Chapter III. Usagara
A little lighter and much more comfortable for the good riddance of those grumbling "Tots," we worked up to and soon breasted the stiff ascent of the Mabruki Pass, which we surmounted without much difficult. This concluded the first range of these Usagara hills; and once over, we dropped down to the elevated valley of Makata, where we halted two days to shoot. As a travelling Arab informed me that the whole of the Maroro district had been laid waste by the marauding Wahehe, I changed our plans again, and directed our attention to a middle and entirely new line, which in the end would lead us to Ugogi. The first and only giraffe killed upon the journey was here shot by Grant, with a little 40- gauge Lancaster rifle, at 200 yards' distance. Some smaller animals were killed; but I wasted all my time in fruitlessly stalking some wounded striped eland - magnificent animals, as large as Delhi oxen - and some other animals, of which I wounded three, about the size of hartebeest, and much their shape, only cream-coloured, with a conspicuous black spot in the centre of each flank. The eland may probably be the animal first mentioned by Livingstone, but the other animal is not known.
Though reluctant to leave a place where such rare animals were to be found, the fear of remaining longer on the road induced us to leave Kikobogo, and at a good stride we crossed the flat valley of Makata, and ascended the higher lands beyond, where we no sooner arrived than we met the last down trader from Unyamuezi, well known to all my men as the great Mamba or Crocodile. Mamba, dressed in a dirty Arab gown, with coronet of lion's nails decorating a thread-bare cutch cap, greeted us with all the dignity of a savage potentate surrounded by his staff of half- naked officials. As usual, he had been the last to leave the Unyamuezi, and so purchased all his stock of ivory at a cheap rate, there being no competitors left to raise the value of that commodity; but his journey had been a very trying one. With a party, at his own estimate, of two thousand souls - we did not see anything like that number - he had come from Ugogo to this, by his own confession, living on the products of the jungle, and by boiling down the skin aprons of his porters occasionally for a soup. Famines were raging throughout the land, and the Arabs preceding him had so harried the country, that every village was deserted. On hearing our intention to march upon the direct line, he frankly said he thought we should never get through for my men could not travel as he had done, and therefore he advised our deflecting northwards from New Mbumi to join the track leading from Rumuma to Ugogi. This was a sad disappointment; but, rather than risk a failure, I resolved to follow his advice.
After reaching the elevated ground, we marched over rolling tops, covered with small trees and a rich variety of pretty bulbs, and reached the habitations of Muhanda, where we no sooner appeared than the poor villagers, accustomed only to rough handling, immediately dispersed in the jungles. By dint of persuasion, however, we induced them to sell us provisions, though at a monstrous rate, such as no merchant could have afforded; and having spent the night quietly, we proceeded on to the upper courses of the M'yombo river, which trends its way northwards to the Mukondokua river. The scenery was most interesting, with every variety of hill, roll, plateau, and ravine, wild and prettily wooded; but we saw nothing of the people. Like frightened rats, as soon as they caught the sound of our advancing march, they buried themselves in the jungles, carrying off their grain with them. Foraging parties, of necessity, were sent out as soon as the camp was pitched, with cloth for purchases, and strict orders not to use force; the upshot of which was, that my people got nothing but a few arrows fired at them by the lurking villagers, and I was abused for my squeamishness. Moreover, the villagers, emboldened by my lenity, vauntingly declared they would attack the camp by night, as they could only recognise in us such men as plunder their houses and steal their children. This caused a certain amount of alarm among my men, which induced them to run up a stiff bush-fence round the camp, and kept them talking all night.
This morning we marched on as usual, with one of the Hottentots lashed on a donkey; for the wretched creature, after lying in the sun asleep, became so sickly that he could not move or do anything for himself, and nobody would do anything for him. The march was a long one, but under ordinary circumstances would have been very interesting, for we passed an immense lagoon, where hippopotami were snorting as if they invited an attack. In the larger tree-jungles the traces of elephants, buffaloes, rhinoceros, and antelopes were very numerous; while a rich variety of small birds, as often happened, made me wish I had come on a shooting rather than on a long exploring expedition. Towards sunset we arrived at New Mbimi, a very pretty and fertile place, lying at the foot of a cluster of steep hills, and pitched camp for three days to lay in supplies for ten, as this was reported to be the only place where we could buy corn until we reached Ugogo, a span of 140 miles. Mr Mbumi, the chief of the place, a very affable negro, at once took us by the hand, and said he would do anything we desired, for he had often been to Zanzibar. He knew that the English were the ruling power in that land, and that they were opposed to slavery, the terrible effects of which had led to his abandoning Old Mbumi, on the banks of the Mukondokua river, and rising here.