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As there was little of special interest in the low shores and sedge–lined waters of the Lake, and few specimens of zoological interest to be picked up, I resolved at once to return to Kwa–Sundu. After the reception we had experienced on our way to Nyanza, we dared not retrace our steps by Seremba. We determined, therefore, to cut across the neighbouring line of hills. About Massala we observed numerous deserted villages, and on inquiry we learned that they were the result of raids of Mtes�’s warriors, who were in the habit of making descents on the Samia coast. The neighbouring state of Akola to the west had lately fallen a victim to that potentate’s imperial. policy, and his name was held in great terror. We ourselves on more than one occasion were mistaken for Wa–ganda, and the alarm and war–cry spread accordingly.

On the 13th of December we bundled together our traps and moved a short distance north to Mzemba, the town of [297] Uchen, the principal chief of Samia. We were very greatly interested to find that Uchen was the brother of one of my men named Mabruki. This man had been captured when a boy, and sold as a slave to the traders, and now he had returned to be recognized and welcomed as one who had been lost and found. Before lie was allowed to enter the walls of the village, a goat had to be killed and the blood sprinkled on the door and posts.

The day after my arrival I was thoroughly prostrated by the fever, and I approached unpleasantly close to the stage of delirium. Notwithstanding that, and remembering the efficacy of exertion in such cases, I set off on the second day, and braced myself up by a six hours’ march. Our progress was made exceedingly uncomfortable by the clouds of ashes raised by the wind from recently burnt jungle, making us as black as sweeps. Shortly after noon we reached a stream with dense forest. In seeking out for a suitable spot to camp I nearly stumbled over a python, which, on being killed, proved to be twelve feet long, and fifteen inches in girth. This reptile is known to the Wa–swahili as chato. After the day’s march I collapsed like a machine wound up to do a certain work and no more.

The next march was very trying, from the number of marshy streams which had to be crossed, all flowing to the Sio. At two places we were taken for war–raiders, and had opportunities of seeing the natives turning out rigged up for battle.

The village at which we rested was distinguished by two features –its excessive neatness and cleanliness, and its possession of an undraped young lady, certainly not less than seven feet in height. One of my men who stands six feet three was quite dwarfed by comparison with her. She was unmarried, which would seem to indicate that even in Kavirondo they can have too much of a good thing.

On the third march we recrossed the Nzoia, and reached Kwa–Sundu early in the morning, to find Makatubu and the men all well and a large quantity of food collected for our return through the wilderness.

Though still suffering from fever, I had now to set myself to the task of taking a series of astronomical observations, to determine my position. This required me to be up at all hours of the night, and of course did not improve my health.

While this was going on the chief was continually bothering me to bring rain, which they were sadly in want of. As this was a trick which my conscience would not allow me to play, [298] except in cases of absolute necessity, I put him off as long as possible. On his becoming importunate, I told him to be quiet. Did he not see that every night I was inquiring with my instruments into the secrets of the sky? Let him just wait and he would see the result! Curiously enough, in the evening after my oracular announcement there was a sharp thunderstorm and a heavy rainfall, which hardly required any self–satisfied comments on my part to secure for me immense prestige and applause.

On the 24th of December, having somewhat recovered from the fever, completed my observations, and collected the necessary supplies, I made what may be called the first retiring march. Each man carried twelve days’ food in addition to his load, which was chiefly grain. Indeed we had very little short of a month’s provision.

Not to go back on our footsteps, and being very desirous of visiting the reported caves and cave–dwellers of Elgon, I adopted a more northerly route. For this purpose we had to cross to the north bank of the Nzoia.. The passage cost us two hours, but was performed without damage.

Our route for the next two hours lay north and then west, through an uninhabited No–man’s–land. On entering the cultivated parts I was greatly puzzled to account for the evident terror of the inhabitants on sighting us, and the manner in which they fled into their villages and barricaded the doors, hiding themselves in the huts, or behind the walls. This was in striking contrast to our reception everywhere else in the country. Usually the whole populace turned out with shouts and laughter, and were only too anxious to inveigle us into their towns, in order to have the exclusive privilege of levying black–mail. Here, on the other hand, the inhabitants absolutely refused to open their doors, and at last we had to ~p in a half–built village. But truly our reception was not to be wondered at, when we learned the reason of it. The wonder was, rather, that they did not raise their war–cry, gather together in overwhelming force, and annihilate us.

