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The Journal of a Mission to the Interior of Africa, in the Year 1805 online

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soldiers, and proved to us, to be the _beginning of sorrow_. I had
proudly flattered myself that we should reach the Niger with a very
moderate loss; we had had two men sick of the dysentery; one of them
recovered completely on the march, and the other would doubtless have
recovered, had he not been wet by the rain at Baniserile. But now the
rain had set in, and I trembled to think that we were only halfway
through our journey. The rain had not commenced three minutes before many
of the soldiers were affected with vomiting; others fell asleep, and
seemed as if half intoxicated. I felt a strong inclination to sleep
during the storm; and as soon as it was over I fell asleep on the wet
ground, although I used every exertion to keep myself awake. The soldiers
likewise fell asleep on the wet bundles.

June 11th. - Twelve of the soldiers sick. Went and waited on the Dooty,
and presented him with five bars of amber, and two of beads, requesting
his permission to go and look at the gold mines, which I understood were
in the vicinity. Having obtained his permission, I hired a woman to go
with me, and agreed to pay her a bar of amber if she would shew me a
grain of gold. We travelled about half a mile west of the town, when we
came to a small meadow spot of about four or five acres extent, in which
were several holes dug resembling wells. They were in general about ten
or twelve feet deep; towards the middle of the meadow spot the holes were
deepest, and shallower towards the sides. Their number was about thirty,
besides many old ones which had sunk down. Near the mouths of these pits
were several other shallow pits, lined with clay, and full of rain water:
between the _mine pits_ and these _wash pits_ laid several
heaps of sandy gravel. On the top of each was a stone; some of the stones
white, others red, others black, &c. These serve to distinguish each
person's property. I could see nothing peculiar in this gravel; some
silicious pebbles as large as a pigeon's egg, pieces of white and reddish
quartz, iron stone, and killow, and a soft friable yellow stone, which
crumbled to pieces by the fingers, were the chief minerals that I could
distinguish. Besides the above there was a great portion of sand, and a
yellow earth resembling _till_.

The woman took about half a pound of gravel with one hand from the heap,
which I suppose belonged to her; and having put it into a large calabash,
threw a little water on it with a small calabash; which two calabashes
are all that are necessary for washing gold. The quantity of water was
only sufficient to cover the sand about one inch. She then crumbled the
sand to pieces, and mixt it with the water; this she did not in a
rotatory manner, but by pulling her hands towards herself, as shewn in
the following sketch.


She then threw out all the large pebbles, looking on the ground where she
threw them, for fear of throwing out a piece of gold. Having done this,
she gave the sand and water a rotatory motion, so as to make a part of
the sand and water fly over the brim of the calabash. While she did this
with her _right_ hand, with her _left_ she threw out of the
centre of the vortex a portion of sand and water at every revolution. She
then put in a little fresh water, and as the quantity of sand was now
much diminished, she held the calabash in an oblique direction, and made
the sand move slowly round on the line AB, while she constantly agitated
it with a quick motion in the direction CD.


I now observed a quantity of black matter, resembling gunpowder, which
she told me was _gold rust_; and before she had moved the sand one
quarter round the calabash, she pointed to a yellow speck, and said,
_sanoo affilli_, see the gold. On looking attentively I saw a
portion of pure gold, and took it out. It would have weighed about _one
grain_. The whole of the washing, from the first putting in of the
sand till she shewed me the gold, did not exceed the space of _two
minutes_. I now desired her to take a larger portion. She put in, as
nearly as I could guess, about two pounds; and having washed it in the
same manner, and nearly in the same time, found no fewer than
_twenty-three_ particles; some of them were very small. In both cases
I observed that the quantity of sanoo mira, or _gold rust_, was at
least forty times greater than the quantity of gold. She assured me that
they sometimes found pieces of gold as large as her fist. I could not
ascertain the quantity of gold washed here in one year; but I believe it
must be considerable, though they wash only during the beginning and end
of the rains. Gold is sold here, and all along our route, by the
minkalli: six teelee kissi (a sort of bean, the fruit of a large tree)
make one minkalli: the weight of six teelee kissi is exactly [dram] &
[scruple]. In Kaarta they use a small bean called jabee kissi, twenty-four
of which make one minkalli; a jabee kissi weighs exactly four grains. In
Kasson, twelve small tamarind stones make one minkalli, which I believe is
the heaviest minkalli in this part of Africa. If gold is purchased with
amber, _one bead_ of No. 4 will, in almost all cases, purchase one
_teelee kissi_: but it can be purchased with more advantage with
beads or scarlet, and still more so with gunpowder. I did not purchase
any; but our guide bought a considerable quantity, and I was present at
all his bargain-making.

