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 9 of 18)
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keen. A large one will chase a younger one, or a doe which objects
to his attentions, for miles with the greatest persistence. At such
times they seem to be utterly oblivious to danger, and I have had
them come within a few feet of where I stood in the open watching
them. A full-grown buck, when in an amorous condition, is a beauti-
ful sight, reminding one of the prong-horn antelope of North America,
for like that animal it displays what in America is commonly called
the "chrysanthemum," which is a spreading of the long hairs of the
rump. With the impala the effect is the more extraordinary, as
the vertical dark streak on either side forms a natural border or
fringe to the white rosettes. The tail is widely spread and held erect.
At such times the buck causes consternation among the herd, emitting
repeated loud roaring grunts, chasing first one and then another of
the does, and if by chance a younger buck questions his power he
had better be fleet of foot or strong of muscle, for a fight is then a
serious affair. The impala, or pala as it is often called, is one of

the most interesting as well as one of the most graceful animals in
Africa, if not in the world. In most parts of inland East Africa it
is very common, and is found in herds of from three or four to about
a hundred. In treeless plains, bush country and among fairly
large timber, they appear to be equally happy. Generally speaking
they seem to prefer places where the ground is free from low bush,
but where there is plenty of shade, and water within a few miles.
They are said to drink regularly three times a day. I do not, however,
believe this to be the case, at least not in all parts of their range;
for though I have seen many thousands of these animals, and have
watched them with the greatest care for hours at a time, I have never
seen them either drinking or coming from water between ten in the
morning and late in the afternoon. Of all the antelopes they appear
to be the most noisy, and their peculiar snort or grunt, is entirely
out of keeping with the size and gentle appearance of the delicately
built creature, which in point of lightness of limb reminds one of
the gerenuk. As a rule, the impala do not mix much with the other
animals, though occasionally I have seen them with oryx, hartebeest,
gerenuk and waterbuck. The sexes usually herd separately -
that is to say, the bucks, especially the younger ones, go together
in small or large herds, while the does, though sometimes without
any buck, usually have two or three accompanying them. Whether
or not the herds keep to themselves or mix with the others I am not
sure, but I have seen certain small herds, consisting of a few indi-
viduals, day after day, and their numbers did not vary. The males
alone carry horns, which are roughly lyrate in form, but vary greatly
with the age of the animal. There is no more beautiful sight in the
animal world than a herd of impala that has been suddenly frightened,


if they do not see the cause of their alarm. They immediately
commence jumping to heights that seem incredible. One after
another they bound from the ground in their endeavor to see the
enemy. Once they discover it they go away, traveling as much as
twenty-five or even thirty feet at a bound, and clearing what seems
to be fully five or six feet. This jumping continues usually until
they believe themselves out of danger. In their actual running they
hold their heads low and go at wonderful speed, faster even than
the hartebeest, I believe. As a rule they are easy of approach up to
a distance of about one hundred and fifty yards, but to get very much
nearer requires the most favorable conditions and careful stalking.
As they are small animals which cannot be photographed at long
range, I found them extremely difficult subjects for the camera.
Except in cool and cloudy weather they do not usually feed much
during the midday hours, but prefer to collect in regular places
where they rest. These places are so thoroughly trampled that
the ground is bare of all grass. When frightened by any beast of
prey the impala becomes very much excited, and rushes about snort-
ing continually. Once while I was walking along the banks of the
Tana I heard this snorting, and was at a loss to know what animal
could make so much noise. We were on the edge of some high reeds,
when out came three impala in a terrified condition, with nostrils
distended and panting as though they had had a long run. They
passed within a few feet of us, and before I could recover from my
surprise two monkeys climbed quickly up a tree squealing loudly,
and at the same moment a leopard sprang through the grass and
disappeared. Had we come a moment later we should probably
have found the leopard busy with its kill, but our coming had broken

