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 24 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 24 of 34)
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It was market-dav, and on our march we met crowds


of people coming to attend it, besides strings of donkeys
carrying bars of salt. Each load consisted of sixty to
seventy Amole, packed in three layers, with cotton-
sheeting between. For hours we marched down-stream,
till we reached the point where the path known as
the Amhalaney road leaves the Attabar valley, when,
crossing the river, we pitched camp. The cliffs close to
the river were yellowish red sandstone, while the main
hills of the valley consisted of grey basaltic rock. Next
morning, just after some of the mules had started, the
men sent word back to me that a big troop of the grey-
haired monkeys was close by. I at once pushed on
ahead, and found some two hundred of them feeding on
the hill-side. Singling out a large male, I pressed the
trigger ; but the cartridge missed fire, and I found the
bolt had stuck. Naturally, by the time it was clear,
the troop had departed. When I e.xamined the gun, the
striker proved to be a mass of rust, the result of the
continual wet combined with the laziness of my Somalis.
After scraping it clean, we followed the troop, but with
no success.

We passed one large stretch of cultivated ground,
and then crossed two valleys into that of the Mader,
which we followed down to the Takazze, a red mud-
coloured stream some 60 yards wide, the water of
which came half-way up the saddle-flaps. The valley
was not so confined as I had been led to expect, and
there seemed no immediate prospect of the river be-
coming impassable ; nor were there any crocodiles to be
seen, although we had been assured they swarmed here-
abouts. The tents were pitched under the shade of


some trees, at the mouth of a wide, sandy valley, which
seemed very hot after Simien ; and it appeared to have
received little rain so far, since hardly any new grass
was to be found for the beasts.

Next day we decided to rest the mules, after their
long march. I went up-stream a little, but only saw a
few hippo-tracks on shore, and three crocodiles in the
river, which latter had fallen quite 3 feet since the
previous day. In the afternoon I took some photos,
and spent the time looking over the skins and camp-kit.

We effected an early start next morning, and were
soon over a ridge and descending a long, waterless
valley, across the foot of which flows the Ghiva, a
stream 20 yards across and knee-deep ; this is said
never to run dry. Here the guide wanted us to camp,
but as we had only done two and a half hours' march,
I refused, and, after much talk, he went off, saying, that
as we did not take his advice, we might shift for
ourselves. This we did, and, climbing the ridge on
the opposite side of the river by a very bad path,
reached a highly cultivated plateau, where, having now
marched a total of four and a half hours, we halted
under a fine Wanza tree. The rain began at 4.30,
which seems the regulation time at this season, east of
Simien. The villagers brought us some bread and
milk, but although I gave them drinks and a present,
and showed them my letters, and although Adarar
wasted many honeyed words on them, they absolutely
refused to provide a guide for the morrow. So our
next march was rather a haphazard one, various country-
men givino- us different directions, evidentlv with a view


to keep us as far from their particular villages as possible.
We were now skirting the base of Ambara, one of
the solitary, flat-topped mountains formerly used as
prisons for political offenders, and such' as the ruler
for the time being thought it best — for his and their
country's good — to keep in safe custody. We marched
for four and a half hours, passing many villages
separated by broad belts of thick thorn-jungle, but not a
duiker or any other sort of beast did we see ; in fact,
since we left Simien, the two troops of monkeys and
the three crocodiles were the only "game" we met.

Next morning, a little over three hours brought us
to the picturesque red sandstone hills on which Abbi
Addi, the capital of Tembien, is situated. Then I knew
that we had come far out of our way to the south
of Adua, our destination. Just behind camp was an
irregular line of red cliffs, their face broken by a number
of caves ; and near them stood the ruins of a church,
which the Mohammedan inhabitants of the villages round
had asked Menelik's leave to dismantle, as its presence
was obno.\ious to them. On this day, a thunderstorm
burst over us before the usual time, and the tent-pegs
tlew from the sandy soil in every direction, all of us
getting wet before the flapping canvas could be secured.
As soon as the weather cleared, I received the visit of
Kanyazmatch Gubberu, the acting ruler of Tembien
during the absence of his superior, who had gone to
meet the new governor of Tigre. He was a native of
Tigre, a man of fine olive complexion and clear-cut,
intelligent features, but with a mouth suggestive of
temper. At the outset he was evidently distrustful of


me aiul my intiMitions ; llic Ivmixjror's IcUcrs, however,
seemed to reussure him ;i Utile-, and lie gradually became
more civil, though my coming without a guide still
excited his suspicions, as was evidenced by his frequent
references to the fact. A small brother of his, who
accompanied him, seemed a very sharp youth, and con-
stantly put in a few words of advice. They both
handled my rilles in a business-like way, and their
questions were to the point. After they had left, a man
of the name of Abdar Hamman came to see me, and
we had a long talk, in the course of which he gave me
much interesting information. Among other things, he
told me that he was a native of this place, and had
been made a prisoner by the Dervishes and carried to
Khartoum thirteen years ago. There he had gained
the confidence of the Khalifa, and was sent by him with
letters to Menelik, who received him and his followers
well, and gave them mules and a tent for their return
journey. After the fall of Omdurman, he had apparently
proved useful to our intelligence officers, and, when
things had quieted down, he set out for his own country,
but had twice to abandon the journey through sickness.

