Joseph H. (Joseph Hankinson) Reading.

A voyage along the western coast, or, Newest Africa : a description of newest Africa, or the Africa of to-day and the immediate future online

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sometimes even cold, and a blanket is, after a short time,
felt to be indispensable for comfort. *

" Clad in clothes suitable for work, an European could
perform as much work on the Congo as he could in Eng-
land, provided a roof or awning was above his head."

xiii 193



VALLEY OF THE CONGO.

Apropos of the beauty of the Upper Congo Valley, it
may not be amiss to state that the great Arab trader,
Tippoo Tib, in narrating some of his travels to Mr. Stanley,
said : " He had passed through several towns which took
a couple of hours to traverse," and he described the " beauty
of savannah, park and prairie he saw."

Dr. Schweinforth says : " From the Welle to the
residence of the Monbuttu King, Munza, the way leads
through a country of marvelous beauty, an almost unbroken
line of the primitively simple dwellings extending on either
side of the caravan route."

All this was on the northern affluents of the Congo,
and directly on the line of the proposed railway from
Batanga to the Albert Nyanza. This road, when completed,
cannot fail to be profitable, and will open up a grand
country, not only to commerce, but to settlement by sturdy-
German and other colonists.

Until great industrial companies shall cultivate the
soil and set the native people to work in a systematic way,
the principal exports will be in native forest products, and
it is surprising how many of these there are. First of all
must be mentioned the oil palm, which produces the palm
oil and kernels that are such an important article of trade
on the West Coast. In some places there are entire forests
of it, while it everywhere abounds in the central basin and
on the islands in the main river.

Perhaps the next most valuable article is rubber, which
is abundant in the thick, heavy forests. Unfortunately the
natives are so wasteful and thoughless they kill the vine
when getting the milk, and thus destroy the goose that lays
the golden egg. It would well repay any commercial
company, now while the land is cheap, to plant the large
rubber tree of Brazil, which will live for a century and
yield a steady harvest of rubber.

194



VALLEY OF THE CONGO.

Camwood and barwood, with other dyes, abound, while
ebony and other valuable cabinet woods are found on the
higher grounds. Many trees valuable for lumber grow near
the streams, and one of the first industries to be immedi-
ately profitable after the completion of the railway will be
the establishment of portable sawmills and the converting
of these trees into lumber for building purposes.

Red and white gum copal are found in considerable
quantities, and no doubt other valuable gums will be
discovered. Vegetable oils are extracted from the ground-
nut, oil berry and castor bean. Vast forests are covered
with the archilla moss, and tobacco of the best quality will
grow everywhere. Beeswax and honey are collected in
large quantities ; nutmeg, ginger and other spices are easily
raised, and furs, hides and skins might be purchased from
the native hunters. All the African elephants have tusks,
and the sale of ivory will bring much money into the
country for some years yet.

Among the products immediately available are fibres
of many kinds, to be manufactured into paper, rope, fine
and coarse matting, baskets, etc. This may be gathered in
immense quantities, and some of it may very profitably be
manufactured upon the spot. The list need not be extended,
for it is easy to see there is already enough, if it can be
gathered, to tax the carrying capacity of the present fleet
of river steamers to the very utmost.

The Kebinda spent the morning of the 28th taking on
produce, and at 2 p. M. left Boma, and arrived at Ponta da
Lenha before sunset. The casks and sacks were transferred
to the Kisanga the next morning, and in the afternoon she
steamed down to Banana and anchored in her old berth in
Banana Creek. Several of the traders came off and took
dinner with Captain Thompson, and in the evening on deck
conversation was kept up until a late hour, hut no new



i95



VALLEY OF THE CONGO.



facts were brought out, and we will not repeat it. At
sunrise on Thursday morning the Kisanga steamed out of
the Congo, and soon the mighty river was left behind as
the good ship sped northward along the Coast.




196



Chapter X



CONGO RIVER TO GABOON.



