewhat stronger than their appearance or merit may properly warrant. But I thought that the view opening before us was much more agreeable than the valley of Simbamwenni with all its indescribable fertility. It was a series of glades opening one after another between forest clumps of young trees, hemmed in distantly by isolated peaks and scattered mountains. Now and again, as we crested low eminences we caught sight of the blue Usagara mountains, bounding the horizon westerly and northerly, and looked down upon a vast expanse of plain which lay between.
At the foot of the lengthy slope, well-watered by bubbling springs and mountain rills, we found a comfortable khambi with well-made huts, which the natives call Simbo. It lies just two hours or five miles north-west of the Ungerengeri crossing. The ground is rocky, composed principally of quartzose detritus swept down by the constant streams. In the neighbourhood of these grow bamboo, the thickest of which was about two and a half inches in diameter; the “myombo,” a very shapely tree, with a clean trunk like an ash, the “imbite,” with large, fleshy leaves like the “mtamba,” sycamore, plum-tree, the “ugaza,” ortamarisk, and the “mgungu,” a tree containing several wide branches with small leaves clustered together in a clump, and the silk-cotton tree.
Though there are no villages or settlements in view of Simbo Khambi, there are several clustered within the mountain folds, inhabited by Waseguhha somewhat prone to dishonest acts and murder.
The long broad plain visible from the eminences crossed between the Ungerengeri and Simbo was now before us, and became known to sorrowful memory subsequently, as the Makata Valley. The initial march was from Simbo, its terminus at Rehenneko, at the base of the Usagara mountains, six marches distant. The valley commences with broad undulations, covered with young forests of bamboo, which grow thickly along the streams, the dwarf fan-palm, the stately Palmyra, and the mgungu. These undulations soon become broken by gullies containing water, nourishing dense crops of cane reeds and broad-bladed grass, and, emerging from this district, wide savannah covered with tall grass open into view, with an isolated tree here and there agreeably breaking the monotony of the scene. The Makata is a wilderness containing but one village of the Waseguhha throughout its broad expanse. Venison, consequently, abounds within the forest clumps, and the kudu, hartebeest, antelope, and zebra may be seen at early dawn emerging into the open savannahs to feed. At night, the cyn-hyaena prowls about with its hideous clamour seeking for sleeping prey, man or beast.
The slushy mire of the savannahs rendered marching a work of great difficulty; its tenacious hold of the feet told terribly on men and animals. A ten-mile march required ten hours, we were therefore compelled to camp in the middle of this wilderness, and construct a new khambi, a measure which was afterwards adopted by half a dozen caravans.
The cart did not arrive until nearly midnight, and with it, besides three or four broken-down pagazis, came Bombay with the dolorous tale, that having put his load — consisting of the property tent, one large American axe, his two uniform coats, his shirts, beads and cloth, powder, pistol, and hatchet — on the ground, to go and assist the cart out of a quagmire, he had returned to the place where he had left it and could not find it, that he believed that some thieving Washensi, who always lurk in the rear of caravans to pick up stragglers, had decamped with it. Which dismal tale told me at black midnight was not received at all graciously, but rather with most wrathful words, all of which the penitent captain received as his proper due. Working myself into a fury,, I enumerated his sins to him; he had lost a goat at Muhalleh, he had permitted Khamisi to desert with valuable property at Imbiki; he had frequently shown culpable negligence in not looking after the donkeys, permitting them to be tied up at night without seeing that they had water, and in the mornings, when about to march, he preferred to sleep until 7 o’clock, rather than wake up early and saddle the donkeys, that we might start at 6 o’clock; he had shown of late great love for the fire, cowering like a bloodless man before it, torpid and apathetic; he had now lost the property-tent in the middle of the Masika season, by which carelessness the cloth bales would rot and become valueless; he had lost the axe which I should want at Ujiji to construct my boat; and finally, he had lost a pistol and hatchet, and a flaskful of the best powder. Considering all these things, how utterly incompetent he was to be captain, I would degrade him from his office and appoint Mabruki Burton instead. Uledi, also, following the example of Bombay, instead of being second captain, should give no orders to any soldiers in future, but should himself obey those given by Mabruki — the said Mabruki being worth a dozen Bombays, and two dozen Uledis; and so he was dismissed with orders to return at daylight to find the tent, axe, pistol, powder, and hatchet.
The next morning the caravan, thoroughly fatigued with the last day’s exertions, was obliged to halt. Bombay was despatched after the lost goods; Kingaru, Mabruki the Great, and Mabruki the Little were despatched to bring back three doti-worth of grain, on which we were to subsist in the wilderness.
Three days passed away and we were still at camp, awaiting, with what patience we possessed, the return of the soldiers. In the meantime provisions ran very low, no game could be procured, the birds were so wild. Two days shooting procured but two potfuls of birds, consisting of grouse, quail, and pigeons. Bombay returned unsuccessfully from his search after the missing property, and suffered deep disgrace.
On the fourth day I despatched Shaw with two more soldiers, to see what had become of Kingaru and the two Mabrukis. Towards night he returned completely prostrated, with a violent attack of the mukunguru, or ague; but bringing the missing soldiers, who were thus left to report for themselves.
