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TO LAKE NAIVASHA.

IT was highly expedient that we should start early, so as to reach water, and have ample time to select a secure camping–place and construct a strong boma for protection. But Jumba’s search into the decrees of fate made it clear to the traders themselves that no one must leave Ngongo till four hours after sunrise, on pain of bringing down the wrath of the unseen powers. That hour having at last arrived, our excessively heavy–laden caravan, with men now thoroughly recruited, resumed the march for Lake Naivasha.

Our route lay about N.N.W. through the dense forest by a beautiful cattle–road. We rose considerably in elevation over an undulating ridge, at the top of which we got an extensive view to the east, over the plain of the Athi to the Ulu Mountains. We had not gone far before we found that the Wa–kikuyu were literally swarming in the forest, on the look–out for an opportunity to dye their spears in blood or to capture goods. Our sensations were rather queer in traversing these forest depths, kept as we were continually on the Alert, and in momentary expectation of encountering treacherous poisoned arrows launched from among the trees. We had to proceed very slowly, and halt every half–hour to allow the men to close up and to make certain all was well. A little after mid–day, we reached a curious circular depression,, which had clearly been at one time a charming pond, but which was now dried up. The traders had expected to find water, and were considerably downcast at the discovery of its Absence. There was nothing for it but to leave the direct [185] route and penetrate into the very heart of the forest, where a pond was known to exist in disagreeable proximity to the Wa–kikuyu. Every one was now loud ill denouncing the morning’s delay, as it would be close on sunset before the water could be reached; and even then we should not be near a proper place for camping. There now ensued almost a race to see who should reach the water first, though the main object was to secure the safest place from a night attack, which every one now looked forward to as a certainty.

Near sunset, a beautiful, forest– encircled pond, supplied by numerous springs, was reached, and then every trader, regardless of the general safety, sought out some spot for himself, protected by impenetrable bush. Those who were not successful huddled together close to those who were, for no one would remain in the open. The rule of the caravan was that the various traders and leaders should so occupy places with their contingents as to form a complete ring, the centre being occupied with the cattle, donkeys, &c. This highly necessary rule was in this instance totally disregarded, and as night set ill we found we were camped in two converging lines, the base of the triangle being unoccupied, and our large herd of cattle being left unprotected. I myself had been among the first to reach camp, and as I had consequently got a good place, I did not think it incumbent upon me to assume the post of danger.

As darkness began to set in, the amenities of the situation were not increased by a terrific thunderstorm, which, being followed by hail, reduced the porters to the most abject helplessness; for nothing paralyzes a negro faster than wet cold. Fortunately the storm quickly passed over, and the genial warmth of the fires was beginning to revive the men, who, finding themselves unmolested, began to be more lively. A volley of guns soon upset any feeling of security, and made every man seize the ever–ready fire–arm. No one, however, dared budge from the fires, though a moment’s thought should have told them that thereby they only served to heighten their danger. The next moment a commotion was heard among the cattle, and warning voices shouted out that the Wa–kikuyu. were stampeding them. The prevailing confusion and terror were so great that no attempt would have been made to stop this disastrous proceeding if I had not stirred up my own men, and with my brave fellows, Brahim and Makatubu, rushed off in pursuit, In the dense [186] darkness, we, of course, could not distinguish friend from foe, but fired aimlessly into the forest, in the hope of frightening the disturbers of our peace, as we tore along. We soon succeeded in heading the runaways and bringing them back, though, if they had got twenty yards further, they would have been hopelessly lost. Several arrows were shot from the bush, and two bullocks were brought in wounded. The cause of the original volley had been an attempt to massacre one small party by creeping up to them. They were only discovered after a sim� had nearly ended the life of a porter. A prompt volley, however, shad scattered the murderers, several having thus been wounded, and one left dead. At the same moment a party of natives with wonderful hardihood had got among. the cattle, and tried to stampede them. Another and yet another attempt was made to effect this very desirable capture, and though they failed to carry off the lot, they at least got a few, of swhich some were mine. What was still worse, two of the coast porters were either speared or captured. Not a soul slept the livelong night A continuous fusillade was kept up as our sole protection; and certainly several bullets must have found their billets, to judge from the blood–stains next morning. Numerous arrows were launched into the camp, but fortunately no one was wounded, mainly owing to the fact that the men protected themselves by the Masai–dressed hides.

