Name ID 2458
Ondaatje, Christopher Journey to the Source of the Nile
Page Number: 144
Extract Date: 1996
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: