Level Plains — Vultures and other Birds — Diversity of Color in Flowers of the same Species — The Sundew — Twenty-seventh Attack of Fever — A River which flows in opposite Directions — Lake Dilolo the Watershed between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans — Position of Rocks — Sir Roderick Murchison’s Explanation — Characteristics of the Rainy Season in connection with the Floods of the Zambesi and the Nile — Probable Reason of Difference in Amount of Rain South and North of the Equator — Arab Reports of Region east of Londa — Probable Watershed of the Zambesi and the Nile — Lake Dilolo — Reach Katema’s Town: his renewed Hospitality; desire to appear like a White Man; ludicrous Departure — Jackdaws — Ford southern Branch of Lake Dilolo — Small Fish — Project for a Makololo Village near the Confluence of the Leeba and the Leeambye — Hearty Welcome from Shinte — Kolimbota’s Wound — Plant-seeds and Fruit-trees brought from Angola — Masiko and Limboa’s Quarrel — Nyamoana now a Widow — Purchase Canoes and descend the Leeba — Herds of wild Animals on its Banks — Unsuccessful Buffalo-hunt — Frogs — Sinbad and the Tsetse — Dispatch a Message to Manenko — Arrival of her Husband Sambanza — The Ceremony called Kasendi — Unexpected Fee for performing a surgical Operation — Social Condition of the Tribes — Desertion of Mboenga — Stratagem of Mambowe Hunters — Water-turtles — Charged by a Buffalo — Reception from the People of Libonta — Explain the Causes of our long Delay — Pitsane’s Speech — Thanksgiving Services — Appearance of my “Braves” — Wonderful Kindness of the People.
After leaving the Kasai, we entered upon the extensive level plains which we had formerly found in a flooded condition. The water on them was not yet dried up, as it still remained in certain hollow spots. Vultures were seen floating in the air, showing that carrion was to be found; and, indeed, we saw several of the large game, but so exceedingly wild as to be unapproachable. Numbers of caterpillars mounted the stalks of grass, and many dragonflies and butterflies appeared, though this was winter. The caprimulgus or goat-sucker, swifts, and different kinds of swallows, with a fiery-red bee-eater in flocks, showed that the lowest temperature here does not destroy the insects on which they feed. Jet-black larks, with yellow shoulders, enliven the mornings with their songs, but they do not continue so long on the wing as ours, nor soar so high. We saw many of the pretty white ardea, and other water-birds, flying over the spots not yet dried up; and occasionally wild ducks, but these only in numbers sufficient to remind us that we were approaching the Zambesi, where every water-fowl has a home.
While passing across these interminable-looking plains, the eye rests with pleasure on a small flower, which exists in such numbers as to give its own hue to the ground. One broad band of yellow stretches across our path. On looking at the flowers which formed this golden carpet, we saw every variety of that color, from the palest lemon to the richest orange. Crossing a hundred yards of this, we came upon another broad band of the same flower, but blue, and this color is varied from the lightest tint to dark blue, and even purple. I had before observed the same flower possessing different colors in different parts of the country, and once a great number of liver-colored flowers, which elsewhere were yellow. Even the color of the birds changed with the district we passed through; but never before did I see such a marked change as from yellow to blue, repeated again and again on the same plain. Another beautiful plant attracted my attention so strongly on these plains that I dismounted to examine it. To my great delight I found it to be an old home acquaintance, a species of Drosera, closely resembling our own sundew (‘Drosera Anglia’). The flower-stalk never attains a height of more than two or three inches, and the leaves are covered with reddish hairs, each of which has a drop of clammy fluid at its tip, making the whole appear as if spangled over with small diamonds. I noticed it first in the morning, and imagined the appearance was caused by the sun shining on drops of dew; but, as it continued to maintain its brilliancy during the heat of the day, I proceeded to investigate the cause of its beauty, and found that the points of the hairs exuded pure liquid, in, apparently, capsules of clear, glutinous matter. They were thus like dewdrops preserved from evaporation. The clammy fluid is intended to entrap insects, which, dying on the leaf, probably yield nutriment to the plant.
During our second day on this extensive plain I suffered from my twenty-seventh attack of fever, at a part where no surface-water was to be found. We never thought it necessary to carry water with us in this region; and now, when I was quite unable to move on, my men soon found water to allay my burning thirst by digging with sticks a few feet beneath the surface. We had thus an opportunity of observing the state of these remarkable plains at different seasons of the year. Next day we pursued our way, and on the 8th of June we forded the Lotembwa to the N.W. of Dilolo, and regained our former path.
The Lotembwa here is about a mile wide, about three feet deep, and full of the lotus, papyrus, arum, mat-rushes, and other aquatic plants. I did not observe the course in which the water flowed while crossing; but, having noticed before that the Lotembwa on the other side of the Lake Dilolo flowed in a southerly direction, I supposed that this was simply a prolongation of the same river beyond Dilolo, and that it rose in this large marsh, which we had not seen in our progress to the N.W. But when we came to the Southern Lotembwa, we were informed by Shakatwala that the river we had crossed flowed in an opposite direction — not into Dilolo, but into the Kasai. This phenomenon of a river running in opposite directions struck even his mind as strange; and, though I did not observe the current, simply from taking it for granted that it was toward the lake, I have no doubt that his assertion, corroborated as it was by others, is correct, and that the Dilolo is actually the watershed between the river systems that flow to the east and west.
