Beautiful Valley — Buffalo — My young Men kill two Elephants — The Hunt — Mode of measuring Height of live Elephants — Wild Animals smaller here than in the South, though their Food is more abundant — The Elephant a dainty Feeder — Semalembue — His Presents — Joy in prospect of living in Peace — Trade — His People’s way of wearing their Hair — Their Mode of Salutation — Old Encampment — Sebituane’s former Residence — Ford of Kafue — Hippopotami — Hills and Villages — Geological Formation — Prodigious Quantities of large Game — Their Tameness — Rains — Less Sickness than in the Journey to Loanda — Reason — Charge from an Elephant — Vast Amount of animal Life on the Zambesi — Water of River discolored — An Island with Buffaloes and Men on it — Native Devices for killing Game — Tsetse now in Country — Agricultural Industry — An Albino murdered by his Mother — “Guilty of Tlolo” — Women who make their Mouths “like those of Ducks” — First Symptom of the Slave-trade on this side — Selole’s Hostility — An armed Party hoaxed — An Italian Marauder slain — Elephant’s Tenacity of Life — A Word to young Sportsmen — Mr. Oswell’s Adventure with an Elephant; narrow Escape — Mburuma’s Village — Suspicious Conduct of his People — Guides attempt to detain us — The Village and People of Ma Mburuma — Character our Guides give of us.
13TH. The country is becoming very beautiful, and furrowed by deep valleys; the underlying rocks, being igneous, have yielded fertile soil. There is great abundance of large game. The buffaloes select open spots, and often eminences, as standing-places through the day. We crossed the Mbai, and found in its bed rocks of pink marble. Some little hills near it are capped by marble of beautiful whiteness, the underlying rock being igneous. Violent showers occur frequently on the hills, and cause such sudden sweeping floods in these rivulets, that five of our men, who had gone to the other side for firewood, were obliged to swim back. The temperature of the air is lowered considerably by the daily rains. Several times the thermometer at sunrise has been as low as 68°, and 74° at sunset. Generally, however, it stood at from 72° to 74° at sunrise, 90° to 96° at midday, and 80° to 84° at sunset. The sensation, however, as before remarked, was not disagreeable.
14TH. We entered a most beautiful valley, abounding in large game. Finding a buffalo lying down, I went to secure him for our food. Three balls did not kill him, and, as he turned round as if for a charge, we ran for the shelter of some rocks. Before we gained them, we found that three elephants, probably attracted by the strange noise, had cut off our retreat on that side; they, however, turned short off, and allowed us to gain the rocks. We then saw that the buffalo was moving off quite briskly, and, in order not to be entirely balked, I tried a long shot at the last of the elephants, and, to the great joy of my people, broke his fore leg. The young men soon brought him to a stand, and one shot in the brain dispatched him. I was right glad to see the joy manifested at such an abundant supply of meat.
On the following day, while my men were cutting up the elephant, great numbers of the villagers came to enjoy the feast. We were on the side of a fine green valley, studded here and there with trees, and cut by numerous rivulets. I had retired from the noise, to take an observation among some rocks of laminated grit, when I beheld an elephant and her calf at the end of the valley, about two miles distant. The calf was rolling in the mud, and the dam was standing fanning herself with her great ears. As I looked at them through my glass, I saw a long string of my own men appearing on the other side of them, and Sekwebu came and told me that these had gone off saying, “Our father will see to-day what sort of men he has got.” I then went higher up the side of the valley, in order to have a distinct view of their mode of hunting. The goodly beast, totally unconscious of the approach of an enemy, stood for some time suckling her young one, which seemed about two years old; they then went into a pit containing mud, and smeared themselves all over with it, the little one frisking about his dam, flapping his ears and tossing his trunk incessantly, in elephantine fashion. She kept flapping her ears and wagging her tail, as if in the height of enjoyment. Then began the piping of her enemies, which was performed by blowing into a tube, or the hands closed together, as boys do into a key. They call out to attract the animal’s attention,
“O chief! chief! we have come to kill you.
O chief! chief! many more will die besides you, etc.
The gods have said it,” etc., etc.
Both animals expanded their ears and listened, then left their bath as the crowd rushed toward them. The little one ran forward toward the end of the valley, but, seeing the men there, returned to his dam. She placed herself on the danger side of her calf, and passed her proboscis over it again and again, as if to assure it of safety. She frequently looked back to the men, who kept up an incessant shouting, singing, and piping; then looked at her young one and ran after it, sometimes sideways, as if her feelings were divided between anxiety to protect her offspring and desire to revenge the temerity of her persecutors. The men kept about a hundred yards in her rear, and some that distance from her flanks, and continued thus until she was obliged to cross a rivulet. The time spent in descending and getting up the opposite bank allowed of their coming up to the edge, and discharging their spears at about twenty yards distance. After the first discharge she appeared with her sides red with blood, and, beginning to flee for her own life, seemed to think no more of her young. I had previously sent off Sekwebu with orders to spare the calf. It ran very fast, but neither young nor old ever enter into a gallop; their quickest pace is only a sharp walk. Before Sekwebu could reach them, the calf had taken refuge in the water, and was killed. The pace of the dam gradually became slower. She turned with a shriek of rage, and made a furious charge back among the men. They vanished at right angles to her course, or sideways, and, as she ran straight on, she went through the whole party, but came near no one except a man who wore a piece of cloth on his shoulders. Bright clothing is always dangerous in these cases. She charged three or four times, and, except in the first instance, never went farther than 100 yards. She often stood after she had crossed a rivulet, and faced the men, though she received fresh spears. It was by this process of spearing and loss of blood that she was killed; for at last, making a short charge, she staggered round and sank down dead in a kneeling posture. I did not see the whole hunt, having been tempted away by both sun and moon appearing unclouded. I turned from the spectacle of the destruction of noble animals, which might be made so useful in Africa, with a feeling of sickness, and it was not relieved by the recollection that the ivory was mine, though that was the case. I regretted to see them killed, and more especially the young one, the meat not being at all necessary at that time; but it is right to add that I did not feel sick when my own blood was up the day before. We ought, perhaps, to judge those deeds more leniently in which we ourselves have no temptation to engage. Had I not been previously guilty of doing the very same thing, I might have prided myself on superior humanity when I experienced the nausea in viewing my men kill these two.