The first streaks of dawn were greeted with gladness, for as yet we were unaware of the extent of our losses. These turned out to be no more than above indicated. The traders, however, were in a furious mood, and ready for any deed of blood. An opportunity soon presented itself, and a large capture of the Wa–kikuyu was effected. Every one clamoured angrily to have their throats cut at once, and they were hustled about fearfully with fierce imprecations. On all sides through the forest could be heard the native war–cry, and it seemed as if nothing but a massacre would end the episode. I let the traders do as they pleased at first, as the robbers well deserved a fright; but on seeing that they were about to proceed to extreme measures, I put in a very determined protest against any further bloodshed. With difficulty I succeeded in my endeavours, and got them released.

Considerably delayed by this scene, we resumed our march. The natives were now literally in thousands, and every now and then we had to make a stand and scatter them by a [187] show of our guns. We thus succeeded in getting out of the worst part of the forest, and, as we progressed, the Wa, kikuyu finding we were too many for them gradually dropped off, and we were finally left at peace. We were now considerably over 6000 feet in elevation, and I was thrown into ecstasies of delighted surprise in observing several very fine coniferous trees (junipers and podocarpus), rising to a height of little short of 100 feet, among magnificent Cape calodendrons, splendid–flowering trees never before supposed to be found north of Natal. The whole scene was singularly rich and varied with the numerous trees of temperate aspect, and the dense undergrowth of bushes, mostly covered with charming flowers which emitted a rich, though heavy, perfume. Beautiful glades honeycombed the forest, and cattle–paths connected them with each other.

Shortly after mid–day we emerged from the forest and descended to a lodge or step of the plateau, which has clearly been formed by a subsidence of the ground in a line parallel with the main line of fault.

About 3 p.m., we reached the edge of the plateau, and once more overlooked the Dogilani desert. The view across this wilderness to the dark frowning wall of Mau was strikingly impressive. But the objects which riveted my attention were two isolated mountain masses which it required little geological knowledge to recognize as volcanic. The most southerly and the larger, viz. Donyo la Nyuki, appeared as a great crater, one side of which had been blown away, and in the centre of which. had risen a secondary cone, the southern half of the crater–rim encircling it like a wall or embankment. The mountain seen to the north, was Donyo Longonot or Suswa, which exhibited the appearance of a broad truncated cone, so very suggestive of a fine crater, that I concluded at once that it must be one, and resolved, if opportunity occurred, to ascertain correctly whether it was so or not. The view to the north was shut in by the escarpment of the plateau on which I was standing, which here bent round and ran westward about ten miles. This part was known as Mianzi–ni, which is a Swahili term, meaning the district of the bamboos, of which there is a forest at that place. It looked very (trim and uninviting then, but, as the sequel will show, it g was fitting it should be draped in sombre lines, as an omen of what was to be the character of my after–acquaintance with it. [188]

I had little time for reflection, however, as the day was well spent, and we had yet far to go. The men, heavily burdened as they were, had been on their feet since morning without proper rest, and without either food or water. They were already beginning to break down sadly, and needed all available means of suasion to keep them going. Each one began to press forward to the best of his abilities, heedless alike of weaker men, or the danger to stragglers; and soon the whole caravan was a series of broken parties, only connected here and there by worn–out porters stretched out to rest. We reached the barren plain, descending the almost precipitous face of the escarpment by a capital diagonal cattle–track, worn by myriads of cattle during centuries of continuous migration from the high to the low pasturage, or vice versa.

As we reached the bottom, the shades of evening began to gather, and still the watering–place was not reached. Men were falling down exhausted with their great loads, those of the coast porters being all considerably over 100 lbs.. Every one was looking after himself, and pressing forward to slake his thirst. Suddenly we were all thrown into confusion by an extraordinary event. Lions attacked the donkeys, and killed several. The porters threw down their loads and fled. Donkeys were doing the same, kicking off their burdens, and braying lustily with fear. Many of these, breaking through the bushes, were taken for lions by the panic–stricken porters, and shot down. The cattle got away from all control, and crashed through the brake, adding further to the chaos. The shouts and cries of men, mingled with the roaring of lions, the braying of donkeys, and an almost continuous fusillade from fire–arms, furnished all the elements of a night of horror.

