The Discovery of the Source of the Nile

Author: John Hanning Speke

Chapter IV Ugogo, and the Wilderness of Mgunda Mkhali

The Lie of the Country—Rhinoceros-Stalking—Scuffle of Villagers over a Carcass—Chief "Short-Legs" and His Successors— Buffalo- Shooting—Getting Lost—A Troublesome Sultan—Desertions from the Camp—Getting Plundered—Wilderness March—Diplomatic Relations with the Local Powers—Manua Sera’s Story—Christmas— The Relief from Kaze

This day’s work led us from the hilly Usagara range into the more level lands of the interior. Making a double march of it, we first stopped to breakfast at the quiet little settlement of Inenge, where cattle were abundant, but grain so scarce that the villagers were living on calabash seeds. Proceeding thence across fields delightfully checkered with fine calabash and fig trees, we marched, carrying water through thorny jungles, until dark, when we bivouacked for the night, only to rest and push on again next morning, arriving at Marenga Mkhali (the saline water) to breakfast. Here a good view of the Usagara hills is obtained. Carrying water with us, we next marched half-way to the first settlement of Ugogo, and bivouacked again, to eat the last of our store of Mbumi grain.

At length the greater famine lands had been spanned; but we were not in lands of plenty—for the Wagogo we found, like their neighbours Wasagara, eating the seed of the calabash, to save their small stores of grain.

The East Coast Range having been passed, no more hills had to be crossed, for the land we next entered on is a plateau of rolling ground, sloping southward to the Ruaha river, which forms a great drain running from west to east, carrying off all the rainwaters that fall in its neighbourhood through the East Coast Range to the sea. To the northward can be seen some low hills, which are occupied by Wahumba, a subtribe of the warlike Masai; and on the west is the large forest-wilderness of Mgunda Mkhali. Ugogo, lying under the lee side of the Usagara hills, is comparatively sterile. Small outcrops of granite here and there poke through the surface, which, like the rest of the rolling land, being covered with bush, principally acacias, have a pleasing appearance after the rains have set in, but are too brown and desert-looking during the rest of the year. Large prairies of grass also are exposed in many places, and the villagers have laid much ground bare for agricultural purposes.

Altogether, Ugogo has a very wild aspect, well in keeping with the natives who occupy it, who, more like the Wazaramo than the Wasagara, carry arms, intended for use rather than show. The men, indeed, are never seen without their usual arms—the spear, the shield, and the assage. They live in flat-topped, square, tembe villages, wherever springs of water are found, keep cattle in plenty, and farm enough generally to supply not only their own wants, but those of the thousands who annually pass in caravans. They are extremely fond of ornaments, the most common of which is an ugly tube of the gourd thrust through the lower lobe of the ear. Their colour is a soft ruddy brown, with a slight infusion of black, not unlike that of a rich plum. Impulsive by nature, and exceedingly avaricious, they pester travellers beyond all conception, by thronging the road, jeering, quizzing, and pointing at them; and in camp, by intrusively forcing their way into the midst of the kit, and even into the stranger’s tent. Caravans, in consequence, never enter their villages, but camp outside, generally under the big "gouty-limbed" trees—encircling their entire camp sometimes with a ring-fence of thorns to prevent any sudden attack.

To resume the thread of the journey: we found, on arrival in Ugogo, very little more food than in Usagara for the Wagogo were mixing their small stores of grain with the monkey-bread seeds of the gouty-limbed tree. Water was so scarce in the wells at this season that we had to buy it at the normal price of country beer; and, as may be imagined where such distress in food was existing, cows, goats, sheep, and fowls were also selling at high rates.

Our mules here gave us the slip again, and walked all the way back to Marenga Mkhali, where they were found and brought back by some Wagogo, who took four yards of merikani in advance, with a promise of four more on return, for the job—their chief being security for their fidelity. This business detained us two days, during which time I shot a new variety of florikan, peculiar in having a light blue band stretching from the nose over the eye to the occiput. Each day, while we resided here, cries were raised by the villagers that the Wahumba were coming, and then all the cattle out in the plains, both far and near, were driven into the village for protection.

At last, on the 26th, as the mules were brought it, I paid a hongo or tax of four barsati and four yards of chintz to the chief, and departed, but not until one of my porters, a Mhehe, obtained a fat dog for his dinner; he had set his heart on it, and would not move until he had killed it, and tied it on to his load for the evening’s repast. Passing through the next villages—a collection called Kifukuro—we had to pay another small tax of two barsati and four yards of chintz to the chief. There we breakfasted, and pushed on, carrying water to a bivouac in the jungles, as the famine precluded our taking the march more easily.

Pushing on again, we cleared out of the woods, and arrived at the eastern border of the largest clearance of Ugogo, Kanyenye. Here we were forced to halt a day, as the mules were done up, and eight of the Wanyamuezi porters absconded, carrying with them the best part of their loads. There was also another inducement for stopping here; for, after stacking the loads, as we usually did on arriving in camp, against a large gouty-limbed tree, a hungry Mgogo, on eyeing our guns, offered his services to show us some bicornis rhinoceros, which, he said paid nightly visits to certain bitter pools that lay in the nullah bottoms not far off. This exciting intelligence made me inquire if it was not possible to find them at once; but, being assured that they lived very far off, and that the best chance was the night, I gave way, and settled on starting at ten, to arrive at the ground before the full moon should rise.

