Departure from Linyanti — A Thunder-storm — An Act of genuine Kindness — Fitted out a second time by the Makololo — Sail down the Leeambye — Sekote’s Kotla and human Skulls; his Grave adorned with Elephants’ Tusks — Victoria Falls — Native Names — Columns of Vapor — Gigantic Crack — Wear of the Rocks — Shrines of the Barimo — “The Pestle of the Gods” — Second Visit to the Falls — Island Garden — Store-house Island — Native Diviners — A European Diviner — Makololo Foray — Marauder to be fined — Mambari — Makololo wish to stop Mambari Slave-trading — Part with Sekeletu — Night Traveling — River Lekone — Ancient fresh-water Lakes — Formation of Lake Ngami — Native Traditions — Drainage of the Great Valley — Native Reports of the Country to the North — Maps — Moyara’s Village — Savage Customs of the Batoka — A Chain of Trading Stations — Remedy against Tsetse — “The Well of Joy” — First Traces of Trade with Europeans — Knocking out the front Teeth — Facetious Explanation — Degradation of the Batoka — Description of the Traveling Party — Cross the Unguesi — Geological Formation — Ruins of a large Town — Productions of the Soil similar to those in Angola — Abundance of Fruit.
On the 3d of November we bade adieu to our friends at Linyanti, accompanied by Sekeletu and about 200 followers. We were all fed at his expense, and he took cattle for this purpose from every station we came to. The principal men of the Makololo, Lebeole, Ntlarie, Nkwatlele, etc., were also of the party. We passed through the patch of the tsetse, which exists between Linyanti and Sesheke, by night. The majority of the company went on by daylight, in order to prepare our beds. Sekeletu and I, with about forty young men, waited outside the tsetse till dark. We then went forward, and about ten o’clock it became so pitchy dark that both horses and men were completely blinded. The lightning spread over the sky, forming eight or ten branches at a time, in shape exactly like those of a tree. This, with great volumes of sheet-lightning, enabled us at times to see the whole country. The intervals between the flashes were so densely dark as to convey the idea of stone-blindness. The horses trembled, cried out, and turned round, as if searching for each other, and every new flash revealed the men taking different directions, laughing, and stumbling against each other. The thunder was of that tremendously loud kind only to be heard in tropical countries, and which friends from India have assured me is louder in Africa than any they have ever heard elsewhere. Then came a pelting rain, which completed our confusion. After the intense heat of the day, we soon felt miserably cold, and turned aside to a fire we saw in the distance. This had been made by some people on their march; for this path is seldom without numbers of strangers passing to and from the capital. My clothing having gone on, I lay down on the cold ground, expecting to spend a miserable night; but Sekeletu kindly covered me with his own blanket, and lay uncovered himself. I was much affected by this act of genuine kindness. If such men must perish by the advance of civilization, as certain races of animals do before others, it is a pity. God grant that ere this time comes they may receive that Gospel which is a solace for the soul in death!
While at Sesheke, Sekeletu supplied me with twelve oxen — three of which were accustomed to being ridden upon — hoes, and beads to purchase a canoe when we should strike the Leeambye beyond the falls. He likewise presented abundance of good fresh butter and honey, and did every thing in his power to make me comfortable for the journey. I was entirely dependent on his generosity, for the goods I originally brought from the Cape were all expended by the time I set off from Linyanti to the west coast. I there drew £70 of my salary, paid my men with it, and purchased goods for the return journey to Linyanti. These being now all expended, the Makololo again fitted me out, and sent me on to the east coast. I was thus dependent on their bounty, and that of other Africans, for the means of going from Linyanti to Loanda, and again from Linyanti to the east coast, and I feel deeply grateful to them. Coin would have been of no benefit, for gold and silver are quite unknown. We were here joined by Moriantsane, uncle of Sekeletu and head man of Sesheke, and, entering canoes on the 13th, some sailed down the river to the confluence of the Chobe, while others drove the cattle along the banks, spending one night at Mparia, the island at the confluence of the Chobe, which is composed of trap, having crystals of quartz in it coated with a pellicle of green copper ore. Attempting to proceed down the river next day, we were detained some hours by a strong east wind raising waves so large as to threaten to swamp the canoes. The river here is very large and deep, and contains two considerable islands, which from either bank seem to be joined to the opposite shore. While waiting for the wind to moderate, my friends related the traditions of these islands, and, as usual, praised the wisdom of Sebituane in balking the Batoka, who formerly enticed wandering tribes to them, and starved them, by compelling the chiefs to remain by his side till all his cattle and people were ferried over. The Barotse believe that at certain parts of the river a tremendous monster lies hid, and that it will catch a canoe, and hold it fast and motionless, in spite of the utmost exertions of the paddlers. While near Nameta they even objected to pass a spot supposed to be haunted, and proceeded along a branch instead of the main stream. They believe that some of them possess a knowledge of the proper prayer to lay the monster. It is strange to find fables similar to those of the more northern nations even in the heart of Africa. Can they be the vestiges of traditions of animals which no longer exist? The fossil bones which lie in the calcareous tufa of this region will yet, we hope, reveal the ancient fauna.