Among the traders a sauve qui peut was proclaimed, and the leaders, heedless of their goods or men, and thinking but of their own personal safety, deserted their all, and fled forward to seek the camping–ground. Ably seconded by Martin and the head–men, I contrived to keep down the panic in our section, and two hours after sunset, we arrived at Guaso Kedong without the loss of goods or men. Not so fortunate were the Pangani traders. More than one–quarter of the caravan, frightened to death by the lions, and in the belief that we had been attacked in front, dared not advance, but huddled together like a flock of sheep, seeing lions in every waving bush, and Wa–kikuyu in every tree stump, [189] They must have suffered considerable hardship, as they were without fire, food, or water, and the wind blew with biting fury from the plateau. Throughout the night, guns were fired at intervals, which told eloquently the nervous plight the men were in, while we ourselves, with roaring fire., and plenty of water, could afford to laugh over the supremely ludicrous, though dangerous, episodes of the night.

To hunt up lost donkeys and cattle, collect loads thrown away, and otherwise repair the disasters of that strange night, required a halt of three days. Even then we departed with a considerable reduction in our sinews of war. Fortunately, however, no men were killed or wounded, a fact perfectly miraculous, everything considered. If the Wa–kikuyu had put in an appearance that night, disorganized as we were, they might have obtained a glorious haul of plunder.

Guaso Kedong we found to be a charming stream, gushing up from a small rock–basin at the base of the escarpment. It supplied a delightful warm bath, as the water has a temperature of 83� while the average of the air was only about 70 .

Before leaving this camp Jumba pretended to infuse, by some occult means, healing virtue into a black bullock, so that all who should take hold of it would be cured of whatever ailments they possessed. To diffuse the healing influence all the porters turned out to lay hands upon the sacred animal. The ceremony, however, degenerated into a boisterous farce. In the end the men pulled the poor brute about by the tail, till it was nearly driven mad, and I had to intervene.

Keeping north by west from camp, we skirted the base of the plateau, and soon reached a larger Guaso Kedong flowing in a deep and narrow channel cut in very firm tuff, which indicated that we were back again into the area of the later manifestations of volcanic energy. Numerous fragments of obsidian lay scattered about like pieces of bottle–glass.

About 10 a.m. we reached an open space where I shot a zebra, and thence we continued our way by an admirable cattle–road through the forest. I was well in front, accompanied by Songoro, when I was suddenly electrified by the sight of a herd of ten elephants crossing the pathway ahead. I stood transfixed by the sight, for they were the first I had ever seen in a wild state. Ordering Songoro back for Brahim and the big "bone–smasher," I hurried away alone, afraid of losing my game. Plunging into the dense bush, and threading its labyrinths with bated breath and [190] palpitating heart, I was soon on their trail, and in a short time I was alongside of the elephants as they tramped onward leisurely, treading down the bushes and feeding on the leafy branches. Getting within ten yards, I took aim at one great fellow, which unfortunately was standing in a bad position, and fired, hitting him just behind the shoulder, but at such an angle that I missed the heart. The next moment there was a fearful crashing, and the whole herd went thundering away. Alone as I was, several miles; from the route, I was reluctantly compelled to give up the chase and return, unable to ascertain what damage I had done. A short distance farther on the porters saw some more, and it was clear that they were in considerable numbers, though doubtless at other seasons, when the Masai are wandering over the low grounds, they retire to the forest depths of Mianzi–ni and Kikuyu.

At mid–day, after a sharp march, we reached the headwaters of the Guaso Kedong (Mkubwa), which, like the smaller stream of the same name, rises at the base of the escarpment. We here camped, and I now determined practically to verify my conclusion regarding Donyo Longonot, and to see whether I was right in regarding it as a splendid specimen of a volcanic crater. Selecting four of my best men, I lost no time in setting off, as we had clearly a pedestrian feat to perform. We rose gently in height through leleshwa bush, in which we saw several eland. A hard tramp of two hours and a half brought us right to the base of the mountain, only to be confronted with a yawning rent, which seemed to cut us off from the object of my curiosity. This feature is clearly of igneous origin, formed in extremely firm tuff or volcanic dust. Making a considerable detour we at last found a place to cross. I had here, however, to leave two of my followers, thoroughly done up by the, to them, unusual pace at Which I had been walking. I had now only Brahim and Songoro to keep me company, as I braced myself for the extremely steep ascent. Crossing some shelves or steps of very scoriaceous lava overlying fine volcanic dust, we pushed on, stumbling, panting, and perspiring, over nasty, grass–hidden, ejected blocks, and through horrid thorny bush., I experienced due pleasure at the sight of several charming clumps of heath. Some of this I plucked and stuck in my hat, as I shouted "Excelsior" (in Ki–swahili) to Brahim and Songoro, who responded in rather gasping tones. Half–way up Songoro fairly caved in, and [191] had to be left behind. Brahim looked the very incarnation of wickedness as lie set his teeth, and struggled after me, ashamed of being beaten.