I would have returned in order to examine more carefully this most interesting point, but, having had my lower extremities chilled in crossing the Northern Lotembwa, I was seized with vomiting of blood, and, besides, saw no reason to doubt the native testimony. The distance between Dilolo and the valleys leading to that of the Kasai is not more than fifteen miles, and the plains between are perfectly level; and, had I returned, I should only have found that this little lake Dilolo, by giving a portion to the Kasai and another to the Zambesi, distributes its waters to the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. I state the fact exactly as it opened to my own mind, for it was only now that I apprehended the true form of the river systems and continent. I had seen the various rivers of this country on the western side flowing from the subtending ridges into the centre, and had received information from natives and Arabs that most of the rivers on the eastern side of the same great region took a somewhat similar course from an elevated ridge there, and that all united in two main drains, the one flowing to the north and the other to the south, and that the northern drain found its way out by the Congo to the west, and the southern by the Zambesi to the east. I was thus on the watershed, or highest point of these two great systems, but still not more than 4000 feet above the level of the sea, and 1000 feet lower than the top of the western ridge we had already crossed; yet, instead of lofty snow-clad mountains appearing to verify the conjectures of the speculative, we had extensive plains, over which one may travel a month without seeing any thing higher than an ant-hill or a tree. I was not then aware that any one else had discovered the elevated trough form of the centre of Africa.
I had observed that the old schistose rocks on the sides dipped in toward the centre of the country, and their strike nearly corresponded with the major axis of the continent; and also that where the later erupted trap rocks had been spread out in tabular masses over the central plateau, they had borne angular fragments of the older rocks in their substance; but the partial generalization which the observations led to was, that great volcanic action had taken place in ancient times, somewhat in the same way it does now, at distances of not more than three hundred miles from the sea, and that this igneous action, extending along both sides of the continent, had tilted up the lateral rocks in the manner they are now seen to lie. The greater energy and more extended range of igneous action in those very remote periods when Africa was formed, embracing all the flanks, imparted to it its present very simple literal outline. This was the length to which I had come.
The trap rocks, which now constitute the “filling up” of the great valley, were always a puzzle to me till favored with Sir Roderick Murchison’s explanation of the original form of the continent, for then I could see clearly why these trap rocks, which still lie in a perfectly horizontal position on extensive areas, held in their substance angular fragments, containing algae of the old schists, which form the bottom of the original lacustrine basin: the traps, in bursting through, had broken them off and preserved them. There are, besides, ranges of hills in the central parts, composed of clay and sandstone schists, with the ripple mark distinct, in which no fossils appear; but as they are usually tilted away from the masses of horizontal trap, it is probable that they too were a portion of the original bottom, and fossils may yet be found in them.37
37 After dwelling upon the geological structure of the Cape Colony as developed by Mr. A. Bain, and the existence in very remote periods of lacustrine conditions in the central part of South Africa, as proved by fresh-water and terrestrial fossils, Sir Roderick Murchison thus writes:
“Such as South Africa is now, such have been her main features during countless past ages anterior to the creation of the human race; for the old rocks which form her outer fringe unquestionably circled round an interior marshy or lacustrine country, in which the Dicynodon flourished, at a time when not a single animal was similar to any living thing which now inhabits the surface of our globe. The present central and meridian zone of waters, whether lakes or marshes, extending from Lake Tchad to Lake ‘Ngami, with hippopotami on their banks, are therefore but the great modern residual geographical phenomena of those of a mesozoic age. The differences, however, between the geological past of Africa and her present state are enormous. Since that primeval time, the lands have been much elevated above the sea-level — eruptive rocks piercing in parts through them; deep rents and defiles have been suddenly formed in the subtending ridges through which some rivers escape outward.
“Travelers will eventually ascertain whether the basin-shaped structure, which is here announced as having been the great feature of the most ancient, as it is of the actual geography of South Africa (i.e., from primeval times to the present day), does, or does not, extend into Northern Africa. Looking at that much broader portion of the continent, we have some reason to surmise that the higher mountains also form, in a general sense, its flanks only.” — President’s Address, Royal Geographical Society, 1852, p. cxxiii.
The characteristics of the rainy season in this wonderfully humid region may account in some measure for the periodical floods of the Zambesi, and perhaps the Nile. The rains seem to follow the course of the sun, for they fall in October and November, when the sun passes over this zone on his way south. On reaching the tropic of Capricorn in December, it is dry; and December and January are the months in which injurious droughts are most dreaded near that tropic (from Kolobeng to Linyanti). As he returns again to the north in February, March, and April, we have the great rains of the year; and the plains, which in October and November were well moistened, and imbibed rain like sponges, now become supersaturated, and pour forth those floods of clear water which inundate the banks of the Zambesi. Somewhat the same phenomenon probably causes the periodical inundations of the Nile. The two rivers rise in the same region; but there is a difference in the period of flood, possibly from their being on opposite sides of the equator. The waters of the Nile are said to become turbid in June; and the flood attains its greatest height in August, or the period when we may suppose the supersaturation to occur. The subject is worthy the investigation of those who may examine the region between the equator and 10° S.; for the Nile does not show much increase when the sun is at its farthest point north, or tropic of Cancer, but at the time of its returning to the equator, exactly as in the other case when he is on Capricorn, and the Zambesi is affected.38
38 The above is from my own observation, together with information derived from the Portuguese in the interior of Angola; and I may add that the result of many years’ observation by Messrs. Gabriel and Brand at Loanda, on the west coast, is in accordance therewith. It rains there between the 1st and 30th of November, but January and December are usually both warm and dry. The heavier rains commence about the 1st of February, and last until the 15th of May. Then no rain falls between the 20th of May and the 1st of November. The rain averages from 12 to 15 inches per annum. In 1852 it was 12.034 inches; in 1853, 15.473 inches. Although I had no means of measuring the amount of rain which fell in Londa, I feel certain that the annual quantity exceeds very much that which falls on the coast, because for a long time we noticed that every dawn was marked by a deluging shower, which began without warning-drops or thunder. I observed that the rain ceased suddenly on the 28th of April, and the lesser rains commenced about a fortnight before the beginning of November.