Having descended about ten miles, we came to the island of Nampene, at the beginning of the rapids, where we were obliged to leave the canoes and proceed along the banks on foot. The next evening we slept opposite the island of Chondo, and, then crossing the Lekone or Lekwine, early the following morning were at the island of Sekote, called Kalai. This Sekote was the last of the Batoka chiefs whom Sebituane rooted out. The island is surrounded by a rocky shore and deep channels, through which the river rushes with great force. Sekote, feeling secure in his island home, ventured to ferry over the Matebele enemies of Sebituane. When they had retired, Sebituane made one of those rapid marches which he always adopted in every enterprise. He came down the Leeambye from Naliele, sailing by day along the banks, and during the night in the middle of the stream, to avoid the hippopotami. When he reached Kalai, Sekote took advantage of the larger canoes they employ in the rapids, and fled during the night to the opposite bank. Most of his people were slain or taken captive, and the island has ever since been under the Makololo. It is large enough to contain a considerable town. On the northern side I found the kotla of the elder Sekote, garnished with numbers of human skulls mounted on poles: a large heap of the crania of hippopotami, the tusks untouched except by time, stood on one side. At a short distance, under some trees, we saw the grave of Sekote, ornamented with seventy large elephants’ tusks planted round it with the points turned inward, and there were thirty more placed over the resting-places of his relatives. These were all decaying from the effects of the sun and weather; but a few, which had enjoyed the shade, were in a pretty good condition. I felt inclined to take a specimen of the tusks of the hippopotami, as they were the largest I had ever seen, but feared that the people would look upon me as a “resurrectionist” if I did, and regard any unfavorable event which might afterward occur as a punishment for the sacrilege. The Batoka believe that Sekote had a pot of medicine buried here, which, when opened, would cause an epidemic in the country. These tyrants acted much on the fears of their people.
As this was the point from which we intended to strike off to the northeast, I resolved on the following day to visit the falls of Victoria, called by the natives Mosioatunya, or more anciently Shongwe. Of these we had often heard since we came into the country; indeed, one of the questions asked by Sebituane was, “Have you smoke that sounds in your country?” They did not go near enough to examine them, but, viewing them with awe at a distance, said, in reference to the vapor and noise, “Mosi oa tunya” (smoke does sound there). It was previously called Shongwe, the meaning of which I could not ascertain. The word for a “pot” resembles this, and it may mean a seething caldron, but I am not certain of it. Being persuaded that Mr. Oswell and myself were the very first Europeans who ever visited the Zambesi in the centre of the country, and that this is the connecting link between the known and unknown portions of that river, I decided to use the same liberty as the Makololo did, and gave the only English name I have affixed to any part of the country. No better proof of previous ignorance of this river could be desired than that an untraveled gentleman, who had spent a great part of his life in the study of the geography of Africa, and knew every thing written on the subject from the time of Ptolemy downward, actually asserted in the “Athenaeum”, while I was coming up the Red Sea, that this magnificent river, the Leeambye, had “no connection with the Zambesi, but flowed under the Kalahari Desert, and became lost;” and “that, as all the old maps asserted, the Zambesi took its rise in the very hills to which we have now come.” This modest assertion smacks exactly as if a native of Timbuctoo should declare that the “Thames” and the “Pool” were different rivers, he having seen neither the one nor the other. Leeambye and Zambesi mean the very same thing, viz., the RIVER.
Sekeletu intended to accompany me, but, one canoe only having come instead of the two he had ordered, he resigned it to me. After twenty minutes’ sail from Kalai we came in sight, for the first time, of the columns of vapor appropriately called “smoke”, rising at a distance of five or six miles, exactly as when large tracts of grass are burned in Africa. Five columns now arose, and, bending in the direction of the wind, they seemed placed against a low ridge covered with trees; the tops of the columns at this distance appeared to mingle with the clouds. They were white below, and higher up became dark, so as to simulate smoke very closely. The whole scene was extremely beautiful; the banks and islands dotted over the river are adorned with sylvan vegetation of great variety of color and form. At the period of our visit several trees were spangled over with blossoms. Trees have each their own physiognomy. There, towering over all, stands the great burly baobab, each of whose enormous arms would form the trunk of a large tree, beside groups of graceful palms, which, with their feathery-shaped leaves depicted on the sky, lend their beauty to the scene. As a hieroglyphic they always mean “far from home”, for one can never get over their foreign air in a picture or landscape. The silvery mohonono, which in the tropics is in form like the cedar of Lebanon, stands in pleasing contrast with the dark color of the motsouri, whose cypress-form is dotted over at present with its pleasant scarlet fruit. Some trees resemble the great spreading oak, others assume the character of our own elms and chestnuts; but no one can imagine the beauty of the view from any thing witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight. The only want felt is that of mountains in the background. The falls are bounded on three sides by ridges 300 or 400 feet in height, which are covered with forest, with the red soil appearing among the trees. When about half a mile from the falls, I left the canoe by which we had come down thus far, and embarked in a lighter one, with men well acquainted with the rapids, who, by passing down the centre of the stream in the eddies and still places caused by many jutting rocks, brought me to an island situated in the middle of the river, and on the edge of the lip over which the water rolls. In coming hither there was danger of being swept down by the streams which rushed along on each side of the island; but the river was now low, and we sailed where it is totally impossible to go when the water is high. But, though we had reached the island, and were within a few yards of the spot, a view from which