CHAPTER VII. MARENGA MKALI, UGOGO, AND UYANZI, TO UNYANYEMBE.
Mortality amongst the baggage animals. - The contumacious Wagogo - Mobs of Maenads. - Tribute paying. - Necessity of prudence. - Oration of the guide. - The genuine "Ugogians." - Vituperative power. - A surprised chief. - The famous Mizanza. - Killing hyaenas. - The Greeks and Romans of Africa. - A critical moment. - The "elephant's back." - The wilderness of Ukimbu. - End of the first stage of the search. - Arrival at Unyanyembe.
The 22nd of May saw Thani and Hamed's caravans united with my own at Chunyo, three and a half hours' march from Mpwapwa. The road from the latter place ran along the skirts of the Mpwapwa range; at three or four places it crossed outlying spurs that stood isolated from the main body of the range. The last of these hill spurs, joined by an elevated cross ridge to the Mpwapwa, shelters the tembe of Chunyo, situated on the western face, from the stormy gusts that come roaring down the steep slopes. The water of Chunyo is eminently bad, in fact it is its saline-nitrous nature which has given the name Marenga Mkali - bitter water - to the wilderness which separates Usagara from Ugogo. Though extremely offensive to the palate, Arabs and the natives drink it without fear, and without any bad results; but they are careful to withhold their baggage animals from the pits. Being ignorant of its nature, and not exactly understanding what precise location was meant by Marenga Mkali, I permitted the donkeys to be taken to water, as usual after a march; and the consequence was calamitous in the extreme. What the fearful swamp of Makata had spared, the waters of Marenga Mkali destroyed. In less than five days after our departure from Chunyo or Marenga Mali, five out of the nine donkeys left to me at the time - the five healthiest animals - fell victims.
We formed quite an imposing caravan as we emerged from inhospitable Chunyo, in number amounting to about four hundred souls. We were strong in guns, flags, horns, sounding drums and noise. To Sheikh Hamed, by permission of Sheikh Thani, and myself was allotted the task of guiding and leading this great caravan through dreaded Ugogo; which was a most unhappy selection, as will be seen hereafter.
Marenga Mali, over thirty miles across, was at last before us. This distance had to be traversed within thirty-six hours, so that the fatigue of the ordinary march would be more than doubled by this. From Chunyo to Ugogo not one drop of water was to be found. As a large caravan, say over two hundred souls, seldom travels over one and three-quarter miles per hour, a march of thirty miles would require seventeen hours of endurance without water and but little rest. East Africa generally possessing unlimited quantities of water, caravans have not been compelled for lack of the element to have recourse to the mushok of India and the khirbeh of Egypt. Being able to cross the waterless districts by a couple of long marches, they content themselves for the time with a small gourdful, and with keeping their imaginations dwelling upon the copious quantities they will drink upon arrival at the watering-place.
The march through this waterless district was most monotonous, and a dangerous fever attacked me, which seemed to eat into my very vitals. The wonders of Africa that bodied themselves forth in the shape of flocks of zebras, giraffes, elands, or antelopes, galloping over the jungleless plain, had no charm for me; nor could they serve to draw my attention from the severe fit of sickness which possessed me. Towards the end of the first march I was not able to sit upon the donkey's back; nor would it do, when but a third of the way across the wilderness, to halt until the next day; soldiers were therefore detailed to carry me in a hammock, and, when the terekeza was performed in the afternoon, I lay in a lethargic state, unconscious of all things. With the night passed the fever, and, at 3 o'clock in the morning, when the march was resumed, I was booted and spurred, and the recognized mtongi of my caravan once more. At 8 A.M. we had performed the thirty-two miles. The wilderness of Marenga Mkali had been passed and we had entered Ugogo, which was at once a dreaded land to my caravan, and a Land of Promise to myself.
The transition from the wilderness into this Promised Land was very gradual and easy. Very slowly the jungle thinned, the cleared land was a long time appearing, and when it had finally appeared, there were no signs of cultivation until we could clearly make out the herbage and vegetation on some hill slopes to our right running parallel with our route, then we saw timber on the hills, and broad acreage under cultivation - and, lo! as we ascended a wave of reddish earth covered with tall weeds and cane, but a few feet from us, and directly across our path, were the fields of matama and grain we had been looking for, and Ugogo had been entered an hour before.
The view was not such as I expected. I had imagined a plateau several hundred feet higher than Marenga Mkali, and an expansive view which should reveal Ugogo and its characteristics at once. But instead, while travelling from the tall weeds which covered the clearing which had preceded the cultivated parts, we had entered into the depths of the taller matama stalks, and, excepting some distant hills near Mvumi, where the Great Sultan lived - the first of the tribe to whom we should pay tribute - the view was extremely limited.