I set forth with the guide and two of the sheikh’s boys, each carrying a single rifle, and ensconced myself in the nullah, to hide until our expected visitors should arrive, and there remained until midnight. When the hitherto noisy villagers turned into bed, the silvery moon shed her light on the desolate scene, and the Mgogo guide, taking fright, bolted. He had not, however, gone long, when, looming above us, coming over the horizon line, was the very animal we wanted.

In a fidgety manner the beast then descended, as if he expected some danger in store—and he was not wrong; for, attaching a bit of white paper to the fly-sight of my Blissett, I approached him, crawling under cover of the banks until within eighty yards of him, when, finding that the moon shone full on his flank, I raised myself upright and planted a bullet behind his left shoulder. Thus died my first rhinoceros.

To make the most of the night, as I wanted meat for my men to cook, as well as a stock to carry with them, or barter with the villagers for grain, I now retired to my old position, and waited again.

After two hours had elapsed, two more rhinoceros approached me in the same stealthy, fidgety way as the first one. They came even closer than the first, but, the moon having passed beyond their meridian, I could not obtain so clear a mark. Still they were big marks, and I determined on doing my best before they had time to wind us; so stepping out, with the sheikh’s boys behind me carrying the second rifle to meet all emergencies, I planted a ball in the larger one, and brought him round with a roar and whooh-whooh, exactly to the best position I could wish for receiving a second shot; but, alas! on turning sharply round for the spare rifle, I had the mortification to see that both the black boys had made off, and were scrambling like monkeys up a tree. At the same time the rhinoceros, fortunately for me, on second consideration turned to the right-about, and shuffled away, leaving, as is usually the case when conical bullets are used, no traces of blood.

Thus ended the night’s work. We now went home by dawn to apprise all the porters that we had flesh in store for them, when the two boys who had so shamelessly deserted me, instead of hiding their heads, described all the night’s scenes with such capital mimicry as to set the whole camp in a roar. We had all now to hurry back to the carcass before the Wagogo could find it; but though this precaution was quickly taken, still, before the tough skin of the beast could be cut through, the Wagogo began assembling like vultures, and fighting with my men. A more savage, filthy, disgusting, but at the same time grotesque, scene than that which followed cannot be conceived. All fell to work armed with swords, spears, knives, and hatchets—cutting and slashing, thumping and bawling, fighting and tearing, tumbling and wrestling up to their knees in filth and blood in the middle of the carcass. When a tempting morsel fell to the possession of any one, a stronger neighbour would seize and bear off the prize in triumph. All right was now a matter or pure might, and lucky it was that it did not end in a fight between our men and the villagers. These might be afterwards seen, one by one, covered with blood, scampering home each with his spoil—a piece of tripe, or liver, or lights, or whatever else it might have been his fortune to get off with.

We were still in great want of men; but rather than stop a day, as all delays only lead to more difficulties, I pushed on to Magomba’s palace with the assistance of some Wagogo carrying our baggage, each taking one cloth as his hire. The chief wazir at once come out to meet me on the way, and in an apparently affable manner, as an old friend, begged that I would live in the palace- -a bait which I did not take, as I knew my friend by experience a little too well. he then, in the politest possible manner, told me that a great dearth of food was oppressing the land—so much so, that pretty cloths only would purchase grain. I now wished to settle my hongo, but the great chief could not hear of such indecent haste.

The next day, too, the chief was too drunk to listen to any one, and I must have patience. I took out this time in the jungles very profitably, killing a fine buck and doe antelope, of a species unknown. These animals are much about the same size and shape as the common Indian antelope, and, like them, roam about in large herds. The only marked difference between the two is in the shape of their horns, as may be seen by the woodcut; and in their colour, in which, in both sexes, the Ugogo antelopes resemble the picticandata gazelle of Tibet, except that the former have dark markings on the face.

At last, after thousands of difficulties much like those I encountered in Uzaramo, the hongo was settled by a payment of one kisutu, one dubani, four yards bendera, four yards kiniki, and three yards merikani. The wazir then thought he would do some business on his own account, and commenced work by presenting me with a pot of ghee and flour, saying at the same time "empty words did not show true love," and hoping that I would prove mine by making some slight return. To get rid of the animal I gave him the full value of his present in cloth, which he no sooner pocketed than he had the audacity to accuse Grant of sacrilege for having shot a lizard on a holy stone, and demanded four cloths to pay atonement for this offence against the "church." As yet, he said, the chief was not aware of the damage done, and it was well he was not; for he would himself, if I only paid him the four cloths, settle matters quietly, otherwise there would be no knowing what demands might be made on my cloth. It was necessary to get up hot temper, else there was no knowing how far he would go; so I returned him his presents, and told the sheikh, instead of giving four, to fling six cloths in his face, and tell him that the holy-stone story was merely a humbug, and I would take care no more white men ever came to see him again.