That evening, a present of fowls and eggs, bread
and milk, limes and " turengo " (shaddock), a fruit I
had not seen previously in Abyssinia, in addition to
bundles of fuel, arrived from the Kanyazmatch. He
also came to see us oft ne.xt morning, and said it was
only a short march to the foot of the Sabandas range,
where the guide he was sending with me would be
relieved by another. After some persuasion. I got them
to sit for a group ; but it was evident they did not like


the proceeding. A priest, who accompanied them, pro-
tected himself with my field-glasses — on the principle
of devil fight devil, I suppose — while the other chief men
carefully covered their mouths and nostrils with their

In less than an hour we reached Mariam Izzeto,

Group of Tigreans.

where 1 was informed another guide would be found.
While waiting for the latter, I examined a small dome-
shaped sandstone hill, in which my men seemed to be
taking a great interest. They told me the tradition
was that the hill enclosed a magnificent church, to which
once upon a time a great lady came on a pilgrimage.
The people began to prepare a feast for her inside the
church, when St. Mary appeared and forbade them, as
it was not a feast day. Just then the great lady
arrived at the church door and ordered the feast to
be carried inside, she and all her retinue following ;
immediately St. Mary caused a great slab of stone to fall
and close the entrance, and there it is to this day. A

xxxin A LEGEND 387

natural stone archway, with a perfectly smooth stone
backing it, on which a cross has been roughly cut, and
which appears to bar an entrance into the hill, attests
the truth of the story to the native mind, which is not
prone to scepticism. The scoffer would probably remark
that here, as in so many other places, the physical phe-
nomenon was the cause, and the legend which accounts
for it the effect.

After nearly an hour's delay the old guide returned
and said that all the men were away at work in the
fields, so we moved on a little to where a group of them
were hoeing, but they refused to find a guide and advised
us to turn back and camp. I proposed going on, but
the guide said: "If you do, you will be outside the
district, and we shall be powerless to get another guide."
So I gave orders to camp where we were, among the
fields. This, however, did not suit them at all, and two
or three ran off to find the Shiim ; meanwhile some of
the mules strayed into the barley and thus precipitated
matters. The Shvim arrived, and there was a terrible
row, the guides, with most emphatic oaths, handing me
over to his care, and he, in still more forcible language,
refusing to have anything to do with me. At last,
getting weary of this wrangling, we moved on for
another three-quarters of an hour, and pitched camp
between the Sadnampar and Sabandas hills, where the
guides left us, declaring that their duty was at an end.

Next morning, we started in a drizzling rain, the
villagers, after first refusing all help, finally providing a
couple of guides, who letl us in one and a half hours to
a well-worn path, which they said was the Xegus's road


to Adua. Here they left us to our own devices. In
two hours more we had reached the top of the ridge
and began to descend into the valley of the Gedgudda
through thick bush and luxuriant grass. After crossing
the usual red-coloured stream, some 15 yards wide and
not knee -deep, we camped close to the bank among
high rank grass. It looked rather a fever-haunted sort
of spot, but the mules simply revelled in the luscious
fodder. Just before we started next morning, a big
caravan arrived, on their way to Adua, carrying loads
of coffee, dried chillies, and burnouses ; they also had
with them a few oxen and some sheep and goats,
which gave them plenty of trouble to get across the
river, for the latter had swollen considerably since the
previous night. We had to cross it twice more to avoid
some bluffs, whose foot it washed : and in the height of
the rainy season it must be a formidable obstacle to
travellers. An hour's journey brought us to the banks
of the Warey, a stream of about the same width but less
depth ; we next ascended a long, waterless valley and
crossed a ridge, at the foot of which we camped. There
was plenty of grass here, but for some time we could
find no water. F"or a great part of the day before, and
all of this, we had seen no signs of human habitation.
I heard afterwards that this jungle was formerly
notorious as a haunt of robbers, and is considered far
from safe even now, which possibly accounts for the
unwillingness of the villagers to find us guides. We
saw no game on the way, though we came across a
few tracks of bushbuck and pig. In many places there
were numbers of a thorn-tree bearing tassels of white



and mauve blossom, which made a pretty contrast to
the green of the other trees. The caravan of nagadis
came in later and camped close by- an attention we
could have dispensc^d with, as they and their beasts
kept up such a din all night that sleej) was impossible.


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 24 of 34)