Went in the afternoon to see a brother of Karfa Taura's; he had a very
large collection of Arabic books, and I made him quite happy by adding an
Arabic New Testament to the number.

June 12th. - Left Shrondo early in the morning; the sick being unable to
walk, I gave them all the horses and spare asses. Travelled slowly along
the bottom of the Konkodoo mountains, which are very steep precipices of
rock, from eighty to two or three hundred feet high. We reached Dindikoo
at noon; at which time it came on a tornado so rapidly, that we were
forced to carry our bundles into the huts of the natives; this being the
first time the coffle had entered a town since leaving Gambia. As soon as
the rain was over, went with Mr. Anderson to see the gold pits which are
near this town. The pits are dug exactly in the same manner as at
Shrondo; a section of the pit would have this appearance.


The notches in the side of the pit serve as a ladder to descend by. The
gravel here is very coarse; some round stones larger than a man's head,
and a vast number larger than one's fist were lying round the mouths of
the pits, which were near twenty in number. Near the pits is a stream of
water, and as the banks had been scraped away to wash for gold, I could
distinguish a stratum of earth and large stones about ten feet thick, and
under this a stratum of two feet of ferruginous pebbles about the size of
a pigeon's egg, and a yellow and rusty-coloured sand and earth; under
this a stratum of tough white clay. The rusty-coloured sand is that in
which the gold is found. Saw plenty of the gold rust.

When I returned from the gold pits, I went with Mr. Scott to go to the
top of the hill, which is close to the town. The hill was very steep and
rocky. The rocks (like all the hills in Konkodoo) are a coarse reddish
granite, composed of red feldspar, white quartz, and black shorl; but it
differs from any granite I have seen, in having round smooth pebbles,
many of them as large as a cannon shot. These pebbles, when broken, are
granite, but of a paler colour and closer texture. The day was cool; but
after fatiguing ourselves and resting six times, we found that we were
only about half way to the top. We were surprised to find the hill
cultivated to the very summits; and though the people of Dindikoo were
but preparing their fields, the corn on the hill was six inches high. The
villages on these mountains are romantic beyond anything I ever saw. They
are built in the most delightful glens of the mountains; they have plenty
of water and grass at all seasons; they have cattle enough for their own
use, and their superfluous grain purchases all their luxuries; and while
the thunder rolls in awful grandeur over their heads, they can look from
their tremendous precipices over all that wild and woody plain which
extends from the Faleme to the Black River. This plain is in extent, from
North to South, about forty miles: the range of hills to the South seem
to run in the same direction as those of Konkodoo, viz. from East to
West. There are no lions on the hills, though they are very numerous in
the plain. In the evening Lieutenant Martyn fell sick of the fever.

June 13th. - Early in the morning departed from Dindikoo. The sick
occupied all the horses and spare asses; and as the number of drivers was
thus diminished, we had very hard work to get on. Ten of the loaded asses
and drivers went a different road. Mr. Anderson and Mr. Scott being with
them, fired their muskets as soon as they observed that the guide was
leading them in a road where were no asses' foot marks. Answered them;
and sent the serjeant to their assistance. In half an hour they came up,
having gone about three miles too much to the right. Reached a village
almost deserted about one o'clock, and found the coffle halted by a
stream to the east of it. Very uneasy about our situation: half of the
people being either sick of the fever or unable to use great exertion,
and fatigued in driving the asses. Found, to my great mortification, that
the ass which carried the telescope and several other things, was not
come up. Mr. Anderson, the serjeant, and our guide rode back about five
miles in search of it; but returned at half past three o'clock, without
being able to find it. Presented the Dooty of the village with five bars
of amber; requesting him, if he heard of it, to send it forward, and I
would reward him for it. Put on the loads; and part of the coffle had
departed, when one of the Dooty's sons came and told us that he had seen
the ass, and brought it to the village. Went to the village, and paid the
person who found it twenty bars, and the Dooty ten bars. Mounted the load
on my horse, and drove it before me. I did not reach Fankia till seven
o'clock; having to walk slow, in order to coax on three sick soldiers who
had fallen behind, and were for lying down under every tree they passed.
Fankia is a small village, four miles North West from _Binlingalla_.
Here we departed from my former route, and did not touch on it again till
we reached the Niger.