At last we reached the bottom of the cone proper, and with astonishment I viewed its extraordinary steepness. It beat anything of the kind I had ever seen. I made a determined spurt, literally on hands and knees, to ascend this part. The slightest slip would have landed me half–way down the mountain. At last I reached the top, and the scene that lay before me fairly overwhelmed me with wonder. I found myself on the sharp rim of an enormous pit, as far as I could judge, from 1500 to 2000 feet in depth. It was not, however, an inverted cone, as volcanic craters frequently are, but a great circular cavity, with perfectly perpendicular walls and about three miles in circumference, without a break in any part, though on the south–western side rose a peak, several hundred feet above the general level of the rim. So perpendicular were the enclosing walls, that immediately in front of me I could not trace the descent, owing to a slight angle near the top. So sharp, also, was the edge of this marvellous crater, that I literally sat astride on it, with one leg dangling over the abyss internally, and the other down the side of the mountain.. The bottom of the pit seemed to be quite even and level, covered with acacia–trees, the tops of [192] which, at that great depth, had much the general aspect of a grass plain. There were no bushes or creepers to cover in the stern and forbidding walls, which were composed of beds of lava and agglomerate. The scene was of such an astounding character that I was completely fascinated, and felt under an almost irresistible impulse madly to plunge into the fearful chasm. So overpowering was this feeling that I had to withdraw myself from the side of the pit.

Looking down the side of the mountain, I noticed Brahim fairly stuck several hundred feet below, and my feelings fount vent in hurrahs and excited shouts to come up and see the wonderful sight. Somewhat relieved sby this outburst, I turned my attention to the surrounding country. Looking towards the north, the first sight that riveted my gaze was the glimmering, many–isled expanse of Naivasha, backed to the west by the Mau escarpment, whose black colour was heightened and rendered more picturesquely savage by tumbling thunder–clouds, with here and there the linear arrangement which told of heavy showers. Flashes of lightning broke forth ever and anon, to be followed by grand peals of thunder. To the east rose abruptly the plateau which we had so recently left, and over the bamboo –clad heights of Mianzini could be seen the higher masses of a splendid range of mountains. To the south stretched the desert of Dogilani, with the less perfect but larger crater mass of Donyo la Nyuki. All this had to be taken in rapidly, as we had a long tramp before us to reach camp. My observations indicated a height of 8300 feet. The highest point, however, would be little short of 9000 feet.

We now hastily retraced our steps, for the sun had almost set, and we knew only too well that there were lions as well as Masai in the path. Picking up Songoro, and then the other two men, we hurried backward almost at a run. Halfway darkness came on, with a drizzling rain, and we had to push along more by instinct than anything else. Two hours after sunset we reached camp, to be hailed with joy by the caravan, who were becoming anxious about us. I rose at once in the estimation of the traders, when our story was told–as I had declared, on first seeing the mountain from the plateau, that I was certain there was a great pit in its centre. It remain– but to be said that one of its Masai names is Donyo Longonot, meaning the, "mountain of the big pit." They declare that there are snakes of enormous dimensions to be found in it. The Masai describe a [193] remarkable pit in the neighbourhood, in which animals are at once suffocated if they by any means fall into it. This must mean an emanation of carbonic acid gas.

