Confluence of Loangwa and Zambesi — Hostile Appearances — Ruins of a Church — Turmoil of Spirit — Cross the River — Friendly Parting — Ruins of stone Houses — The Situation of Zumbo for Commerce — Pleasant Gardens — Dr. Lacerda’s Visit to Cazembe — Pereira’s Statement — Unsuccessful Attempt to establish Trade with the People of Cazembe — One of my Men tossed by a Buffalo — Meet a Man with Jacket and Hat on — Hear of the Portuguese and native War — Holms and Terraces on the Banks of a River — Dancing for Corn — Beautiful Country — Mpende’s Hostility — Incantations — A Fight anticipated — Courage and Remarks of my Men — Visit from two old Councilors of Mpende — Their Opinion of the English — Mpende concludes not to fight us — His subsequent Friendship — Aids us to cross the River — The Country — Sweet Potatoes — Bakwain Theory of Rain confirmed — Thunder without Clouds — Desertion of one of my Men — Other Natives’ Ideas of the English — Dalama (gold) — Inhabitants dislike Slave-buyers — Meet native Traders with American Calico — Game-laws — Elephant Medicine — Salt from the Sand — Fertility of Soil — Spotted Hyaena — Liberality and Politeness of the People — Presents — A stingy white Trader — Natives’ Remarks about him — Effect on their Minds — Rain and Wind now from an opposite Direction — Scarcity of Fuel — Trees for Boat-building — Boroma — Freshets — Leave the River — Chicova, its Geological Features — Small Rapid near Tete — Loquacious Guide — Nyampungo, the Rain-charmer — An old Man — No Silver — Gold-washing — No Cattle.
14TH. We reached the confluence of the Loangwa and the Zambesi, most thankful to God for his great mercies in helping us thus far. Mburuma’s people had behaved so suspiciously, that, though we had guides from him, we were by no means sure that we should not be attacked in crossing the Loangwa. We saw them here collecting in large numbers, and, though professing friendship, they kept at a distance from our camp. They refused to lend us more canoes than two, though they have many. They have no intercourse with Europeans except through the Babisa. They tell us that this was formerly the residence of the Bazunga, and maintain silence as to the cause of their leaving it. I walked about some ruins I discovered, built of stone, and found the remains of a church, and on one side lay a broken bell, with the letters I. H. S. and a cross, but no date. There were no inscriptions on stone, and the people could not tell what the Bazunga called their place. We found afterward it was Zumbo.
I felt some turmoil of spirit in the evening at the prospect of having all my efforts for the welfare of this great region and its teeming population knocked on the head by savages to-morrow, who might be said to “know not what they do.” It seemed such a pity that the important fact of the existence of the two healthy ridges which I had discovered should not become known in Christendom, for a confirmation would thereby have been given to the idea that Africa is not open to the Gospel. But I read that Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth; go ye, therefore, and teach all nations . . . and lo, I AM WITH YOU ALWAY, EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD.” I took this as His word of honor, and then went out to take observations for latitude and longitude, which, I think, were very successful. (The church: lat. 15° 37’ 22” S., long. 30° 32’ E.)
15TH. The natives of the surrounding country collected around us this morning, all armed. The women and children were sent away, and one of Mburuma’s wives, who lives in the vicinity, was not allowed to approach, though she had come from her village to pay me a visit. Only one canoe was lent to us, though we saw two others tied to the bank. The part we crossed was about a mile from the confluence, and, as it was now flooded, it seemed upward of half a mile in breadth. We passed all our goods first on to an island in the middle, then the remaining cattle and men; occupying the post of honor, I, as usual, was the last to enter the canoe. A number of the inhabitants stood armed all the time we were embarking. I showed them my watch, lens, and other things to keep them amused, until there only remained those who were to enter the canoe with me. I thanked them for their kindness, and wished them peace. After all, they may have been influenced only by the intention to be ready in case I should play them some false trick, for they have reason to be distrustful of the whites. The guides came over to bid us adieu, and we sat under a mango-tree fifteen feet in circumference. We found them more communicative now. They said that the land on both sides belonged to the Bazunga, and that they had left of old, on the approach of Changamera, Ngaba, and Mpakane. Sekwebu was with the last named, but he maintained that they never came to the confluence, though they carried off all the cattle of Mburuma. The guides confirmed this by saying that the Bazunga were not attacked, but fled in alarm on the approach of the enemy. This mango-tree he knew by its proper name, and we found seven others and several tamarinds, and were informed that the chief Mburuma sends men annually to gather the fruit, but, like many Africans whom I have known, has not had patience to propagate more trees. I gave them some little presents for themselves, a handkerchief and a few beads, and they were highly pleased with a cloth of red baize for Mburuma, which Sekeletu had given me to purchase a canoe. We were thankful to part good friends.
