2.10 Sydney to Sydney – by way of Mombassa

Hayes likes sailing on boats.  Look at the map: Sydney to Sydney with a two week stop in Mombassa – he would have stayed but for some missionary perfidy – in six months travel time.

March 27, 1911 – July 27, 1911

Sydney, Australia March 1911: “Nothing seems to be doing, so why stay in Australia? The world is large, adventure calls, my ears are attuned to its call. Africa doesn’t seem so far away.”  Straight-line distance from Sydney to Mombasa stretches more than seven thousand miles – considerably further traveling by way of Fremantle, Colombo, and Aden. But financing for Strachan’s proposed copra plantation fell through; the US offers nothing but hard, low-paid work; but Africa – Africa promises “adventure, perhaps riches, surely hardship, a fifty-fifty chance of death. Or will it be as last time, leaving there with a broken heart?”

Who could pass on odds like that? With a little money jingling in his pocket from the timber cruising on Murua, Hayes purchases passage on the Nord-Deutscher-Lloyd liner Seydlitz steaming for Melbourne joined by a throng of Australians traveling to the coronation of George V. in London and seventy “cocky” German sailors on leave from colonial island duty who constantly chafe with the Brits on board.


The Seydlitz

A ship of the Nord-Deutscher-Lloyd line leaves Sydney every two weeks carrying freight to port in Bremen. These freighters like the Seydlitz also “have a large passenger accommodation, and are cheaper and better than any of the British lines.” At Melbourne stevedores loaded frozen mutton; at Adelaide came wheat and wine; then at Fremantle they stowed jarrah wood blocks en route to paving the streets of London.

At Fremantle, Hayes writes a long passage prompted by a statue in the harbor of a man he identifies only as “a man with an Irish name.” This was C.Y. O’Connor who developed the port of Fremantle and a water system to the Kalgoorlie making gold mining possible in that desolate region.


C.Y. O’Connor with sculptor Pietro Porcelli

O’Connor vindicates Hayes’ general view on working men: “He was not a skillful politician, had not the finesse to lie and cheat and flatter to win the applause of men. So they rode him, maligned him until he broke under the strain. One morning his body was found floating in the harbor. His mind had snapped, he could bear his burden no longer. Then public opinion turned, and he was a hero.” Hayes generalizes O’Connor’s experience: “Man is a strange animal. He who tries to save him he slays, then places his victim on a pedestal.” According to Hayes, preachers expound this same story of Christ from every Sunday pulpit.

Passangers find entertainments on the Seydlitz mostly at night. “Deck chairs are a bit too light to support two, but the hatches are strongly built, and the forecastle head has plenty of room.” Toward the end of April to break the monotony of the 3,300-mile cruise from Fremantle to Colombo, Neptune paid a visit as the German ship steamed across the equator.  The hazing revel initiating those crossing the equator was very much as Hayes had experienced years ago sailing around the horn: tar, shaving, a large water tank, and a slide with fire hoses (see sections 8 and 9 of volume I of this blog). “Nor was first class excluded, and despite remonstrances from some of the more uppity among them they were put through the mill.”

At Colombo, a group of Brits took up a collection to see if a slight present made to the German sailors might ease national relations aboard the Seydlitz. The British representatives sent to buy the gift had to be carried back on board; a suitable gift for a German sailor eluded their search through every pub in Colombo.  Hayes says that the bazaars of Colombo offer, “Opals from Australia … Rubies, moonstones, catseyes, jewels of every sort … at prices far below elsewhere in the world. Tiger skins, leopard hides, ivory objects, silks and all the gewgaws of the Far East are here, and many of the Occident.”  The Germans declare: “We can buy our own presents,” and national sentiments continue their boil.

Neither Colombo nor Aden has a deep-water port. All commerce transits in small “lighters.” At Aden, Hayes disembarks the Seydlitz taking up temporary residence at the Hotel D’Europe run by Jews whose “forefathers were chased out by the edict of Torquemada 400 years ago.” His first impression of Yemen: “All is a blistered, sun-baked waste, a few scrawny tamarisks managing to survive the heat and thirst of Aden.” Nevertheless, “this is one of the places where geography has decreed must be a town.” In May of 1911, pilgrims to the coronation in London swamp Aden’s 50,000 permanent residents – who oblige with price hikes from 100 to 300%. From among the throng going to London, Hayes rates as most interesting the giant Ethiopian Ras Makonnen “conqueror of the Italians” in Abyssinia, who strides about Aden hung with gold necklaces and sporting a black Quaker hat..”

