BEGGAR IN THE FRIENDLY CONGO

Beating his way by Mammy-wagon and foot across tropical Africa, from the murderous Cameroons to the uplands of Uganda, the tramp from Toronto found that a black man ivill cheerfully give a ivhite one a handout

PETER STOLLERY May 20 1961

BEGGAR IN THE FRIENDLY CONGO

Beating his way by Mammy-wagon and foot across tropical Africa, from the murderous Cameroons to the uplands of Uganda, the tramp from Toronto found that a black man ivill cheerfully give a ivhite one a handout

PETER STOLLERY May 20 1961

BEGGAR IN THE FRIENDLY CONGO

Beating his way by Mammy-wagon and foot across tropical Africa, from the murderous Cameroons to the uplands of Uganda, the tramp from Toronto found that a black man ivill cheerfully give a ivhite one a handout

PETER STOLLERY

A young Canadian adventurer’s African diary PART III

WHENEVER I LEAVE a place after a stop of a few days, I leave some more friends behind. So it was that I felt just a little lonely as I trudged out of Accra, Ghana, at five o'clock one morning on the road to Togoland, Nigeria and French Equatorial Africa. After a week in the hospital and a Canadian welcome from our High Commission, 1 was on my own again.

It was late August, summertime in Canada. On the Guinea coast at that time of year it is rainy, humid and cold. At least, it seemed cold to me though the temperature was about seventy-five. After you've spent some time in extremely hot weather, the slightest cool breeze seems to get right through to your bones — particularly at five o’clock in the morning, when you’re still a little weak from malaria.

Presently 1 stopped walking, sat on my pack, and waited for a lift. After a bit a Ghanaian came rushing up. “My goodness! Are you the man

who is walking across Africa?” he asked. He had that morning’s newspaper in his hand and in it was an article about me, with my picture.

At that time the French were about to explode an atomic bomb at Reggane in the Sahara. West Africa was in a turmoil. The news item said that I had passed through Reggane and this fellow wanted to know all about it and THE BOMB. He also wondered why I was waiting there. After I explained that I was looking for a free ride, he said he had a friend who sometimes drove as far as the Volta. He dashed off excitedly to find him.

Mr. Okyere was the friend. He was a teacher, and he was happy to take me the fifty miles to the Volta. The trouble was that Mr. Okyere spoke a sort of educated pidgin English. All the way to the Volta ferry he couldn’t understand me and I couldn’t understand him.

The Volta is the most important river in Ghana. The ferry across it carries a lot of traffic. There are always people standing around it waiting. There are stalls nearby that sell African food. I bought some sweet bread, found a good spot where I could watch the ferry, and sat down and ate my breakfast.

There are no large bus companies in Ghana, but individuals own vans and run them as buses. They are usually Volkswagen or Morris affairs with seats in the back. Everyone calls them Mammy-wagons. A good Mammy-wagon usually has a sign on it saying GOD SAVES SOULS or HE is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. Another popular slogan is THE FREEDOM WAGON, but they don’t take anyone free.

After a while a Ghanaian Air Force NCO came across the ferry in his chauffeured car. He had a magnificent mustache complete with waxed and curled ends. He was the only African with such a mustache I have seen and I’ll always remember him. He took me forty miles. Where he dropped me the good paved road had become gravel. When a Mammy-wagon shot past in a cloud of dust, it was all I could do to make out the large painted letters, GOD WANTS YOU.

It was here I had a stroke of good fortune. A Ghanaian in a big new English car pulled up. He asked where I was going and when I said, “To the border,” he said he could take me within a couple of miles of it. As we drove along he explained to me that he was a wireless operator for Ghana Airways and was going to Lagos, two hundred miles away in Nigeria.

I said that was where I was going. He wondered why I hadn’t said so in the first place. He would drop me off two miles from the border of Togoland, pick up his wife, and then come back and get me. This was wonderful luck.

