Page images
PDF
EPUB

ed by rocks. It was pleasing to observe that we had at length entered more hospitable regions, for a short time after we left behind us the fields of Ayóru cultivated ground again succeeded, and apparently very well kept.

Having then turned round a swampy gulf we ascended higher ground, and now obtained a view of the remarkably wild scenery of the river which attaches to the island of Kendáji and the rocky cone Wárba, which had been in sight all the morning, and encamped, at half-past eleven o'clock, on a rising ground at some distance from the island. The river here presented a very wild character, so that it almost seemed as if the navigation was interrupted entirely. Between the island of Kendáji and the rocky cone there really does not appear to be any passage open, but beyond the island there are evidently two more branches, and, as far as it can be seen from here, they are not nearly so much obstructed by rocks. The village seemed to be of considerable size, the huts covering the whole surface of the island; but, at the time of our arrival, not a living soul was to be seen, with the exception of an unfortunate man who was lamed by Guinea-worm, all the healthy people having gone to the labors of the field. But in the course of the afternoon the scenery became pleasantly enlivened by the arrival of a numerous herd of cattle and a flock of sheep, belonging to Fúlbe settlers in the neighborhood, that were brought here to be watered.

Gradually, also, the inbabitants of the village returned from their labors, and began to give life to the scenery, crossing over to their insulated domicile in small canoes. Others, in the company of their chief, came to pay us a visit. The latter was a man of tall, stout figure, but of not very intelligent expression of countenance, and, as it appeared, not of a very liberal and hospitable disposition, for he received the eloquent address of my noble friend the Wádáwi, who adduced all the claims which he and his party bad upon the chief's hospitality, very coldly, answering through the medium of a Púllo fáki who had been staying here for some time, and rather laying claim himself to a handsome present than acknowledging the demands made upon him by my companions for hospitable treatment. The most interesting feature about this petty chief was his name, which reminded one of the more glorious times of the Songhay empire, for he called him. self “Farma-E'rkezu-izze;" “farma” being, as I have said on a former occasion, the princely title of a governor; “izze” means

[blocks in formation]

son, E'rkezu being the name of his father. It was also highly interesting to me to observe that these Songhay, the inhabitants of Kendáji as well as those of Ayóru, call themselves, in their native language, Kádo (in the singular) and Hábe (in the plural form), a name which the Fúlbe have made use of to indicate, in general, the Kóhelán, or the native black population of all the regions conquered by themselves; and it seems almost as if the latter had taken the name from this tribe.

Besides these Songhay, we also received a visit from a Tárki gentleman of the name of Mísakh, son of Ellékken, and nephew of Sínnefel, the chief of the I'melíggizen of A'ribínda. These people are on hostile terms with their brethren in A'ussa, where the populous district Amára is situated, and thus, fortunately, undermine their own strength, which is only employed in the way of mischief, although they are still strong enough to lay heavy contributions upon the poor Songhay inhabitants of these distracted shores. They had levied, the preceding year, a tribute of four horses on the people of Kendáji, and a camel, together with a quantity of corn, upon those of Ayóru. But although our guest, who was accompanied by two or three followers, was a rather decent young man, nevertheless the neighborhood of these Tawárek inspired us with just as little confidence as the behavior of our friends the Songhay on the island, and we kept a good watch, firing the whole night. Nothing is more probable than that Park had a serious quarrel with these islanders.

Fortunately, we were not disturbed; and we set out from our camping-ground at a very early hour, in order to make a good day's journey, but we were first obliged to search about in the two hamlets which lie opposite the island, and one at the very foot of the rocky cone of Wárba, for the guide that had been promised to us the preceding day. We had scarcely set out fairly on our march when a heavy thunder-storm, rising in the southeast, threatened us with a serious deluge, and obliged us to seek shelter under some trees to the right of our path. We then unloaded the camels, and endeavored to protect ourselves and the luggage, as well as possible, with the skins and mattings; but the storm was confined to a very violent gale, which scattered the clouds, so that only very little rain fell. Having thus lost almost two hours of the best part of the day, we proceeded on our march, not now digressing to the right and left, but following a broad, welltrodden path, which led us through carefully cultivated corn-fields, shaded with fine hájilíj. But soon the ground became more un. dulating, and we followed a sort of backwater at some distance from the principal branch of the river, and then crossed a cavity or hollow where calcareous rock interrupted the granite. The river also, in its present low state, laid bare a good many rocky islets, and farther on divided into five branches, over which, from the rising bank, we obtained an interesting view, with a cone, on the A'ussa shore, toward the north. One of the islands was handsomely adorned with dúm palms, while the shore was clothed with a plant called “hekík.”

This district appeared to be extremely fertile, and its populous state, after the desolate region which we had traversed, seemed the more remarkable; for soon after, having passed a small hamlet, we had on the opposite shore the considerable place Tornáre, and just beyond, on an island, another village called Fíchile, densely inhabited, and full of life and bustle. Scarcely had we passed this busy place on our left when another hamlet appeared, called Kochómere, and it was most gratifying to behold the river, which, during the greater part of our journey, had seemed to roll its mighty stream along without the least use being made of it, covered with small canoes, which carried over to our shore numbers of people who were going to the labors of the field. The bank itself also became here beautiful by a variety of luxuriant trees, such as the kéwa, the dingi, the baúre, the hájilíj, and others of various species, the hájilíj, especially, exhibiting here a very luxuriant and rich growth. A sort of shallow grassy creek separated from the bank a low island, which, during the highest state of the inundation, is under water.