The elephant first killed was a male, not full grown; his height at the withers, 8 feet 4 inches; circumference of the fore foot, 44 inches * 2 = 7 feet 4 inches. The female was full grown, and measured in height 8 feet 8 inches; circumference of the fore foot, 48 inches * 2 = 8 feet (96 inches). We afterward found that full-grown male elephants of this region ranged in height at the withers from 9 feet 9 inches to 9 feet 10 inches, and the circumference of the fore foot to be 4 feet 9–1/2 inches * 2 = 9 feet 7 inches. These details are given because the general rule has been observed that twice the circumference of the impression made by the fore foot on the ground is the height of the animal. The print on the ground, being a little larger than the foot itself, would thus seem to be an accurate mode of measuring the size of any elephant that has passed; but the above measurements show that it is applicable only to full-grown animals. The greater size of the African elephant in the south would at once distinguish it from the Indian one; but here they approach more nearly to each other in bulk, a female being about as large as a common Indian male. But the ear of the African is an external mark which no one will mistake even in a picture. That of the female now killed was 4 feet 5 inches in depth, and 4 feet in horizontal breadth. I have seen a native creep under one so as to be quite covered from the rain. The ear of the Indian variety is not more than a third of this size. The representation of elephants on ancient coins shows that this important characteristic was distinctly recognized of old. Indeed, Cuvier remarked that it was better known by Aristotle than by Buffon.
Having been anxious to learn whether the African elephant is capable of being tamed, through the kindness of my friend Admiral Smythe I am enabled to give the reader conclusive evidence on this point. In the two medals furnished from his work, “A descriptive Catalogue of his Cabinet of Roman and Imperial large brass Medals”, the size of the ears will be at once noted as those of the true African elephant.46 They were even more docile than the Asiatic, and were taught various feats, as walking on ropes, dancing, etc. One of the coins is of Faustina senior, the other of Severus the Seventh, and struck A.D. 197. These elephants were brought from Africa to Rome. The attempt to tame this most useful animal has never been made at the Cape, nor has one ever been exhibited in England. There is only one very young calf of the species in the British Museum.
46 Illustrations (not yet included in this web edition).
The abundance of food in this country, as compared with the south, would lead one to suppose that animals here must attain a much greater size; but actual measurement now confirms the impression made on my mind by the mere sight of the animals, that those in the districts north of 20° were smaller than the same races existing southward of that latitude. The first time that Mr. Oswell and myself saw full-grown male elephants on the River Zouga, they seemed no larger than the females (which are always smaller than males) we had met on the Limpopo. There they attain a height of upward of 12 feet. At the Zouga the height of one I measured was 11 feet 4 inches, and in this district 9 feet 10 inches. There is, however, an increase in the size of the tusks as we approach the equator. Unfortunately, I never made measurements of other animals in the south; but the appearance of the animals themselves in the north at once produced the impression on my mind referred to as to their decrease in size. When we first saw koodoos, they were so much smaller than those we had been accustomed to in the south that we doubted whether they were not a new kind of antelope; and the leche, seen nowhere south of 20°, is succeeded by the poku as we go north. This is, in fact, only a smaller species of that antelope, with a more reddish color. A great difference in size prevails also among domestic animals; but the influence of locality on them is not so well marked. The cattle of the Batoka, for instance, are exceedingly small and very beautiful, possessing generally great breadth between the eyes and a very playful disposition. They are much smaller than the aboriginal cattle in the south; but it must be added that those of the Barotse valley, in the same latitudes as the Batoka, are large. The breed may have come from the west, as the cattle within the influence of the sea air, as at Little Fish Bay, Benguela, Ambriz, and along that coast, are very large. Those found at Lake Ngami, with large horns and standing six feet high, probably come from the same quarter. The goats are also small, and domestic fowls throughout this country are of a very small size, and even dogs, except where the inhabitants have had an opportunity of improving the breed by importation from the Portuguese. As the Barotse cattle are an exception to this general rule, so are the Barotse dogs, for they are large, savage-looking animals, though in reality very cowardly. It is a little remarkable that a decrease in size should occur where food is the most abundant; but tropical climates seem unfavorable for the full development of either animals or man. It is not from want of care in the breeding, for the natives always choose the larger and stronger males for stock, and the same arrangement prevails in nature, for it is only by overcoming their weaker rivals that the wild males obtain possession of the herd. Invariably they show the scars received in battle. The elephant we killed yesterday had an umbilical hernia as large as a child’s head, probably caused by the charge of a rival. The cow showed scars received from men; two of the wounds in her side were still unhealed, and there was an orifice six inches long, and open, in her proboscis, and, as it was about a foot from the point, it must have interfered with her power of lifting water.