When he dropped me at a small town near the border I was surrounded immediately by a crowd. The newspaper truck carrying the paper with my picture in it had got there just before me. Everyone wanted to know how I liked Africa, Ghana, and most of all what the French were doing with their accursed bomb. Most of them believed quite honestly that all Ghana was going to be covered by a poisonous atomic haze. But they were very kind and even managed to produce a quart of cold beer. It was almost noon and getting pretty warm.

When I explained that the man was going to come back and take me to Lagos they told me I would be better off waiting at the border. A man who owned a taxi ran me up to the police post free of charge. There was a wonderful beach there and I had a swim while I waited. About an hour later the wireless operator came along with his wife. We went through the Togolese customs and left for Lagos. It would be a little more complicated today; there are now two republics, Togo and Dahomey, between Ghana and Nigeria. By evening we got to the Nigerian border.

The border shut at six but we rousted out the immigration officer. He had heard about me on the radio. He said he was pleased that I had come to Nigeria and hoped I’d have a good time. Ordinarily you need a cash bond to get into Nigeria, so the radio CONTINUED ON PAGE 34

Beggar in the Congo

Continued from page 27

broadcast had been very timely. If he hadn't heard it, he might not have let me in so easily.

When we arrived in Lagos I was worried about where to stay. The wireless operator knew of a Y MCA. It was an old house that boarded Nigerian students cheaply. It was already overcrowded but the committee made an on-the-spot decision and gave me a place to sleep on the floor. The students were very kind with what they had. They said I could eat there, and then refused to let me chip in on the food.

Not far off the coast of Eastern Nigeria is a Spanish island called Fernando Póo. Ever since I started looking at maps I’d wanted to go there. After all. any place with a name like Fernando Póo must be interesting. But visas for Fernando Póo are rare indeed.

In Lagos the honorary Spanish consul was an Italian. As he put it. “I’m not supposed to give you the visa without special authorization. But after all, I’m an Italian. There isn’t much the Spanish can do to me except take the job away, and it doesn’t pay much anyway. For heaven’s sake, don't get stuck there though.”

So 1 walked out of his office with my permit to go to Fernando Póo stamped safely in my passport. But I still had to find some way to get across to the eastern part of Nigeria. One morning at the YMCA one of the students made a suggestion.

"Have you tried the Daily Graphic?” he asked. “Every night. they send their newspapers all over Nigeria by their own fleet of lorries. I know they go as far as Oron. From there the ferry takes you right to Calabar, where you can get a ship for Fernando Póo.”

That day I went to the office of the Daily Graphic. The boss was an English man. He fixed me up in no time and told the man in charge of transport to give me the lift. So at one o’clock the next morning, on a Daily Graphic truck that was a kind of Mammy-wagon, I left Lagos for the east.

On the coast any truck takes passengers. Even the drivers of Works Department vehicles pick up extra cash that way. While papers were being loaded into the Graphic van, the African circulation manager was selling tickets at so much a mile. I was the only freeloader on the truck. They put me in front with the driver and a female political organizer, a Mrs. Okereke. She was annoyed beatuse she thought the seats were uncomfortable, considering the price she was paying. I was inclined to agree with her. All we had to sit on was a board. There was no door. Mrs. Okereke was a heavy woman and now and then she fell asleep. Her head would fall on my shoulder and with her weight I nearly went out the open side several times. But we were better off than the others. The superstructure of the truck was made of wood; the back was divided into small compartments. Some of them contained newspapers. others people. The people were jammed in like cordwood.

Mrs. Okereke was a supporter of Nmandi Azikiwe. Everybody called Dr.

Azikiwe “Zik,” and Zik was holding a big rally. Nigeria was soon to get its independence and Zik wanted to be prime minister. Mrs. Okereke said that Zik was a wonder who had done a great many things for Nigeria. The driver didn’t figure Zik was so hot. He said Zik had done a lot of things for Zik, and nothing for Nigeria. According to him Zik should have seen the inside of a jail long ago. The driver and Mrs. Okereke argued heatedly about this most of the way across Nigeria.