From information derived from Arabs of Zanzibar, whom I met at Naliele in the middle of the country, the region to the east of the parts of Londa over which we have traveled resembles them in its conformation. They report swampy steppes, some of which have no trees, where the inhabitants use grass, and stalks of native corn, for fuel. A large shallow lake is also pointed out in that direction, named Tanganyenka, which requires three days for crossing in canoes. It is connected with another named Kalagwe (Garague?), farther north, and may be the Nyanja of the Maravim. From this lake is derived, by numerous small streams, the River Loapula, the eastern branch of the Zambesi, which, coming from the N.E., flows past the town of Cazembe.
The southern end of this lake is ten days northeast of the town of Cazembe; and as that is probably more than five days from Shinte, we can not have been nearer to it than 150 miles. Probably this lake is the watershed between the Zambesi and the Nile, as Lake Dilolo is that between the Leeba and Kasai. But, however this may be, the phenomena of the rainy season show that it is not necessary to assume the existence of high snowy mountains until we get reliable information. This, it is to be hoped, will be one of the results of the researches of Captain Burton in his present journey.
The original valley formation of the continent determined the northern and southern course of the Zambesi in the centre, and also of the ancient river which once flowed from the Linyanti basin to the Orange River. It also gave direction to the southern and northern flow of the Kasai and the Nile. We find that between the latitudes, say 6° and 12° S., from which, in all probability, the head waters of those rivers diverge, there is a sort of elevated partition in the great longitudinal valley. Presuming on the correctness of the native information, which places the humid region to which the Nile and Zambesi probably owe their origin within the latitudes indicated, why does so much more rain fall there than in the same latitudes north of the equator? Why does Darfur not give rise to great rivers, like Londa and the country east of it? The prevailing winds in the ocean opposite the territory pointed out are said to be from the N.E. and S.E. during a great part of the year; they extend their currents on one side at least of the equator quite beyond the middle of the continent, and even until in Angola they meet the sea-breeze from the Atlantic. If the reader remembers the explanation given at page 109,39 that the comparative want of rain on the Kalahari Desert is caused by the mass of air losing its humidity as it passes up and glides over the subtending ridge, and will turn to the map, he may perceive that the same cause is in operation in an intense degree by the mountains of Abyssinia to render the region about Darfur still more arid, and that the flanking ranges mentioned lie much nearer the equator than those which rob the Kalahari of humidity. The Nile, even while running through a part of that region, receives remarkably few branches. Observing also that there is no known abrupt lateral mountain-range between 6° and 12° S., but that there is an elevated partition there, and that the southing and northing of the southeasters and northeasters probably cause a confluence of the two great atmospheric currents, he will perceive an accumulation of humidity on the flanks and crown of the partition, instead of, as elsewhere, opposite the Kalahari and Darfur, a deposition of the atmospheric moisture on the eastern slopes of the subtending ridges. This explanation is offered with all deference to those who have made meteorology their special study, and as a hint to travelers who may have opportunity to examine the subject more fully. I often observed, while on a portion of the partition, that the air by night was generally quite still, but as soon as the sun’s rays began to shoot across the upper strata of the atmosphere in the early morning, a copious discharge came suddenly down from the accumulated clouds. It always reminded me of the experiment of putting a rod into a saturated solution of a certain salt, causing instant crystallization. This, too, was the period when I often observed the greatest amount of cold.
39 Since the explanation in page 109 [Chapter 5 Paragraph 5] was printed, I have been pleased to see the same explanation given by the popular astronomer and natural philosopher, M. Babinet, in reference to the climate of France. It is quoted from a letter of a correspondent of the ‘Times’ in Paris:
“In the normal meteorological state of France and Europe, the west wind, which is the counter-current of the trade-winds that constantly blow from the east under the tropics — the west wind, I say, after having touched France and Europe by the western shores, re-descends by Marseilles and the Mediterranean, Constantinople and the Archipelago, Astrakan and the Caspian Sea, in order to merge again into the great circuit of the general winds, and be thus carried again into the equatorial current. Whenever these masses of air, impregnated with humidity during their passage over the ocean, meet with an obstacle, such as a chain of mountains, for example, they slide up the acclivity, and, when they reach the crest, find themselves relieved from a portion of the column of air which pressed upon them. Thus, dilating by reason of their elasticity, they cause a considerable degree of cold, and a precipitation of humidity in the form of fogs, clouds, rain, or snow. A similar effect occurs whatever be the obstacle they find in their way. Now this is what had gradually taken place before 1856. By some cause or other connected with the currents of the atmosphere, the warm current from the west had annually ascended northward, so that, instead of passing through France, it came from the Baltic and the north of Germany, thus momentarily disturbing the ordinary law of the temperatures of Europe. But in 1856 a sudden change occurred. The western current again passed, as before, through the centre of France. It met with an obstacle in the air which had not yet found its usual outlet toward the west and south. Hence a stoppage, a rising, a consequent dilation and fall of temperature, extraordinary rains and inundations. But, now that the natural state of things is restored, nothing appears to prognosticate the return of similar disasters. Were the western current found annually to move further north, we might again experience meteorological effects similar to those of 1856. Hence the regular seasons may be considered re-established in France for several years to come. The important meteorological communications which the Imperial Observatory is daily establishing with the other countries of Europe, and the introduction of apparatus for measuring the velocity of the aerial currents and prevailing winds, will soon afford prognostics sufficiently certain to enable an enlightened government to provide in time against future evils.”