Two miles beyond Tornáre the character of the country changed, and deep sandy soil, clothed with the herbage called rodám, and destitute of trees, succeeded to the fine arable soil; but after a march of about a mile cultivation again appeared, and even extended over the hilly chain which we ascended. We then passed a slave village called Gandútan, belonging to the Tárki chief, Mohammed el Amín, where numerous horses were seen grazing in the fields, distinguished by the kind of herbage called by the Arabs el debédi, in which my companions were delighted to recognize an old friend of theirs, as growing also plentifully in the A'beras of Tim. búktu. Crossing the plain, where we met several travelers, we began to ascend the slope of a promontory called E'm-Aláwen, and soon reached the residence of the chief just mentioned, who CAMP OF ERA'TAFANI.

519 is the head of one of the two divisions of the Erátafáni. The village consisted of 150 to 200 huts of matting, with a larger and a smaller leathern tent in the centre; but as it did not offer any cool shade, being perched on the bare hot gravel overlying the rock, we thought it very uninviting, and preferred descending the steep eastern slope, upon the narrow.slip of the low shore which stretched along the river, and which, being richly clothed with hájilíj, baúre, and other trees, offered a very pleasant resting place. We were, however, not allowed to enjoy much repose, but were soon visited by the whole male population of the village, Tawárek and Songhay, full-grown men and children, who gathered round us with great curiosity, but without entering into close conversation, as they did not know what to make of me, and scrutinized suspiciously what my real character might be, my companions passing me for a sheríf.

Later in the afternoon, the chief himself, who had not been present on our arrival, paid us a visit, and behaved in a very becoming manner, so that I made him a present of half a lithám, while I distributed a quantity of needles among his people. The place was tolerably well supplied with provisions, and I bought a good supply of butter and rice; but milk was scarce, although I succeeded in bartering a small quantity for some dates, of which these people were extremely fond. A little below our encampment, on the low shore, there was a farm, and on the island nearest the shore two small hamlets; for the branch of the river, which in general appears to be of considerable depth, was studded with green islands, which stretched out lengthwise in two parallel rows, being of the same height as the bank on which we were encamped, and which at present formed a steep descent to the shores of the river of about ten feet, rendering the watering of the horses very difficult. It was only with the utmost exertion that we rescued one of them which fell into the stream.

The whole district is said to be greatly infested by lions, and we saw the remains of four horses which a single individual of that species had torn to pieces the preceding day; but, notwithstanding the strength and ferocity of this animal, I was assured by all the inhabitants that the lion of this region, like that of A'ír, has no mane, and that its outward appearance was altogether very unlike that beautiful skin upon which I used to lie down, being the exuvice of an animal from Lógone.

Friday, July 21st. On our way hither the preceding day we had

been overtaken, near the village of Gandútan, by a band of some three or four Songhay people, who had rather a warlike and enterprising appearance, and were very well mounted. Having kept close to us for some time, and spoken a great deal about my arms, they had disappeared, but at a very early hour this morning, while it was yet dark, and we were getting our luggage ready for the day's march, they again appeared, and inspired my companions with some little fear as to their ulterior intentions. They therefore induced the chief of the Erátafáni to accompany us for a while, with some of his people on horseback, as they were well aware that the Songhay, who at present have almost entirely lost their independence, can not undertake any enterprise without the connivance of the Tawárek; but as for myself, I was not quite sure who were most to be feared, our protectors, or those vagabonds of whom my companions were so much afraid; for, although the chief himself seemed to be a respectable man, these people, who are of a mixed race of Tawárek and Songhay, do not appear to be very trustworthy, and I should advise any traveler in this region to be more on his guard against them than against the true Tawárek. But, under the present circumstances, when they accompanied us on the road, I thought it better to tell them plainly who I was, although my companions had endeavored to keep them in the dark respecting my real character. They had taken me for a Ghadámsi merchant, who wanted to pass through their territory without making them a suitable present. After I had made this confession they became much more cheerful and openhearted, and we parted the best of friends. The cunning Wádáwi also contributed toward establishing with them a more intimate relation by bartering his little pony for one of their mares. Nothing renders people in these countries so communicative, and, at the same time, allays their suspicions so much, as a little trading.

Having separated from our friends, and made our way with some difficulty through a tract of country partly inundated, we at length fell in with a well-trodden path, where on our right a low hilly chain approached. Here a little dúm bush began to appear, and farther on monkey-bread-trees adorned the landscape; but the river, after having approached for a short time with its wide valley, retired to such a distance that, not having provided a supply of water, we began to suffer from thirst. I therefore rode in advance, and chose a place for a short halt during the midday heat, where a sort of fäddama, which during the highest state of

« PreviousContinue »