Some Wanyamuezi porters, who had been left sick here by former caravans, now wished to take service with me as far as Kaze; but the Wagogo, hearing of their desire, frightened them off it. A report also at this time was brought to us, that a caravan had just arrived at our last ground, having come up from Whindi, direct by the line of the Wami river, in its upper course called Mukondokua, without crossing a single hill all the way; I therefore sent three men to see if they had any porters to spare, as it was said they had; but the three men, although they left their bows and arrows behind, never came back.

Another mule died to-day. This was perplexing indeed, but to stop longer was useless; so we pushed forward as best we could to a pond at the western end of the district where we found a party of Makua sportsmen who had just killed an elephant. They had lived in Ugogo one year and a half, and had killed in all seventeen elephants; half the tusks of which, as well as some portion of the flesh, they gave to Magomba for the privilege of residing there. There were many antelopes there, some of which both Grant and I shot for the good of the pot, and he also killed a crocute hyena. From the pond we went on to the middle of a large jungle, and bivouacked for the night in a shower of rain, the second of the season.

During a fierce downpour of rain, the porters all quivering and quaking with cold, we at length emerged from the jungle, and entered the prettiest spot in Ugogo—the populous district of Usekhe—where little hills and huge columns of granite crop out. Here we halted.

Next day came the hongo business, which was settled by paying one dubani, one kitambi, one msutu, four yards merikani, and two yards kiniki; but whilst we were doing it eight porters ran away, and four fresh ones were engaged (Wanyamuezi) who had run away from Kanyenye.

With one more march from this we reached the last district in Ugogo, Khoko. Here the whole of the inhabitants turned out to oppose us, imagining we had come there to revenge the Arab, Mohinna, because the Wagogo attacked him a year ago, plundered his camp, and drove him back to Kaze, for having shot their old chief "Short-legs." They, however, no sooner found out who we were than they allowed us to pass on, and encamp in the outskirts of the Mgunda Mkhali wilderness. To this position in the bush I strongly objected, on the plea that guns could be best used against arrows in the open; but none would go out in the field, maintaining that the Wagogo would fear to attack us so far from their villages, as we now were, lest we might cut them off in their retreat.

Hori Hori was now chief in Short-leg’s stead, and affected to be much pleased that we were English, and not Arabs. He told us we might, he thought, be able to recruit all the men that we were in want of, as many Wanyanuezi who had been left there sick wished to go to their homes; and I would only, in addition to their wages, have to pay their "hotel bills" to the Wagogo. This, of course, I was ready to do, though I knew the Wanyamuezi had paid for themselves, as is usual, by their work in the fields of their hosts. Still, as I should be depriving these of hands, I could scarcely expect to get off for less than the value of a slave for each, and told Sheikh said to look out for some men at once, whilst at the same time he laid in provisions of grain to last us eight days in the wilderness, and settle the hongo.

For this triple business, I allowed three days, during which time, always eager to shoot something, either for science or the pot, I killed a bicornis rhinoceros, at a distance of five paces only, with my small 40-gauge Lancaster, as the beast stood quietly feeding in the bush; and I also shot a bitch fox of the genus Octocyon lalandii, whose ill-omened cry often alarms the natives by forewarning them of danger. This was rather tame sport; but next day I had better fun.

Starting in the early morning, accompanied by two of Sheikh Said’s boys, Suliman and Faraj, each carrying a rifle, while I carried a shot-gun, we followed a footpath to the westward in the wilderness of Mgunda Mkhali. There, after walking a short while in the bush, as I heard the grunt of a buffalo close on my left, I took "Blissett" in hand, and walked to where I soon espied a large herd quietly feeding. They were quite unconscious of my approach, so I took a shot at a cow, and wounded her; then, after reloading, put a ball in a bull and staggered him also. This caused great confusion among them; but as none of the animals knew where the shots came from, they simply shifted about in a fidgety manner, allowing me to kill the first cow, and even fire a fourth shot, which sickened the great bull, and induced him to walk off, leaving the herd to their fate, who, considerably puzzled, began moving off also.

I now called up the boys, and determined on following the herd down before either skinning the dead cow or following the bull, who I knew could not go far. Their footprints being well defined in the moist sandy soil, we soon found the herd again; but as they now knew they were pursued, they kept moving on in short runs at a time, when, occasionally gaining glimpses of their large dark bodies as they forced through the bush, I repeated my shots and struck a good number, some more and some less severely. This was very provoking; for all of them being stern shots were not likely to kill, and the jungle was so thick I could not get a front view of them. Presently, however, one with her hind leg broken pulled up on a white-ant hill, and, tossing her horns, came down with a charge the instant I showed myself close to her. One crack of the rifle rolled her over, and gave me free scope to improve the bag, which was very soon done; for on following the spoors, the traces of blood led us up to another one as lame as the last. He then got a second bullet in the flank, and, after hobbling a little, evaded our sight and threw himself into a bush, where we not sooner arrived than he plunged headlong at us from his ambush, just, and only just, giving me time to present my small 40-gauge Lancaster.