After rolling for two nights and a day we reached the Cross River opposite Calabar. This part of Africa used to be slave country. Many of the slaves who went to the New World were shipped through the port of Calabar. Paul Robeson calls himself a Calabar man. The tiny coves in the great mangrove swamps at the mouth of the Cross used to hide the slavers from the British men-o’-war that patrolled the coast after Britain’s anti-slavery laws were passed. The muddy waters cover the bones of many a cargo of wretched slaves. When a slaver was spotted by the Royal Navy, the crew

dumped their human cargo, chains and all, into the river to drown. It was the easiest way to get rid of the evidence. As our ferry navigated around the sandbars and snake-infested swamps that clog the rivermouth, a Nigerian pointed out to me some of the more notorious slaving coves.

As soon as the ferry docked at Calabar, I headed straight for the Roman Catholic church I could see on top of the hill overlooking the town. Sure enough, the Irish priest said he could give me a place to sleep. Not only that, he said he knew somebody who could get me over to Fernando Póo for nothing. There is a lot of smuggling between Fernando Póo and the mainland, and he knew one of the smugglers.

The smuggler was a little nervous about sending me across thirty miles of open sea in one of his dugouts. He told me that often a canoe was lost at sea, and if that happened with a white man aboard he’d really be in trouble.

A Spanish steamer called at Calabar every few weeks. The trip cost thirty shillings, deck class—about four dollars. The smuggler insisted on paying my passage across. So one afternoon, carrying his four-colored umbrella, he went down to the shipping company and bought me a one-way deck-class ticket.

He had a novel way of finding paddlers for his canoes. Nigerians sign on for five years’ labor on the island’s cocoa plantations. To save the price of a steamer ticket, they paddle across for the smuggler. On the other side, laborers who have finished their terms take over and paddle back. The smuggler pays no wages, but

“When my friend asked the African what he wanted, the native chopped off the other priest’s head”

each man gets the trip free and a bottle of whisky to keep him warm.

The Nigerian students in Lagos had told me about Fernando Póo’s indentured labor. They called it slavery. But 1 couldn't see that anyone was forced to sign up. The Spanish pay good wages to attract the labor, and Fernando Poo is probably the only colony in the world where the blacks are paid more than the whites in the mother country.

On board the steamer the steward didn’t like to see a European on the deck with the Nigerians. He made me spend the day in the first-class lounge wishing I could get something to eat. If I had been on deck someone would have given me rice. The Spanish captain ate his lunch in the room 1 was in. and watching him didn’t make me feel any better. I did mention to him that his food looked appetizing, but he didn’t come across. By the time we steamed into Santa Isabel harbor I was very hungry.

That evening as 1 walked around Santa Isabel with my pack on my back, an African came up and asked me if I was looking for the mission. I couldn’t figure out how he knew what 1 was after. He just said, “Follow me.” And I did.

He led me down narrow streets to a boulevard and stopped in front of a big European house. Then he vanished. The door opened, and a white man with a big black beard and shorts as dirty as my own said, in a cultured English accent, “Well, well, well ... do come in and have a cup of tea.”

Inside the house were a couple more bearded characters. They were members of a Cambridge University zoological

expedition. Like me, the expedition was short of cash, and the men were waiting at the mission till their ship sailed for Europe. When the African had seen me in the street with beard and pack he’d assumed that I was another member of the expedition looking for his friends. It was lucky for me that he did. I moved in with them.

The British consul was overjoyed to see all the visitors. The Spanish were so difficult about giving visas for the island that the consul rarely saw anyone. Though the expedition had Prince Philip as one of its sponsors, it had waited two years to get the permit. The only other stranger was an Australian. The Spanish government had hired him to install printing presses and then waited six months before giving him permission to go to Santa Isabel to set them up.