With most thankful hearts did we quit our camp, where so much anxiety of mind and fretfulness had been suffered, not heeding a furious rain, which, after drenching us all night, might have somewhat damped our ardor for the march under other circumstances. The road for the first mile led over reddish ground, and was drained by gentle slopes falling east and west; but, leaving the cover of the friendly woods, on whose eastern margin we had been delayed so long, we emerged into one of the savannahs, whose soil during the rain is as soft as slush and tenacious as thick mortar, where we were all threatened with the fate of the famous Arkansas traveller, who had sunk so low in one of the many quagmires in Arkansas county, that nothing but his tall “stove-pipe” hat was left visible.
Shaw was sick, and the whole duty of driving the foundering caravan devolved upon myself. The Wanyamwezi donkeys stuck in the mire as if they were rooted to it. As fast as one was flogged from his stubborn position, prone to the depths fell another, giving me a Sisyphean labour, which was maddening trader pelting rain, assisted by such men as Bombay and Uledi, who could not for a whole skin’s sake stomach the storm and mire. Two hours of such a task enabled me to drag my caravan over a savannah one mile and a half broad; and barely had I finished congratulating myself over my success before I was halted by a deep ditch, which, filled with rain-water from the inundated savannahs, had become a considerable stream, breast-deep, flowing swiftly into the Makata. Donkeys had to be unloaded, led through a torrent, and loaded again on the other bank — an operation which consumed a full hour.
Presently, after straggling through a wood clump, barring our progress was another stream, swollen into a river. The bridge being swept away, we were obliged to swim and float our baggage over, which delayed us two hours more. Leaving this second river-bank, we splashed, waded, occasionally half-swimming, and reeled through mire, water-dripping grass and matama stalks, along the left bank of the Makata proper, until farther progress was effectually prevented for that day by a deep bend of the river, which we should be obliged to cross the next day.
Though but six miles were traversed during that miserable day, the march occupied ten hours.
Half dead with fatigue, I yet could feel thankful that it was not accompanied by fever, which it seemed a miracle to avoid; for if ever a district was cursed with the ague, the Makata wilderness ranks foremost of those afflicted. Surely the sight of the dripping woods enveloped in opaque mist, of the inundated country with lengthy swathes of tiger-grass laid low by the turbid flood, of mounds of decaying trees and canes, of the swollen river and the weeping sky, was enough to engender the mukunguru! The well-used khambi, and the heaps of filth surrounding it, were enough to create a cholera!
The Makata, a river whose breadth during the dry season is but forty feet, in the Masika season assumes the breadth, depth, and force of an important river. Should it happen to be an unusually rainy season, it inundates the great plain which stretches on either side, and converts it into a great lake. It is the main feeder of the Wami river, which empties into the sea between the ports of Saadani and Whinde. About ten miles north-east of the Makata crossing, the Great Makata, the Little Makata, a nameless creek, and the Rudewa river unite; and the river thus formed becomes known as the Wami. Throughout Usagara the Wami is known as the Mukondokwa. Three of these streams take their rise from the crescent-like Usagara range, which bounds the Makata plain south and south-westerly; while the Rudewa rises in the northern horn of the same range.
So swift was the flow of the Makata, and so much did its unsteady bridge, half buried in the water, imperil the safety of the property, that its transfer from bank to bank occupied fully five hours. No sooner had we landed every article on the other side, undamaged by the water, than the rain poured down in torrents that drenched them all, as if they had been dragged through the river. To proceed through the swamp which an hour’s rain had formed was utterly out of the question. We were accordingly compelled to camp in a place where every hour furnished its quota of annoyance. One of the Wangwana soldiers engaged at Bagamoyo, named Kingaru, improved an opportunity to desert with another Mgwana’s kit. My two detectives, Uledi (Grant’s valet), and Sarmean, were immediately despatched in pursuit, both being armed with American breech-loaders. They went about their task with an adroitness and celerity which augured well for their success. In an hour they returned with the runaway, having found him hidden in the house of a Mseguhha chief called Kigondo, who lived about a mile from the eastern bank of the river, and who had accompanied Uledi and Sarmean to receive his reward, and render an account of the incident.
Kigondo said, when he had been seated, “I saw this man carrying a bundle, and running hard, by which I knew that he was deserting you. We (my wife and 1) were sitting in our little watch-hut, watching our corn; and, as the road runs close by, this man was obliged to come close to us. We called to him when he was near, saying, ‘Master, where are you going so fast? Are you deserting the Musungu, for we know you belong to him, since you bought from us yesterday two doti worth of meat?’ ‘Yes,’ said he, ‘I am running away; I want to get to Simbamwenni. If you will take me there, I will give you a doti.’ We said to him then, ‘Come into our house, and we will talk it over quietly. When he was in our house in an inner room, we locked him up, and went out again to the watch; but leaving word with the women to look out for him. We knew that, if you wanted him, you would send askari (soldiers) after him. We had but lit our pipes when we saw two men armed with short guns, and having no loads, coming along the road, looking now and then on the ground, as if they were looking at footmarks. We knew them to be the men we were expecting; so we hailed them, and said, ‘Masters, what are ye looking for?’ \ They said, ‘We are looking for a man who has deserted our master. Here are his footsteps. If you have been long in your hut you must have seen him, Can you tell us where he is?’ We said, ‘yes; he is in our house. If you will come with us, we will give him up to you; but your master must give us something for catching him.’”
