Mungo Park.

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The first of the two volumes which contain Mungo Park's "Travels in
the Interior of Africa" brought him through many perils to the first
sight of the Niger, and left him sick and solitary, stripped of
nearly all that he possessed, a half-starved white man on a half-
starved horse. He was helped on by a bag of cowries from a kindly
chief; but in this volume he has not advanced far before he is
stripped of all.

There is not in the range of English literature a more interesting
traveller's tale than was given to the world in this book which this
volume completes. It took the deeper hold upon its readers, because
it appeared at a time when English hearts began to be stirred by the
wrongs of slavery. But at any time there would be strong human
interest in the unconscious painting of the writer's character, as
he makes his way over far regions in which no white man had before
been seen, with firm resolve and with good temper as well as courage
and prudence, which bring him safe through many a hair-breadth
escape. There was a true kindness in Mungo Park that found
answering kindness and brought out the spirit of humanity in those
upon whose goodwill his life depends; in the negroes often, although
never in the Moors. There was no flinching in the man, who, when
robbed of his horse, stripped to the shirt in a forest and left upon
a lion's track, looked down with a botanist's eye on the beauty of a
tiny moss at his feet, drew comfort from it, and laboured on with
quiet faith in God. The same eye was as quick to recognise the
diverse characters of men. In Mungo Park shrewd humour and right
feeling went together. Whatever he had to say he said clearly and
simply; and it went straight home. He had the good fortune to be
born before "picturesque writing" was invented. When we return to
the Gambia with Mungo Park under the same escort with a coffle of
slaves on their way to be shipped for the use of Christians, from
the strength of his unlaboured narrative we get clear knowledge
unclouded by a rainbow mist of words. He is of one blood with the
sailors in whom Hakluyt delighted.


Being, in the manner that has been related, compelled to leave Sego,
I was conducted the same evening to a village about seven miles to
the eastward, with some of the inhabitants of which my guide was
acquainted, and by whom we were well received. {1} He was very
friendly and communicative, and spoke highly of the hospitality of
his countrymen, but withal told me that if Jenne was the place of my
destination, which he seemed to have hitherto doubted, I had
undertaken an enterprise of greater danger than probably I was
apprised of; for, although the town of Jenne was nominally a part of
the king of Bambarra's dominions, it was in fact, he said, a city of
the Moors - the leading part of the inhabitants being bushreens, and
even the governor himself, though appointed by Mansong, of the same
sect. Thus was I in danger of falling a second time into the hands
of men who would consider it not only justifiable, but meritorious,
to destroy me, and this reflection was aggravated by the
circumstance that the danger increased as I advanced in my journey,
for I learned that the places beyond Jenne were under the Moorish
influence in a still greater degree than Jenne itself, and
Timbuctoo, the great object of my search, altogether in possession
of that savage and merciless people, who allow no Christian to live
there. But I had now advanced too far to think of returning to the
westward on such vague and uncertain information, and determined to
proceed; and being accompanied by the guide, I departed from the
village on the morning of the 24th. About eight o'clock we passed a
large town called Kabba, situated in the midst of a beautiful and
highly cultivated country, bearing a greater resemblance to the
centre of England than to what I should have supposed had been the
middle of Africa. The people were everywhere employed in collecting
the fruit of shea trees, from which they prepare the vegetable
butter mentioned in former parts of this work. These trees grow in
great abundance all over this part of Bambarra. They are not
planted by the natives, but are found growing naturally in the
woods; and in clearing woodland for cultivation every tree is cut
down but the shea. The tree itself very much resembles the American
oak, and the fruit - from the kernel of which, being first dried in
the sun, the butter is prepared by boiling the kernel in water - has
somewhat the appearance of a Spanish olive. The kernel is enveloped
in a sweet pulp, under a thin green rind; and the butter produced
from it, besides the advantage of its keeping the whole year without
salt, is whiter, firmer, and, to my palate, of a richer flavour,
than the best butter I ever tasted made from cow's milk. The growth
and preparation of this commodity seem to be among the first objects
of African industry in this and the neighbouring states, and it
constitutes a main article of their inland commerce.

