A. Radclyffe (Arthur Radclyffe) Dugmore.

Camera adventures in the African wilds; being an account of a four months' expedition in British East Africa, for the purpose of securing photographs of the game from life online

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Online LibraryA. Radclyffe (Arthur Radclyffe) DugmoreCamera adventures in the African wilds; being an account of a four months' expedition in British East Africa, for the purpose of securing photographs of the game from life → online text (page 11 of 18)
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we took a trip to a near-by hill which commanded a good view of
the surrounding country, but we saw no signs of elephants, and no
other game except one rhinoceros, two waterbuck and a bushbuck.
On our return to camp we found some more sanguine guides, who


declared their ability to show us elephants if only we would go" with
them to a place about three hours away. We had some trouble
with the porters and the headman the next morning. I had given
orders for a start to be made at six o'clock. At that time I found
the men were cooking their breakfast, and in no hurry to get ready.
This had happened before, so I had to read the riot act, and gave
them to understand very clearly that if ever I found men eating
their breakfast after the hour set for starting I would discharge the
whole outfit, including the headman. They realized what it would
mean to be discharged in this out-of-the-way place, where no Swahili
is popular among the natives, so after that I had very little trouble
in making early starts. Our new guides took us to a small pond near
which we camped, and then they went off to reconnoitre. While
they were away we examined the vicinity of the pond, but beyond
seeing an old cow hippopotamus and her calf we found nothing of
interest. There were a few Coke's hartebeest, which were very
wild. Finding the hippopotamus in the pond was rather surprising,
as we were about twenty-five miles from the Tana, the nearest large
river. It would have been interesting to know whether the calf
had been born by this pond, and if so why the pair had remained
away from the rest of their kind. Late in the afternoon my com-
panion, feeling restless and energetic, decided to climb a neighboring
hill to see if he could detect any elephants, as the guides had returned
without news. Just about sunset he came back in an excited con-
dition, saying that there was an elephant in the grass about half a
mile away. It did not take long for me to seize the camera and
start with him. Time was precious, as the light was fast failing,
so we ran through dense swamps and high grass as fast as we could,




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and at about a quarter past six came in sight of a small elephant
feeding on the edge of some fairly high reeds. There was no time
to do any elaborate stalking if I wished to attempt a picture before
dark, so I simply went through the noisy cane until I was within
two hundred yards of the creature. He heard me coming, so I
hurriedly put the camera on its tripod, and tried to make a telephoto
exposure, but the light was so bad that I could not even see to focus.
There was nothing to do but guess at it; this I did, and made a
time exposure, which could not come out well, as the elephant moved
his trunk continually in his effort to catch our wind. It was very
disappointing, although we did enjoy our first view of an elephant
in its natural surroundings. Had we been half an hour earlier I
could easily have secured some quite satisfactory photographs. It
was particularly unfortunate, as I never had another opportunity
while in the country.

The guides seemed to be discouraged at the prospect, so the fol-
lowing morning we broke camp and returned to the Meru district.

Our camp was in the middle of the cultivated region, on a site
set for the white man by the chief Mitari. We received a visit from
the old fellow, who brought a sheep as a present. He, like Wambugu,
was glad to accept some money in return. During his visit, which
lasted over an hour, he informed us that it was a cause of the deepest
regret to him and his people that so few white men ever visited his
country. We were only the fourth to use the camping site. He had
never seen a white man until ten years ago, when a bad one came
through the country fighting the people and stealing from them.
It is probably due to that man's behavior that the people of the north-
east of Kenia objected to the white man and his ways, and acted in


a manner which led the authorities to regard them as a dangerous
tribe. The British occupancy of the district was, I believe, the
result of a request by the chiefs for protection against the warlike
Masai, who continually harassed their more peaceable neighbors
and seized their cattle.