At Guaso Kedong, on the day following the interesting discovery of the crater, the ivory that had been collected so far was secretly buried, pending their return homeward; and then after despatching a party to Mianzi–ni with an Andorobbo, who declared there were several tusks to be got, we resumed our way to Lake Naivasha. Passing between Donyo Kejab� (Gold mountain) and Donyo Longonot, we crossed a connecting ridge, and then we had the charming expanse of water full in view. The march proved to be a very hard one, and near sunset the men were badly paralyzed by a very heavy hail–storm, which came down with much fury before shelter could be obtained. It became clear that the lake itself was not to be reached that night, and we determined to camp at a deserted Masai kraal, a few of the huts affording a slight shelter. To my dismay, when far on in the night, I heard that one of my men, who had fallen behind paralyzed with the cold, had not come into the camp, and now it was out of the question to set out in search of him in the pitchy darkness and bitter cold. A relief party, sent back at daybreak to seek him, came upon his corpse, or rather the remains of it. He had died from the exposure, and hyenas had sadly mutilated him.

Pushing on over a beautiful grassy district, we soon reached a broad plain, which lies between the lake and the escarpment. Here were seen thousands of zebras. We actually surrounded two large herds, though the only result of a terrible fusilade was the death of two, which fell to my gun. It was a magnificent sight to watch these beautiful animals thundering along in great squadrons; here stretching out. like racers, as they passed in dangerous proximity to the enemy; there massed up at bay, with excited mien and head high up, trotting about with splendid action, as if daring the hunter to approach. Anon they might be seen at safer distances, turning round to face their human foes, with the indignant bewildering inquiry, expressed by a half bark, half whistle, what on earth this incursion of strange beings meant?

The bosom of the lake itself was one moving mass of ducks, with ibises, pelicans, and other aquatic birds. Passing round the north–cast corner, we reached a grove of thorny acacia, and just as we were entering we were suddenly alarmed by [194] a buffalo emerging from it, and exhibiting signs of a desire to scatter us. My rifle was not at hand, but the animal changed its mind, and thus we were allowed to camp in peace.

Not a moment was lost in stacking the loads, and setting to work fence–building, for we had now arrived at one of the most precarious parts of the entire route. Every one, how. ever, worked with a nervous energy that left nothing to be desired, and long before the warriors had gathered in any numbers, we were safely surrounded by an impenetrable thorn barrier.

I here discovered that for the second time I had struck Fischer’s route, but only to learn that Naivasha had been his furthest point. After his arrival here he had secured a large quantity of ivory, but having been sadly reduced by illness, he was compelled to turn back when within a few days’ march of his goal–Lake Baringo.

That fact certainly is not to be wondered at, when we understand the atrocious life one is compelled to lead among the Masai savages. They ordered us about as if we were so many slaves. I had daily to be on exhibition, and perform for their delectation. "Take off your boots." "Show your toes." "Let us see your white skin." "Bless me! what queer hair!" "Good gracious! what funny clothes!" Such were the orders and exclamations (anglicized) which greeted me as they turned me about, felt my hair with their filthy paws, while "Shore"(friend), "give me a string of beads," was dinned into my ear with maddening persistence. They made us stop for nearly five days, till all the El–moran from far and near should have an opportunity to come and plunder us. We were within an ace of a fight, which would have been disastrous, and we had to eat humble pie to propitiate their lordships. The amount of goods we here disposed [195] of was appalling. No one asked in vain, and few were left unsoothed, and yet, strangely enough, in the midst of it all we made great friends with some of the elders, who delighted to sit and talk with us, showing a frankness and an absence of suspicion such as I have never seen elsewhere among Africans. They had an admirable knowledge of the geography of an enormous area. This they had acquired by their continuous war raids and their nomadic habits, and they imparted their information without reserve.

We got considerable quantities of milk from the women, but secretly, as they are not allowed to sell the precious fluid, that being reserved for the use of the bloated young warriors. But women are women everywhere, and a few blandishments, chuckings under the chin, or tempting displays of beads, won their hearts and secured the objects of our desire. In some respects I began almost to like the Masai (men as well as women), as I gradually became accustomed to their arrogant ways; for, troublesome and overbearing as they were, they displayed an aristocratic manner, and a consciousness of power, which seemed to raise them infinitely above the negro–as I had seen him. The damsels, of course, would have been without fault, if they had only discarded clay and grease and used Pears’ soap. Certainly there is as fine an opportunity for the introduction of that valuable article into the Masai country as there is of Manchester cottons into the Congo. It has been certified, I believe, on unimpeachable authority, that the use of Pears’ soap is akin to godliness. Imagine, then, how it would pave the way for philanthropic effort!