The district was Masawa (Ketosh of the Masai), and in it the traders had lost a few men through murder or otherwise. In revenge for this the traders, five years previous to our arrival, had resolved to tengeneze (put to rights) the natives. For this purpose a combined caravan of some 1500 men stationed at Kwa–Sundu was marched upon them. Dividing into sections, they entered the district at different points, [299] and crossed it, devastating every village on the way, killing thousands of the men and women, committing the most horrible atrocities, such as ripping up women with child, making great bonfires and throwing children into them, while the small boys and girls were captured as slaves. I have spoken with considerable numbers of the men who took part in this battue, and it was sufficient to sicken any one to hear the delight with which they described all those horrors, apparently quite unconscious they had been doing anything wrong. Indeed there is no monster more savage and cruel than the Swahili trader, when the demon nature within him is let loose.

As we wore the first who had ventured into this part after it was "amani" (at peace), and "put to rights," we had every reason to fear reprisals. This indeed would have been "intelligent destruction." But the work of the traders had been done too thoroughly, and as the population was more than decimated they fled in terror from before us. At furthest they would only timidly peep forth from their villages, like rabbits from their holes, who knew only too well the death–knoll of the gun. As a natural result no food was to be bought.

Christmas Day was not marked by any feast or revelling among good things. And yet I was supremely happy, for I was brimful of the thought that an arduous piece of work was completed, and that I was homeward–bound.

On the 26th we arrived at the confines of Masawa, and as they were at war with their neighbours of Elgon, we could get no guide to convey us thither. I may here incidentally remark that the week after we left this populous part, the Masai made a descent, and successfully carried off all the cattle.

Next day we had to trust in our good luck, and make a way for ourselves through the pathless forest which surrounds Elgon. On the way I shot an old buffalo cow, though I was still so weak from fever that it was with the utmost difficulty I held up my rifle. If after the first bullet she had charged me, she would have had me at her mercy, as, in my hurry to ram a second cartridge home, it stuck halfway, and nearly made me frantic before I put matters right.

After noon we reached the base of the mountain, and camped on a tributary of the Guaso Lodo. We here saw no signs of inhabitants, and we were at a loss what to do. [300] After firing off three guns–the customary signal of a caravan–and getting no response, I sent off Makatubu and some men to reconnoitre. They returned with the news that round a shoulder of the mountain, and on the opposite side of a small valley, they saw smoke apparently issuing from a black hole in the face of the declivity, and that several such holes were to be seen all along a line of precipice.

Next morning, taking Sadi and a select party, I set off to explore for myself, with the double purpose of examining the caves and of seeking a guide. Keeping along the face of the mountain, I observed that it was composed of enormous beds of agglomerate, alternating with sheets of lava, clearly demonstrating its volcanic origin.

Curiously enough, this enormous mountain mass, which, as I have said, is quite comparable to Mount Kenia minus the upper peak, forms, like Kenia and Kilimanjaro, what we may call an outpost of the great central lava–field of the Masai country, as it rises from metamorphic rocks, which are to be seen cropping out almost up to the very base. My examination would lead me to infer that it has originated in the later epoch of volcanic activity, and that it has no connection with the great lava sheet of Guas’ Ngishu, which thickens eastward, whilst if it had flowed from Elgon, the contrary would have been the case. Another feature is noticeable in that it rises on a line of fault running north and south, which has formed the boundary between Guas’ Ngishu and Kavirondo.

Noting these facts in passing, we soon rounded a flanking shoulder of the mountain, and pushing forward, we became aware of some natives perched on the top of an apparently inaccessible precipice. Hitting upon a footpath which seemed to lead in the right direction, we followed it, and sure enough it led us by a steep ascent up the mountain. Half–way we met some elders. Sadi tackled them, and by judicious presents we were soon on good terms.

Afterwards, though much against their will, I ascended the remaining part of the rocky declivity. Gaining a ledge, I found a great yawning hole staring me in the face. Clambering over some rocks, I reached the mouth, which was strongly protected by a palisade of tree–trunks. Looking over this barrier, I witnessed an unexpected and very remarkable sight. There lay before me a huge pit, thirty feet deep, one hundred feet long, and about twenty broad, [301] cut perpendicularly out of a volcanic agglomerate of great compactness. In the centre of this pit, or (as it may have been) month of a cave, stood several cows, and a number of the usual bee–hive arrangements for storing grain. On the side opposite to me were the openings of several huts, which were built in chambers out of sight, and which only showed the doorways, like the entrances to a dovecot. In and out of these were children running, in a fashion thoroughly suggestive of the lower animals, especially as seen in the midst of their strange surroundings. The inhabitants had all the appearance of the natives of Kamasia and Elgeyo, and I believe their language to be very similar, probably a dialect slightly removed.