We left Mitari's country on April a;th, our plan being to go to
Dominuki's, one day's march, and there obtain a guide for the Guaso
Nyiro, and if possible for the rest of the journey to Lake Hannington.
From the information we had received at Meru the prospects of our
being able to make the latter part of our proposed trip were very
small. It appeared that no one had ever undertaken it, and conse-
quently there would not be any chance of finding a native guide
upon whom we could rely.

The country between Meru and Dominuki's was mostly under
some sort of cultivation. Corn was more and more in evidence
as we proceeded, while bananas were less common. The huts were
of the usual style, generally circular, with low walls of mud and
wattle, and conical roofs of grass. They were not so much scattered
as those we saw near Fort Hall, but were arranged more often in
small clusters, each with strongly built bomas or stockades. The
evidence of recent warfare was visible in the good repair of these

We reached Dominuki's country early in the afternoon, and were
well received by him and his people. The old chief directed us to
a suitable camping place on the edge of his village, and immediately
ordered each of the men present to bring us a faggot of wood, for
in this country, which had been inhabited for no one knows how
many years, wood is alarmingly scarce. As soon as our tent was



pitched and everything in order, the chief, with several of his coun-
cillors, called on us. He proved to be a most intelligent and interesting
man, well along in years, but still keenly alert. His control of his
people is really remarkable, and no one ventures to question any
order he gives. I was very sorry not to be able to speak with him
directly instead of through an interpreter, whose knowledge of English
was of the slightest. He is one of the few "traveled" natives of
this remote country, and has, so far as I could learn, visited both
Mombasa and Zanzibar. We were much amused at his attempts
to smoke. Evidently he believed it the correct thing to do, but
the effort was too much, and after laboriously working his way
through half a cigarette he gave it up, and requested one of his fol-
lowers to finish the task of politeness. He was very anxious to know
if we would intercede in a matter which was apparently troubling
him. We could not understand the situation exactly, but it seemed
that he had been requested to pay a tribute to the British powers
of a number of cattle, in return for which he had received a flag,
which he regarded with rather a sad smile as he had it unfolded for
our inspection. We endeavored to explain that we had nothing to
do with the Government, but he could not be made to believe it.
To him all white men were officials who represented the British
nation. We were politely invited to pay him a visit in his own home
and to accept some presents which he would send to us. The presents
consisted of fresh milk, butter, flour, honey, a sheep and a cow.
The cow however, we declined with many thanks. In return for
all this he would accept no money, but a hunting-knife and a ring
met with his approval. The receptacles containing these presents
were decidedly interesting. The milk was in large gourds, which


were well decorated with cowries. The flour was in a basket made
of grass beautifully woven in red and natural color, while the honey
was in a wooden drum, made from a hollow branch and covered
with a well-fitting lid. I tried to purchase these receptacles, but
could not persuade the people to part with them at any price. His
anxiety that we should not be annoyed by his people was noticeable.
He sat for a long time a litle distance from our tent, and if he saw
any of the men come too close he immediately ordered them away.
The people were somewhat like those about Meru, but scarcely
as good looking. Their method of dress and ornamentation was
very similar, except that the women frequently wore the long leather
dress from the shoulders after the manner of the Masai. Shields
seemed to be more often carried, and occasionally the men painted
their faces and bodies in fine stripes with dark reddish ochre. During
the afternoon we were much surprised at receiving a visit from two
of the chief's wives. This was the first time any native women had
come to our tent. Usually they seemed to be lacking entirely in
the curiosity which, though credited to their sex, appears in East
Africa to belong far more to the men than the women. To each of
the women we presented a brass ring containing a brightly colored
glass "stone." This seemed to please them, and they left us with
much laughter. After they had departed we felt it incumbent on
us to return the visits, and were greatly surprised at the neatness
and cleanliness of the immediate surroundings of the huts. The
ground was swept as clean as a floor, and all rubbish and refuse
was carried away from the yards. The chief's huts differed in no
way that we could see from those of the other people. All the huts
in the village were strongly stockaded, more so than any we had




previously seen. This branch of the Wa-Kikuyu had only recently
placed themselves under the protection of the British, so the idea of
living in complete peace was new to them. As a rule, the Wa-
Kikuyu are almost entirely agriculturists, but Dominuki's people
have a great many cattle, and appear to consider them of more
importance than their crops. In their habits they seem about half-
way between the Masai and the true Kikuyu, but in appearance,
there is not much to remind one of the Masai.

