2.23 Loka to Aba

July 29, 2012

Mike sent me a photo from Omdurman.  He says it’s not the tomb of the mahdi but it does give a contemporary feel of the historic city.

Omdurman

Hayes is well past Omdurman in this segment, making his way across the Nile/Congo divide.

January 31 1914 – February 5,1914

On the last day of January 1914 Hayes’ small caravan arrives at “Libogo (stone),” a station atop a mountainous rock from which he can see across “a great expanse of rolling country” to other high hills marking the Congo-Nile divide.  By Libogo Hayes has learned to call “the concubine of the Englishman who lives beyond Yei” by her name, Maliboro.   He receives the typical offer, and issues his standard refusal:  “Maliboro… offers to throw [the Englishman] over and cast her lot with me in the Congo.  She is not unprepossessing in looks or manner, but she must stick to her first love.”  Perhaps he was less cynical when speaking to Maliboro in person.

After struggling half the night to cross the swollen Yei River, Hayes met a gentleman:  Colonel Dove of the Anglo-Egyptian Army.  “This man has some common sense, something usually lacking in army officers of any nation.”  Hayes failed to mention that officials at Rejaf had bound his shotgun with wire to prevent hunting.  Dove removed the wires from his gun and allowed Hayes to sensibly rearrange his porter’s loads.  Dove’s pragmatic efficiency “makes up for a lot of the boors like those out shooting on the way up the Nile.”

David Bruce

Tsetse fly was identified as the vector for sleeping sickness by David Bruce in 1903 – eleven years before Hayes passed through “a great sleeping sickness camp at Yei containing 450 patients.”  An arsenic based treatment developed in 1910 – with blindness as a considerable side effect – might have been in use at the camp.  The doctors say “there is hope” for many of the patients lightly infected.  Some of the more advanced cases “imagine they are hyenas or other wild animals and simulate these beasts in their actions.”  Others have entered “their last long sleep that can only end in death.  It may take a man three or four years to die, but die he will unless some check can be made by these medical men here.”  Hayes reports the presence of two types of tsetse flies in this region, one infecting domestic animals, the other humans.  He asserts as fact that “in a little while all these cattle in the transport will have been bitten and in due course die.”  A reader can’t help but wonder why he didn’t assert the same fact about himself.

Guinea worm tied to a match

Some patients at the camp at Yei suffered a parasitic guinea worm that makes its way to the foot after being introduced through drinking water. Hayes describes a treatment used in 1914, based on  “some strong solution” and a match, that pretty closely mirrors the 2007 photograph of treatment for guinea worm on wikipedia.

Maliboro came to Yei as “temporary wife” to Quentin Grogan brother to Ewart Grogan.  Of Quentin, Hayes writes:  “This man has a world-wide reputation as a hunter.  He was recently a guide to Theodore Roosevelt in the latter’s expedition to Africa on a great game hunt.”  Of Ewart, Hayes writes, he “was the first man to make the journey from Capetown to Cairo.”  Ewart Grogan undertook his trip up the continent for love, finishing in 1900, as has been recently re-enacted and chronicled by Julian Smith in Crossing the Heart of Africa.  

Hayes stayed a few days at the home of Quentin Grogan outside Yei at a station called Yagulu where he accounted Grogan’s ivory from the two elephants permitted in the Mongalla district:  “one weighing 111-111 pounds each, the other 125-134 pounds, or 481 pounds of ivory for two elephants.”  In addition, all officers at the post get two more elephants on a permit from Uganda, then pay the Belgians for two more in the Congo.  “… as ivory is $5 or $6 a pound … it adds materially to one’s salary and gives sport to the hunter.”  Perhaps this last remark is ironic?  Hayes immediately follows it with “This man is a great hunter.”

Hayes writes that Europeans commonly take temporary African wives, though Brits rarely acknowledge the practice openly.  Ever one to admire candor, Hayes writes of Quentin and Maliboro:  “He acknowledged her openly, something unusual for a Britisher.”  Through Hayes’ eyes all will be well:  “When he leaves the country , [Quentin] will reward her with many gifts and she will return to her people… [to] be sold by her parents to some native later, bear children and be an honored member of her community.”  Children from her temporary union with Quentin Grogan are unlikely because “Europeans do not breed freely in the tropics, else the country would be full of half castes.”  One reads no trace of irony in these credulous remarks.