up the hunt, and I had no chance of photographing the scene. When
we came first to the Tana there appeared to be every prospect of
doing something with the giraffe, but they as well as the zebra left
the neighborhood soon after our arrival, frightened, I believe,
by the shots that had been fired when we were getting meat for camp.
From what I saw of giraffe I fancy they do not enjoy the presence
of man, but will quickly leave the vicinity of a camp. I had fre-
quently been told how easy it would be to photograph these strange
beasts, but. from my experience I consider them among the most
difficult of all the larger animals that I encountered. Feeling that
we had fully accomplished the object of our visit to the Tana, having
secured a far better set of hippopotamus photographs than I had
dared to expect, we broke camp on April jth, and started on our
northward journey.



WE HAD ten days of continuous marching before we could hope
to reach Meru, and as the rains had set in there was every likelihood
of the journey being interrupted by the flooding of the streams which
we had to cross. For the first day we kept close to the Tana, travel-
ing generally in a northwesterly direction. The appearance of
the country had undergone a wonderful transformation since our
last march. Where all had been sun-dried, or burnt by fires, was
now as green as the fields of Ireland. Trees that had been leafless
were covered with tender foliage that was delightfully springlike.
Flowering plants were growing with true tropical rapidity, and
their swelling buds told of the wealth of blossom that would soon
carpet the ground. Everything was filled with promise, which unfor-
tunately was never thoroughly fulfilled. For the rains almost entirely
failed after the first ten days or so, and most of the tender vegetation
was burnt before it reached maturity. The weather was not suited
to long marches, for though there was no sun the low-lying clouds
rendered the air heavy and uncomfortably oppressive. Under the
conditions photographic work was practically impossible, as the
light was too weak for instantaneous exposures. While on the
march it really does not answer to attempt using the cameras unless
some very unusual opportunity occurs, as it means holding up the

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caravan, which results in making camp late in the afternoon if a
reasonable distance has to be covered. Then, too, marching is
quite tiring enough without any extra work, and hunting with the
camera is always more fatiguing than is commonly supposed. We
saw a good many giraffe, waterbuck, baboons and a fair amount
of other game during the early part of the day, but it grew scarce
as we neared our camping place, and we had great difficulty in secur-
ing any meat after we had made camp.

The following morning we started as soon as the rain ceased.
Our course took us to the westward, away from the Tana, across
somewhat hilly country, most of which had been recently burnt
over, so the grass was particularly fresh and green, and fairly glistened
in the early sunlight. Game became scarcer and scarcer as we
proceeded; in fact, after the second hour we saw none at all, though
the conditions appeared to be favorable for many kinds of animals.
Part of the way was through the most perfect park-like country we
had yet seen. For miles in the direction of Kenia there was fine
open land carpeted with short grass; trees resembling the apple
and olive were dotted about in groups, or widely separated, and
yet not an animal was there. Once in a while a bustard rose before
us, and with curious slow flapping of its wings would go a couple
of hundred yards away. There were also brightly colored rollers,
bee-eaters and doves, but the bird life was far from abundant. From
the open country we passed through stretches where the low-growing
sugar bush became monotonous to the eye. About eleven o'clock
we entered the cultivated region, where the natives grow their maize,
beans, sugar-cane and sometimes arrowroot. We found the planta-
tions well cultivated and tidy. Most of the work is done by the


women, and of course the agricultural implements are of the very
roughest. So far as I could see a long knife served the purpose of
plough, spade, hoe, and cutter for the maize and sugar-cane. Most
of the ground was kept free of weeds, and where there was danger
of the heavy rains washing furrows in the light soil, rows of corn-
stalks or other long stems were laid a few feet apart.

We arrived at Fort Hall shortly after noon, and were directed by
a native policeman to our camping ground. In one place a field is
set aside for the use of Europeans. Here also the cook, boys and
askaris are allowed, but the porters have another place, which is not
so near the white men's dwellings. The settlement consists of the
native soldiers and police barracks and parade ground, court-house
and prison, the bungalows of the European and Indian or Goanese
clerks, and a broad street of stores which are managed by Indian
and Goanese merchants. The trade is chiefly with the natives,
who receive beads, blankets, cotton cloth and wire in exchange for
their labor or farm produce.

