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ON the 6th of March, having failed either to secure any of my runaways or to get porters from the coast to leaven the mass of villainy which formed my caravan, I found myself ready to start. Captain Luxmoore, of the London, kindly, at the instance of Colonel Miles, lent us H.B.M.’s steam tug (or tub) No. 11, otherwise known as the Suez, to convey us to Mombasa. Colonel Miles himself, who had from the first cordially used all his influence in furthering the scheme of the Society, resolved personally to brave the monsoon and the terrible seas, to make sure that everything was smoothed over for my departure.

As I took farewell of my kindly hostess and stepped down to the beach, I was reminded in rather a quaint fashion of the good–will of those I left behind, by finding sundry old shoes following up my retreating footsteps–an observance of a queer old–world custom which I was scarcely prepared to expect amid such purely Oriental surroundings, serving, if it did nothing else, to lighten the dolorousness incidental to a farewell.

In the previous chapter I have had occasion to revile in no measured terms the African dhow as the very embodiment of all that is vile and uncomfortable. I hardly thought that I should ever be tempted to compare it favourably with H.M. steam tug No. 11. Certainly this item of our boasted navy did not behave in a pleasing manner, even though carrying the august person of the Consul–General and Political Agent for East Africa, who, it may be remarked, was anything but a dignified spectacle before we reached the end of our voyage. We had it so rough, and the tug was so small and had such powerful engines, that we, were simply forced through each succeeding wave. Almost every man on board, including the officer in charge and several seamen, was sick with the horrible motion. I of course, in my customary Mark Tapley manner, tried my best to think it "awfully jolly" in the intervals of hanging over the rails or emerging from the waves which ever and anon broke over the boat. I tried further to find comfort in the thought of a thoroughly expurgated inner mail and a liver put into the very best of order; but such philosophical considerations did not lessen my keen desire to reach Mombasa. Colonel Miles, less [26] accustomed to the open air than I was, had the skin literally blistered off his face, and looked a woful sight as he sat, drenched and sick, facing the storm throughout the weary night. As for myself, I had not the gift of seeing myself as others saw me, so I won’t draw on my imagination.

Our troubles, however, only lasted some twenty–four hours, so that on the 7th we entered the harbour of Mombasa. We were at once received with the well–known hospitality of Mr. Lane, who had by this time recovered from the excitement in which I had found him on the previous occasion. I was at once installed in his house, and without loss of time, having seen that Martin and the men were all right, I set about enlisting some more porters from the Mission to make up my full complement. In this I was accorded every assistance by Messrs. Lane and Taylor. The Rev. Mr. Binns, who on my previous visit had been up at Ndara, in Teita, forming a mission station, had now returned, and he was in a position to give me some valuable information about the state of the road so far.

Through the good offices of Mr. Wakefield I secured the services of a guide and interpreter–the most important official in the expedition–named Muhinna. This gentleman had been an ivory–trader up country, and had penetrated the Masai district between twenty and thirty times. He was thoroughly conversant with all the routes, and could speak the language fluently, besides several other dialects, notably that of U–kambani, with which he had a very thorough acquaintance. In these important qualifications there was probably not a man in Mombasa better suited for the post. Moreover, he was reputed to be one of the most trustworthy of men. How he fulfilled his duties will appear in due course. Without some such man it would have been impossible to have gone six marches from the coast, so utterly unacquainted were my men with this tract of country, and so different were the manners and customs from those prevalent further south. I had therefore, as it seemed to me, much reason for self–congratulation.


Three days after my arrival I despatched all my men and goods to the head of the creek, the former by land, the latter in the mission boats. After seeing the last article off, I was accompanied down to the beach by Colonel Miles, Lieutenant Target of the Suez, and the missionaries. There was a warm grasping of hands; many good wishes were expressed and farewells said. As I stepped into Mr. Wake[27]field’s boat a cheer was given, which was taken up by the sailors on board the tug as we went sailing by before a good breeze. In rounding the corner a final wave of the hat was given, and thus, with my followers sitting well in order, "I made my first start from Mombasa "to seek a newer world." On arrival at the landing–place I saw that everything was put in ship–shape order, and then went back to Jomvu to spend the night.

Next day being Sunday, we did not move. I employed the day in a pleasant walk up to Rabai Mission. The way led up the steep face of the Rabai hills by a broad path which has been formed by the missionaries, and which shows very good sections of the rock underneath. At the base of the hills the rock is argillaceous shale, with numerous ironstone nodules exfoliating in concentric layers. From the shales we pass into a very dark–bluish limestone, impure though compact, in the weathered face of which were to be seen in relief [28] many marine fossils. Sandstones succeed the limestones as we ascend the hills, and these become coarser and coarser towards the top of the section.

From the top of the range is seen a charmingly irregular landscape, clothed with waving clumps of cocoa–nuts, dark, green masses of bush, lighter–coloured grassy glades, and everywhere signs of cultivation, with the mission village and buildings peeping out from among mangoes. We had a magnificent view of the distant Duruma hills to the west, and eastward lay below the many–branched silvery creek, penetrating the dense mangrove swamps and marking out the isle of Mombasa. To the north were the three hills which form the "crown of Mombasa," and away beyond stretched the sea, on which could be detected by a streak of white the line of breakers, the dull roar of which could be distinctly heard from our point of vantage.

Having thus enjoyed the view while I recovered my breath, I continued my way to the mission premises. I arrived while service was being conducted by Mr. Jones, the native teacher. Not to disturb the meeting, I stepped in behind the gathering, and was greatly struck by the appearance of the well–filled church, the strict attention of the audience (who were all dressed in the height of Rabai fashion), and the fluency of the preacher. The singing, led by the latter and accompanied by Shaw on the harmonium, was pleasing and hearty, as negro–singing usually is. The service over, I was hospitably greeted by Mrs. Shaw and conducted to their house, which was originally built and occupied by Rebmann. It is now a most charming little cottage, covered with creepers, and commands a capital view through a glen cut in the hills.