As Kigondo had promised to deliver Kingaru up, there remained nothing further to do for Uledi and Sarmean but to take charge of their prisoner, and bring him and his captors to my camp on the western bank of the Makata. Kingaru received two dozen lashes, and was chained; his captor a doti, besides five khete of red coral beads for his wife.
That down-pour of rain which visited us the day we crossed the Makata proved the last of the Masika season. As the first rainfall which we had experienced occurred on the 23rd March, and the last on the 30th April, its duration was thirty-nine days. The seers of Bagamoyo had delivered their vaticinations concerning this same Masika with solemnity. “For forty days,” said they, “rain would fall incessantly;” whereas we had but experienced eighteen days’ rain. Nevertheless, we were glad that it was over, for we were tired of stopping day after day to dry the bales and grease the tools and ironware, and of seeing all things of cloth and leather rot visibly before our eyes.
The 1st of May found us struggling through the mire and water of the Makata with a caravan bodily sick, from the exertion and fatigue of crossing so many rivers and wading through marshes. Shaw was still suffering from his first mukunguru; Zaidi, a soldier, was critically ill with the small-pox; the kichuma-chuma, “little irons,” had hold of Bombay across the chest, rendering him the most useless of the unserviceables; Mabruk Saleem, a youth of lusty frame, following the example of Bombay, laid himself down on the marshy ground, professing his total inability to breast the Makata swamp; Abdul Kader, the Hindi tailor and adventurer — the weakliest of mortal bodies — was ever ailing for lack of “force,” as he expressed it in French, i.e. “strength,” ever indisposed to work, shiftless, mock-sick, but ever hungry. “Oh! God,” was the cry of my tired soul, “were all the men of my Expedition like this man I should be compelled to return. Solomon was. wise perhaps from inspiration, perhaps from observation; I was becoming wise by experience, and I was compelled to observe that when mud and wet sapped the physical energy of the lazily-inclined, a dog-whip became their backs, restoring them to a sound — some-times to an extravagant activity.
For thirty miles from our camp was the Makata plain an extensive swamp. The water was on an average one foot in depth; in some places we plunged into holes three, four, and even five feet deep. Plash, splash, plash, splash, were the only sounds we heard from the commencement of the march until we found the bomas occupying the only dry spots along the line of march. This kind of work continued for two days, until we came in sight of the Rudewa river, another powerful stream with banks brimful of rushing rain-water. Crossing a branch of the Rudewa, and emerging from the dank reedy grass crowding the western bank, the view consisted of an immense sheet of water topped by clumps of grass tufts and foliage of thinly scattered trees, bounded ten or twelve miles off by the eastern front of the Usagara mountain range. The acme of discomfort and vexation was realized on the five-mile march from the Rudewa branch. As myself and the Wangwana appeared with the loaded donkeys, the pagazis were observed huddled on a mound. When asked if the mound was the camp, they replied “No.” “Why, then, do you stop here?” — Ugh! water plenty!!” “One drew a line across his loins to indicate the depth of water before us, another drew a line across his chest, another across his throat another held his hand over his head, by which he meant that we should have to swim. Swim five miles through a reedy marsh! It was impossible; it was also impossible that such varied accounts could all be correct. Without hesitation, therefore, I ordered the Wangwana to proceed with the animals. After three hours of splashing through four feet of water we reached dry land, and had traversed the swamp of Makata. But not without the swamp with its horrors having left a durable impression upon our minds; no one was disposed to forget its fatigues, nor the nausea of travel which it almost engendered. Subsequently, we had to remember its passage still more vividly, and to regret that we had undertaken the journey during the Masika season, when the animals died from this date by twos and threes, almost every day, until but five sickly worn-out beasts remained; when the Wangwana, soldiers, and pagazis sickened of diseases innumerable; when I myself was finally compelled to lie a-bed with an attack of acute dysentery which brought me to the verge of the grave. I suffered more, perhaps, than I might have done had I taken the proper medicine, but my over-confidence in that compound, called “Collis Brown’s Chlorodyne,” delayed the cure which ultimately resulted from a judicious use of Dover’s powder. In no one single case of diarrhoea or acute dysentery had this “Chlorodyne,” about which so much has been said, and written, any effect of lessening the attack whatever, though I used three bottles. To the dysentery contracted during, the transit of the Makata swamp, only two fell victims, and those were a pagazi and my poor little dog “Omar,” my companion from India.
The only tree of any prominence in the Makata valley was the Palmyra palm (Borassus flabelliformis), and this grew in some places in numbers sufficient to be called a grove; the fruit was not ripe while we passed, otherwise we might have enjoyed it as a novelty. The other vegetation consisted of the several species of thorn bush, and the graceful parachute-topped and ever-green mimosa.