On February 5, 1914 Hayes crossed from the Sudan into the Congo. Despite his glorious adventure down the Nile: “I now bid farewell to the hamrah and the regulation-ridden Sudan, and leave it gladly hoping never to see it again.”  Neither the British who govern the Sudan nor the Belgians in control of the Congo maintain a post at the border; the Brits remain 38 miles east at Yei, the Belgians 12 miles west of the divide at Aba.  Crossing the international border necessitated a change of porters. “A wild, excited crowd of 70 porters were waiting for loads when I rached this place (also called Libogo).”  An excessively observant Moslem Egyptian sub-officer annoyed Hayes with public prayers but the man’s  slight English helped Hayes arrange for a new group of porters.

The character of the land changed dramatically at the Congo-Nile divide:  thirsty and dry on the Nile side; lush and green on the Congo side. “We had not covered a half mile west of Libogo before there was a sparkling clear rivulet beside us, and here about Aba are great evergreen trees and every evidence of a more rainy region, far removed from that of the Nile.”  Aba was “once an important post, there being fine brick houses and other relics of what was once a town.”  When Hayes passed through only two European officers and several Greek traders remained plus “a German officer, ostensibly a collector of natural history for a Berlin museum, but in reality a political agent,” who seemed most intent on shooting elephants, six of them, “without regard for the law.”  The German claimed he’d been attacked but all of them were large tuskers “and in some way he has got them out of the county without paying full toll.”

Nothing to hold him at Aba.  Forward into the lush greenery of the Congo.

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2.22 Rejaf to Loka

July 22, 2012

Finally!  On caravan, with porters, creaking ox carts, askaris with rifles, rumors of Lions, tsetse fly, sleeping sickness… – Hayes is living the image of Africa formed when he was ten years old hearing stories of Livingstone, Stanley, and Emin Pasha on the banks of the Coquille River in Oregon.

The terrain map shows Hayes approaching the African continental divide about to enter the drainage of the Congo River.

January 24,1914 – January 30, 1914

On his last night steaming up the Nile Hayes wrote:  “Eighteen days from Khartoum, every one of them filled with vivid interest.  I have lived more in these past eighteen days than in a year in a sawmill at Eureka or in Oregon.”

During these glorious eighteen days he had to provision for himself.  “It has been largely dates bought before leaving Khartoum.  Also fruits picked from some sort of tree on the Nile plains below the Sobat, these a strong laxative, even for Arabs, who warned me.”  Never mind that – “Now for the bush in its fullness. I am glad to see it, eager to learn what lies beyond.”

For the first time Hayes writes of traveling with porters.  He makes no mention of who pays the men or how much, but he roundly criticizes “the Bimbashi or major commanding the post [who] would not permit me to divide my large boxes into small loads fit for porters up to the Congo, this being against regulations.”  From reading Hayes’ diary thus far, one feels certain the thought of a bribe to the Bimbashi never entered his mind.  “I was entwined in the mazes of red tape until there was no escape, almost had to stay here for two weeks because of some slip in further red tape at Khartoum,” where authorities had neglected to certify him free of sleeping sickness.

Among several letters sent from Studd and Buxton, who are “350 miles west of this place” at Niangara, Hayes received “a small Bangala vocabulary, more than welcome, for I know not one word.”

Alfred Buxton

Charles Thomas Studd

Hayes’ apparent readiness to cool his heels for two weeks in sleeping sickness quarantine while learning the bits of Bangala Buxton had sent called the bimbashi’s bluff:  “Castle-Smith, the bimbashi, said the Khartoum officials were to blame for the lack of proper credentials, so passed me through the quarantine and I am encamped at the first rest house a few miles west of Rejaf.”  Once “All English speaking people are behind me now,” what does one say in Bangala to the caretaker of a Sudanese rest house after hiking all day through the bush?  Hayes tries:  “Ngai alingi kosumba koko.” (Hayes’ quote)  Without comment the master of the house brought a small chicken.  Very pleased with himself, Hayes next asked “Piastre boni?” and paid “Moko” (one) for his dinner.   “This gives me great encouragement, for these meaningless words set down here are a medium of communication between me and these people.  I will not forget that expression, and will learn many more as I proceed.”