Next day I found it necessary to return to Mombasa, as Muhinna had begun to be troublesome, and to show the customary Swahili traits. My reappearance at Frere Town quite spoiled the effect of my late impressive farewell. After nearly frightening Muhinna out of his wits, I got matters again put right, and on the following day men and goods were safely landed at Rabai, which we looked upon as the real starting–place. Another day was spent here, putting our affairs into thorough working order, and enlisting a few more men from Jomvu and Rabai

Some pleasant walks introduced me to the Wa–nyika, who are the inhabitants of the surrounding country, though around Rabai they are too much altered by contact with the [29] missionaries to be genuine specimens of the tribe. Their houses are different from any other tribe I have yet met, being oblong, and like a small hay–stack in shape, having no walls, and with the usual diminutive door at the end. The people themselves are not by any means stalwart or muscular. On the contrary, they are spare and weather–beaten, as though they had a hard fight with man and nature to get a livelihood. The dress of the men is a simple loin–cloth. Their principal offensive and defensive weapons are the bow and arrow, and the sim� or sword, which in this particular region is spatulate in shape, being broadest near the top, and shading gradually down to the handle. The women wear a garment strikingly suggestive of a highland kilt, and for ornament a kind of stockings formed entirely of beads, worn closely fitted to the legs, and a number of loose strings round the neck, besides more beads round the arms. As I had almost no personal acquaintance with the Wa–nyika, I will not attempt to describe them further; but if any reader is [30] curious about this somewhat uninteresting tribe, I may refer him to the works of Krapf and New, who spent years among them, and therefore speak with the voice of authority.

The day having at length arrived in which we are to bid adieu to civilization and pass into the savage wastes beyond, let us, on the eve of the campaign, hold a review and march past of the personnel of the Expedition. Taking my men according to rank; there naturally steps forth my caravan assistant, James Martin, familiarly known as Martin. Comparatively short of limb, though stout of body, he has the somewhat ungraceful walk of the sailor. Dark hair and eyes and swarthy complexion at once indicate that he comes of a Mediterranean race.

Next appears Muhinna, on whose honesty I depend for any success in my attempt to penetrate the Masai country. A cunning, unprepossessing expression does not speak well for him, but at present I have no fault to find with him.

Following Muhinna, appear in succession Muinyi Sera, short, and well up in years; Makatubu, tall, well–made, and muscular; Kachech�, the "detective, "rather below the average in size, characterized by a sly expression, as of one who has some "ways that are dark, and tricks that are vain."

In the wake of these worthies comes Brahim. (the "bullock") as faithful as the bull–dog, and almost as unprepossessing in his appearance. The rear of the head–men is brought up by Mzee Mauledi, the quiet and steady, with a cast of features and a wealth of beard that tell of Arab blood in his veins.

After the leaders appears Bedu� ("the Wanderer"), a perfect giant, bold and strong, but wofully lazy. He acts as the captain of those who next follow, viz. ten Askari or soldiers. These are the best men picked out of the caravan, and their duties are to act as guards, police, hunters, and general assistants of the head–men. I had none with me on my first expedition; but it would have been impossible to have done without them on this occasion, so incessant was the watchfulness required to prevent desertion, and to guard the camp during the night, not to speak of the unusual amount of work required on arriving in camp, which hardly came under the duties of the porters.

Along with these, however, should be mentioned my cook –a Nassick boy–named Mark Wellington, well–intentioned and honest, but so atrociously slow and stupid that he spoiled more of my meals than I care to think of now. Not unfrequently, [31] indeed, have I driven him from the fire, and cooked my own dinner.

Songoro, my "boy," comes next to him in point of rank, and my pen fails me. to describe his admirable qualities. He was simply perfection as an up–country servant.

Finally, following the Askari, come the rank and file, the porters–an indescribable lot! therefore let me pass them on with the remark that there were 113 in all, and that they were loaded as follows:–29 carrying beads; 34 iron, brass, and copper wire; 14 cloth; 15 personal stores, 9 clothes, boots, books, &c; 5 with ammunition; 6 scientific instruments, photographic apparatus, &c.; 10 tents and tent furniture, cooking gear, &c. If you add 2 boys, 1 gun–bearer, and 1 donkey–boy, you have the list of my caravan complete. As there was no food to be got on the road till Ndara in Teita was reached, it was necessary to get a number of men to carry provisions. I was so fortunate as to secure about thirty Wa–teita who had come down to the coast in hopes [32] of falling in with an up–country caravan. These men carried rice in loads of not more than forty pounds’ weight, supported, not after the manner of the Wa–swahili, but by a strap round the forehead, the load resting on the back. This is the customary mode of all the tribes on the Masai trade routes, except the Wa–kavirondo. The Wa–swahili and tribes along the U–nyamwesi route carry their burden either on the head or on the shoulder–never on the back. The Manyema again, west of Tanganyika follow the latter method.

Our ambulance corps consisted of two beautiful white Muscat donkeys and one black half–breed, the whole commanded by one very diminutive imp of a boy, named Mabruki. In my more enthusiastic and romantic moods, and as playfully symbolical of the spirit of the Expedition, I was wont to designate the white donkeys by the titles of Nil Desperandum, and Excelsior; for the more prosy requirements of the march, however, they were known respectively as Dick and Billy.

Such, then, were the component elements of the Royal Geographical Society’s Expedition to one of the most dangerous, unexplored regions of Africa, when, on the 15th of March, 1883, it stood in a sweltering mid–day heat, in the centre of the Mission Settlement, awaiting the word to start.

The signal was given. There was a wild rush and scramble for the head of the caravan, the customary incentive shouts to "Hurry up!" and a running fire of farewells, as, headed by our flag, the long file of men passed through the Rabai village, leaving behind the cocoa–crowned heights, the verdant ridges with their stern, sentinel–like fan–palms, and the cultivated outer slopes, and away into the Nyika or "Wilderness" beyond. The last man gone, I shook hands with my pleasant hostess, lifted my hat, and act my face towards the setting sun,

A quarter of an hour’s walk took us beyond the plantations, and with surprising abruptness we passed into a scene of desolation and sterility; the grass, sere and yellow, crumbling into powder under our feet nothing green in the landscape except those lovers of a–rid soils, mimosas and acacias, dwarf fan–palms, and the cactus–like tree–euphorbias. An hour and a half more, and we had passed the glaring red sands of the coast hills, to enter upon a less dazzling and more fertile looking tract, characterized by greater humidity, and forming splendid grazing–grounds. Here and there were dense masses of evergreen trees festooned, or rather interlaced, with creepers, interspersed with numerous green grassy glades, and [33] [34] made gay by a rich array of beautiful orchids. A group of pallah gave further life to the scene, and helped to make up a picture of the most pleasing description.