The $100 bill was hidden

Santa Isabel is a lovely place. It is Spain in Africa, even to the big cathedral. Not only that, but it’s very cheap. I could actually afford to go into the Spanish bar and buy a sandwich. My only trouble was to get back to the mainland. There was no boat to Douala in the French Cameroons for a month. Finally I had to take the twenty-minute plane ride. It cost me $10.40. This was money I was counting on for French Equatorial Africa. With a hundred-dollar bill hidden in my clothes, six ones and a few odd francs, 1 landed at Douala. I had five countries and thousands of miles of equatorial jungles, swamps, and savannahs between me and Nairobi, Kenya.

Because of the heavy rainfall, the Europeans in Douala have a pasty-faced look. They rarely see the sun. But the climate and the mosquitoes weren’t their only worries. There were gangs of terrorists wandering around the outskirts hacking people to death.

There was a priest who ran a small mission five miles from Douala. The bishop had told him to come into town every night and he slept in the empty school with me. The afternoon after I arrived he told me his story.

A few nights before, he and another priest were sitting down to dinner at his mission. An African opened the door and stood for a moment looking at them. When my friend asked him what he wanted, the African pulled out a machete and cut the other priest’s head off. My friend saved himself by jumping out the window. It was a harrowing experience but he told it to me with great relish.

It didn’t make me feel any better about hitch-hiking. I went out and for seventyfive cents bought myself a machete with an eighteen-inch blade. I still have it.

Until I arrived in Douala I hadn’t been able to find a good map of the roads and tracks in that part of Africa. I didn’t even know if there were any roads, though there are always tracks of some sort. But a Frenchman explained that 1 should go first to Yaoundé, the capital of the French Cameroons, some 125 miles inland. From Yaoundé I would go 700 miles further to Bangui, the isolated capital of the Central African Republic. On the side of the Ubangi River, opposite Bangui, I would enter the equatorial jungles of the Belgian Congo. The next

morning I left the Atlantic behind me and started out.

In a way the terrorists did me some good. Because of them the French had set up checkpoints on the roads out of town. All vehicles had to stop at them. As I trudged out to the first checkpoint I was a little nervous, but a passing Frenchman stopped his car and drove me right to the barrier. He explained my situation to the soldiers. They stopped the next car and got the driver to take me with him. He was another Frenchman, and he was going to a place called Edéa, which had a sawmill. The region abounds with mahogany. When I got in the car he asked how far I was going. “Nairobi.” I told him.

He didn’t say another word until we reached Edéa. Then he gave me a funny look and said "Bonne chance!” I guess he wasn’t sure whether to believe me or not.

Just before you reach Edéa there’s another checkpoint. On each side were the towering trees of the jungle. It was there I started wishing I had a little more money. I was still wearing my Saharan sandals. They didn’t protect my bare feet. There were a lot of tiny centipedes at the checkpoint and while I waited I received several painful bites. 1 needed a pair of boots but I simply couldn’t afford to spend my money on them.

I waited several hours before an African and his family came along in an old car. He wanted money to take me, but the policemen told him that I was a foreign visitor and that he’d better not try to use that road again if he took any money from me. So I climbed in the back seat, with a large can of oil dripping

in my lap, and we bounced off down the road to Yaoundé. There were times when it didn’t look as if we’d make it and sometimes we had to push, but we finally arrived that same night.

Because of the terrorists there was a curfew in Yaoundé and I couldn’t sleep outside. I found a mission school where there was a spare bed. From here on there wasn’t much point getting out on the road to hitch a lift. There wasn’t enough traffic. I hunted around town to see what I could find. Everybody gave me the same story. It was the rainy season and there was no traffic. I had been told the same thing all the way from Gao on the Niger, a couple of thousand miles back, and I had got as far as Yaoundé. I figured there must be something.

I tried the British consul. He sent me to the Chamber of Commerce. They had a scheme by which people traveled in convoy because of the terrorists. “What a pity you didn’t come a month ago,” said the lady at the Chamber of Commerce. “Nobody travels now. It’s the rainy season.”

