The Boy Travelers - Africa by Thomas W. Knox Boy Travelers-Africa by Thomas W. Knox    

Chapter 1: Preparations for the Journey. From Cairo to Korosko.

Instructor Notes: 1) This book was published in 1884. 2) Some punctuation, terminology, naming, and concepts updated in accordance with modern times.
The Carriage is Ready!

"The carriage is ready, gentlemen!"

"Has all the baggage been sent to the boat?"

"Yes, sir," was the reply. "All except the case of instruments that you wished to keep with you."

"All right!" was the cheery response. "We are ready to start, and will not keep the carriage waiting."

This conversation occurred on the veranda of a hotel at Cairo, the capital of Egypt, and once renowned as the City of the Caliphs. The first speaker was Ali, a bright boy of Abyssinian birth, and formerly a slave, while the second was Doctor Bronson, a gentleman whose name is familiar to all readers of "The Boy Travelers in the Far East." By his side were Frank Bassett and Fred Bronson, the youths who were guided through Asia by the good Doctor, and had made the journey to Egypt and the Holy Land in his company.

Frank and Fred could hardly be called youths any longer, as Frank was quite as tall as the Doctor, while Fred was only an inch or two less in stature. The boys who set out one morning for Japan and China had now grown to be young men; but Frank insisted that they were still boys, and should so consider themselves until they had passed their majority. There had been some badinage between them relative to that momentous period in a young man's existence when he makes his first essay with a razor. Frank had depicted his cousin seated in front of a mirror, uncertain whether to shave or dye, while Fred had retorted with a caricature in which a cat and a cream-jug had prominent places. We will comply with the wishes of Frank and call them "boys" during the journey they are about commencing.
Fred's Quandary

The carriage drove rapidly along the broad street leading to Boulaq, the landing place of the Nile steamboats, and frequently called the Port of Cairo. The boys were familiar with the scenes of this busy thoroughfare and paid little attention to them, as their thoughts were occupied with the journey of which this ride was the beginning. As they passed the Museum of Antiquities, Frank recalled to Fred their first visit to that interesting place, and the delightful hours they had spent in studying the souvenirs of Ancient Egypt. "If we were not pressed for time," he added, "I would greatly like to stop there a little while, just to refresh my memory."

The steamer was lying at the riverbank, and the smoke from her funnel told that she was about ready for departure. As our friends stepped on the deck of the boat they were met by their dragoman, who told the Doctor that all the heavy baggage had been stowed below, while the light articles needed on the voyage would be found in their cabins. Consequently, our friends had little to do for the half-hour that intervened before the departure of the steamer. The Doctor went to the hold to give a glance at the bales and boxes deposited there, and then, accompanied by Fred and Frank, made a tour of the cabins, to make sure nothing had been forgotten. The dragoman was a trusty servant, but Doctor Bronson had learned from practical experience that perpetual vigilance is an important requisite for traveling in wild countries.

The Nile voyage was not a new one to our friends, and as the story of their adventures has already been told in a previous volume, we will not repeat them here. As we are in the land of the Arabian Nights, we will borrow the Enchanted Carpet and wish our friends at the landing place at Korosko, about half way between the first and second Cataracts of the Nile.

"One, two, three, and here we are!"

It was early one forenoon when the steamboat stopped in front of Korosko, and the youths were permitted to step to the shore. Abdul, the dragoman, had arranged by telegraph with a merchant of Korosko for the temporary storage of the baggage of the party and for a lodging place for the travelers, until camels could be obtained for their journey over the Desert. The merchant was at the landing to meet them, with a force of some thirty or more porters to place the baggage on shore and carry it to his warehouse, a hundred yards away. In spite of the large number of men it required several hours for landing, and storing everything. A journey into the interior of Africa is a serious affair, as the traveler requires a great many things which are not needed in most other countries.

"We are going where there are few resources," said the Doctor to his young friends weeks before, when they were making their plans for the journey, "and unless we would suffer, we must be well provided at starting.

"First of all, we need money, just as we need it for travel in any other country."

"Of course, we do," said Frank; "but there are no bankers in Africa, and our letters of credit will be of no use."

"But we can take plenty of gold and silver," said Fred, "and perhaps we shall want a few camel loads of copper coin."

"Even that will not answer," replied Doctor Bronson, with a smile, "as the coin of civilized lands is unknown in Africa."