In estimating the amount of food necessary for these and other large animals, sufficient attention has not been paid to the kinds chosen. The elephant, for instance, is a most dainty feeder, and particularly fond of certain sweet-tasted trees and fruits. He chooses the mohonono, the mimosa, and other trees which contain much saccharine matter, mucilage, and gum. He may be seen putting his head to a lofty palmyra, and swaying it to and fro to shake off the seeds; he then picks them up singly and eats them. Or he may be seen standing by the masuka and other fruit-trees patiently picking off the sweet fruits one by one. He also digs up bulbs and tubers, but none of these are thoroughly digested. Bruce remarked upon the undigested bits of wood seen in their droppings, and he must have observed, too, that neither leaves nor seeds are changed by passing through the alimentary canal. The woody fibre of roots and branches is dropped in the state of tow, the nutritious matter alone having been extracted. This capability of removing all the nourishment, and the selection of those kinds of food which contain great quantities of mucilage and gum, accounts for the fact that herds of elephants produce but small effect upon the vegetation of a country — quality being more requisite than quantity. The amount of internal fat found in them makes them much prized by the inhabitants, who are all very fond of it, both for food and ointment.
After leaving the elephant valley we passed through a very beautiful country, but thinly inhabited by man. The underlying rock is trap, and dikes of talcose gneiss. The trap is often seen tilted on its edge, or dipping a little either to the north or south. The strike is generally to the northeast, the direction we are going. About Losito we found the trap had given place to hornblende schist, mica schist, and various schorly rocks. We had now come into the region in which the appearance of the rocks conveys the impression of a great force having acted along the bed of the Zambesi. Indeed, I was led to the belief from seeing the manner in which the rocks have been thrust away on both sides from its bed, that the power which formed the crack of the falls had given direction to the river below, and opened a bed for it all the way from the falls to beyond the gorge of Lupata.
Passing the rivulet Losito, and through the ranges of hills, we reached the residence of Semalembue on the 18th. His village is situated at the bottom of ranges through which the Kafue finds a passage, and close to the bank of that river. The Kafue, sometimes called Kahowhe or Bashukulompo River, is upward of two hundred yards wide here, and full of hippopotami, the young of which may be seen perched on the necks of their dams. At this point we had reached about the same level as Linyanti.
Semalembue paid us a visit soon after our arrival, and said that he had often heard of me, and now that he had the pleasure of seeing me, he feared that I should sleep the first night at his village hungry. This was considered the handsome way of introducing a present, for he then handed five or six baskets of meal and maize, and an enormous one of ground-nuts. Next morning he gave me about twenty baskets more of meal. I could make but a poor return for his kindness, but he accepted my apologies politely, saying that he knew there were no goods in the country from which I had come, and, in professing great joy at the words of peace I spoke, he said, “Now I shall cultivate largely, in the hope of eating and sleeping in peace.” It is noticeable that all whom we have yet met eagerly caught up the idea of living in peace as the probable effect of the Gospel. They require no explanation of the existence of the Deity. Sekwebu makes use of the term “Reza”, and they appear to understand at once. Like negroes in general, they have a strong tendency to worship, and I heard that Semalembue gets a good deal of ivory from the surrounding tribes on pretense of having some supernatural power. He transmits this to some other chiefs on the Zambesi, and receives in return English cotton goods which come from Mozambique by Babisa traders. My men here began to sell their beads and other ornaments for cotton cloth. Semalembue was accompanied by about forty people, all large men. They have much wool on their heads, which is sometimes drawn all together up to the crown, and tied there in a large tapering bunch. The forehead and round by the ears is shaven close to the base of this tuft. Others draw out the hair on one side, and twist it into little strings. The rest is taken over, and hangs above the ear, which gives the appearance of having a cap cocked jauntily on the side of the head.
The mode of salutation is by clapping the hands. Various parties of women came from the surrounding villages to see the white man, but all seemed very much afraid. Their fear, which I seldom could allay, made them, when addressed, clap their hands with increasing vigor. Sekwebu was the only one of the Makololo who knew this part of the country; and this was the region which to his mind was best adapted for the residence of a tribe. The natives generally have a good idea of the nature of the soil and pasturage, and Sekwebu expatiated with great eloquence on the capabilities of this part for supplying the wants of the Makololo. There is certainly abundance of room at present in the country for thousands and thousands more of population.
We passed near the Losito, a former encampment of the Matebele, with whom Sekwebu had lived. At the sight of the bones of the oxen they had devoured, and the spot where savage dances had taken place, though all deserted now, the poor fellow burst out into a wild Matebele song. He pointed out also a district, about two days and a half west of Semalembue, where Sebituane had formerly dwelt. There is a hot fountain on the hills there named “Nakalombo”, which may be seen at a distance emitting steam. “There,” said Sekwebu, “had your Molekane (Sebituane) been alive, he would have brought you to live with him. You would be on the bank of the river, and, by taking canoes, you would at once sail down to the Zambesi, and visit the white people at the sea.”
This part is a favorite one with the Makololo, and probably it would be a good one in which to form a centre of civilization. There is a large, flat district of country to the north, said to be peopled by the Bashukulompo and other tribes, who cultivate the ground to a great extent, and raise vast quantities of grain, ground-nuts, sweet potatoes, etc. They also grow sugar-cane. If they were certain of a market, I believe they would not be unwilling to cultivate cotton too, but they have not been accustomed to the peaceful pursuits of commerce. All are fond of trade, but they have been taught none save that in ivory and slaves.