Other matters, however, not so agreeable presently forced themselves upon my attention. The season of the year was that which just immediately precedes the rains. The sun, almost vertically overhead, sent its rays with piercing effect through the atmospheric envelope which, charged to its ut. most with moisture, made us groan and sweat by its oppressiveness, not to speak of the notoriously disagreeable sensations aroused by prickly heat. Upon the men the heat told with the greatest effect after their life of laziness and debauchery on the coast. They exasperated me beyond all endurance, as, every few steps, they throw down their loads, and themselves beside them, shouting for water, and seemingly trying how far they could impose upon me. And yet I knew my men. For the time being I had to pocket my irritation as well as hide more persuasive arguments. I was not yet in a position to indulge either without fear of the men running away. And so I meekly tried moral suasion, and pled with the lazy, or, more properly, enervated rascals, to push on, if they intended to reach camp that night. I had seen much of the Zanzibar porter, but I never saw such an exhibition of incompetence and debility as I saw on that first march from Rabai. It lowered the level of my enthusiasm more than anything that had yet occurred.

At sunset we reached a placed called Kwal�, where we camped for the night. This district is occupied by a settlement of Wa–kamba, who have built their villages in the centre of an almost inpenetrable jungle–patch, where they can bid defiance to the Masai. They have many cattle, sheep, and goats, which are a powerful attraction to the latter warriors. They do not, however, depend entirely upon their cattle, but practise agriculture as well. We here learned the disagree. able news that the Masai had lately been seen in the neighbourhood, and were known to be no great distance off. The Wa–kamba were keeping themselves accordingly in a state of defence, and dared not venture out to their plantation.

With the first night in camp commenced my anxiety. I knew only too well that a very considerable number of my men had never joined with any other intention than to get their three months’ wages in advance, and then desert on the first opportunity. The majority wore careful not to [35] attempt this either at Zanzibar or Mombasa,–though ten succeeded in doing so at the former, and one at the latter–as they would run the risk of being captured. They intended to go up country one or two marches first, and then it would be next to impossible to lay hands upon them. Foreseeing this, I was careful to camp in the open, at a place free of bush or jungle, so that no one could leave without being seen. In the hearing of the men, bloodthirsty orders were given to the night–guard to shoot down without warning any one observed to go outside camp. The head–men were enjoined to take turns in making rounds to see all was safe and, to make sure that it was attended to, they had to call me or Martin up every two hours, and report all right.

The night, however, passed without incident, and the following morning we continued our way, taking the precaution to scatter at intervals throughout the entire length of the caravan the head–men and Askari, who allowed no one to leave the path unless it was necessary to do so, and then accompanied him. Any one who stopped to rest was waited upon till he started again. Here let me say that, bad as were the men I had with me, I would never have dreamed of taking all these precautions but for my knowledge that there was the utmost dread existing among the men at the very idea of entering the Masai country, so frequent had been the disasters. This prevailing nervousness was a continual source of anxiety to rue, till I felt I had got my men into a position where they dared not run away.

Our march on the second day kept generally W.N.W., over rich country, which became, as we proceeded, more sterile and thorny. We passed two Wa–kamba villages, where the inhabitants had lost their cattle through the agency of the Masai. At one place we noticed the site of a great battle between the latter and the Wa–nyika, in which after a bloody struggle, the Masai had been defeated, though at the cost of 300 lives to the victors. Over a considerable area the ground was literally strewed with ski–ills. We camped at a miserable M–kamba village, named Makuti. In the orders for the night Kacheche, reminded the men that they had left their wives behind them, and that it was necessary to regard their guns as their best bed–companions for the wilderness, and as though they were their wives to keep a good look–out after them. Prompted by me, he recommended them to keep close together, and always ready, as there were [36] numerous bands of Masai roving about, who would like nothing better than to stab stragglers, just to keep their hands in.

This night, despite of all my expedients, two men contrived to desert, and, as it would have been quite useless to attempt to find them, we had to leave without them, only doubling our vigilance and circulating stories about Masai in our rear, which had more effect than bushels of threats.

The country we had now entered is called Duruma. It is occupied by a sub–tribe of Wa–nyika, who drag out a miserable existence, ever facing death from the fell scourge famine, or, what is to them still more terrible, the Masai spear. Hard indeed is the lot of these poor wretches, toiling from morn till dewy eve, "clearing away the dense jungle, and sowing the grain, only too frequently to find no return from want of rain.

The bush of the Duruma country is a perfect marvel of vegetable monstrosities shrubs in which great thorns seem to replace the more grateful foliage; several species of euphorbia; aloes with their forbidding, thick, spiny representatives of leaves; CYCADS, and a great variety of forms with whose place in the flora I am totally unacquainted. The trees and bushes are notably distinguished by the possession of the smallest quantity of green foliage compatible with the existence of the largest number of gnarled, ugly branches, through which the struggle for existence seems to be carried on in this stern battle–field of vegetable life. Yet, curiously enough, splendid cycads, with their noble palm–like crowns of leaves, rise in all directions, contriving to get larger elbow room than even their more formidable rivals, and not infrequently managing even to keep their leaves from the intrusion of neighbouring branches. This remarkable jungle is made infinitely more impenetrable by great, apparently leafless, creepers, which wriggle along the ground, their giant arms suggesting colossal snakes as they clasp trees and bushes in an iron embrace, and form by their interlacing a mass of tangle as difficult to describe as it would be to clear away. It is not, however, without its uses. In the centre of one of these jungles, the Wa–duruma can snap their fingers at the Masai. There is no possible entrance but by a narrow, tortuous lane, into which no savage who valued his life would for a moment venture. Without some such natural protection, Duruma would at this day be a totally uninhabited waste. [37]

The fourth march took us out of Duruma, and into the unpopulated desert beyond, which stretches to Teita. The country begins to rise considerably, and we pass from the dark coloured stiff loam to a more sandy, reddish–grey soil, due to the change from shales to coarse, gritty sandstone. This leads us through a succession of scrub and bush patches, alternating with more open, low, forest tracts. Everywhere the sandstone may be seen cropping out, till the ungurunga of Taro–or, as it is also sometimes called, the Ziwa (pond) Ariangulo–is reached.