AT 1 1 a. M. on Thursday, October 30th, the Kisanga
anchored in Kebenda Bay, forty miles north of
the Congo. Kebenda has long been the head-
quarters of two or three large trading firms in the
Congo, who preferred to have their headquarters here
rather than at Banana, for there was not only a larger
local trade, but the climate was healthier. Kebenda is as
unlike Banana as two places could be ; the land is high,
and even hill)- ; country quite open and covered mostly
with grass, with trees along the streams, and the native
population much larger than in the Lower Congo Valley.
Mr. John Phillips, the accomplished and gentlemanly
agent of Messrs. Hatton & Cookson, was alongside the
steamer as soon as she came to anchor, and as he was well
acquainted with our friends, there were hearty greetings
when he reached the deck. An hour later the four
travelers were beside Mr. Phillips in his boat pulling for
the shore, where an excellent breakfast was awaiting them.
The work of unloading the steamer required Mr.
Phillips' attention, and so after breakfast the four friends
sat on the piazza for a couple of hours enjoying Mr.
Phillips' cigars, and then they took a walk around the

197



CONGO RIVER TO GABOON.

place. The general arrangement of the factory did not
differ materially from what they were accustomed to, but
there was an unusual air of neatness about the buildings
and everything moved on with the precision of clockwork.
The openness of the country was an agreeable change from
so much forest, and Mr. King felt sure white colonists
might settle here at once, especially if they had money
enough to hire the natives to do the roughest of the field
work. At the factory they saw white carpenters at work,
and learned that they suffered no special inconvenience
from the climate ; indeed, the climate here is not hotter
than our own State of Georgia, and the country is at least
as healthy, if not more so.

Kebenda should by rights belong to the Congo Free
State, but for some reason or other a little strip of sea-coast,
not more than forty mile long, has been appropriated to
Portugal, and Kebenda is in this territory. Kebenda is
not likely to ever become a pathway to the interior, but it
might have a railway to Vivi, one hundred miles distant,
that would run through a healthy, hilly country, well fitted
for colonists, and would develop a very considerable local
trade ; or, by changing somewhat, it might run parallel to
the Congo as far as Stanley Pool, a distance of two hundred
and fifty miles, and thus get a share of the through traffic
in passengers and freight. Such a line would pay better
than the present Congo Valley Railroad, for it would save
one handling of freight, and would run through a populous
country that would give it a large local traffic. Such an
investment as this is likely to prove far more satisfaetory
to capital than the various South American bonds, so
largely dealt in by English investors.

One of the chief articles of trade at Kebenda is ground-
nuts, which, of course, must be cultivated, a proof that the
people of this section are willing to till the ground, and if
there were white colonists to teach them to grow coffee,

198



CONGO RIVER TO GABOON.

cane, cotton and tobacco, it need not be long before these
might be exported in considerable quantities. The
Kebenda negroes are fairly good carpenters, and are able
to build schooners that carry ten or twelve tons ; such a
people must be capable of improvement, and with a little
instruction, would make efficient workers.

The Kisanga sailed from Kebenda at noon the next
day, and at 3 p. m. reached Landana, a really beautiful and
picturesque trading station, in the very corner of the Portu-
guese territory already mentioned. White factories lined
the beach, and the summit of a hill to the right was
crowned with the substantial buildings of the Catholic
Mission, looking very cool and inviting beneath the shade
of palms and other fruit trees. The gardens and orchards
of these French priests are admired by all, and show clearly
what the country is capable of ; there is no good reason
why the country back of Landana should not contain
thousands of beautiful and happy homes.

The Kisanga did not linger long at Landana, pleasing
though it was to the eye, and at eight in the evening the
northward voyage was resumed, and at sunrise on Saturday
morning she anchored in Black Point Bay. This fine bay
is in French territory, although it is in the free trade zone,
and as has already been mentioned, it would be an excellent
terminus for a railway to Brazzaville at Stanley Pool. Long
before another century has passed away there will be here
a busy commercial city, and enormous fortunes will be
made in the rise in real estate, similar to those made by
early settlers in Cincinnati, Chicago and other cities of the
West. There are a number of factories already here, and
it will not be long before Black Point must take its place
amongf the cities of the world. This would be a line
location for a Protestant Mission, and the wonder is that it
has not been occupied before ; the country is healthy, the



199



CONGO RIVER TO GABOON.

people fairly industrious and capable of improvement, and
its location must make it a highway to the interior.