The Kafue enters a narrow gorge close by the village of Semalembue; as the hill on the north is called Bolengwe, I apply that name to the gorge (lat. 15° 48’ 19” S., long. 28° 22’ E.). Semalembue said that he ought to see us over the river, so he accompanied us to a pass about a mile south of his village, and when we entered among the hills we found the ford of the Kafue. On parting with Semalembue I put on him a shirt, and he went away with it apparently much delighted.
The ford was at least 250 yards broad, but rocky and shallow. After crossing it in a canoe, we went along the left bank, and were completely shut in by high hills. Every available spot between the river and the hills is under cultivation; and the residence of the people here is intended to secure safety for themselves and their gardens from their enemies; there is plenty of garden-ground outside the hills; here they are obliged to make pitfalls to protect the grain against the hippopotami. As these animals had not been disturbed by guns, they were remarkably tame, and took no notice of our passing. We again saw numbers of young ones, not much larger than terrier dogs, sitting on the necks of their dams, the little saucy-looking heads cocking up between the old one’s ears; as they become a little older they sit on the withers. Needing meat, we shot a full-grown cow, and found, as we had often done before, the flesh to be very much like pork. The height of this animal was 4 feet 10 inches, and from the point of the nose to the root of the tail 10 feet 6. They seem quarrelsome, for both males and females are found covered with scars, and young males are often killed by the elder ones: we met an instance of this near the falls.
We came to a great many little villages among the hills, as if the inhabitants had reason to hide themselves from the observation of their enemies. While detained cutting up the hippopotamus, I ascended a hill called Mabue asula (stones smell badly), and, though not the highest in sight, it was certainly not 100 feet lower than the most elevated. The boiling-point of water showed it to be about 900 feet above the river, which was of the level of Linyanti. These hills seemed to my men of prodigious altitude, for they had been accustomed to ant-hills only. The mention of mountains that pierced the clouds made them draw in their breath and hold their hands to their mouths. And when I told them that their previous description of Taba cheu had led me to expect something of the sort, I found that the idea of a cloud-capped mountain had never entered into their heads. The mountains certainly look high, from having abrupt sides; but I had recognized the fact by the point of ebullition of water, that they are of a considerably lower altitude than the top of the ridge we had left. They constitute, in fact, a sort of low fringe on the outside of the eastern ridge, exactly as the (apparently) high mountains of Angola (Golungo Alto) form an outer low fringe to the western ridge. I was much struck by the similarity of conformation and nature of the rocks on both sides of the continent; but there is a difference in the structure of the subtending ridges, as may be understood by the annexed ideal geological section.
We can see from this hill five distinct ranges, of which Bolengo is the most westerly, and Komanga is the most easterly. The second is named Sekonkamena, and the third Funze. Very many conical hills appear among them, and they are generally covered with trees. On their tops we have beautiful white quartz rocks, and some have a capping of dolomite. On the west of the second range we have great masses of kyanite or disthene, and on the flanks of the third and fourth a great deal of specular iron ore which is magnetic, and containing a very large percentage of the metal. The sides of these ranges are generally very precipitous, and there are rivulets between which are not perennial. Many of the hills have been raised by granite, exactly like that of the Kalomo. Dikes of this granite may be seen thrusting up immense masses of mica schist and quartz or sandstone schist, and making the strata fold over them on each side, as clothes hung upon a line. The uppermost stratum is always dolomite or bright white quartz. Semalembue intended that we should go a little to the northeast, and pass through the people called Babimpe, and we saw some of that people, who invited us to come that way on account of its being smoother; but, feeling anxious to get back to the Zambesi again, we decided to cross the hills toward its confluence with the Kafue. The distance, which in a straight line is but small, occupied three days. The precipitous nature of the sides of this mass of hills knocked up the oxen and forced us to slaughter two, one of which, a very large one, and ornamented with upward of thirty pieces of its own skin detached and hanging down, Sekeletu had wished us to take to the white people as a specimen of his cattle. We saw many elephants among the hills, and my men ran off and killed three. When we came to the top of the outer range of the hills we had a glorious view. At a short distance below us we saw the Kafue, wending away over a forest-clad plain to the confluence, and on the other side of the Zambesi, beyond that, lay a long range of dark hills. A line of fleecy clouds appeared lying along the course of that river at their base. The plain below us, at the left of the Kafue, had more large game on it than any where else I had seen in Africa. Hundreds of buffaloes and zebras grazed on the open spaces, and there stood lordly elephants feeding majestically, nothing moving apparently but the proboscis. I wished that I had been able to take a photograph of a scene so seldom beheld, and which is destined, as guns increase, to pass away from earth. When we descended we found all the animals remarkably tame. The elephants stood beneath the trees, fanning themselves with their large ears, as if they did not see us at 200 or 300 yards distance. The number of animals was quite astonishing, and made me think that here I could realize an image of that time when Megatheria fed undisturbed in the primeval forests. We saw great numbers of red-colored pigs (‘Potamochoerus’) standing gazing at us in wonder. The people live on the hills, and, having no guns, seldom disturb the game. They have never been visited, even by half-castes; but Babisa traders have come occasionally. Continuous rains kept us for some time on the banks of the Chiponga, and here we were unfortunate enough to come among the tsetse. Mr. J. N. Gray, of the British Museum, has kindly obliged me with a drawing of the insect, with the ravages of which I have unfortunately been too familiar. (For description, see p. 94–96 [Chapter 4 Paragraphs 16–20].) No. 1 is the insect somewhat smaller than life, from the specimen having contracted in drying; they are a little larger than the common house-fly. No. 2 is the insect magnified; and No. 3 shows the magnified proboscis and poison-bulb at the root.47