The rocks of this district present some very noteworthy features. They are extremely coarse, grey in colour, and show almost no trace of bedding. By two sets of joints at right angles to each other they are divided into enormous blocks from thirty to forty feet square. The water lodging in these joints, and vegetable substances rotting in it, seem to have acted chemically upon the sides, weakening or eating them away, till what have only been simple lines of division are transformed into deep trenches eighteen inches to two feet broad, and so remarkably regular and even as to suggest the idea of an artificial origin. In these trenches the rains of the wet season collect, and form natural reservoirs of water which are about the only sources of supply for the whole Duruma country. But for these, indeed, it would be quite impossible for a loaded caravan to reach Teita.

But it is not in these joints alone that nature forms reservoirs of an exceptional kind. The sandstones seem to have a peculiar tendency to weather into pot–holes of all sizes, exactly similar to the holes formed by mountain torrents in the solid rock where swirls or miniature whirlpools cause stones to gyrate, and by a constant erosive process literally drill holes in the solid rock. In the cases, however, to which I refer, this mode of origin does not seem applicable, unless we imagine that here we have actually the original bed of the sea, unaltered by time and the elements. My own opinion is that they have been formed by the joint action of nature and man; the former operating chemically, the latter mechanically. Nature formed slight rock hollows in which water lodged, attracting the formation of vegetation. This, rotting supplied acids with which the water acted upon the rock, loosening the component particles by dissolving the cementing material, probably lime. Man, in the search of the precious fluid in these sterile tracts, found the hollows, and seeing them full of loose sand, [38] naturally scooped it out. Thus, year after year, the process went on, the water continuing to loosen the sand, and thirsty men clearing it away to expose fresh surfaces, until holes in many cases eighteen inches to two feet in diameter, and of all depths up to eight feet, were formed. As a rule they are quite circular, and extend downwards quite perpendicularly. They are known technically by the natives as Ungurungas.

At Taro we for the first time in four days enjoyed the glorious luxury of a wash in good water. So far we had only met water that had been characterized by an amount of "body" and a "bouquet" that required all the pangs of thirst to make us drink it, even after much boiling and filtering through grass and cloth–for our pocket filters were absolutely useless in this liquid mud, the colour of road washings or sepia ink. Though we drank this decoction, the idea of washing even our feet in it was looked upon as rather too good a joke. We therefore had to take it internally and sweat it out, and the perspiration was copious enough, with the aid of our handkerchiefs, to keep us from becoming literally encrusted.

From Taro a difficult, waterless march was before us, which would tax all the strength and stamina of my men, and all my patience and influence to get them along. Starting at daybreak, we traversed an undulating region which seemed wonderfully fertile, and was covered with a pleasant, open forest, under the shelter of which grew a rich carpet of tender grass. Five hours’ march through this agreeable tract, and we to our delight came unexpectedly upon a small hole filled with filthy water. Uninviting as the liquid seemed, it was a perfect god–send to several of our men, who, with the characteristic recklessness of the negro, had already drunk up all the water they had brought with them for two terrible marches. There was just sufficient to give each man a mouthful, and after draining it to the dregs, or to the mud, –for it was all dreg,–we resumed our march.

From this point an abrupt change took place in the geology and botany of the country. So far, the geological basis had been a series of shales, flaggy sandstones, and the same of coarse, gritty, compact material, forming the representatives of the carboniferous series in East Africa, which extends in a narrow strip continuously from near the Equator to the Cape. These here gave place to metamorphic rocks which bulk so largely in the formation of the African continent. Schists and gneiss, greywacke and hornblende were now the [39] prominent rocks, and as these contain numerous minerals, rich in iron, the soil formed by their decomposition was found to be of a glaring red colour, most painful to behold, and strikingly deficient in fertilizing ingredients.

This change in rock and soil is accompanied by a marked difference in the surface features of the country. The agreeable alternation of ridge and hollow is exchanged for an apparently dead level plain, parched and waterless as if no drop of life–giving rain refreshed the iron–bound soil. The dense jungle, the grassy glades, the open forest disappear, and their place is taken by what may be called a skeleton forest. Weird and ghastly is the aspect of the greyish–coloured trees and bushes; for they are almost totally destitute of tender, waving branch or quivering leaf. No pliant twig or graceful foliage responds to the pleasing influence of the passing breeze. Stern and unbending, they present rigid arms or formidable thorns, as if bidding defiance to drought or storm. To heighten the sombre effect of the scene, dead trees are observable in every direction raising their shattered forms among the living, unable to hold their own in the struggle for existence. Hardly a spot of green relieves the depressing landscape, and, though it was now the wet season, only here and there could a tuft of grass be seen. A dreary silence reigned supreme, unbroken by the chirp of insect or the song of bird. No grass rustled, no leafy branch sighed or pattered like dropping rain. The wind, basting past fresh from the ocean, raised only a mournful whistling or dreary creaking, "eerie" and full of sadness, as if it said, "Here all is death and desolation!"

Through this dreadful wilderness our route now lay. The porter, wearied already with a long march, and parched for want of water, presses on panting and perspiring under a broiling sun, made worse by the glaring red soil which reflects the rays as though they came from the mouth of a furnace. In vain does he look for a bit of refreshing shade. Doggedly he throws down his load, and sinking his head in his hands, and doubling himself over his knees or stretching himself full length on the ground, he requires not infrequently something more than moral suasion to hurry him on. Thus urged, he attempts his weary best, and, weak and trembling about the limbs with the unusual exertion, he staggers on, now bending to pass under a bare, over–hanging branch, anon extricating himself from the clutches of a wait–a–bit thorn, leaving behind him fragments of his flimsy clothing, or [40] carrying away with him nasty scratches from which the blood oozes and trickles down his legs till they blend with the runnels of perspiration. Such were the characteristics of our first march in the true "Nyika" of East Africa.

