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FROM THE CONGO TO UGANDA.
BY GILBERT BUSSEY.
I. THE CONGO RIWER.
WHEN Stanley made his memorable journey down the Congo in 1877, Central Equatorial Africa was in a very different condition from that which the traveller finds to-day. The great river then flowed through lands still darkened by the hideous cloud of the slave trade. Civilisation was unknown, and cannibalism was almost universal among the many warring tribes. Stanley thought it necessary to take with him a small army of negro warriors, and he had to fight almost every step of his way to the coastal regions.
Having lately crossed the Continent from the Belgian Congo to British East Africa, I am able to testify to the extraordinary change that has come over the Equatorial regions through which I passed. A fleet of steamers plies up and down the Congo river. Trading centres, missionary stations, and administrative posts are distributed all along its length. The natives, generally speaking, have been transformed from bloodthirsty cannibals into decent law-abiding members of society.
True, in the interior of the vast forests there are still black spots where human flesh is eaten at tribal feasts, and
where a white man runs the risk of being received with a cloud of poisoned arrows. But these places are receiving the attention of the Belgian military authorities. Government posts are being established in the less accessible districts, and in a very short time the last remnants of the bad old days will probably have disappeared. The epoch of the alleged “red rubber' atrocities has passed away. The treatment of the natives by the Belgians I found to be excellent in the areas through which I passed, erring, if at all, on the side of leniency rather than of severity. Moreover, such are the transport facilities now available, that the greater part of the journey from west to east is rather in the nature of a pleasure trip than of the arduous and perilous undertaking of even a few years ago. The only really trying portion of the route followed was that we had to traverse on foot from Bambili—which is far away to the north-east of Stanleyville—to Kasenge on Lake Albert Nyanza, a distance of about 300 miles as the crow flies, but of nearer 400 miles by the route we took. The only district reported as dangerous owing to the unsettled State of the natives was one near Kilo, but, by slightly altering our route, we avoided all difficulty. The object of the expedition in which I took part was mainly big-game hunting. There were four of us: Mr Sydney Fairbairn of the Grenadier Guards, Captain Geoffrey Catchpole, Major Bisshopp, and myself. All had served in the Great War. Captain Catchpole is well known for his hunting exploits in British East Africa. Major Bisshopp and myself had had big-game experience in Rhodesia, and I had also done some shooting both in what was formerly German East Africa and to the South of the Rovuma. We travelled by Belgian steamer from Falmouth to Matadi, some few miles up the Congo, and thence by train to Kinshara, on Stanley Pool. Here we boarded the river steamer for Stanleyville, which is about 1000 miles up-stream. From Stanleyville we returned some 200 miles by a smaller boat to Bumba. A still smaller steamer took us up the Rubi river to Go. From Go we went by canoe to Jumba, thence by another steamer to Buta, and by motorcar to Bambili. Then came the long journey on foot through Poko, Rungu, Gombari (where two of our party left us to proceed by another route), Arebi, Kilo, and Runia to Kasenye, at the southwestern end of Lake Albert Nyanza. Captain Catchpole and I crossed that lake by
the steamer to Butiaba in Northern Uganda. We proceeded by motor-car to Masindi Port on Lake Kiogo, crossed by steamer to Namasagali, went by the short railway to Jinga on Lake Victoria Nyanza, took the steamer to Kisumu in British East Africa, and the Mombasa Railway to Nairobi. Leaving Falmouth on the first of October 1919, we reached Matadi some three weeks later, Stanleyville in the third week of November, and, departing from Bumba at the beginning of December, completed our journey to Nairobi early in April 1920. Matadi, the port at which we disembarked, is a curious little place built on a steep hill. The gradients are of such a character that no vehicles can be used in the streets, and everything has to be carried by natives. One's general impression of the town is summed up in the word “oil.” The whole place reeks of palmoil. Eighty per cent of the cooking is done with it; and the inhabitants, as they clamber up and down under the hot sun, look as if they had been bathing in it. The temperature was something extraordinary in the shade, and our butter came to table in the form of oil. Personally, I had such a sickening of oil that I don’t think I shall ever want to taste it again even with my salad. We had an absolute nightmare of a time with the Belgian customs officials. They
insisted that we should only “chop” (food) is excellent, take one rifle apiece, the usual and passengers have a beautiequipment for big-game hunters fully restful time. They spend being at least two-a heavy and the day in easy-chairs on deck, a light one. The duty on the occasionally varying the monofour rifles the party was allowed tony by a little shot-gun shootto retain came to over £20, ing at duck and other wildfowl: while the tariff on kit and We found that Lever Brothers ammunition was proportion- (the Port Sunlight people) have ately high. The rifles we were great interests in the Congo, permitted to take were dis- whence they obtain enormous figured by having numbers quantities of palm-oil. Their and Belgian coats - of - arms posts are scattered through the stamped on them with punches forests of the Congo basin, and -a most objectionable pro- the oil trade seems to be all ceeding. However, I am glad in their hands. to remember that we managed The river scenery is attracto see the humorous side of tive, though there is very little the matter, and we all kept variety. Dense tropical forests merry and bright in spite of cover the banks, except in the annoyances inflicted on places where there are clearings us. We had, however, plenty around native villages or Euroto do in the way of buying pean posts. The river is a rich stores, and so on, to occupy chocolate colour, and the vegeour minds.