Dominuki informed us that he could not supply a guide for the
Guaso Nyiro, but that he would send his son with us to his next
neighbor, the chief of the Samburu Masai tribe, who would perhaps
be able to help us. He did not believe it possible for us to make
the trip to Lake Hannington without going by a very roundabout
way, which would take us almost to Nyeri, and might require a long
time. The question of water, after leaving the Guaso Nyiro, was
a very important one, for there is said to be a great stretch of country
which is almost entirely waterless, unless the rains are very heavy.
This season the rains had been so deficient that the chances of finding
water would be extremely small.

When we broke camp the following morning we found that the
old chief had sent four guides with us. There seemed to be no way
of refusing them, but as food was precious we did not appreciate
having the extra mouths to feed. The trail downward toward the
Guaso Nyiro was through the usual scattered thorn tree country,
but the walking was made bad by the small stones of volcanic origin
with which the ground was thickly strewn. Game was not abundant.
On the march we only saw three rhinoceros, a herd of oryx, some
Grant's gazelle, an immature striped hyena, a great many guinea-


fowl, and one bird which I am almost certain was a woodcock. All
the game was very wild. Even the rhinoceros bolted before we were
nearer than three hundred and fifty yards.

About noon we ran into trouble which nearly proved serious. We
were sitting down waiting for the porters to catch up with us, when
suddenly we saw them rushing wildly in every direction. Their
loads were dropped, and, with arms flung about, they acted as though
they had all gone mad. We were at a loss to understand their
strange behavior. At first we thought that either lions or rhinoceros
were after them, but it proved to be bees or wasps of some kind.
The headman came to us with the news that two of the men were
dying. One of these men was my boy, who acted as interpreter.
To have lost him would have placed us in a very awkward predica-
ment. When we examined the wretched fellow we found he had
been frightfully stung, especially about the head and back. There
were probably several hundred stings in him, and he was yelling
with pain. It certainly looked serious. We shaved his head and
plastered him all over with mud. Then we made camp as soon as
the other men had used the mud cure. The boy, who was in a state
of collapse, was wrapped in a blanket and given some strong tea,
which seemed to revive him greatly.

During the afternoon a couple of rhinoceros were observed not
far from camp, so we went after them in hope of securing some
photographs. Our Kikuyu guides came along, and were very much
worried because we walked right up to within twenty-five yards or
less of the big creatures, a cow and a calf, and there took two photo-
graphs before the animals had recovered from their surprise at seeing
us suddenly stand up in the grass so close to them. Instead of charg-


ing, as we expected them to do, they took to their heels, and though
we followed for a long way, we were unable to approach within
photographic range again. Once they turned, when it dawned on
them that they were being followed. After hesitating a few moments
they trotted toward us, and it looked as if we should have some fun,
but their courage failed them, and, turning about, they continued
their retreat.

The following day we camped near the village of the Samburu
Masai, and about three hours' march from the Guaso Nyiro. We
saw oryx, Grant's and Thomson's gazelles, impala, bushbuck, water-
buck and guinea-fowl. As on the previous day we were struck by
the extreme shyness of the game, which was in every way wilder
than that of the Tana region. No sooner had we made camp than
the chief of the Samburu paid us a visit, bringing with him presents
of sweet and sour milk. The chief, whose name was unpronounceable
to us, was physically as fine a specimen of man as one would wish
to see, and he appeared to be very intelligent, and also very mer-
cenary. He brought with him his young son, to whom he was
wonderfully devoted, lavishing affection in a way that struck us as
unusual. He begged clothes for the child, and was delighted when
we gave him an old waistcoat, a silk handkerchief and a ring. He
promised us a guide for the Guaso Nyiro, but said that it would be
impossible to find any who would undertake to lead us to Lake
Hannington, so much against our will we decided to abandon that
part of our trip. From all accounts we should find a great quantity
of game near the Guaso Nyiro, including buffalo and giraffe. The
guide, who was to show us all these animals, was to receive a blanket
(value thirty-three cents) as payment for his services.