would solve the whole problem, I believe that no one could perceive where the vast body of water went; it seemed to lose itself in the earth, the opposite lip of the fissure into which it disappeared being only 80 feet distant. At least I did not comprehend it until, creeping with awe to the verge, I peered down into a large rent which had been made from bank to bank of the broad Zambesi, and saw that a stream of a thousand yards broad leaped down a hundred feet, and then became suddenly compressed into a space of fifteen or twenty yards. The entire falls are simply a crack made in a hard basaltic rock from the right to the left bank of the Zambesi, and then prolonged from the left bank away through thirty or forty miles of hills. If one imagines the Thames filled with low, tree-covered hills immediately beyond the tunnel, extending as far as Gravesend, the bed of black basaltic rock instead of London mud, and a fissure made therein from one end of the tunnel to the other down through the keystones of the arch, and prolonged from the left end of the tunnel through thirty miles of hills, the pathway being 100 feet down from the bed of the river instead of what it is, with the lips of the fissure from 80 to 100 feet apart, then fancy the Thames leaping bodily into the gulf, and forced there to change its direction, and flow from the right to the left bank, and then rush boiling and roaring through the hills, he may have some idea of what takes place at this, the most wonderful sight I had witnessed in Africa. In looking down into the fissure on the right of the island, one sees nothing but a dense white cloud, which, at the time we visited the spot, had two bright rainbows on it. (The sun was on the meridian, and the declination about equal to the latitude of the place.) From this cloud rushed up a great jet of vapor exactly like steam, and it mounted 200 or 300 feet high; there condensing, it changed its hue to that of dark smoke, and came back in a constant shower, which soon wetted us to the skin. This shower falls chiefly on the opposite side of the fissure, and a few yards back from the lip there stands a straight hedge of evergreen trees, whose leaves are always wet. From their roots a number of little rills run back into the gulf, but, as they flow down the steep wall there, the column of vapor, in its ascent, licks them up clean off the rock, and away they mount again. They are constantly running down, but never reach the bottom.
On the left of the island we see the water at the bottom, a white rolling mass moving away to the prolongation of the fissure, which branches off near the left bank of the river. A piece of the rock has fallen off a spot on the left of the island, and juts out from the water below, and from it I judged the distance which the water falls to be about 100 feet. The walls of this gigantic crack are perpendicular, and composed of one homogeneous mass of rock. The edge of that side over which the water falls is worn off two or three feet, and pieces have fallen away, so as to give it somewhat of a serrated appearance. That over which the water does not fall is quite straight, except at the left corner, where a rent appears, and a piece seems inclined to fall off. Upon the whole, it is nearly in the state in which it was left at the period of its formation. The rock is dark brown in color, except about ten feet from the bottom, which is discolored by the annual rise of the water to that or a greater height. On the left side of the island we have a good view of the mass of water which causes one of the columns of vapor to ascend, as it leaps quite clear of the rock, and forms a thick unbroken fleece all the way to the bottom. Its whiteness gave the idea of snow, a sight I had not seen for many a day. As it broke into (if I may use the term) pieces of water, all rushing on in the same direction, each gave off several rays of foam, exactly as bits of steel, when burned in oxygen gas, give off rays of sparks. The snow-white sheet seemed like myriads of small comets rushing on in one direction, each of which left behind its nucleus rays of foam. I never saw the appearance referred to noticed elsewhere. It seemed to be the effect of the mass of water leaping at once clear of the rock, and but slowly breaking up into spray.
I have mentioned that we saw five columns of vapor ascending from this strange abyss. They are evidently formed by the compression suffered by the force of the water’s own fall into an unyielding wedge-shaped space. Of the five columns, two on the right and one on the left of the island were the largest, and the streams which formed them seemed each to exceed in size the falls of the Clyde at Stonebyres when that river is in flood. This was the period of low water in the Leeambye; but, as far as I could guess, there was a flow of five or six hundred yards of water, which, at the edge of the fall, seemed at least three feet deep. I write in the hope that others, more capable of judging distances than myself, will visit the scene, and I state simply the impressions made on my mind at the time. I thought, and do still think, the river above the falls to be one thousand yards broad; but I am a poor judge of distances on water, for I showed a naval friend what I supposed to be four hundred yards in the Bay of Loanda, and, to my surprise, he pronounced it to be nine hundred. I tried to measure the Leeambye with a strong thread, the only line I had in my possession, but, when the men had gone two or three hundred yards, they got into conversation, and did not hear us shouting that the line had become entangled. By still going on they broke it, and, being carried away down the stream, it was lost on a snag. In vain I tried to bring to my recollection the way I had been taught to measure a river by taking an angle with the sextant. That I once knew it, and that it was easy, were all the lost ideas I could recall, and they only increased my vexation. However, I measured the river farther down by another plan, and then I discovered that the Portuguese had measured it at Tete, and found it a little over one thousand yards. At the falls it is as broad as at Tete, if not more so. Whoever may come after me will not, I trust, find reason to say I have indulged in exaggeration.43 With respect to the drawing, it must be borne in mind that it was composed from a rude sketch as viewed from the island, which exhibited the columns of vapor only, and a ground plan. The artist has given a good idea of the scene, but, by way of explanation, he has shown more of the depth of the fissure than is visible except by going close to the edge. The left-hand column, and that farthest off, are the smallest, and all ought to have been a little more tapering at the tops.