We passed, in the course of the day, a great many villages inhabited
chiefly by fishermen, and in the evening about five o'clock arrived
at Sansanding, a very large town, containing, as I was told, from
eight to ten thousand inhabitants. This place is much resorted to
by the Moors, who bring salt from Berroo, and beads and coral from
the Mediterranean, to exchange here for gold dust and cotton cloth.
This cloth they sell to great advantage in Berroo, and other Moorish
countries, where, on account of the want of rain, no cotton is

I desired my guide to conduct me to the house in which we were to
lodge by the most private way possible. We accordingly rode along
between the town and the river, passing by a creek or harbour, in
which I observed twenty large canoes, most of them fully loaded, and
covered with mats to prevent the rain from injuring the goods. As
we proceeded, three other canoes arrived, two with passengers and
one with goods. I was happy to find that all the negro inhabitants
took me for a Moor, under which character I should probably have
passed unmolested, had not a Moor, who was sitting by the river-
side, discovered the mistake, and, setting up a loud exclamation,
brought together a number of his countrymen.

When I arrived at the house of Counti Mamadi, the dooty of the town,
I was surrounded with hundreds of people speaking a variety of
different dialects, all equally unintelligible to me. At length, by
the assistance of my guide, who acted as interpreter, I understood
that one of the spectators pretended to have seen me at one place,
and another at some other place; and a Moorish woman absolutely
swore that she had kept my house three years at Gallam, on the river
Senegal. It was plain that they mistook me for some other person,
and I desired two of the most confident to point towards the place
where they had seen me. They pointed due south; hence I think it
probable that they came from Cape Coast, where they might have seen
many white men. Their language was different from any I had yet
heard. The Moors now assembled in great number, with their usual
arrogance, compelling the negroes to stand at a distance. They
immediately began to question me concerning my religion, but finding
that I was not master of Arabic, they sent for two men, whom they
call Ilhuidi (Jews), in hopes that they might be able to converse
with me. These Jews, in dress and appearance, very much resemble
the Arabs; but though they so far conform to the religion of
Mohammed as to recite in public prayers from the Koran, they are but
little respected by the negroes; and even the Moors themselves
allowed that, though I was a Christian, I was a better man than a
Jew. They however insisted that, like the Jews, I must conform so
far as to repeat the Mohammedan prayers; and when I attempted to
waive the subject by telling them that I could not speak Arabic, one
of them, a shereef from Tuat, in the Great Desert, started up and
swore by the Prophet that if I refused to go to the mosque, he would
be one that would assist in carrying me thither; and there is no
doubt that this threat would have been immediately executed had not
my landlord interposed on my behalf. He told them that I was the
king's stranger, and he could not see me ill-treated whilst I was
under his protection. He therefore advised them to let me alone for
the night, assuring them that in the morning I should be sent about
my business. This somewhat appeased their clamour, but they
compelled me to ascend a high seat by the door of the mosque, in
order that everybody might see me, for the people had assembled in
such numbers as to be quite ungovernable, climbing upon the houses,
and squeezing each other, like the spectators at an execution. Upon
this seat I remained until sunset, when I was conducted into a neat
little hut, with a small court before it, the door of which Counti
Mamadi shut, to prevent any person from disturbing me. But this
precaution could not exclude the Moors. They climbed over the top
of the mud wall, and came in crowds into the court, "in order," they
former of these ceremonies I did not think proper to comply with,
but I told them I had no objection to eat eggs, provided they would
bring me eggs to eat. My landlord immediately brought me seven
hen's eggs, and was much surprised to find that I could not eat them
raw; for it seems to be a prevalent opinion among the inhabitants of
the interior that Europeans subsist almost entirely on this diet.
When I had succeeded in persuading my landlord that this opinion was
without foundation, and that I would gladly partake of any victuals
which he might think proper to send me, he ordered a sheep to be
killed, and part of it to be dressed for my supper. About midnight,
when the Moors had left me, he paid me a visit, and with much
earnestness desired me to write him a saphie. "If a Moor's saphie
is good," said this hospitable old man, "a white man's must needs be
better." I readily furnished him with one, possessed of all the
virtues I could concentrate, for it contained the Lord's Prayer.
The pen with which it was written was made of a reed; a little
charcoal and gum-water made very tolerable ink, and a thin board
answered the purpose of paper.