47 Illustrations (not yet included in this web edition).
We tried to leave one morning, but the rain coming on afresh brought us to a stand, and after waiting an hour, wet to the skin, we were fain to retrace our steps to our sheds. These rains were from the east, and the clouds might be seen on the hills exactly as the “Table-cloth” on Table Mountain. This was the first wetting we had got since we left Sesheke, for I had gained some experience in traveling. In Londa we braved the rain, and, as I despised being carried in our frequent passage through running water, I was pretty constantly drenched; but now, when we saw a storm coming, we invariably halted. The men soon pulled grass sufficient to make a little shelter for themselves by placing it on a bush, and, having got my camp-stool and umbrella, with a little grass under my feet, I kept myself perfectly dry. We also lighted large fires, and the men were not chilled by streams of water running down their persons, and abstracting the heat, as they would have been had they been exposed to the rain. When it was over they warmed themselves by the fires, and we traveled on comfortably. The effect of this care was, that we had much less sickness than with a smaller party in journeying to Loanda. Another improvement made from my experience was avoiding an entire change of diet. In going to Loanda I took little or no European food, in order not to burden my men and make them lose spirit, but trusted entirely to what might be got by the gun and the liberality of the Balonda; but on this journey I took some flour which had been left in the wagon, with some got on the island, and baked my own bread all the way in an extemporaneous oven made by an inverted pot. With these precautions, aided, no doubt, by the greater healthiness of the district over which we passed, I enjoyed perfect health.
When we left the Chipongo on the 30th we passed among the range of hills on our left, which are composed of mica and clay slate. At the bottom we found a forest of large silicified trees, all lying as if the elevation of the range had made them fall away from it, and toward the river. An ordinary-sized tree standing on end, measured 22 inches in diameter: there were 12 laminae to the inch. These are easily counted, because there is usually a scale of pure silica between each, which has not been so much affected by the weather as the rest of the ring itself: the edges of the rings thus stand out plainly. Mr. Quekett, having kindly examined some specimens, finds that it is “silicified CONIFEROUS WOOD of the ARAUCARIAN type; and the nearest allied wood that he knows of is that found, also in a fossil state, in New South Wales.” The numbers of large game were quite astonishing. I never saw elephants so tame as those near the Chiponga: they stood close to our path without being the least afraid. This is different from their conduct where they have been accustomed to guns, for there they take alarm at the distance of a mile, and begin to run if a shot is fired even at a longer distance. My men killed another here, and rewarded the villagers of the Chiponga for their liberality in meal by loading them with flesh. We spent a night at a baobab, which was hollow, and would hold twenty men inside. It had been used as a lodging-house by the Babisa.
As we approached nearer the Zambesi, the country became covered with broad-leaved bushes, pretty thickly planted, and we had several times to shout to elephants to get out of our way. At an open space, a herd of buffaloes came trotting up to look at our oxen, and it was only by shooting one that I made them retreat. The meat is very much like that of an ox, and this one was very fine. The only danger we actually encountered was from a female elephant, with three young ones of different sizes. Charging through the centre of our extended line, and causing the men to throw down their burdens in a great hurry, she received a spear for her temerity. I never saw an elephant with more than one calf before. We knew that we were near our Zambesi again, even before the great river burst upon our sight, by the numbers of water-fowl we met. I killed four geese with two shots, and, had I followed the wishes of my men, could have secured a meal of water-fowl for the whole party. I never saw a river with so much animal life around and in it, and, as the Barotse say, “Its fish and fowl are always fat.” When our eyes were gladdened by a view of its goodly broad waters, we found it very much larger than it is even above the falls. One might try to make his voice heard across it in vain. Its flow was more rapid than near Sesheke, being often four and a half miles an hour, and, what I never saw before, the water was discolored and of a deep brownish-red. In the great valley the Leeambye never becomes of this color. The adjacent country, so far north as is known, is all level, and the soil, being generally covered with dense herbage, is not abraded; but on the eastern ridge the case is different; the grass is short, and, the elevation being great, the soil is washed down by the streams, and hence the discoloration which we now view. The same thing was observed on the western ridge. We never saw discoloration till we reached the Quango; that obtained its matter from the western slope of the western ridge, just as this part of the Zambesi receives its soil from the eastern slope of the eastern ridge. It carried a considerable quantity of wreck of reeds, sticks, and trees. We struck upon the river about eight miles east of the confluence with the Kafue, and thereby missed a sight of that interesting point. The cloudiness of the weather was such that but few observations could be made for determining our position; so, pursuing our course, we went down the left bank, and came opposite the island of Menye makaba. The Zambesi contains numerous islands; this was about a mile and a half or two miles long, and upward of a quarter of a mile broad. Besides human population, it has a herd of buffaloes that never leave it. In the distance they seemed to be upward of sixty. The human and brute inhabitants understand each other; for when the former think they ought to avenge the liberties committed on their gardens, the leaders of the latter come out boldly to give battle. They told us that the only time in which they can thin them is when the river is full and part of the island flooded. They then attack them from their canoes. The comparatively small space to which they have confined themselves shows how luxuriant the vegetation of this region is; for were they in want of more pasture, as buffaloes can swim well, and the distance from this bank to the island is not much more than 200 yards, they might easily remove hither. The opposite bank is much more distant.