Just back of the town a short distance is the Luemma
River, which is navigable for boats for three days' journey
toward the northeast. The country is open, except along
the water courses, where there is a rich growth and villages
of the native people are numerous. To build the proposed
railway to Stanley Pool would take from two years to five
years, according to the amount of energy displayed in
forwarding the enterprise, and in ten years from the time
it was finished the condition of the country would be changed
and an era of prosperity begin exceeding anything known
in the settlement of our own Western States. Nothing
is needed but industry directed by skill and intelligence
to make this land one of the most desirable places of
residence in the world ; provided, of course, there be
suitable means of communication, with a strong and
liberal government. The French territory begins some
miles south of Black Point and extends to Gaboon, where
the governor of this large and fertile province has his
residence. It is true French rule is not in all respects the
best that could be wished for, but the administration of
affairs is constantly improving, and as the French people
do not emigrate, the colon}- must presently be settled by
Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian immigrants, whose influence
will be more and more felt in the administration of colonial
affairs.

Immediately after the three o'clock tea, the Kisanga
weighed anchor and steamed up the coast to Loango, which
place she reached a little after sundown. This trading
station is just below the mouth of the Kwiln River, a very
considerable stream that rises among the hills to the north-
west of Stanley Pool. There is also a French military
oste, and several more at different points on the river.



CONGO RIVER TO GABOON.

Loango is well situated for trade, having a bay some-
what protected from the ocean swells, and being near the
mouth of the Kwiln ; but its greatest prosperity will come
from a railway to the interior, opening up a rich and
exceedingly desirable country, that offers at once more
inducements to the settler than many of the South Ameri-
can Republics. A railway could be advantageously built
from here to the debouchure of the Lawson River into the
Congo, one hundred miles above Stanley Pool, — a total
length of line of a little over four hundred miles ; every
inch of the way through valuable territory, rich in both
vegetable and mineral wealth and entirely health}* for
white immigrants ; far more so, indeed, than our own State
of Arkansas.

To those who think Africa is a sandy desert, or an
interminable jungle full of noisome serpents, cannibals,
pigmies and other dreadful creations, a voyage along this
coast would be a revelation. Why cannot some of our
level-headed tourists come out here and see some of the
most beautiful landscapes that grace this fair earth, hills
and valleys, open plains and park-like forests, navigable
rivers and babbling brooks, palms, bamboos, orchids, gar-
dens, towns and villages — the whole fair scene bathed in
the rich, full sunlight of this tropic land. True, the country
is new ; the lines of travel are not luxurious, nor are there
here all the conveniences of an advanced civilization ; but
this is not the fault of the country, which is one of the most
beautiful, attractive and desirable to be found anywhere on
the planet. Lovers of nature who are able to put up with
rather inferior steamer accommodations, will find it will pay
them well to turn aside from the beaten track of travel, and
make a voyage along this coast. When they do so, let them
remember that Africa, like other countries, does not put
the best she has along the sea-coast ; and let them make
friends with the traders and ascend the rivers upon the



CONGO RIVER TO GABOON.

trading steamers ; or, better still, in boats or large canoes,
and they will behold scenes of beauty that will thrill their
souls with pleasure and delight.

The Kisanga left L,oango at nine o'clock on Sabbath
morning, and at noon on Monday, November 2nd, anchored
in Mayumba Bay, a few miles south of the Nyanga River.
Mayumba is a trading station like Loango and Landana,
and like them also it is situated in an open, hilly, healthy
country, and is likely to become a thriving commercial
settlement within a few years. Two hundred miles back
from the coast four rivers take their rise among the hills ;
three of these, the Ngunie, Nyanga and the Ogowe, pour
their waters into the Atlantic ; while the fourth, the Alima,
helps to swell the mighty Congo. This hill country
abounds in minerals, especially in copper and iron, and as
the soil is rich, the rainfall abundant, and the climate
health}-, it is well fitted for becoming the home of a large
white population. This is the last port in the Free Trade
Zone, which gives it an importance, for the French import
duty is high for a new country.

Mayumba is not favorably situated for a railway to the
Congo, but a line of road two hundred miles long, extending
into the hill country, will soon become a necessity and
would develop a heavy local traffic.

