“Mamani” was the name of a fairly large hill near the mission station of Kijima on which we first lived. It was a “different” type of hill from all the others in the area – bleak, no growing trees only scrub bushes, rocks of red laterite not like the granite-type on the other hills. The Africans called it “si nsebu” (hot earth) because it often rumbled and shook. No one but sorcerers/witch doctors ventured to climb it because it was claimed to “eat people”. It never erupted; there were no hot sulphur springs that I knew of. Few wild animals lived in the rocks and bushes. Scorpions and snakes abounded – maybe that is why most people never intruded on its slopes.
A call came to me to come quickly. “Enhaga ngongho yako. Jili ho shimba”. Bring your gun. There are lions! There were villages in the plains around the hill and someone’s cattle had been attacked by “lions” which had then retreated up into the bushes on the hill.
So, I got my trusty Remington 30.06 and with two African helpers Land Rover-ed over to the hill. We found where the “lions” were supposed to have retreated up the slopes and together, rifle at the ready, penetrated the bushes and high grass.
Yes, it was hot but I figured it was the sun beating down on us – not the heat of the hill itself. There was no trail that we could follow; we saw nothing and heard nothing. Maybe the “lions” had gone another direction.
After about 2 hours of looking, we retreated down the hill and to the village near where the cattle had been attacked. We reported that nothing had been seen and that we were leaving. We told the “man of the village” to call us if there were further sightings or problems.
As we turned to go back to the vehicle, which was a bit of a distance away, we heard the sound of stamping feet and the old man singing at the top of his voice. He was “singing our praises” and, in the song, stated that an “mzungu” (white man/foreigner) had come to help and had “graced” his village compound by stepping into it. Though this village was only a few miles from the mission station, I had been the latest “mzungu” to visit – though it was for a “calamity visit”
Oh, yes. Those lions? It turned out that some big dogs had gone berserk and attacked and killed the cattle. The villagers in the greater area knew who the owner of those dogs was – and exacted a payment from him for what had been killed as well as seeing to the elimination of the dogs.