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

. (page 13 of 18)
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 13 of 18)
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rhinoceros feeding in a small grassy clearing, but not wishing to be
forced to shoot we carefully left him alone. The walking was
excessively hot on the glaring sand, as the overhanging thorn trees
afforded only the scantiest of shade, and there was not a breath of
air stirring.

We were not very far from the western range of hills, so I decided
to climb up on a high rocky spur, from which there would be a good
view of the surrounding country, in the hope of seeing something
of the buffalo. As we entered the more thickly wooded region before
reaching the hills I saw ahead of me, about twenty-six yards away,
an animal which I took for a young rhinoceros. My first impulse
was to have the rifle ready, as the mother would probably charge
us should we happen to be between her and the calf. On taking
a second look at the animal it struck me as being different from
anything I had ever seen, and I quickly seized the camera and



ABUNDANT GAME ON THE GUASO NYIRO 157
hurriedly focussed the queer-looking creature. I was scarcely ready
when it looked up, and as I pressed the shutter release I realized
that the animal I was photographing was none other than the forest
hog, or giant bush pig (Hylocbcerus Meinertzhagenf), one of the
rarest animals in East Africa. This huge creature, the largest
of the pigs, has only been known to science since 1904, when it was
discovered, I believe, by Captain R. Meinertzhagen, and since that
time very few specimens have been secured. In general appearance
it differs from the wart hog, not only in size, but in the enormous
wart-like excrescences protruding immediately below the eyes, and
in the inconspicuousness of the tusks, which were practically invisible
in the one I saw. The color of this one was a decidedly reddish
brown, but that may have been due to its having rolled in the dust,
as it was nearly the same tone as the sandy clay of the district. Need-
less to say, I was greatly delighted at such a stroke of good luck,
for in my wildest dreams I had never expected to have an oppor-
tunity of photographing this rare and very shy animal.

As nothing was to be seen of the buffalo we started back toward
camp, hoping that we might have a chance to secure a picture of
gerenuk. This was the last day of our stay in the neighborhood,
so unless I succeeded I should have to do without this interesting
species for my collection. On our way we saw many gerenuk,
but in every case they saw us first, and fled. At last, however, I
discovered a fine buck feeding in a scrubby clearing. He had not
seen me, so I did some very careful stalking until I was within about
one hundred yards, which was as close as it seemed wise to go. At
that distance, with the greatest of care, I was able to make three
telephoto exposures of the queer little creature before he took fright.



158 CAMERA ADVENTURES

We thoroughly disliked the idea of leaving the Guaso Nyiro,
for a more delightful camping ground could not be found, or a more
interesting place in which to photograph game. The climate, too,
was perfect, fairly hot days and very cool nights, and there were
no insect pests, neither ticks, flies nor mosquitoes. So we packed
up our outfit with the keenest feelings of regret. If we had had
more food we should have stayed at least another week, but we
had only eight days' supplies left for the men, and many miles had
to be covered before we could obtain any more. The first part of
the journey was trailless, and, as already stated, we were without a
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CHAPTER X

FROM THE NORTHERN GUASO NYIRO BACK TO SIMBA CAMP. DIFFI-
CULTIES OF FINDING THE WAY WITHOUT GUIDES OR TRAILS

WE LEFT the Guaso Nyiro on the morning of May 6th, just as
the sun was creeping on the distant tree tops, and made our way
due south, so as to pass the western edge of the rich game district
which had proved so useful to me. Before we started the men
were instructed to fill their water-bottles a thing they will never
do unless ordered and to drink very sparingly from them, for
we knew not how long it would be before we should find any more
water. Our way or rather what we imagined was our way -
led us through some very bad country, where dense thickets of
stunted trees made the selection of a route anything but an easy
task. It was well enough for us who were unencumbered by heavy
loads, but the porters needed head room. Nothing will impede
the progress of men and tire them more than having to continually
duck beneath overhanging branches. In some parts the ground
was bare red sandy clay, which afforded good walking, but much
of the country was covered with a coarse scrubby growth of under-
brush, among which a small aloe-like plant, with extremely hard,
sharp points, gave the bare-legged, and often bare-footed, men no
end of trouble. We were frequently obliged to alter our course,
on account of deep gullies, where the streams after heavy rains had
washed away the banks, and at times it was difficult to find a place