"What must we carry, then," Frank asked, "if bankers' credits are of no use, and coin does not circulate?"

"We must carry the money of Africa," was the reply, "and here it is."

Frank took the sheet of paper the Doctor held in his hand and read aloud to his cousin:

"'Beads of different kinds and colors, put up and labeled, so that the contents of each package can be known at a glance. Every tribe in Africa has tastes of its own, and beads that find ready circulation in one region are worthless in another.

"'Cotton cloths of different kinds, white, gray, striped, and in all the colors and combinations of the rainbow.

"'Gaudy handkerchiefs, and the gaudier they are the better for purposes of trade. In packing them for transportation they should be placed in the bales with the cloths, which should also be made up in assorted lots, so that when a bale is opened several kinds of goods may be displayed.

"'Pocket mirrors, copper wire, in rolls and of different sizes; small tools, fish hooks, cheap watches, brass jewelry, mechanical toys, sleigh bells, knives, hatchets, and other edged tools that can be easily carried and handled.'"

"Something to amuse the natives is next on the list," the Doctor remarked, as Frank paused for a moment, "and it is often of great advantage to amuse them."

"'A dozen musical boxes of small size, and one large one, playing several tunes,'" continued Frank, reading from the paper.
Camp and Caravan

"I suppose the small ones are for presents," said Fred, "and the large one is to be exhibited on great occasions, when we have company?"

"Exactly so," replied the Doctor; "it will be a convenient means of entertaining natives, especially when we cannot converse with them. You observe that I have included in the list of desirable things a magic lantern and a telephone, with half a mile of wire and all the apparatus complete. They are easy to carry, and their performances will be as interesting as those of the music boxes."

"'Cloth, beads, caps, tools, toys, and trinkets are what we need for traffic with the natives and paying our expenses,"' read Frank as he turned the sheet of paper. "Now we come to what we want for our own use."

"'Tea and coffee, in airtight cans of not more than a pound each, so that they will not be spoiled by the climate: preserved meats and vegetables, sugar, spices, pepper, sauces, vinegar, matches, soap, candles, and a few other things, the fewer the better. Everything we carry must be enclosed in tin cases, so as to protect it from dampness, as the climate of Central Africa is ruinous to all articles that absorb moisture.

"'Rifles, shotguns, and pistols, with plenty of ammunition. The rifles and shotguns of the Remington system, using fixed ammunition.'"

One of the boys asked what was meant by "fixed ammunition."

"The cartridges are made up," the Doctor explained, "and are all ready for use. The powder is in a shell of copper or brass, with the explosive cap in one end and the bullet or shot firmly wedged in the other. The cartridges are impervious to water, and can be kept a long time without detriment."

"We must have a large quantity," said Frank, "and even then we might find our supply running short, with no chance of renewal."

"Certainly that might happen," was the reply, "and we can guard against it by having a few dozens of steel shells made like the copper ones, and with nipples for ordinary percussion caps. These shells can be reloaded many times. We can carry powder in tin canisters, caps in boxes, and molds for casting bullets, and then, with a few bars of lead in our possession, we shall be independent of fixed ammunition from the factories.

"We will have one heavy rifle, carrying a very large ball, for hunting large animals, and a special supply of ammunition to fit it. The rest of the rifles will be all alike, so that there will be no trouble about getting hold of the wrong ammunition when starting out for a day's hunt. The same will be the case with the shotguns, and we will observe a similar rule in regard to the revolvers."

Frank next read a list of medicines intended for the maladies to which human nature is ordinarily liable. Last and greatest of all was "sulphate of quinine." The quantity seemed altogether out of proportion to the rest of the stock, and he naturally asked Doctor Bronson why he carried so much of it.
A Group of Porters

"Africa is a land of fevers," replied the Doctor, "and has a bad reputation among travelers on this account alone. The equatorial rains make the climate exceedingly moist, and the exhalations from the soil are detrimental to the health of all Europeans. We shall be likely to suffer from fevers, and you know that quinine is the great remedy for fever. It has saved many a life, and its absence has caused many a death. When we begin our journey, we must each of us carry a small supply of the drug in our pockets, and be ready to use it intelligently. Each must be able to administer it to the other; and our personal servants should be instructed how to act whenever they see us suffering from the hot-blooded visitor. We will have more talk on this subject when we approach Central Africa."

Then came a list of clothing, tents, camp equipage, and kindred things that would be needed. Frank remarked that Africa must be a land of rain, or they would not require so many waterproof garments, and Fred added that it was not as hot as it was reputed to be, or they would not carry so many blankets. The Doctor explained that in the elevated regions of Africa the nights were almost always cool, even though the days might be sultry, and the traveler who ventured there without plenty of warm covering was liable to suffer.

The last entry on the paper was, that no package should weigh more than fifty pounds. Fred asked the reason for this rule, as he had understood a camel could carry seven or eight hundred pounds' burden without difficulty, provided he was in good condition and of full size.

"That is true," said Doctor Bronson, "but we can't go all the way with camels. In the interior of Africa our baggage must be carried by porters; and the load for a man is limited to sixty pounds, and ought not to exceed fifty. Of course, it sometimes happens that elephants' tusks and other articles weigh more than sixty pounds, but for such burdens the strongest men are selected, and a higher price is usually paid.

"These porters are known as 'pagazi,' and are a necessary adjunct of every expedition in the interior of Africa. Sometimes it is impossible to procure a sufficient number, and the traveler may be delayed weeks or months while waiting for them. On the road they must be watched very carefully, to see that they do not desert with their burdens; and, in order to prevent this, the rear of a caravan must be brought up by a trusty guard. A great part of the troubles of all African explorers is due to the pagazi, and more than one expedition has been completely broken up by their misconduct.

"Sometimes they desert in a body, and the traveler who has gone to sleep, with a hundred or more porters in his employ, has risen in the morning to find his camp deserted and not a man to be found. In this dilemma he must wait until new porters can be hired, or he may be obliged to destroy a large part of his goods."

"Wouldn't it be possible for him to sell them to some of the native chiefs in such an emergency, instead of destroying them?" one of the boys inquired.

"Perhaps he could do so," the Doctor answered; "but he would obtain a very small price for them, as the chiefs would know he was in a great strait and must be rid of them. Such a practice would encourage desertions, as the local chiefs would be in collusion with the porters, and no traveler could get through in safety. It is an invariable rule with the Portuguese and Arab traders in Central Africa to destroy all goods that they are unable to carry by reason of the desertion of their pagazi. It is their only way of insuring themselves against certain loss in future journeys, and they are very particular in observing it."
Dr. Schweinfurth Ascending the Nile

Frank asked if they were to have any scientific instruments, such as were usually carried by explorers in strange countries. Doctor Bronson replied that they would certainly do so, but he had not yet made out his list of what would be wanted.

"For the first part of our journey," said the Doctor, "we shall be in a region that has been explored sufficiently, so that its principal geographical positions are known, and there will be very little occasion for instruments. But later on, our route will be much like a voyage on the ocean, and we must find out 'by observation,' as the navigators say, where we are. For this purpose, we can imagine that we are going on a ship, and must have the instruments that a ship usually carries."

"I understand," said Fred. "We will have a quadrant or a sextant for ascertaining the position of the sun, just as a captain does at sea. But will the irregular line of the land serve us for a horizon, as the line between sea and sky serves the mariner?"

"Certainly not," answered the Doctor, with a smile; "and to meet this difficulty we employ the artificial horizon."

"How is it made?" one of the youths inquired.

"It is a very simple affair," the Doctor answered; "it is nothing but a horizontal mirror, and is constructed in two or three ways. It may be an ordinary mirror or looking glass, in a frame adjusted upon screws and set round with spirit-levels, so that it can be brought to the proper position, or it may be a basin of mercury. A tub of water may be made to answer in an emergency, but it is not easy to get a reflection from it of sufficient distinctness for purposes of observation. With the artificial horizon and a sextant, the altitude of the sun or of a star may be readily obtained. Half the angular distance between a star and its image in the artificial horizon is equal to the altitude of a star above the real horizon."
An African Horizon

"But there's another trouble," said Frank. "At sea the navigator knows the run of his ship by means of the log, as we learned when we crossed the Pacific Ocean in our journey to Japan and China. How are we to 'throw the log' when traveling on land?"

"That is an easy matter," was the reply. "We will have several pedometers, or instruments for counting the steps. They are about the size of an ordinary watch, and worn in the pocket in the same way. Every step taken by the wearer is registered, and by knowing the length of our steps we can get very near the distance travelled. The pedometer is only approximative, and not exact, and the same is the case with the log on a ship.