On inquiry as to who made this curious excavation, I was told that it was God’s work. "How," said they, "could we with our puny implements (exhibiting a toy–like axe, their only non–warlike instrument) "cut a hole like this? And this is nothing in comparison with others which you may see all round the mountain. See there, and there, and there! These are of such great size that they penetrate far into utter darkness, and even we have not seen the end of them. In some there are large villages with entire herds of cattle. And yet you ask who made them "They are truly God’s work!" Such was the substance of the people’s remarks, and doubtless they in their limited knowledge spoke very wisely. I could not, however, accept their theory.

There was absolutely no tradition regarding these caves among the people. "Our fathers lived here, and their fathers did the same," was the invariable reply to all my questions. Clearly there was no sclue in that direction. And yet the caves bore incontestible evidence on the face of them that they had neither a natural nor supernatural origin. They must have been excavated by the hand of man. That was a fact about which there could absolutely be no two opinions. My readers will naturally ask "What, then, were they made for?" And here I have to confess myself non–plussed. That such prodigious excavations in extremely solid rock, extending away into complete darkness, branching out in various directions, and from twelve to fifteen feet from floor to ceiling, were formed as dwelling–places or even as strongholds, is simply absurd. For natives such as those of the present day (supposing such had always been there) to have cut out even one cave would have been a sheer [302] impossibility with the tools they possess. But there are not merely one or two excavations. There are surprising numbers of them–sufficient, indeed, to house a whole tribe, as I am informed that they extend all round the mountain.

There is one point of great interest as tending to throw some light on the subject. The caves all occupy a certain horizon or level of the mountain, and all occur in the compact agglomerate, none in the lava beds immediately overhead.

Looking at everything, I can come to but one conclusion, and that is, that in a very remote era some very powerful race, considerably advanced in arts and civilization, excavated these great caves in their search for precious stones or possibly some precious metal. However improbable this theory may seem, it is the only one which suggests itself to me after months of cogitation. Unfortunately, though I was from the first without a doubt about their being of artificial origin, this idea never crossed my brain while I was at Elgon, and I consequently made no special examination for evidence of precious stones or metals. Are we to suppose that the Egyptians really got so far south I If not, what other race could have cut these extraordinary recesses?

Getting no satisfaction from the Wa–elgon, and unable to persuade them to give me a guide to Elgeyo, I had reluctantly to return. Keeping along the agglomerate level, we passed numerous entrances to excavations, evidently unoccupied. At last we arrived at the mouth of one which was very strongly fortified with trees, though also deserted. Under the circumstances we made no scruple of breaking our way inside, and then we found a most capacious chamber over twelve feet high, though evidently there wore several feet of dry dung. Occupying the nearer part of the chamber was a perfect representation of a Masai kraal–the basketlike huts surrounding a circular central space; only owing to the peculiar conditions, the huts had no roofs–the cave being perfectly dry. The excavation was of the most irregular character, and rough blocks were left standing like pillars, apparently more from accident than design. When I had sufficiently examined this unique sight I pushed further in. At last, after I had ventured little short of one hundred yards without reaching an end, I was fain to stop, as I was now in utter darkness, and did not know what I might fall into. Close to the mouth of this cave was a picturesque cascade, and the approach to it as most [303] difficult. Indeed, in native warfare, unless this stronghold could be taken by surprise, it could not be captured at all. Thoroughly puzzled with this astounding discovery, sbut too ill to continue my researches further, I had to return to camp.

Next day I should have liked greatly to resume my examination f the caves; but, alas! the explorer is a slave to the exigencies of his situation. Often, when on the very threshold of some stirring discovery, he is baffled by cruel fate. Thus was it now with me. We had a pathless wilderness to traverse with no better guide than mere vague notions assisted by a compass. Moreover, I felt that in order to get any proper clue to the history of the caves I should require a prolonged and careful examination, with excavations in the cave debris. In the circumstances I concluded that my most prudent course was to march, and hope for a more favourable opportunity of solving the mystery.

The only inhabited part of the mighty Elgon is the south side, and here there is a very small and miserable remnant of a tribe, probably once more powerful. They are continually at war with the Wa–kavirondo, and are not unlikely to disappear altogether from the face of the earth.

Our first march took us along the base of the mountain, and we had frequent occasion to note the occurrence of the mouths of excavations. We crossed four streams from the heights, which, owing to the depth of the channels and the rankness of the vegetation that lined their banks, made our progress slow and tedious.