159



160 CAMERA ADVENTURES

fit to cross. To add to our discomfort the heat was well-nigh intol-
erable. The men, with the lack of self-restraint which characterizes
the Swahili porter, drank their supply of water before noon. Up
to that time we saw absolutely no sign of water. Every stream bed
was powder-dry, and in that volcanic sand digging for water is almost
always useless. Shortly after noon we were waiting for the rear
of the caravan to catch up, when the headman arrived with the
information that the cook's boy had vanished about a mile farther
back. The boy's pack had been found, and at first we were inclined
to think that the wretched youth had been taken by a lion, but a
close examination of the ground revealed no signs of such a mishap,
and we were forced to believe the young rascal, having gotten tired
of his load, had thrown it down and was following the men at a
safe distance. In vain we shouted and searched, and after wasting
over an hour of precious time we had to abandon the boy to his
well-earned fate. It might be as well to add that he turned up late
in the afternoon, having evidently followed the porters through
all the thickets without ever being seen himself. How difficult
his task must have been is shown by the fact that several times our
men lost their way, though supposed to be all within sight of each
other, and it was only by firing shots that we were able to bring
them back. The only animals we saw on our way through the
thicket country were three lesser kudu, a number of dik-dik, and
a few duiker, and there were no large birds except the common
guinea-fowl.

Shortly after four o'clock we came to a large tract of open country
which stretched to the foothills of Kenia. Here at last the walk-
ing was better, but still the stream beds were dry. The men were



DIFFICULTIES WITHOUT GUIDES OR TRAILS 161
tired and discouraged, but being without water they had to con-
tinue. In the distance to the westward there was a range of mount-
ains, that were an offshoot of Kenia. Near these there was every
reason to suppose we should find some stream which had its source
in the mountain snows, for snow water was all one could hope to
find since the rains had stopped. On our way toward this hoped-
for stream we came upon a herd of Grevy's zebra, and the men
begged me to shoot one, as they felt the need of meat after the long
march. We shot one, and while I stayed behind with my camera
bearer to skin it, the others went forward to make camp. About
an hour before sunset I thought it high time to be moving along,
and wondered why the porters had not returned for the meat. Just
before six o'clock we came to the valley below the western mountain,
and found there a fine stream of good water, but no sign of any
camp. I fired several shots, but received only the echoes in reply.
We had no way of knowing whether the camp was above or below
us, so we did not know what to do. Darkness was setting in with
the usual tropical suddenness, and the prospect of traveling blindly
in the dark did not appeal to us at all, neither did the prospect of
going to sleep without food appear particularly alluring, as we had
eaten nothing but a couple of small biscuits since five-o'clock break-
fast. We tried building grass fires, but the heavy dews had already
dampened the grass, so that it did not burn freely. Thinking one
way as good as another we went southward, and after going about
half a mile I fired several shots, when to our relief an answering shot
rang out in the distance, a mile or more away. After replying we
carefully noted the direction, and started off as fast as the nature
of the ground and the darkness would permit. The walking was



162 CAMERA ADVENTURES

none of the best, and many were the holes we fell in. We were in
some fear of meeting either lions or rhinoceros, and kept a sharp
lookout as we stumbled along. Every bush or high tuft of grass
looked to us like some dangerous animal, for we were thoroughly
tired. About eight o'clock we came in sight of camp, and what
a cheerful sight it was! When I thought of how we had been faced
by the prospect of sitting up all night hungry, and in constant fear
of lions (for we were in the lion country again), the prospect of a
bath, a good dinner and a comfortable bed seemed wonderfully
satisfactory. The next morning the askaris who were on watch
told me the lions had been roaring all around the camp, but I had
heard nothing.