The steamer sailed from Mayumba at sundown, and on
Wednesday morning anchored in front of Manji, just inside
of Cape Lopez, in Cape Lopez Bay. This is the port of the
Ogowe River, a valuable waterway that opens up a consid-
erable portion of the interior to commercial and industrial
operations. This river is the scene of the explorations of
the Count de Brazza and his efficient lieutenant, Dr. Ballay,
through whose efforts this country was annexed to France,
and is now regarded as a valuable colony.

The Ogowe is a large river and pours an immense
amount of water into the sea. Its delta is verv larofe and








*-;;»



CONGO RIVER TO GABOON.

there are a great many channels, forming a perfect network
of rivers, lagoons and creeks. This extensive delta includes
much high ground and a very considerable population, but
most of the islands are more or less submerged during the
month of November, when the river is at its highest stage.
Near the sea there are the usual mangroves, but ten or
fifteen miles up these are succeeded by heavy forest, and
this again by immense fields of papyrus and water grasses ;
beyond these again, at a distance of seventy-five miles from
the seashore, the forests begin again and continue with little
intermission all the way to the mountains.

When the writer ascended this magnificent river in a
small canoe in our Centennial year (1876) it was almost
unknown to the civilized world, and the people along its
banks were Pagans, and looked upon the white man as a
spirit ; to-day Christian churches nestle beneath clumps of
graceful bamboos in several of its villages, and Moody and
Sankey hymns are sung by the people as they paddle along
in their canoes. During the canoe journey just referred to
the hippopotami were so numerous and troublesome as to
frequently place the occupants of the little craft in great
jeopardy of their lives ; to-day the traveler may recline in
an easy chair on the upper deck of a comfortable river
steamer and enjoy the beauties of the passing scene in
perfect safety and comfort.

There are a number of picturesque lakes near the lower
course of the Ogowe, connected with the main stream by
side channels; some of these lakes are not exceeded in
loveliness by anything that can be found in the world.
They often lie in the very bosom of the hills, with an
exceedingly irregular shore line, the rich tropic vegetation
reflected in the clearest water by the brilliant sunlight. No
lovelier home could be found in all earth's wide domain,
and before another generation passes the- world of fashion
will visit these beautiful sheets of water as they now visit

203



CONGO RIVER TO GABOON.

Como and Killarney. At present the shores of these lakes
abound in game — a veritable hunter's paradise — but it will
not be long before the forests must give way to orchards of
orange, pear, mango and other fruit trees, and coffee and
cacao estates.

All the creeks, rivers and lakes of the entire delta,
and the main stream as far as Njoli, two hundred and fifty
miles from the sea, are navigable for river steamers ten
months in the year. At the very close of the dry season
some of the channels are obstructed by sand banks, but
then most of them carry from three to four feet of water
— abundance for flat-bottomed boats such as we have on
our Western rivers. As a matter of fact, steamers now run
upon the river throughout the entire year.

There are at the present time no finer hunting-grounds
in the world than is to be found in some portions of this
delta and the adjoining mainland. Elephants, gorillas,
apes, monkeys, buffalo, boar, leopards, deer and antelopes
are found in the forests ; with hippopotami, crocodiles and
manati in the river, and birds in almost innumerable variety.
The people will welcome hunters and assist them in every
way, as they are fond of the flesh of all these creatures, and
will do anything for those who furnish them with abun-
dance of meat.

In addition to the animals already enumerated, there
is an abundance of excellent fish, some of them as fine
game-fish as salmon or grayling. No great physical
exertion is required to hunt in this territory, for most of
the traveling is done by water, and one's native attendants
can build him a very decent hut to sleep in every night.
Sporting men will find this region very satisfactory, at
least for the next few years, or until the forests are cut
down to make way for cane fields.

There is a considerable source of wealth in the immense
fields of papyrus, which would be excellent for paper stock.

204



CONGO RIVER TO GABOON.

If cut at the close of the dry season and baled, several ships
might be loaded every year. But these rich fields are too
valuable to be allowed to grow paper stock ; they might be
dyked at moderate cost and sown with rice. There are two
periods of high water, November and April, and by sowing
at the right time two crops of rice a year could be easily
grown. Capital invested in rice growing on these alluvial
lands could not fail to be well rewarded. The cane would
thrive luxuriantly ; small quantities are grown by the
negroes to chew, instead of candy, and it is not unusual to
see canes as thick as a man's wrist.