43 The river is about one mile (1.6 km) wide at the falls, and plunges over 350 feet at the centre. Livingstone greatly underestimated both distances.
The fissure is said by the Makololo to be very much deeper farther to the eastward; there is one part at which the walls are so sloping that people accustomed to it can go down by descending in a sitting position. The Makololo on one occasion, pursuing some fugitive Batoka, saw them, unable to stop the impetus of their flight at the edge, literally dashed to pieces at the bottom. They beheld the stream like a “white cord” at the bottom, and so far down (probably 300 feet) that they became giddy, and were fain to go away holding on to the ground.
Now, though the edge of the rock over which the river falls does not show wearing more than three feet, and there is no appearance of the opposite wall being worn out at the bottom in the parts exposed to view, yet it is probable that, where it has flowed beyond the walls, the sides of the fissure may have given way, and the parts out of sight may be broader than the “white cord” on the surface. There may even be some ramifications of the fissure, which take a portion of the stream quite beneath the rocks; but this I did not learn.
If we take the want of much wear on the lip of hard basaltic rock as of any value, the period when this rock was riven is not geologically very remote. I regretted the want of proper means of measuring and marking its width at the falls, in order that, at some future time, the question whether it is progressive or not might be tested. It seemed as if a palm-tree could be laid across it from the island. And if it is progressive, as it would mark a great natural drainage being effected, it might furnish a hope that Africa will one day become a healthy continent. It is, at any rate, very much changed in respect to its lakes within a comparatively recent period.
At three spots near these falls, one of them the island in the middle, on which we were, three Batoka chiefs offered up prayers and sacrifices to the Barimo. They chose their places of prayer within the sound of the roar of the cataract, and in sight of the bright bows in the cloud. They must have looked upon the scene with awe. Fear may have induced the selection. The river itself is to them mysterious. The words of the canoe-song are,
“The Leeambye! Nobody knows
Whence it comes and whither it goes.”
The play of colors of the double iris on the cloud, seen by them elsewhere only as the rainbow, may have led them to the idea that this was the abode of Deity. Some of the Makololo, who went with me near to Gonye, looked upon the same sign with awe. When seen in the heavens it is named “motse oa barimo” — the pestle of the gods. Here they could approach the emblem, and see it stand steadily above the blustering uproar below — a type of Him who sits supreme — alone unchangeable, though ruling over all changing things. But, not aware of His true character, they had no admiration of the beautiful and good in their bosoms. They did not imitate His benevolence, for they were a bloody, imperious crew, and Sebituane performed a noble service in the expulsion from their fastnesses of these cruel “Lords of the Isles”.
Having feasted my eyes long on the beautiful sight, I returned to my friends at Kalai, and saying to Sekeletu that he had nothing else worth showing in his country, his curiosity was excited to visit it the next day. I returned with the intention of taking a lunar observation from the island itself, but the clouds were unfavorable, consequently all my determinations of position refer to Kalai. (Lat. 17° 51’ 54” S., long. 25° 41’ E.) Sekeletu acknowledged to feeling a little nervous at the probability of being sucked into the gulf before reaching the island. His companions amused themselves by throwing stones down, and wondered to see them diminishing in size, and even disappearing, before they reached the water at the bottom.
I had another object in view in my return to the island. I observed that it was covered with trees, the seeds of which had probably come down with the stream from the distant north, and several of which I had seen nowhere else, and every now and then the wind wafted a little of the condensed vapor over it, and kept the soil in a state of moisture, which caused a sward of grass, growing as green as on an English lawn. I selected a spot — not too near the chasm, for there the constant deposition of the moisture nourished numbers of polypi of a mushroom shape and fleshy consistence, but somewhat back — and made a little garden. I there planted about a hundred peach and apricot stones, and a quantity of coffee-seeds. I had attempted fruit-trees before, but, when left in charge of my Makololo friends, they were always allowed to wither, after having vegetated, by being forgotten. I bargained for a hedge with one of the Makololo, and if he is faithful, I have great hopes of Mosioatunya’s abilities as a nursery-man. My only source of fear is the hippopotami, whose footprints I saw on the island. When the garden was prepared, I cut my initials on a tree, and the date 1855. This was the only instance in which I indulged in this piece of vanity. The garden stands in front, and, were there no hippopotami, I have no doubt but this will be the parent of all the gardens which may yet be in this new country. We then went up to Kalai again.