By daylight we found our camp to be situated quite close to the
lower foothills of Kenia. As far as we could see, range upon range
stood between us and the trail which would take us to Nyeri. All
the hills within sight were clothed more or less thickly with dense
bush growth, so the question of selecting a route was extremely
difficult, as water must be found before night, and impassable thickets
and very deep rocky slopes would have to be avoided. I was anxious
to go by the western range of hills, and work our way along the
stream, which I felt sure came from Kenia. This would have
meant going a few miles out of the way. The headman and others
seemed to think it better to head directly for Kenia, following a
fairly open valley which opened near our camp. We had not pro-
ceeded very far before we realized our mistake. The valley became
more and more densely wooded as we continued, until even the
old rhinoceros trail we were trying to follow was so overgrown that
we were forced to cut our way through the thorny undergrowth.




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DIFFICULTIES WITHOUT GUIDES OR TRAILS 163
As we could not see more than a few feet ahead it was necessary
to keep the sharpest possible lookout for rhinoceros, for when these
cross-grained creatures meet any one on their path they waste no
time in clearing the road. To avoid a catastrophe, very quick
and accurate shooting is necessary, as one cannot dodge among
dense thorn thickets. Only a couple of months or so before we came
to the Guaso Nyiro an unfortunate Englishman was killed while
walking along a rhinoceros trail. He had gone out for a stroll
quite close to camp, and had not thought it necessary to carry a
rifle. The rhinoceros met him, and being unable to escape, owing
to the thorn bush, he was tossed. When his companions found
him some hours later he was too far gone to be saved.

Our progress was necessarily very slow, as the endless thorny
creepers and branches were difficult to cut. In every way it was
hard on us all, but especially so on our hands. Owing to the dense-
ness of the vegetation we could not see where we were going, so it
was all a matter of guessing. We blessed the rhinoceros tracks,
however, for without them it would have been practically impossible
to proceed. For a couple of hours this continued, then to our
relief we came to an open grassy glade through which ran a stream
of sparkling cool water. To get out of this little valley was our
next difficulty. There were only two possible openings, one of
which was along the stream where the vegetation was so dense
as to be almost impassable; the other way was up a very steep and
rocky hill. This we chose, and after an hour of difficult climbing
found ourselves in fairly open but exceedingly hilly country. Work-
ing to the westward a little we came to the stream again. Here we
discovered a trail which followed the course of the stream. It



164 CAMERA ADVENTURES

was not much of a path, but after what we had gone through it
was a veritable luxury. Occasionally it was necessary to cross
the vine-tangled stream to avoid rocky spurs of the hill, but until
we camped late that afternoon the walking, though steep, was not
very bad. On starting next morning we were greeted by a superb
view of Kenia, whose snow-capped peak lay directly south of us.
For several hours we had little or no trouble. The country was
almost treeless, rolling and smooth, but ahead, between us and
the Nyeri trail, rose steep hills so densely wooded that we could
see no openings. Several attempts to find a reasonably good way
failed. Deep gullies of impenetrable thicket blocked our passage.
One way seemed worse than another, and as it began to rain hard
we felt rather discouraged. Then, to make matters worse, the
headman informed me that the men had scarcely any food left. Less
than two days' supplies remained, as the improvident creatures had
eaten double rations on some days, even though they had been
given meat, and had caught any quantity of fish. Expressing our
opinion of both porters and headman could do no good. The men
could not carry loads unless they had food, so any delay would
prove serious. There was nothing to do but cut our way right
through the belt of big forest, trusting to luck that we should get
out before dark. So we set ourselves to the task, steering by com-
pass, and cutting a path for the loaded porters. It was discouraging
work, and appeared unending. The rain made the air steamy
and oppressive, and altogether we all felt sorry for ourselves. Late
in the afternoon the forest lightened, and to our delight we came
to open country once more. There was no more forest ahead, so
the rest of the way should, we hoped, prove easy. We had seen




TELEPHOTO OF MOUNT KENIA, ABOUT l8,OOO FEET HIGH, ONE OF AFRICA'S HIGHEST MOUNTAINS.

THOUGH ALMOST DIRECTLY ON THE EQUATOR, ITS SUMMIT IS PERPETUALLY SNOW-COVERED.