It must be confessed, however, I had much reason to be thankful that at Naivasha I was in the possession of a sound liver, for the consequence of being a bilious being in a bilious world at this period might have been disastrous to further progress, by leading to the commission of some rash act or other. As it was, I was proof against all the ills that the traveller in Masai–land is heir to, and was enabled to pre. serve my equanimity under the most unpleasant circumstances.

To the west of our camp, and forming a spur to the Mail escarpment, rose the rounded outline of Donyo Burn (Steam Mountain). I resolved to visit it, and ascertain for myself how far it deserved the name, as it would be important to make sure that the volcanic forces were still in action, however mildly, in this interesting region. I contrived to get [196] into the good graces of a powerful Masai, and cajoled him into guiding me to the mountain. Selecting eight men, we set off on our dangerous trip, Our way at first lay across the grassy plain which lies to the north of the lake, and we were amused and delighted by the manner in which the numerous herds of zebra played and frisked in the pure enjoyment of life and utterly unconscious of danger, within forty yards of us. Their tameness certainly was most attractive to me, and a continual source of pleasure. I would allow none of my men to frighten them, though we could have easily shot dozens. This remarkable absence of fear is due to the fact that the Masai never molest them, as they are not eaten by that race. Though they keep down the grass, they are not even driven away, and in those virgin fields, no sportsman has yet appeared with his thirst for blood.

A couple of hours brought us to a small arm of the lake near the base of Buru, the ascent of which we at once commenced. Near the bottom we noticed a great rent along the side of the mountain, looking exactly like a railway rock–cutting. The rocks we found to be trachytic, with large bosses of obsidian of the purest black. Rounding a shoulder of the mountain, we got a splendid view north alone, a narrow trough formed by the contraction of the Dogilani plain, the two escarpments running from Naivasha northward parallel to each other, and rising abruptly to a height of 9000 feet. In this meridional trough lay gleaming the many–isled and papyrus–fringed lake, cut off to the south by the thin conical peaks of Lolbitat and the crater of Longonot, on the eastern side of which could be detected a pretty parasitic cone of the most perfect proportions. North of the lake lay the pale green plain; then a darker stretch of bush country with some irregular ridges; further on a strange assemblage of skeleton trees, dead through some secular cause and marking the area of the "Firewood Plain"(Angata Elgek). This plain showed striking evidence of the agency of volcanic forces in forming its surface features, for numerous cones appeared here and there, though strangest of all were the numerous lines of faults crossing the trough from side to side and raising prominences not unlike the earthworks of a fortified place. Several faults ran across two of the cones and split them up into a curious assemblage of walls, pinnacles, and yawning rents. Beyond the "Firewood Plain" lay gleaming the pretty lakes of Elmeteita and [197] Nakuro, the dark walls of the neighbouring plateaux forming an admirable contrast to the glimmering waters. In the far distance could be descried the mountains of Kamasia, and they were looked at eagerly, for we knew that the mysterious Lake Baringo lay at their base. Over the eastern plateau–here called Lykipia–a fine view of the splendid mountain range of that region was obtained, which looked all the grander from the picturesque effects of a storm–cloud tumbling along its sides.

Having recovered our breath and enjoyed thoroughly this glorious landscape, we hurried on, as we had our work cut out for us if we hoped to get back to camp that night. Rounding the northern shoulder of Buru, we passed a humpy, parasitic cone, and then another, both of which wore largely composed of obsidian. This brought us to the steaming area, which we were able to identify by clouds of vapour and a curious puffing sound exactly resembling a steam–engine starting work. Here our venerable guide caused us to take grass in our hands as we approached the mysterious place. We soon reached the holes, and to propitiate the troubled spirits of the earth we threw our vegetable offerings into a great pit, from which with curious regularity were puffed or hissed out clouds of steam, accompanied sometimes by gurgling, at other times by a rumbling, noise. This pit lies on the line of a rent which can be traced a considerable distance down the side of the mountain. Further along we came to the edge of a lava cliff, and here the emission of steam was most copious, as though it were hissed out from the safety valve of an engine. The rock was so hot that my men could not walk on it, and it was decomposing, under the disintegrating influence of the steam, into a crimson–red clay. This was considered to have a wonderful medicinal virtue, and my men painted themselves all over with it. I also went the length of spotting my forehead. The altitude of these steam–holes is 7055 feet. The conclusion I arrived at after examining the ground was that the steam had not a deep–seated source, but simply originated by water percolating into the lava current on which we stood, that lava having been so lately ejected that it had not as yet cooled down–for it is a well–known fact that lava currents of any depth require years to lose their original heat. I saw no hot springs here, but only the warm water left by the condensation of the steam. The whole aspect of our surroundings strikingly suggested (geologically speaking) quite recent volcanic activity.[198]

