« PreviousContinue »
CROSS THE SI'RBA.-COUNTRY BEYOND.
were being tied together, the head man of the village and a great number of the natives were sitting on the high banks of the river, which form a sort of amphitheatre, in order to enjoy the spectacle. There was something very peculiar about the inhabitants of this place. The men were formed into interesting groups, with features full of expression, but approaching somewhat to effeminacy, their hair being plaited in long tresses, which hung down over their cheeks, and in some cases reached their shoulders. Their dress consisted of short blue shirts, and long wide trowsers of the same color. Almost all of them had small pipes in their mouths, which they smoked incessantly. The women were of rather short stature, and of not very symmetrical forms, with naked legs and breasts. Their necks and ears were richly ornamented with strings of beads; but they also were destitute of the nose-ring, which I had supposed common to this tribe.
The men were expert swimmers, and carried the small articles across the river in large calabashes; but we ourselves and the heavier luggage had to cross on the rafts of reeds, and in about two hours we succeeded in getting safely over the water with our whole troop. A little after twelve o'clock we left the opposite bank, being joined by two horsemen of the Sýllebáwa, who, at no great distance from this spot, have a large settlement called Dútuwel; but we had great difficulty in making our way through the swampy plain, intersected by several small water-courses, which descended in deep ravines from a small rocky chain toward the north. After a march of about eight miles we pitched our tents a little beyond the site of a former encampment of the native traders, where the ground was tolerably free from trees; and I enjoyed our resting place extremely, for, having been exposed to the sun during the heat of the day, I felt greatly fatigued.
Sunday, July 3d. We continued our march through the forest, which here had a very fresh appearance, and soon passed a cone on our right, on the offshoots of which, as would appear from the quantities of stones scattered about, a hamlet appears to have been situated in former times. Besides gneiss, large pieces of a fine species of marble were lying about in every direction. Rank grass, now and then adorned with blue Cruciferæ, filled up the intervals between the dense growth of trees (but there were none of large size, and less of the bush called “tsáda” than I had seen the previous day), besides a few isolated monkey-bread-trees. I observed also that the people were here digging up the same root which I had noticed on my journey to A'damáwa. The footprints of the elephant and the buffalo were very numerous; and a little farther on we fell in with a large herd of the latter species, indulging in the luxuriant herbage of the pasture-grounds, which here grows without any use to man.
Having then gone round a considerable pond of water in the midst of the forest, we entered upon more undulating ground, adorned with larger trees, where, besides the monkey-bread-tree, the dorówa was predominant; and a little beyond an eminence, at the foot of which the village of Bundóre had been situated in former times, we reached the modern village of that name, which is surrounded with a stockade. A dyeing-place, containing from eight to ten pits, besides a large basin for making up the mixture, presented some signs of industry and civilization; at a short distance from our quarters, also, a blacksmith was living. This vil. lage belongs to the territory of Yágha, and the huts presented a peculiar style of architecture, being built almost entirely of stalks and matting. The latter, which constitutes the walls, is plastered with clay, and reaches an altitude of nine feet. The roof is not formed of slender boughs and branches, but of large poles.
Not being able to obtain any corn that evening, I was obliged to stay here the following day. No millet is cultivated in this place, all the corn consisting of sorghum. The people would not take any thing but shells, and refused cotton strips. Sixty of the former bought a full measure of a common drinking-bowl, or “gerra," of corn; and for 1500 shells we procured a lean sheep.
Tuesday, July 5th. The country which we traversed on leaving Bundóre was well adorned with trees, especially the tamarind, and bore evident signs of extensive cultivation, even indigo and cotton being observed by the side of a pond; but the forest soon became so dense that our progress was very difficult, and the ámúda, a Liliacea which I have mentioned before, was so plentiful in some places, that it formed, as it were, a rich carpet, exhib. iting quite an unwonted and cheerful aspect, for in general this quarter of Africa is rather poor in flowers. We had just passed a very dense jungle of tall reed-grass interspersed with blue and yellow flowers, when a thunder-storm, which had hovered over us all the morning, broke out, and soon changed the whole forest into one mighty sheet of water, when we had to cross three pow. erful torrents, all running toward the southeast, and probably discharging themselves into the Sírba.
193 Completely drenched, and almost swamped by the water, we reached the village of Denga, but had the greatest difficulty in entering it, on account of the dense forest with which it was surrounded. At length we succeeded in penetrating this mass of thorny bushes, and, having obtained quarters, were able to dry our clothes; but the damp was excessive, and the second-best of my servants, the young Shúwa lad 'Abd Alláhi, was this very day attacked by the Guinea-worm, which laid him up during the whole of the remainder of my journey, and at times rendered him the most disagreeable person in the world.