THE THIN CLOUDS OR MIST CAUSE THE INDISTINCT BLURS OVER THE LOWER PARTS



DIFFICULTIES WITHOUT GUIDES OR TRAILS 165

scarcely any game since leaving the valley of the Guaso Nyiro,
though rhinoceros signs had been abundant. The men on going
for water saw two buffalo in the thick woods, but we were too tired
to go after them. Our camp, which was at an elevation of about
eight thousand feet, was bitterly cold, and every one was glad to be
on the move by daylight. We struck the Nyeri trail at ten o'clock,
much to the delight of all hands. On our way we saw some Jack-
son's hartebeest, but I was unable for the first time to get any pictures
of them. From our high elevation we had a splendid view of the
Guaso Nyiro Valley, and we realized that we had made a big mis-
take in selecting our route. It would have been far better had we
followed the river seven or eight miles to the westward, and then
come up the valley of the stream alongside of which we had camped.
By so doing we should have had water all the way, and traveling
would have been through fairly open country. The rest of our
trip to Nyeri was uneventful. We followed the trail on which we
had come, and found the game very much more abundant than it
had been a month ago, zebra being exceedingly numerous. We
also saw one small herd of eland, of which I secured a couple of
long-range photographs. The evening before reaching Nyeri I
was told that the men had no food left (though they should have had
rations for over two days), and that they were anxious to make an
early start in order that they might reach Nyeri in one day; so we
got off at four o'clock, and marched by the light of the moon. The
cold was so great that our hands were almost numb, and it took
several hours of sunshine to warm us through. We had over thirty
miles to travel before we should see Nyeri, and it speaks well for the
strength of the men that they were able to do such a march fasting.



1 66 CAMERA ADVENTURES

They arrived at the post pretty well tired out, and I do not think
any of us were sorry when we saw the flag flying over the fort, and
heard the bugles of the native police. We camped alongside of
Mr. Selous, the well-known African hunter, and spent the evening
with him listening to many interesting accounts of his experiences.
The next morning we had great difficulty in making a start, as the
men wanted to have a day off, and came with endless excuses. Sore
feet was the main reason for wanting a rest, and they limped as
though it were impossible to walk. Several of them were telling
the truth, but most were resorting to the commonest of lies, so I
took on a few native porters to help those who needed help, and
we finally got off about nine o'clock. The following day we reached
Fort Hall, where we took supplies of food for the men. There,
again, the men tried to get a holiday, but time was precious, as I
had booked my passage home by the steamer sailing the fourteenth
of June, and had yet much work to do. Any of the men who wanted
to leave me for good were given permission to do so on condition
they found efficient substitutes. This they could not do, and after
several delays we left for our old camp near the Tana. Beyond
losing our way through the men becoming separated nothing excit-
ing happened, and we arrived at Simba camp on the afternoon of
May 1 5th. We were somewhat surprised at the condition of the
country. According to the season everything should have been
green and spring-like, for the rains had come since we were there
before, but evidently the fall had been insignificant, and there was
no evidence of rain having fallen for several weeks. The grass was
burnt and dry. In many cases the trees were losing their leaves,
but, worst of all, the stream, or rather what should have been the



DIFFICULTIES WITHOUT GUIDES OR TRAILS 167
stream, was a dry bed of sand, with here and there a rapidly evapo-
rated water hole containing a dark green substance, which bore but
a slight resemblance to water. The water holes we had made were
absolutely dry, and it was only after making some deep excava-
tions that we were able to find any water at all; even then the sup-
ply was so limited that it kept the men busy all day long getting
enough for the needs of the camp. Yet, notwithstanding this dried-up
condition of the country, game was very abundant. On our way to
the camp we had seen a great many zebra, hartebeest and impala,
also several rhinoceros. One of these nuisances attempted to break
up the caravan, and had to be dissuaded by a couple of shots.
Another one made me feel rather uncomfortable for a few seconds.
I had left the men, and was marching alone with my camera bearer
on the chance of finding something interesting, when we heard a
loud snort and a rushing sound. Down came a rhinoceros trotting
almost straight toward us. The grass was too high to allow of
photographing, and I did not want to shoot (especially with the
little .275), so I crawled quickly to a tree. The rhinoceros had been
disturbed by the "safari," and had come our way only by chance.
When he heard me moving in the grass he stopped, and as he was
not more than twenty yards away it looked as though we were in
for some excitement, but as I kept quiet, and the wind was in the
right direction, the old fellow did not bother us, but continued his
retreat.

