Tura

Name ID 2450

See also

Ondaatje, Christopher Journey to the Source of the Nile
Page Number: 130a
Extract Date: 1996

Looking for Lake Chaya

Fifty-five kilometres beyond Itigi, we turned off the dirt road to look for Lake Chaya, where I had calculated our route would again join Burton's. However, the lake was totally dry — just a dry, cracked mud pan. This was disappointing, as sight of a body of water in this semi-arid region would have been a welcome relief. We decided to console ourselves with lunch, but no sooner had we set up our picnic on the bonnets of the Land Rovers when a swarm of bees descended on us. No stings, but they crowded around the food, and particularly the water. I immediately covered myself with Muskol — which seemed to do the trick.

I was aware that Burton had stopped somewhere here at a place he called Jiwe, which can mean "lake." We must have been on the north-eastern edge of the lake. Burton probably approached it from the south.

After lunch, and less than twenty kilometres farther on, we reached Karagasi. At the sight of date palms, I knew this was the old caravan route, and I felt sure we were on the actual Burton-Speke route to Tabora. From time to time I would see topographical features that matched Burton's descriptions. And there were familiar place names once in a while, such as Tura. Burton specifically named Tura as the last station of his Third Region and the first station of his Fourth Region, which he called the region of hilly tableland.

Extract ID: 5757

See also

Ondaatje, Christopher Journey to the Source of the Nile
Page Number: 132
Extract Date: 1996

Tura

Only a short distance from Tura, we came across a red truck stranded on the road. Four youths stood menacingly on the other side. Breakdown? Ambush? Thad ordered Pollangyo to get the gun out. Although it turned out to be a genuine breakdown — a flat tire — our caution was not unjusti¬fied. Anything can happen on these side roads, as Burton found out near here when he was prevented from proceeding until he gave a bullock and a little cloth to a local chief:

A little farther on, we met three Sukuma maidens who had come a long way to get water. "Aren't you afraid of being eaten by the lions?" we asked. "No," they answered; "the lions are looking for animals, not people!" An interesting answer.

Thirty-five kilometres from Tura, late in the afternoon, we pulled off the road into a clearing. It was a beautiful spot for a camp. We were probably about two hours from Tabora, and the thought of being so close to one of the most important stops of the 1857 expedition made me feel very much part of the Burton-Speke journey. We noticed that the trees of the clearing had been "ringed" — that is, long, circular strips of their bark had been removed to make the "cannons" for the cylindrical honey hives we had seen before.

As we set up camp, we were again attacked by bees and flies. However, they seemed far less interested in stinging us than in gathering whatever moisture they could find. They clung to any wet surface — dishcloths, towels, anything. Then, as if on command, after sundown they all disappeared, leaving us in peace. Strangely there were no mosquitoes then either.

Pollangyo cooked up some ndizi-mshale. This was a favourite dish of his —bananas prepared as a stew and served up with some meat that Ali had cooked with tomatoes. This particular type of banana is much denser than potatoes and very filling. The word ndizi means "bananas," and the word mshale means "arrow." The fruit is thinner, straighter, and longer than the ordinary banana that is used for roasting.

Somewhere south-west of here Burton saw the "Mgongo T'hembo," or "Elephant's Back," which he said was "a long narrow ridge of chocolate-colored syenite, outcropping from the low forest lands around it." I speculated that these must be about fifty kilometres away and would be a spine-back ridge of mountains. We looked everywhere for the ridge but did not find it. Again, we were disappointed.

After dinner, Thad and I took a gun, a stick, a strong torch, and a panga (a heavy knife) into the bush to look for animals. In the pitch dark, we walked around the large clearing at the edge of the miombo. We saw a spring hare, which has a distinctive long black tail, limping across the clearing. We saw a nightjar, too, but nothing else. However, it was exciting being out on a game walk again. One never knows what one is going to run into. On a similar night walk in South Maasailand, Thad said that he had once walked into a pride of sixteen lions. This would certainly make your heart beat faster.

Extract ID: 5759
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