Expedition to the Zambesi and its Tributaries, by David Livingstone

Chapter VIII.

Life amongst the Makololo — Return journey — Native hospitality — A canoe voyage on the Zambesi.

While we were at Sesheke, an ox was killed by a crocodile; a man found the carcass floating in the river, and appropriated the meat. When the owner heard of this, he requested him to come before the chief, as he meant to complain of him; rather than go, the delinquent settled the matter by giving one of his own oxen in lieu of the lost one. A headman from near Linyanti came with a complaint that all his people had run off, owing to the “hunger.” Sekeletu said, “You must not be left to grow lean alone, some of them must come back to you.” He had thus an order to compel their return, if he chose to put it in force. Families frequently leave their own headman and flee to another village, and sometimes a whole village decamps by night, leaving the headman by himself. Sekeletu rarely interfered with the liberty of the subject to choose his own headman, and, as it is often the fault of the latter which causes the people to depart, it is punishment enough for him to be left alone. Flagrant disobedience to the chief’s orders is punished with death. A Moshubia man was ordered to cut some reeds for Sekeletu: he went off, and hid himself for two days instead. For this he was doomed to die, and was carried in a canoe to the middle of the river, choked, and tossed into the stream. The spectators hooted the executioners, calling out to them that they too would soon be carried out and strangled. Occasionally when a man is sent to beat an offender, he tells him his object, returns, and assures the chief he has nearly killed him. The transgressor then keeps for a while out of sight, and the matter is forgotten. The river here teems with monstrous crocodiles, and women are frequently, while drawing water, carried off by these reptiles.

We met a venerable warrior, sole survivor, probably, of the Mantatee host which threatened to invade the colony in 1824. He retained a vivid recollection of their encounter with the Griquas: “As we looked at the men and horses, puffs of smoke arose, and some of us dropped down dead!” “Never saw anything like it in my life, a man’s brains lying in one place and his body in another!” They could not understand what was killing them; a ball struck a man’s shield at an angle; knocked his arm out of joint at the shoulder; and leaving a mark, or burn, as he said, on the shield, killed another man close by. We saw the man with his shoulder still dislocated. Sebetuane was present at the fight, and had an exalted opinion of the power of white people ever afterwards.

The ancient costume of the Makololo consisted of the skin of a lamb, kid, jackal, ocelot, or other small animal, worn round and below the loins: and in cold weather a kaross, or skin mantle, was thrown over the shoulders. The kaross is now laid aside, and the young men of fashion wear a monkey-jacket and a skin round the hips; but no trousers, waistcoat, or shirt. The river and lake tribes are in general very cleanly, bathing several times a day. The Makololo women use water rather sparingly, rubbing themselves with melted butter instead: this keeps off parasites, but gives their clothes a rancid odour. One stage of civilization often leads of necessity to another — the possession of clothes creates a demand for soap; give a man a needle, and he is soon back to you for thread.

This being a time of mourning, on account of the illness of the chief, the men were negligent of their persons, they did not cut their hair, or have merry dances, or carry spear and shield when they walked abroad. The wife of Pitsane was busy making a large hut, while we were in the town: she informed us that the men left house-building entirely to the women and servants. A round tower of stakes and reeds, nine or ten feet high, is raised and plastered; a floor is next made of soft tufa, or ant-hill material and cowdung. This plaster prevents the poisonous insects, called tumpans, whose bite causes fever in some, and painful sores in all, from harbouring in the cracks or soil. The roof, which is much larger in diameter than the tower, is made on the ground, and then, many persons assisting, lifted up and placed on the tower, and thatched. A plastered reed fence is next built up to meet the outer part of the roof, which still projects a little over this fence, and a space of three feet remains between it and the tower. We slept in this space, instead of in the tower, as the inner door of the hut we occupied was uncomfortably small, being only nineteen inches high, and twenty-two inches wide at the floor. A foot from the bottom it measured seventeen inches in breadth, and close to the top only twelve inches, so it was a difficult matter to get through it. The tower has no light or ventilation, except through this small door. The reason a lady assigned for having the doors so very small was to keep out the mice!

The children have merry times, especially in the cool of the evening. One of their games consists of a little girl being carried on the shoulders of two others. She sits with outstretched arms, as they walk about with her, and all the rest clap their hands, and stopping before each hut sing pretty airs, some beating time on their little kilts of cowskin, others making a curious humming sound between the songs. Excepting this and the skipping-rope, the play of the girls consists in imitation of the serious work of their mothers, building little huts, making small pots, and cooking, pounding corn in miniature mortars, or hoeing tiny gardens. The boys play with spears of reeds pointed with wood, and small shields, or bows and arrows; or amuse themselves in making little cattle-pens, or in moulding cattle in clay; they show great ingenuity in the imitation of various-shaped horns. Some too are said to use slings, but as soon as they can watch the goats, or calves, they are sent to the field. We saw many boys riding on the calves they had in charge, but this is an innovation since the arrival of the English with their horses. Tselane, one of the ladies, on observing Dr. Livingstone noting observations on the wet and dry bulb thermometers, thought that he too was engaged in play; for on receiving no reply to her question, which was rather difficult to answer, as the native tongue has no scientific terms, she said with roguish glee, “Poor thing, playing like a little child!”

