THE EXPLORATION AND COLONIZATION OF AFRICA, II
The explorer did not, however, look upon his work as done. He had ever before him the still more important discovery of the sources of the Niger; but the feeble state of his health, the setting in of the rainy season, the swelling of the rivers, the fears of his guides, who refused to accompany him into Kooranko and Soolimano, though he offered them guns, amber beads, and even his horse, compelled him to give up the idea of crossing the Kong mountains, and to return to St. Louis. Mollien had, however, opened several new lines in a part of Senegambia not before visited by any European.
"It is to be regretted," says M. de la Renaudière, "that worn out with fatigue, scarcely able to drag himself along, in a state of positive destitution, Mollien was unable to cross the lofty mountains separating the basin of the Senegal from that of the Djoliba, and that he was compelled to rely upon native information respecting the most important objects of his expedition. It is on the faith of the assertions of the natives that he claims to have visited the sources of the Rio Grande, Falemé, Gambia, and Senegal. If he had been able to follow the course of those rivers to their fountainhead his discoveries would have acquired certainty, which is, unfortunately, now wanting to them. However, when we compare the accounts of other travellers with what he says of the position of the source of the Ba-Fing, or Senegal, which cannot be that of any other great stream, we are convinced of the reality of this discovery at least. It also seems certain that the two last springs are higher up than was supposed, and that the Djoliba rises in a yet loftier locality. The country rises gradually to the south and south-east in parallel terraces. These mountain chains increase in height towards the east, attaining their greatest elevation between lat. 8° and 10° N."
Such were the results of Mollien's interesting journey in the French colony of Senegal. The same country was the starting-point of another explorer, Réné Caillié.
Caillié, who was born in 1800, in the department of the Seine et Oise, had only an elementary education; but reading Robinson Crusoe had fired his youthful imagination with a zeal for adventure, and he never rested until, in spite of his scanty resources, he had obtained maps and books of travel. In 1816, when only sixteen years old, he embarked for Senegal, in the transport-ship La Loire.
At this time the English Government was organizing an inland exploring expedition, under the command of Major Gray. To avoid the terrible almamy of Timbo, who had been so fatal to Peddie, the English made for the mouth of the Gambia by sea. Woolli and the Gaboon were crossed, and the explorers penetrated into Bondou, which Mollien was to visit a few years later, a district inhabited by a people as fanatic and fierce as those of Fouta Djallon. The extortions of the almamy were such that under pretext of there being an old debt left unpaid by the English Government, Major Gray was mulcted of nearly all his baggage, and had to send an officer to the Senegal for a fresh supply.
Caillié knowing nothing of this disastrous beginning, and aware that Gray was glad to receive new recruits, left St. Louis with two negroes, and reached Goree. But there some people, who took an interest in him, persuaded him not to take service with Gray, and got him an appointment at Guadaloupe. He remained, however, but six months in that island, and then returned to Bordeaux, whence he started for the Senegal once more.
Partarieu, one of Gray's officers, was just going back to his chief with the merchandise he had procured, and Caillié asked and obtained leave to accompany him, without either pay or a fixed engagement.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)
The caravan consisted of seventy persons, black and white, and thirty-two richly-laden camels. It left Gandiolle, in Cayor, on the 5th February, 1819, and before entering Jaloof a desert was crossed, where great suffering was endured from thirst. The leader, in order to carry more merchandise, had neglected to take a sufficient supply of water.
At Boolibaba, a village inhabited by Foulah shepherds, the travellers were enabled to recruit, and to fill their leathern bottles for a journey across a second desert.
Avoiding Fouta Toro, whose inhabitants are fanatics and thieves, Partarieu entered Bondou. He would gladly have evaded visiting Boulibané, the capital and residence of the almamy, but was compelled to do so, owing to the refusal of the people to supply grain or water to the caravan, and also in obedience to the strict orders of Major Gray, who thought the almamy would let the travellers pass after paying tribute.
The terrible almamy began by extorting a great number of presents, and then refused to allow the English to visit Bakel on the Senegal. They might, he said, go through his states, those of Kaarta, to Clego, or they might take the Fouta Toro route. Both these alternatives were equally impossible, as in either case the caravan would have to travel among fanatic tribes. The explorers believed the almamy's object was to have them robbed and murdered, without incurring the personal responsibility.