It was a most ridiculous scene. Suliman by my side, with the instinct of a monkey, made a violent spring and swung himself by a bough immediately over the beast, whilst Faraj bolted away and left me single-gunned to polish him off. There was only one course to pursue, for in one instant more he would have been into me; so, quick as thought, I fired the gun, and, as luck would have it, my bullet, after passing through the edge of one of his horns, stuck in the spine of his neck, and rolled him over at my feet as dead as a rabbit. Now, having cut the beast’s throat to make him "hilal," according to Mussulman usage, and thinking we had done enough if I could only return to the first wounded bull and settle him too, we commenced retracing our steps, and by accident came on Grant. He was passing by from another quarter, and became amused by the glowing description of my boys, who never omitted to narrate their own cowardice as an excellent tale. He begged us to go on in our course, whilst he would go back and send us some porters to carry home the game.

Now, tracking back again to the first point of attack, we followed the blood of the first bull, till at length I found him standing like a stuck pig in some bushes, looking as if he would like to be put out of his miseries. Taking compassion, I levelled my Blisset; but, as bad luck would have it, a bough intercepted the flight of the bullet, and it went "pinging" into the air, whilst the big bull went off at a gallop. To follow on was no difficulty, the spoor was so good; and in ten minutes more, as I opened on a small clearance, Blisset in hand, the great beast, from the thicket on the opposite side, charged down like a mad bull, full of ferocity—as ugly an antagonist as ever I saw, for the front of his head was all shielded with horn. A small mound fortunately stood between us, and as he rounded it, I jumped to one side and let fly at his flank, but without the effect of stopping him; for, as quick as thought, the huge monster was at my feet, battling with the impalpable smoke of my gun, which fortunately hung so thick on the ground at the height of his head that he could not see me, though I was so close that I might, had I been possessed of a hatchet, have chopped off his head. This was a predicament which looked very ugly, for my boys had both bolted, taking with them my guns; but suddenly the beast, evidently regarding the smoke as a phantom which could not be mastered, turned round in a bustle, to my intense relief, and galloped off at full speed, as if scared by some terrible apparition.

O what would I not then have given for a gun, the chance was such a good one! Still, angry though I was, I could not help laughing as the dastardly boys came into the clearance full of their mimicry, and joked over the scene they had witnessed in security, whilst my life was in jeopardy because they were too frightened to give me my gun. But now came the worst part of the day; for, though rain was falling, I had not the heart to relinquish my game. Tracking on through the bush, I thought every minute I should come up with the brute; but his wounds ceased to bleed, and in the confusion of the numerous tracks which scored all the forest we lost our own.

Much disappointed at this, I now proposed to make for the track we came by in the morning, and follow it down into camp; but this luxury was not destined to be our lot that night, for the rain had obliterated all our footprints of the morning, and we passed the track, mistaking it for the run of wild beasts. It struck me we had done so; but say what I would, the boys thought they knew better; and the consequence was that, after wandering for hours no one knew where—for there was no sun to guide us—I pulled up, and swore I would wait for the stars, else it might be our fate to be lost in the wilderness, which I did not much relish. We were all at this time "hungry as hunters," and beginning to feel very miserable from being wet through. What little ammunition I had left I fired off as signals, or made tinder of to get up a fire, but the wood would not burn. In this hapless condition the black boys began murmuring, wishing to go on, pretending, though both held opposite views, that each knew the way; for they thought nothing could be worse than their present state of discomfort.

Night with its gloom was then drawing on, heightened by thunder and lightning, which set in all around us. At times we thought we heard musketry in camp, knowing that Grant would be sure to fire signals for us; and doubtless we did so, but its sound and the thunder so much resembled one another that we distrusted our ears. At any rate, the boys mistook the west for the east; and as I thought they had done so, I stood firm to one spot, and finally lay down with them to sleep upon the cold wet ground, where we slept pretty well, being only disturbed occasionally by some animals sniffing at our feet. As the clouds broke towards morning, my obstinate boys still swore that west was east, and would hardly follow me when tracking down Venus; next up rose the moon and then followed the sun, when, as good luck would have it, we struck on the track, and walked straight into camp.

Here every one was in a great state of excitement: Grant had been making the men fire volleys. The little sheikh was warmly congratulatory as he spoke of the numbers who had strayed away and had been lost in that wilderness; whilst Bombay admitted he thought we should turn up again if I did not listen to the advice of the boys, which was his only fear. Nothing as yet, I now found, had been done to further our march. The hongo, the sheikh said, had to precede everything; yet that had not been settled, because the chief deferred it the day of our arrival, on the plea that it was the anniversary of Short-legs’s death; and he also said that till then all the Wagogo had been in mourning by ceasing to wear all their brass bracelets and other ornaments, and they now wished to solemnise the occasion by feasting and renewing their finery. This being granted, the next day another pretext for delay was found, by the Wahumba having made a raid on their cattle, which necessitated the chief and all his men turning out to drive them away; and to-day nothing could be attended to, as a party of fugitive Wanyamuezi had arrived and put them all in a fright. These Wanyamuezi, it then transpired, were soldiers of Manua Sera, the "Tippler," who was at war with the Arabs. He had been defeated at Mguru, a district in Unyamuezi, by the Arabs, and had sent these men to cut off the caravan route, as the best way of retaliation that lay in his power.