Like other Africans, the Makololo have great faith in the power of medicine; they believe that there is an especial medicine for every ill that flesh is heir to. Mamire is anxious to have children; he has six wives, and only one boy, and he begs earnestly for “child medicine.” The mother of Sekeletu came from the Barotse Valley to see her son. Thinks she has lost flesh since Dr. Livingstone was here before, and asks for “the medicine of fatness.” The Makololo consider plumpness an essential part of beauty in women, but the extreme stoutness, mentioned by Captain Speke, in the north, would be considered hideous here, for the men have been overheard speaking of a lady whom we call “inclined to embonpoint,” as “fat unto ugliness.”

Two packages from the Kuruman, containing letters and newspapers, reached Linyanti previous to our arrival, and Sekeletu, not knowing when we were coming, left them there; but now at once sent a messenger for them. This man returned on the seventh day, having travelled 240 geographical miles. One of the packages was too heavy for him, and he left it behind. As the Doctor wished to get some more medicine and papers out of the wagon left at Linyanti in 1853, he decided upon going thither himself. The chief gave him his own horse, now about twelve years old, and some men. He found everything in his wagon as safe as when he left it seven years before. The headmen, Mosale and Pekonyane, received him cordially, and lamented that they had so little to offer him. Oh! had he only arrived the year previous, when there was abundance of milk and corn and beer.

Very early the next morning the old town-crier, Ma–Pulenyane, of his own accord made a public proclamation, which, in the perfect stillness of the town long before dawn, was striking: “I have dreamed! I have dreamed! I have dreamed! Thou Mosale and thou Pekonyane, my lords, be not faint-hearted, nor let your hearts be sore, but believe all the words of Monare (the Doctor) for his heart is white as milk towards the Makololo. I dreamed that he was coming, and that the tribe would live, if you prayed to God and give heed to the word of Monare.” Ma–Pulenyane showed Dr. Livingstone the burying-place where poor Helmore and seven others were laid, distinguishing those whom he had put to rest, and those for whom Mafale had performed that last office. Nothing whatever marked the spot, and with the native idea of HIDING the dead, it was said, “it will soon be all overgrown with bushes, for no one will cultivate there.” None but Ma–Pulenyane approached the place, the others stood at a respectful distance; they invariably avoid everything connected with the dead, and no such thing as taking portions of human bodies to make charms of, as is the custom further north, has ever been known among the Makololo.

Sekeletu’s health improved greatly during our visit, the melancholy foreboding left his spirits, and he became cheerful, but resolutely refused to leave his den, and appear in public till he was perfectly cured, and had regained what he considered his good looks. He also feared lest some of those who had bewitched him originally might still be among the people, and neutralize our remedies. 4

As we expected another steamer to be at Kongone in November, it was impossible for us to remain in Sesheke more than one month. Before our departure, the chief and his principal men expressed in a formal manner their great desire to have English people settled on the Batoka highlands. At one time he proposed to go as far as Phori, in order to select a place of residence; but as he afterwards saw reasons for remaining where he was, till his cure was completed, he gave orders to those sent with us, in the event of our getting, on our return, past the rapids near Tette, not to bring us to Sesheke, but to send forward a messenger, and he with the whole tribe would come to us. Dr. Kirk being of the same age, Sekeletu was particularly anxious that he should come and live with him. He said that he would cut off a section of the country for the special use of the English; and on being told that in all probability their descendants would cause disturbance in his country, he replied, “These would be only domestic feuds, and of no importance.” The great extent of uncultivated land on the cool and now unpeopled highlands has but to be seen to convince the spectator how much room there is, and to spare, for a vastly greater population than ever, in our day, can be congregated there.

On the last occasion of our holding Divine service at Sesheke, the men were invited to converse on the subject on which they had been addressed. So many of them had died since we were here before, that not much probability existed of our all meeting again, and this had naturally led to the subject of a future state. They replied that they did not wish to offend the speaker, but they could not believe that all the dead would rise again: “Can those who have been killed in the field and devoured by the vultures; or those who have been eaten by the hyenas or lions; or those who have been tossed into the river, and eaten by more than one crocodile — can they all be raised again to life?” They were told that men could take a leaden bullet, change it into a salt (acetate of lead), which could be dissolved as completely in water as our bodies in the stomachs of animals, and then reconvert it into lead; or that the bullet could be transformed into the red and white paint of our wagons, and again be reconverted into the original lead; and that if men exactly like themselves could do so much, how much more could He do who has made the eye to see, and the ear to hear! We added, however, that we believed in a resurrection, not because we understood how it would be brought about, but because our Heavenly Father assured us of it in His Book. The reference to the truth of the Book and its Author seems always to have more influence on the native mind than the cleverness of the illustration. The knowledge of the people is scanty, but their reasoning is generally clear as far as their information goes.