The 4th of May we were ascending a gentle slope towards the important village of Rehenneko, the first village near to which we encamped in Usagara. It lay at the foot of the mountain, and its plenitude and mountain air promised us comfort and health. It was a square, compact village, surrounded by a thick wall of mud, enclosing cone-topped huts, roofed with bamboo and holcus-stalks; and contained a population of about a thousand souls. It has several wealthy and populous neighbours, whose inhabitants are independent enough in their manner, but not unpleasantly so. The streams are of the purest water, fresh, and pellucid as crystal, bubbling over round pebbles and clean gravel, with a music delightful to hear to the traveller in search of such a sweetly potable element.
The bamboo grows to serviceable size in the neighbourhood of Rehenneko, strong enough for tent and banghy poles; and in numbers sufficient to supply an army. The mountain slopes are densely wooded with trees that might supply very good timber for building purposes.
We rested four days at this pleasant spot, to recruit ourselves, and to allow the sick and feeble time to recover a little before testing their ability in the ascent of the Usagara mountains.
The 8th of May saw us with our terribly jaded men and animals winding up the steep slopes of the first line of hills; gaining the summit of which we obtained a view remarkably grand, which exhibited as in a master picture the broad valley of the Makata, with its swift streams like so many cords of silver, as the sunshine played on the unshadowed reaches of water, with its thousands of graceful palms adding not a little to the charm of the scene, with the great wall of the Uruguru and Uswapanga mountains dimly blue, but sublime in their loftiness and immensity — forming a fit background to such an extensive, far-embracing prospect.
Turning our faces west, we found ourselves in a mountain world, fold rising above fold, peak behind peak, cone jostling cone; away to the north, to the west, to the south, the mountain tops rolled like so many vitrified waves; not one adust or arid spot was visible in all this scene. The diorama had no sudden changes or striking contrasts, for a universal forest of green trees clothed every peak, cone, and summit.
To the men this first day’s march through the mountain region of Usagara was an agreeable interlude after the successive journey over the flats and heavy undulations of the maritime region, but to the loaded and enfeebled animals it was most trying. We were minus two by the time we had arrived at our camp, but seven miles from Rehenneko, our first instalment of the debt we owed to Makata. Water, sweet and clear, was abundant in the deep hollows of the mountains, flowing sometimes over beds of solid granite, sometimes over a rich red sandstone, whose soft substance was soon penetrated by the aqueous element, and whose particles were swept away constantly to enrich the valley below; and in other ravines it dashed,, and roared, miniature thunder, as it leaped over granite boulders and quartz rock.
The 9th of May, after another such an up-and-down course, ascending hills and descending into the twilight depths of deepening valleys, we came suddenly upon the Mukondokwa, and its narrow pent-up valley crowded with rank reedy grass, cane, and thorny bushes; and rugged tamarisk which grappled for existence with monster convolvuli, winding their coils around their trunks with such tenacity and strength that the tamarisk seemed grown but for their support.
The valley was barely a quarter of a mile broad in some places — at others it widened to about a mile. The hills on either side shot up into precipitous slopes, clothed,with mimosa, acacia, and tamarisk, enclosing a river and valley whose curves and folds were as various as a serpent’s.
Shortly after debouching into the Mukondokwa valley, we struck the road traversed by Captains Buxton and Speke in 1857, between Mbumi and Kadetamare (the latter place should be called Misonghi, Kadetamare being but the name of a chief). After following the left bank of the Mukondokwa, during which our route diverged to every point from south-east to west, north and northeast, for about an hour, we came to the ford. Beyond the ford, a short half-hour’s march, we came to Kiora.
At this filthy village of Kiora, which was well-grounded with goat-dung, and peopled with a wonderful number of children for a hamlet that did not number twenty families, with a hot sun pouring on the limited open space, with a fury that exceeded 128 degrees Fahrenheit; which swarmed with flies and insects of known and unknown species; I found, as I had been previously informed, the third caravan, which had started out of Bagamoyo so well fitted and supplied. The leader, who was no other than the white man Farquhar, was sick-a-bed with swollen legs (Bright’s disease), unable to move.
As he heard my voice, Farquhar staggered out of his tent, so changed from my spruce mate who started from Bagamoyo, that I hardly knew him at first. His legs were ponderous, elephantine, since his leg-illness was of elephantiasis, or dropsy. His face was of a deathly pallor, for he had not been out of his tent for two weeks.
A breezy hill, overlooking the village of Kiora, was chosen by me for my camping-ground, and as soon as the tents were pitched, the animals attended to, and a boma made of thorn bushes, Farquhar was carried up by four men into my tent. Upon being questioned as to the cause of his illness, he said he did not know what had caused it. He had no pain, he thought, anywhere. I asked, “Do you not sometimes feel pain on the right side?” — “Yes, I think I do; but I don’t know.” — ” Nor over the left nipple sometimes — a quick throbbing, with a shortness of breath?” — ” Yes, I think I have. I know I breathe quick sometimes.” He said his only trouble was in the legs, which were swollen to an immense size. Though he had a sound appetite, he yet felt weak in the legs.