Castle-Smith relented on the quarantine but not on redistribution of the loads.  “My porters are old men and mere boys.  One of my loads weighs 67 pounds, too much for a strong man.”  In fact, “All of them are heavy and I may not open one to lighten their burdens.”  Hayes is in charge – “As the lone European, I have the papers for the caravan” – maybe he thought distribution of loads would be checked at a subsequent rest house.  Though Hayes never described the full extent of his caravan, it included several wagons “drawn by bullocks, two to each cart.  A man leads each team, another by his side with a gun.”  Hayes writes that he’ll endeavor to put the 67 pound overloaded pack onto one of the carts.  Also walking with the caravan “is a comely Bari girl” – more to be said about this “temporary wife… billed as ‘Mr. Grogan’s servant,'” later.

Tsetse Fly

On a “dry stage of six hours from Moongo (elegant) to Gangi (bamboo)” traveling by night to avoid the heat and the tsetse flies “that carry the dreaded sleeping sickness,” Hayes and his convoy dug clean water from the sands beside a dry khor and passed a rusting steam truck abandoned by the Belgians.  “Leopold did what he could to exploit this country of its easily negotiable riches before turning it over to the British, which had to be done at his death.  As porters were difficult to obtain, he sent in several of these gigantic machines.”  [Hayes correctly identifies Leopold as personally exploiting this region – the Congo colony was Leopold’s private property.  Hochschild cites scholars who estimate roughly half the population perished during Leopold’s Free State period between 1885 and 1909 – about 10 million people.  Not surprising that Hayes could find only children and old men as porters in 1914.]

Five days out from Rejaf approaching the continental divide between the drainage of the Nile and Congo rivers, the column passed out of territory where “elephants, a few rhinos, eland, topi, waterbuck and many more” hid from the noisy caravan in the scrub or dry grass into country “all granite ridges with great prophyritic (sic) dykes crosscutting the quartzite reefs striking across country.  The soil is very poor.”  The few people living in this region eat mainly “dhurra, a sort of millet that is very nourishing.  My men carry a  bag of dhurra flower, from which they make a ball of cooked dough each evening.”  Hayes says fowl cost only five cents American; he can also get soggy sweet potatoes and a little rice, “so I live well enough.”

At Loka “chief station on the way to Yei,” Hayes see the first running water since leaving Rejaf 64 miles previously.  He records the date as January 30, 1914 – so the caravan had been making a little better than 10 miles a day.  The officer in charge of the station at Loka, Captain Vandelaar, passed them through “without too much trouble,” but warned of lions on the trail ahead.  No sign of them but Hayes writes eloquently about the feel of traveling at night on watch for lions, on caravan, in the southern Sudan, in 1914:

“There is something barbaric about this hamrah, or caravan.  To see each askari with a lighted torch of close wrapped grass beside the man who leads two bullocks, the fire lighting up the long horns of the animals and shining on the gun barrels; to hear the creaking carts, the cries of the men and sometimes the sad wail of a hyena gives it a touch of Africa not understood otherwise.”


2.21 Kodok to Rejaf

July 15, 2012

Hayes steaming up the Nile enchanted by the wildlife visiting the adventurous places he’d read about as a boy.

Here is the map of the current episode, up the Nile through the Sudd

Here is the map of the journey from London so far.  November, December and January.  One more overland push to the mission at Niangara.

January 15,1914- January 24,1914

Shilluk, Sudan Photo from the book Hair in African Art and Culture, Sieber & Herreman, 2000, p. 16

“There are fewer people on the river now.”   But the few Hayes sees interest him greatly:  “Both the Dinkas and the Shillooks are quite naked.  Their only effort in the way of clothing is to mix cow dung with their hair, making a ring six inches wide resembling a hat brim.  From the distance it looks like nothing else than a low crowned hat. The bodies of every person is (sic) smeared with ashes of burned cow dung to keep off the mosquitoes.  It would require a strong-stomached mosquito to drive his beak into this mass.  It is said these people are more virtuous than those who wear clothing.”  A group of men, all over six-feet tall, stood crowded round a white woman “as she exhorted them” at the mission station at Lul with no apparent discomfiture on either side.