"A famous African explorer, Dr. Schweinfurth, once had the misfortune to lose his instruments and all the records of his journey by fire. For six months after that calamity he counted his footsteps, noting hundreds by means of his fingers, and making a stroke in his notebook on reaching five hundred. The second five hundred was recorded by making a reverse stroke on the previous one, so as to form a cross, and in this way at the end of a day's journey every thousand steps he had taken was shown by a cross. He thus made account of a million and a quarter paces in the six months that he continued the practice.
An African Village

"Dr. Schweinfurth says that the steps of a human are a more accurate standard of measurement than those of an animal. The camel, when urged to its full speed, does not increase the number of his paces but their length; while those of a man, at whatever rate he walks, are about the same. He suggests that anyone may satisfy himself on this point by measuring his own footsteps in moist ground. He will find them varying very little, no matter what the rate of speed. Dr. Schweinfurth says his steps varied, according to the nature of the road, from twenty-four to twenty-eight inches, and we may set this down as the average step of a man of medium height.

"In addition to sextants and pedometers, we will have a complete apparatus for taking photographs, with plenty of dry plates, sensitive paper, and the other necessary materials; then we must have a stock of compasses, barometers, and thermometers; and we must not forget an anemometer, an instrument for measuring the force of the wind. One of our compasses must be an azimuth, which resembles the marine compass, but has a more accurate graduation, and is provided with vertical sights, so that the variation of the needle may be detected. This is done by observing the position of a star through the sights, and comparing its azimuth, or point on the horizon, with the direction of the needle. The position of the star being known, the computation is easy."

Doctor Bronson explained that the instruments, tents, firearms, and personal outfits could not be procured in Egypt, but must be ordered from London or Paris. The bulk of the provisions might be obtained in Cairo or Alexandria, but the character of the supplies could not always be relied upon. Consequently, it was decided to make the list as complete as possible and ship everything from the English and French capitals, so that they would not be delayed at Cairo. Of course, there would be some deficiencies, and these could be filled from the Cairo market before the date of departure. The plan was carried out without accident.

We have seen our friends on their way to Central Africa, and have now landed them safely at Korosko.

    The Boy Travelers - Africa by Thomas W. Knox Boy Travelers-Africa by Thomas W. Knox    

Chapter 1: Preparations for the Journey. From Cairo to Korosko.


Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the chapter.
  • Review the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


Korosko: Former settlement on the banks of the Nile River in Egypt. This area flooded after the construction of the Aswan High Dam.
Veranda: A gallery, platform, or balcony, usually roofed and often partly enclosed, extending along the outside of a building.
Caliphs: The political leaders of the Muslim world, successors of Muhammad's political authority, not religious or spiritual.
Badinage: Playful banter.
Antiquities: Relics or monuments of ancient times, such as paintings, coins, statues, etc.
Dragoman: An interpreter, especially for the Arabic and Turkish languages.
Cataracts of the Nile: Six shallow areas along the Nile River in Egypt, located between Aswan and Khartoum.
Gaudy: Very showy or ornamented, now especially when excessive, or in a tasteless or vulgar manner.
Bale: A rounded bundle or package of goods in a cloth cover, and corded for storage or transportation.
Quinine: A bitter colorless powder derived from cinchona bark, used to treat malaria and as an ingredient of tonic water.
Malaria: A disease spread by mosquito, in which a protozoan, Plasmodium, multiplies in blood every few days.


Activity 1: Narrate the Chapter

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Chapter Pictures

  • Study the chapter pictures and describe how each relates to the story.

Activity 3: Observe the Modern Equivalent

  • Examine the chapter setting in modern times: The city of Cairo, capital of Egypt.

Activity 4: Map the Chapter

  • Find the continent of Africa on the world map.
  • Find the country of Egypt on the map of Africa.
  • Find the capital Cairo and the Nile River on the map of Egypt.
  • Find the numbered Cataracts (shallows) of the Nile River. How many cataracts are there?
  • Point to the general area of Korosko, between the first and second Cataracts of the Nile.

Activity 5: Map the Chapter on a Globe

  • Repeat the applicable mapwork from Activity 4 on a three-dimensional globe.


  1. 'Korosko.' Wikipedia. n.p.
  2. 'Cataracts of the Nile.' Wikipedia. n.p.
  3. 'Image Showing Nile Cataracts by Mark Dingemanse (CC BY 2.5).' Wikipedia. n.p.