From the scant information of the disease and its peculiarities, as given by Farquhar himself, I could only make out, by studying a little medical book I had with me, that “a swelling of the legs, and sometimes of the body, might result from either heart, liver, or kidney disease.” But I did not know to what to ascribe the disease, unless it was to elephantiasis — a disease most common in Zanzibar; nor did I know how to treat it in a man who, could not tell me whether he felt pain in his head or in his back, in his feet or in his chest.
It was therefore fortunate for me that I overtook him at Kiora; though he was about to prove a sore incumbrance to me, for he was not able to walk, and the donkey-carriage, after the rough experience of the Makata valley, was failing. I could not possibly leave him at Kiora, death would soon overtake him there; but how long I could convey a man in such a state, through a country devoid of carriage, was a question to be resolved by circumstances.
On the 11th of May, the third and fifth caravans, now united, followed up the right bank of the Mukondokwa, through fields of holcus, the great Mukondokwa ranges rising in higher altitude as we proceeded west, and enfolding us in the narrow river valley round about. We left Muniyi Usagara on our right, and soon after found hill-spurs athwart our road, which we were obliged to ascend and descend.
A march of eight miles from the ford of Misonghi brought us to another ford of the Mukondokwa, where we bid a long adieu to Burton’s road, which led up to the Goma pass and up the steep slopes of Rubeho. Our road left the right bank and followed the left over a country quite the reverse of the Mukondokwa Valley, enclosed between mountain ranges. Fertile soils and spontaneous vegetation, reeking with miasma and overpowering from their odour, we had exchanged for a drouthy wilderness of aloetic and cactaceous plants, where the kolquall and several thorn bushes grew paramount.
Instead of the tree-clad heights, slopes and valleys, instead of cultivated fields, we saw now the confines of uninhabited wilderness. The hill-tops were bared of their bosky crowns, and revealed their rocky natures bleached white by rain and sun. Nguru Peak, the loftiest of the Usagara cones, stood right shoulderwards of us as we ascended the long slope of dun-grey soil which rose beyond the brown Mukondokwa on the left.
At the distance of two miles from the last ford, we found a neat khambi, situated close to the river, where it first broke into a furious rapid.
The next morning the caravan was preparing for the march, when I was informed that the “Bana Mdogo” — little master — Shaw, had not yet arrived with the cart, and the men in charge of it. Late the previous night I had despatched one donkey for Shaw, who had said he was too ill to walk, and another for the load that was on the cart; and had retired satisfied that they would soon arrive. My conclusion, when I learned in the morning that the people had not yet come in, was that Shaw was not aware that for five days we should have to march through a wilderness totally uninhabited. I therefore despatched Chowpereh, a Mgwana soldier, with the following note to him:— “You will, upon receipt of this order pitch the cart into the nearest ravine, gully, or river, as well as all the extra pack saddles; and come at once, for God’s sake, for we must not starve here!”
One, two, three, and four hours were passed by me in the utmost impatience, waiting, but in vain, for Shaw. Having a long march before us, I could wait no longer, but went to meet his party myself. About a quarter of mile from the ford I met the van of the laggards — stout burly Chowpereh — and, O cartmakers, listen! he carried the cart on his head — wheels, shafts, body, axle, and all complete; he having found that carrying it was much easier than drawing it. The sight was such a damper to my regard for it as an experiment, that the cart was wheeled into the depths of the tall reeds, and there left. The central figure was Shaw himself, riding at a gait which seemed to leave it doubtful on my mind whether he or his animal felt most sleepy. Upon expostulating with him for keeping the caravan so long waiting when there was a march on hand, in a most peculiar voice — which he always assumed when disposed to be ugly-tempered — he said he had done the best he could; but as I had seen the solemn pace at which he rode, I felt dubious about his best endeavours; and of course there was a little scene, but the young European mtongi of an East African expedition must needs sup with the fellows he has chosen.
We arrived at Madete at 4 P.M., minus two donkeys, which had stretched their weary limbs in death. We had crossed the Mukondokwa about 3 P.M., and after taking its bearings and course, I made sure that its rise took place near a group of mountains about forty miles north by west of Nguru Peak. Our road led W.N.W., and at this place finally diverged from the river.
On the 14th, after a march of seven miles over hills whose sandstone and granite formation cropped visibly here and there above the surface, whose stony and dry aspect seemed reflected in every bush and plant, and having gained an altitude of about eight hundred feet above the flow of the Mukondokwa, we sighted the Lake of Ugombo — a grey sheet of water lying directly at the foot of the hill, from whose summit we gazed at the scene. The view was neither beautiful nor pretty, but what I should call refreshing; it afforded a pleasant relief to the eyes fatigued from dwelling on the bleak country around. Besides, the immediate neighbourhood of the lake was too tame to call forth any enthusiasm; there were no grandly swelling mountains, no smiling landscapes — nothing but a dun-brown peak, about one thousand feet high above the surface of the lake at its western extremity, from which the lake derived its name, Ugombo; nothing but a low dun-brown irregular range, running parallel with its northern shore at the distance of a mile; nothing but a low plain stretching from its western shore far away towards the Mpwapwa Mountains and Marenga Mkali, then apparent to us from our coign of vantage, from which extensive scene of dun-brownness we were glad to rest our eyes on the quiet grey water beneath.