Next morning we passed along the bottom of the range, called Mazanzwe, and found the ruins of eight or ten stone houses. They all faced the river, and were high enough up the flanks of the hill Mazanzwe to command a pleasant view of the broad Zambesi. These establishments had all been built on one plan — a house on one side of a large court, surrounded by a wall; both houses and walls had been built of soft gray sandstone cemented together with mud. The work had been performed by slaves ignorant of building, for the stones were not often placed so as to cover the seams below. Hence you frequently find the joinings forming one seam from the top to the bottom. Much mortar or clay had been used to cover defects, and now trees of the fig family grow upon the walls, and clasp them with their roots. When the clay is moistened, masses of the walls come down by wholesale. Some of the rafters and beams had fallen in, but were entire, and there were some trees in the middle of the houses as large as a man’s body. On the opposite or south bank of the Zambesi we saw the remains of a wall on a height which was probably a fort, and the church stood at a central point, formed by the right bank of the Loangwa and the left of the Zambesi.
The situation of Zumbo was admirably well chosen as a site for commerce. Looking backward we see a mass of high, dark mountains, covered with trees; behind us rises the fine high hill Mazanzwe, which stretches away northward along the left bank of the Loangwa; to the S.E. lies an open country, with a small round hill in the distance called Tofulo. The merchants, as they sat beneath the verandahs in front of their houses, had a magnificent view of the two rivers at their confluence; of their church at the angle; and of all the gardens which they had on both sides of the rivers. In these they cultivated wheat without irrigation, and, as the Portuguese assert, of a grain twice the size of that at Tete. From the guides we learned that the inhabitants had not imbibed much idea of Christianity, for they used the same term for the church bell which they did for a diviner’s drum. From this point the merchants had water communication in three directions beyond, namely, from the Loangwa to the N.N.W., by the Kafue to the W., and by the Zambesi to the S.W. Their attention, however, was chiefly attracted to the N. or Londa; and the principal articles of trade were ivory and slaves. Private enterprise was always restrained, for the colonies of the Portuguese being strictly military, and the pay of the commandants being very small, the officers have always been obliged to engage in trade; and had they not employed their power to draw the trade to themselves by preventing private traders from making bargains beyond the villages, and only at regulated prices, they would have had no trade, as they themselves were obliged to remain always at their posts.
Several expeditions went to the north as far as to Cazembe, and Dr. Lacerda, himself commandant of Tete, went to that chief’s residence. Unfortunately, he was cut off while there, and his papers, taken possession of by a Jesuit who accompanied him, were lost to the world. This Jesuit probably intended to act fairly and have them published; but soon after his return he was called away by death himself, and the papers were lost sight of. Dr. Lacerda had a strong desire to open up communication with Angola, which would have been of importance then, as affording a speedier mode of communication with Portugal than by the way of the Cape; but since the opening of the overland passage to India, a quicker transit is effected from Eastern Africa to Lisbon by way of the Red Sea. Besides Lacerda, Cazembe was visited by Pereira, who gave a glowing account of that chief’s power, which none of my inquiries have confirmed. The people of Matiamvo stated to me that Cazembe was a vassal of their chief: and, from all the native visitors whom I have seen, he appears to be exactly like Shinte and Katema, only a little more powerful. The term “Emperor”, which has been applied to him, seems totally inappropriate. The statement of Pereira that twenty negroes were slaughtered in a day, was not confirmed by any one else, though numbers may have been killed on some particular occasion during the time of his visit, for we find throughout all the country north of 20°, which I consider to be real negro, the custom of slaughtering victims to accompany the departed soul of a chief, and human sacrifices are occasionally offered, and certain parts of the bodies are used as charms. It is on account of the existence of such rites, with the similarity of the language, and the fact that the names of rivers are repeated again and again from north to south through all that region, that I consider them to have been originally one family. The last expedition to Cazembe was somewhat of the same nature as the others, and failed in establishing a commerce, because the people of Cazembe, who had come to Tete to invite the Portuguese to visit them, had not been allowed to trade with whom they might. As it had not been free-trade there, Cazembe did not see why it should be free-trade at his town; he accordingly would not allow his people to furnish the party with food except at his price; and the expedition, being half starved in consequence, came away voting unanimously that Cazembe was a great bore.
