Chapter III. Usagara
Zungomero is a terminus or junction of two roads leading to the interior - one, the northern, crossing over the Goma Pass, and trenching on the Mukondokua river, and the other crossing over the Mabruki Pass, and edging on the Ruaha river. They both unite again at Ugogi, the western terminus on the present great Unyamuezi line. On the former expedition I went by the northern line and returned by the southern, finding both equally easy, and, indeed, neither is worthy of special and permanent preference. In fact, every season makes a difference in the supply of water and provisions; and with every year, owing to incessant wars, or rather slave-hunts, the habitations of the wretched inhabitants become constantly changed - generally speaking, for the worse. Our first and last object, therefore, as might be supposed, from knowing these circumstances, was to ascertain, before mounting the hill-range, which route would afford us the best facilities for a speedy march now. No one, however, could or would advise us. The whole country on ahead, especially Ugogo, was oppressed by drought and famine. To avoid this latter country, then, we selected the southern route, as by doing so it was hoped we might follow the course of the Ruaha river from Maroro to Usenga and Usanga, and thence strike across to Unyanyembe, sweeping clear of Ugogo.
With this determination, after despatching a third set of specimens, consisting of large game animals, birds, snakes, insects, land and freshwater shells, and a few rock specimens, of which one was fossiliferous, we turned southwards, penetrating the forests which lie between the greater range and the little outlying one. At the foot of this is the Maji ya Wheta, a hot, deep-seated spring of fresh water, which bubbles up through many apertures in a large dome-shaped heap of soft lime - an accumulation obviously thrown up by the force of the spring, as the rocks on either side of it are of igneous character. We arrived at the deserted village of Kirengue. This was not an easy go-ahead march, for the halt had disaffected both men and mules. Three of the former bolted, leaving their loads upon the ground; and on the line of march, one of the mules, a full-conditioned animal, gave up the ghost after an eighteen hours' sickness. What his disease was I never could ascertain; but as all the remaining animals died afterwards much in the same manner, I may state for once and for all, that these attacks commenced with general swelling, at first on the face, then down the neck, along the belly and down the legs. It proved so obstinate that fire had no effect upon it; and although we cut off the tails of some to relieve them by bleeding, still they died.
In former days Kirengue was inhabited, and we reasonably hoped to find some supplies for the jungly march before us. But we had calculated without our host, for the slave-hunters had driven every vestige of humanity away; and now, as we were delayed by our three loads behind, there was nothing left but to send back and purchase more grain. Such was one of the many days frittered away in do-nothingness.
This day, all together again, we rose the first spurs of the well-wooded Usagara hills, amongst which the familiar bamboo was plentiful, and at night we bivouacked in the jungle.
Rising betimes in the morning, and starting with a good will, we soon reached the first settlements of Mbuiga, from which could be seen a curious blue mountain, standing up like a giant overlooking all the rest of the hills. The scenery here formed a strong and very pleasing contrast to any we had seen since leaving the coast. Emigrant Waziraha, who had been driven from their homes across the Kingani river by the slave-hunters, had taken possession of the place, and disposed their little conical- hut villages on the heights of the hill-spurs in such a picturesque manner, that one could not help hoping they would here at least be allowed to rest in peace and quietness. The valleys, watered by little brooks, are far richer, and even prettier, than the high lands above, being lined with fine trees and evergreen shrubs; while the general state of prosperity was such, that the people could afford, even at this late season of the year, to turn their corn into malt to brew beer for sale; and goats and fowls were plentiful in the market.
Passing by the old village of Mbuiga, which I occupied on my former expedition, we entered some huts on the western flank of the Mbuiga district; and here, finding a coast-man, a great friend of the little sheikh's, willing to take back to Zanzibar anything we might give him, a halt was made, and I drew up my reports. I then consigned to his charge three of the most sickly of the Hottentots in a deplorable condition - one of the mules, that they might ride by turns - and all the specimens that had been collected. With regret I also sent back the camera; because I saw, had I allowed my companion to keep working it, the heat he was subjected to in the little tent whilst preparing and fixing his plates would very soon have killed him. The number of guinea-fowl seen here was most surprising.