We left Sesheke on the 17th September, 1860, convoyed by Pitsane and Leshore with their men. Pitsane was ordered by Sekeletu to make a hedge round the garden at the Falls, to protect the seeds we had brought; and also to collect some of the tobacco tribute below the Falls. Leshore, besides acting as a sort of guard of honour to us, was sent on a diplomatic mission to Sinamane. No tribute was exacted by Sekeletu from Sinamane; but, as he had sent in his adhesion, he was expected to act as a guard in case of the Matebele wishing to cross and attack the Makololo. As we intended to purchase canoes of Sinamane in which to descend the river, Leshore was to commend us to whatever help this Batoka chief could render. It must be confessed that Leshore’s men, who were all of the black subject tribes, really needed to be viewed by us in the most charitable light; for Leshore, on entering any village, called out to the inhabitants, “Look out for your property, and see that my thieves don’t steal it.”

Two young Makololo with their Batoka servants accompanied us to see if Kebrabasa could be surmounted, and to bring a supply of medicine for Sekeletu’s leprosy; and half a dozen able canoe-men, under Mobito, who had previously gone with Dr. Livingstone to Loanda, were sent to help us in our river navigation. Some men on foot drove six oxen which Sekeletu had given us as provisions for the journey. It was, as before remarked, a time of scarcity; and, considering the dearth of food, our treatment had been liberal.

By day the canoe-men are accustomed to keep close under the river’s bank from fear of the hippopotami; by night, however, they keep in the middle of the stream, as then those animals are usually close to the bank on their way to their grazing grounds. Our progress was considerably impeded by the high winds, which at this season of the year begin about eight in the morning, and blow strongly up the river all day. The canoes were poor leaky affairs, and so low in parts of the gunwale, that the paddlers were afraid to follow the channel when it crossed the river, lest the waves might swamp us. A rough sea is dreaded by all these inland canoe-men; but though timid, they are by no means unskilful at their work. The ocean rather astonished them afterwards; and also the admirable way that the Nyassa men managed their canoes on a rough lake, and even amongst the breakers, where no small boat could possibly live.

On the night of the 17th we slept on the left bank of the Majeele, after having had all the men ferried across. An ox was slaughtered, and not an ounce of it was left next morning. Our two young Makololo companions, Maloka and Ramakukane, having never travelled before, naturally clung to some of the luxuries they had been accustomed to at home. When they lay down to sleep, their servants were called to spread their blankets over their august persons, not forgetting their feet. This seems to be the duty of the Makololo wife to her husband, and strangers sometimes receive the honour. One of our party, having wandered, slept at the village of Nambowe. When he laid down, to his surprise two of Nambowe’s wives came at once, and carefully and kindly spread his kaross over him.

A beautiful silvery fish with reddish fins, called Ngwesi, is very abundant in the river; large ones weigh fifteen or twenty pounds each. Its teeth are exposed, and so arranged that, when they meet, the edges cut a hook like nippers. The Ngwesi seems to be a very ravenous fish. It often gulps down the Konokono, a fish armed with serrated bones more than an inch in length in the pectoral and dorsal fins, which, fitting into a notch at the roots, can be put by the fish on full cock or straight out — they cannot be folded down, without its will, and even break in resisting. The name “Konokono,” elbow-elbow, is given it from a resemblance its extended fins are supposed to bear to a man’s elbows stuck out from his body. It often performs the little trick of cocking its fins in the stomach of the Ngwesi, and, the elbows piercing its enemy’s sides, he is frequently found floating dead. The fin bones seem to have an acrid secretion on them, for the wound they make is excessively painful. The Konokono barks distinctly when landed with the hook. Our canoe-men invariably picked up every dead fish they saw on the surface of the water, however far gone. An unfragrant odour was no objection; the fish was boiled and eaten, and the water drunk as soup. It is a curious fact that many of the Africans keep fish as we do woodcocks, until they are extremely offensive, before they consider them fit to eat. Our paddlers informed us on our way down that iguanas lay their eggs in July and August, and crocodiles in September. The eggs remain a month or two under the sand where they are laid, and the young come out when the rains have fairly commenced. The canoe-men were quite positive that crocodiles frequently stun men by striking them with their tails, and then squat on them till they are drowned. We once caught a young crocodile, which certainly did use its tail to inflict sharp blows, and led us to conclude that the native opinion is correct. They believed also that, if a person shuts the beast’s eyes, it lets go its hold. Crocodiles have been known to unite and kill a large one of their own species and eat it. Some fishermen throw the bones of the fish into the river but in most of the fishing villages there are heaps of them in various places. The villagers can walk over them without getting them into their feet; but the Makololo, from having softer soles, are unable to do so. The explanation offered was, that the fishermen have a medicine against fish-bones, but that they will not reveal it to the Makololo.

We spent a night on Mparira island, which is four miles long and about one mile broad. Mokompa, the headman, was away hunting elephants. His wife sent for him on our arrival, and he returned next morning before we left. Taking advantage of the long-continued drought, he had set fire to the reeds between the Chobe and Zambesi, in such a manner as to drive the game out at one corner, where his men laid in wait with their spears. He had killed five elephants and three buffaloes, wounding several others which escaped.

