Chapter II. Uzaramo

The Nature of the Country - The Order of March - The Beginning of our Taxation - Sultan Lion's Claw, and Sultan Monkey's Tail - The Kingani - Jealousies and Difficulties in the Camp - The Murderer of M. Maizan.

We were now in U-za-Ramo, which may mean the country of Ramo, though I have never found any natives who could enlighten me on the derivation of this obviously triple word. The extent of the country, roughly speaking, stretches from the coast to the junction or bifurcation of the Kingani and its upper branch the Mgeta river, westwards; and from the Kingani, north, to the Lufigi river, south; though in the southern portions several subtribes have encroached upon the lands. There are no hills in Uzaramo; but the land in the central line, formed like a ridge between the two rivers, furrow fashion, consists of slightly elevated flats and terraces, which, in the rainy season, throw off their surplus waters to the north and south by nullahs into these rivers. The country is uniformly well covered with trees and large grasses, which, in the rainy season, are too thick, tall, and green to be pleasant; though in the dry season, after the grasses have been burnt, it is agreeable enough, though not pretty, owing to the flatness of the land. The villages are not large or numerous, but widely spread, consisting generally of conical grass huts, while others are gable-ended, after the coast-fashion - a small collection of ten or twenty comprising one village. Over these villages certain headmen, titled Phanze, hold jurisdiction, who take black-mail from travellers with high presumption when they can. Generally speaking, they live upon the coast, and call themselves Diwans, headsmen, and subjects of the Sultan Majid; but they no sooner hear of the march of a caravan than they transpose their position, become sultans in their own right, and levy taxes accordingly.

The Wazaramo are strictly agriculturists; they have no cows, and but few goats. They are of low stature and thick set and their nature tends to the boisterous. Expert slavehunters, they mostly clothe themselves by the sale of their victims on the coast, though they do business by the sale of goats and grain as well. Nowhere in the interior are natives so well clad as these creatures. In dressing up their hair, and otherwise smearing their bodies with ochreish clay, they are great dandies. They always keep their bows and arrows, which form their national arm, in excellent order, the latter well poisoned, and carried in quivers nicely carved. To intimidate a caravan and extort a hongo or tax, I have seen them drawn out in line as if prepared for battle; but a few soft words were found sufficient to make them all withdraw and settle the matter at issue by arbitration in some appointed place. A few men without property can cross their lands fearlessly, though a single individual with property would stand no chance, for they are insatiable thieves. But little is seen of these people on the journey, as the chiefs take their taxes by deputy, partly out of pride, and partly because they think they can extort more by keeping in the mysterious distance. At the same time, the caravan prefers camping in the jungles beyond the villages to mingling with the inhabitants, where rows might be engendered. We sometimes noticed Albinos, with greyish- blue eyes and light straw-coloured hair. Not unfrequently we would pass on the track side small heaps of white ashes, with a calcined bone or two among them. These, we were told, were the relics of burnt witches. The caravan track we had now to travel on leads along the right bank of the Kingani valley, overlooking Uzegura, which, corresponding with Uzaramo, only on the other side of the Kigani, extends northwards to the Pangani river, and is intersected in the centre by the Wami river, of which more hereafter.