Percy Horace Gordon Powell- Cotton.

A sporting trip through Abyssinia; a narrative of a nine months' journey from the plains of the Hawash to the snows of Simien online

. (page 21 of 34)
Online LibraryPercy Horace Gordon Powell- CottonA sporting trip through Abyssinia; a narrative of a nine months' journey from the plains of the Hawash to the snows of Simien → online text (page 21 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

persuaded to hand over the things, which they
already looked on as their lawful prize. Though every-
thing had been unpacked, I found that only a tin of
vaseline was missing : apparently the idea of an entirely
new pomatum for the hair had proved too tempting for
the natives to resist.

Next morning, the way lay up-hill and then along an
undulating breezy plateau, the Tana shining like a sheet
of glass far to the south of us. Gradually the tongue of
high land we were on grew narrower, and we had a


grand view of a maze of broken cliffs and hills lying on
either side, the finest bluffs being to the north. The
country, as one looked away out to the Soudan, was
much more hilly and forest -clad than it had been
further south, where we had first descended to it, while

in the far distance, although we could see stretches of
more level ground, none of the vivid green of the bamboo
caught the eye. The track led to the edge of the cliff
and descended by a rift in its side, more like the bed of
a torrent than a path ; this it took the mules half an hour
to scramble down, doing indeed no injury to the baggage,
but a great deal to their backs, as I afterwards discovered
to my annoyance. Next, a long easy slope took us past
two curious domes of rock, and afterwards by a larger
mass called Aurer Masarres, which forms a landmark
for many miles round. On the way I heard a rustle in
the grass and fired at the indistinct form of an animal,
which fell, and proved to be a duiker ; as I had no meat


for dinner, it was very welcome. As we descended
lower and lower, the landsca])e presented the appear-
ance of a serii's of forest-chul hills, interspersed with
well-watereil dales. In a little? clearing on the slope
of one of these hills, we found, close to a clear rivulet,
( iallainidi-r, the last .\ village antl our present

Rocks near Gallamider.


Hunting for kudu — Jewel-strewn ground — Heat and mosquitoes — A troop
of lions — A wounded lioness — A brace of waterbuck — Nearing
Metemmeh — A herd of elephants — A magnificent sight — Native
sportsmen — Huffalo-hunting.

As the caravan halted, just below Gallamider, I think
every inhabitant of the village came down to welcome
us and to stare at the "red man" (as they call a
European), for it must have been many a long year since
one was seen there. The headman and local shikari, to
whom Dedjatch Cubudda had given me a letter, frater-
nised with my men round my tent-door and discussed
shikar, while I made a leather pouch for a magazine-
pistol, which I was determined to have en Evidence and
to use, if I met with any interference from outlaws or
others. The people told us that there were plenty of
buffalo, tora, roan, and kudu in the district, as well as
herds of elephants, but that none of the latter carried
large tusks. They also said that lions and leopards were
to be met with occasionally, and that I should find
numerous reedbuck and oribi for the pot. While we
were talking, one of Dedjatch Cubudda's followers, armed
with a Berdan rifle, joined us, and informed us that he had
been in the recent disastrous elephant-hunt and had drawn

ciiA... xx.x KULW HUNTING

first blood of an animal which had been killed, but that
a greater man than he had claimed it, and so had robbed
him of the honour and glory that were his due, ami of the
privilege of wearing an ear-ring, which only an elephant-
slayer is allowed and which it is the dean^st wish of every
Abyssinian to possess. He begged tcj be allowed to
accompany me, promising only to shoot when I permitted
him. At first I suspected him of being a spy, but 1
ended by giving him leave to come. Soon after we had
started next morning, my men pointed out a greater
kudu skull by the wayside, calling it agazin, which
provt'd that this was the name for the larger species of
the kudu, and not for the lesser, as I had been led to
think, and also that the animal really existed in the district.
We passed several water-holes with a good many oribi
standing near them, and twice disturbed bushbuck. We
intended to camp that night near a large pool called
Chuowkar, but pushed on beyond, and finally halted
at the edge of a hill. Here I sat down with the glasses
and soon espied across the valley a tora, one of a herd of
fourteen ; but, to my disgust, they shortly afterwards
bolted. A heavy shower of rain drove us to seek the
shelter of some large boulders with which the hill-side
was strewn, but, when the weather cleared the shikari
made out a kudu cow feeding on a distant hill-top. We
started off for the place, but as the herd proved only
cows, with but one young bull, we marched back to
camp, by the pool, where I heard that during the rain-
storm my men had allowed five of the mules to stray.
These were not recovered for two days, having made a
bee-line back to the higher ground.