When we left the Loangwa we thought we had got rid of the hills; but there are some behind Mazanzwe, though five or six miles off from the river. Tsetse and the hills had destroyed two riding oxen, and when the little one that I now rode knocked up, I was forced to march on foot. The bush being very dense and high, we were going along among the trees, when three buffaloes, which we had unconsciously passed above the wind, thought that they were surrounded by men, and dashed through our line. My ox set off at a gallop, and when I could manage to glance back, I saw one of the men up in the air about five feet above a buffalo, which was tearing along with a stream of blood running down his flank. When I got back to the poor fellow, I found that he had lighted on his face, and, though he had been carried on the horns of the buffalo about twenty yards before getting the final toss, the skin was not pierced nor was a bone broken. When the beasts appeared, he had thrown down his load and stabbed one in the side. It turned suddenly upon him, and, before he could use a tree for defense, carried him off. We shampooed him well, and then went on, and in about a week he was able to engage in the hunt again.
At Zumbo we had entered upon old gray sandstone, with shingle in it, dipping generally toward the south, and forming the bed of the river. The Zambesi is very broad here, but contains many inhabited islands. We slept opposite one on the 16th called Shibanga. The nights are warm, the temperature never falling below 80°; it was 91° even at sunset. One can not cool the water by a wet towel round the vessel, and we feel no pleasure in drinking warm water, though the heat makes us imbibe large quantities. We often noticed lumps of a froth-like substance on the bushes as large as cricket-balls, which we could not explain.
On the morning of the 17th we were pleased to see a person coming from the island of Shibanga with jacket and hat on. He was quite black, but had come from the Portuguese settlement at Tete or Nyungwe; and now, for the first time, we understood that the Portuguese settlement was on the other bank of the river, and that they had been fighting with the natives for the last two years. We had thus got into the midst of a Caffre war, without any particular wish to be on either side. He advised us to cross the river at once, as Mpende lived on this side. We had been warned by the guides of Mburuma against him, for they said that if we could get past Mpende we might reach the white men, but that he was determined that no white man should pass him. Wishing to follow this man’s advice, we proposed to borrow his canoes; but, being afraid to offend the lords of the river, he declined. The consequence was, we were obliged to remain on the enemy’s side. The next island belonged to a man named Zungo, a fine, frank fellow, who brought us at once a present of corn, bound in a peculiar way in grass. He freely accepted our apology for having no present to give in return, as he knew that there were no goods in the interior, and, besides, sent forward a recommendation to his brother-in-law Pangola. The country adjacent to the river is covered with dense bush, thorny and tangled, making one stoop or wait till the men broke or held the branches on one side. There is much rank grass, but it is not so high or rank as that of Angola. The maize, however, which is grown here is equal in size to that which the Americans sell for seed at the Cape. There is usually a holm adjacent to the river, studded with villages and gardens. The holms are but partially cultivated, and on the other parts grows rank and weedy grass. There is then a second terrace, on which trees and bushes abound; and I thought I could detect a third and higher steppe. But I never could discover terraces on the adjacent country, such as in other countries show ancient sea-beaches. The path runs sometimes on the one and sometimes on the other of these river terraces. Canoes are essentially necessary; but I find that they here cost too much for my means, and higher up, where my hoes might have secured one, I was unwilling to enter into a canoe and part with my men while there was danger of their being attacked.