After I’d tried the hotels, the trail went dry. Then a European policeman told me to try the transport companies. 1 tried all but one. They had trucks but they wanted twenty dollars for the ride to Bangui.

The last one was a big company called STOC. The manager was an African and I hadn’t much hope when I tried him. I nearly fell over when he said he’d be proud to have me ride on one of his trucks, right to Bangui, at no charge. I was so excited I went out and bought a chocolate bar. A couple of days later, a big truck rolled down the main street of Yaoundé on its way to Bangui. I was sitting beside the driver.

About fifteen miles from Yaoundé the road became a corrugated mud track. In places we went through jungle. In other places the jungle gave way to the high elephant grass of.the savannah. The only village we passed the first day was a sleepy little settlement called Nanga Eboko. It boasted a couple of Portuguese trading stores. That night the driver and I slept beside the road under a grass roof supported by four poles. It kept the rain off.

As we bumped along the next day I noticed that the natives were terrified of motor vehicles. We didn’t go very fast. One stretch of mud was so bad that we did only forty miles in six hours. But as soon as they heard the truck, the Africans would dive into the elephant grass. They couldn’t even bear to watch us but hid their heads as we went by. The driver got a great kick out of this. He would sneak up behind the Africans and blow the horn just to see the excitement. One poor fellow really had a fright. He was stark naked and riding a bicycle. When the driver blew the horn he lost his head. He tried to get off the bicycle without stopping and got caught in it. Then he and the bicycle went head over heels into the bank beside the road. The driver was tickled with himself.

The second night we slept in a Moslem village. Moslems always keep a spare hut for travelers and they provide straw mats and a pail of water. The Moslems don’t charge. The Christian villages also let people sleep in their huts but it costs twenty cents. Though my driver was Christian he told me he always stayed at Moslem villages.

On the third day we crossed the border between the Cameroons and the Central African Republic. There were just a few huts and a couple of tin-roofed shacks

that served for customs and immigration.

I had no visa and hadn’t been able to get one. What had been the Ubangi-shari colony of French Equatorial Africa was now a republic, but the new republic had no consulates or embassies. The only way to get a visa was to write to the government at Bangui, but that could take months.

It was all very confusing, and the African immigration officer told me just to report to the chief immigration officer when I got to Bangui.

Not far from the post was a mission. The missionaries were a couple from Saskatchewan, the Johnsons. We had to

wait for the road to dry, and I went up to see them. They ran a school and had been there for two and a half years. In six months they were going home on leave. Mrs. Johnson told me that in this district one of their big problems was tribal murders. Whenever a woman gave birth to twins it was assumed that she was having an affair with another man. Therefore there were two babies instead of one. The infuriated husband would hire the witch doctor to find the guilty party. Then some poor fellow would have to drink poison. If he lived after it, he was innocent. If not . . . well, he was guilty. According to the Johnsons, the

witch doctors are stepping up their work.

As the scenery changed from jungle to savannah the people changed too. It was in the French Cameroons that I first came upon Bantu tribes. Along the coast it had been West African Negroes. Now as we passed through the savannah there were the beehive huts of the Sudanese. Their villages were crooked-looking, like something from the Wizard of Oz.

As we drove along at night we could see the bonfires in front of the huts. The people drank fiery liquor made from distilled banana juice and they danced around the fires beating drums.

Finally, five days after leaving Yaoundé, we arrived at Bangui, on the Ubangi River, deep in the heart of Africa.

For several days on the truck I hadn’t eaten. I couldn’t bear to part with the money 1 had. I didn’t want to get stranded in the middle of Africa. But in Bangui prices were so high I couldn’t afford even the cheapest native restaurant. So the local population was astonished to see a bearded, long-haired man walking around town tearing up a loaf of dry bread and cramming it into his mouth.