After crossing the Northern Lotembwa we met a party of the people of Kangenke, who had treated us kindly on our way to the north, and sent him a robe of striped calico, with an explanation of the reason for not returning through his village. We then went on to the Lake Dilolo. It is a fine sheet of water, six or eight miles long, and one or two broad, and somewhat of a triangular shape. A branch proceeds from one of the angles, and flows into the Southern Lotembwa. Though laboring under fever, the sight of the blue waters, and the waves lashing the shore, had a most soothing influence on the mind, after so much of lifeless, flat, and gloomy forest. The heart yearned for the vivid impressions which are always created by the sight of the broad expanse of the grand old ocean. That has life in it; but the flat uniformities over which we had roamed made me feel as if buried alive. We found Moene Dilolo (Lord of the Lake) a fat, jolly fellow, who lamented that when they had no strangers they had plenty of beer, and always none when they came. He gave us a handsome present of meal and putrid buffalo’s flesh. Meat can not be too far gone for them, as it is used only in small quantities, as a sauce to their tasteless manioc. They were at this time hunting antelopes, in order to send the skins as a tribute to Matiamvo. Great quantities of fish are caught in the lake; and numbers of young water-fowl are now found in the nests among the reeds.
Our progress had always been slow, and I found that our rate of traveling could only be five hours a day for five successive days. On the sixth, both men and oxen showed symptoms of knocking up. We never exceeded two and a half or three miles an hour in a straight line, though all were anxious to get home. The difference in the rate of traveling between ourselves and the slave-traders was our having a rather quicker step, a longer day’s journey, and twenty traveling days a month instead of their ten. When one of my men became ill, but still could walk, others parted his luggage among them; yet we had often to stop one day a week, besides Sundays, simply for the sake of rest. The latitude of Lake Dilolo is 11° 32’ 1” S., long. 22° 27’ E.
JUNE 14TH. We reached the collection of straggling villages over which Katema rules, and were thankful to see old familiar faces again. Shakatwala performed the part of a chief by bringing forth abundant supplies of food in his master’s name. He informed us that Katema, too, was out hunting skins for Matiamvo.
In different parts of this country, we remarked that when old friends were inquired for, the reply was, “Ba hola” (They are getting better); or if the people of a village were inquired for, the answer was, “They are recovering,” as if sickness was quite a common thing. Indeed, many with whom we had made acquaintance in going north we now found were in their graves. On the 15th Katema came home from his hunting, having heard of our arrival. He desired me to rest myself and eat abundantly, for, being a great man, I must feel tired; and he took good care to give the means of doing so. All the people in these parts are exceedingly kind and liberal with their food, and Katema was not behindhand. When he visited our encampment, I presented him with a cloak of red baize, ornamented with gold tinsel, which cost thirty shillings, according to the promise I had made in going to Londa; also a cotton robe, both large and small beads, an iron spoon, and a tin pannikin containing a quarter of a pound of powder. He seemed greatly pleased with the liberality shown, and assured me that the way was mine, and that no one should molest me in it if he could help it. We were informed by Shakatwala that the chief never used any part of a present before making an offer of it to his mother, or the departed spirit to whom he prayed. Katema asked if I could not make a dress for him like the one I wore, so that he might appear as a white man when any stranger visited him. One of the councilors, imagining that he ought to second this by begging, Katema checked him by saying, “Whatever strangers give, be it little or much, I always receive it with thankfulness, and never trouble them for more.” On departing, he mounted on the shoulders of his spokesman, as the most dignified mode of retiring. The spokesman being a slender man, and the chief six feet high, and stout in proportion, there would have been a break-down had he not been accustomed to it. We were very much pleased with Katema; and next day he presented us with a cow, that we might enjoy the abundant supplies of meal he had given with good animal food. He then departed for the hunting-ground, after assuring me that the town and every thing in it were mine, and that his factotum, Shakatwala, would remain and attend to every want, and also conduct us to the Leeba.
On attempting to slaughter the cow Katema had given, we found the herd as wild as buffaloes; and one of my men having only wounded it, they fled many miles into the forest, and were with great difficulty brought back. Even the herdsman was afraid to go near them. The majority of them were white, and they were all beautiful animals. After hunting it for two days it was dispatched at last by another ball. Here we saw a flock of jackdaws, a rare sight in Londa, busy with the grubs in the valley, which are eaten by the people too.
Leaving Katema’s town on the 19th, and proceeding four miles to the eastward, we forded the southern branch of Lake Dilolo. We found it a mile and a quarter broad; and, as it flows into the Lotembwa, the lake would seem to be a drain of the surrounding flats, and to partake of the character of a fountain. The ford was waist-deep, and very difficult, from the masses of arum and rushes through which we waded. Going to the eastward about three miles, we came to the Southern Lotembwa itself, running in a valley two miles broad. It is here eighty or ninety yards wide, and contains numerous islands covered with dense sylvan vegetation. In the rainy season the valley is flooded, and as the waters dry up great multitudes of fish are caught. This happens very extensively over the country, and fishing-weirs are met with every where. A species of small fish, about the size of the minnow, is caught in bagfuls and dried in the sun. The taste is a pungent aromatic bitter, and it was partaken of freely by my people, although they had never met with it before. On many of the paths which had been flooded a nasty sort of slime of decayed vegetable matter is left behind, and much sickness prevails during the drying up of the water. We did not find our friend Mozinkwa at his pleasant home on the Lokaloeje; his wife was dead, and he had removed elsewhere. He followed us some distance, but our reappearance seemed to stir up his sorrows. We found the pontoon at the village in which we left it. It had been carefully preserved, but a mouse had eaten a hole in it and rendered it useless.