Missionaries fairly clog this part of the Nile in 1914:  Austrian fathers at Lul;  Two Australians and a New Zealander, “fitted ill” among the naked blacks; and a Canadian, Tidrick, denied permission by the British to start mission work in Darfour looking to catch on at the Presbyterian mission on the Sobat River.  After counting the missionaries, Hayes turns more enthusiastically to the birds:  “storks, crested cranes, bright colored kingfishers, plovers, Egyptian geese, spur-winged geese, ducks of several species, cormorants, vultures, marabout storks, kites, flycatchers, swallows, other birds I do not recognize.”

At the mouth of the Sobat River, 600 miles south of Khartoum, “A large number of soldiers disembarked there with their white officers enroute to beat back the shiftas, or raiders from Abyssinia who drive down to the Nile itself, taking slaves, cattle, ivory, shooting every elephant whether a tusker or not.  They are going to punish the raiding Nuers as well, for these refuse to permit the British to take cattle as tax for protection.”  In other passages of the diary Hayes speaks in support of a  more humane style of colonialism he observes practiced by the British in comparison with, say, the Belgians or Portuguese.  Still, one might wonder from whom the Nuers pay protection cattle when reading the next sentence: “This country is little tamed since British occupation.”

Shoebill or Whaleheaded stork, listed as “vulnerable” on the current conservation index

On January 19th, without mentioning specific details, Hayes clarifies the direction of his critique:  “War turns men into devils.  All humane instincts are subverted to those of murder and oppression.  So called civilized men turn into worse examples than these whom we term savages.  To show mercy, compassion is a sign of weakness among these men.”

That night the steamer stopped for wood to fuel the boilers at a camp of Dinkas who had recently been fighting the British “and in consequence are surly and reluctant to talk to the white men.”  After counting the soldiers, Hayes returns again more enthusiastically to the wildlife:  “Topi, waterbuck, elephants, hippo, crocodiles, even the rare Mrs. Grey’s waterbuck, tetel and a lot more I don’t know.”  Chasing the soldiers from his mind requires listing not just large animals but also the “strangest of all birds… the whale headed stork, called Abu Markub by the Arabs, which means slipper beak.”

Just after passing the mouth of the Sobat, Hayes writes, “We have entered the sudd.”  This 35,000 square mile swamp (Hayes’ estimate) in which the Nile flattens, choked with papyrus, effectively blocked “discovery of the source of the Nile” from the north for several thousand years.  Its rampant vegetation stopped the boats then its fetid climate killed the explorers trying to hack their way forward.  By 1914, Hayes sailed up a 450 mile (Hayes’ estimate) permanent navigable channel maintained by the British through the sudd.

Romolo Gessi

Upon breaking briefly out of “the never ending green of waving papyrus” on a lagoon at a village Hayes calls Gabeh Shambeh consisting of  “a few low huts with corrugated iron roofs” Hayes identifies the place as “the battle ground between the Arabs under Suleiman and Rabeh (sic) against the redoubtable Gessi Pasha, best soldier of all Gordon’s men.”  He reports that Gessi’s small force killed Suleiman [July 15, 1879] and drove Rabeh west where he “established a great empire about Lake Chad, ruling there until disestablished by the French.”

As the sudd thins, Hayes begins to see “the Bari, a people closely related to the Shillooks and Dinkas.  All are tall, all are naked, many have the reddish tinge of hair obtained by washing their kinky locks in cow urine.  Some of these people are 6 ft. 6 in., slender and small boned like the stork.”  He describes the Bari as “disgustingly dirty” and seems put off that they eat blood from the veins of their cows and “drink the milk and make butter, but all is highly impregnated with cow urine, which seems to give the flavor most desired by these epicures.”

At Bor, “a mission station on Dinka territory,” Hayes enters a wry assessment of the big game hunters aboard the steamer:  “We have seen more elephants, and the sight of these roused the bold thirsty sportsmen to the highest pitch of enthusiasm.  Guns have been so well polished and made ready for the coming debacle.”   The elephants “playful as children… gallop as they tear up trunkfuls of grass and toss these about or over their broad sway backs,” standing in the shade of mimosas, with storks on their backs, unprepared for the arrival of the “sportsmen.”

Crocodiles swarm the upper end of the sudd.  Hayes calls them “the terror of the river.”  The efficient British build fenced corrals at every village “where people may get water in safety and if so desired, bathe.”  Does one read admiration or derision in the following observation about how the natives address the crocodiles?  “The fatalism of these negroes is proverbial.  They are Pagans, not Moslems, too.  Thus they disregard the first rules of safety, saying if God wills they will be caught by a crocodile if that is their final destiny.”