For the next four days I hunted through a country of
low, bush-covered hills with very little green grass, seeing
little but tora hartebeest and kudu cows. I shot one of
the latter for meat, but not once did I catch sight of a
bull. We were now working our way along the Gur-
marzer, a tributary of the Ghindoa, which flows to
Metemmeh, and in a deep hole in its rocky bed we saw a
huge crocodile, the first I had met since we crossed the
Blue Nile at Jarso. One morning, just at dawn, I saw
an almost white hya;na, and, judging by the tracks
which I found next day round the remains of the dead
kudu, there seemed to be numbers of these animals in
the district. Much of the ground over which we were
now travelling was covered with brown-coloured stones
like large cannon-balls, which when broken showed a
hollow encrusted with white crystals. All around, too,
lay great masses of milk-white quartz, red amber, and
pinkish - coloured crystals, also a dark stone set as it
were with turquoise, all of which had been washed by the
rain, and, lying on the short green grass with the sun
shining on them, looked like a collection of huge jewels.
The heat was great, not only in the day but also at night,
when swarms of mosquitoes kept up a continuous buzz ;
I found it so stifling in a tent, even with the walls and
ends open and nothing over me but a mosquito-net, that
1 tried sleeping in the open, but, after getting wet
through twice in one night, gave it up as being too risky.
On two different days I stalked a solitary roan bull, but
could not get near him ; he seemed to bear a charmed
life, for after baffling us for hours on the last occasion,
he allowed the whole caravan to pass him at short range.


while 1k> stood gazing at it. Durini^- tliL-sc four days we
made three short marches, the hist one over a low pass
into the waterslied of the Shunfar. /:"// roittc, wv passed
Maharbra Sehissee, a hill and church, to which the
Abyssinians make pilorimage once a year to attend a

On 23rd May we continued our way down the valley,
crossing recent tracks of elephant, bufialo, and roan, to
the banks of the Shunfar, where the water lay in large
pools on a shingly bed. Just as we reached the water's
edge, I saw a tawny -coloured animal spring up the
opposite bank into long dead grass. " Lion ! Libah !
Ambassa ! " came from our lips in chorus, as I made a
rush for a ritle, I was only just in time to see a
lioness dash away from behind some trees. Leaving
Omer with the mule, 1 crossed the river-bed with Ali,
Hyde, the local shikari, and the would-be elephant-slayer,
and found the tracks of a troop of five lions in the sand
on the opposite side. Telling the two Abyssinians to
keep well behind us, I took the .400, while Ali shouldered
the 12 I). Parado.x and Hyde the .256. The beasts,
which had scattered when we disturbed them, soon
collected again, and walked up a sandy little nulla, along
which we followed for a quarter of an hour, till we
reached a patch of long grass. Suddenly Ali touched
my arm and pointed to the foot of a tree, where, through
my glasses I made out a lion crouching with its head
framed by the water-washed roots of the tree. The
animal looked to me to be only a cub, but as .Ali muttered
"big one," 1 took aim at where I thought its head should
be and fired, just as I caught sight of a lioness walking


towards us to the left. Swinging round at once, I fired
the second barrel at her, as she was retreating into the
grass. Then my men more or less lost their heads :
Ali, instead of handing me the loaded paradox, kept
pointing at something, forgetting that to load a rifle in a
hurry, without taking one's eyes off a spot, is almost
impossible, Hyde, to make matters worse, was pulling
at my arm to try and make me see what they saw, while
both the Abyssinians began to talk. All this, of course,
only took a few seconds of time, but I expected a charge
every moment, and, when at last I had shaken my arm
free from Hyde and loaded the rifle, I was only in time
to see a young lion bound away into the grass. Running
forward, I saw the lioness limping off with a broken
shoulder. Another shot, however, brought her down,
and, pushing on cautiously (for I did not know what had
become of the first beast fired at), I reached the other
side of the grass without seeing anything. So I turned
back, gave the lioness a finishing shot, and then went to
the spot at which I had first fired ; here I found my
bullet had embedded itself in a tough root of the tree,
showing that I had missed my quarry by a couple of
inches ! Meanwhile Ali had been adding insult to injury
by asking why I had not fired at the lion, when he stood
looking at us, and seemed rather surprised when I rated
him and Hyde for not carrying out my orders, which
were to exchange my rifle for a loaded one as soon as I
had fired, so that I could keep my eyes always on the
game. Leaving the two Abyssinians with the carcase,
we followed on the tracks, but these soon separated and
we lost them on stony ground. We next made a cast


aiul pickttl up ihc- spoor of one of the remaining lionesses,
but, allhough wcj huiircl lu:r call once, we never caught sight
of her. We crossed two stony ridges and then lost the
track altogether. Accordingly I sent IIncIc liack for the
mule, and we unsuccessfully tried a cast forward, hut on
the way found a waterbuck, which I wounded. It led
us ui)-hill, and 1 had just brought it down with another
shot, when a second, followed by two cows, came in sight
anil fell to my first shot. They had both fme heads,
though they hardly made up for the loss of a second lion,
which I ought to have bagged.