On camping we were placed in a somewhat unpleasant position by the reckless firing of the grass to leeward. For a time all went right, but presently the wind veered round, and the flames came down on our rear with a tremendous roar. For the moment tents and goods were in considerable jeopardy, as the grass was tall and dry, and the wind strong. The men, however, having rushed with their own belongings, to a place of safety, attacked the fire manfully with branches, and fortunately they succeeded in putting it out before it reached the tents.

Next morning I killed two buffaloes, which came in handy as "kitchen" to the unpalatable grain–food of the men. As I myself acted in the capacity of guide, I had a weary business of it, tramping on ahead through extremely tall and dense grass.

The last day of the year, which had so far worn a smiling [304] and encouraging face, was fated to be a remarkable one. For a time it seemed as if I had reached the limits of my earthly existence as well as that of the year. The agreeable and piquant situation happened in this wise. I had resolved to shoot something, however tough, to replenish our larder for the due celebration of the day. With this object in view I had kept ahead of the caravan, accompanied by Brahim. We struggled for some three hours through long, unburnt grass, and open, scraggy forest, which clothed a rich, rolling country. At last we were rewarded by the sight of a couple of buffaloes feeding some distance ahead. Gliding up warily till I got within fifty yards, I gave one of them a sbullet close to the region of the heart. This was not sufficient to bring the animal down, and off it lumbered. Following it up, we were soon once more at close quarters, with the result that a bullet from my Express passed through its shoulder. With the obstinacy and tenacity of life characteristic of its kind, however, it did not quietly succumb. I next tried it with a fair header. This obviously took effect, for after it had struggled forward some distance it lay down, clearly, as I thought, to die. My belief was quite correct, only I should not have disturbed its last moments. Concluding, very foolishly, that the buffalo was completely hors de combat, and that the game was mine, I, with the jaunty air of a conqueror, tucked my rifle under my arm, and proceeded to secure my prize. Brahim, with more sense., warned me that it was not finished yet; and indeed, if I had not been a fool–which the most sensible people will be sometimes–I might have concluded that with so much of the evil one in its nature the brute had still sufficient life to play me a mischief, for it still held its head erect and defiant, though we were unseen. Heedless of Brahim’s admonition, I obstinately went forward, intending to give it its quietus at close quarters. I had got within six yards, and yet I remained unnoticed, the head of the buffalo being turned slightly from me, and I not making much noise. I was not destined to go much further. A step or two more and there was a rustling among some dead leaves. Simultaneously the buffalo’s head turned in my direction. A ferocious, blood–curdling grunt instantly apprised me of the brute’s resolution to be revenged. The next moment it was on its feet. Unprepared to fire, and completely taken by surprise, I had no time for thought. Instinctively I turned my back upon my infuriated enemy. As far as my [305] recollections serve me, I had no fooling of fear while I was running away. I am almost confident that I was not putting my best foot foremost, and that I felt as if the whole affair was rather a well–played game. It was a game, however, that did not last long. I was aware of Brahim tearing away in front of me. There was a loud crashing behind me. Then something touched me on the thigh, and I was promptly propelled skyward.

My next recollection was finding myself lying dazed and bruised, with some hazy notion that I had better take care I With this indefinite sense of something unusual I slowly and painfully raised my head, and lo I there was the brutal avenger standing three yards off, watching his victim, but apparently disdaining to hoist an inert foe. I found I was lying with my head towards the buffalo. Strangely enough even then, though I was in what may be called the jaws of death, I had not the slightest sensation of dread; only the electric thought flashed through my brain, "If he comes for me again I am a dead man." It almost seemed to me as if my thought roused the buffalo to action. Seeing signs of life in my hitherto inanimate body, he blew a terrible blast through his nostrils, and prepared to finish me off. Stunned and bruised as I was, I could make no fight for life. I simply dropped my head down among the grass in the vague hope that it might escape being pounded into jelly. Just at that moment a rifle–shot rang through the forest, which caused me to raise my head once more. With glad surprise I found the buffalo’s tail presented to my delighted contemplation. Instinctively seizing the unexpected moment of grace, I with a terrible effort pulled myself together and staggered away a few steps. As I did so, I happened to put my hand down to my thigh, and there I felt something warm and wet; exploring further, my fingers found their way into a big hole in my thigh. As I made this discovery there was quite a volley, and I saw my adversary drop dead.