Ranges of hills appear now to run parallel with the Zambesi, and are about fifteen miles apart. Those on the north approach nearest to the river. The inhabitants on that side are the Batonga, those on the south bank are the Banyai. The hills abound in buffaloes, and elephants are numerous, and many are killed by the people on both banks. They erect stages on high trees overhanging the paths by which the elephants come, and then use a large spear with a handle nearly as thick as a man’s wrist, and four or five feet long. When the animal comes beneath they throw the spear, and if it enters between the ribs above, as the blade is at least twenty inches long by two broad, the motion of the handle, as it is aided by knocking against the trees, makes frightful gashes within, and soon causes death. They kill them also by means of a spear inserted in a beam of wood, which being suspended on the branch of a tree by a cord attached to a latch fastened in the path, and intended to be struck by the animal’s foot, leads to the fall of the beam, and, the spear being poisoned, causes death in a few hours.
We were detained by continuous rains several days at this island. The clouds rested upon the tops of the hills as they came from the eastward, and then poured down plenteous showers on the valleys below. As soon as we could move, Tomba Nyama, the head man of the island, volunteered the loan of a canoe to cross a small river, called the Chongwe, which we found to be about fifty or sixty yards broad and flooded. All this part of the country was well known to Sekwebu, and he informed us that, when he passed through it as a boy, the inhabitants possessed abundance of cattle, and there were no tsetse. The existence of the insect now shows that it may return in company with the larger game. The vegetation along the bank was exceedingly rank, and the bushes so tangled that it was difficult to get on. The paths had been made by the wild animals alone, for the general pathway of the people is the river, in their canoes. We usually followed the footpaths of the game, and of these there was no lack. Buffaloes, zebras, pallahs, and waterbucks abound, and there is also a great abundance of wild pigs, koodoos, and the black antelope. We got one buffalo as he was rolling himself in a pool of mud. He had a large piece of skin torn off his flank, it was believed by an alligator.
We were struck by the fact that, as soon as we came between the ranges of hills which flank the Zambesi, the rains felt warm. At sunrise the thermometer stood at from 82° to 86°; at midday, in the coolest shade, namely, in my little tent, under a shady tree, at 96° to 98°; and at sunset it was 86° This is different from any thing we experienced in the interior, for these rains always bring down the mercury to 72° or even 68° There, too, we found a small black coleopterous insect, which stung like the mosquito, but injected less poison; it puts us in mind of that insect, which does not exist in the high lands we had left.
JANUARY 6TH, 1856. Each village we passed furnished us with a couple of men to take us on to the next. They were useful in showing us the parts least covered with jungle. When we came near a village, we saw men, women, and children employed in weeding their gardens, they being great agriculturists. Most of the men are muscular, and have large plowman hands. Their color is the same admixture, from very dark to light olive, that we saw in Londa. Though all have thick lips and flat noses, only the more degraded of the population possess the ugly negro physiognomy. They mark themselves by a line of little raised cicatrices, each of which is a quarter of an inch long; they extend from the tip of the nose to the root of the hair on the forehead. It is remarkable that I never met with an Albino in crossing Africa, though, from accounts published by the Portuguese, I was led to expect that they were held in favor as doctors by certain chiefs. I saw several in the south: one at Kuruman is a full-grown woman, and a man having this peculiarity of skin was met with in the colony. Their bodies are always blistered on exposure to the sun, as the skin is more tender than that of the blacks. The Kuruman woman lived some time at Kolobeng, and generally had on her bosom and shoulders the remains of large blisters. She was most anxious to be made black, but nitrate of silver, taken internally, did not produce its usual effect. During the time I resided at Mabotsa, a woman came to the station with a fine boy, an Albino. The father had ordered her to throw him away, but she clung to her offspring for many years. He was remarkably intelligent for his age. The pupil of the eye was of a pink color, and the eye itself was unsteady in vision. The hair, or rather wool, was yellow, and the features were those common among the Bechuanas. After I left the place the mother is said to have become tired of living apart from the father, who refused to have her while she retained the son. She took him out one day, and killed him close to the village of Mabotsa, and nothing was done to her by the authorities. From having met with no Albinos in Londa, I suspect they are there also put to death. We saw one dwarf only in Londa, and brands on him showed he had once been a slave; and there is one dwarf woman at Linyanti. The general absence of deformed persons is partly owing to their destruction in infancy, and partly to the mode of life being a natural one, so far as ventilation and food are concerned. They use but few unwholesome mixtures as condiments, and, though their undress exposes them to the vicissitudes of the temperature, it does not harbor vomites. It was observed that, when smallpox and measles visited the country, they were most severe on the half-castes who were clothed. In several tribes, a child which is said to “tlola”, transgress, is put to death. “Tlolo”, or transgression, is ascribed to several curious cases. A child who cut the upper front teeth before the under was always put to death among the Bakaa, and, I believe, also among the Bakwains. In some tribes, a case of twins renders one of them liable to death; and an ox, which, while lying in the pen, beats the ground with its tail, is treated in the same way. It is thought to be calling death to visit the tribe. When I was coming through Londa, my men carried a great number of fowls, of a larger breed than any they had at home. If one crowed before midnight, it had been guilty of “tlolo”, and was killed. The men often carried them sitting on their guns, and, if one began to crow in a forest, the owner would give it a beating, by way of teaching it not to be guilty of crowing at unseasonable hours.
The women here are in the habit of piercing the upper lip, and gradually enlarging the orifice until they can insert a shell. The lip then appears drawn out beyond the perpendicular of the nose, and gives them a most ungainly aspect. Sekwebu remarked, “These women want to make their mouths like those of ducks;” and, indeed, it does appear as if they had the idea that female beauty of lip had been attained by the ‘Ornithorhynchus paradoxus’ alone. This custom prevails throughout the country of the Maravi, and no one could see it without confessing that fashion had never led women to a freak more mad. We had rains now every day, and considerable cloudiness, but the sun often burst through with scorching intensity. All call out against it then, saying, “O the sun! that is rain again.” It was worth noticing that my companions never complained of the heat while on the highlands, but when we descended into the lowlands of Angola, and here also, they began to fret on account of it. I myself felt an oppressive steaminess in the atmosphere which I had not experienced on the higher lands.