Now entirely out of the sudd, Hayes “arrived at another old town of days long gone, Gondokorko, known to Speke and Baker, pioneers on the upper Nile.”  Speke and Baker had been central figures in the European search for the source of the Nile in the early 1860’s.  Speke’s famous telegram from Khartoum claiming “The Nile is settled”  was disputed by other  players (Richard Burton) because Speke had traveled overland from Lake Victoria to Gondokoro not following the course of the river, thus failing to conclusively establish continuity from the source.

John Hanning Speke

Sir Samuel White Baker

Rejaf is the end of the line for the steamer; “Rapids begin a little way above this town, continuing for more than a hundred miles.”  Hayes will have to walk west and south from here into the Congo.  In case readers had been wondering about his religious partialities:  “It is now fifteen years since the British recovered this country from the Dervishes. The entire sudan had been depopulated by these marauding slavers and in that time the former numerous populations have not recovered their former numbers.  In those days the people lived like wild beasts, hiding where they might to escape the slave raids.  Their women, their cattle were all taken if worth it, the men as burden bearers to carry away their own possessions.  This is within the teachings of Mohammed, yet people who have never come in contact with his disciples say such religion is equally good as that laid down by Jesus Christ.”  A particularly ironic assessment given that he’s headed into the Congo with its history of colonization by the Belgians (see King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild as a start) to the Heart of Africa mission where Hayes will meet a disciple of Christianity that he’ll come to describe as “the most hated man in Africa.”


2.20 Khartoum to Kodok: Steamer on the Nile

July 8, 2012

Hayes’ knowledge of the colonial history of the Nile was fairly well informed.  He remarks on historical battle sites.  The people, the wildlife, the feel of the place though are all new – he’s enthralled.

This first map shows Hayes’ progress down the Nile.

This second map shows the same path an a larger map of Africa.  He’s headed for the Congo.

January 5, 1914 (the manuscript says 1961, four years before Hayes’ death, which I understand to be when the diary was either typed or compiled.) –  January 15,1914

Although the Sudanese Sufi Sheik Muhammad Ahmad, known as the Mahdi, died in 1885 shortly after his armies overran British General Gordon and his troops at Khartoum, the Mahdist state persisted under the rule of Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, successor to the Mahdi, until defeated at Omdurman near Khartoum by the army of Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener in September of 1898.  In those years before movies and television,  serialized tabloid accounts of the exploits of Kitchener, the Mahdi, Gordon, Livingstone, Stanley, and other early European adventurers in Africa enthralled tabloid readers all over Europe and the United States so Hayes was conversant with these historical events at least in tabloid form.  He visited the tomb of the Mahdi, that had been “blasted to bits by Kitchener when he advanced to Omdurman after beating the Dervishes at Kerreri, 13 miles distant.”  Walking the battlefield at Kerreri 15 years after the battle, Hayes writes, “at Kerreri still lie whitened bones reminding one of the 16,000 men who died there and lay unburied.”

Kitchener of Khartoum

Muhammad Ahmad, the Mahdi

In 1914, the region was still heavily militarized: “there are 14,000 black Sudanese troops garrisoned here, for the Arabs may find a new prophet and rise overnight. There are five hundred white troops as a leaven to head these blacks.… There are many Egyptian officers, this a salve to Egypt, who pays the bills here while crafty Britain collects.”

The tomb of the Mahdi has since been rebuilt:

Tomb of the Mahdi 1906

Tomb of the Mahdi 2004

After visiting the tomb of the Mahdi, Hayes toured an eight acre prayer ground of the Khalifa surrounded by a great wall. Without mentioning any source for his information, he relates that in the heyday of Mahdism worshipers were well guarded on entering the compound five times daily for prayers “and those who reneged were soon found out and punished. Twenty-five lashes for the first offense, perhaps eighty for the second. After that anything might happen.” Smoking brought eighty lashes; drinking intoxicating liquor even more.