At six we camped for the night, to await the rising of the moon, and rest the exhausted men. In the hope of falling in with some pool of water, I then set off with Brahim through the scrub. After wandering about, seeking for the precious element in vain for nearly an hour, we attempted to return to camp, darkness having fallen upon us. But it soon turned out that return was not to be so easily accomplished. For the first time in my life I had to confess myself lost. Brahim and I differed as to the direction we should take. In the end we wandered aimlessly. We fired our rifles, but got no response. A feeling of awe took possession of us, and we were getting into the condition of seeing lions in every waving bush. We had heard that the dreaded animals were frequently to be seen here, and soon a distant roar told us that his brutish majesty was out for a night of dissipation. It is not easy to conceive any more uncomfortable sensation than that of finding yourself lost in such a forest as I have described. The wheezing and creaking of the branches, the indistinctness with which every object is seen, and the knowledge that, somewhere about, there axe fierce and dangerous creatures, all excite the fancy and sternly try the strength of one’s nerves. At last I became utterly tired. My feet were sadly blistered, my clothes nearly torn to tatters, and my skin was most painfully scratched by forcing my way in the dark through thorns and branches. I gave up in despair, and resolved to lie down and take my chance, though I was drenched with perspiration, and the night was becoming chilly. But at that moment a sound broke on our cars that made us jump to our feet with renewed animation. "Bunduki! Bunduki!" (A gun!) cried Brahim. Reckless of consequences, I fired off my sole remaining cartridge, and then stood in that perilous waste defenceless. For that, however, we cared not. Our gun had been heard, and an answering shot enabled us to fix accurately the direction of relief. Forgetting blistered feet and tired limbs then, and heedless of thorns and tearing clothes, we went pell–mell through all obstruction till we stumbled upon Makatubu and some others who were on the search for us. We reached camp at midnight. I had [41] thus been on my feet for eighteen hours without food and with very little water.

As the result of this episode our intended night march was put off till 4 a.m., and then so lame was I with blistered feet, that for the first time in my African experience I mounted a donkey.

I hesitate to describe the terrible work we had in pushing on the caravan to the next watering–place at Maungu, in Teita. The men had used up all their water, and the worst part of the march was still before them. Till midday I did my weary best to get them on, but perceiving that matters were becoming serious, and the men breaking down on all sides to such an extent that the Askari and head–men were occupied every one of them carrying loads, I determined to force my way ahead and get water. Selecting one or two head–men and some Wa–teita, we laid hold of as many calabashes as possible and set off. At 2 p.m., we reached the saddle–shaped mountain of Maungu, to the very summit of which the men had to ascend before water could be got. This attained, they were despatched immediately to the rear to relieve the most exhausted. By four the leading porters began to struggle in, thoroughly worn out. The last did not get in till sunset. A heavy storm of thunder and rain gave the culminating touch to the misery of the poor fellows; and there they sat, half dead with cold, shrivelled and shivering, as if seized with ague. I was supremely thankful, however, in reflecting that we had now passed the worst of the wilderness. The Masai were now behind us as well as in front a fact which relieved me of further anxieties about desertions. From the pass of Maungu we had a full view of the picturesque mountain of Ndara in front of us, and past the end of it we could catch a glimpse of the still more noble range of Bura.

Maungu is one of a line of isolated mountains and peaks running nearly north and south, of which Kisigau is the southern termination–a peak which forms one of the moat striking and grand features in the whole of this region. There is a large ungurunga, or natural rock–reservoir, at the top of Maungu, which never dries up, and which formerly supplied the necessities of several villages of Wa–teita, who occupied the mountain when Krapf first visited it on his way to U–kambani. There are no inhabitants now in the neighbourhood.

Leaving Maungu, after being kept in camp for several [42] hours by heavy rains, we crossed the thorn–clad level plain which separated us from the mountain of Ndara The men were considerably broken down by their two previous hard marches, and got on very badly, though now, with a recruiting station directly before us, we could afford to exercise more patience, and let them march as they pleased. After five hours’ march we emerged suddenly from the them jungle, and entered a series of magnificent plantations which extend round the base of the entire mountain, forming, when the crops are springing, a charming light green setting to the dark mountain mass. We here met the Wa–teita women in considerable numbers, and we moved up to camp amidst the firing of guns and the wondering cries of the native damsels and married women, who recalled former scenes of a similar character as they ran alongside with curious stares and excited laughter, their pendant breasts flapping against their bosoms like half–empty, loosely–attached leather bottles. We soon crossed these cultivated fields; and in a short time we found ourselves camped under a shady sycamore, drinking deep draughts of clear water from a cool rill which splashed and tumbled down the rugged face of Ndara, and invited us by its merry music to the luxury of a bath. Unfortunately we had to restrain our ardent desire to strip at once, not on account of the feelings of the Wa–teita, but in consideration for our own, which had not yet become quite hardened to the idea of appearing in puris naturalibus. As the shades of evening set in, the natives ascended to their mountain homes, and then we disported ourselves to our heart’s content under splashing waterfalls, with delicious cool mountain breezes to fan us dry, and a beautiful scene before us m the moon rose over the top of the mountain, and shed a silvery sheen athwart the land, here softly lighting up the tops of the rocks, there glittering on the dew–laden surfaces of the tree leaves.