July 25. - Early in the morning, before the Moors were assembled, I
departed from Sansanding, and slept the ensuing night at a small
town called Sibili, from whence on the day following I reached
Nyara, a large town at some distance from the river, where I halted
the 27th, to have my clothes washed, and recruit my horse. The
dooty there has a very commodious house, flat-roofed, and two
storeys high. He showed me some gunpowder of his own manufacturing;
and pointed out, as a great curiosity, a little brown monkey that
was tied to a stake by the door, telling me that it came from a far
distant country called Kong.

July 28. - I departed from Nyara, and reached Nyamee about noon.
This town is inhabited chiefly by Foulahs from the kingdom of
Masina. The dooty, I know not why, would not receive me, but
civilly sent his son on horseback to conduct me to Modiboo, which he
assured me was at no great distance.

We rode nearly in a direct line through the woods, but in general
went forwards with great circumspection. I observed that my guide
frequently stopped and looked under the bushes. On inquiring the
reason of this caution he told me that lions were very numerous in
that part of the country, and frequently attacked people travelling
through the woods. While he was speaking, my horse started, and
looking round, I observed a large animal of the camelopard kind
standing at a little distance. The neck and fore-legs were very
long; the head was furnished with two short black horns, turning
backwards; the tail, which reached down to the ham joint, had a tuft
of hair at the end. The animal was of a mouse colour, and it
trotted away from us in a very sluggish manner - moving its head from
side to side, to see if we were pursuing it. Shortly after this, as
we were crossing a large open plain, where there were a few
scattered bushes, my guide, who was a little way before me, wheeled
his horse round in a moment, calling out something in the Foulah
language which I did not understand. I inquired in Mandingo what he
meant; "Wara billi billi!" ("A very large lion!") said he, and made
signs for me to ride away. But my horse was too much fatigued; so
we rode slowly past the bush from which the animal had given us the
alarm. Not seeing anything myself, however, I thought my guide had
been mistaken, when the Foulah suddenly put his hand to his mouth,
exclaiming, "Soubah an allahi!" ("God preserve us!") and, to my
great surprise, I then perceived a large red lion, at a short
distance from the bush, with his head couched between his forepaws.
I expected he would instantly spring upon me, and instinctively
pulled my feet from my stirrups to throw myself on the ground, that
my horse might become the victim rather than myself. But it is
probable the lion was not hungry; for he quietly suffered us to
pass, though we were fairly within his reach. My eyes were so
riveted upon this sovereign of the beasts that I found it impossible
to remove them until we were at a considerable distance. We now
took a circuitous route through some swampy ground, to avoid any
more of these disagreeable encounters. At sunset we arrived at
Modiboo - a delightful village on the banks of the Niger, commanding
a view of the river for many miles both to the east and west. The
small green islands (the peaceful retreat of some industrious
Foulahs, whose cattle are here secure from the depredations of wild
beasts) and the majestic breadth of the river, which is here much
larger than at Sego, render the situation one of the most enchanting
in the world. Here are caught great plenty of fish, by means of
long cotton nets, which the natives make themselves, and use nearly
in the same manner as nets are used in Europe. I observed the head
of a crocodile lying upon one of the houses, which they told me had
been killed by the shepherds in a swamp near the town. These
animals are not uncommon in the Niger, but I believe they are not
oftentimes found dangerous. They are of little account to the
traveller when compared with the amazing swarms of mosquitoes, which
rise from the swamps and creeks in such numbers as to harass even
the most torpid of the natives; and as my clothes were now almost
worn to rags, I was but ill prepared to resist their attacks. I
usually passed the night without shutting my eyes, walking backwards
and forwards, fanning myself with my hat; their stings raised
numerous blisters on my legs and arms, which, together with the want
of rest, made me very feverish and uneasy.