I began to feel that I myself might now succumb in peace, and I nearly fainted away. Momentarily realizing, however, the dangerous nature of my wound, I succeeded, with an almost superhuman effort, in pulling off my trousers, and with my handkerchief tightly binding up the wound, from which the blood was gushing. I could then only smile reassuringly to Martin, and glide sweetly into a faint in his arms. Shortly after, I was able further to console my alarmed followers by returning to consciousness, and as the bleeding had now [306] considerably abated, I could let them take off my boots, which were filled with blood. To show that the accident was not worth speaking about, I attempted to walk a few steps, but again nearly fainted. I now learned that I had gone up in the most beautiful style, my hat going off in one direction and my rifle in another as if I was showering favours on an admiring crowd below. I must have come down on my side, as I was seriously bruised along the face and ribs. For a time I thought some of the ribs were broken. This, however, proved not to be the case. The curious thing is that I have no recollection of anything after feeling myself touched on the thigh by the buffalo’s horn. I did not even feel myself fall. With regard to my unconsciousness of fear on finding myself vis–a–vis with the maddened and deadly animal, I can only imagine that I must have been in a manner mesmerized, and in the condition described by Livingstone when he found himself under a lion.

On examining my wound, which did not pain me much, I found that one horn had penetrated nearly six inches into my thigh, grazing the bone, and just reaching the skin several inches above. The wound was thus more of the nature of a stab than a rent or rupture, and if it should prove that there had been nothing poisonous on the horn, I should, with the constitution I had, have nothing to fear. The horns proved to be both massive and beautiful, the curves being exquisitely graceful, and I duly enjoyed the sight of them as I bade farewell to the old year with suitable regrets (conventional) that I was not to vanish with him, and drank to the hopeful new year in deep libations of buffalo soup. Through the sleepless watches of the night I was far from unhappy, as I pictured to myself the yearly family gathering far away in Scotland, and reflected that on the succeeding year I should have a proper story to tell them. I laughed heartily as I imagined to myself the queer differences in our respective positions–they enjoying them themselves with the good cheer of the paternal home, doubtless not forgetful of me; while I was wishing them the compliments of the season in soup of an animal which a few hours before had nearly killed me.

Thus ended the year 1883, and as a souvenir of the day, I have much pleasure in presenting to the sympathizing reader an engraving of the horns of the buffalo, which, it may be added, are three feet eight inches in a straight line from curve to curve.

New Year’s morning found me little better than an animated log, though marvellously quick to the touch. My exposure in [308] the open air after being wounded had resulted in a rheumatic affection of the shoulders, hips, and knees which rendered me so helpless that I could not stir without assistance, and I had actually to be fed. But this was no time to indulge in the luxury of being nursed. I was in an uninhabited wilderness, and move on we must. Martin had constructed a stretcher of sticks on the previous day, and thereon I had to submit to the humiliation of being carried–the first time that I had ever sunk so low. I concluded, however, that, everything considered, my situation was not so very bad after all. I could not but smile at the jocularities of my men, who were literally quarrelling to have the honour of being my carriers–a striking change from the time when they were the mere off–scourings of Zanzibar villany, and required to be driven like a slave caravan with language more forcible than elegant, and with the frequent application of the birch. They were now elevated to the status of men and brothers, and their enthusiasm to do work sometimes required to be restrained. The carriers dubbed me "Our dollars," and continually incited each other with delightfully expressive freedom to "Hurry up with our dollars" "Look alive there!" (one would shout to his fellow); "do you mean to leave our pice in the wilderness?" No! it was quite clear that I would not be left to die as long as they could hold up a hand! But my smiles at these curious exclamations were not unmixed with frowns, when I thought of the deep meaning underlying their allusion to me as their dollars–an. allusion fraught with dishonour to the English name, rarely before sullied in East Africa. It has occurred at least once in the recent history of travel in that region, that the death of a leader meant the entire loss to the porters of their wages, honourably and arduously earned.

It had been my intention to ascend the high range of Chibcharagnani, both to determine its height and to get an extended view away north towards Elgumi. This, of course, proved to be out of the question, now that I had to be carried along helpless–and no mean weight I was; for at that time, though somewhat pulled down by the fever, I was in very respectable condition. We were forced, therefore, to content ourselves with skirting its base–a trying enough matter with the number of streams flowing to the Nzoia.

My wound meanwhile rapidly improved with no other medicine than pure cold water, and neither inflammation nor suppuration set in. By the 4th of January I was able to hobble a little bit in the evening. [309]

On the 7th we reached the forest belt which caps the edge of the plateau of Guas’ Ngishu, and we found ourselves somewhat in a quandary. To traverse that dense and gloomy tract without a road was simply impossible, except by spending days in cutting, to bring ourselves to the edge of the Elgeyo precipice. We knew there were only two places where the descent could be made, and we were now looking for the one which leads into the district of Maragwet. At this juncture we were overjoyed to meet an Andorobbo hunter, who promised for a consideration to convey us to our destination. We at once showered presents of seneng� and beads upon him, and joyfully followed him. Meanwhile the country was so hilly and the pathway so narrow, that I was constrained to mount my donkey "Nil Desperandum" (alias Dick). We did not follow our guide far, for he presently gave us the slip, and we found our progress cut short at the end of a cul–de–sac.