We traversed the extended plain on the north bank of the Leeba, and crossed this river a little farther on at Kanyonke’s village, which is about twenty miles west of the Peri hills, our former ford. The first stage beyond the Leeba was at the rivulet Loamba, by the village of Chebende, nephew of Shinte; and next day we met Chebende himself returning from the funeral of Samoana, his father. He was thin and haggard-looking compared to what he had been before, the probable effect of the orgies in which he had been engaged. Pitsane and Mohorisi, having concocted the project of a Makololo village on the banks of the Leeba, as an approach to the white man’s market, spoke to Chebende, as an influential man, on the subject, but he cautiously avoided expressing an opinion. The idea which had sprung up in their own minds of an establishment somewhere near the confluence of the Leeba and Leeambye, commended itself to my judgment at the time as a geographically suitable point for civilization and commerce. The right bank of the Leeba there is never flooded; and from that point there is communication by means of canoes to the country of the Kanyika, and also to Cazembe and beyond, with but one or two large waterfalls between. There is no obstruction down to the Barotse valley; and there is probably canoe navigation down the Kafue or Bashukulompo River, though it is reported to contain many cataracts. It flows through a fertile country, well peopled with Bamasasa, who cultivate the native produce largely.
As this was the middle of winter, it may be mentioned that the temperature of the water in the morning was 47°, and that of the air 50°, which, being loaded with moisture, was very cold to the feelings. Yet the sun was very hot by day, and the temperature in the coolest shade from 88° to 90°; in the evenings from 76° to 78°
Before reaching the town of Shinte we passed through many large villages of the Balobale, who have fled from the chief Kangenke. The Mambari from Bihe come constantly to him for trade; and, as he sells his people, great numbers of them escape to Shinte and Katema, who refuse to give them up.
We reached our friend Shinte, and received a hearty welcome from this friendly old man, and abundant provisions of the best he had. On hearing the report of the journey given by my companions, and receiving a piece of cotton cloth about two yards square, he said, “These Mambari cheat us by bringing little pieces only; but the next time you pass I shall send men with you to trade for me in Loanda.” When I explained the use made of the slaves he sold, and that he was just destroying his own tribe by selling his people, and enlarging that of the Mambari for the sake of these small pieces of cloth, it seemed to him quite a new idea. He entered into a long detail of his troubles with Masiko, who had prevented him from cultivating that friendship with the Makololo which I had inculcated, and had even plundered the messengers he had sent with Kolimbota to the Barotse valley. Shinte was particularly anxious to explain that Kolimbota had remained after my departure of his own accord, and that he had engaged in the quarrels of the country without being invited; that, in attempting to capture one of the children of a Balobale man, who had offended the Balonda by taking honey from a hive which did not belong to him, Kolimbota had got wounded by a shot in the thigh, but that he had cured the wound, given him a wife, and sent a present of cloth to Sekeletu, with a full account of the whole affair. From the statement of Shinte we found that Kolimbota had learned, before we left his town, that the way we intended to take was so dangerous that it would be better for him to leave us to our fate; and, as he had taken one of our canoes with him, it seemed evident that he did not expect us to return. Shinte, however, sent a recommendation to his sister Nyamoana to furnish as many canoes as we should need for our descent of the Leeba and Leeambye.
As I had been desirous of introducing some of the fruit-trees of Angola, both for my own sake and that of the inhabitants, we had carried a pot containing a little plantation of orange, cashew-trees, custard-apple-trees (‘anona’), and a fig-tree, with coffee, aracas (‘Araca pomifera’), and papaws (‘Carica papaya’). Fearing that, if we took them farther south at present, they might be killed by the cold, we planted them out in an inclosure of one of Shinte’s principal men, and, at his request, promised to give Shinte a share when grown. They know the value of fruits, but at present have none except wild ones. A wild fruit we frequently met with in Londa is eatable, and, when boiled, yields a large quantity of oil, which is much used in anointing both head and body. He eagerly accepted some of the seeds of the palm-oil-tree (‘Elaeis Guineensis’), when told that this would produce oil in much greater quantity than their native tree, which is not a palm. There are very few palm-trees in this country, but near Bango we saw a few of a peculiar palm, the ends of the leaf-stalks of which remain attached to the trunk, giving it a triangular shape.
It is pleasant to observe that all the tribes in Central Africa are fond of agriculture. My men had collected quantities of seeds in Angola, and now distributed them among their friends. Some even carried onions, garlic, and bird’s-eye pepper, growing in pannikins. The courts of the Balonda, planted with tobacco, sugar-cane, and plants used as relishes, led me to the belief that care would be taken of my little nursery.
The thermometer early in the mornings ranged from 42° to 52°, at noon 94° to 96°, and in the evening about 70° It was placed in the shade of my tent, which was pitched under the thickest tree we could find. The sensation of cold, after the heat of the day, was very keen. The Balonda at this season never leave their fires till nine or ten in the morning. As the cold was so great here, it was probably frosty at Linyanti; I therefore feared to expose my young trees there. The latitude of Shinte’s town is 12° 37’ 35” S., longitude 22° 47’ E.