The hut which was assigned to myself was well built, but it was so completely obstructed by numbers of corn-jars of clay that scarcely any room was left for my own use. Our diet, however, was not so bad, and besides sour milk, which constitutes one of the most wholesome articles of food for a European traveler in these regions during the rainy season, we obtained also a couple of fowls.
Wednesday, July 6th. Our road, on leaving Denga, led through underwood, which was gradually succeeded by dense forest, the view being bounded toward the right by heights. Among the trees of the forest there was soon conspicuous that large beautiful tree, a species of acacia, which the inhabitants of Sháwi and Mákari call korgam, and from which they build most of their boats, while a kind of vegetable butter is made from its core. It grew here to an altitude of certainly not less than eighty feet, with a wide-spreading crown, but not very dense foliage. It is here called “mur," at least by the Arabs; its native Songhay name I did not learn till some time subsequently
Among the underwood, the most distinguished was the bush here called “kírche,” with its small, white, edible fruit, which is extremely pleasant when taken in small quantities, but, from its very sweet taste, soon becomes unpalatable; there was, besides, the “mekhét," as it is called by the Arabs, the fruit of which is much liked by the natives, but it was not yet ripe. The wilderness was interrupted by a village of considerable size, called Gongúngo, surrounded by a living fence of bushes, and exhibiting a good deal of cultivation, principally Zea Maïs, while a single dúm palm attracted our attention. Here the sun broke through the clouds, spreading life over, and enhancing the cheerful aspect of, the landscape.
Forest again succeeded, intersected by a small rivulet which VOL. III.—N
had inundated the district to some extent; and about two miles beyond Gongúngo we had to cross swampy meadow-grounds, where my Háusa Púllo, a native of Zabérma, whom I had taken into my service in Champagóre, called my attention to a plant named here “yángara-bubíki,” which is said to keep flies from open wounds, especially from those of the camel; it probably contains a sort of slight poison. Having crossed a short tract of rugged ground, where granite, gneiss, and sandstone protruded through the surface, we entered a more populous district, with several villages right and left, but presenting great difficulties to the passage of the camels, as it consisted of red clay soaked with water, which formed several large ponds, and, being recently traversed by a numerous herd of cattle, was extremely muddy.
Thus leaving two villages on one side, we reached, a little before noon, the clay wall of the town of Sebba, which, though the residence of the lord of Yagha, has nothing in its appearance to indicate the capital of even a small province. The governor was sitting in front of his house, close to the mosque, in the midst of a large congregation of people, and was reading and interpreting to them some passages from the Kurán. Having sent two of my servants in advance, I soon obtained quarters, and was lodged in an excellent hut, which I shall here describe.
The hut measured about twenty feet in diameter, the walls be
1. Jodórde, a clay seat of semicircular shape, raised about a foot, on each side of the door.
2. Lýggere, two round shallow holes in the floor, measuring about eight inches in diameter, to place the dishes during dinner, in order to prevent them from being upset.
3. Kosóndi, a half-oval-shaped place, surrounded by a slight clay rampart, about two and a half feet high, for containing luggage, etc.
4. Hurgal, a sort of clay bank, about six feet in length, and about a foot in height, and rather narrow.
6. Three “benbel," or large-sized clay jars, for containing corn. 6. Six smaller “benbel," called "mabbirgel benbel."
7. Hobinirde, the cooking-place, consisting of four stones, or rather clay mounds, protected against any gust of wind by a slight wall toward the side of the door, while ita privacy is already sufficiently guaranteed by the large clay jars.
8. Two movable seats, or lodórde, one of round, the other of an oblong shane hoth made of wood 9. Kekimákka, or middle pole, for supporting the roof of the hut.
ing ten feet high to the beginning of the roof, but consisting mere. ly of matting, which was coated with clay. The roof was supported by a pole in the middle. The hut was full of larger or smaller vessels of clay, and was apparently intended for a considerable household. The wood-cut above will give a full idea of the comfort which an African household in this region possesses.
Besides the immovable articles, if we exclude the two smaller seats of wood which were movable, only very few utensils had been left in the hut by the industrious landlady, the couch, and even the dishes having been taken away. But suspended from the roof was the “pílgure," or basket for smaller luggage, which contained at the time, besides the komcha, the pittorke, or small stick for weaving, and the fabáru, a small leather portfolio for writing. The accompanying view, though it exhibits the hut rather in an inverted manner, will give the reader a fair idea of its character.
The clay being excellently polished, and the hut of recent construction, left a very pleasant impression ; but, as is so often the case in human life, all this finery covered nothing but misery, and I discovered the next day, to my utter amazement, that this beautiful hut was one entire nest of ants, which had in one day made great havoc with the whole of my luggage.
In the afternoon I went to pay my respects to the governor, who is not without power, so that I thought it better to sacrifice to him a bernús of inferior quality, besides some smaller articles. He was a fine-grown man, with large features, which at once indicated his origin from the black stock of the Fúlbe or the Tórobe.