Of the mountain itself it may be said that it is a very irregularly–shaped mass of volcanic rocks, its appearance in no way suggesting a volcanic origin. An examination, however, shows that it has frequently altered its focus of eruption, while numerous parasitic cones have arisen around it till the ejections have destroyed the original conical shape of the typical volcano. The height of Buru will be little short of 9000 feet, but I wa... prevented ascending it by the threatening appearance of the sky.

We were unpleasantly reminded of the country we were in by suddenly coming upon a party of warriors hidden away in the bed of a rill, eating flesh. On seeing us they started up in the most threatening manner, as the steamholes are considered sacred ground, and to find them eating flesh is a grievous offence–of which I shall have something to say in the sequel. Our venerable old guide was frightened, and we stood on the defensive. The El–moran demanded angrily what we were doing there. Fortunately, a happy idea struck our guide, and he declared he was taking us to bring away some tusks of ivory he had hidden at the bottom of the hill. This mollified them a little, though if we had been more defenceless, and seemed more afraid, they would not have scrupled to murder us off–hand. Glad to get out of their way, we hurried down the hill, and returned to camp, getting in after dark, though several did not reach it for three hours later. I had been not less than eleven hours on my feet, walking and climbing as fast as I could, without a moment’s rest, and even the guide was nearly done up.

During the night the warriors tried to stampede our cattle, but failed. It required all our patience, more than once, to avoid a. fight with the arrogant savages. Upon the whole, however, we were fortunate, if we were to believe the stories of the traders,–how the young warriors would, against all opposition, carry off whole loads of goods. or bring goats or sheep into camp, and compel the traders to buy them, whether they wanted to or not; how, further, they would slap the porters and call them cowards, or strike their great spears in the ground and dare them to fight. All this I saw something of, but never in its worst aspect. While we contrived to keep clear of embroilment, it was manifest that a smaller caravan would have been plundered without mercy.

It is necessary I should at this point say a few words more immediately descriptive of Lake Naivasha. Its surroundings I have already delineated, and it is only needful to mention [199] that the lake is an irregular square, twelve miles long by nine broad, comparatively shallow, as far as my examination extended, and lying at an elevation of 6000 feet. There are three small islands grouped in its centre, though possibly these may simply be beds of papyrus rising from a very shallow part. The water is fresh, supplied by the Guaso Giligili and the Murundat from the north, which seem to have silted it up considerably, to judge from the deep accumulations of alluvium which form the grassy plain. There are no fish, though hippopotami are numerous. One remarkable characteristic is that it is the habitat of enormous numbers of wild duck. These literally cover considerable areas at certain seasons of the year.

The lake has originated without a doubt in the piling up of volcanic debris across the meridional trough, damming back the two streams from the plateau of Lykipia. Three cones (Lolbitat) rise conspicuously at the south end, and are clearly volcanic. The freshness of the water would indicate either a very recent origin, or an underground channel.

It was at Naivasha that I first matured a scheme of a perilous character. This was nothing more nor less than to send on my caravan with Martin and Jumba to Baringo, while I, with a small select party, should make a flying visit to Mount Kenia and the fine range of mountains seen from Buru.

On mooting my scheme, it was received with laughter and incredulity, which changed to remonstrance and profound astonishment when it was seen that I was serious. "What!" said they; "do you think you can penetrate a district with a few men, which we should be afraid to attempt with several hundreds? Will You do with a handful what Fischer failed to do with an army I Do you know that a few years ago a caravan of 200 was totally annihilated in that very district?" Statements of this kind wore poured upon me without stint, and reiterated ad nauseam. My only reply was that Mount Kenia had to be reached somehow, as all my countrymen wanted to know the truth about it; moreover, I had now learned something of the ways of the Masai, and thought I might rely upon my character as a lybon (medicine–man), where men and guns were of little use. Sadi and Muhinna hereupon fell into the depths of terror and despair. On their knees they implored me, with abject tears, to give up the project, which, to their cowardly imagination, seemed [200] a march to certain death. I felt inclined to spurn the base–hearted knaves, and would probably have done so had I not rather enjoyed giving them a thorough fright. With me, as with most obstinate men, I suppose, such entreaties had an effect just the opposite of what was intended, and only deepened my resolution to make the venture.

