Chapter IV. Ugogo, and the Wilderness of Mgunda Mkhali
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 rain- gauge 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.