We duly anathematized the treacherous scoundrel; but there was nothing for us except to retreat. We now threw the reins upon the neck of circumstance–,, and ill the spirit of pure venture we struck away north, vaguely hoping for some lucky accident to lead us out of our difficulties. For a time we knocked around aimlessly; but at last we struck upon a trace of a former pathway, which seemed to lead in the required direction. Into this we at once plunged, a dozen men leading the way to cut down all obstruction..,,, in the shape of overhanging branches, creepers, &c., as I had to sit like a log on the donkey. We were pleased to find that the path did not end quickly, and we followed it with rising hopes. I got some terrible wrenches on the donkey, [310] however, and nearly met the fate of Absalom on various trees. Once I was placed in extreme jeopardy in descending a slippery place, the donkey being attacked by ants, which drove it nearly mad. The excited animal required the combined efforts of two men at its head and two at its tail to bring it to a stop and allow me to be rescued.

After mid–day we reached the edge of the escarpment, and I commenced to move down in a painful manner. Finally at I p.m. we reached the upper limits of cultivation, and camped in a grove of wild bananas, by a purling rill. We were greatly pleased. to learn that our Mombasa friend Moran, with his colleague Hamis, was in our immediate vicinity, hunting up ivory. Next morning we moved down to their camp, and here we stayed a couple of days to give my wound a better chance of healing than it had yet got.


Resuming our way, we were almost baffled in our attempt to descend, owing to the excessive steepness of the way, and the loose blocks which strewed the face of the mountain. I here noticed the employment of canals for irrigation, on a larger scale than in Teita, many of them being conveyed with surprising judgment along the most unexpected places. We contrived to make the descent without accident, and the men camped beside one of the artificial canals employed to bring the water from a great distance, to irrigate the ground at the base. In camping here, we found we had simply delivered ourselves into the hands of the Philistines. The natives at once put the screw upon us to extort a large hongo. Seeing us hesitate, they quietly retired, and the water with them–for they could easily divert it in its upper course. This was quite sufficient to produce the desired effect. We humbly paid up; and immediately, as if a modern rod of Moses had struck the rock, the water began to flow.

Leaving Maragwet, we skirted the base of the escarpment through horrid thorn–bushes, which speedily tore my trousers to tatters, while my legs bled profusely. In six hours we reached the Wei–wei, and camped.

Then we pushed on to the western base of Kamasia. Here one of my men had a very narrow escape from a puff adder. He nearly sat down on it before he knew it, and only saved himself by going off like a rocket. On killing it, we found the fangs to be two inches long, curved, and sharp as a needle.

We next moved on to our old camp at Kapt�.. There I [311] left Makatubu and the great majority of the men to collect food for our homeward march, while I went on to Baringo to see that all was well with the main body of my caravan. I left orders with Makatubu not to return till every man had a load of food and ten days’ personal rations besides.

Our first march took us across the mountains, and our second to Baringo, where I had the satisfaction of finding everything right, with the exception that one man had died.

The elephant–hunters left by Jumba had met with. two accidents, one of them having ended fatally. In the one case a wounded elephant had turned and caught its tormenter and shaken him about as a dog would a rat, and then thrown him aside breathless and nearly dead. In the other the same thing had occurred, but the man was killed outright. Strangest thing of all, the unfortunate man’s gun was never found, though several days were spent in search of the valuable article, and the only conclusion that could be arrived at was that the elephant had carried it off to the mountains. The other men had been more fortunate, and had shot some elephants with fine tusks, several being considerably over 100 lbs. each.

The temperature proved to be much warmer now, indicating an approach to the wet season. No rain, however, had fallen, and everything was burnt up till the grass crumbled into powder under our feet, and the rich alluvium was cut up in all directions by yawning rents, which made it dangerous work hunting. In consequence of the warmer nights we were now very much annoyed with mosquitoes, which swarmed about us. When the actual rains do commence, the country is said to be almost unendurable, and the Wa–kwafi declare that they are utterly unable to sleep and have to spend the night beside bonfires, dancing. The possibility of this queer plight I soon demonstrated, though not much to my satisfaction. On one or two occasions on which I ventured near the marshy flats around the lake towards evening, in search of game, I was soon jumping vigorously to a naughty tune–but not for the fun of the thing. I had to flee precipitately.