On passing up we had a view of the hut on the island where my goods had lain so long in safety. It was under a group of palm-trees, and Sekeletu informed me that, so fully persuaded were most of the Makololo of the presence of dangerous charms in the packages, that, had I not returned to tell them the contrary, they never would have been touched. Some of the diviners had been so positive in their decisions on the point, that the men who lifted a bag thought they felt a live kid in it. The diviners always quote their predictions when they happen to tally with the event. They declared that the whole party which went to Loanda had perished; and as I always quoted the instances in which they failed, many of them refused to throw the “bola” (instruments of divination) when I was near. This was a noted instance of failure. It would have afforded me equal if not greater pleasure to have exposed the failure, if such it had been, of the European diviner whose paper lay a whole year on this island, but I was obliged to confess that he had been successful with his “bola”, and could only comfort myself with the idea that, though Sir Roderick Murchison’s discourse had lain so long within sight and sound of the magnificent falls, I had been “cut out” by no one in their discovery.
I saw the falls at low water, and the columns of vapor when five or six miles distant. When the river is full, or in flood, the columns, it is said, can be seen ten miles off, and the sound is quite distinct somewhat below Kalai, or about an equal distance. No one can then go to the island in the middle. The next visitor must bear these points in mind in comparing his description with mine.
We here got information of a foray which had been made by a Makololo man in the direction we were going. This instance of marauding was so much in accordance with the system which has been pursued in this country that I did not wonder at it. But the man had used Sekeletu’s name as having sent him, and, the proof being convincing, he would undoubtedly be fined. As that would be the first instance of a fine being levied for marauding, I looked upon it as the beginning of a better state of things. In tribes which have been accustomed to cattle-stealing, the act is not considered immoral in the way that theft is. Before I knew the language well, I said to a chief, “You stole the cattle of so and so.” “No, I did not steal them,” was the reply, “I only LIFTED them.” The word “gapa” is identical with the Highland term for the same deed.
Another point came to our notice here. Some Mambari had come down thus far, and induced the Batoka to sell a very large tusk which belonged to Sekeletu for a few bits of cloth. They had gone among the Batoka who need hoes, and, having purchased some of these from the people near Sesheke, induced the others living farther east to sell both ivory and children. They would not part with children for clothing or beads, but agriculture with wooden hoes is so laborious, that the sight of the hoes prevailed. The Makololo proposed to knock the Mambari on the head as the remedy the next time they came; but on my proposing that they should send hoes themselves, and thereby secure the ivory in a quiet way, all approved highly of the idea, and Pitsane and Mohorisi expatiated on the value of the ivory, their own willingness to go and sell it at Loanda, and the disgust with which the Mambari whom we met in Angola had looked upon their attempt to reach the proper market. If nothing untoward happens, I think there is a fair prospect of the trade in slaves being abolished in a natural way in this quarter, Pitsane and Mohorisi having again expressed their willingness to go away back to Loanda if Sekeletu would give them orders. This was the more remarkable, as both have plenty of food and leisure at home.
20TH NOVEMBER. Sekeletu and his large party having conveyed me thus far, and furnished me with a company of 114 men to carry the tusks to the coast, we bade adieu to the Makololo, and proceeded northward to the Lekone. The country around is very beautiful, and was once well peopled with Batoka, who possessed enormous herds of cattle. When Sebituane came in former times, with his small but warlike party of Makololo, to this spot, a general rising took place of the Batoka through the whole country, in order to “eat him up”; but his usual success followed him, and, dispersing them, the Makololo obtained so many cattle that they could not take any note of the herds of sheep and goats. The tsetse has been brought by buffaloes into some districts where formerly cattle abounded. This obliged us to travel the first few stages by night. We could not well detect the nature of the country in the dim moonlight; the path, however, seemed to lead along the high bank of what may have been the ancient bed of the Zambesi before the fissure was made. The Lekone now winds in it in an opposite direction to that in which the ancient river must have flowed.