Fort Hall is about the largest and most important of the outposts,
and is the capital, so to speak, of the Kenia district. Here the Provin-
cial Commissioner and his assistants hold sway, their work being
to deal out justice according to the law, which is based chiefly on
the Indian code, and to collect the hut tax from the natives. Every
dwelling hut is taxed three rupees (four shillings), and as a great
part of the province is thickly populated, the revenue thus derived
is very considerable. As ordinary labor is only about twopence
per day, it will be seen that the native does his share in supporting
the Government. It is argued that besides bringing in the much-
needed money, this form of taxation forces the people to work, and





so prevents to some extent, the natural idleness of the native, which
so greatly hampers the development of the country. It is quite certain
that if there is no direct need for money the native man will not work
any more than is absolutely necessary, and as the men do not have
any righting with which to occupy their time, as they had in the past,
their idleness would probably lead to crime. Fort Hall is only about
forty miles from Nairobi. There is an excellent road between the
two places on which, except during the heavy rains, it is a
pleasure to drive or cycle. There is mail service three times a
week, also telephone and telegraph wires. Unfortunately the other
forms of intercommunication are both irregular and bad. Camel
carts make trips when it pleases their owners. Ox carts used to be
more dependable, but since the strict quarantine against cattle
(owing to the East Coast fever) the service has practically been
abolished. The whole question of traffic in East Africa is a most
difficult one. So far, outside of the railway, nothing has been found
to properly take the place of the human beast of burden. He is
fairly satisfactory and cheap. He travels from sixteen to twenty-
five miles per day, carries a load of from forty to sixty pounds, and is
paid from four to thirteen shillings per month, the cost of his food
adding another two shillings or so. There is, however, frequently
trouble in procuring porters just when they are wanted. Traction
engines are being used with some success, but with them comes
the question of fuel. Coal is too expensive, so also, I am told, are oil
and petrol. Wood is about the only thing left, and that brings us
to one of the most important local problems that has to be faced in
East Africa. Wherever the native has been living for any length
of time, wood suitable for fuel has become so scarce that in order


to find the small amount necessary for cooking, the native woman,
who is the woodcutter of the country, has to go many miles. Around
places like Fort Hall and Nyeri there appears to be no wood within
at least four or five miles, and even then the supply is extremely
limited. Unless vigorous steps are taken very soon for the planting
and the better conserving of the forests that still exist, there will be
a fuel famine which will hurt both European and native. At present
the railroad uses wood as fuel, and though some measures are being
taken for maintaining a supply for the future, the question is disturb-
ing the minds of those who fully realize the great importance of the
problem. It is to be regretted that the Forestry Department, which
was working against the odds of lack of funds, has recently been
further handicapped by a reduction of its very meagre allowance.

At Fort Hall we found the Provincial Commissioner only too ready
to help us on our trip with information, and by giving us letters to the
various district commissioners whom we might encounter. We
had an amusing experience with a native who wanted to go as guide
for our trip to the Guaso Nyiro and Lake Hannington. He declared,
as all guides do, that he knew every inch of the way, and could show
us as much game of all kinds as we wished. He promised so much
that I became suspicious, especially when he wanted a large advance
on his pay. This of course I refused, but I offered him fifteen rupees
per month, with a bonus of from twenty-five to fifty rupees,
according to how satisfactory he proved. This did not suit him at
all, so we parted. I afterward discovered that he knew practically
nothing about the country through which we proposed to travel,
so that he would simply have trusted to what information he could
obtain from any people he might meet on the way.