To recruit the men after their trying marches through the Nyika, we did not strike our camp on the following day. Too restless myself, however, to remain doing nothing, I resolved to ascend to the top of the mountain and afterwards visit Mr. Wray, the C.M.S. agent recently stationed there. Leaving Martin to take the caravan round to the opposite side, next day I commenced the ascent of the mountain, accompanied by Brahim and two Wa–teita as guides. The excessively steep face of Ndara tried the power of both my limbs and lungs as we scrambled up among the rocks and the great boulders of gneiss which lie on the face of the mountain [43] by a very precarious hold. We found that on every available spot in the scarred sides, and wherever water trickled, sugar–cane and bananas were cultivated. Every here and there water might be observed running to the less favoured spots along artificial canals, or conveyed by tiny aqueducts of banana stems along the faces of rocks and other places, where a channel could not be cut. On reaching about a thousand feet above the plain, we entered the inhabited zone and found that the whole of the upper part of the mountain was thickly populated, with the exception of the actual summit, which is too cold and wet to be comfortable. The shambas or plantations are all at the bottom of the mountain, except those of cassava, sweet potatoes, sugar–cane, and bananas. The cultivation of the fields is the work of the women, who descend daily in the proper seasons. To this doubtless is to be ascribed their fine development of limb, and general appearance of healthiness compared with the men, who are thin and unmuscular. Their huts we found to be [43] beehive–shaped, with very low walls. The daylight is entirely excluded, owing to a partition which runs a considerable way round the inside of the house in the manner of a spiral, thus forming a narrow passage from the doorway, and sheltering the sleeping–place from a direct current of air. A fire is kept burning night and day in the hut, supplying their sole illumination. In the part cut off by the partition, their firewood, which has to be carried from the bottom of the hill, is stored. Inside, on the rafters overhead, the calabashes–of which the Wa–teita are celebrated growers are placed along with their winter stores of food. The chickens, the goats, the sheep find odd corners in which to stow themselves and fraternize with their masters, thus helping to make the interior more comfortable and cosy according to native ideas.

After a three hours’ still climb we reached the top of the mountain, which is called Mrumunyi, and while I boiled my thermometer to ascertain the altitude, and paused to recover my breath, I looked about me to form some notion of the topographical features of the extensive landscape that lay before me. The view well repaid the toil of climbing–indeed when does not a mountain prospect repay the adventurer? I found myself on a long narrow ridge suggesting the roof of a house running nearly north and south. The east side presents little irregularity and rises up with great abruptness to a height of 5050 feet. On the west side there is a deep, irregular indentation in the upper half of the mountain, forming a sort of lower ledge, along which a small stream flows till, reaching the edge, it tumbles by a series of cascades down to the bottom. Numerous villages of Wa–teita here find shelter from the force of the monsoons, and securely graze their small herds of cattle on the upper pastures. Luxuriant patches of sugar–cane, dark green plots of sweet potatoes, and groves of banana vary the scene. On the edge of this platform or ledge, the iron mission–house could be descried arising from a small grove of trees. Turning our eye from what was immediately at our feet, a magnificent picture revealed itself. To the north, over the end of Ndara, a series of small isolated peaks appeared extending far away towards U–kambani. To the north–east a boundless light green plain stretched out towards the ocean, and lost itself in the haze of distance. Through this the course of the river Voi was conspicuously marked out by a winding line of dark green, where the trees, fed by the waters of the stream, grew in greater [45]luxuriance. To the east lay the saddle–shaped ridge of Maungu, which by a series of low hills and small peaks carried the eye away to the south–east, where, looming through stratus clouds, could be seen the grand symmetrical mass of Kadiaro (Kisigau) like a truncated cone. Far in the distance to the south and south–west appeared the U–sambara, the Pare, and Ugono mountains. As we turned to the west the splendid range of Bura burst upon the view with its rugged outlines and massive divisions of Kibomu, Sungululu, and Mbololo. At the southern end could be seen the course of the Matt stream, and from between Mbololo and Sungululu the Voi emerged, crossed the intervening plain, rounded the north end of Ndara, and wandered towards the bosom of the ocean. The whole appearance of the Teita highlands is strikingly suggestive of an archipelago of islands rising with great abruptness from a greyish–green sea, as the great weird plain which I have described surrounds it on all sides. The few low peaks and ridges that do here and there crop up are relatively so insignificant as to appear only as shoals and jutting rocks.

My observations for altitude completed, and feeling somewhat cold on the exposed heights, I descended to Mtera, and soon had the pleasure of greeting Mr. Wray, who has the honour of pioneering the way into this region of African savagery. From the house we look down almost perpendicularly to the base of the mountain, a depth of nearly 2000 feet. Here I spent the night in a civilized manner, feeling it deliciously cool up in those airy heights.

In the morning at daybreak I peeped out to get a fine view of the clouds rolling in ever–changing massive shapes from off the sides of Bura, the rising sun tingeing the top with a warm glow, and lighting up every irregularity in the face of the mountains. Shortly after breakfast my caravan was espied marching tip to the stream at the bottom where they camped, and I at once went down.

Next day Mr. Wray joined me, and for the first time in the latter’s short experience of African life he enjoyed a scare. The occasion of this was a little episode of a lively nature. The Wa–teita we had engaged at the coast to carry our supplies of food for a certain amount of cloth, had declined pointblank to take the kind offered, and demanded a superior quality. This I refused, and now on my return, finding that I was not inclined to give in, they and their friends began screaming and yelling themselves into a mad state of excitement. [46] At last one man, unable to restrain himself, and probably hardly knowing what he was doing, drew his sword, and began prancing about as if getting up the steam to run amuck As he gyrated about he suddenly stabbed through the tent which covered the goods, and almost finished one of my men. It was like striking a match among gunpowder. In a twinkling my men raised a warning cry and guns were seized. The Wa–teita, raisin., their war–cry, also drew their swords or bent their bows, but carefully withdrew to the outskirts of the camp, where they sheltered themselves behind rocks and trees, yelling like madmen and bidding us defiance. The women, on the other hand, who hail crowded down to sell food, fled screaming to the mountains. The war–cry raised below soon spread through the forest and up the mountain sides, rising ever higher, till the very clouds seemed to give forth unearthly sounds. For a few minutes the position was critical, and Mr. Wray, unaccustomed to such scenes, prudently retired into my tent. The slightest accident, such as a gun fired, would at once have precipitated a fight, which it is true would have been a comparatively harmless matter to me, but would have placed Mr. Wray in a most awkward position. At all hazards such a consummation had to be avoided, and, putting myself unarmed between the two equally excited parties, I ordered my men to return to their tents, and then, turning to the Wa–teita, let them know that we wanted peace, but were prepared, as they saw, for war. If they were of the same mind, they must stop the diabolic row they were raising, and send a few of their elders, with whom I would try to arrange the dispute. This had the desired effect, and by mutually making concessions, the difficulty was finally smoothed over, much to Mr. Wray’s relief, who, not unnaturally, somewhat exaggerated the importance of the demonstration. The Wa–teita never dreamed of a real fight they were obviously only trying a little bravado to see if it would frighten us. Still, as I have said, such a demonstration might easily have turned into a most serious affray, and I have no doubt, if it had happened while I was out of camp, nothing could have stopped my men from shooting.