The chief invited us to pay a visit to his village on our way to the
river, so the next morning we did so. The village was of the usual
Masai kind a collection of very low huts scarcely five feet high,
made of wattle, plastered over with cow-dung. They were window-
less and chimneyless, the low open door which is but little over
three feet in height serving for all purposes. Each was surrounded
by a hedge of thorn bush. In the middle of this circular arrangement
of huts was an open space, into which all the cattle were gathered
each night. A more filthy mess could scarcely be imagined, the
mire of manure being fully ten inches deep all around the huts, and
outside the boma the same filthy condition prevailed. The village
contained about thirty or forty huts, and more than a thousand
head of the long-horned humped cattle, innumerable sheep and
goats, as well as a good many donkeys and camels. The people
use the regular Masai clothing, the women wearing the single-piece
garment made of hide hanging from the shoulder to below the knees,
immense necklaces of copper, steel or brass wire, with earrings,
bracelets and anklets of the same material. The men used either a
blanket or a piece of earth-stained cotton cloth, or nothing. The
small boys are practically unencumbered by clothing, but the girls
from babyhood are generally covered. Both men and women are
tall and slender, the legs of the women being particularly long and
thin. We found that it was necessary to accept some milk from the
chief, though it required courage to drink from the unwashed smoky
gourds in which it had been kept. These gourds are about the only
receptacles used by the natives. Usually they are ornamented with
considerable taste by the Masai, but among the Samburu we saw
none that were decorated in any way. So far as we could learn the






milk receptacles are never washed, all the cleaning they undergo
being a sterilization by smoke as they hang in the huts, which are
smoky to such a degree that it is hard to realize how any one can
live in them. Milk is one of the chief articles of food for the Masai;
in fact, sour milk may be said to be their staple diet, and no crops
are grown so far as I could ascertain. Wild meat is not supposed to
be ever eaten, but the flesh of cattle is used a great deal. Blood,
too, is much relished, and is taken either from the dead, dying or the
living animal. There is frequent complaint from the white farmers
that their Masai herders "tap" the cattle. The Masai are such
splendid herders, keeping their own cattle in remarkably fine con-
dition, that it is a great pity they have this bad habit. The people
appeared to be very cordial and well-mannered. All the men insisted
on shaking hands in European fashion, with the unwelcome addition
of spitting on their hand as a mark of particular respect. One thing
that struck me about the Masai, and which I have never been able
to understand, was the fact that their villages so seldom appear to
be situated near water.



AT LAST we had reached the Northern Guaso Nyiro, the region
so often mentioned by Neumann in his writings on the animals
of East Africa. We camped near Neumann's Boma, one of the few
named landmarks of this country, and a more delightful site for a
camp would indeed be difficult to find. We had heard much of
the beauty of the Guaso Nyiro, but it was really finer than we had
expected. The banks were clothed with the most luxuriant grass,
among which flowers grew in great profusion, giving it the appear-
ance of a wonderful park. Along the river's edge a belt of tall,
rich-foliaged trees overhung the water. The numerous palms
made it appear more tropical than any river we had yet seen. On
the north side steep, rocky hills rose one behind the other, in complete
contrast to the comparative level of the side on which we were camped.
The river itself was about seventy yards wide. As we were near
the middle of the rainy season the water should have been very deep,
but owing to the almost total failure of the rains in the district it
was fordable in some places. The only thing which disappointed
us was the lack of bird life. We had been led to believe that it
was abundant, whereas we saw only a few Egyptian geese and
sandpipers. Crocodiles, too, were scarce; in fact, we only saw



two or three altogether, and they were very small, so I was
glad I had taken the opportunities of photographing those on
the Tana.

