National Geographic : 1901 Mar
ABYSSINIA-THE Coi a great deal of friction between the two tribes. On several occasions, when I was lucky enough to shoot a deer, a Somali and an Abyssinian would enter a good-natured foot race, each with drawn knife, the winner being able to give the finishing cut-throat blow to the animal and thus obtain for his compan ions fresh meat which the others would not deign to touch. The mule caravan was used to carry me through all the known and unknown country from Addis Abeba northwest erly to Famaka, on the Blue Nile, where at last a white face was seen again that of one of those solitary young En glish officers who may be found in so many faraway spots doing the empire's hardest work. At Famaka the caravan was dismissed,the men returned to Abys sinia, and the rest of the journey to Khartum performed in a native boat, which was rowed and pushed down the river 450 miles in thirteen days. The country which I traversed may be divided, so far as physical character istics are concerned, into three parts: First, the Somali desert lands, ex tending from the coast to the neighbor hood of Gildessa. In this region water is to be had only by digging holes in the sand, some of which remain in a tol erably permanent condition, so that it may not be necessary for each caravan to freshly scoop the day's supply. In other places the natives have learned from experience that in the dry river beds water can be found from one to six feet below the surface, and the position of the camp is determined accordingly. The men refused to use the spade and shovel which I had carefully provided, and scooped a hole with their hands, and in the course of five or ten minutes the bottom of the hole would fill with trickling water, quite brown with sand but otherwise good. In this region a hot night follows a hotter day; yet there is a sort of clean liness due to the lack of moisture, and UNTRY AND PEOPLE 93 one feels less than might be supposed the absence of water for bathing pur poses. Indeed, on several occasions, I learned by experience that Mohammed was speaking merely the ordinary prac tice of his desert-dwelling people when he prescribed the use of sand as a sub stitute for water in the execution of those ablutions which his creed orders as a part of religious duty. The desert is not entirely of sand. Sometimes it is rather sandy than sand, and in such cases it is generally widely covered with large and small volcanic stones. It is a land of desolation, but a land of peace, and few who have seen it but would gladly go there again for rest. The next region, the great Abyssinian plateau, shows rather barrenly in spots, but for the most part is a tolerably well watered and pleasing country. There are wide, rolling prairies, which show brown toward the end of the dry season, but are green during the rainy season and the earlier part of the dry. Splen did trees are found on some of the moun tain sides and elsewhere in isolated groups, but, generally speaking, there is a sad dearth of forest growth. After the exceedingly arduous work of climbing up the sides of this great escarpment, one may travel for many days over easy country. It is this great plateau which the Abyssinian have held against all comers for so many centuries, and now that they have the rifle it will be a bloody task for men who would dislodge their power over it. This great region is cut deeply in two by the Blue Nile, whose waters run in a chasm five thousand feet below the plains, where I first crossed it, and about the same level at the two other points where I was able to descend to it. It was this upper Nile region and the region lying at the foot of the west ernmost escarpment along the Blue Nile which had not heretofore been visited by white men. The descents were made chiefly on foot and were very difficult.