For several days after my return to Baringo, I occupied myself taking a series of observations to determine my longitude and latitude, though under considerable difficulties, as my partially–healed wound was not conducive to the calm study of astronomical phenomena where a sitting posture was required. [312]

At last, however, towards the end of the month, I had the satisfaction of finding the wound quite closed, and only a nasty stiffness remaining, which did not improve the elegance of my walking. This allowed me to go out and shoot several waterbuck to add to our small stock of food, as none could be got either at Njemps or Kamasia.

The Wa–kwafi of Njemps indeed were at a very sad pass, and were glad to eat rats or any unclean thing–a strange falling off from the original strict dietary of the Masai, which allows of neither fish nor feathered creature, nor even any wild animal. Their shambas, or plantations, were now well prepared for the reception of the seed, and it only required water to yield an abundant crop. The rains, however, could not be depended upon, or were so brief in duration as to be insufficient, hence the people had to fall back upon the waters of the Guaso Tigirish.

One night I was awakened by hearing great singing and dancing, as if the best of fun was going on in the village across the river. Thinking that it was only a man dead, and that they were about to hand him over to the hyenas outside, I was settling down to sleep again, when I was made aware that the revellers were moving along the river banks. Then they stopped and howled for about an hour to Ngai. This clone, they were addressed by some of the elders, and finally they crossed the stream and proceeded up its course. The singing had been a prayer to Ngai to assist in the damming. up of the stream for the purpose of spreading its waters into their fields. This operation occupied them several days. Their efforts were finally crowned with success, and the canals overflowed with their life–giving fluid.

At this time I was so fortunate as to meet several members of a tribe to the north, known as the Wa–suk. They were strong–boned, ugly–looking fellows, though their heads were not markedly negroid. They went absolutely naked, if we except a very small bit of kid–skin ornamented with beads, worn by one of them like a bib. A piece of flat brass hung from the lower lip of each, and must have been both painful and awkward to the wearer. The most remarkable feature, of the Wa–suk, however, was the manner in which they dressed their hair. By some process, which I have never been able to fathom, they work their hair into the shape of a bag, pointed somewhat at the bottom, having a piece of horn curling round and upwards as a termination. By some glutinous preparation the hair is worked into a solid mass, [313] resembling in texture a cross–cut of unpolished ebony–wood. The entrance to this remarkable bag was from beneath, the hand requiring to be passed backward over the shoulder. In this they placed all their small articles, beads, &c.

The Wa–suk are described as very warlike, and generally quite a match for the Masai, in whose country they frequently make raids. They have, indeed, compelled the Masai to retire from the northern part of Lykipia. They occupy a magnificent and picturesque range of mountains, which lie across the central depression some thirty miles north of Baringo. They keep cattle, sheep, and goats, but also cultivate the soil. It is said that they build no huts, unless we reckon as such a rude gathering of stones sufficient to enclose a couple of people. In wet weather they squat inside these rootless structures, sheltering themselves under dressed hides–certainly the most primitive mode of living imaginable, if the description is really true (of which I can give no guarantee). Their language is allied distantly to the Masai, and they doubtless form a connecting link between the latter race and the Nile tribes. [314]

Beyond the Suk country is that of Engobot, only a few years ago opened up to coast trade. Then come about eighty miles of uninhabited forest, in which elephants are said to swarm unmolested and their ivory to rot untouched–for the people of the surrounding region have no trading relations with any one, and do not know the value of that precious article. A tusk worth 150l. in England may be picked up for nothing, or bought from any native for a pennyworth of beads.

Jumba Kimameta, as I learned afterwards, was the first to cross this pathless region. He reached Elgumi beyond, which he found to be a country with a dense population ready to sell donkeys for a few strings of beads, a goat for one string, a tusk of ivory for two or three strings, and great baskets of food at corresponding prices. He found the natives ornamented with beads such as are not known among traders, and which must have found their way thither at some very ancient period. The women wore only a very small skin appendage as a dress, and the men only a band of beads. Near the furthest point Jumba reached, the people spoke of a great salt lake on which were boats, and said that from that direction they had heard of guns, though they had never seen them. They brought the traders flour made from the fruit of the hyphene palm.

From the various accounts I concluded that the escarpment of Elgeyo extends indefinitely northward, though with a westerly trend, marking off, without a doubt, the eastern watershed of the Sobat and smaller tributaries of the Nile.