On our land party coming up, we were told that the oxen were bitten by the tsetse: they could see a great difference in their looks. One was already eaten, and they now wished to slaughter another. A third fell into a buffalo-pit next day, so our stock was soon reduced.

The Batoka chief, Moshobotwane, again treated us with his usual hospitality, giving us an ox, some meal, and milk. We took another view of the grand Mosi-oa-tunya, and planted a quantity of seeds in the garden on the island; but, as no one will renew the hedge, the hippopotami will, doubtless, soon destroy what we planted. Mashotlane assisted us. So much power was allowed to this under-chief, that he appeared as if he had cast off the authority of Sekeletu altogether. He did not show much courtesy to his messengers; instead of giving them food, as is customary, he took the meat out of a pot in their presence, and handed it to his own followers. This may have been because Sekeletu’s men bore an order to him to remove to Linyanti. He had not only insulted Baldwin, but had also driven away the Griqua traders; but this may all end in nothing. Some of the natives here, and at Sesheke, know a few of the low tricks of more civilized traders. A pot of milk was brought to us one evening, which was more indebted to the Zambesi than to any cow. Baskets of fine-looking white meal, elsewhere, had occasionally the lower half filled with bran. Eggs are always a perilous investment. The native idea of a good egg differs as widely from our own as is possible on such a trifling subject. An egg is eaten here with apparent relish, though an embryo chick be inside.

We left Mosi-oa-tunya on the 27th, and slept close to the village of Bakwini. It is built on a ridge of loose red soil, which produces great crops of mapira and ground-nuts; many magnificent mosibe-trees stand near the village. Machimisi, the headman of the village, possesses a herd of cattle and a large heart; he kept us company for a couple of days to guide us on our way.

We had heard a good deal of a stronghold some miles below the Falls, called Kalunda. Our return path was much nearer the Zambesi than that of our ascent — in fact, as near as the rough country would allow — but we left it twice before we reached Sinamane’s, in order to see Kalunda and a Fall called Moomba, or Moamba. The Makololo had once dispossessed the Batoka of Kalunda, but we could not see the fissure, or whatever it is, that rendered it a place of security, as it was on the southern bank. The crack of the Great Falls was here continued: the rocks are the same as further up, but perhaps less weather-worn — and now partially stratified in great thick masses. The country through which we were travelling was covered with a cindery-looking volcanic tufa, and might be called “Katakaumena.”

The description we received of the Moamba Falls seemed to promise something grand. They were said to send up “smoke” in the wet season, like Mosi-oa-tunya; but when we looked down into the cleft, in which the dark-green narrow river still rolls, we saw, about 800 or 1000 feet below us, what, after Mosi-oa-tunya, seemed two insignificant cataracts. It was evident that Pitsane, observing our delight at the Victoria Falls, wished to increase our pleasure by a second wonder. One Mosi-oa-tunya, however, is quite enough for a continent.

We had now an opportunity of seeing more of the Batoka, than we had on the highland route to our north. They did not wait till the evening before offering food to the strangers. The aged wife of the headman of a hamlet, where we rested at midday, at once kindled a fire, and put on the cooking-pot to make porridge. Both men and women are to be distinguished by greater roundness of feature than the other natives, and the custom of knocking out the upper front teeth gives at once a distinctive character to the face. Their colour attests the greater altitude of the country in which many of them formerly lived. Some, however, are as dark as the Bashubia and Barotse of the great valley to their west, in which stands Sesheke, formerly the capital of the Balui, or Bashubia.

The assertion may seem strange, yet it is none the less true, that in all the tribes we have visited we never saw a really black person. Different shades of brown prevail, and often with a bright bronze tint, which no painter, except Mr. Angus, seems able to catch. Those who inhabit elevated, dry situations, and who are not obliged to work much in the sun, are frequently of a light warm brown, “dark but comely.” Darkness of colour is probably partly caused by the sun, and partly by something in the climate or soil which we do not yet know. We see something of the same sort in trout and other fish which take their colour from the ponds or streams in which they live. The members of our party were much less embrowned by free exposure to the sun for years than Dr. Livingstone and his family were by passing once from Kuruman to Cape Town, a journey which occupied only a couple of months.

We encamped on the Kalomo, on the 1st of October, and found the weather very much warmer than when we crossed this stream in August. At 3 p.m. the thermometer, four feet from the ground, was 101 degrees in the shade; the wet bulb only 61 degrees: a difference of 40 degrees. Yet, notwithstanding this extreme dryness of the atmosphere, without a drop of rain having fallen for months, and scarcely any dew, many of the shrubs and trees were putting forth fresh leaves of various hues, while others made a profuse display of lovely blossoms.

Two old and very savage buffaloes were shot for our companions on the 3rd October. Our Volunteers may feel an interest in knowing that balls sometimes have but little effect: one buffalo fell, on receiving a Jacob’s shell; it was hit again twice, and lost a large amount of blood; and yet it sprang up, and charged a native, who, by great agility, had just time to climb a tree, before the maddened beast struck it, battering-ram fashion, hard enough almost to have split both head and tree. It paused a few seconds — drew back several paces — glared up at the man — and then dashed at the tree again and again, as if determined to shake him out of it. It took two more Jacob’s shells, and five other large solid rifle-balls to finish the beast at last. These old surly buffaloes had been wandering about in a sort of miserable fellowship; their skins were diseased and scabby, as if leprous, and their horns atrophied or worn down to stumps — the first was killed outright, by one Jacob’s shell, the second died hard. There is so much difference in the tenacity of life in wounded animals of the same species, that the inquiry is suggested where the seat of life can be? — We have seen a buffalo live long enough, after a large bullet had passed right through the heart, to allow firm adherent clots to be formed in the two holes.