As the game was abundant and my party very large, I had still to supply their wants with the gun. We slaughtered the oxen only when unsuccessful in hunting. We always entered into friendly relations with the head men of the different villages, and they presented grain and other food freely. One man gave a basinful of rice, the first we met with in the country. It is never seen in the interior. He said he knew it was “white man’s corn”, and when I wished to buy some more, he asked me to give him a slave. This was the first symptom of the slave-trade on this side of the country. The last of these friendly head men was named Mobala; and having passed him in peace, we had no anticipation of any thing else; but, after a few hours, we reached Selole or Chilole, and found that he not only considered us enemies, but had actually sent an express to raise the tribe of Mburuma against us. All the women of Selole had fled, and the few people we met exhibited symptoms of terror. An armed party had come from Mburuma in obedience to the call; but the head man of the company, being Mburuma’s brother, suspecting that it was a hoax, came to our encampment and told us the whole. When we explained our objects, he told us that Mburuma, he had no doubt, would receive us well. The reason why Selole acted in this foolish manner we afterward found to be this: an Italian named Simoens, and nicknamed Siriatomba (don’t eat tobacco), had married the daughter of a chief called Sekokole, living north of Tete. He armed a party of fifty slaves with guns, and, ascending the river in canoes some distance beyond the island Meya makaba, attacked several inhabited islands beyond, securing a large number of prisoners, and much ivory. On his return, the different chiefs, at the instigation of his father-in-law, who also did not wish him to set up as a chief, united, attacked and dispersed the party of Simoens, and killed him while trying to escape on foot. Selole imagined that I was another Italian, or, as he expressed it, “Siriatomba risen from the dead.” In his message to Mburuma he even said that Mobala, and all the villages beyond, were utterly destroyed by our fire-arms, but the sight of Mobala himself, who had come to the village of Selole, led the brother of Mburuma to see at once that it was all a hoax. But for this, the foolish fellow Selole might have given us trouble.
We saw many of the liberated captives of this Italian among the villages here, and Sekwebu found them to be Matebele. The brother of Mburuma had a gun, which was the first we had seen in coming eastward. Before we reached Mburuma my men went to attack a troop of elephants, as they were much in need of meat. When the troop began to run, one of them fell into a hole, and before he could extricate himself an opportunity was afforded for all the men to throw their spears. When he rose he was like a huge porcupine, for each of the seventy or eighty men had discharged more than one spear at him. As they had no more, they sent for me to finish him. In order to put him at once out of pain, I went to within twenty yards, there being a bank between us which he could not readily climb. I rested the gun upon an ant-hill so as to take a steady aim; but, though I fired twelve two-ounce bullets, all I had, into different parts, I could not kill him. As it was becoming dark, I advised my men to let him stand, being sure of finding him dead in the morning; but, though we searched all the next day, and went more than ten miles, we never saw him again. I mention this to young men who may think that they will be able to hunt elephants on foot by adopting the Ceylon practice of killing them by one ball in the brain. I believe that in Africa the practice of standing before an elephant, expecting to kill him with one shot, would be certain death to the hunter; and I would add, for the information of those who may think that, because I met with a great abundance of game here, they also might find rare sport, that the tsetse exists all along both banks of the Zambesi, and there can be no hunting by means of horses. Hunting on foot in this climate is such excessively hard work, that I feel certain the keenest sportsman would very soon turn away from it in disgust. I myself was rather glad, when furnished with the excuse that I had no longer any balls, to hand over all the hunting to my men, who had no more love for the sport than myself, as they never engaged in it except when forced by hunger.
Some of them gave me a hint to melt down my plate by asking if it were not lead. I had two pewter plates and a piece of zinc which I now melted into bullets. I also spent the remainder of my handkerchiefs in buying spears for them. My men frequently surrounded herds of buffaloes and killed numbers of the calves. I, too, exerted myself greatly; but, as I am now obliged to shoot with the left arm, I am a bad shot, and this, with the lightness of the bullets, made me very unsuccessful. The more the hunger, the less my success, invariably.
I may here add an adventure with an elephant of one who has had more narrow escapes than any man living, but whose modesty has always prevented him from publishing any thing about himself. When we were on the banks of the Zouga in 1850, Mr. Oswell pursued one of these animals into the dense, thick, thorny bushes met with on the margin of that river, and to which the elephant usually flees for safety. He followed through a narrow pathway by lifting up some of the branches and forcing his way through the rest; but, when he had just got over this difficulty, he saw the elephant, whose tail he had but got glimpses of before, now rushing toward him. There was then no time to lift up branches, so he tried to force the horse through them. He could not effect a passage; and, as there was but an instant between the attempt and failure, the hunter tried to dismount, but in doing this one foot was caught by a branch, and the spur drawn along the animal’s flank; this made him spring away and throw the rider on the ground with his face to the elephant, which, being in full chase, still went on. Mr. Oswell saw the huge fore foot about to descend on his legs, parted them, and drew in his breath as if to resist the pressure of the other foot, which he expected would next descend on his body. He saw the whole length of the under part of the enormous brute pass over him; the horse got away safely. I have heard of but one other authentic instance in which an elephant went over a man without injury, and, for any one who knows the nature of the bush in which this occurred, the very thought of an encounter in it with such a foe is appalling. As the thorns are placed in pairs on opposite sides of the branches, and these turn round on being pressed against, one pair brings the other exactly into the position in which it must pierce the intruder. They cut like knives. Horses dread this bush extremely; indeed, most of them refuse to face its thorns.