This little disturbance being satisfactorily quelled and matters placed on the most friendly footing, the women came back to camp, and the scene became lively and noisy, as the men flirted boisterously with the young maidens, or haggled and yelled vociferously over the price of food. I was anxious [47] to obtain some photographs of the natives, and I tried hard to win their confidence. Putting on my most engaging manner, I exhibited tempting springs of beads as bribes. In vain, however, did I appeal to their love of gaudy ornaments. With soothing words, aided by sundry pinches and chuckings under the chin, I might get the length of making them stand up; but the moment that the attempt to focus them took place they would fly in terror to the shelter of the woods. To show them photos, and try to explain what I wanted, only made them worse. They imagined I was a magician trying to take possession of their souls, which once accomplished they would be entirely at my mercy. They would not in the end even look at a photo, and the men began to drive the [48] women away. I spoiled several negatives, and finally gave up the attempt on finding that I was "wasting my sweetness on the desert air."

Let me attempt a brief description of these Wa–teita. The men, as in all lands, do not merit any words. They are rather below the average size, lean and spare, though wiry and capable of considerable endurance. Their absence of muscular development betokens a want of strength. Their features may be described as a cross between the low development of the negro physiognomy and that of such a tribe as the Galla or Somali. The jaws are somewhat prognathous, and the skull is narrow. Their dress is a scanty cloth, indifferently wound about the loins or hung from one shoulder to flutter in the breeze. A few ornaments of brass, small native–made chai" and beads are noticeable round the neck and arms. * Their weapons are a knife, a long, spatulate–shaped sword, and the bow and arrow. AR of these are badly made, and indicate a want of pride in their equipment. Accustomed to their precipitous, rugged mountains, they find that the spear is comparatively useless. They therefore trust more to the bow and arrow used from behind a sheltering rock. The Masai, armed with heavy spears, and accustomed to the plains, have no chance with the Wa–teita in their native haunts.

And now let me ask the gentle reader, who is sufficiently curious and not too bashful, to assist at the toilet of a swell M–teita damsel. On entering the low circular hut and seating ourselves on whatever object may be made to serve the purpose of stools, we gradually, by the glimmer. of the fire, and through the stifling heat and choking smoke, descry our fair friend, who intends to give a demonstration of how they "gild refined gold, and paint the lily "in Africa. Aa our eyes become accustomed to the gloom, we observe that she is very short in stature, unusually round in the face, and with a somewhat projecting facial angle. The figure, for a negress, is not bad, though wanting in that pleasant curve at the waist which more accords with our idea of female beauty. She has a magnificent development of limb, and is as active and supple as a snake. The expression is pleasant, and the glance of her bright eye and the smile on her lips we lively and "knowing."

These "points" we take in at a glance, and become still more at our case on being speedily made aware that the real clothing of the demonstrator is already on, or rather has never been off. This is a coating of lamp black and castor–oil [49] which emits an aroma that gallantry compels me to call pleasing, but which, as an "aside" to the reader, I confess to be simply awful. She adds a new coating for the conquests of the day, and shines, in the glimmering of the fire, like a snail fresh from its shell, and bent on an evening stroll. The reader will here take note, that this coating of grease and dirt is the only protection the M–teita has against the excessive heats of the day and the chills at night. It prevents too excessive perspiration, and wards off chills. Before receiving her visitors, the damsel has (it will be observed) donned a small piece of hide, about the size of a lady’s pocket–handkerchief, and literally covered with beads. Behind she seems; to have got possession of the tails of a missionary’s dress–coat. These. she has lengthened out a little and also covered with– beads, in various patterns, and now they dangle and flap about her legs in the moat airy manner. Some, however, vary this fashion, and in place of the two tails they rejoice in the posterior half of a highland kilt. Our equanimity being now quite restored, and decency being satisfied, when we see an opportunity to assist, we do so with alacrity. The hair of the head is shaved all round the temples, till only a circular patch three to four inches in [50] diameter is left on the crown of the head. With much labour this is twisted into strings, till it assumes the appearance of a mop. Upon each string separately beads of various hues are threaded. Round the shaven part a band of beads, two inches broad, is bound, and from these three long loose strings depend over the cars to below the shoulders. The ears, pierced all round the outer auricle, are laden with heavy glass rings, till, unable to bear the weight, they fold over into an unsightly lump. An inspection of the eyelids reveals the fact that the lashes have been carefully removed. A slight rub here and there with a file puts a sharper point to the crocodile–like teeth, and the head is finished off. From a about thirty large strings of beads are a neighbouring peg taken down, put over the right shoulder and underneath the left arm, depending to the waist and crossing between the breasts, which it may be remarked are firm and well shaped. A similar number depend from the opposite shoulder. Above these, round the neck, and hanging over the breast, are next placed from 150 to 200 strings. Over all a huge rug, composed of a solid mass of beads, three to four inches in diameter, is tied round the neck, actually causing the chin to be elevated, and filling up the whole depression under it. The waist is next attended to, and we view with admiration and astonishment the physical strength displayed, and the determination to be in the height of fashion at all costs, as she lays hold of from 200 to 300 more strings, with a variety of bead belts and bands, and bestows them in that region which sentimental youths in other lands like to encircle with their arms. We draw a breath of relief as we observe that the main masses of beads are disposed of and only the arms and legs require to be sheaved in closely–fitting bands. Thus having contrived to stow on her person from twenty to thirty pounds’ weight, she turns herself round, to receive the tribute of admiration plainly depicted in our faces, and then squats down to rest, after the serious labour of dressing. Having no other excuse to prolong our interview, we lay our offerings at her feet, and "kwaheri" ourselves out, drenched in perspiration, and as sooty from the smoke as sweeps.