Originally captioned “Salatin” a caricature of Rudolph Carl von Slatin from Vanity Fair June, 1899

But all that is over now, put to right by the British Kitchener whom Hayes saw at the head of a parade “welcomed enthusiastically” through the streets of Khartoum on January 5, 1914. The erect unsmiling Kitchener rode alone; “Slatin Pasha, an Austrian who is a high official here, made himself scarce on Kitchener’s arrival.… Slatin was prisoner for many years during Dervish occupation.  An unscrupulous man, he readily turned from Christianity to Mohammedanism, even accepting circumcision.”  Both local and international press slurred Slatin and Kitchener “has no use for him, and he knows it.”

On January 8, after sticking in the muddy shallows off Omdurman, Hayes and five barges pulled by a steamer got under way for one of the most exhilarating voyages of his life:  up the Blue Nile to the terminus of navigation at  Rejaf.  He writes long passages almost every day savoring everything he sees.

At first the shores are “flat and arid” inhabited by Baggara Arabs: women covered head to foot “in uniform dress of dark blue cotton” and men wearing cotton “once white.”  These people tend “vast numbers of sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys, horses, and camels.”   Above Kosti, “the timber is getting more dense, and the flat roofed huts are giving way to more conical thatch design.”  At Kosti the town gaily prepares for their visit from Kitchener for, “He seems popular, even among the Dervishes he conquered.”

First class on the steamer houses officers of the British Army: big game hunters.  “There are a few Egyptian and Turkish officers in second class with me.  They are friendly, but don’t care for the British rule.  Not that the latter are bad rulers, but their presence is resented by the subject race.”  When the steamer founders in low water Hayes jumps ashore trying to photograph some Baggara herdsmen, “but they are sullen and unhelpful.”  Perhaps they direct the same sentiment at Hayes as the Egyptian and Turkish show the British.

For the first 200 miles below Khartoum the party on the steamer saw no crocodiles, but as the Baggara territory gave way to Shillooks (sic) and Dinkas, both crocodiles and hippos appear in abundance.  Hippos are protected but it’s open season on the crocodiles for the British Army officers:  one named Ferguson “is a splendid shot, seldom missing his target and sometimes stopping a crocodile dead on the sand.”

Most readers 100 years later are probably familiar with the iconic National Geographic photographs of indigenous African people from the early 20th Century; Hayes gives a firsthand description:  “The Shillooks live on the western shore of the river, while the Dinkas have the east bank.  Both tribes abjure clothing.  All are tall and slender to attenuation.  They stand on one leg, the opposite foot place sharply against the knee of  the supporting leg.  Other than a spear they carry nothing.”  These men wade deep into the waters of the Nile to protect their thirsty cattle from crocodiles.  Through kites darting in and out of the smoke of grass fires they’ve set burning away from the riverbank, “We see their villages far back beyond the high flood mark from the river, conical grass topped huts of little worth.”

Photo by Captain Edward Albert McKenna 1914-1915

A little farther up the Nile, “A continuous forest fronts on the river now all along the river… There are trees resembling oaks, and borassus palms are frequent being near the river always.”  At night, all five barges towed by the steamer scatter in the current to be collected every morning continuing up river.  “Now crocodiles are everywhere there is sand to crawl out on.  A continuous bombardment from the steamer makes them hurry for deep water.”  Hippos pose a familiar danger to native men paddling ambatch, “a sort of cross between a tree and grass,” canoes about the luxurious islands dotting the stream of the river.  One member of a “vast school” of hippos wedged beneath one of the barges.  “He took the entire fleet of barges in his efforts to escape, and when he did get clear he left the river and disappeared in the bush.”

About 400 miles south of Khartoum up the Nile Hayes writes perhaps the happiest entry ever made in his diary:  “There is a sameness about the scenery, but I love it.  I wish this river was longer than it is.”


2.19 Port Sudan to Khartoum!

July 1, 2012

Arriving by rail at Khartoum on the Nile preparing to board a steamer south; this segment and the next two might be considered the fulfillment of Hayes Perkins’ lifelong ambitions.

January 1,1914 – January 4, 1914

At Port Sudan, Brits run the town; Germans run the hotel:  “These people are ubiquitous in hotel life all over the East, a key position to give them the opportunity for information they relay to their home government.  Why one wonders, but Germany aspires to be next top dog for world power.”  Egyptians and Syrians hold the minor bureaucratic positions.  Nubian Sudanese hold the rifles and “It is easy to see they like their jobs, take real pride in keeping to the scratch.”  Arabs and Hadendowas (sic) populate the town.  Moslem pilgrims streaming through Port Sudan on Haj toward Mecca find a detention barracks surrounded by “barbed  and panel wire entanglements,”  rather than a German hotelier.  Pilgrims “rest” at the detention center on quarantine against plague.