At last the tax having been settled by the payment of one dubani, two barsati, one sahari, six yards merikani, and three yards kiniki (not, however, until I had our tents struck, and threatened to march away if the chief would not take it), I proposed going on with the journey, for our provisions were stored. but when the loads were being lifted, I found ten more men were missing; and as nothing now could be done but throw ten loads away, which seemed to great a sacrifice to be made in a hurry, I simply changed ground to show we were ready to march, and sent my men about, either to try to induce the fugitive Wanyamuezi to take service with me or else to buy donkeys, as the chief said he had some to sell.

We had already been here too long. A report was now spread that a lion had killed one of the chief’s cows; and the Wagogo, suspecting that our being here was the cause of this ill luck, threatened to attack us. This no sooner got noised over the camp than all my Wanyamuezi porters, who had friends in Ugogo, left to live with them, and would not come back again even when the "storm had blown over," because they did not like the incessant rains that half deluged the camp. The chief, too, said he would not sell us his donkeys, lest we should give them back to Mohinna, from whom they were taken during his fight here. Intrigues of all sorts I could see were brewing, possibly at the instigation of the fugitive Wanyamuezi, who suspected we were bound to side with the Arabs— possibly from some other cause, I could not tell what; so, to clear out of this pandemonium as soon as possible I issued cloths to buy double rations, intending to cross the wilderness by successive relays in double the ordinary number of days. I determined at the same time to send forward two freed men to Kaze to ask Musa and the Arabs to send me out some provisions and men to meet us half-way.

Matters grew worse and worse. The sultan, now finding me unable to move, sent a message to say if I would not give him some better cloths to make his hongo more respectable, he would attack my camp; and advised all the Wanyamuezi who regarded their lives not to go near me if I resisted. This was by no means pleasant; for the porters showed their uneasiness by extracting their own cloths from my bundles, under the pretext that they wished to make some purchases of their own. I ought, perhaps, to have stopped this; but I thought the best plan was to show total indifference; so, at the same time that they were allowed to take their cloths, I refused to comply with the chief’s request, and begged them to have no fear so long as they saw I could hold my own ground with my guns.

The Wanyamuezi, however, were panic-stricken, and half of them bolted, with the kirangozi at their head, carrying off all the double-ration cloths as well as their own. At this time, the sultan, having changed tactics, as he saw us all ready to stand on the defensive, sent back his hongo; but, instead of using threats, said he would oblige us with donkeys or anything else if we would only give him a few more pretty cloths. With this cringing, perfidious appeal I refused to comply, until the sheikh, still more cringing, implored me to give way else not a single man would remain with me. I then told him to settle with the chief himself, and give me the account, which amounted to three barsati, two sahari, and three yards merikani; but the donkeys were never alluded to.

With half my men gone, I still ordered the march, though strongly opposed to the advice of one of old Mamba’s men, who was then passing by on his way to the coast, in command of his master’s rear detachment. He thought it impossible for us to pull through the wilderness, with its jungle grasses and roots, depending for food only on Grant’s gun and my own; still we made half-way to the Mdaburu nullah, taking some of Mamba’s out to camp with us, as he promised to take letters and specimens down to the coast for us, provided I paid him some cloths as ready money down, and promised some more to be paid at Zanzibar. These letters eventually reached home, but not the specimens.

The rains were so heavy that the whole country was now flooded, but we pushed on to the nullah by relays, and pitched on its left bank. In the confusion of the march, however, we lost many more porters, who at the same time relieved us of their loads, by slipping off stealthily into the bush.

The fifteenth was a forced halt, as the stream was so deep and so violent we could not cross it. To make the best of this very unfortunate interruption, I now sent on two men to Kaze, with letters to Musa and Sheikh Snay, both old friends on the former expedition, begging them to send me sixty men, each carrying thirty rations of grain, and some country tobacco. The tobacco was to gratify my men, who said of all things they most wanted to cheer them was something to smoke. At the same time I sent back some other men to Khoko, with cloth to buy grain for present consumption, as some of my porters were already reduced to living on wild herbs and white ants. I then sent all the remaining men, under the directions of Bombay and Baraka, to fell a tall tree with hatchets, on the banks of the nullah, with a view to bridging it; but the tree dropped to the wrong side, and thwarted the plan. The rain ceased on the 17th, just as we put the raingauge out, which was at once interpreted to be our Uganga, or religious charm, and therefore the cause of its ceasing. It was the first fine day for a fortnight, so we were only too glad to put all our things out to dry, and rejoiced to think of the stream’s subsiding. My men who went back to Khoko for grain having returned with next to nothing— though, of course, they had spent all the cloths—I sent back another batch with pretty cloths, as it was confidently stated that grain was so scarce there, nothing but the best fabrics would but it. This also proved a dead failure; but although animals were very scarce, Grant relieved our anxiety by shooting a zebra and an antelope.