We remained with Shinte till the 6th of July, he being unwilling to allow us to depart before hearing in a formal manner, in the presence of his greatest councilor Chebende, a message from Limboa, the brother of Masiko. When Masiko fled from the Makololo country in consequence of a dislike of being in a state of subjection to Sebituane, he came into the territory of Shinte, who received him kindly, and sent orders to all the villages in his vicinity to supply him with food. Limboa fled in a westerly direction with a number of people, and also became a chief. His country was sometimes called Nyenko, but by the Mambari and native Portuguese traders “Mboela” — the place where they “turned again”, or back. As one of the fruits of polygamy, the children of different mothers are always in a state of variance. Each son endeavors to gain the ascendency by enticing away the followers of the others. The mother of Limboa being of a high family, he felt aggrieved because the situation chosen by Masiko was better than his. Masiko lived at a convenient distance from the Saloisho hills, where there is abundance of iron ore, with which the inhabitants manufacture hoes, knives, etc. They are also skillful in making wooden vessels. Limboa felt annoyed because he was obliged to apply for these articles through his brother, whom he regarded as his inferior, and accordingly resolved to come into the same district. As this was looked upon as an assertion of superiority which Masiko would resist, it was virtually a declaration of war. Both Masiko and Shinte pleaded my injunction to live in peace and friendship, but Limboa, confident of success, now sent the message which I was about to hear — “That he, too, highly approved of the ‘word’ I had given, but would only for once transgress a little, and live at peace for ever afterward.” He now desired the aid of Shinte to subdue his brother. Messengers came from Masiko at the same time, desiring assistance to repel him. Shinte felt inclined to aid Limboa, but, as he had advised them both to wait till I came, I now urged him to let the quarrel alone, and he took my advice.
We parted on the best possible terms with our friend Shinte, and proceeded by our former path to the village of his sister Nyamoana, who is now a widow. She received us with much apparent feeling, and said, “We had removed from our former abode to the place where you found us, and had no idea then that it was the spot where my husband was to die.” She had come to the River Lofuje, as they never remain in a place where death has once visited them. We received the loan of five small canoes from her, and also one of those we had left here before, to proceed down the Leeba. After viewing the Coanza at Massangano, I thought the Leeba at least a third larger, and upward of two hundred yards wide. We saw evidence of its rise during its last flood having been upward of forty feet in perpendicular height; but this is probably more than usual, as the amount of rain was above the average. My companions purchased also a number of canoes from the Balonda. These are very small, and can carry only two persons. They are made quite thin and light, and as sharp as racing-skiffs, because they are used in hunting animals in the water. The price paid was a string of beads equal to the length of the canoe. We advised them to bring canoes for sale to the Makololo, as they would gladly give them cows in exchange.
In descending the Leeba we saw many herds of wild animals, especially the tahetsi (‘Aigoceros equina’), one magnificent antelope, the putokuane (‘Antilope niger’), and two fine lions. The Balobale, however, are getting well supplied with guns, and will soon thin out the large game. At one of the villages we were entreated to attack some buffaloes which grazed in the gardens every night and destroyed the manioc. As we had had no success in shooting at the game we had seen, and we all longed to have a meal of meat, we followed the footprints of a number of old bulls. They showed a great amount of cunning by selecting the densest parts of very closely-planted forests to stand or recline in during the day. We came within six yards of them several times before we knew that they were so near. We only heard them rush away among the crashing branches, catching only a glimpse of them. It was somewhat exciting to feel, as we trod on the dry leaves with stealthy steps, that, for any thing we knew, we might next moment be charged by one of the most dangerous beasts of the forest. We threaded out their doublings for hours, drawn on by a keen craving for animal food, as we had been entirely without salt for upward of two months, but never could get a shot.
In passing along the side of the water every where except in Londa, green frogs spring out at your feet, and light in the water as if taking a “header”; and on the Leeambye and Chobe we have great numbers of small green frogs (‘Rana fasciata’, Boie), which light on blades of grass with remarkable precision; but on coming along the Leeba I was struck by the sight of a light green toad about an inch long. The leaf might be nearly perpendicular, but it stuck to it like a fly. It was of the same size as the ‘Brachymerus bi-fasciatus’ (Smith),40 which I saw only once in the Bakwain country. Though small, it was hideous, being colored jet black, with vermilion spots.
40 The discovery of this last species is thus mentioned by that accomplished naturalist, Dr. Smith: “On the banks of the Limpopo River, close to the tropic of Capricorn, a massive tree was cut down to obtain wood to repair a wagon. The workman, while sawing the trunk longitudinally nearly along its centre, remarked, on reaching a certain point, ‘It is hollow, and will not answer the purpose for which it is wanted.’ He persevered, however, and when a division into equal halves was effected, it was discovered that the saw in its course had crossed a large hole, in which were five specimens of the species just described, each about an inch in length. Every exertion was made to discover a means of communication between the external air and the cavity, but without success. Every part of the latter was probed with the utmost care, and water was kept in each half for a considerable time, without any passing into the wood. The inner surface of the cavity was black, as if charred, and so was likewise the adjoining wood for half an inch from the cavity. The tree, at the part where the latter existed, was 19 inches in diameter; the length of the trunk was 18 feet. When the Batrachia above mentioned were discovered, they appeared inanimate, but the influence of a warm sun to which they were subjected soon imparted to them a moderate degree of vigor. In a few hours from the time they were liberated they were tolerably active, and able to move from place to place apparently with great ease.”
