2.24 Aba to Niangara

August 5, 2012

Two Maps so you can see why Hayes has arrived at a place called The Heart of Africa Mission.  If you zoom in on the one showing the Welle river, you can see enormous stretches of white water.

February 8, 1914 – February 21, 1914

With fresh porters, Hayes made good time on the 50 miles between Aba and Faradje:  “I did it in three days. good time in Africa with heavy loads.”  This is lion country:  lots of tracks, lots of spoor, lots of roaring, but the porters laugh mimicking the lion’s roaring.  “This morning I was far behind the men, and a lioness emerged from the grass and sat on her haunches beside the road, looking like nothing more than a great Dane dog.    I stopped and returned her stare, and after a time she galloped away.”  The porters tell Hayes none of the lions in this area are man-eaters.

The great excitement for the Europeans at Faradje concerns an American elephant hunter named Pickering.  The Belgian officers at the post invited him to a friendly game of chemin de fer.  When Pickering learned that they had “combined against him,” first he shot the flagpole with his elephant gun.  Getting no results from that display, he shot toward the door of the station, “and after a few shots they hurriedly tossed out his goods, money boxes, ivory and all.”  Another pair of American elephant hunters, Pierce and Rogers, illegally shot an elephant in British territory and fled into Belgian territory where an over-zealous askari mortally wounded Rogers in the hip.  Hayes believes the British government paid Rogers’ family $60,000 compensation as they had no jurisdiction in the Belgian Congo.

At the tumble down Catholic mission at Faradje missionaries teach their faith.  “Naturally the people are wishful to add another god to their already numerous collection, especially one recognized by the superior musungus.”  Hayes notes that “musungu” has two meanings for the the natives of this area:  it denotes any white but also all strong intoxicants.  He writes, “I wonder if there be any connection between these two?”  (A friend just returned from Uganda says she was called “mzungu” there; “azungu” in Malawi.)

On February 10, 1914, his thirty-sixth birthday, Hayes records a travelogue of where he’d been on this date in previous years:  “The last one was in Southampton, and I had little thought of being in the middle of Africa.  The ones preceding were in Sydney, the Woodlark Islands, in New Guinea, Ellice Islands, NorthBend Oregon; at Little River, California; in Nigeria, at Seattle, and so on.  One shifts about.”

After two hard days march with “a wild turbulent crew” of new porters who also mock the lions – and Hayes’ fear of the wild roaring – the caravan arrived at “a vast wooded plain, with forest galleries on every stream” where the natives beg Hayes to shoot the marauding “mbongos” (elephants).  Based on the spoor, he estimates hundreds maraud in the vicinity but declines to shoot any – perhaps not properly armed.  He notes, however, “Ivory is the chief export of this country, but the white hunters will soon exterminate the herds if left to shoot as they are doing now.”

Areas infested by tsetse fly 1998

We know from his notes that Hayes received at least one bite from a tsetse fly: “These insects are scarcely equal to an American or Australian horsefly in size. They alight without bing noticed, and have driven their proboscis deep before one realizes their presence.  The bite is as painful as a red hot needle.”  Like any European traveler in central Africa in 1914, Hayes necessarily adopted a certain stochastic resignation:  “As few flies are infected with the germ of sleeping sickness, it is improbable any untoward happening will take place.”  He never subsequently reported suffering sleeping sickness.

If he wasn’t particularly afraid of tsetse fly, Hayes’ approach to the Heart of Africa Mission and C. T. Studd filled him with foreboding:  “I am drawing near my journey’s end and don’t like it.  There is an insistent warning of evil to come that will not be denied.… This always happens when I fall into hard places.”  In the center of the African continent what could one do with such a premonition but press on?

150 miles from Aba, after nine days “actual marching time,” Hayes and the safari arrived at the station at Dungu where the the Dungu and Kibali Rivers merge to form “the Welle, or Uele, as called by the Belgians.  Later on the river becomes the Makua, then the Oubangui of the French, or plain Ubangi of the British.  It is the great northern tributary of the Congo, and has a course of more than 2,000 miles.”  This is territory of the Azanedes; “They are a warlike people, hate the Belgians and would drive the latter out if they could.”

On a windy hill “above the fever” on the north bank of the Dungu River, two white representatives of the Africa Inland Mission direct construction of a new mission station.  “These men have recently been associated with Mr. Studd.”  They say Studd quarreled with the American, Charles Hurlburt, who heads the Africa Inland Mission and “suggest I will find Mr. Studd difficult to get along with.  This adds to my fears of strife to come, but it is too late now to remedy matters.”

Hayes had one last brief idyll before reaching Niangara and the Heart of Africa Mission.  “The Chef De Poste gave me a large canoe and a crew of Bakango boatman, so for two days we have been poling down the Welle.”  For the most part the men “dawdle and sing songs of the river.”  But approaching a stretch of wild water they put Hayes off to walk the shore, “saying they would be held responsible if a white man was lost, whereas nothing would happen if it was merely one of themselves.”  The reader gets the distinct impression that Hayes would rather have been aboard:  “These wild Bakangos stripped themselves of their scant clothing and drove the canoe into the white water.  Every man was crouched and yelling his best.  All knew their work, for with poles they warded off every rock thrust up through the surge of foam, kept their craft headed into the main channel and finally out into the boiling maelstrom and on into quiet water below… Triumphant yells rose high when they floated again in safety.”  (Welch, Conley, and Dimock cite Perkins as conversant with Buzz Holmstrom about African whitewater (incorrectly asserting Perkins made a small fortune mining in Africa) in The Doing of the Thing: The brief Brilliant Whitewater Career of Buzz Holmstrom.)

One more day watching crocodiles, hippos, and spur-winged geese while the boatmen loaf and sing before pulling into Niangara to be met by Buxton and Studd.


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.