On the chance of obtaining some automatic flashlight photographs
we set three cameras near the water holes, as we were too tired to sit
up and watch them. We stayed by these pools till dusk, in order
to guard the apparatus against birds. Just about dark we started



168 CAMERA ADVENTURES

back to camp, thinking we had at last outwitted the birds which
came to drink at dusk, but before we had gone more than a few hun-
dred yards the report of one of the flashlights reached our ears.
There was nothing to do but return and reload it. While this was
being accomplished off went another one. We had no lantern with
us, so that working among the high grass and papyrus in the river
bottom was anything but agreeable, as we knew the place to be
infested with lions. Then, too, we had seen signs of buffalo, and
they would prove extremely unpleasant creatures to meet in the dark.
We were not sorry, therefore, to reach camp. The next morning
it was found that no animals had been near the water holes, so we
had nothing to show for our trouble. Later in the day we built a
thorn boma near a dead zebra, and spent the night in it, with no
luck at all. In the distance lions could be heard roaring, but not
so much as a jackal visited the kill. A few mosquitoes annoyed
us, and this was the first night that we had been troubled by them
to any extent. For four nights we stayed in the boma without any
results. The only creature to come near us was one hyena, and
even he did not give us an opportunity to photograph him. This
was extremely discouraging. It began to look as though our lion
work was to be a complete failure. We heard a few, but it was
nothing like it had been on the occasion of our previous attempts,
when at least the lions roared near us almost every night. The
days, though better than the nights, had not been productive of
anything particularly interesting. We had seen quite a lot of game,
mostly hartebeest, impala, zebra and waterbuck, also a herd of
eland, a few giraffe, and three or four rhinoceros, but I had extremely
bad luck in my efforts at photographing any of them, though I tried






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LONG DISTANCE TELEPHOTOGRAPHS OF ELAND ON THE NORTHERN SLOPES OF MT. KENIA



DIFFICULTIES WITHOUT GUIDES OR TRAILS 169

every way I knew. Stalking was generally useless, except in a
few places. The dry grass was so high that it interfered with the
success of the pictures. So I went in for working from a blind, but
even then luck did not favor me. For two mornings I stayed in the
blind in which I had had my experience with the two lions, but no
excitement came, and as I glanced down wind with considerable
frequency the events of that memorable morning were vividly recalled,
and I wished that I might see another of the big creatures creeping
stealthily through the grass. Occasionally a few hartebeest came
within range of my camera, and I succeeded in securing several fairly
satisfactory pictures. Curiously enough no impala ever came near
the blinds. Many times they could be seen walking quietly among
the trees, but only once was I able to approach a herd near enough
for photographic purposes, and then it took me over an hour before
they gave me an opportunity. For half an hour they watched me
as I stood in the baking sun, not daring to move. Never in my life
had I been so nearly sun-cooked as I was that day. When the
animals finally returned to their feeding it did not take me long to
seek the shade of a near-by tree, where I cooled off before continuing
the stalking. My companion, while off on a hunt, discovered a
flock of white pelicans perched on low trees on the mountain-side a
few miles from camp. We never had an opportunity of finding out
whether they were nesting there, but it was the only time we saw these
birds during our entire trip.



CHAPTER XI

SIMBA CAMP. SEEING TWELVE LIONS IN ONE NIGHT. MAKING
FLASHLIGHT PHOTOGRAPHS OF THEM AT NINE YARDS

THE previous chapter is mostly a record of failures, so far as my
photographic hunting was concerned, but Dame Fortune had not
altogether forsaken us, even though she had been absent for some
little time. She returned, as she usually does, when least expected.
We had determined to move camp to a point nearer the Thika River,
where we believed lions to be plentiful, for lion pictures were the
most important part of my programme. They must be obtained
at all costs, so the change was decided upon, and we amused our-
selves, on what we expected would be the last day in Simba camp,
by taking a walk to a part of the country where my companion had
seen a herd of eland two days before. Beyond seeing some giraffe,
which we were unable to approach, we found nothing except the
common hartebeest and impala. Not surprised, but somewhat
disgusted, we headed toward camp again. On our way our atten-


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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 13 of 18)