Customs officials sent Hayes through a maze of red tape appropriating his “fine Savage rifle and 200 rounds of ammunition” to the Sudanese government.  He claims they charged him for wearing his fine London clothes through customs as well.  “But that is ancient history now [one day later], and we will forget it.”

The slow train climbing the mountain Range to Sinkat captured Hayes’ imagination just as it had Rudyard Kipling’s “because of the wars fought in its vicinity, when Dervish battled Briton and Fuzzy-Wuzzy contested with warrior Hybernians(sic) in a manner they both loved.”

The Royal Irish Lancers at Suakin, 20th March, 1885. It was here that the men of the 5th distinushed themsleves by charging and putting to flight the Dervish enemy. (Caption from the site of the 5th Royal Irish Lancers.)

In 1914, Sinkat had become “a peaceful little station” through which “Arab and Sudanese Negro” pilgrims continued their “two or four year” struggle “across the vast plains of the far Soudan (sic) from Sokoto and Kano or from far Dakar and Djenne.”  Hayes can almost understand the long trek for the male pilgrim who “obtains merit in the sight of Allah that endures for all eternity.”  The women though; “some authorities say she has no soul.”  Hayes sees her following her man, “trusting in the protection of Allah to save her from the dangers of the way.… With no hope of Heaven and doomed to slavish toil in this world, life holds little for her.”

Pyramids at Memroe

During the night Hayes’ train descended the mountains onto “a sprawling yellow plain seemingly without end,”  as a thin line of green gradually resolved into trees along the now-dry Atbara River.  At the town of Atbara, Hayes got his first look at the Nile.  It was the time of “low Nile” and the local residents were sowing grain “getting quick results in the rich soil of the river silt, sub-irrigated by the filtering water.”  Despite the grains, “one wonders how all these people lived, for there are vast ruins here.”  At Memroe, he sees “pyramids, ruined temples and even cliff dwellings.”

“Khartoum! How often have I looked on the map and wondered what this city might be like, little thinking I would ever reach it.”    [Stories of Charles George Gordon and the The Mahdist siege of Kartoum of 1884-1885 had fired the imagination of a young Hayes living on the Coquille River, Oregon igniting his lifelong fascination with the African continent.]  Another German hotel keeper let Hayes a “clean and ample” room where he sat on the roof overlooking the white houses amidst waving green palm fronds just as Gordon sat brooding on the roof of his palace overlooking Khartoum watching his diversion of the Nile, the city’s only defense against the overwhelming force of the Mahdists, dwindle into the desert sands.

On the Blue Nile 1913

“When the British retook this city from the Dervishes [in 1898], it lay in ruins. The zealous disciples of the Prophet abhorred anything pertaining to the Infidel, so moved the few remaining people across the White Nile to Omdurman.”  But, “Khartoum is a surprise.  In the fifteen years since the night of Mahdism has been dispelled a modern city has been created.”  Hayes admires the British efficiency: streets at right angles, a zoo of native animals, trees planted at regular intervals, and “a wide avenue border[ing] on the high bank of the Blue Nile.”

The two great rivers, the chalky White Nile and the transparent Blue Nile meet at Khartoum whose name Hayes says “signifies ‘proboscis’ or the trunk of an elephant.  And it is like that, a long cape dividing the two rivers, each keeping to its own shore far down river, refusing to mingle until compelled by swiftwater below.”  By comparison to other rivers Hayes has seen, “The Niles have none of the lilt and swing of the Yukon nor the sparkling blue of the St. Lawrence.  They are patient plodding rivers, uniting their forces here for a common purpose, that to conquer the desert.”

In early 1914, Hayes, nearly 36, has been traveling the hard avenues of the world for more than 20 years with one of the great disappointments of his life looming ahead at the Heart of Africa Mission in the Congo with C.T. Studd.  It’s nice to read at khartoum a little of the wonder of the ten year-old boy who fell in love with Africa on the south coast of Oregon.  He says of Khartoum:  “There is an air of enchantment and mystery about it all.”