After five halts, we forded the stream, middle deep, and pushed forwards again, doing short stages of four or five miles a-day, in the greatest possible confusion; for, whilst Grant and I were compelled to go out shooting all day for the pot, the sheikh and Bombay went on with the first half of the property and then, keeping guard over it sent the men back again to Baraka, who kept rear-guard, to have the rest brought on. Order there was none: the men hated this "double work;" all the Wanyamuezi but three deserted, with the connivance of the coast-men, carrying off their loads with them, under a mutual understanding, as I found out afterwards, that the coast-men were to go shares in the plunder as soon as we reached Unyamuezi. The next great obstacle in this tug-and-pull wilderness-march presented itself on the 24th, when, after the first half of the property had crossed the Mabunguru nullah, it rose in flood and cut off the rear half. It soon, however, subsided; and the next day we reached "the Springs," where we killed a pig and two rhinoceros. Not content, however, with this fare—notwithstanding the whole camp had been living liberally on zebra’s and antelope’s flesh every day previously— some of my coast-men bolted on to the little settlement of Jiwa la Mkoa, contrary to orders, to purchase some grain; and in doing so, increased our transport difficulties.

Pulling on in the same way again—when not actually engaged in shooting, scolding and storming at the men, to keep them up to the mark, and prevent them from shirking their work, which they were for every trying to do—we arrived on the 28th at the "Boss," a huge granite block, from the top of which the green foliage of the forest-trees looked like an interminable cloud, soft and waving, fit for fairies to dwell upon. Here the patience of my men fairly gave way, for the village of Jiwa la Mkoa was only one long march distance from us; and they, in consequence, smelt food on in advance much sweeter than the wild game and wild grasses they had been living on; and many more of them could not resist deserting us, though they might, had we all pulled together, have gone more comfortably in, as soon as the rear property arrived next day with Baraka.

All the men who deserted on the 25th, save Johur and Mutwana, now came into camp, and told us they had heard from travellers that those men who had been sent on for reliefs to Kaze were bringing us a large detachment of slaves to help us on. My men had brought no food either for us or their friends, as the cloths they took with them, "which were their own," were scarcely sufficient to purchase a meal—famines being as bad where they had been as in Ugogo. To try and get all the men together again, I now sent off a party loaded with cloths to see what they could get for us; but they returned on the 30th grinning and joking, with nothing but a small fragment of goat-flesh, telling lies by the dozens. Johur then came into camp, unconscious that Baraka by my orders had, during his absence, been inspecting his kit, where he found concealed seventy-three yards of cloth, which could only have been my property, as Johur had brought no akaba or reserve fund from the coast.

The theft having been proved to the satisfaction of every one, I ordered Baraka to strip him of everything and give him three dozen lashes; but after twenty-one had been given, the rest were remitted on his promising to turn Queen’s evidence, when it transpired that Mutwana had done as much as himself. Johur, it turned out, was a murderer, having obtained his freedom by killing his master. He was otherwise a notoriously bad character; so, wishing to make an example, as I knew all my men were robbing me daily, though I could not detect them, I had him turned out of camp. Baraka was a splendid detective, and could do everything well when he wished it, so I sent him off now with cloths to see what he could to at Jiwa la Mkoa, and next day he returned triumphantly driving in cows and goats. Three Wanyamuezi, also, who heard we were given to shooting wild animals continually, came with him to offer their services as porters.

As nearly all the men had now returned, Grant and I spent New Year’s Day with the first detachment at Jiwa la Mkoa, or Round Rock— a single tembe village occupied by a few Wakimbu settlers, who, by their presence and domestic habits, made us feel as though we were well out of the wood. So indeed we found it; for although this wilderness was formerly an entire forest of trees and wild animals, numerous Wakimbu, who formerly occupied the banks of the Ruaha to the southward, had been driven to migrate here, wherever they could find springs of water, by the boisterous naked pastorals the Warori.

At night three slaves belonging to Sheikh Salem bin Saif stole into our camp, and said they had been sent by their master to seek for porters at Kaze, as all the Wanyamuezi porters of four large caravans had deserted in Ugogo, and they could not move. I was rather pleased by this news, and thought it served the merchants right, knowing, as I well did, that the Wanyamuezi, being naturally honest, had they not been defrauded by foreigners on the down march to the coast, would have been honest still. Some provisions were now obtained by sending men out to distant villages; but we still supplied the camp with our guns, killing rhinoceros, wild boar, antelope, and zebras. The last of our property did not come up till the 5th, when another thief being caught, got fifty lashes, under the superintendence of Baraka, to show that punishment was only inflicted to prevent further crime.

The next day my men came from Kaze with letters from Sheikh Snay and Musa. They had been detained there some days after arrival, as those merchants’ slaves had gone to Utambara to settle some quarrel there; but as soon as they returned, Musa ordered them to go and assist us, giving them beads to find rations for themselves on the way, as the whole country about Kaze had been half-starved by famines, though he did send a little rice and tobacco for me. The whole party left Kaze together; but on arrival at Tura the slaves said they had not enough beads and would return for some more, when they would follow my men. This bit of news was the worst that could have befallen us; my men were broken-hearted enough before, and this drove the last spark of spirit out of them. To make the best of a bad job, I now sent Bombay with two other men off to Musa to see what he could do, and ordered my other men to hire Wakimbu from village to village. On the 7th, a nervous excitement was produced in the camp by some of my men running in and calling all to arm, as the fugitive chief Manua Sera was coming, with thirty armed followers carrying muskets. Such was the case: and by the time my men were all under arms, with their sword-bayonets fixed, drawn up by my tent the veritable "Tippler" arrived; but, not liking the look of such a formidable array as my men presented, he passed on a short way, and then sent back a deputation to make known his desire of calling on me, which was no sooner complied with than he came in person, attended by a body-guard. On my requesting him to draw near and sit, his wooden stool was placed for him. He began the conversation by telling me he had heard of my distress from want of porters, and then offered to assist me with some, provided I would take him to Kaze, and mediate between him and the Arabs; for, through their unjustifiable interference in his government affairs, a war had ensued, which terminated with the Arabs driving him from his possessions a vagabond. Manua Sera, I must say, was as fine a young man as ever I looked upon. He was very handsome, and looked as I now saw him the very picture of a captain of the banditti of the romances. I begged him to tell me his tale, and, in compliance, he gave me the following narrative:—

