AFRICAN EXPLORERS

The traveller soon reached the Falemé river, the bed of which, near its source in the mountains of Dalaba, is very auriferous. He was received by the king at Fataconda, the capital of Bondou, and had great difficulty in convincing him that he travelled from curiosity. His interview with the wives of the monarch is thus described. Mungo Park says,—

"I had scarcely entered the court, when I was surrounded by the entire seraglio. Some begged me for physic, some for amber, and all were most desirous of trying the great African specific of blood-letting. They are ten or twelve in number, most of them young and handsome, wearing on their heads ornaments of gold or pieces of amber. They rallied me a good deal upon different subjects, particularly upon the whiteness of my skin and the length of my nose. They insisted that both were artificial. The first, they said, was produced, when I was an infant, by dipping me in milk, and they insisted that my nose had been pinched every day till it had acquired its present unsightly and unnatural conformation."

Leaving Bondou by the north, Mungo Park entered Kajaaga, called by the French Galam. The climate of this picturesque country, watered by the Senegal, is far healthier than that of districts nearer the coast. The natives call themselves Serawoullis, and are called Seracolets by the French. The colour of their skin is jet black, and in this respect they are scarcely distinguishable from the Yolofs.

Mungo Park says, "The Serawoollis are habitually a trading people. They formerly carried on a great commerce with the French in gold-dust and slaves, and still often supply the British factories on the Gambia with slaves. They are famous for the skill and honesty with which they do business."

Natives of Senegal
Natives of Senegal.

At Joag, Mungo Park was relieved of half his property by the envoys of the king, under pretence of making him pay for the right to pass through his kingdom. Fortunately for him, the nephew of Demba-Jego-Jalla, King of Kasson, who was about to return to his country, took him under his protection. They reached Gongadi, where there are extensive date plantations, together, and thence proceeded to Samia, on the shores of the Senegal, on the frontiers of Kasson.

The first town met with in this kingdom was that of Tiesie, which was reached by Mungo Park on the 31st of December. Well received by the natives, who sold him the provisions he needed at a reasonable price, the traveller was subjected by the brother and nephew of the king to endless indignities.

Leaving this town upon the 10th of January, 1796, Mungo Park reached Kouniakari, the capital of Kasson—a fertile, rich, and well-populated country, which can place forty thousand men under arms. The king, full of kindly feeling for the traveller, wished him to remain in his kingdom as long as the wars between Kasson and Kajaaga lasted. It was more than probable that the countries of Kaarta and Bambara, which Mungo Park wished to visit, would be drawn into it. The advice of the king to remain was prudent, and Park had soon reason enough to regret not having followed it.

But, impatient to reach the interior, the traveller would not listen, and entered the level and sandy plains of Kaarta. He met crowds of natives on the journey who were flying to Kasson to escape the horrors of war. But even this did not deter him; he continued his journey until he reached the capital of Kaarta, which is situated in a fertile and open plain.

He was kindly received by the king, Daisy Kourabari, who endeavoured to dissuade him from entering Bambara, and, finding all his arguments useless, advised him to avoid passing through the midst of the fray, by entering the kingdom of Ludamar, inhabited by Moors. From thence he could proceed to Bambara.

During his journey Mungo Park noticed negroes who fed principally upon a sort of bread made from the berries of the lotus, which tasted not unlike gingerbread. This plant, the rhamnus lotus, is indigenous in Senegambia, Nigritia, and Tunis.

"So," says Mungo Park, "there can be little doubt of this fruit being the lotus mentioned by Pliny as the food of the Lybian Lotophagi. I have tasted lotus bread, and think that an army may very easily have been fed with it, as is said by Pliny to have been done in Lybia. The taste of the bread is so sweet and agreeable, that the soldiers would not be likely to complain of it."

On the 22nd February, Mungo Park reached Jarra, a considerable town, with houses built of stone, inhabited by negroes from the south who had placed themselves under the protection of the Moors, to whom they paid considerable tribute. From Ali, King of Ludamar, the traveller obtained permission to travel in safety through his dominions. But, in spite of this safe-conduct, Park was almost entirely despoiled by the fanatical Moors of Djeneh. At Sampaka and Dalli, large towns, and at Samea, a small village pleasantly situated, he was so cordially welcomed that he already saw himself in fancy arrived in the interior of Africa, when a troop of soldiers appeared, who led him to Benown, the camp of King Ali.