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.”

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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.”