"Shortly after you left Kaze for England, my old father, the late chief Fundi Kira, died, and by his desire I became lawful chief; for, though the son of a slave girl, and not of Fundi Kira’s wife, such is the law of inheritance—a constitutional policy established to prevent any chance of intrigues between the sons born in legitimate wedlock. Well, after assuming the title of chief, I gave presents of ivory to all the Arabs with a liberal hand, but most so to Musa, which caused great jealousy amongst the other merchants. Then after this I established a property tax on all merchandise that entered my country. Fundi Kira had never done so, but I did not think that any reason why I should not, especially as the Arabs were the only people who lived in my country exempt from taxation. This measure, however, exasperated the Arabs, and induced them to send me hostile messages, to the effect that, if I ever meddled with them, they would dethrone me, and place Mkisiwa, another illegitimate son, on the throne in my stead. This," Manua Sera continued, "I could not stand; the merchants were living on sufferance only in my country. I told them so, and defied them to interfere with my orders, for I was not a ’woman,’ to be treated with contempt; and this got up a quarrel. Mkisiwa, seizing at the opportunity of the prize held out to him by the Arabs as his supporters, then commenced a system of bribery. Words led to blows; we had a long and tough fight; I killed many of their number, and they killed mine. Eventually they drove me from my palace, and placed Mkisiwa there as chief in my stead. My faithful followers however, never deserted me; so I went to Rubuga, and put up with old Maula there. The Arabs followed—drove me to Nguru, and tried to kill Maula for having fostered me. He, however, escaped them; but they destroyed his country, and then followed me down to Nguru. There we fought for many months, until all provisions were exhausted, when I defied them to catch me, and forced my way through their ranks. It is needless to say I have been a wanderer since; and though I wish to make friends, they will not allow it, but do all they can to hunt me to death. Now, as you were a friend of my father, I do hope you will patch up this war for me, which you must think is unjust."

I told Manua Sera I felt very much for him, and I would do my best if he would follow me to Kaze; but I knew that nothing could ever be done unless he returned to the free-trade principles of his father. He then said he had never taken a single tax from the Arabs, and would gladly relinquish his intention to do so. The whole affair was commenced in too great a hurry; but whatever happened he would gladly forgive all if I would use my influence to reinstate him, for by no other means could he ever get his crown back again. I then assured him that I would do what I could to restore the ruined trade of his country, observing that, as all the ivory that went out of his country, came to ours, and all imports were productions of our country also, this war injured us as well as himself. Manua Sera seemed highly delighted, and said he had a little business to transact in Ugogo at present, but he would overtake me in a few days. He then sent me one of my runaway porters, whom he had caught in the woods making off with a load of my beads. We then separated; and Baraka, by my orders, gave the thief fifty lashes for his double offence of theft and desertion.

On the 9th, having bought two donkeys and engaged several men, we left Jiwa la Mkoa, with half our traps, and marched to Garaeswi, where, to my surprise, there were as many as twenty tembes— a recently-formed settlement of Wokimbu. Here we halted a day for the rear convoy, and then went on again by detachments to Zimbo, where, to our intense delight, Bombay returned to us on the 13th, triumphantly firing guns, with seventy slaves accompanying him, and with letters from Snay and Musa, in which they said they hoped, if I met with Manua Sera, that I would either put a bullet through his head, or else bring him in a prisoner, that they might do for him, for the scoundrel had destroyed all their trade by cutting off caravans. Their fights with him commenced by his levying taxes in opposition to their treaties with his father, Fundi Kira, and then preventing his subjects selling them grain.

Once more the whole caravan moved on; but as I had to pay each of the seventy slaves sixteen yards of cloth, by order of their masters, in the simple matter of expenditure it would have been better had I thrown ten loads away at Ugogo, where my difficulties first commenced. On arrival at Mgongo Thembo—the Elephant’s Back— called so in consequence of a large granitic rock, which resembles the back of that animal, protruding through the ground—we found a clearance in the forest, of two miles in extent, under cultivation. Here the first man to meet me was the fugitive chief of Rubuga, Maula. This poor old man—one of the honestest chiefs in the country—had been to the former expedition a host and good friend. He now gave me a cow as a present, and said he would give me ten more if I would assist him in making friends with the Arabs, who had driven him out of his country, and had destroyed all his belongings, even putting a slave to reign in his stead, though he had committed no fault of intentional injury towards them. It was true Manua Sera, their enemy, had taken refuge in his palace, but that was not his fault; for, anticipating the difficulties that would arise, he did his best to keep Manua Sera out of it, but Manua Sera being too strong for him, forced his way in. I need not say I tried to console this unfortunate victim of circumstances as best I could, inviting him to go with me to Kaze, and promising to protect him with my life if he feared the Arabs; but the old man, being too feeble to travel himself, said he would send his son with me.