Descending from the summit of the range, which bounded the lake east for about four hundred feet, we travelled along the northern shore. The time occupied in the journey from the eastern to the western extremity was exactly one hour and thirty minutes.
As this side represents its greatest length I conclude that the lake is three miles long by two miles greatest breadth. The immediate shores of the lake on all sides, for at least fifty feet from the water’s edge, is one impassable morass nourishing rank reeds and rushes, where the hippopotamus’ ponderous form has crushed into watery trails the soft composition of the morass as he passes from the lake on his nocturnal excursions; the lesser animals; such as the “mbogo” (buffalo), the “punda-terra” (zebra); the “ twiga” (giraffe), the boar, the kudu, the hyrax or coney and the antelope; come here also to quench their thirst by night. The surface of the lake swarms with an astonishing variety of water-fowl; such as black swan, duck, ibis sacra cranes, pelicans; and soaring above on the look-out for their prey are fish-eagles and hawks, while the neighbourhood is resonant with the loud chirps of the guinea-fowls calling for their young, with the harsh cry of the toucan, the cooing of the pigeon, and the “to-whit, to-whoo” of the owl. From the long grass in its vicinity also issue the grating and loud cry of the florican, woodcock, and grouse.
Being obliged to halt here two days, owing to the desertion of the Hindi cooper Jako with one of my best carbines, I improved the opportunity of exploring the northern and southern shores of the lake. At the rocky foot of a low, humpy hill on the northern side, about fifteen feet above the present surface of the water I detected in most distinct and definite lines the agency of waves. From its base could be traced clear to the edge of the dank morass tiny lines of comminuted shell as plainly marked as the small particles which lie in rows on a beech after a receding tide. There is no doubt that the wave-marks on the sandstone might have been traced much higher by one skilled in geology; it was only its elementary character that was visible to me. Nor do I entertain the least doubt, after a two days’ exploration of the neighbourhood, especially of the low plain at the western end, that this Lake of Ugombo is but the tail of what was once a large body of water equal in extent to the Tanganika; and, after ascending half way up Ugombo Peak, this opinion was confirmed when I saw the long-depressed line of plain at its base stretching towards the Mpwapwa Mountains thirty miles off, and thence round to Marenga Mkali, and covering all that extensive surface of forty miles in breadth, and an unknown length. A depth of twelve feet more, I thought, as I gazed upon it, would give the lake a length of thirty miles, and a breadth of ten. A depth of thirty feet would increase its length over a hundred miles, and give it a breadth of fifty, for such was the level nature of the plain that stretched west of Ugombo, and north of Marenga Mkali. Besides the water of the lake partook slightly of the bitter nature of the Matamombo creek, distant fifteen miles, and in a still lesser degree of that of Marenga Mkali, forty miles off.
Towards the end of the first day of our halt the Hindi cooper Jako arrived in camp, alleging as an excuse, that feeling fatigued he had fallen asleep in some bushes a few feet from the roadside. Having been the cause of our detention in the hungry wilderness of Ugombo, I was not in a frame of mind to forgive him; so, to prevent any future truant tricks on his part, I was under the necessity of including him with the chained gangs of runaways.
Two more of our donkeys died, and to prevent any of the valuable baggage being left behind, I was obliged to send Farquhar off on my own riding-ass to the village of Mpwapwa, thirty miles off, under charge of Mabruki Burton.
To save the Expedition from ruin, I was reluctantly compelled to come to the conclusion that it were better for me, for him, and concerned, that he be left with some kind chief of a village, with a six months’ supply of cloth and beads, until he got well, than that he make his own recovery impossible.
The 16th of May saw us journeying over the plain which lies between Ugombo and Mpwapwa, skirting close, at intervals, a low range of trap-rock, out of which had become displaced by some violent agency several immense boulders. On its slopes grew the kolquall to a size which I had not seen in Abyssinia. In the plain grew baobab, and immense tamarind, and a variety of thorn.
Within five hours from Ugombo the mountain range deflected towards the north-east, while we continued on a north-westerly course, heading for the lofty mountain-line of the Mpwapwa. To our left towered to the blue clouds the gigantic Rubeho. The adoption of this new road to Unyanyembe by which we were travelling was now explained — we were enabled to avoid the passes and stiff steeps of Rubeho, and had nothing worse to encounter than a broad smooth plain, which sloped gently to Ugogo.
After a march of fifteen miles we camped at a dry mtoni, called Matamombo, celebrated for its pools of bitter. water of the colour of ochre. Monkeys and rhinoceroses, besides kudus, steinboks, and antelopes, were numerous in the vicinity. At this camp my little dog “Omar” died of inflammation of the bowels, almost on the threshold of the country — Ugogo — where his faithful watchfulness would have been invaluable to me.
The next day’s march was also fifteen miles in length, through one interminable jungle of thorn-bushes. Within two miles of the camp, the road led up a small river bed, broad as an avenue, clear to the khambi of Mpwapwa; which was situated close to a number of streams of the purest water.