One day’s journey above Sinamane’s, a mass of mountain called Gorongue, or Golongwe, is said to cross the river, and the rent through which the river passes is, by native report, quite fearful to behold. The country round it is so rocky, that our companions dreaded the fatigue, and were not much to blame, if, as is probably the case, the way be worse than that over which we travelled. As we trudged along over the black slag-like rocks, the almost leafless trees affording no shade, the heat was quite as great as Europeans could bear. It was 102 degrees in the shade, and a thermometer placed under the tongue or armpit showed that our blood was 99.5 degrees, or 1.5 degrees hotter than that of the natives, which stood at 98 degrees. Our shoes, however, enable us to pass over the hot burning soil better than they can. Many of those who wear sandals have corns on the sides of the feet, and on the heels, where the straps pass. We have seen instances, too, where neither sandals nor shoes were worn, of corns on the soles of the feet. It is, moreover, not at all uncommon to see toes cocked up, as if pressed out of their proper places; at home, we should have unhesitatingly ascribed this to the vicious fashions perversely followed by our shoemakers.

On the 5th, after crossing some hills, we rested at the village of Simariango. The bellows of the blacksmith here were somewhat different from the common goatskin bags, and more like those seen in Madagascar. They consisted of two wooden vessels, like a lady’s bandbox of small dimensions, the upper ends of which were covered with leather, and looked something like the heads of drums, except that the leather bagged in the centre. They were fitted with long nozzles, through which the air was driven by working the loose covering of the tops up and down by means of a small piece of wood attached to their centres. The blacksmith said that tin was obtained from a people in the north, called Marendi, and that he had made it into bracelets; we had never heard before of tin being found in the country.

Our course then lay down the bed of a rivulet, called Mapatizia, in which there was much calc spar, with calcareous schist, and then the Tette grey sandstone, which usually overlies coal. On the 6th we arrived at the islet Chilombe, belonging to Sinamane, where the Zambesi runs broad and smooth again, and were well received by Sinamane himself. Never was Sunday more welcome to the weary than this, the last we were to spend with our convoy.

We now saw many good-looking young men and women. The dresses of the ladies are identical with those of Nubian women in Upper Egypt. To a belt on the waist a great number of strings are attached to hang all round the person. These fringes are about six or eight inches long. The matrons wear in addition a skin cut like the tails of the coatee formerly worn by our dragoons. The younger girls wear the waist-belt exhibited in the woodcut, ornamented with shells, and have the fringes only in front. Marauding parties of Batoka, calling themselves Makololo, have for some time had a wholesome dread of Sinamane’s “long spears.” Before going to Tette our Batoka friend, Masakasa, was one of a party that came to steal some of the young women; but Sinamane, to their utter astonishment, attacked them so furiously that the survivors barely escaped with their lives. Masakasa had to flee so fast that he threw away his shield, his spear, and his clothes, and returned home a wiser and a sadder man.

Sinamane’s people cultivate large quantities of tobacco, which they manufacture into balls for the Makololo market. Twenty balls, weighing about three-quarters of a pound each, are sold for a hoe. The tobacco is planted on low moist spots on the banks of the Zambesi; and was in flower at the time we were there, in October. Sinamane’s people appear to have abundance of food, and are all in good condition. He could sell us only two of his canoes; but lent us three more to carry us as far as Moemba’s, where he thought others might be purchased. They were manned by his own canoe-men, who were to bring them back. The river is about 250 yards wide, and flows serenely between high banks towards the North-east. Below Sinamane’s the banks are often worn down fifty feet, and composed of shingle and gravel of igneous rocks, sometimes set in a ferruginous matrix. The bottom is all gravel and shingle, how formed we cannot imagine, unless in pot-holes in the deep fissure above. The bottom above the Falls, save a few rocks close by them, is generally sandy or of soft tufa. Every damp spot is covered with maize, pumpkins, water-melons, tobacco, and hemp. There is a pretty numerous Batoka population on both sides of the river. As we sailed slowly down, the people saluted us from the banks, by clapping their hands. A headman even hailed us, and brought a generous present of corn and pumpkins.