Our camp was situated under some wide-spreading thorn trees
overlooking the river. It was so delightfully comfortable, so cool
and restful, that we could scarcely tear ourselves away to go after
game. But the guide was restless, and wished us to go with him
and see all the game that he knew about. We had not gone half
a mile from camp before we discovered a large herd of oryx (beisa).
There were nearly a hundred of these handsome antelope feeding
on a piece of open ground, which was devoid of any cover that
would be of use in stalking. With great difficulty I was able to
approach within about two hundred yards of the herd. At that
distance I made several telephoto exposures. Unfortunately the
wind was blowing so hard that it was impossible to obtain really
satisfactory pictures. I attempted a nearer approach to them by
walking boldly toward where they stood in a solid line watching
me intently. In this way I gained about fifty yards, and made an
exposure before they took fright and cantered away. It was my
first comparatively close view of the oryx, and they impressed me
as being one of the handsomest of the antelope family, the curious
black markings against the pale pearl-gray color of their coats
making a most striking contrast. Their extraordinary long and
almost straight sharp-pointed horns add to the graceful appearance.
These horns sometimes attain a length of slightly under forty inches.
But thirty-two to thirty-six inches is considered a very good pair.
In size the oryx is one of the largest of the common antelope. It
weighs over four hundred and fifty pounds, though it stands very


little over four feet at the shoulder. In running it either trots or
canters with a distinctive action, and a noticeable swing of its long
bushy-tipped tail, but when frightened it gallops noisily and with
fair speed. It is found in fairly close bush country in open valleys,
and in places where there is a scattered growth of trees. Generally
speaking they are shy animals, and notwithstanding their decided
markings are difficult to see when among bushes. Like most animals,
they have the knack of seeing the man before the man sees them.
Were it not for the almost incessant wagging of the tail they would
be even more difficult to detect. They go in herds of from two or
three to one hundred or more, the large herds being seen most
often toward the middle of the day, when they appear to con-
gregate, the small herds and scattered individuals joining the main
lot. This at least is what generally takes place near the Guaso
Nyiro. The oryx is frequently found with other animals, especially
with zebra, both Grant's and Grevy's, and with giraffe and Grant's
gazelles. This applies more particularly to the resting hours about
midday. During the feeding time I believe they keep more to them-
selves. Their eyesight is remarkably keen, probably more so
than that of any other antelope. Their hearing is also good, but
I have never been able to make up my mind about their sense of
smell. It scarcely seems to be very acute.

After the oryx had left us we saw a herd of giraffe, but they were
so wild that they would not let us approach nearer than five or six
hundred yards. We also saw Grant's gazelles, impala, duiker, and
some hares and jackals, as well as partridge and guinea-fowl.
The following day we examined the vicinity pretty carefully,
but saw no signs of buffalo. Neither were there any lions, though

we had been told we should find them in droves. From what
the native herders told us I do not think there had been lions
for many years, as they did not even trouble to build a lion-
proof boma for their flocks at night. The guide informed us
that the game had evidently changed its habitat since he was
last here, and that he would not be able to show as anything
worth having; in other words, he wanted to leave us. This we
allowed him to do.

The conditions for successful photographic work scarcely warranted
our remaining any longer in the neighborhood, so we decided to
break camp the following morning, and work our way toward the
foothills of Kenia, in the hope of finding something there. We had
no guide, so it became necessary to rely on our own knowledge,

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Online LibraryA. Radclyffe (Arthur Radclyffe) DugmoreCamera adventures in the African wilds; being an account of a four months' expedition in British East Africa, for the purpose of securing photographs of the game from life → online text (page 11 of 18)