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"We arrived in the pleasant town of Berber, after a strenuous and energy sapping trek through the scorching Nubian Desert, most of the way spent walking in the cool of the night, leading our recalcitrant and temperamental beasts by ropes.
Naturally, we were ready to settle down to a little hotel life for a change, in order to give rest to our weary bones. However, this was not to be. Word came to us that the Freighter, on which we were to sail from Port Sudan on the Red Sea, to Zeila, Somalia ( a trip of about 250 miles), was leaving port almost one week earlier than scheduled......In two days time!
So, we hurriedly made arrangements for rail transportation from the town of Berber to the coast, entering Port Sudan just in time to board the rusty old steamer.
Waving goodbye to the hospitable Sudanese people, we set course 'south east' for the Gulf of Aden and new adventures.
By the time we had disembarked at Zeila and collected servants, Abyssinian interpreters and Somali camelmen, we were rather a mixed crowd. However, in just three days, we were ready for our trek of 350 odd miles to the capital city of Addis Ababa.
The first leg of our journey took us over the scrubby Somali desert headed for Harar and the Abyssinian Hills. It took ten days over the stony plain to get to Gildesa, at the foot of the hills, and once there, the type of country changed amazingly.
We exchanged here our camel transport for donkeys, and two days further took us up to the Abyssinian Plateau, the road winding up through charming hilly country and forest, punctuated now and again by troops of lion-maned baboons, leopards, bees, hyenas and a variety of interesting birds.
As we mounted the air grew cooler, and at last we emerged into a rolling country covered with juniper, blackberry bushes, jasmine, honeysuckle and flowering shrubs - it was like being transported into another hemisphere.
We had a terrible time getting away from Harar. We had bought a number of mules for our transport and hired more, but we were still short; and though our contact promised faithfully to make up the number, they did not turn up until the very last moment, and then only after the most strenuous exertions on our own part.
And when it came to loading up, mules were seen careering all over the country with their loads kicked to blazes, their drivers having disappeared for a last drink, or being quite incapable of managing them.
In a futile attempt to bring under control, the animal on which was loaded our precious medical supplies, your poor old Professor friend received a solid 'check' from the beast's hind quarters, lost his spectacles, and watched in consternation as the frisky brute began to crush them into the hard stony ground.. (As I am now forced to type these E-Mails without them, please correct any spelling errors that may appear).
Men were rushing about, all shouting or swearing in different languages - Hindustani, English, Arabic, Swahili, Galla, Somali, or Amhaaric.....It was pandemonium personified!
No matter, we got off at last on a very short march, and shook ourselves together fairly well at the first camp.
A little about the MULE.....it is, of course, a hybrid animal, the offspring of the male ass and the mare, highly valued as a beast of burden. The ears are long; the head, crop, and tail resemble those of the ass rather than those of the horse; but in bulk and stature the mule approaches more nearly to the horse.
The mule seems to excel both the ass and the horse in intelligence; its powers of muscular endurance are remarkable; and its sure-footedness particularly adapts it to mountainous countries.
It is easily kept, endures hunger and thirst better than the horse, lives to a great age, and is comparatively free from disease.
The horse can not support thirst for more than forty- eight hours without becoming so weak as to be scarcely able to carry it's rider; yet if urged by his master he will stagger on until he falls dead in his tracks.
The mule, more obstinate, as we say, but in fact more wise, when he feels himself verging upon the limits of endurance, stops short, and no urgency of whip or spur will force him to move, until he has rested.
Yet notwithstanding the great power of endurance of the mules, many of them succumb to the fatigue of the journey, and the road across the Plateau are marked by their skulls and bones, as the caravan routes across Sahara are whitened by the skeletons of camels.
However interesting this amazing creature, we must get on with the story of our journey through this magnificent country.
Huge park-like spaces, dotted with big trees, forests of beautiful cottonwood trees with scarlet flowers, alive with monkeys and pale blue butterflies; open rolling grass downs, with lovely panoramas north and south; thickets of flowering shrubs full of all sorts of birds, from big ground hornbills and gunea-fowl down to gaily colored starlings and bee- eaters.
Once we saw a troop of Ostriches and saw spoor of elephants and kudu and, on the river banks, of Hippo, Rhino and Crocodiles, whilst Hyenas and Jackals, howled at night.
The Fantallé Desert, for which we had to carry water, took nearly two days to cross, and the Hawash River, lying at the bottom of a deep cleft, also offered some difficulties.But once across these and on higher ground we came on to barer and stonier country, which lasted up to Addis Ababa.
Altogether it took us forty days to reach the Capital from Zeila, we found afterwards that this was quite a record for a large caravan.
Upon arrival we proceeded quietly to huts which had been provided for us, by an aquaintance of an emminent member of our party, and slept the sleep of angels............
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