Moemba owns a rich island, called Mosanga, a mile in length, on which his village stands. He has the reputation of being a brave warrior, and is certainly a great talker; but he gave us strangers something better than a stream of words. We received a handsome present of corn, and the fattest goat we had ever seen; it resembled mutton. His people were as liberal as their chief. They brought two large baskets of corn, and a lot of tobacco, as a sort of general contribution to the travellers. One of Sinamane’s canoe-men, after trying to get his pay, deserted here, and went back before the stipulated time, with the story, that the Englishman had stolen the canoes. Shortly after sunrise next morning, Sinamane came into the village with fifty of his “long spears,” evidently determined to retake his property by force; he saw at a glance that his man had deceived him. Moemba rallied him for coming on a wildgoose chase. “Here are your canoes left with me, your men have all been paid, and the Englishmen are now asking me to sell my canoes.” Sinamane said little to us; only observing that he had been deceived by his follower. A single remark of his chief’s caused the foolish fellow to leave suddenly, evidently much frightened and crestfallen. Sinamane had been very kind to us, and, as he was looking on when we gave our present to Moemba, we made him also an additional offering of some beads, and parted good friends. Moemba, having heard that we had called the people of Sinamane together to tell them about our Saviour’s mission to man, and to pray with them, associated the idea of Sunday with the meeting, and, before anything of the sort was proposed, came and asked that he and his people might be “sundayed” as well as his neighbours; and be given a little seed wheat, and fruit-tree seeds; with which request of course we very willingly complied. The idea of praying direct to the Supreme Being, though not quite new to all, seems to strike their minds so forcibly that it will not be forgotten. Sinamane said that he prayed to God, Morungo, and made drink-offerings to him. Though he had heard of us, he had never seen white men before.

Beautiful crowned cranes, named from their note “ma-wang,” were seen daily, and were beginning to pair. Large flocks of spur-winged geese, or machikwe, were common. This goose is said to lay her eggs in March. We saw also pairs of Egyptian geese, as well as a few of the knob-nosed, or, as they are called in India, combed geese. When the Egyptian geese, as at the present time, have young, the goslings keep so steadily in the wake of their mother, that they look as if they were a part of her tail; and both parents, when on land, simulate lameness quite as well as our plovers, to draw off pursuers. The ostrich also adopts the lapwing fashion, but no quadrupeds do: they show fight to defend their young instead. In some places the steep banks were dotted with the holes which lead into the nests of bee-eaters. These birds came out in hundreds as we passed. When the red-breasted species settle on the trees, they give them the appearance of being covered with red foliage.

On the morning of the 12th October we passed through a wild, hilly country, with fine wooded scenery on both sides, but thinly inhabited. The largest trees were usually thorny acacias, of great size and beautiful forms. As we sailed by several villages without touching, the people became alarmed, and ran along the banks, spears in hand. We employed one to go forward and tell Mpande of our coming. This allayed their fears, and we went ashore, and took breakfast near the large island with two villages on it, opposite the mouth of the Zungwe, where we had left the Zambesi on our way up. Mpande was sorry that he had no canoes of his own to sell, but he would lend us two. He gave us cooked pumpkins and a water-melon. His servant had lateral curvature of the spine. We have often seen cases of humpback, but this was the only case of this kind of curvature we had met with. Mpande accompanied us himself in his own vessel, till we had an opportunity of purchasing a fine large canoe elsewhere. We paid what was considered a large price for it: twelve strings of blue cut glass neck beads, an equal number of large blue ones of the size of marbles, and two yards of grey calico. Had the beads been coarser, they would have been more valued, because such were in fashion. Before concluding the bargain the owner said “his bowels yearned for his canoe, and we must give a little more to stop their yearning.” This was irresistible. The trading party of Sequasha, which we now met, had purchased ten large new canoes for six strings of cheap coarse white beads each, or their equivalent, four yards of calico, and had bought for the merest trifle ivory enough to load them all. They were driving a trade in slaves also, which was something new in this part of Africa, and likely soon to change the character of the inhabitants. These men had been living in clover, and were uncommonly fat and plump. When sent to trade, slaves wisely never stint themselves of beer or anything else, which their master’s goods can buy.

The temperature of the Zambesi had increased 10 degrees since August, being now 80 degrees. The air was as high as 96 degrees after sunset; and, the vicinity of the water being the coolest part, we usually made our beds close by the river’s brink, though there in danger of crocodiles. Africa differs from India in the air always becoming cool and refreshing long before the sun returns, and there can be no doubt that we can in this country bear exposure to the sun, which would be fatal in India. It is probably owing to the greater dryness of the African atmosphere that sunstroke is so rarely met with. In twenty-two years Dr. Livingstone never met or heard of a single case, though the protective head-dresses of India are rarely seen.

