Chapter XIX. The March to Madi

Sail down the Kafu - The Navigable Nile - Fishing and Sporting Population - The Scenery on the River - An Inhospitable Governor - Karuma Falls - Native Superstitions - Thieveries - Hospitable Reception at Koki by Chongi.

After giving Kamrasi a sketching-stool, we dropped down the Kafu two miles in a canoe, in order that the common people might not see us; for the exclusive king would not allow any eyes but his won to be indulged with the extraordinary sight of white men in Unyoro! The palace side of the river, however, as we paddled away, was thronged with anxious spectators amongst whom the most conspicuous was the king's favourite nurse. Dr K'yengo's men were very anxious to accompany us, even telling the king, if he would allow the road to be opened to their countrymen, all would hongo, or pay customs-duty to him; but the close, narrow-minded king could not be persuaded. Bombay here told us Kamrasi at the last moment wished to give me some women and ivory; and when told we never accepted anything of that sort, wished to give them to my head servants; but this being contrary to standing orders also, he said he would smuggle them down to the boats for Bombay in such a manner that I should not find out.

We were not expected to march again, but being anxious myself to see more of the river, before starting, I obtained leave to go by boat as far as the river was navigable, sending our cattle by land. To this concession was accompanied a request for a few more gun-caps, and liberty was given us to seize any pombe which might be found coming on the river in boats, for the supplies to the palace all come in this manner. We then took boat again, an immense canoe, and, after going a short distance, emerged from the Kafu, and found ourselves on what at first appeared a long lake, averaging from two hundred at first to one thousand yards broad before the day's work was out; but this was the Nile again, navigable in this way from Urondogani.

Both sides were fringed with the huge papyrus rush. The left one was low and swampy, whilst the right one - in which the Kidi people and Wanyoro occasionally hunt - rose from the water in a gently sloping bank, covered with trees and beautiful convolvuli, which hung in festoons. Floating islands, composed of rush, grass, and ferns, were continually in motion, working their way slowly down the stream, and proving to us that the Nile was in full flood. On one occasion we saw hippopotami, which our men said came to the surface because we had domestic fowls on board, supposing them to have an antipathy to that bird. Boats there were, which the sailors gave chase to; but, as they had no liquor, they were allowed to go their way, and the sailors, instead, set to lifting baskets and taking fish from the snares which fisherman, who live in small huts amongst the rushes, had laid for themselves.

After arrival, as we found the boatmen wished to make off, instead of carrying out their king's orders to take us to the waterfall, we seized all the paddles, and kept their tongues quiet by giving them a cow to eat. The overland route, by which Kidgwiga and the cattle went, was not so interesting, by all accounts, as the river one; for they walked the whole way through marshy ground, and crossed one drain in boats, where some savages struggled to plunder our men of their goats.

With a great deal of difficulty, and after hours of delay, we managed to get under way with two boats besides the original one; and, after an hour and a half's paddling in the laziest manner possible, the men seized two pots of pombe and pulled in to Koki, guided by a king's messenger, who said this was one of the places appointed by order to pick up recruits for the force which was to take us to Gani. We found, however, nothing but loss and disappointment - one calf stolen, and five goats nearly so. Fortunately, the thief who attempted to run off with the goats was taken by my men in the act, tied with his hands painfully tight behind his back, and left, with his face painted white, till midnight, when his comrades stole into Bombay's hut and released him. After all these annoyances, the chief officer of the place offered us a present of a goat, but was sent to the right-about in scorn. How could he be countenanced as a friend when the men under him steal from us?

The big boat gave us the slip, floating away and leaving its paddles behind. To supply its place, we took six small boats, turning my men into sailors, and going as we liked. The river still continued beautiful; but after paddling three hours we found it bend considerably, and narrow to two hundred yards, the average depth being from two to three fathoms. At the fourth hour, imagining our cattle to be far behind, we pulled in, and walked up a well-cultivated hill to Yaragonjo's, the governor of these parts. The guide, however, on first sighting his thorn- fenced cluster of huts, regarding it apparently with the awe and deference due to a palace, shrank from advancing, and merely pointed, till he was forced on, and in the next minute we found ourselves confronted with the heads of the establishment. The father of the house, surprised at our unexpected manner of entrance - imagining, probably, we were the king's sorcerers, in consequence of our hats, sent to fight "the brothers" - without saying a word, quietly beckoned us to follow him out of the gate by the same way as we came. Preferring, however, to have a little talk where we were, we remained.