Rubeho Mountains

Name ID 2442

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Ondaatje, Christopher Journey to the Source of the Nile
Page Number: 122
Extract Date: 1996

Rubeho Mountains

Gourds are still used by all tribes to hold water, milk, honey, and other liquids.

We met members of the Wagogo tribe (proof that we had reached Ugogo), and saw the typical settlements of flat-topped, thatched houses. We bumped our way a long distance down into the valley, then followed a meagre track through the mountains.

Along the way, we noticed a plant with a milkweed-like pod that is valued by the Hadza tribe. The plant contains an intensely poisonous, sticky substance which the Hadza use to coat the points of their arrows and spears. It easily kills pigs, deer, wild boar, antelopes — and human beings. Thad recognized the plant and stopped to gather some. I was careful not to touch any part of it.

Burton referred to all his camps when crossing the Rubeho Mountains as "Rubeho." He spent five nights in the hills before he dropped into the plains, which he called "Ugogi." As he prepared to attack the pass, Burton could hardly bear to face the difficulties of the ascent. The sicknesses of many different types that assailed them throughout the trip had already begun to take their toll: "The great labor still remained. Trembling with ague, with swimming heads, ears deafened by weakness, and limbs that would hardly support us, we contemplated with a dogged despair the apparently perpendic¬ular path ... up which we and our starving drooping asses were about to toil."

The air of the pass seemed to help Burton recover a little, although Speke's condition worsened and he needed to be carried as they proceeded: "By resting after every few yards, and by clinging to our supporters, we reached, after about six hours, the summit of the Pass Terrible, and there we sat down among the aromatic flowers and bright shrubs — the gift of mountain dews to recover strength and breath…. At length a hammock was rigged up for my companion."

Extract ID: 5748
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