The following morning found us much fatigued after the long marches from Ugombo, and generally disposed to take advantage of the precious luxuries Mpwapwa offered to caravans fresh from the fly-plagued lands of the Waseguhha and Wadoe. Sheikh Thani — clever but innocently-speaking old Arab — was encamped under the grateful umbrage of a huge Mtamba sycamore, and had been regaling himself with fresh milk, luscious mutton, and rich bullock humps, ever since his arrival here, two days before; and, as he informed me, it did not suit his views to quit such a happy abundance so soon for the saline nitrous water of Marenga Mkali, with its several terekezas, and manifold disagreeables. “No!” said he to me, emphatically, “better stop here two or three days, give your tired animals some rest; collect all the pagazis you can, fill your inside with fresh milk, sweet potatoes, beef, mutton, ghee, honey, beans, matama, maweri, and nuts; — then, Inshallah! we shall go together through Ugogo without stopping anywhere.” As the advice tallied accurately with my own desired and keen appetite for the good things he named, he had not long to wait for my assent to his counsel. “Ugogo,” continued he, “is rich with milk and honey — rich in flour, beans and almost every eatable thing; and, Inshallah! before another week is gone we shall be in Ugogo!”
I had heard from passing caravans so many extremely favourable reports respecting Ugogo and its productions that it appeared to me a very Land of Promise, and I was most anxious to refresh my jaded stomach with some of the precious esculents raised in Ugogo; but when I heard that Mpwapwa also furnished some of those delicate eatables, and good things, most of the morning hours were spent in inducing the slow-witted people to part with them; and when, finally, eggs, milk, honey, mutton, ghee, ground matama and beans had been collected in sufficient quantities to produce a respectable meal, my keenest attention and best culinary talents were occupied for a couple of hours in converting this crude supply into a breakfast which could be accepted by and befit a stomach at once fastidious and famished, such as mine was. The subsequent healthy digestion of it proved my endeavours to have been eminently successful. At the termination of this eventful day, the following remark was jotted down in my diary: “Thank God! After fifty-seven days of living upon matama porridge and tough goat, I have enjoyed with unctuous satisfaction a real breakfast and dinner.”
It was in one of the many small villages which are situated upon the slopes of the Mpwapwa that a refuge and a home for Farquhar was found until he should be enabled by restored health to start to join us at Unyanyembe.
Food was plentiful and of sufficient variety to suit the most fastidious — cheap also, much cheaper than we had experienced for many a day. Leucole, the chief of the village, with whom arrangements for Farquhar’s protection and comfort were made, was a little old man of mild eye and very pleasing face, and on being informed that it was intended to leave the Musungu entirely under his charge, suggested that some man should be left to wait on him, and interpret his wishes to his people.
As Jako was the only one who could speak English, except Bombay and Selim, Jako was appointed, and the chief Leucole was satisfied. Six months’ provisions of white beads, Merikani and Kaniki cloth, together with two doti of handsome cloth to serve as a present to Leucole after his recovery, were taken to Farquhar by Bombay, together with a Starr’s carbine, 300 rounds of cartridge, a set of cooking pots, and 3 lbs. of tea.
Abdullah bin Nasib, who was found encamped here with five hundred pagazis, and a train of Arab and Wasawahili satellites, who revolved around his importance, treated me in somewhat the same manner that Hamed bin Sulayman treated Speke at Kasenge. Followed by his satellites, he came (a tall nervous-looking man, of fifty or thereabouts) to see me in my camp, and asked me if I wished to purchase donkeys. As all my animals were either sick or moribund, I replied very readily in the affirmative, upon which he graciously said he would sell me as many as I wanted, and for payment I could give him a draft on Zanzibar. I thought him a very considerate and kind person, fully justifying the encomiums lavished on him in Burton’s ‘Lake Regions of Central Africa,’ and accordingly I treated him with the consideration due to so great and good a man. The morrow came, and with it went Abdullah bin Nasib, or “Kisesa,” as he is called by the Wanyamwezi, with all his pagazis, his train of followers, and each and every one of his donkeys, towards Bagamoyo, without so much as giving a “Kwaheri,” or good-bye.
At this place there are generally to be found from ten to thirty pagazis awaiting up-caravans. I was fortunate enough to secure twelve good people, who, upon my arrival at Unyanyembe, without an exception, voluntarily engaged themselves as carriers to Ujiji. With the formidable marches of Marenga Mkali in front, I felt thankful for this happy windfall,, which resolved the difficulties I had been anticipating; for I had but ten donkeys left, and four of these were so enfeebled that they were worthless as baggage animals.
Mpwapwa — so called by the Arabs, who have managed to corrupt almost every native word — is called “Mbambwa” by the Wasagara. It is a mountain range rising over 6,000 feet above the sea, bounding on the north the extensive plain which commences at Ugombo lake, and on the east that part of the plain which is called Marenga Mkali, which stretches away beyond the borders of Uhumba. Opposite Mpwapwa, at the distance of thirty miles or so, rises the Anak peak of Rubeho, with several other ambitious and tall brethren cresting long lines of rectilinear scarps, which ascend from the plain of Ugombo and Marenga Mkali as regularly as if they had been chiselled out by the hands of generations of masons and stonecutters.
