National Geographic : 1937 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE Finally the climbers emerge above the forest on the plateau of Behungi, a camp perched at some 8,000 feet. JEWEL LAKES IN A VOLCANO SETTING The panorama from this camp, looking down on the lava plain and across to the Virunga (Mufumbiro) volcanoes, seems as if a vast green sea of ridged billows had solidified. Crater after crater has been upflung there, and towering over all are eight vast volcanoes, two of them active still, with a perpetual pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. Between the craters lie lovely lakes, gleaming like metal. The volcanoes are stupendous, and Muhavura, a perfect cone, is the legendary home of the local gods; while when Niamlagira bursts into erup tion, it is a sign that their wrath is being wreaked upon men. The people of the forests and the im mensely fertile lava plain range from semi pygmies to seven-foot giants, and from red brown and light copper to almost black. The tall ones are the lordly Watussi,* of Hamitic stock, who are a sort of feudal aristocracy, with serfs-the Bahutu, a squat and unprepossessing tribe-to till their soil and tend their fat cattle on the flowery plains which, like English pasture land, are thick with large clumps of thistle, forget-me-not, buttercups, and ragwort. The Watussi are attractive, with long, fine hands and feet, and handsome profiles (page 121). They are amusingly vain, and the sight of a camera poised ready for action brings them hastening, to stand about hopefully, in their long togalike robes of scarlet-pat terned white, with their slim ankles crossed. Leisurely by nature, they have a charming courtesy. They seem born to be "lilies of the field." * See "Land of Giants and Pygmies," by Duke Adolphus Frederick of Mecklenburg, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, April, 1912. Their women live in seclusion. I met one once walking on the road with two at tendants. A metal fillet with hornlike dec orations on her brows gave her a regal air, but her walk was ungainly, hampered by the masses of fiber rings that encased her legs from knees to ankles. The semi-pygmies, or Batwa, are red dish-colored men, with puckered faces and wide round eyes. They are skilled trackers and hunters, intrepid in chasing elephants and the gorillas which live high up on the volcanoes, Mikeno and Sabinio. They wield the fire stick cleverly, are all armed with a bow and arrows, and move their villages from place to place as they hunt. They will sometimes dance, and their dances take the form of mock battles. The young Watussi braves dance too, wonderfully, leaping up high and coming down with ringing stamps. Their Sultan has a special band of dancers. They can also jump over a bar to heights sometimes exceeding the world's official high jump record. To these people the mountains are gods, which is not surprising, for the massive bulk of the range dominates the country and the lives of those under its shadow. A good road leads back through Kabale to Mbarara, where the country reminds one, with its plains and bare ridge after ridge of hills, of a Zane Grey novel. Thence it goes to Masaka, where charming Lake Nabu gabo makes a week-end picnic place for the town-weary. And so to Kampala again, and on to the airdrome, where planes leave for London and home. The Kenya and Uganda Railway will bring the visitor, if he likes. But some how it seems fitting that he should drop, as it were, clean from the skies into this little world that is so different from anything else; and that he should leave it in the same way. Out of Africa there is always something new. One finds that something in Uganda. 130 "ZI~ ~ G"