Before reaching the Makondo rivulet, latitude 13° 23’ 12” S., we came upon the tsetse in such numbers that many bites were inflicted on my poor ox, in spite of a man with a branch warding them off. The bite of this insect does not affect the donkey as it does cattle. The next morning, the spots on which my ox had been bitten were marked by patches of hair about half an inch broad being wetted by exudation. Poor Sinbad had carried me all the way from the Leeba to Golungo Alto, and all the way back again, without losing any of his peculiarities, or ever becoming reconciled to our perversity in forcing him away each morning from the pleasant pasturage on which he had fed. I wished to give the climax to his usefulness, and allay our craving for animal food at the same time; but my men having some compunction, we carried him to end his days in peace at Naliele.
Having dispatched a message to our old friend Manenko, we waited a day opposite her village, which was about fifteen miles from the river. Her husband was instantly dispatched to meet us with liberal presents of food, she being unable to travel in consequence of a burn on the foot. Sambanza gave us a detailed account of the political affairs of the country, and of Kolimbota’s evil doings, and next morning performed the ceremony called “Kasendi”, for cementing our friendship. It is accomplished thus: The hands of the parties are joined (in this case Pitsane and Sambanza were the parties engaged); small incisions are made on the clasped hands, on the pits of the stomach of each, and on the right cheeks and foreheads. A small quantity of blood is taken off from these points in both parties by means of a stalk of grass. The blood from one person is put into a pot of beer, and that of the second into another; each then drinks the other’s blood, and they are supposed to become perpetual friends or relations. During the drinking of the beer, some of the party continue beating the ground with short clubs, and utter sentences by way of ratifying the treaty. The men belonging to each then finish the beer. The principals in the performance of “Kasendi” are henceforth considered blood-relations, and are bound to disclose to each other any impending evil. If Sekeletu should resolve to attack the Balonda, Pitsane would be under obligation to give Sambanza warning to escape, and so on the other side. They now presented each other with the most valuable presents they had to bestow. Sambanza walked off with Pitsane’s suit of green baize faced with red, which had been made in Loanda, and Pitsane, besides abundant supplies of food, obtained two shells similar to that I had received from Shinte.
On one occasion I became blood-relation to a young woman by accident. She had a large cartilaginous tumor between the bones of the fore-arm, which, as it gradually enlarged, so distended the muscles as to render her unable to work. She applied to me to excise it. I requested her to bring her husband, if he were willing to have the operation performed, and, while removing the tumor, one of the small arteries squirted some blood into my eye. She remarked, when I was wiping the blood out of it, “You were a friend before, now you are a blood-relation; and when you pass this way, always send me word, that I may cook food for you.” In creating these friendships, my men had the full intention of returning; each one had his ‘Molekane’ (friend) in every village of the friendly Balonda. Mohorisi even married a wife in the town of Katema, and Pitsane took another in the town of Shinte. These alliances were looked upon with great favor by the Balonda chiefs, as securing the good-will of the Makololo.
In order that the social condition of the tribes may be understood by the reader, I shall mention that, while waiting for Sambanza, a party of Barotse came from Nyenko, the former residence of Limboa, who had lately crossed the Leeba on his way toward Masiko. The head man of this party had brought Limboa’s son to his father, because the Barotse at Nyenko had, since the departure of Limboa, elected Nananko, another son of Santuru, in his stead; and our visitor, to whom the boy had been intrusted as a guardian, thinking him to be in danger, fled with him to his father. The Barotse, whom Limboa had left behind at Nyenko, on proceeding to elect Nananko, said, “No, it is quite too much for Limboa to rule over two places.” I would have gone to visit Limboa and Masiko too, in order to prevent hostilities, but the state of my ox would not allow it. I therefore sent a message to Limboa by some of his men, protesting against war with his brother, and giving him formal notice that the path up the Leeba had been given to us by the Balonda, the owners of the country, and that no attempt must ever be made to obstruct free intercourse.
On leaving this place we were deserted by one of our party, Mboenga, an Ambonda man, who had accompanied us all the way to Loanda and back. His father was living with Masiko, and it was natural for him to wish to join his own family again. He went off honestly, with the exception of taking a fine “tari” skin given me by Nyamoana, but he left a parcel of gun-flints which he had carried for me all the way from Loanda. I regretted parting with him thus, and sent notice to him that he need not have run away, and if he wished to come to Sekeletu again he would be welcome. We subsequently met a large party of Barotse fleeing in the same direction; but when I represented to them that there was a probability of their being sold as slaves in Londa, and none in the country of Sekeletu, they concluded to return. The grievance which the Barotse most feel is being obliged to live with Sekeletu at Linyanti, where there is neither fish nor fowl, nor any other kind of food, equal in quantity to what they enjoy in their own fat valley.