[I need the help of an Ethiopian historian here.  The wikipedia entry for Ras Makkonen, Haile Selassie’s father and general in the Italo-Ethiopian war, has him attending the coronation of Edward VII in 1902 – and dying in 1906.  So that can’t be the right Ras Makkonen.  Haile Selassie was also Ras Tafari Makonnen but I find no record of his traveling to the coronation of George V in 1911.]

Hayes spends his five days in Aden satisfying his thirst for knowledge about history and geo-politics. He and a companion visit the famous tanks above Aden. “The tanks must have been built by the Phoenicians or Persians two or three thousand years ago.” But how? “They have been cut out of the solid rock, and there was no explosive in those days.”


Cisterns of Tawila Aden, Yemen

Next a discussion with a Scottish engineer who proposes they to do some gunrunning to the Arabs fighting the Turks at Hodeida, a port up the Red Sea. Mentioning the potential profit and not the morality of his companion’s proposal, Hayes declines noting the 1,500 white troops, the regiment of Indian soldiers, and the British gunboats who would be happy to interrupt their vigilant watch for slave traders to intercept a couple of gunrunners.


Hotel de L’europe Aden, Yemen

Then drinks on the veranda (water for Hayes, iced whiskeys for the others) with the European consuls ensconced at the Hotel D’Europe who swap “strange tales of the desert coasts all the way from Suez to Bushire and to Kurachi” while watching caravans of as many as 3,000 camels “creep across the sands from Sheik Othman, where the Arabs must leave all arms until their return.”


Caravan at Sheikh Othman 1912

Onward to Africa. Hayes takes deck passage on the German liner Winhuk “dirty beyond description.” Haughty German officers with facial scars from school-day duels fill the first class cabins. In second class Hayes chats with missionaries who “seem very solicitous concerning my welfare, ask many questions as to my destination and business. There is something bout them that does not ring true.”

At Mombasa, the missionaries turned on Hayes. He quotes them tattling to Waller, the Kenyan immigration officer: “We don’t want that adventurous class in the Country! We want men with capital, not penniless wanderers who will corrupt the natives.” Following this advice of Reverends Burns and Brewer of Nairobi and Hoima respectively, Waller, demands ten pounds deposit “to carry me out of the country in event of my going broke in East Africa.”

Hayes would prefer not to go broke in East Africa, but what work can he find? “All trading companies handle liquor, so that lets me out.” He’s a skilled farmer but here parents pay farmers from 100 to 150 pounds per year to apprentice their boys. So, he scouts around Mombasa for a few days: an old fort built by the Portuguese in 1593 still flying the flag of the Sultan of Zanzibar, a ruined city in a forest of baobabs, markets with Swahili buyers and Arab sellers – then after scarcely two weeks in Mombasa, he books passage on the British liner Gascon to retrace his voyage back to Australia.

Fort Jesus Mombassa, Kenya 1833

Just before embarking on the Gascon, Hayes had one interesting encounter with an elephant Hunter named Dixon “who has been scouring the Congo for some years and has made a lot of money.” Apparently, Hayes and Dixon spoke at some length, for “He showed me many scars drawn in fights with the natives,” and invited Hayes to accompany him into the bush. Hayes declines because Dixon is “hot.” (Hayes’ quote) A recent agreement between the Belgians and the British requires a license to shoot an elephant and both European nations have it in for Dixon. Hayes says he cannot accompany Dixon because “I know I can’t beat a braced game.”

A transfer at Aden to the G.M.S. Goeben, sister ship to the Seydlitz, full of immigrants all packing pistols for the wild Australian outback – wild monsoons outside Colombo – Neptune at the equator – grapes at Fremantle – frost in the streets of Melbourne – finally back to Sydney. All very much like the voyage west.

“I never care for cold after so long in the tropics, and am planning on getting back to the islands as soon as is possible.” Maybe New Hebrides? “An importer named Greer has a sight on some coconut land … on the island of Erromanga …”

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