Both the Lekone and Unguesi flow back toward the centre of the country, and in an opposite direction to that of the main stream. It was plain, then, that we were ascending the farther we went eastward. The level of the lower portion of the Lekone is about two hundred feet above that of the Zambesi at the falls, and considerably more than the altitude of Linyanti; consequently, when the river flowed along this ancient bed instead of through the rent, the whole country between this and the ridge beyond Libebe westward, Lake Ngami and the Zouga southward, and eastward beyond Nchokotsa, was one large fresh-water lake. There is abundant evidence of the existence and extent of this vast lake in the longitudes indicated, and stretching from 17° to 21° south latitude. The whole of this space is paved with a bed of tufa, more or less soft, according as it is covered with soil, or left exposed to atmospheric influences. Wherever ant-eaters make deep holes in this ancient bottom, fresh-water shells are thrown out, identical with those now existing in the Lake Ngami and the Zambesi. The Barotse valley was another lake of a similar nature; and one existed beyond Masiko, and a fourth near the Orange River. The whole of these lakes were let out by means of cracks or fissures made in the subtending sides by the upheaval of the country. The fissure made at the Victoria Falls let out the water of this great valley, and left a small patch in what was probably its deepest portion, and is now called Lake Ngami. The Falls of Gonye furnished an outlet to the lake of the Barotse valley, and so of the other great lakes of remote times. The Congo also finds its way to the sea through a narrow fissure, and so does the Orange River in the west; while other rents made in the eastern ridge, as the Victoria Falls and those to the east of Tanganyenka, allowed the central waters to drain eastward. All the African lakes hitherto discovered are shallow, in consequence of being the mere ‘residua’ of very much larger ancient bodies of water. There can be no doubt that this continent was, in former times, very much more copiously supplied with water than at present, but a natural process of drainage has been going on for ages. Deep fissures are made, probably by the elevation of the land, proofs of which are seen in modern shells imbedded in marly tufa all round the coast-line. Whether this process of desiccation is as rapid throughout the continent as, in a letter to the late Dean Buckland, in 1843, I showed to have been the case in the Bechuana country, it is not for me to say; but, though there is a slight tradition of the waters having burst through the low hills south of the Barotse, there is none of a sudden upheaval accompanied by an earthquake. The formation of the crack of Mosioatunya is perhaps too ancient for that; yet, although information of any remarkable event is often transmitted in the native names, and they even retain a tradition which looks like the story of Solomon and the harlots, there is not a name like Tom Earthquake or Sam Shake-the-ground in the whole country. They have a tradition which may refer to the building of the Tower of Babel, but it ends in the bold builders getting their crowns cracked by the fall of the scaffolding; and that they came out of a cave called “Loey” (Noe?) in company with the beasts, and all point to it in one direction, viz., the N.N.E. Loey, too, is an exception in the language, as they use masculine instead of neuter pronouns to it.
If we take a glance back at the great valley, the form the rivers have taken imparts the idea of a lake slowly drained out, for they have cut out for themselves beds exactly like what we may see in the soft mud of a shallow pool of rain-water, when that is let off by a furrow. This idea would probably not strike a person on coming first into the country, but more extensive acquaintance with the river system certainly would convey the impression. None of the rivers in the valley of the Leeambye have slopes down to their beds. Indeed, many parts are much like the Thames at the Isle of Dogs, only the Leeambye has to rise twenty or thirty feet before it can overflow some of its meadows. The rivers have each a bed of low water — a simple furrow cut sharply out of the calcareous tufa which lined the channel of the ancient lake — and another of inundation. When the beds of inundation are filled, they assume the appearance of chains of lakes. When the Clyde fills the holms (“haughs”) above Bothwell Bridge and retires again into its channel, it resembles the river we are speaking of, only here there are no high lands sloping down toward the bed of inundation, for the greater part of the region is not elevated fifty feet above them. Even the rocky banks of the Leeambye below Gonye, and the ridges bounding the Barotse valley, are not more than two or three hundred feet in altitude over the general dead level. Many of the rivers are very tortuous in their course, the Chobe and Simah particularly so; and, if we may receive the testimony of the natives, they form what anatomists call ‘anastamosis’, or a network of rivers. Thus, for instance, they assured me that if they go up the Simah in a canoe, they can enter the Chobe, and descend that river to the Leeambye; or they may go up the Kama and come down the Simah; and so in the case of the Kafue. It is reputed to be connected in this way with the Leeambye in the north, and to part with the Loangwa; and the Makololo went from the one into the other in canoes. And even though the interlacing may not be quite to the extent believed by the natives, the country is so level and the rivers so tortuous that I see no improbability in the conclusion that here is a network of waters of a very peculiar nature. The reason why I am disposed to place a certain amount of confidence in the native reports is this: when Mr. Oswell and I discovered the Zambesi in the centre of the continent in 1851, being unable to ascend it at the time ourselves, we employed the natives to draw a map embodying their ideas of that river. We then sent the native map home with the same view that I now mention their ideas of the river system, namely, in order to be an aid to others in farther investigations. When I was able to ascend the Leeambye to 14° south, and subsequently descend it, I found, after all the care I could bestow, that the alterations I was able to make in the original native plan were very trifling. The general idea their map gave was wonderfully accurate; and now I give, in the larger map appended, their views of the other rivers, in the hope that they may prove helpful to any traveler who may pursue the investigation farther.