The "private view" being over, our pleasant friend fills her bag with Indian corn, and proceeds to receive public tokens of admiration at the camp and enjoy the excitement dear to the female heart of haggling over the price of her store. [51] The manners and customs of the Wa–teita need not be specially dwelt upon, as they do not differ in any notable respect from those made familiar to us by all writers on East Africa, with the exception probably of their marriages, which show a trace of a former mode of obtaining a wife by capture–a custom which I have noticed nowhere else among the tribes I have visited. When an M–teita marries he settles the preliminaries with the father in accordance with the usual negro custom; that is to say, he buys her for three or four cows. This important matter settled, the girl runs away and hides among distant relatives until such time as her betrothed finds out her hiding–place and catches her. He then gets some of his friends, who carry her back to her future home, two men holding her up by the logs and two by the arms, shoulder high, amidst much singing and dancing. The four men who carry the girl are said to be rewarded in a very peculiar fashion. On arrival at the house the newly married pair are shut up for three days without food, at the end of which time the bride is thoroughly lubricated, and loaded with beads and other ornaments. Then she is conveyed back to her father’s house by a bevy of dancing and singing girls. After the lapse of some time she returns, and the whole affair is over.

There is a very great disproportion between the sexes, the female predominating greatly, and yet very few of the young men are able to marry for want of the proper number of cows –a state of affairs which not unfrequently leads to marriage with sisters, though this practice is highly reprobated. In some of their religious practices they may also be said to differ from the negroes further south. Over the Teita mountains, where cultivation and the great need of fires have combined to clear off almost every bush and tree, there are every here and there groves left untouched, which appear to be consecrated to the shades of their ancestors, and probably represent a relic of a former worship of the spirits of Nature. Here the dead are buried; and in the, privacy of the dense bush, and the fitting gloom of the checkered shade, the M–teita retires to pray either to the ghosts of his departed relatives, or to the Supreme Being. Such are the more prominent characteristics of the Wa–teita.

Bidding Mr. Wray adieu, the men being now somewhat recruited, we resume our way westward. After a very long and tiresome march over a low range of hills, by a footpath, more an irritating tunnel than an open way, we reached the [52] Mutat� stream, near the south end of the Bura Range, in the district of Jav�a, so called from the ruling elder –chieftainship not being a well–recognized form of government among the Wa–teita. We camped among very rich. plantations, and enjoyed nibbling green cobs of Indian corn.

Next day we rounded the Bura mountain, by a precipitous and rugged pathway along the mountain side. We here found the "hongo" (or, as it is here called, "fingo") system of extorting black mail developed in a most annoying manner. The ruling elder of every village passed demanded his tribute with so much boldness and arrogance, that in one case my bile was raised, and I "went for" the extortioner in such a manner, that in his fright lie lost his footing, and had a narrow escape of being pounded into jelly by rolling down the hill.

The rocks we passed we found to be chiefly schists, with some thick beds of beautifully white crystalline limestone, which dip north at an angle of about 15�. It is noticeable here that the strike of the rock does not coincide with the major axis of the range.

After a trying march, we finally reached a beautiful little valley, running deep into the mountain, and quite up to the base of the commanding dome of Kilima Kibomu. Two days were spent here, collecting food for the march to Taveta, across the desert plain, from which, as I have already explained, the Teita mountains rise up like an archipelago of islands. An attempt to ascend to the top of Mount Kibomu failed through the stupidity of our guide, who took us the wrong road, and landed me finally at the bottom of a steep precipice, 1000 feet from the top. I here, for the first time, noticed the wild banana growing most luxuriantly in the rich damp watercourses, at a height of 6000 feet. There was also a glorious profusion of tree ferns, brackens, club mosses, orchids, heaths, and other plants of a temperate aspect. The trees acquired a weird and venerable look from the abundance of waving grey–beard moss which covered their branches.

The necessary food collected, and I having "made brothers" with the principal elder of the district, we prepared to start. Before doing so, however, we had a narrow escape from committing bloodshed. In the hurry of preparing to leave, the Wa–teita took advantage of the confusion, seized two guns in the middle of the camp, and made for the bush. Before I knew what was tip, bang, bang, went [53] several guns, loads were thrown down, the Wa–teita fled screaming, and in the twinkling of an eye we found ourselves on the verge of a fight. Fortunately nobody was hurt, and I soon put matters right, though perhaps after all it would have been not a bad thing if one of the thieves had been killed as they have become notorious for their plundering propensities. The Wa–teita, however, having been aroused by our shooting and the war–cry having brought several hundreds from the hills, we had to move with every precaution, expecting every moment the whiz of an arrow or a rush upon some more or less unprotected part. We, however, looked too bloodthirsty, and were too well armed, so we reached the camp of Mikome–ni safely.

This place appears in the map as the name of a district, but that is a mistake, as it is only a Swahili name for a camp, meaning in fact, the place of the mikomen–trees. A slave [54] caravan from Chaga, hearing of our approach, fled in terror into the jungle, to avoid meeting us.

Illust. 1: M–Teita Girl.


We were to have started at 2 a.m. next morning, to make a forced march over the waterless area in front, but during the night the Wa–teita gathered about in such numbers, and made so many attempts to steal, that we gave up all intentions of going on. Clearly they meant mischief, and would to a certainty attack us, or in some manner cause a stampede the moment we got on the road.

During the march on the following day, I shot two hartebeests, a giraffe, and a zebra. I felt somewhat proud of my achievement, and my men were exceedingly happy, as they gorged themselves with meat over the camp–fires after a very hard march.

We resumed our tramp at 3 a.m., and pressed on through the chilly morning air. We were startled every now and again by herds of zebras dashing across our path, and raising their curious half–whistle, half–bark, and not infrequently in the dim light we were awe–struck by the re–echoed roars of lions "saying grace" after meat. The day soon dawned, and through a terrific heat, we plodded on, determined to reach Taveta that day. It was not, however, till 6 p.m. that the main body of the caravan bade adieu to the horrid wastes and burning heats of the Nyika, and found grateful shelter and cool water in the shady depths of one of the most charming forest tracts in the whole of East Africa.


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