Then from some Wa–kwafi, who arrived from Samburu while I was at Baringo, I learned that the Lykipia range or escarpment also extends away north by east beyond Nyiro, and probably forms the eastern side of the great Lake Samburu. This lake they described as from twenty to thirty miles broad; but its length they knew not, as they had never seen the northern end. They further spoke of it as lying between mountains several thousands of feet high, though the water does not quite reach their base, and there Wa–kwafi dwell. They say that the water is salt, and has surprising numbers of enormous white fish, with crocodiles and hippopotami. The natives have no canoes.

Doubtless the eastern mountains extend even further north till they meet those of Southern Abyssinia, and form the watershed of the still mysterious Jub River. The lake depression of Naivasha and Baringo would thus appear to [315] extend north, though gradually widening out, and to enclose the extensive area which includes Samburu and another large lake, the Suk country, and Elgumi. It is probably a great plain with numerous large volcanic mountains and isolated ranges, from which descend various streams to irrigate the lower parts, and there die out or flow into the neighbouring lakes.

We may put the general level of the country at from 4000 to 5000 feet, excluding the mountains; and doubtless, like the great Masai plain to the south of Naivasha, it has no communication either with the Nile tributaries or with the Jub. Clearly there is a region of great interest and importance here, the exploration of which will be a rich reward to the adventuresome traveller; and I can only say I shall envy the man who is first in the field.

A few words may now be said about the hitherto mysterious Lake Baringo. This sheet of water has long been heard of. It has been a delightful bone of contention between the geographers at home, who have delighted to draw it in various phases with the large and liberal hand characteristic of those who are guided by their inner consciousness and a theoretic eye. Sometimes it was comparable to the Nyanza in size; at other times it had no existence. Then it knocked around the map a bit, being at one time tacked on to Victoria Nyanza, and anon separated from it, or only connected by a thin watery line. After all this shuttlecock work, what is the truth about it? Well, it proves to be an isolated basin of no great size, but exquisitely charming, with its pretty isles, which look like a central big emerald surrounded by smaller topazes, and set in burnished silver. And then how sunnily it smiles up at its great parents, the shaggy overhanging masses of Kamasia and Lykipia, whose upper cloud–sucking heights collect the rain, and send it down with delightful nature–music, dancing and leaping! In extreme length the lake is 18 miles, and in breadth 10 miles.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable facts about it is the large amount of water it receives, even in the dry season, without rising in level to any extent, or finding. an outlet. It is hardly conceivable that on such a small area the evaporation is sufficient to preserve the equilibrium. Even in the very driest part of the season, no less than five streams of considerable dimensions flow into it, and in the wet season two, if not three, more. The volume in the wet season must be very great, and yet the level of the lake rises extremely [316] little, probably not more than two feet. To make the puzzle more complete, the water is quite sweet, and harbours enormous numbers of fish, with some crocodiles (where can they have come from?) and hippopotami. It would almost seem as if there must be a subterranean outlet.

The central island is known as Kirwan, and is inhabited by Wa–kwafi, who cultivate the soil, and have cattle, sheep, and goats. They go backwards and forwards in small canoes of the most ideal type. They are formed to hold only one man or two boys, and are composed of a remarkable light mimosa–wood, found growing round the lake in marshy places. It seems to be as light as cork. The component parts of the canoe are simply tied together in their rough state. I tried to get ferried over to the island, but the islanders believed I wanted to bewitch the place, and point–blank refused to take me.

Baringo does not seem to have been formed by the piling up of debris across the trough, as is the case with Naivasha. It appears rather to have been brought into existence by a secondary subsidence of the depression. On looking down [317] upon it at various times from a height, the thought was continually suggested to me that Kirwan was the upper Part Of the cone of a volcano which had disappeared by sinking below the level of the surrounding country, forming, in consequence, a receptacle for its waters. This, of course, is only a notion–though without a doubt subsidence is the explanation of Baringo’s existence.

At the north end the most remarkable evidence of recent volcanic activity is to be seen in the block–strewn ground, presenting, one of the most trying bits of country to traverse I have ever encountered. The angular slags and scoriaceous fragments are so unchanged and fresh–looking, that they seem to be the volcanic product of the day before. I have been on Vesuvius and seen the lava flow out, and fragments and stones piled up; and to me the resemblance to both in the phenomena of Baringo was marvellously striking. At the south end there are numerous hot springs, which speak eloquently, if other evidence was needed, of the recent potency of the volcanic forces. At one time Baringo must have extended much further south–quite ten miles–but seems to have been silted up by the enormous quantity of mud brought from the mountains. Even yet a considerable area is occupied by a marsh fed by several streams and springs on their way to Baringo.


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