Chapter III.

Departure from Fankia - Tambaura mountains, and difficulties in ascending
the Pass - Toombin - Great embarrassments on the road - Serimanna - Fajemmia
- Astronomical observations - Increase of the sick - Nealakalla - Ba Lee
River - Boontoonkooran - Dooggikotta - Falifing - Losses on the
road - Gimbia; inhospitable treatment - Sullo - Face of the country - Secoba
- Kronkromo - Passage of the Ba Fing - Mode of smelting and working gold
- Fatal accident in crossing the Ba Fing - Hippopotami - Deaths and losses
on the route - Increase of sickness - Reach Viandry - Koeena - Danger from
young lions - Koombandi - Great embarrassments on the road - Fonilla - Ba
Woolima River; difficulties in crossing it - Isaaco seized by a crocodile
- Boolinkoonbo - Distressing situation of the whole of the party - Reach
Serrababoo - Saboseera.


June 14th. - I halted at Fankia, in order to give the sick a little rest,
knowing there was a steep hill to ascend near this place. Found myself
very sick, having been feverish all night.

' "
Observed mer. alt. Sun, - 159 39 0
- - - - -
79 49 0-1/2
0 16 0
- - - - -
80 5 30
- - - - -
Z.D. - 9 55 30
D. - - 23 17 0
- - - - -
Latitude - 13 22 30

Bought corn for the asses, and plenty of fowls for the sick.

June 15th. - Left Fankia: men still very sickly, and some of them slightly
delirious. About a mile N.E. of this village is the passage in the
Tambaura mountains, called Toombinjeena. The ascent is very steep and
rocky: the perpendicular of the steepest place would not much exceed
three hundred feet. The asses being heavily loaded, in order to spare as
many as possible for the sick, we had much difficulty in getting our
loads up this steep. The number of asses exceeding the drivers, presented
a dreadful scene of confusion in this rocky staircase; loaded asses
tumbling over the rocks, sick soldiers unable to walk, black fellows
stealing; in fact it certainly was _uphill work_ with us at this
place. Having got up all the loads and asses, set forwards; and about two
miles from the steep came to the delightful village of Toombin. On
collecting our loads, found that the natives had stolen from us seven
pistols, two great coats and one knapsack, besides other small articles.
Sent back the horses for two sick soldiers, who were unable to ride on
the horses, and were left at the steep. Pitched the tent, and secured the
baggage from the rain.

[Footnote: See Park's Travels, p. 257]

June 16th. - Left Toombin. Just as the people and asses were gone, the
good old schoolmaster whom I mentioned in my former travels came up. He
had heard the night before that I was with the party, and had travelled
all night to come and see me. As the loads were gone on, I told him I
wished him to go forward with me to the place where we should halt; that
I might reward him in some degree for his former kindness. Recovered
three of the pistols which had been stolen, and one great coat. Set
forwards. About a mile to the east of the village found _Hinton_,
one of the sick who rode Mr. Anderson's horse, lying under a tree, and
the horse grazing at a little distance. Some of the natives had stolen
the pistols from the holsters, and robbed my coat case, which was
fastened behind the saddle, of a string of coral, all the amber and beads
it contained, and one barraloolo. Luckily they did not fancy my pocket
sextant, and artificial horizon, which were in the same place. Put the
sick man on the horse and drove it before me; and after holding him on
and using every exertion to keep him on the saddle, I found that I was
unable to carry him on, and having fatigued myself very much with
carrying him forwards about six miles, I was forced to leave him.

