Chapter VIII. Karague

Relief from Protectors and Pillagers - The Scenery and Geology - Meeting with the Friendly King Rumanika - His Hospitalities and Attention - His Services to the Expedition - Philosophical and Theological Inquiries - The Royal Family of Karague - The M-Fumbiro Mountain - Navigation of "The Little Windermere" - The New-Moon Levee - Rhinoceros and Hippopotamus Hunting - Measurement of a Fattened Queen - Political Polygamy - Christmas - Rumours of Petherick's Expedition - Arrangements to meet it - March to Uganda.

This was a day of relief and happiness. A load was removed from us in seeing the Wasui "protectors" depart, with the truly cheering information that we now had nothing but wild animals to contend with before reaching Karague. This land is "neutral," by which is meant that it is untenanted by human beings; and we might now hope to bid adieu for a time to the scourging system of taxation to which we had been subjected.

Gradually descending from the spur which separates the Lohugati valley from the bed of the Lueru lo Urigi, or Lake of Urigi, the track led us first through a meadow of much pleasing beauty, and then through a passage between the "saddle-back" domes we had seen from the heights above Lohugati, where a new geological formation especially attracted my notice. From the green slopes of the hills, set up at a slant, as if the central line of pressure on the dome top had weighed on the inside plates, protruded soft slabs of argillaceous sandstone, whose laminae presented a beef-sandwich appearance, puce or purple alternating with creamy-white. Quartz and other igneous rocks were also scattered about, lying like superficial accumulations in the dips at the foot of the hills, and red sandstone conglomerates clearly indicated the presence of iron. The soil itself looked rich and red, not unlike our own fine country of Devon.

On arriving in camp we pitched under some trees, and at once were greeted by an officer sent by Rumanika to help us out of Usui. This was Kachuchu, an old friend of Nasib's, who no sooner saw him than, beaming with delight, he said to us, "Now, was I not right when I told you the birds flying about on Lohugati hill were a good omen? Look here what this man says: Rumanika has ordered him to bring you on to his palace at once, and wherever you stop a day, the village officers are instructed to supply you with food at the king's expenses, for there are no taxes gathered from strangers in the kingdom of Karague. Presents may be exchanged, but the name of tax is ignored." Grant here shot a rhinoceros, which came well into play to mix with the day's flour we had carried on from Vihembe.

Deluded yesterday by the sight of the broad waters of the Lueru lo Urigi, espied in the distance from the top of a hill, into the belief that we were in view of the N'yanza itself, we walked triumphantly along, thinking how well the Arabs at Kaze had described this to be a creek of the great lake; but on arrival in camp we heard from the village officer that we had been misinformed, and that it was a detached lake, but connected with the Victoria N'yanza by a passage in the hills and the Kitangule river. Formerly, he said, the Urigi valley was covered with water, extending up to Uhha, when all the low lands we had crossed from Usui had to be ferried, and the saddle-back hills were a mere chain of islands in the water. But the country had dried up, and the lake of Urigi became a small swamp. He further informed us, that even in the late king Dagara's time it was a large sheet of water; but the instant he ceased to exist, the lake shrank to what we now saw.

Our day's march had been novel and very amusing. The hilly country surrounding us, together with the valley, brought back to recollection many happy days I had once spent with the Tartars in the Thibetian valley of the Indus - only this was more picturesque; for though both countries are wild, and very thinly inhabited, this was greened over with grass, and dotted here and there on the higher slopes with thick bush of acacias, the haunts of rhinoceros, both white and black; whilst in the flat of the valley, herds of hartebeests and fine cattle roamed about like the kiyang and tame yak of Thibet. Then, to enhance all these pleasure, so different from our former experiences, we were treated like guests by the chief of the place, who, obeying the orders of his king, Rumanika, brought me presents, as soon as we arrived, of sheep, fowls, and sweet potatoes, and was very thankful for a few yards of red blanketing as a return, without begging for more.