Name ID 2459

See also

Ondaatje, Christopher Journey to the Source of the Nile
Extract Author: Richard F. Burton
Page Number: 145
Extract Date: 1858

Salt flats

The Lake Regions of Central Africa

[T]he place in question is a settlement of Wavinza, containing from forty to fifty bee-hive huts, tenanted by salt-diggers. The principal pan is sunk in the vicinity of the river, the saline produce, after being boiled down in the huts, is piled up, and handmade into little cones. The pan affords tripartite revenue to three sultans, and it constitutes the principal wealth of the Wavinza: the salt here sold ... finds its way throughout the heart of Africa, supplying the lands adjoining both the Tanganyika and the Nyanza lakes.

Extract ID: 5773

See also

Ondaatje, Christopher Journey to the Source of the Nile
Page Number: 144
Extract Date: 1996

Exploring the Malagarasi

On leaving his Fourth Region, Burton noted: "The fauna of Unyamwezi are similar to those described in Usagara and Ugogo. In the jungles quadrumana are numerous: lions and leopards, cynhyxnas and wildcats, haunt the forests; the elephant and the rhinoceros, the giraffe and the Cape buffalo, the zebra, the quagga, and the koodoo wander over the plains; and the hippopotamus and crocodile are found in every large pool."

Then, in a more lyrical vein, he added: "The Land of the Moon, which is the garden of Central Inter tropical Africa presents an aspect of peaceful rural beauty which soothes the eye like a medicine after the red glare of barren Ugogo.... There are few scenes more soft and soothing than a view of Unyamwezi in the balmy evenings of spring."

By crossing the Malagarasi River, Burton and Speke entered the Fifth Region of their journey. The tone of Burton's remarks grew harsher. They were now deep in the interior, in mosquito-infested territory described by Burton as "a howling wilderness, once populous and fertile, but now laid waste by the fierce Watuta."

Our own experience of the area was much more pleasant. After a breakfast of maize porridge, eggs, papaya, and pineapple, Thad, Pollangyo, and I set out to explore along the Malagarasi. We came across some old bark canoes similar to those used for Burton's crossing. We also found a small fishing camp. The fishing looked promising, but we did not have time to linger. Great swirls in the water signified the existence of large fish � or crocodiles. There were a whole variety of birds: fish eagle, black-chested snake eagle, egret, red-necked spur fowl, wattled plover, nub-billed duck. The banks were thickly overgrown right down to the water's edge, making travelling by Land Rover extremely difficult. We managed five or six kilometres, but were absolutely massacred by tsetse flies. No amount of Muskol would keep them away. At about 9:30 a.m. we returned to camp, where Joshua and Ali had finished packing the second Land Rover.

As we headed back along the Malagarasi River, looking for a road to Ujiji, we passed isolated villages of small, thatched mud huts. A Sukuma villager in one settlement advised us that Ugaga, which Burton had mentioned, was ahead of us.

In the outlying areas, the roads are certainly not made for automobiles, and few cars are seen. Some people were curious and came to inspect the Land Rovers, but for the most part people kept to themselves and got on with their own business. In the East it would have been very different. There, if you stopped your car or jeep, twenty or thirty people would immediately crowd around you � looking, touching, questioning. The villagers in Africa, by contrast, tend to concentrate on their own affairs. Whenever we wanted information, we had to search for someone to ask.

About an hour after crossing the river, we had to stop to fix a flat tire. It was a very rudimentary road wandering westward through woodland. There should have been game, but we did not see any, though we did notice roan or sable antelope droppings on the road. We went on through Ilunde, a village now almost completely deserted, and crossed railway tracks again, going on to Charkuru and the valley settlement of Uvinza, a much larger town than most we had passed. This is where the salt works are that Burton describes:

Extract ID: 5772

See also

Ondaatje, Christopher Journey to the Source of the Nile
Page Number: 145a
Extract Date: 1996

Our first sight of Lake Tanganyika

We crossed the Rusugi River in order to visit the salt flats. The operation seemed quite organized, as it must also have been in Burton's time. The flats are a huge area where the salt can be seen drying. We were there towards the end of the day and watched lines of women carrying the salt in baskets on their heads, the day's production, to a central building for further processing.

There were rock outcroppings all over the place � good leopard country. Burton mentions this, but only in discussing the children dressed in leopard skins. Nowadays, if any villager is caught with a leopard skin there is a very severe penalty involving a long jail term.

We took a sharp turn to the west on a relatively new road, but because it did not appear on the modern Tanzanian map we could not be sure where it went. However, the villagers assured us that this was indeed the road that led to Kigoma and Ujiji. After lunch, which we had under a tamarind tree, the road began to descend sharply. I knew we must be going down to the big lake, and my excitement grew.

Then our route took us alongside the railway line to Kigoma. At one point, where the land was very hilly, there was no road at all, and we considered shoving the two Land Rovers onto the railway tracks and driving to Kigoma that way. However, it was quite precipitous on either side and it would not give us much chance to get off the line out of the way of an oncoming train. So, instead, we just gunned the Land Rovers through the rough terrain. At Kalenga, two young boys tried to sell us a dead banded mongoose. I cannot imagine what they thought we would do with it. And then, at last, at 3:18 p.m., we reached Kidawe and caught our first sight of Lake Tanganyika.

It was overcast, and therefore I did not see the light shimmering on the waters of the big lake, as Burton had, but the experience was thrilling nonetheless.

Burton's description of his first sighting, on February 13, 1858, is almost ecstatic.

Extract ID: 5774