About a mile after I left Hinton, I came to two others lying in the shade
of a tree. Mounted one on Mr. Anderson's horse, and the other on my own,
and drove them before me. Reached the village of Serimanna about half
past twelve o'clock: sent back a horse in the cool of the evening for
Hinton, and brought him to the village, being obliged to tie him on the

Gave the schoolmaster five bars of scarlet, one barraloolo, ten bars of
beads, fourteen of amber, and two dollars, which made him completely
happy. I likewise gave him an Arabic New Testament, which he promised to
read with attention.

June 17th. - Finding that Hinton was worse, and Sparks delirious, left
them to the care of the Dooty of the village; having given him amber and
beads sufficient to purchase victuals for them if they lived, and to bury
them if they died. If they recovered, he engaged to join them to the
first coffle travelling to Gambia. From Serimanna in two hours we reached
Fajemmia: this is only a small village, but fortified with a high wall.
The chief, from whom the village has its name, formerly resided at
Faramba, to the East of this; but has lately retired here, leaving his
people and slaves at Faramba. Fajemmia is the most powerful chief of
Konkodoo, and holds under his subjection all the country from Toombin to
the Ba Fing.

The customs paid by travellers being always in proportion to the power
and mischievous disposition of the chiefs; those paid at Fajemmia are of
course very high.

I paid as follows:

Amber 15
Beads 50
Scarlet 20
Amber 35
Amber 14
Barraloolo 15
- -
149 bars;

a soldier's musket, a pair of handsome pistols, a handsome sword, a great
coat, and one hundred gun flints.

Very happy to get so well over the palaver; for he insisted long on
having the customs, or four bottles of gunpowder for each ass, which
would have distressed us very much; and we could have made but a feeble
resistance, being so very sickly. Observed an emersion of Jupiter's first

June 17th, time by the watch 13° 6' 15".

June 18th, altitudes for the time with artificial horizon.

H. M. S. ' H. M. S. '
6 25 35 | 19 36 6 27 41 | 18 43
26 13 | 19 28 28 19 | 18 24
26 51 | 19 5 28 50 | 18 12

6 29 39 17 49
30 23 17 30
30 48 17 19

Longitude not yet calculated.

' "
June 18th. - Obser. mer. alt. Sun, 159 49 0
- - - - -
79 54 0-1/2
0 16 0
- - - - -
80 10 0-1/2
- - - - -
Z.D. - 9 50 0
D. - 23 25 0
- - - - -
Latitude 13 35 0 N.

Our palaver with Fajemmia was not finished till the morning of the 19th.
During the 18th, 19th, and 20th I was very sick; and though in general I
was able to sit up part of the day, yet I was very weak, and unable to
attend to the marketing of corn, milk, and fowls. Mr. Anderson therefore
bought these articles, and attended to the cattle, &c. Lieutenant Martyn,
the sergeant, corporal, and half the soldiers sick of the fever. Boiled a
camp kettle full of strong decoction of cinchona every day since leaving
Dindikoo. Purchased three asses, and hired our guide's people to drive
four of our asses in addition to the two they already drove, making
altogether six asses, for one hundred and twenty bars.

On the 18th, Mr. Anderson and one of the soldiers went back to Serimanna
to see the two men left there, and ascertain if they could possibly be
carried forward. Returned on the 19th, and reported that they were both
alive, but not in a state to be moved, and were themselves anxious to
remain where they were, as it afforded them the only chance of recovery.

June 20th. - When we had loaded the asses, found one of the soldiers
(_old Rowe_) unable to ride. Paid ten bars of amber, and measured
eighteen days rice for him to one of the best men in the village, who, I
have no doubt, will take care of him. Shortly after leaving Fajemmia, it
began to thunder, and by the time we had travelled four miles we
experienced a smart tornado, which wetted many of the loads, and made the
road very muddy and slippery. We reached a village nearly deserted,
called Nealakalla, about noon. Here we found that the ass which carried
the spare clothing was not come up; and as many of the men were very ill
situated, particularly with respect to shoes, I thought it best to send
back two of the men a few miles to see if they could find it. Felt rather
uneasy about the men, as they did not return at sun-set. Fired several
muskets, but heard no answer. The village of Nealakalla is close to the
_Ba Lee_ or Honey river, which we found discoloured, but not
sensibly swelled. Saw two crocodiles, and an incredible number of large