Next day we pushed on a double march through the forest, and reached a nullah. As it crosses the track in a southerly direction, this might either be the head of the Kululu mongo or river, which, passing through the district of Kiwele, drains westward into the Malagarazi river, and thence into the Tanganyika, or else the most westerly tributary to the Ruaha river, draining eastward into the sea. The plateau, however, is apparently so flat here, that nothing b a minute survey, or rather following the watercourse, could determine the matter. Then emerging from the wilderness, we came into the open cultivated district of Tura, or "put down"—called so by the natives because it was, only a few years ago, the first cleared space in the wilderness, and served as a good halting-station, after the normal ten day’s march in the jungles, where we had now been struggling more than a month.

The whole place, once so fertile, was now almost depopulated and in a sad state of ruin, showing plainly the savage ravages of war; for the Arabs and their slaves, when they take the field, think more of plunder and slavery than the object they started on—each man of the force looking out for himself. The incentives, too, are so great;—a young woman might be caught (the greatest treasure of earth), or a boy or a girl, a cow or a goat—all of the fortunes, of themselves too irresistible to be overlooked when the future is doubtful. Here Sheikh Said broke down in health of a complaint which he formerly had suffered from, and from which I at once saw he would never recover sufficiently well to be ever effective again. It was a sad misfortune, as the men had great confidence in him, being the representative of their Zanzibar government: still it could not be helped; for, as a sick man is, after all, the greatest possible impediment to a march, it was better to be rid of him than have the trouble of dragging him; so I made up my mind, as soon as we reached Kaze, I would drop him there with the Arabs. He could not be moved on the 16th, so I marched across the plain and put up in some villages on its western side. Whilst waiting for the sheikh’s arrival, some villagers at night stole several loads of beads, and ran off with them; but my men, finding the theft out in time, hunted them down, and recovered all but one load—for the thieves had thrown their loads down as soon as they found they were hotly pursued.

Early this morning I called all the head men of the village together, and demanded the beads to be restored to me; for, as I was living with them, they were responsible, according to the laws of the country. They acknowledged the truth and force of my demand, and said they would each give me a cow as an earnest, until their chief, who was absent, arrived. This, of course, was objected to, as the chief, in his absence, must have deputed some one to govern for him, and I expected him to settle at once, that I might proceed with the march. Then selecting five of my head men to conduct the case, with five of their elders, it was considered my losses were equivalent to thirty head of cattle. As I remitted the penalty to fifteen head, these were made over to me, and we went on with the march—all feeling delighted with the issue but the Hottentots, who, not liking the loss of the second fifteen cows, said that in Kafirland, where the laws of the country are the same as here, the whole would have been taken, and, as it was, they thought I was depriving them of their rights to beef.

By a double march, the sheikh riding in a hammock slung on a pole, we now made Kuale, or "Partridge" nullah, which, crossing the road to the northward, drains these lands to the Malagarazi river, and thence into the Tanganyika lake. Thence, having spent the night in the jungle, we next morning pushed into the cultivated district of Rubuga, and put up in some half-deserted tembes, where the ravages of war were even more disgusting to witness than at Tura. The chief, as I have said, was a slave, placed there by the Arabs on the condition that he would allow all traders and travellers to help themselves without payment as long as they chose to reside there. In consequence of this wicked arrangement, I found it impossible to keep my men from picking and stealing. They looked upon plunder as their fortune and right, and my interference as unjustifiable.

By making another morning and evening march, we then reached the western extremity of this cultivated opening; where, after sleeping the night, we threaded through another forest to the little clearance of Kigue, and in one more march through forest arrived in the large and fertile district of Unyanyembe, the centre of Unyamuezi—the Land of the Moon—within five miles of Kaze which is the name of a well in the village of Tbora, now constituted the great central slave and ivory merchants’ depot. My losses up to this date (23d) were as follows:—One Hottentot dead and five returned; one freeman sent back with the Hottentots, and one flogged and turned off; twenty-five of Sultan Majid’s gardeners deserted; ninety-eight of the original Wanyamuezi porters deserted; twelve mules and three donkeys dead. Besides which, more than half of my property had been stolen; whilst the travelling expenses had been unprecedented, in consequence of the severity of the famine throughout the whole length of the march.


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Chicago: John Hanning Speke, "Chapter IV Ugogo, and the Wilderness of Mgunda Mkhali," The Discovery of the Source of the Nile, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Ingram, J. H. (James Henry) in The Discovery of the Source of the Nile (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed February 26, 2024,

MLA: Speke, John Hanning. "Chapter IV Ugogo, and the Wilderness of Mgunda Mkhali." The Discovery of the Source of the Nile, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Ingram, J. H. (James Henry), in The Discovery of the Source of the Nile, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 26 Feb. 2024.

Harvard: Speke, JH, 'Chapter IV Ugogo, and the Wilderness of Mgunda Mkhali' in The Discovery of the Source of the Nile, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, The Discovery of the Source of the Nile, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 26 February 2024, from