Lost in the Jungle - Paul du Chaillu

Arrival in Ashira Land


What a beautiful country! How lovely the grass seemed to me! How sweet it was to see an open space!

"Where are we?" cried I to my Okendjo men.

They answered, in Ashira Land—Otobi (prairie). It seemed to me that they should have replied in Fairy land, as I had been so long shut up in the dark forest.

I stood for a long time on a bluff just on the border of the forest. On the left, in the far distance, loomed up mountains higher than any I had yet seen. They looked very beautiful against the blue sky. These mountains, were called Nkoumou-Nabonali. No one had ever been on their summit. On the right, in the distance also, were mountains, but not so lofty, called Ofoubou-Orèrè and Andelè, and in front of my position were still other mountains called Okoukoné. All over the prairies villages were scattered, and the hills and valleys were streaked with ribbon-like paths, while here and there my eye caught the silver sheen of a brook winding along through the undulating land. I could also see groves of banana and plantain trees, with their leaves so large and beautiful. There were likewise plantations of cassada and peanuts.

The setting sun shone over the landscape, and the tall green grass reminded me of home, and my heart at once went over the sea. Do not think that I was without feeling because I went to Africa and left civilization—that I never thought of friends. There were girls and boys of whom I thought almost every day, and whom I loved dearly.

"Fire a gun," said Okendjo; "fire, Moguizi, so that my people may know you by the thunder you carry in your hand, and that Okendjo brings them a moguizi."

The good fellow was in a high state of excitement. Adouma was nowhere. I loaded my guns with heavy charges, and fired, bang! bang! bang! Immediately I could see the people running out of their villages; they seemed in the distance like pigmies; they shouted, and were, perhaps, just a little frightened as they ran to and fro. They had seen the smoke and heard the noise, and soon they saw me. Okendjo had sent guides to tell the people not to be afraid; besides, my fame had gone before me, for many of the Ashira had seen me.

We did not long remain motionless, for it was almost dark, and we must hurry. Soon every hill-top was covered with people, but as we passed by they ran away.

Okendjo walked ahead of me, shouting "Ashira! I have brought to you a great and mighty spirit! He is good, and does no harm! Ashira! I am Okendjo"

The crowd shouted in reply, "The ntangani has come! The moguizi has come to see our land—our land which he never saw before. Moguizi, we will give you plenty to eat! Moguizi, do us no harm! Oh, Moguizi!" Then they sung songs, and the idols were brought out, so that they might see the moguizi that had come. The drums beat, but, as I have said, when I came near, the people ran away, leaving their idols behind to look at me.

Indeed, the Ashira Land was a strange country.

We soon came to a village, the chief of which was Okendjo's brother; his name was Akoonga. He was at the gate of the village, and trembled with fear, but he had come to welcome me.

"Am I tipsy with plantain wine? Do tell me, Okendjo, if I see aright, or is it a hallucination of my mind? Have I not before me the spirit who makes the guns, the beads, the brass rods, and the copper rings?

"Do I see aright when I see that his hair is long, and as black as that of the mondi? when I see that his legs are black, and that he has no toes (I had boots on)? that his face is of a color I never saw? Do tell me—tell me quick, Okendjo, am I drunk?"

Okendjo replied, "He is the spirit of whom you have heard so much, who came into the Bakalai country. He comes from the spirit land to visit us." The people then shouted, "How queer the spirit looks!" My hair was long, very long, and excited their wonder.

Akoonga soon gave me a house. There the chief came, followed by ten of his wives, each bearing two bunches of plantains, which, with fear and trembling, they brought to my feet. Then came four goats, twenty fowls, several baskets of ground-nuts, and many bunches of sugar-cane.

The chief told Okendjo to say to me that he was glad I was to spend the night in his village, and that I was the master of every thing in it.

When night came Okendjo walked from one end of the village to the other, and I heard him say to his people, "Be silent; do not trouble the spirit; do not speak, lest you awake him, and he might awake in anger, and smite you, and make the people of our village die. Neither our forefathers nor ourselves ever saw such a wonder as this."

Next morning immense crowds surrounded the village. They shouted and shouted, and, not to disappoint them, I walked through the street from time to time.

Olenda, the king or head chief of the Ashiras, for whose place I was bound, sent presents of goats and plantains for the spirit by two messengers, and wanted to know if the arrival of the moguizi was true. The king also sent word that I should be carried; for why should the moguizi walk if he is tired?

The messengers went and reported to their king that it was so—a good moguizi had come. Then a great number of men were sent back to carry my baggage, and we left Akoonga's village. The men shouted, and from time to time sung wild songs celebrating my arrival among them. After a walk of ten miles I reached the village of Olenda. Olenda was the great king of the Ashira tribe.