On reaching Mburuma’s village, his brother came to meet us. We explained the reason of our delay, and he told us that we were looked upon with alarm. He said that Siriatomba had been killed near the village of Selole, and hence that man’s fears. He added that the Italian had come talking of peace, as we did, but had kidnapped children and bought ivory with them, and that we were supposed to be following the same calling. I pointed to my men, and asked if any of these were slaves, and if we had any children among them, and I think we satisfied him that we were true men. Referring to our ill success in hunting the day before, he said, “The man at whose village you remained was in fault in allowing you to want meat, for he had only to run across to Mburuma; he would have given him a little meal, and, having sprinkled that on the ground as an offering to the gods, you would have found your elephant.” The chiefs in these parts take upon themselves an office somewhat like the priesthood, and the people imagine that they can propitiate the Deity through them. In illustration of their ideas, it may be mentioned that, when we were among the tribes west of Semalembue, several of the people came forward and introduced themselves — one as a hunter of elephants, another as a hunter of hippopotami, a third as a digger of pitfalls — apparently wishing me to give them medicine for success in their avocations, as well as to cure the diseases of those to whom I was administering the drugs. I thought they attributed supernatural power to them, for, like all Africans, they have unbounded faith in the efficacy of charms; but I took pains to let them know that they must pray and trust to another power than mine for aid. We never saw Mburuma himself, and the conduct of his people indicated very strong suspicions, though he gave us presents of meal, maize, and native corn. His people never came near us except in large bodies and fully armed. We had to order them to place their bows, arrows, and spears at a distance before entering our encampment. We did not, however, care much for a little trouble now, as we hoped that, if we could pass this time without much molestation, we might yet be able to return with ease, and without meeting sour, suspicious looks.
The soil, glancing every where with mica, is very fertile, and all the valleys are cultivated, the maize being now in ear and eatable. Ranges of hills, which line both banks of the river above this, now come close up to each bank, and form a narrow gorge, which, like all others of the same nature, is called Mpata. There is a narrow pathway by the side of the river, but we preferred a more open one in a pass among the hills to the east, which is called Mohango. The hills rise to a height of 800 or 1000 feet, and are all covered with trees. The rocks were of various colored mica schist; and parallel with the Zambesi lay a broad band of gneiss with garnets in it. It stood on edge, and several dikes of basalt, with dolerite, had cut through it.
Mburuma sent two men as guides to the Loangwa. These men tried to bring us to a stand, at a distance of about six miles from the village, by the notice, “Mburuma says you are to sleep under that tree.” On declining to do this, we were told that we must wait at a certain village for a supply of corn. As none appeared in an hour, I proceeded on the march. It is not quite certain that their intentions were hostile, but this seemed to disarrange their plans, and one of them was soon observed running back to Mburuma. They had first of all tried to separate our party by volunteering the loan of a canoe to convey Sekwebu and me, together with our luggage, by way of the river, and, as it was pressed upon us, I thought that this was their design. The next attempt was to detain us in the pass; but, betraying no suspicion, we civilly declined to place ourselves in their power in an unfavorable position. We afterward heard that a party of Babisa traders, who came from the northeast, bringing English goods from Mozambique, had been plundered by this same people.
Elephants were still abundant, but more wild, as they fled with great speed as soon as we made our appearance. The country between Mburuma’s and his mother’s village was all hilly and very difficult, and prevented us from traveling more than ten miles a day. At the village of Ma Mburuma (mother of Mburuma), the guides, who had again joined us, gave a favorable report, and the women and children did not flee. Here we found that traders, called Bazunga, have been in the habit of coming in canoes, and that I was named as one of them. These I supposed to be half-caste Portuguese, for they said that the hair of their heads and the skin beneath their clothing were different from mine. Ma Mburuma promised us canoes to cross the Loangwa in our front. It was pleasant to see great numbers of men, women, and boys come, without suspicion, to look at the books, watch, looking-glass, revolver, etc. They are a strong, muscular race, and both men and women are seen cultivating the ground. The soil contains so much comminuted talc and mica from the adjacent hills that it seems as if mixed with spermaceti. They generally eat their corn only after it has begun to sprout from steeping it in water. The deformed lips of the women make them look very ugly; I never saw one smile. The people in this part seem to understand readily what is spoken about God, for they listen with great attention, and tell in return their own ideas of departed spirits. The position of the village of Mburuma’s mother was one of great beauty, quite inclosed by high, steep hills; and the valleys are all occupied by gardens of native corn and maize, which grow luxuriantly. We were obliged to hurry along, for the oxen were bitten daily by the tsetse, which, as I have before remarked, now inhabits extensive tracts which once supported herds of cattle that were swept off by Mpakane and other marauders, whose devastations were well known to Sekwebu, for he himself had been an actor in the scenes. When he told me of them he always lowered his voice, in order that the guides might not hear that he had been one of their enemies. But that we were looked upon with suspicion, on account of having come in the footsteps of invaders, was evident from our guides remarking to men in the gardens through which we passed, “They have words of peace — all very fine; but lies only, as the Bazunga are great liars.” They thought we did not understand them; but Sekwebu knew every word perfectly; and, without paying any ostensible attention to these complimentary remarks, we always took care to explain ever afterward that we were not Bazunga, but Makoa (English).
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