The chop boxes and other supplies, which had been forwarded
from Nairobi, awaited us at one of the stores. These were supple-
mented by additional material purchased locally, so that we had
enough to keep us going for two months. The following morning
there was the usual difficulty in making a start from a post. It is
extraordinary how many reasons there are for delaying when one
camps in any sort of settlement, and my advice to those going on
"safari" is that they stick to the wild country unless they wish to
court trouble with their porters. It was after ten o'clock before we
finally started, and by that time the old cook was so drunk that it
seemed doubtful if we should see him at our next stopping place.
The rains during the night made the walking extremely difficult,
for the "road" to Nyeri is laid out so that the highest point of every
hill is traversed. In some parts the gradients are so steep that the
porters can scarcely carry their loads if the clay soil is wet, and even
without any extra weight we found the slippery walking most trying.
The country we passed through was hilly, and in most parts
closely cultivated. The small native huts were seen in all sorts of
unexpected places, frequently on the very steepest slopes, and nearly
always surrounded by bananas or maize, while a dense hedge usually
hid all but the roof from the eye of the passer-by. The yards about
these huts were, as a rule, clean and well kept, and nearly all had a
stockade into which women, children and cattle retire in the event
of a raid. Now that wars are a thing of the past, the stockades,
being no longer needed, will be allowed to disappear, except in places
where lions are numerous, in which case they will be simply used
as protection for the cattle. The road between Nyeri and Fort
Hall is used a great deal by the people, and we were quite surprised at


the number we met on our way. The Wa-Kikuyu of this part are
by no means a fine-looking race, and many of them are rather small.
The women do most of the heavy work, and it is no uncommon thing
to see a girl of perhaps twelve or thirteen carrying a seventy or eighty
pound load of firewood on her back, with a bag of corn or a huge
gourd of water on the top of it. These are hung by a strap from
the head, which is usually clean-shaven. In front, more often than
not, hangs a baby, which complacently sucks at its mother's breast
as she walks along. The father marches in front carrying no more
than his spear and knob stick, his body smeared with a sickening
mess of red earth and grease. The costume of the men is usually
a red blanket or a brown cotton cloth hung from one shoulder, while
the neck, wrists, arms, ankles and below the knees are decorated
with beautiful little beaded bands of wire. Frequently they dis-
pense with covering of any kind. The women wear a short skirt
of leather with or without bead work. It is fastened below the breasts,
and parts in front so as to leave the knees free. Heavy wire orna-
ments are usually wound around the legs, arms and neck, and some-
times immense waistbands of beads and cowries are worn. Ear
ornaments are used by both sexes, the women preferring clusters
of large beaded rings, or heavy wire. In both cases the lobe of the
ear is cut and stretched enormously by means of wooden or bone
discs. It is curious that the women have the head clean-shaven, or
nearly so, while the men do their hair, or wool, in most fanciful ways,
usually filling the fine braids with a mixture of their favorite red
earth and grease. The people are chiefly agriculturists, their live-
stock consisting almost entirely of goats, sheep and poultry. The
sheep are rather small, and are of the fat-tailed variety; the poultry

are also small, and lay eggs not much larger than those of the bantam.
The crops vary little in kind throughout the inland parts of East
Africa. Maize is about the most important of the staples. Next
to that comes a small bean which grows on a bushy plant four, five
or even six feet in height. Then there are several varieties of small
grain, some of which look much like millet. Sugar-cane and arrow-
root, yams, sweet potatoes and gourds and bananas are almost the
only other important crops.