tation at its edge a vivid We went by train to Kin- green. The huge towering trees, shara-a nice little town at the thick-matted undergrowth, the lower end of Stanley Pool, the many rope-like creeping and not far from Leopoldville. plants hanging in natural fesIt is the port from which all toons,' are all reflected in the the river boats start. It seems reddish - brown water with to me that in the matter of mirror-like clearness. Here a climate the Congo is the “ dog group of stately palms, there with a bad name." We were a clump of graceful tree-ferns, surprised to find there a tem- add their wild beauty to the perature of only about 85 view. Life is added to the degrees in the shade, and we scene by birds of brilliant were told the thermometer plumage and the gorgeously seldom rises above 90. We coloured butterflies which flit embarked on the steamer about among the foliage. HipLeverville, and crossed the equa- popotami are numerous. They tor on 9th November at Coquil- like to keep in the shallow hatville, the greatest heat we water around the numerous experienced on the Congo up islands, but are occasionally to that time being about 84 seen from the boat. Crocodiles degrees. The passage up the are present in large numbers, river is fairly comfortable. The and frequently offered us tar
gets for our rifles. The “ croo” ing game to provide them with is the one African animal re- meat. A third section said : garding which nobody has any “Oh, we are very good hunters idea of sportsmanship. Its and can shoot well.” These .cold-blooded cruelty and cun- apparently thought we had ning are thought to make it travelled so far to watch a fair game at all times.
band of natives shoot. On The river has many sand- the whole they were a very banks, which are constantly poor lot of niggers, and we changing their positions, and decided to go back to Bumba it is therefore necessary to tie by boat, and to reach Buta the steamers up every night. by way of the Rubi river. This allows the passengers to The Governor of Stanleyville stretch their legs, and provides advised us to go that way, a very welcome change from which, he said, would take the easy-chair life on board. us through the best game
We heard reports of the country in the Congo State. presence of herds of elephant He seemed pleased that British and buffalo along the river, sportsmen should visit the but though we seized every Congo, and said he would like possibility of tracking them, to see more of them. He gave we saw nothing of them. When our spokesman, Fairbairn, letfinally we reached Stanleyville, ters to all the “ chefs de after a voyage of about 1000 région," instructing them to miles, we found that it had assist us in every way, and he grown into a pretty little town, also gave permission to shoot with avenues of palms in the twelve elephants and to capmain streets. We stopped with ture okapi, if we were fortunMessrs Lever Brothers' repre- ate enough to come across any. sentative, who made us very Accordingly, we turned in comfortable. There is no hotel our tracks and sailed down in the place.
to Bumba, 200 miles back. Our intention had been to From Bumba it is proposed proceed on foot from Stanley- by the Belgian Government ville to Buta, taking what is to make a railway eastward called the Nelle route, but we to Aba, the nearest point in found it impossible to get the the Belgian Congo to Gondocarriers we needed. Some of koro, on the Bahr-el-Jebel. But those recommended by Levers' there are no signs of the railagent did not seem to care to way yet, and we went from go as far as Buta. Others Bumba in a small steamer up said : “ We don't mind coming the Rubi to Go, about 100 with you, but we don't want miles eastward. Here we got to carry loads." They evi- & canoe to take us farther dently took us for philanthro- up the stream to Jumba. pists who were arranging a The canoe voyage we found trip for the pleasure of shoot- very tiring. Among its features were the attacks of a kind of mediately christened it. It fly, whose bites cause no im- was a most unpleasant conmediate pain, but have trouble- trivance. Every time one some after-effects. From each moved too rapidly towards its bite a small drop of blood bow it immediately dipped its oozes. The unsuspecting vic- nose into the river, and torrents tim, who may be reading a of water came rushing in. In book, looks down to find his the three days' journey we bare arms—for, of course, in were flooded out several times this climate one wears no coat in this manner. and has one's shirt sleeves Buta is the town from which tucked up to the elbow-and the only okapi ever sent to any other exposed portion of Europe was despatched in his anatomy covered with blood. 1919. It was caught by natives In a few hours each wound has and given to the wife of the produced a fair-sized pimple, Commissionaire de District. which itches intensely and lasts For a good many months it for two or three days.
roamed at will about the streets The Congo canoes are all of Buta, feeding in the central dug-outs—that is to say, they square and occasionally getting are each hollowed from the chased out of the officials' trunk of a single tree. Some gardens. When it was decided of them are capable of carrying to send it home, the citizens a load of ten tons, and are of Buta were very much surmanned by about sixty pad- prised to learn the great value dlers. Many of them have of the animal that they had their hulls nicely carved. These been treating with so little big canoes are perfectly stable, respect. For Zoo purposes the and the white passenger, if he okapi is said to be almost can only forget the flies, can priceless. make himself fairly comfort. The motor road from Buta able in a deck-chair under the to Bambili—a distance of 108 small grass roof which the miles—is really excellent. It natives construct to shelter is constructed through a thickly him from the blazing sun. populated district, and the
From Jumba we voyaged by natives never get tired of steamer to Buta, which is watching the passage of the car. about 160 miles north-east of The whole journey is a sort Bumba. The river is very of triumphal procession. The shallow and the steamer small. inhabitants of the villages turn As there was only one cabin, out in full force, cheering and a small flat-bottomed steel boat dancing as the car whizzes by. with a corrugated-iron roof was The bolder spirits among the chained to the side of the juveniles delight in running steamer to form a second cabin alongside the road in a vain for two. It looked like a dog- endeavour to equal the speed kennel, and as such we im- of the car. The contrast be