There was a steam ferry over the Ubangi to Zongo, a tiny post on the Congo side. But the ferry ran only for the occasional car or truck that went across. For me, the only way was by native dugout, and the natives knew it. They wanted sixty cents to take me over. Half an hour of haggling got the price down to thirty-five cents. Five of them took me across the half-mile-wide river. In Zongo there was a passport official, a couple of trading stores, and a narrow track into the jungle.

With my pack, my machete, my little bag of maps, and my automatic umbrella that popped open when 1 pressed the button, I sat wearily down on the bank of the Ubangi and waited. I was very hungry.

All that day I watched the other side. If the ferry steamed up it would mean that someone was coming. The second day came, and passed slowly. The morning of the third day came and went. Then on the afternoon of the third day I saw

smoke. Hopefully T rushed to the small dock as the ferry drew near. There was a big American car on it, with blue Belgian Congo plates. The driver was a Belgian. He was selling bicycles. He was going my way.

His name was Pierre Lefauvre. He came from Léopoldville. He was going to Lisala, an administrative centre about four hundred miles away. During the next few days we visited many posts in that corner of the Congo. Like traveling salesmen everywhere, Pierre had to see all his customers. In the jungle there is no grazing for donkeys, so bicycles are big business. They are the only quick way of getting around that the Africans can afford. They even use bikes as taxis. A fellow will pay so much a kilometre to ride on the rear fender, and sometimes he’ll go fifty or sixty miles.

One afternoon we visited a tiny post called Dongo. There was a Portuguese trader and a Belgian district officer. The DO’s name was Marcus. He invited us to stay the weekend and go hunting along the shores of the Ubangi. I thought that would be great. The next day Marcus took us down to the wharf where he had a big dugout with an outboard motor. The first thing we had to do was to pay the couple of Africans who came with us.

As we went upstream we pulled near the shore. In the tops of the trees there was a lot of chattering and I could see the branches moving. Marcus aimed his shotgun and blazed away. Down fell a couple of monkeys. After two or three repeat performances we had enough for the boys. That was one time they were going to have a good dinner, with lots of meat. One of the monkeys was still alive when the boy grabbed him, so he cleaved its head open with a machete. A shudder went up my spine.

I have never eaten monkey myself but I do know a Frenchman who eats it every Sunday. In many parts of the forest, particularly in the eastern Congo, the Africans consider it a great delicacy. In other parts of the continent, they won’t touch it.

Except for the monkeys and a small bush gazelle, we didn’t get anything. But

there was plenty of wildlife. When we turned off the motor to paddle through some reeds there would be a great “whoosh” and here and there a hippo came up for air. If one had come up under our boat we would have been in trouble. The river is full of crocodiles and every so often an African bathing in it disappears. The traveling salesman was pretty nervous. But I’ll hand it to him, he was game. We got back to Dongo without mishap.

The salesman and I became good friends. When, after a week, we arrived in Lisala, he fixed things up so that I could have one good night’s sleep and a decent meal before we parted. He told the African in charge of his company’s resthouse that I was chief of all the missions in the Congo and I was making a tour to inspect them. With my beard, the story went over very well and I was allowed to stay free of charge. I had my first bath in more than a month.

The next post to Lisala on the road to Stanleyville is a fairly important place called Bumba. I got there without much difficulty. Bumba even had a hotel. While I was talking to the owner, two Europeans came up to me. One of them asked if I had any change. I had a few francs in my pocket and said "Yes.”

Then he asked me if I could change $200. 1 thought he was kidding but he seemed serious, so I told him that I couldn’t quite make it. Then the hotelkeeper came along and told these two fellows that I was looking for a lift. They had a rubber plantation fifty miles along the road. When we got in their car they explained why they had asked me for change. It seems the local bank manager also had a beard.

A shy woman gave me oranges

As I went farther east there was more traffic. There were more Europeans, too. Every town was a little bigger than the one before. Finally, at Buta, about two hundred miles from Stanleyville, I decided to try hitch-hiking again. I went to the edge of town and sat down.