24TH. We remained a day at the village of Moyara. Here the valley in which the Lekone flows trends away to the eastward, while our course is more to the northeast. The country is rocky and rough, the soil being red sand, which is covered with beautiful green trees, yielding abundance of wild fruits. The father of Moyara was a powerful chief, but the son now sits among the ruins of the town, with four or five wives and very few people. At his hamlet a number of stakes are planted in the ground, and I counted fifty-four human skulls hung on their points. These were Matebele, who, unable to approach Sebituane on the island of Loyela, had returned sick and famishing. Moyara’s father took advantage of their reduced condition, and after putting them to death, mounted their heads in the Batoka fashion. The old man who perpetrated this deed now lies in the middle of his son’s huts, with a lot of rotten ivory over his grave. One can not help feeling thankful that the reign of such wretches is over. They inhabited the whole of this side of the country, and were probably the barrier to the extension of the Portuguese commerce in this direction. When looking at these skulls, I remarked to Moyara that many of them were those of mere boys. He assented readily, and pointed them out as such. I asked why his father had killed boys. “To show his fierceness,” was the answer. “Is it fierceness to kill boys?” “Yes; they had no business here.” When I told him that this probably would insure his own death if the Matebele came again, he replied, “When I hear of their coming I shall hide the bones.” He was evidently proud of these trophies of his father’s ferocity, and I was assured by other Batoka that few strangers ever returned from a visit to this quarter. If a man wished to curry favor with a Batoka chief, he ascertained when a stranger was about to leave, and waylaid him at a distance from the town, and when he brought his head back to the chief, it was mounted as a trophy, the different chiefs vieing with each other as to which should mount the greatest number of skulls in his village.
If, as has been asserted, the Portuguese ever had a chain of trading stations across the country from Caconda to Tete, it must have passed through these people; but the total ignorance of the Zambesi flowing from north to south in the centre of the country, and the want of knowledge of the astonishing falls of Victoria, which excite the wonder of even the natives, together with the absence of any tradition of such a chain of stations, compel me to believe that they existed only on paper. This conviction is strengthened by the fact that when a late attempt was made to claim the honor of crossing the continent for the Portuguese, the only proof advanced was the journey of two black traders formerly mentioned, adorned with the name of “Portuguese”. If a chain of stations had existed, a few hundred names of the same sort might easily have been brought forward; and such is the love of barter among all the central Africans, that, had there existed a market for ivory, its value would have become known, and even that on the graves of the chiefs would not have been safe.
When about to leave Moyara on the 25th, he brought a root which, when pounded and sprinkled over the oxen, is believed to disgust the tsetse, so that it flies off without sucking the blood. He promised to show me the plant or tree if I would give him an ox; but, as we were traveling, and could not afford the time required for the experiment, so as not to be cheated (as I had too often been by my medical friends), I deferred the investigation till I returned. It is probably but an evanescent remedy, and capable of rendering the cattle safe during one night only. Moyara is now quite a dependent of the Makololo, and my new party, not being thoroughly drilled, forced him to carry a tusk for them. When I relieved him, he poured forth a shower of thanks at being allowed to go back to sleep beneath his skulls.
Next day we came to Namilanga, or “The Well of Joy”. It is a small well dug beneath a very large fig-tree, the shade of which renders the water delightfully cool. The temperature through the day was 104° in the shade and 94° after sunset, but the air was not at all oppressive. This well received its name from the fact that, in former times, marauding parties, in returning with cattle, sat down here and were regaled with boyaloa, music, and the lullilooing of the women from the adjacent towns.
All the surrounding country was formerly densely peopled, though now desolate and still. The old head man of the place told us that his father once went to Bambala, where white traders lived, when our informant was a child, and returned when he had become a boy of about ten years. He went again, and returned when it was time to knock out his son’s teeth. As that takes place at the age of puberty, he must have spent at least five years in each journey. He added that many who went there never returned, because they liked that country better than this. They had even forsaken their wives and children; and children had been so enticed and flattered by the finery bestowed upon them there, that they had disowned their parents and adopted others. The place to which they had gone, which they named Bambala, was probably Dambarari, which was situated close to Zumbo. This was the first intimation we had of intercourse with the whites. The Barotse, and all the other tribes in the central valley, have no such tradition as this, nor have either the one or the other any account of a trader’s visit to them in ancient times.
All the Batoka tribes follow the curious custom of knocking out the upper front teeth at the age of puberty. This is done by both sexes; and though the under teeth, being relieved from the attrition of the upper, grow long and somewhat bent out, and thereby cause the under lip to protrude in a most unsightly way, no young woman thinks herself accomplished until she has got rid of the upper incisors. This custom gives all the Batoka an uncouth, old-man-like appearance. Their laugh is hideous, yet they are so attached to it that even Sebituane was unable to eradicate the practice. He issued orders that none of the children living under him should be subjected to the custom by their parents, and disobedience to his mandates was usually punished with severity; but, notwithstanding this, the children would appear in the streets without their incisors, and no one would confess to the deed. When questioned respecting the origin of this practice, the Batoka reply that their object is to be like oxen, and those who retain their teeth they consider to resemble zebras. Whether this is the true reason or not, it is difficult to say; but it is noticeable that the veneration for oxen which prevails in many tribes should here be associated with hatred to the zebra, as among the Bakwains; that this operation is performed at the same age that circumcision is in other tribes; and that here that ceremony is unknown. The custom is so universal that a person who has his teeth is considered ugly, and occasionally, when the Batoka borrowed my looking-glass, the disparaging remark would be made respecting boys or girls who still retained their teeth, “Look at the great teeth!” Some of the Makololo give a more facetious explanation of the custom: they say that the wife of a chief having in a quarrel bitten her husband’s hand, he, in revenge, ordered her front teeth to be knocked out, and all the men in the tribe followed his example; but this does not explain why they afterward knocked out their own.