July 29. - Early in the morning, my landlord, observing that I was
sickly, hurried me away, sending a servant with me as a guide to
Kea. But though I was little able to walk, my horse was still less
able to carry me; and about six miles to the east of Modiboo, in
crossing some rough clayey ground, he fell, and the united strength
of the guide and myself could not place him again upon his legs. I
sat down for some time beside this worn-out associate of my
adventures, but finding him still unable to rise, I took off the
saddle and bridle, and placed a quantity of grass before him. I
surveyed the poor animal, as he lay panting on the ground, with
sympathetic emotion, for I could not suppress the sad apprehension
that I should myself, in a short time, lie down and perish in the
same manner, of fatigue and hunger. With this foreboding I left my
poor horse, and with great reluctance followed my guide on foot
along the bank of the river until about noon, when we reached Kea,
which I found to be nothing more than a small fishing village. The
dooty, a surly old man, who was sitting by the gate, received me
very coolly; and when I informed him of my situation, and begged his
protection, told me with great indifference that he paid very little
attention to fine speeches, and that I should not enter his house.
My guide remonstrated in my favour, but to no purpose, for the dooty
remained inflexible in his determination. I knew not where to rest
my wearied limbs, but was happily relieved by a fishing canoe
belonging to Silla, which was at that moment coming down the river.
The dooty waved to the fisherman to come near, and desired him to
take charge of me as far as Moorzan. The fisherman, after some
hesitation, consented to carry me, and I embarked in the canoe in
company with the fisherman, his wife, and a boy. The negro who had
conducted me from Modiboo now left me. I requested him to look to
my horse on his return, and take care of him if he was still alive,
which he promised to do.

Departing from Kea, we proceeded about a mile down the river, when
the fisherman paddled the canoe to the bank and desired me to jump
out. Having tied the canoe to a stake, he stripped off his clothes,
and dived for such a length of time that I thought he had actually
drowned himself, and was surprised to see his wife behave with so
much indifference upon the occasion; but my fears were over when he
raised up his head astern of the canoe and called for a rope. With
this rope he dived a second time, and then got into the canoe and
ordered the boy to assist him in pulling. At length they brought up
a large basket, about ten feet in diameter, containing two fine
fish, which the fisherman - after returning the basket into the
water - immediately carried ashore and hid in the grass. We then
went a little farther down and took up another basket, in which was
one fish. The fisherman now left us to carry his prizes to some
neighbouring market, and the woman and boy proceeded with me in the
canoe down the river.

About four o'clock we arrived at Moorzan, a fishing town on the
northern bank, from whence I was conveyed across the river to Silla,
a large town, where I remained until it was quite dark, under a
tree, surrounded by hundreds of people.

With a great deal of entreaty the dooty allowed me to come into his
baloon to avoid the rain, but the place was very damp, and I had a
smart paroxysm of fever during the night. Worn down by sickness,
exhausted with hunger and fatigue, half-naked, and without any
article of value by which I might procure provisions, clothes, or
lodging, I began to reflect seriously on my situation. I was now
convinced, by painful experience, that the obstacles to my farther
progress were insurmountable. The tropical rains were already set
in with all their violence - the rice grounds and swamps were
everywhere overflowed - and in a few days more, travelling of every
kind, unless by water, would be completely obstructed. The kowries
which remained of the king of Bambarra's present were not sufficient
to enable me to hire a canoe for any great distance, and I had but
little hopes of subsisting by charity in a country where the Moors
have such influence. But, above all, I perceived that I was
advancing more and more within the power of those merciless
fanatics, and, from my reception both at Sego and Sansanding, I was
apprehensive that, in attempting to reach even Jenne (unless under
the protection of some man of consequence amongst them, which I had
no means of obtaining), I should sacrifice my life to no purpose,
for my discoveries would perish with me. The prospect either way
was gloomy. In returning to the Gambia, a journey on foot of many
hundred miles presented itself to my contemplation, through regions
and countries unknown. Nevertheless, this seemed to be the only
alternative, for I saw inevitable destruction in attempting to
proceed to the eastward. With this conviction on my mind I hope my
readers will acknowledge that I did right in going no farther.