June 21st. - As the two men had not yet arrived, sent forward the coffle
to cross the river: desired Mr. Scott to fire a musket when they had all
crossed. Mr. Anderson and myself agreed to stop at Nealakalla till noon,
in hopes of hearing something concerning the two men. They arrived about
eleven o'clock, having found the ass and load so near Fajemmia, that they
had gone there and slept in the same hut with old Rowe, who, they told
us, was recovering and very well pleased with his situation. Set
forwards; and about a mile to the N.E. of the village crossed the river
at a place where its course is interrupted by a bed of whinstone rock,
which forms the stream into a number of small cataracts. The people had
to carry over all the loads on their heads, and we found them cooking on
the East bank of the river, and nearly ready to set forwards. Mr.
Anderson and I stepped across the river from rock to rock without wetting
our feet.

As soon as the men had finished their breakfast we set forwards, and
about two miles East came to a narrow and deep creek, in which was a
stream of muddy water. Crossed this with so much difficulty, that some
were for calling it _Vinegar Creek_. About four o'clock passed the
village of _Boontoonkooran_, delightfully situated at the bottom of
a steep and rocky hill. Two miles East of this we halted for the night at
the village of _Dooggikotta_; where the cultivation is very
extensive, and we had much difficulty in keeping our cattle off the corn.
A tornado during the night.

June 22d. - Halted till near ten o'clock, as there was great appearance of
rain. William Roberts, one of the carpenters who had been sick since
leaving Fajemmia, declared that he was unable to proceed, and signed a
note that he was left by his own consent. Passed a small village about
four miles to the East, and travelled on the ascent near a river course
almost the whole day. We had a fine view of _Kullallie_, a high
detached and square rocky hill, which we had seen ever since we left
Fajemmia. This hill is quite inaccessible on all sides, and level and
green on the top. The natives affirm that there is a lake of water on its
summit, and they frequently go round the bottom of the precipices, during
the rainy season, and pick up _large turtles_, which have tumbled
over the precipice and killed themselves. Saw many very picturesque and
rocky hills during the march, and in the evening halted at the village of
_Falifing_, which is situated on the summit of the ascent which
separates the _Ba lee_ from the _Ba fing_. Lost one ass, and
80lbs. of balls on the march.

June 23d. - Early in the morning resumed our journey; and after travelling
two hours on a level plain, bounded with high rocky precipices on our
right and left, we descended slowly towards the East, and shortly came to
the village of _Gimbia_, or _Kimbia_. I chanced to be in the
rear, bringing on some asses which had thrown their loads; and when I
came up I found all about the village wearing a hostile appearance, the
men running from the corn grounds and putting on their quivers, &c. The
cause of this tumult was, as usual, the _love of money_. The
villagers had heard that the white men were to pass; that they were very
sickly, and unable to make any resistance, or to defend the immense
wealth in their possession. Accordingly when part of the coffle had
passed the village, the people sallied out; and, under pretence that the
coffle should not pass till the Dooty pleased, insisted on turning back
the asses. One of them seized the serjeant's horse by the bridle to lead
it into the village; but when the serjeant cocked his pistol and
presented it, he dropped the bridle; others drove away the asses with
their loads, and every thing seemed going into confusion. The soldiers
with great coolness loaded their pieces with ball, and fixed their
bayonets: on seeing this the villagers hesitated, and the soldiers drove
the asses across the bed of a torrent; and then returned, leaving a
sufficient number to guard the asses.

The natives collected themselves under a tree by the gate of the village,
where I found the Dooty and Isaaco at very high words. On enquiring the
cause of the tumult, Isaaco informed me that the villagers had attempted
to take the loads from the asses. I turned to the Dooty, and asked him
who were the persons that had dared to make such an attempt. He pointed
to about thirty people armed with bows; on which I fell a laughing, and
asked him if he really thought that such people could fight; adding, if
he had a mind to make the experiment, they need only go up and attempt to
take off one of the loads. They seemed by this time to be fully satisfied

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Online LibraryMungo ParkThe Journal of a Mission to the Interior of Africa, in the Year 1805 → online text (page 13 of 21)