When the water is nearly at its lowest, we occasionally meet with small rapids which are probably not in existence during the rest of the year. Having slept opposite the rivulet Bume, which comes from the south, we passed the island of Nakansalo, and went down the rapids of the same name on the 17th, and came on the morning of the 19th to the more serious ones of Nakabele, at the entrance to Kariba. The Makololo guided the canoes admirably through the opening in the dyke. When we entered the gorge we came on upwards of thirty hippopotami: a bank near the entrance stretches two-thirds across the narrowed river, and in the still place behind it they were swimming about. Several were in the channel, and our canoe-men were afraid to venture down among them, because, as they affirm, there is commonly an ill-natured one in a herd, which takes a malignant pleasure in upsetting canoes. Two or three boys on the rocks opposite amused themselves by throwing stones at the frightened animals, and hit several on the head. It would have been no difficult matter to have shot the whole herd. We fired a few shots to drive them off; the balls often glance off the skull, and no more harm is done than when a schoolboy gets a bloody nose; we killed one, which floated away down the rapid current, followed by a number of men on the bank. A native called to us from the left bank, and said that a man on his side knew how to pray to the Kariba gods, and advised us to hire him to pray for our safety, while we were going down the rapids, or we should certainly all be drowned. No one ever risked his life in Kariba without first paying the river-doctor, or priest, for his prayers. Our men asked if there was a cataract in front, but he declined giving any information; they were not on his side of the river; if they would come over, then he might be able to tell them. We crossed, but he went off to the village. We then landed and walked over the hills to have a look at Karaba before trusting our canoes in it. The current was strong, and there was broken water in some places, but the channel was nearly straight, and had no cataract, so we determined to risk it. Our men visited the village while we were gone, and were treated to beer and tobacco. The priest who knows how to pray to the god that rules the rapids followed us with several of his friends, and they were rather surprised to see us pass down in safety, without the aid of his intercession. The natives who followed the dead hippopotamus caught it a couple of miles below, and, having made it fast to a rock, were sitting waiting for us on the bank beside the dead animal. As there was a considerable current there, and the rocky banks were unfit for our beds, we took the hippopotamus in tow, telling the villagers to follow, and we would give them most of the meat. The crocodiles tugged so hard at the carcass, that we were soon obliged to cast it adrift, to float down in the current, to avoid upsetting the canoe. We had to go on so far before finding a suitable spot to spend the night in, that the natives concluded we did not intend to share the meat with them, and returned to the village. We slept two nights at the place where the hippopotamus was cut up. The crocodiles had a busy time of it in the dark, tearing away at what was left in the river, and thrashing the water furiously with their powerful tails. The hills on both sides of Kariba are much like those of Kebrabasa, the strata tilted and twisted in every direction, with no level ground.

Although the hills confine the Zambesi within a narrow channel for a number of miles, there are no rapids beyond those near the entrance. The river is smooth and apparently very deep. Only one single human being was seen in the gorge, the country being too rough for culture. Some rocks in the water, near the outlet of Kariba, at a distance look like a fort; and such large masses dislocated, bent, and even twisted to a remarkable degree, at once attest some tremendous upheaving and convulsive action of nature, which probably caused Kebrabasa, Kariba, and the Victoria Falls to assume their present forms; it took place after the formation of the coal, that mineral having then been tilted up. We have probably nothing equal to it in the present quiet operations of nature.

On emerging we pitched our camp by a small stream, the Pendele, a few miles below the gorge. The Palabi mountain stands on the western side of the lower end of the Kariba strait; the range to which it belongs crosses the river, and runs to the south-east. Chikumbula, a hospitable old headman, under Nchomokela, the paramount chief of a large district, whom we did not see, brought us next morning a great basket of meal, and four fowls, with some beer, and a cake of salt, “to make it taste good.” Chikumbula said that the elephants plagued them, by eating up the cotton-plants; but his people seem to be well off.

A few days before we came, they caught three buffaloes in pitfalls in one night, and, unable to eat them all, left one to rot. During the night the wind changed and blew from the dead buffalo to our sleeping-place; and a hungry lion, not at all dainty in his food, stirred up the putrid mass, and growled and gloated over his feast, to the disturbance of our slumbers. Game of all kinds is in most extraordinary abundance, especially from this point to below the Kafue, and so it is on Moselekatso’s side, where there are no inhabitants. The drought drives all the game to the river to drink. An hour’s walk on the right bank, morning or evening, reveals a country swarming with wild animals: vast herds of pallahs, many waterbucks, koodoos, buffaloes, wild pigs, elands, zebras, and monkeys appear; francolins, guinea-fowls, and myriads of turtledoves attract the eye in the covers, with the fresh spoor of elephants and rhinoceroses, which had been at the river during the night. Every few miles we came upon a school of hippopotami, asleep on some shallow sandbank; their bodies, nearly all out of the water, appeared like masses of black rock in the river. When these animals are hunted much, they become proportionably wary, but here no hunter ever troubles them, and they repose in security, always however taking the precaution of sleeping just above the deep channel, into which they can plunge when alarmed. When a shot is fired into a sleeping herd, all start up on their feet, and stare with peculiar stolid looks of hippopotamic surprise, and wait for another shot before dashing into deep water. A few miles below Chikumbula’s we saw a white hippopotamus in a herd. Our men had never seen one like it before. It was of a pinkish white, exactly like the colour of the Albino. It seemed to be the father of a number of others, for there were many marked with large light patches. The so-called WHITE elephant is just such a pinkish Albino as this hippopotamus. A few miles above Kariba we observed that, in two small hamlets, many of the inhabitants had a similar affection of the skin. The same influence appeared to have affected man and beast. A dark coloured hippopotamus stood alone, as if expelled from the herd, and bit the water, shaking his head from side to side in a most frantic manner. When the female has twins, she is said to kill one of them.