Having thus brought my mind, after much doubt and perplexity, to a
determination to return westward, I thought it incumbent on me,
before I left Silla, to collect from the Moorish and negro traders
all the information I could concerning the farther course of the
Niger eastward, and the situation and extent of the kingdoms in its
vicinage; and the following few notices I received from such various
quarters as induce me to think they are authentic:-

Two short days' journey to the eastward of Silla is the town of
Jenne, which is situated on a small island in the river, and is said
to contain a greater number of inhabitants than Sego itself, or any
other town in Bambarra. At the distance of two days more, the river
spreads into a considerable lake, called Dibbie (or the Dark Lake),
concerning the extent of which all the information I could obtain
was that in crossing it from west to east the canoes lose sight of
land one whole day. From this lake the water issues in many
different streams, which terminate in two large branches, one
whereof flows towards the north-east, and the other to the east; but
these branches join at Kabra, which is one day's journey to the
southward of Timbuctoo, and is the port or shipping-place of that
city. The tract of land which the two streams encircle is called
Jinbala, and is inhabited by negroes; and the whole distance by land
from Jenne to Timbuctoo is twelve days' journey.

From Kabra, at the distance of eleven days' journey down the stream,
the river passes to the southward of Houssa, which is two days'
journey distant from the river. Of the farther progress of this
great river, and its final exit, all the natives with whom I
conversed seemed to be entirely ignorant. Their commercial pursuits
seldom induce them to travel farther than the cities of Timbuctoo
and Houssa, and as the sole object of those journeys is the
acquirement of wealth, they pay little attention to the course of
rivers or the geography of countries. It is, however, highly
probable that the Niger affords a safe and easy communication
between very remote nations. All my informants agreed that many of
the negro merchants who arrive at Timbuctoo and Houssa from the
eastward speak a different language from that of Bambarra, or any
other kingdom with which they are acquainted But even these
merchants, it would seem, are ignorant of the termination of the
river, for such of them as can speak Arabic describe the amazing
length of its course in very general terms, saying only that they
believe it runs TO THE WORLD'S END.

The names of many kingdoms to the eastward of Houssa are familiar to
the inhabitants of Bambarra. I was shown quivers and arrows of very
curious workmanship, which I was informed came from the kingdom of

On the northern bank of the Niger, at a short distance from Silla,
is the kingdom of Masina, which is inhabited by Foulahs. They
employ themselves there, as in other places, chiefly in pasturage,
and pay an annual tribute to the king of Bambarra for the lands
which they occupy.

To the north-east of Masina is situated the kingdom of Timbuctoo,
the great object of European research - the capital of this kingdom
being one of the principal marts for that extensive commerce which
the Moors carry on with the negroes. The hopes of acquiring wealth
in this pursuit, and zeal for propagating their religion, have
filled this extensive city with Moors and Mohammedan converts. The
king himself and all the chief officers of state are Moors; and they
are said to be more severe and intolerant in their principles than
any other of the Moorish tribes in this part of Africa. I was
informed by a venerable old negro, that when he first visited
Timbuctoo, he took up his lodging at a sort of public inn, the
landlord of which, when he conducted him into his hut, spread a mat
on the floor, and laid a rope upon it, saying, "If you are a
Mussulman, you are my friend - sit down; but if you are a kafir, you
are my slave, and with this rope I will lead you to market." The
present king of Timbuctoo is named Abu Abrahima. He is reported to
possess immense riches. His wives and concubines are said to be
clothed in silk, and the chief officers of state live in
considerable splendour. The whole expense of his government is
defrayed, as I was told, by a tax upon merchandise, which is
collected at the gates of the city.

The city of Houssa (the capital of a large kingdom of the same name,
situated to the eastward of Timbuctoo), is another great mart for

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