After a five days’ detention we resumed our march on the 4th of October, starting very early to get well on the road before the Masai should turn up. A short distance from the camp we crossed the Murundat, which here runs in a very deep cutting through lake silt. Shortly after, we reached the Guaso Giligili, and kept parallel to it. We rose slightly in elevation till we reached a ridge of trachytic rock, running across the trough, suggesting a lava flow from Buru. The Giligili cuts through this ridge, by a very deep channel. The bed of the stream was reached by a long incline, that might be supposed to have been formed by the hand of man, but which in reality has been worn out by myriads of cattle crossing continually during unknown years. We camped for the night on the banks of this river, and had a lively time with thieves, as we had no proper thorn fence. The rifle of one of my askari was stolen, and the traders lost a considerable number of articles. The whole caravan had to be on the alert the entire night.

Next day we continued north through a pleasant country covered by a silvery–leaved bush, named leleshwa The most striking feature, however, was the marvellous number of dead trees which clothed the entire country, and seemed to have died from natural causes. What these causes can have been, I cannot say, as they have not acted equally on all the species of trees. Probably the strange effect is due to either a change of temperature or alteration of the rainfall. So marked, however, is this feature, that the Masai, with their love of descriptive names, have called this country Angata Elgek (Firewood Plain).

We noticed on this march an enormous Masai kraal, which could not have held less than 3000 warriors, and then some distance beyond appeared another of equal, if not larger dimensions. On inquiry I learned that these were the respective camps of the Masai of Kinangop and Kapt� on the one hand, and the Masai (Wa–kwafi) of Lykipia on the other, during one of their lone, periods of deadly fighting, in which they thus settled down before each other, with all their cattle, and fought day after day, till one gave in. [201] Of this war and the mode of fighting I shall treat in another chapter.

After a considerable march we reached a line of fault running across the trough, producing a feature exactly resembling a step. We descended this, and soon were camped in a picturesque niche of the Lykipia plateau, with a pleasant stream, Ngar� Kekup�, running through it from the heights to the salt lake of Elmeteita below. The trachytic rocks over which the Kekup� runs have, by some chemical process, been altered into a white and soft rock, exactly resembling chalk in colour, weight, and hardness. This is used by the Masai in painting themselves, and making the heraldic devices on their shields. On reaching Kekup�, we formed two camps, to facilitate our clearing off in the morning without delay or the leaving of any necessary article–this being the point where I intended branching off –to Lykipia and Mount Kenia.

As this trip was manifestly one of great hazard and uncertainty, and as I foresaw the possibility of flight, I took with me nothing but what was quite indispensable. My very best men, thirty in number, were selected to follow me, and so thoroughly had I established discipline and confidence, [202] that no one protested against being chosen. Then I had full confidence in Martin and Jumba Kimameta, the latter of whom had acted most loyally towards me. Some of the braver spirits among the traders, seeing me determined to proceed to Lykipia, now declared that they would follow me as far as Mount Kenia, and I was only too glad to have them, as Sadi and Muhinna, could not be trusted. We thus more than doubled our numbers. In the evening Jumba and the other principal traders came over to my quarters, and recited and chanted prayers from the Koran for my safety. This pious expression of their good–will over, some medicines were made by certain occult means as a further safeguard, and, to crown all, one of the sacred komas of the caravan was, as a great favour, handed over to me, to be carried at the head of my small party. They, of course, knew very well that I did not believe one whit in these dawas; but this act of theirs served to show how sincere was their desire for my success and I would have been worse than rude not to have accepted it in the spirit in which it was offered. There are some people, I suppose, who will express astonishment that I should even have seemed to tolerate such infidel practices. All that I can say to such people is, that I hope they may never be called upon to leave their comfortable arm–chairs.

The view from Kekup�, up the steep face of the escarpment, a height of considerably over 2000 feet, roused stirring memories of home scenes, so distinctly European–like was the aspect of the crags and the talus, the lava–capped peaks and the shattered face of the precipices–every point of vantage being occupied by groups and groves of splendid junipers and podocarpus, with their pine–like appearance.

 

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