We touched at the beautiful tree-covered island of Kalabi, opposite where Tuba-mokoro lectured the lion in our way up. The ancestors of the people who now inhabit this island possessed cattle. The tsetse has taken possession of the country since “the beeves were lifted.” No one knows where these insects breed; at a certain season all disappear, and as suddenly come back, no one knows whence. The natives are such close observers of nature, that their ignorance in this case surprised us. A solitary hippopotamus had selected the little bay in which we landed, and where the women drew water, for his dwelling-place. Pretty little lizards, with light blue and red tails, run among the rocks, catching flies and other insects. These harmless — though to new-comers repulsive — creatures sometimes perform good service to man, by eating great numbers of the destructive white ants.

At noon on the 24th October, we found Sequasha in a village below the Kafue, with the main body of his people. He said that 210 elephants had been killed during his trip; many of his men being excellent hunters. The numbers of animals we saw renders this possible. He reported that, after reaching the Kafue, he went northwards into the country of the Zulus, whose ancestors formerly migrated from the south and set up a sort of Republican form of government. Sequasha is the greatest Portuguese traveller we ever became acquainted with, and he boasts that he is able to speak a dozen different dialects; yet, unfortunately, he can give but a very meagre account of the countries and people he has seen, and his statements are not very much to be relied on. But considering the influence among which he has been reared, and the want of the means of education at Tette, it is a wonder that he possesses the good traits that he sometimes exhibits. Among his wares were several cheap American clocks; a useless investment rather, for a part of Africa where no one cares for the artificial measurement of time. These clocks got him into trouble among the Banyai: he set them all agoing in the presence of a chief, who became frightened at the strange sounds they made, and looked upon them as so many witchcraft agencies at work to bring all manner of evils upon himself and his people. Sequasha, it was decided, had been guilty of a milando, or crime, and he had to pay a heavy fine of cloth and beads for his exhibition. He alluded to our having heard that he had killed Mpangwe, and he denied having actually done so; but in his absence his name had got mixed up in the affair, in consequence of his slaves, while drinking beer one night with Namakusuru, the man who succeeded Mpangwe, saying that they would kill the chief for him. His partner had not thought of this when we saw him on the way up, for he tried to excuse the murder, by saying that now they had put the right man into the chieftainship.

After three hours’ sail, on the morning of the 29th, the river was narrowed again by the mountains of Mburuma, called Karivua, into one channel, and another rapid dimly appeared. It was formed by two currents guided by rocks to the centre. In going down it, the men sent by Sekeletu behaved very nobly. The canoes entered without previous survey, and the huge jobbling waves of mid-current began at once to fill them. With great presence of mind, and without a moment’s hesitation, two men lightened each by jumping overboard; they then ordered a Botoka man to do the same, as “the white men must be saved.” “I cannot swim,” said the Batoka. “Jump out, then, and hold on to the canoe;” which he instantly did. Swimming alongside, they guided the swamping canoes down the swift current to the foot of the rapid, and then ran them ashore to bale them out. A boat could have passed down safely, but our canoes were not a foot above the water at the gunwales.

Thanks to the bravery of these poor fellows, nothing was lost, although everything was well soaked. This rapid is nearly opposite the west end of the Mburuma mountains or Karivua. Another soon begins below it. They are said to be all smoothed over when the river rises. The canoes had to be unloaded at this the worst rapid, and the goods carried about a hundred yards. By taking the time in which a piece of stick floated past 100 feet, we found the current to be running six knots, by far the greatest velocity noted in the river. As the men were bringing the last canoe down close to the shore, the stern swung round into the current, and all except one man let go, rather than be dragged off. He clung to the bow, and was swept out into the middle of the stream. Having held on when he ought to have let go, he next put his life in jeopardy by letting go when he ought to have held on; and was in a few seconds swallowed up by a fearful whirlpool. His comrades launched out a canoe below, and caught him as he rose the third time to the surface, and saved him, though much exhausted and very cold.

The scenery of this pass reminded us of Kebrabasa, although it is much inferior. A band of the same black shining glaze runs along the rocks about two feet from the water’s edge. There was not a blade of grass on some of the hills, it being the end of the usual dry season succeeding a previous severe drought; yet the hill-sides were dotted over with beautiful green trees. A few antelopes were seen on the rugged slopes, where some people too appeared lying down, taking a cup of beer. The Karivua narrows are about thirty miles in length. They end at the mountain Roganora. Two rocks, twelve or fifteen feet above the water at the time we were there, may in flood be covered and dangerous. Our chief danger was the wind, a very slight ripple being sufficient to swamp canoes.

4 It was with sorrow that we learned by a letter from Mr. Moffat, in 1864, that poor Sekeletu was dead. As will be mentioned further on, men were sent with us to bring up more medicine. They preferred to remain on the Shire, and, as they were free men, we could do no more than try and persuade them to hasten back to their chief with iodine and other remedies. They took the parcel, but there being only two real Makololo among them, these could neither return themselves alone or force their attendants to leave a part of the country where they were independent, and could support themselves with ease. Sekeletu, however, lived long enough to receive and acknowledge goods to the value of 50 pounds, sent, in lieu of those which remained in Tette, by Robert Moffat, jun., since dead.


Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38