We camped at Wambugus (named after the chief of the district),
and received presents of milk, in return for which a little cash was
gladly accepted. The next day we reached Nyeri, and there learned
that in the Meru district, owing to last season's crop failure, food for
the porters would be very difficult to obtain, so we had to arrange
for a supply to be sent after us. The men who were to carry this
received the large sum of one rupee each (one shilling and fourpence)
for the trip of one hundred miles and return, and a quarter of a
rupee for food. We loaded a few extra porters so as to be sure
of enough food in case the others were delayed by rain or other
causes. These porters at the last moment struck for blankets, as
we expected to go to Meru by the upper trail, which would take us
to an elevation of over ten thousand feet. At such a height the nights
would be extremely cold, so we bought some blankets at a rupee
each, and agreed to lend them to the men. Though it is almost on
the equator, and six thousand feet above sea level, we found the
climate of Nyeri delightfully cool and invigorating, and quite different
from that of Fort Hall, which is decidedly enervating and steamy.
Altogether we thoroughly enjoyed our Sunday's rest, and when we
dined with the District Commissioner we sat before an open fire,


while we ate as good vegetables and salad as we could have found at
home. Peas, cabbages and other European vegetables, and even
strawberries, grow remarkably well in the fine cool climate. Flowers,
too, such as roses, violets and nasturtiums, do very well if they are
well watered during the dry season.

None of our men knew the trail to Meru, so I took a copy of a
rough map which showed the approximate positions of the various
streams we must cross. It is very important to know how far apart
are these streams, as they offer the only camping grounds, so that
the distance of each day's march must be regulated entirely by them.
The regular Government map which we had with us was on so small
a scale and so full of errors that it was of no value to us except in
giving an approximate idea of the country.

On Monday, April I2th, we left Nyeri, and started on one of the
finest marches I have ever taken. Climate, scenery and the walking
combined to make it an ideal trip, the only drawback being the many
rivers which had to be forded or bridged. No words can adequately
describe the beauty of the country and the exhilarating quality of
the atmosphere. The mornings and evenings were positively intoxi-
cating, reminding one of fine autumn days in Canada, and yet we
were practically on the equator, sometimes within about four miles of it.
The first day's march took us away from all signs of cultivation,
and after a few miles had been passed we saw no habitations. The
last village was one belonging to the Masai, and a more discourag-
ingly filthy place could not well be imagined. Like all their villages,
this one was simply a circular collection of dung-covered low huts
surrounded by a thorn stockade, inside of which the cattle are col-
lected at night, so that the ground was a regular quagmire. Such

a place seemed quite out of keeping with the beauty of the country.
We made only eleven miles that day, as we had started late, and
the camping ground we found was so inviting we could not make
up our minds to pass it. To have continued would have meant a
march of another four hours before we should find good water, so
we made camp and settled down to enjoy ourselves and revel in the
beauty of the place. It was like fairyland, and we felt the desire
to pinch ourselves to see whether we were really awake, or whether
the whole thing was a dream. The camp was placed in a small glade
near the stream. The ground was carpeted with the richest of turf,
velvety and green from the recent rain. Such wonderful grass I
have never seen even in England. Surrounding our glade were
clumps of thick bushes and trees all sparkling with their new foliage.
Here and there flowering creepers added spots of blazing color, and
everywhere birds sang such songs as one seldom has the good for-
tune to hear. The whole scene reminded me of the old stories of
"Robin Hood and his Merry Men" and their camp in the forest
glades. Work was impossible under such conditions. We simply
gave ourselves up to enjoyment, our only attempt at work being to
take a lot of films which had not been properly washed, and hang
them in the clear river water while we lay on our backs and watched
them swaying in the current. As evening approached the air became
clearer and colder, so that sweaters were found comfortable; later,
as the sun dropped behind the golden clouds and vanished in the
purple distance, we had a large fire built in front of the tent, and we
sat before its cheering blaze, listening to the birds that were singing
more beautifully than ever. Then, as the silent twilight gave way
to night, the moon rose beyond Kenia, and we two mutually agreed


that we had never enjoyed an evening nearly so much as this one
spent on the banks of the little Ambori River. Was it possible that
but a few miles from here, not many months ago, a lion had seized
an unfortunate native soldier while he was sitting with his companions
around the camp fire ? Even the recollection of such a thing was
out of harmony with the peaceful, dreamy quietness of the place.

Before morning the rain came down in torrents, so we were unable

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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 9 of 18)