We found camp at Shunfar Ambu under some fine
trees, lower down the river than where we had seen the
lions. I s[)ent the afternoon in superintending the pre-
parations of the skins and making inquiries about the
country, but my guide ilatly refused to take me to
Metemmeh, though he said it was only a few hours off.
Ne.xt morning we followed the river to the furthest
point Dedjatch Cubudda had reached and from which
he was carried Ixick wounded, and saw several buffalo
skulls lying among a number of grass huts put up by
his followers. As we had seen no tracks, and there was
no green grass here, we circled round to the east, and
within a short distance of camp found fresh lion-pugs,
which must have been made since we had passed in
the morning. These led us away to the hills, where
we lost them ; on our way down again I had a long
shot at a waterbuck and missed, but was more fortunate
with a tora directly afterwards. That night we had a
tremendous rain-storm, the water running through my
tent in a stream, and soaking everything on the tloor.


Sleep was rendered more difficult by the fact that the
lions, equally discomposed by the weather, kept up an
almost continuous roaring. Ne.xt morning, the river

Skull of Tora Hartebeest.

was a torrent of muddy water instead of a chain of clear
pools. I spent the day hunting for buffalo but could
find no fresh tracks, and as there was no new grass
lower down the valley, it seemed useless to go further
in that direction. The ground was not suitable for
lion-tracking, and as these animals did not seem to have
gone near any of the meat I had shot, I decided to
return to the Gurmarzer valley.


As wx! retraced our sLcps up the siue valley on the
following morning, we heard an elephant trumpet away
to our left. W'e at once striick otY from the: path and
made our way up a steep ravine, where we saw three
elephants cross the ridge at the top : as no others
followed them, we hurried along and discovered the
herd scattered about a hill-side feeding. W'e moved
about from one group to another, examining the animals,
Init I could see no large tusks ; then, as the herd slowly
ascended the hill, we ran round and headed them. W'e
had just taken up our position on a little r6cky hillock,
when the leading elephants came into sight under some
big trees, where they stood fanning themselves ; they
had been bathing in some rocky pools on the hill-top,
and we could hear the others still blowing the water
over their backs. The trees were less than a hundred
yards from where we sat, the ground between being
open e.xcept for a few thin-stemmed trees. Gradually
the whole herd assembled, their great ears flapping and
their trunks waving. All seemed unaware of our
proximity, for some pulled down branches to serve as
tly - whisks, and mothers fondled their calves. Un-
fortunately, although there were several large -bodied
males in the herd, none had good ivory. One old cow
stared for some time in our direction, but we kept still,
and, the wind being favourable, she did not detect us,
but turned her attention again to keeping the flies off
After a little, the whole herd began slowly moving in
our direction. How I longed for my camera! for it was
just one of those chances that only come in a lifetime—
a herd of forty-seven elephants on open ground, the sun


shining full on them, not 60 yards off' and gradually
coming closer ! I had taken the 8-bore on my knee,
and Ali, who was sitting on the top of a rock, was slowly
lowering himself, when, just as they drew abreast of
us, 30 paces distant, they winded the tainted air, and
in a moment the whole herd stopped dead, ears were
thrust forward to catch the faintest sound, while the
air was filled with waving trunks. It was a magnificent
sight for the few seconds it lasted ; then with one accord
they turned and moved off at a quick pace, trumpeting
loudly. The Abyssinians, whom Ali had been prevent-
ing from firing— had they done so, the herd would
probably have charged and pounded us to a jelly in a
few moments — now sprang to their feet, and, as I told them
they might shoot, began firing wildly into the " brown."
Then, with a yell, they started running after the herd,
which began to scatter, one small group, including two
cows and their calves, which were unable to keep up
with the rest, falling behind the main body. The
Abyssinians fired at and wounded one of these un-
fortunate calves, which they eventually slew with four
bullets, the cow charging several times, but in a halt-
hearted way. They then followed, to try and kill the
other calf, but its mother was made of sterner stuff,
and leaving it with the bereaved cow, charged them in
such a vicious manner that they had to bolt for dear
life. I now left the hillock, from which I had such a
fine view of all that had passed, and went over to the
carcase of the calf, round which the valiant elephant-slayer
was executing a pas dc sen/, singing what I presume
was a song of triumph, and evidently thinking himself


a very fiiu- kilow indeed. After they had cut oft" the;
ears and the tail, with the greater part of the si

Online LibraryPercy Horace Gordon Powell- CottonA sporting trip through Abyssinia; a narrative of a nine months' journey from the plains of the Hawash to the snows of Simien → online text (page 21 of 34)