The Ogowe is a land of plenty, for almost every
product of the earth will there flourish. The writer lived
four years upon its banks where it flows through the hill
country, and on his grounds almost every kind of fruit tree
known to the tropics grew luxuriantly ; and in his garden
tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, squashes, sweet potatoes,
beans, corn, cabbage, arum esculatum and main- other vege-
tables throve abundantly, while plantains and bananas
required but the slightest cultivation, and oil palms were
abundant everywhere.

The French have several military postes, or stations,
along the river, extending as far as Franceville, which is
near the headquarters of the Alima, a stream that flows into
the Congo. At Njoli, which is situated at the head of
steam navigation, they have a steam saw mill and many
large magazines, and the entire island is laid out with gravel
walks like a park, with rice and various fruits growing — an
object-lesson of what this whole country may become.
This, be it observed, is in the cannibal-pigmy-deep-forest-
blood-and-th under portion of Africa, but a more beautiful
land no one need wish to see; it only awaits the hand of
industry' to make it a garden of loveliness — a fair Eden of
fruits and flowers and every good thing. The country is
new we grant you ; but so England was once covered with

205



CONGO RIVER TO GABOON.

forests through which our ancestors roamed clothed in skins
— a wild and savage horde. Times have changed since
then, and they will change in Africa, and that before many
years have passed. There are post offices in the Ogowe to
which letters may be sent from any part of the civilized
world ; in a year or two there will be telegraphs, and in
another decade a railway. Let those who have the time
and inclination for foreign travel take a trip up the Ogowe
and see for themselves.

Fish are very plentiful in Cape Lopez Bay, and the
factories and military stations at Manji are well supplied
all through the year. The native villages all about the
Bay maintain a steady trade with Gaboon and various
inland towns in the dried and smoked article. These fish
are mostly caught with a net, although many kinds would
afford good sport with the hook.

The principal exports of the Ogowe at the present
time are rubber, ivory, ebony and a very little of oil,
kernels and bar wood ; large quantities of ivory come from
the hilly country to the east and northeast, and, strange as
it may seem, a large proportion of this ivory is not taken
from living elephants, but is found in swampy places
toward the close of the dry season. The Ogowe ivory is
the finest quality in the world ; the average weight of the
tusks being sixty pounds, but occasionally a specimen is
met with as heavy as one hundred and eighty pounds and
eight feet in length !

Between Cape Lopez and Gaboon the country is open
and park-like, prairies and small patches of woodland are
interspersed with brooks and little lakes, with now and
then a low hill rising above the general level. The popu-
lation is not large, and the game abundant. During the
drv season, which lasts from the first of May until early in
October, this is one of the finest hunting grounds in the
world ; not only is there no rain during these five months,

206



CONGO RIVER TO GABOON.

but, being the cool season also, it is delightful to traverse
the woods and take abundant exercise in the open air. If
a party would leave England the middle of March, spend
two or three weeks in Gaboon getting acquainted with the
country and engaging guides, so as to be ready to start out
as soon as the rains cease, they would have a most enjoy-
able excursion and secure a large amount of game.
Throughout this section the plantain, banana, yam, sweet
potato and sugar cane flourish, and at the villages moderate
supplies of these and other vegetables may be had. This
entire region is admirably adapted for dividing up into
estates, and every kind of tropical plant will thrive well.

Beyond the Coast Range, which is here little more
than one hundred miles from the sea-board, the country is
considerably elevated, thickly populated, and of very great
beauty ; it is a well watered land, and if it is possible to
judge by the hearty, robust appearance of its people, a
healthy one also. At present the French colonial officials
will not permit white men to enter this fair land ; no one
outside their own charmed circle being permitted to pass
beyond the military poste on Njoli Island ; but this restric-
tion, we may hope, will soon be removed.

The Kisanga approached the broad mouth of the
Gaboon River at dawn on the 6th of November. It had


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Online LibraryJoseph H. (Joseph Hankinson) ReadingA voyage along the western coast, or, Newest Africa : a description of newest Africa, or the Africa of to-day and the immediate future → online text (page 16 of 17)