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.