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208

AN AFRICAN LUNCHEON.

had to be pulled out of the grasses. A mile of this disagreeable wading, with a mid-day sun on the equator, was dreadfully fatiguing. On getting out of the swamp, we found the country flat and grassy,

with cleared cultivated spots and huts. Here, in the shade of some plantain, while resting till the loads arrived, I saw Mariboo's wife enter the houses, quite alone, bringing out a large bundle, which she placed on the ground, and she was immediately surrounded by her servant-girl and two Waganda. I also made one of the party. The bundle contained boiled plantain, sweet potato, and a species of solanum—the dinner of the people whose house she had entered! All seemed to enjoy it so much, eating it in such a refined way, with a leaf in their fingers to prevent them getting burnt, that the little woman, without

any

Hindoo ceremony, enticed me to join them, and I never made a better luncheon. Everything was cooked in the most savoury way, and I learned that African cooking is as cleanly and quite as wholesome as our own. It seemed strange that we should be so calm and unconcerned, when the tall spears of the inhabitants watching our movements were seen in the distance ; but Mrs Mariboo must have known that the natives dared not attack any party belonging to the king.

The journey from Katonga Bay to the capital of Uganda-named Kibuga—was without exception the most disagreeable I ever made. Climbing over bills is bad enough for a lame person, but when a broad miry bog runs between each range, and there is no means of getting through it but by sinking into mud and water at every step, disgust is superadded. Most of the valleys were a quarter of a mile wide; others were square,

ROADS AND BRIDGES IN UGANDA.

209

and four miles from hill to hill—a dense mass of sombre foliage concealing their swamps, musquitoes, and low grounds. Ravines, dells, and gullies, formed by the waters from the hill-sides, were veiled with impenetrable thickets ; above these the inhabitants dwelt, surrounded by groves of the plantain at considerable distances from each other. Occasional red clay ant-heaps, boulders, and a few trees dotted the middle height of the hills, and the sky-line was a vegetation of waving grass, from three to six feet high. The general elevation of these hills above their valleys is four hundred feet. On their flat tops the air was fresh and delightful. Whichever way you looked, from your feet to the horizon was a sea of these flat-topped ridges and conical hills.

The Waganda make first-rate pioneers; one is struck with the direct cuts they make across the hills: perhaps their duty of conveying messages, or bringing in cattle and slaves to their king, conduces to this quickness of movement. When carrying me, if a hill, however steep, was to be crossed, they went directly over it, or if a bog was to be forded, it was all one to themthey would dash right into it. We had never seen a road in Africa till coming into Uganda; here they were so broad that a carriage might have driven along them, but they were too steep for any

No metal was used on them, but the grasses had been trodden down by the constant driving to and fro of cattle and slave-hunting parties. Attempts at bridges had been made, but we found them in a state of dreadful disrepair. Originally, in the late king Soona's time, piles with a forked end had been driven into the bog, and logs of wild date-palm, &c.,

wheeled convey

ance.

210

THE ENSETE OF BRUCE.

were laid parallel with the run of the valley upon the piles, forming a passage about twelve feet broad. These had sunk and rotted, and walking over them with bare feet was annoying and painful. The trees and deep green foliage in the moist dells were densely thick and lofty, some with straight unbranched stems, towering higher than any ordinary palm.

Ferns, mosses, creepers, climbers, &c., hid or covered their trunks and branches, making shade for the wild buffalo and elephant, who, unconscious of a stage erected overhead to watch them, would come to escape the heat of the day.

An extraordinary-looking tree, of the plantain family, was seen growing wild outside a cultivation. I brought home its seeds, and they have been pronounced to be the Ensete of Bruce, first discovered by him in Abyssinia. From its similarity to the plantain I had almost passed it unnoticed, but was attracted by its marvellous stoutness of stem and disproportionately low appearance, its shape being as if one big drum were placed over another, with gigantic single leaves growing from their sides. The natives wore necklaces made of its seeds, which were called M’seegwah by our Seedees. At 3°N. they were again met with, growing upon broken rocky heights, but they were seen nowhere else. The leaves were much eaten by the goats.

The stretcher which carried me part of the way from Karague had been discarded, as the Waganda saw my only ailment was lameness and stiff knee-joint. Through such a rough country walking was very tiresome and a severe exertion, and it was made more so by the pace

these excitable Waganda travel at. But they were very civil in assisting me through difficulties, a

INCIDENTS DURING THE MARCH.

211

sergeant and two privates (if we may call them so) being in constant attendance, leading the way or at my heels. They were Mariboo's chief men, fine fellows, very polite in lending a hand or even bringing water to wash off the pair of black boots of mud I had got in coming through the bogs. The marches varied from 9 to 11 miles daily, occupying from 7 A.M. till noon, or later, according to circumstances. If it was a populous country, and our long line passed through a grove having dwellings inside it, more time was taken. Each hut was entered and ransacked ; cautiously a Seedee or Waganda, musket or spear all ready, would go to the door and call, “Ho, ho!” and, gaining admission, come out with what he had picked up-tobacco, or a good bark-cloth. Every house passed was in this way plundered, while the inhabitants watched us in the distance. Travelling was most disagreeable, and sometimes our men suffered for their rashness. The light-hearted gallant little Mariboo came for the aid of two guns one day, because one of his men had been wounded on entering a hut. My Seedees were up in an instant, ready to leave the baggage and myself to take care of each other, but no more than the number asked for went, and they returned without a combat. At another camp we were told to have our guns ready in the morning, as the natives were up in arms; a boy amongst them had been, the previous night, captured, and ransomed for two goats and four bark-cloths. Not understanding that Mariboo was the entire cause of such injustice, I ordered the guns of the Seedees to be filled with shot-sized pebbles instead of bullets; but we did not require to fire them. Even my men became as bad

212

MARCHING THROUGH BOGS.

as the Waganda at this trade, their guns making them daring; but it never came to my knowledge till it was too late. For instance, seeing one of Mariboo's boys lead two timid villagers to the grass hut occupied by my Seedees, I watched the result. A conversation ensued, the men afterwards passed me with two naked little girls with strings and tassels to their waists, looking dreadfully frightened. They had been stolen by my men, were the daughters of one of the two villagers, and had no doubt been recovered by paying bribes to Mariboo, his boy, and their captors.

The streams and bogs crossed may be alluded to. All those going towards the Lake Victoria Nyanza were fordable, of white muddy water, rarely brown or mossy, having their bottoms and edges of black mud, the accumulations of decayed vegetable matter. Those which ran north and away from the lake, within two marches of the Uganda capital, had a hard firm footing of sand, with dry edges, and little or no mud. The difference was very marked, and pleasant to observe. The passage of these Uganda bogs is most trying. Imagine a flat valley, a mile across, looking like an osier-bed, but covered with the gigantic papyrus and reeds, &c.; cut a narrow winding passage through it, leaving the roots in the water, and walk through this barefooted. The tears almost came into my eyes, the suffering from the sharp roots was so severe. Being carried was almost impossible, for even the natives, with the soles of their feet hard as leather, bearing their loads, dogs, spears, and shields on their heads, had enough to do to keep their footing. In my lame state, my feet, after having been covered with mud, came out of these bogs red and inflamed, too large to

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