The Batoka of the Zambesi are generally very dark in color, and very degraded and negro-like in appearance, while those who live on the high lands we are now ascending are frequently of the color of coffee and milk. We had a large number of the Batoka of Mokwine in our party, sent by Sekeletu to carry his tusks. Their greater degradation was probably caused by the treatment of their chiefs — the barbarians of the islands. I found them more difficult to manage than any of the rest of my companions, being much less reasonable and impressible than the others. My party consisted of the head men aforementioned, Sekwebu, and Kanyata. We were joined at the falls by another head man of the Makololo, named Monahin, in command of the Batoka. We had also some of the Banajoa under Mosisinyane, and, last of all, a small party of Bashubia and Barotse under Tuba Mokoro, which had been furnished by Sekeletu because of their ability to swim. They carried their paddles with them, and, as the Makololo suggested, were able to swim over the rivers by night and steal canoes, if the inhabitants should be so unreasonable as to refuse to lend them. These different parties assorted together into messes; any orders were given through their head man, and when food was obtained he distributed it to the mess. Each party knew its own spot in the encampment; and as this was always placed so that our backs should be to the east, the direction from whence the prevailing winds came, no time was lost in fixing the sheds of our encampment. They each took it in turn to pull grass to make my bed, so I lay luxuriously.
NOVEMBER 26TH. As the oxen could only move at night, in consequence of a fear that the buffaloes in this quarter might have introduced the tsetse, I usually performed the march by day on foot, while some of the men brought on the oxen by night. On coming to the villages under Marimba, an old man, we crossed the Unguesi, a rivulet which, like the Lekone, runs backward. It falls into the Leeambye a little above the commencement of the rapids. The stratified gneiss, which is the underlying rock of much of this part of the country, dips toward the centre of the continent, but the strata are often so much elevated as to appear nearly on their edges. Rocks of augitic trap are found in various positions on it; the general strike is north and south; but when the gneiss was first seen, near to the basalt of the falls, it was easterly and westerly, and the dip toward the north, as if the eruptive force of the basalt had placed it in that position.
We passed the remains of a very large town, which, from the only evidence of antiquity afforded by ruins in this country, must have been inhabited for a long period; the millstones of gneiss, trap, and quartz were worn down two and a half inches perpendicularly. The ivory grave-stones soon rot away. Those of Moyara’s father, who must have died not more than a dozen years ago, were crumbling into powder; and we found this to be generally the case all over the Batoka country. The region around is pretty well covered with forest; but there is abundance of open pasturage, and, as we are ascending in altitude, we find the grass to be short, and altogether unlike the tangled herbage of the Barotse valley.
It is remarkable that we now meet with the same trees we saw in descending toward the west coast. A kind of sterculia, which is the most common tree at Loanda, and the baobab, flourish here; and the tree called moshuka, which we found near Tala Mungongo, was now yielding its fruit, which resembles small apples. The people brought it to us in large quantities: it tastes like a pear, but has a harsh rind, and four large seeds within. We found prodigious quantities of this fruit as we went along. The tree attains the height of 15 or 20 feet, and has leaves, hard and glossy, as large as one’s hand. The tree itself is never found on the lowlands, but is mentioned with approbation at the end of the work of Bowditch. My men almost lived upon the fruit for many days.
The rains had fallen only partially: in many parts the soil was quite dry and the leaves drooped mournfully, but the fruit-trees are unaffected by a drought, except when it happens at the time of their blossoming. The Batoka of my party declared that no one ever dies of hunger here. We obtained baskets of maneko, a curious fruit, with a horny rind, split into five pieces: these sections, when chewed, are full of a fine glutinous matter, and sweet like sugar. The seeds are covered with a yellow silky down, and are not eaten: the entire fruit is about the size of a walnut. We got also abundance of the motsouri and mamosho. We saw the Batoka eating the beans called nju, which are contained in a large square pod; also the pulp between the seeds of nux vomica, and the motsintsela. Other fruits become ripe at other seasons, as the motsikiri, which yields an oil, and is a magnificent tree, bearing masses of dark evergreen leaves; so that, from the general plenty, one can readily believe the statement made by the Batoka. We here saw trees allowed to stand in gardens, and some of the Batoka even plant them, a practice seen nowhere else among natives. A species of leucodendron abounds. When we meet with it on a spot on which no rain has yet fallen, we see that the young ones twist their leaves round during the heat of the day, so that the edge only is exposed to the rays of the sun; they have then a half twist on the petiole. The acacias in the same circumstances, and also the mopane (‘Bauhania’), fold their leaves together, and, by presenting the smallest possible surface to the sun, simulate the eucalypti of Australia.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52