A short distance below the confluence of the Leeba and Leeambye we met a number of hunters belonging to the tribe called Mambowe, who live under Masiko. They had dried flesh of hippopotami, buffaloes, and alligators. They stalk the animals by using the stratagem of a cap made of the skin of a leche’s or poku’s head, having the horns still attached, and another made so as to represent the upper white part of the crane called jabiru (‘Mycteru Senegalensis’), with its long neck and beak above. With these on, they crawl through the grass; they can easily put up their heads so far as to see their prey without being recognized until they are within bow-shot. They presented me with three fine water-turtles,41 one of which, when cooked, had upward of forty eggs in its body. The shell of the egg is flexible, and it is of the same size at both ends, like those of the alligator. The flesh, and especially the liver, is excellent. The hunters informed us that, when the message inculcating peace among the tribes came to Masiko, the common people were so glad at the prospect of “binding up the spears”, that they ran to the river, and bathed and plunged in it for joy. This party had been sent by Masiko to the Makololo for aid to repel their enemy, but, afraid to go thither, had spent the time in hunting. They have a dread of the Makololo, and hence the joy they expressed when peace was proclaimed. The Mambowe hunters were much alarmed until my name was mentioned. They then joined our party, and on the following day discovered a hippopotamus dead, which they had previously wounded. This was the first feast of flesh my men had enjoyed, for, though the game was wonderfully abundant, I had quite got out of the way of shooting, and missed perpetually. Once I went with the determination of getting so close that I should not miss a zebra. We went along one of the branches that stretch out from the river in a small canoe, and two men, stooping down as low as they could, paddled it slowly along to an open space near to a herd of zebras and pokus. Peering over the edge of the canoe, the open space seemed like a patch of wet ground, such as is often seen on the banks of a river, made smooth as the resting-place of alligators. When we came within a few yards of it, we found by the precipitate plunging of the reptile that this was a large alligator itself. Although I had been most careful to approach near enough, I unfortunately only broke the hind leg of a zebra. My two men pursued it, but the loss of a hind leg does not prevent this animal from a gallop. As I walked slowly after the men on an extensive plain covered with a great crop of grass, which was ‘laid’ by its own weight, I observed that a solitary buffalo, disturbed by others of my own party, was coming to me at a gallop. I glanced around, but the only tree on the plain was a hundred yards off, and there was no escape elsewhere. I therefore cocked my rifle, with the intention of giving him a steady shot in the forehead when he should come within three or four yards of me. The thought flashed across my mind, “What if your gun misses fire?” I placed it to my shoulder as he came on at full speed, and that is tremendous, though generally he is a lumbering-looking animal in his paces. A small bush and bunch of grass fifteen yards off made him swerve a little, and exposed his shoulder. I just heard the ball crack there as I fell flat on my face. The pain must have made him renounce his purpose, for he bounded close past me on to the water, where he was found dead. In expressing my thankfulness to God among my men, they were much offended with themselves for not being present to shield me from this danger. The tree near me was a camel-thorn, and reminded me that we had come back to the land of thorns again, for the country we had left is one of evergreens.
41 It is probably a species allied to the ‘Sternotherus sinuatus’ of Dr. Smith, as it has no disagreeable smell. This variety annually leaves the water with so much regularity for the deposit of its eggs, that the natives decide on the time of sowing their seed by its appearance.
JULY 27TH. We reached the town of Libonta, and were received with demonstrations of joy such as I had never witnessed before. The women came forth to meet us, making their curious dancing gestures and loud lulliloos. Some carried a mat and stick, in imitation of a spear and shield. Others rushed forward and kissed the hands and cheeks of the different persons of their acquaintance among us, raising such a dust that it was quite a relief to get to the men assembled and sitting with proper African decorum in the kotla. We were looked upon as men risen from the dead, for the most skillful of their diviners had pronounced us to have perished long ago. After many expressions of joy at meeting, I arose, and, thanking them, explained the causes of our long delay, but left the report to be made by their own countrymen. Formerly I had been the chief speaker, now I would leave the task of speaking to them. Pitsane then delivered a speech of upward of an hour in length, giving a highly flattering picture of the whole journey, of the kindness of the white men in general, and of Mr. Gabriel in particular. He concluded by saying that I had done more for them than they expected; that I had not only opened up a path for them to the other white men, but conciliated all the chiefs along the route. The oldest man present rose and answered this speech, and, among other things, alluded to the disgust I felt at the Makololo for engaging in marauding expeditions against Lechulatebe and Sebolamakwaia, of which we had heard from the first persons we met, and which my companions most energetically denounced as “mashue hela”, entirely bad. He entreated me not to lose heart, but to reprove Sekeletu as my child. Another old man followed with the same entreaties. The following day we observed as our thanksgiving to God for his goodness in bringing us all back in safety to our friends. My men decked themselves out in their best, and I found that, although their goods were finished, they had managed to save suits of European clothing, which, being white, with their red caps, gave them rather a dashing appearance. They tried to walk like the soldiers they had seen in Loanda, and called themselves my “braves” (batlabani). During the service they all sat with their guns over their shoulders, and excited the unbounded admiration of the women and children. I addressed them all on the goodness of God in preserving us from all the dangers of strange tribes and disease. We had a similar service in the afternoon. The men gave us two fine oxen for slaughter, and the women supplied us abundantly with milk, meal, and butter. It was all quite gratuitous, and I felt ashamed that I could make no return. My men explained the total expenditure of our means, and the Libontese answered gracefully, “It does not matter; you have opened a path for us, and we shall have sleep.” Strangers came flocking from a distance, and seldom empty-handed. Their presents I distributed among my men.
Our progress down the Barotse valley was just like this. Every village gave us an ox, and sometimes two. The people were wonderfully kind. I felt, and still feel, most deeply grateful, and tried to benefit them in the only way I could, by imparting the knowledge of that Savior who can comfort and supply them in the time of need, and my prayer is that he may send his good Spirit to instruct them and lead them into his kingdom. Even now I earnestly long to return, and make some recompense to them for their kindness. In passing them on our way to the north, their liberality might have been supposed to be influenced by the hope of repayment on our return, for the white man’s land is imagined to be the source of every ornament they prize most. But, though we set out from Loanda with a considerable quantity of goods, hoping both to pay our way through the stingy Chiboque, and to make presents to the kind Balonda and still more generous Makololo, the many delays caused by sickness made us expend all my stock, and all the goods my men procured by their own labor at Loanda, and we returned to the Makololo as poor as when we set out. Yet no distrust was shown, and my poverty did not lessen my influence. They saw that I had been exerting myself for their benefit alone, and even my men remarked, “Though we return as poor as we went, we have not gone in vain.” They began immediately to collect tusks of hippopotami and other ivory for a second journey.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57