All day I waited, but nothing passed. There was a school close by and at four o’clock the pupils poured out. They were African children. The first few walked on by me. Then a brave youngster about eight years old stopped and stared. In a few minutes I was surrounded by boys and girls. The adults who had been too shy to look at me before came out of their houses. Before long there were a hundred and fifty people around me. Fortunately no vehicles came by—the drivers would never have seen me.

A young Belgian brought me a bottle of water and sat down to keep me company. One of the women came up to us with her hands full of oranges. The Belgian offered her a couple of francs. She shook her head. They weren’t for him. She came over and picked up my small bag and put the oranges inside. Then she backed shyly into the crowd. After that there was a line-up of women with fruit until my pack was full. Not long before, I’d been trying to shoo them all away. Now I felt very small indeed.

Finally a truck came in sight. The Africans had caught the idea that I was broke and trying to get to Stanleyville. When the truck stopped, a great cheer went up. Eager hands grabbed my pack and heaved it on the back. As the truck started up again they ran along the road after it waving and cheering, “Au revoir, monsieur, au revoir.”

Stanleyville is the real gateway between the primeval forests of the Congo’s Equator province through which I had come and the more advanced Oriental and Kivu

provinces. There the lingua franca changes from the Lingala of the western Congo to the Kiswahili of East Africa. The Africans I met were more advanced than those I’d encountered in the northwestern Congo.

It was raining heavily the day I went through Stanleyville. I stayed just long enough to eat a pineapple and then got under my umbrella and out on the road. It wasn’t long before a truck stopped. The African driver could take me almost two hundred miles.

About halfway along we stopped for refreshment. Together with the paying passengers I went into a small shed that served as a store. It was quite a shock for the local Africans to find a European sitting down among them and talking to them. As usual a crowd formed outside and peered in. The African who managed the place was very proud of the situation. He even went out and got glasses for the beer. Instead of talking Kiswahili, everyone spoke French for my benefit. They kept monsieuring each other. It sounded just like the local European club; everyone was putting on the dog. None of them could speak very good French, and they had to explain to one another in Kiswahili what they were saying. When I left, we all shook hands formally.

During the next few miles the bush gave way to large coffee plantations. As I headed south toward Lake Kivu the coffee plantations became tea plantations, and after hundreds of miles of quite flat jungle the terrain became hilly. The Kivu district is known as the Garden of the Congo. Bananas, pineapples, strawberries and all kinds of vegetables grow well. Then came the moment that made my months of travel worth while—the Great Rift Valley.

Another traveling salesman had picked me up. This one sold guns. We had been making our way through the hills south of the Pygmy country. All of a sudden it looked as if we had arrived at the edge of the world. There, hundreds of feet below, was the floor of the Rift Valley. Here and there I could see herds of elephants, and buffalo that looked about the size of ants. Off to my left was Lake Edward. I could easily make out the far shore. It was in British East Africa, my destination.

A short while later I was sitting by the road again. A car stopped. As I raced up to it I noticed the license. Instead of the small, blue Congo plate, it was black, with white letters and numbers. A plaque on the rear of the car read EAT — East Africa Tanganyika, one of the three territories that make up British East Africa. When the Italian driver said he was going to Kampala, the commercial centre of Uganda, my worries evaporated and I relaxed for the first time in months.

When I climbed in the car I saw great bundles of banknotes scattered on the back seat. I assumed that the Italian was doing some smuggling of one kind or another. It was lucky for me that he had the money. At the border the immigration official wouldn’t let me in without a cash bond. The Italian slipped me a great fistful of notes. I waved them around the immigration office. It certainly impressed the officials, for they let me through. Three days later I arrived in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. I had crossed the continent and learned something I’ll never forget—the most important thing in life is a full belly.

During the next few months I was to learn that East Africa is the most beautiful country in the world, ic

In the concluding chapter of his African diary, in the next issue, Stollery tells of his wanderings in the Horn of Africa.