Upon looking at Mpwapwa’s greenly-tinted slopes, dark with many a densely-foliaged tree; its many rills flowing sweet and clear, nourishing besides thick patches of gum and thorn bush, giant sycamore and parachute-topped mimosa, and permitting my imagination to picture sweet views behind the tall cones above, I was tempted to brave the fatigue of an ascent to the summit. Nor was my love for the picturesque disappointed. One sweep of the eyes embraced hundreds of square miles of plain and mountain, from Ugombo Peak away to distant Ugogo, and from Rubeho and Ugogo to the dim and purple pasture lands of the wild, untamable Wahumba. The plain of Ugombo and its neighbour of Marenga Mkali, apparently level as a sea, was dotted here and there with “hillocks dropt in Nature’s careless haste,” which appeared like islands amid the dun and green expanse. Where the jungle was dense the colour was green, alternating with dark brown; where the plain appeared denuded of bush and brake it had a whity-brown appearance, on which the passing clouds now and again cast their deep shadows. Altogether this side of the picture was not inviting; it exhibited too plainly the true wilderness in its sternest aspect; but perhaps the knowledge that in the bosom of the vast plain before me there was not one drop of water but was bitter as nitre, and undrinkable as urine, prejudiced me against it, The hunter might consider it a paradise, for in its depths were all kinds of game to attract his keenest instincts; but to the mere traveller it had a stern outlook. Nearer, however, to the base of the Mpwapwa the aspect of the plain altered. At first the jungle thinned, openings in the wood appeared, then wide and naked clearings, then extensive fields of the hardy holcus, Indian corn, and maweri or bajri, with here and there a square tembe or village. Still nearer ran thin lines of fresh young grass, great trees surrounded a patch of alluvial meadow. A broad river-bed, containing several rivulets of water, ran through the thirsty fields, conveying the vivifying element which in this part of Usagara was so scarce and precious. Down to the river-bed sloped the Mpwapwa, roughened in some places by great boulders of basalt, or by rock masses, which had parted from a precipitous scarp, where clung the kolquall with a sure hold, drawing nourishment where every other green thing failed; clad in others by the hardy mimosa, which rose like a sloping bank of green verdure almost to the summit. And, happy sight to me so long a stranger to it, there were hundreds of cattle grazing, imparting a pleasing animation to the solitude of the deep folds of the mountain range.
But the fairest view was obtained by looking northward towards the dense group of mountains which buttressed the front range, facing towards Rubeho. It was the home of the winds, which starting here and sweeping down the precipitous slopes and solitary peaks on the western side, and gathering strength as they rushed through the prairie-like Marenga Mkali, howled through Ugogo and Unyamwezi with the force of a storm, It was also the home of the dews, where sprang the clear springs which cheered by their music the bosky dells below, and enriched the populous district of Mpwapwa. One felt better, stronger, on this breezy height, drinking in the pure air and feasting the eyes on such a varied landscape as it presented, on spreading plateaus green as lawns, on smooth rounded tops, on mountain vales containing recesses which might charm a hermit’s soul, on deep and awful ravines where reigned a twilight gloom, on fractured and riven precipices, on huge fantastically-worn boulders which overtopped them, on picturesque tracts which embraced all that was wild, and all that was poetical in Nature.
Mpwapwa, though the traveller from the coast will feel grateful for the milk it furnished after being so long deprived of it, will be kept in mind as a most remarkable place for earwigs. In my tent they might be counted by thousands; in my slung cot they were by hundreds; on my clothes they were by fifties; on my neck and head they were by scores. The several plagues of locusts, fleas, and lice sink into utter insignificance compared with this fearful one of earwigs. It is true they did not bite, and they did not irritate the cuticle, but what their presence and numbers suggested was something so horrible that it drove one nearly insane to think of it. Who will come to East Africa without reading the experiences of Burton and Speke? Who is he that having read them will not remember with horror the dreadful account given by Speke of his encounters with these pests? My intense nervous watchfulness alone, I believe, saved me from a like calamity.
Second to the earwigs in importance and in numbers were the white ants, whose powers of destructiveness were simply awful. Mats, cloth, portmanteaus, clothes, in short, every article I possessed, seemed on the verge of destruction, and, as I witnessed their voracity, I felt anxious lest my tent should be devoured while I slept. This was the first khambi since leaving the coast where their presence became a matter of anxiety; at all other camping places hitherto the red and black ants had usurped our attention, but at Mpwapwa the red species were not seen, while the black were also very scarce.
After a three days’ halt at Mpwapwa I decided of a march to Marenga Mkali, which should be uninterrupted until we reached Mvumi in Ugogo, where I should be inducted into the art of paying tribute to the Wagogo chiefs. The first march to Kisokweh was purposely made short, being barely four miles, in order to enable Sheikh Thani, Sheikh Hamed, and five or six Wasawahili caravans to come up with me at Chunyo on the confines of Marenga Mkali.
Last updated Saturday, October 24, 2015 at 21:30