18TH. Yesterday we rested under a broad-spreading fig-tree. Large numbers of buffaloes and water-antelopes were feeding quietly in the meadows; the people have either no guns or no ammunition, or they would not be so tame. Pangola visited us, and presented us with food. In few other countries would one hundred and fourteen sturdy vagabonds be supported by the generosity of the head men and villagers, and whatever they gave be presented with politeness. My men got pretty well supplied individually, for they went into the villages and commenced dancing. The young women were especially pleased with the new steps they had to show, though I suspect many of them were invented for the occasion, and would say, “Dance for me, and I will grind corn for you.” At every fresh instance of liberality, Sekwebu said, “Did not I tell you that these people had hearts, while we were still at Linyanti?” All agreed that the character he had given was true, and some remarked, “Look! although we have been so long away from home, not one of us has become lean.” It was a fact that we had been all well supplied either with meat by my gun or their own spears, or food from the great generosity of the inhabitants. Pangola promised to ferry us across the Zambesi, but failed to fulfill his promise. He seemed to wish to avoid offending his neighbor Mpende by aiding us to escape from his hands, so we proceeded along the bank. Although we were in doubt as to our reception by Mpende, I could not help admiring the beautiful country as we passed along. There is, indeed, only a small part under cultivation in this fertile valley, but my mind naturally turned to the comparison of it with Kolobeng, where we waited anxiously during months for rain, and only a mere thunder-shower followed. I shall never forget the dry, hot east winds of that region; the yellowish, sultry, cloudless sky; the grass and all the plants drooping from drought, the cattle lean, the people dispirited, and our own hearts sick from hope deferred. There we often heard in the dead of the night the shrill whistle of the rain-doctor calling for rain that would not come, while here we listened to the rolling thunder by night, and beheld the swelling valleys adorned with plenty by day. We have rain almost daily, and every thing is beautifully fresh and green. I felt somewhat as people do on coming ashore after a long voyage — inclined to look upon the landscape in the most favorable light. The hills are covered with forests, and there is often a long line of fleecy cloud lying on them about midway up; they are very beautiful. Finding no one willing to aid us in crossing the river, we proceeded to the village of the chief Mpende. A fine large conical hill now appeared to the N.N.E.; it is the highest I have seen in these parts, and at some points it appears to be two cones joined together, the northern one being a little lower than the southern. Another high hill stands on the same side to the N.E., and, from its similarity in shape to an axe at the top, is called Motemwa. Beyond it, eastward, lies the country of Kaimbwa, a chief who has been engaged in actual conflict with the Bazunga, and beat them too, according to the version of things here. The hills on the north bank are named Kamoenja. When we came to Mpende’s village, he immediately sent to inquire who we were, and then ordered the guides who had come with us from the last village to go back and call their masters. He sent no message to us whatever. We had traveled very slowly up to this point, the tsetse-stricken oxen being now unable to go two miles an hour. We were also delayed by being obliged to stop at every village, and send notice of our approach to the head man, who came and received a little information, and gave some food. If we had passed on without taking any notice of them, they would have considered it impolite, and we should have appeared more as enemies than friends. I consoled myself for the loss of time by the thought that these conversations tended to the opening of our future path.
23D. This morning, at sunrise, a party of Mpende’s people came close to our encampment, uttering strange cries and waving some bright red substance toward us. They then lighted a fire with charms in it, and departed, uttering the same hideous screams as before. This was intended to render us powerless, and probably also to frighten us. Ever since dawn, parties of armed men have been seen collecting from all quarters, and numbers passed us while it was yet dark. Had we moved down the river at once, it would have been considered an indication of fear or defiance, and so would a retreat. I therefore resolved to wait, trusting in Him who has the hearts of all men in His hands. They evidently intended to attack us, for no friendly message was sent; and when three of the Batoka the night before entered the village to beg food, a man went round about each of them, making a noise like a lion. The villagers then called upon them to do homage, and, when they complied, the chief ordered some chaff to be given them, as if it had been food. Other things also showed unmistakable hostility. As we were now pretty certain of a skirmish, I ordered an ox to be slaughtered, as this is a means which Sebituane employed for inspiring courage. I have no doubt that we should have been victorious; indeed, my men, who were far better acquainted with fighting than any of the people on the Zambesi, were rejoicing in the prospect of securing captives to carry the tusks for them. “We shall now,” said they, “get both corn and clothes in plenty.” They were in a sad state, poor fellows; for the rains we had encountered had made their skin-clothing drop off piecemeal, and they were looked upon with disgust by the well-fed and well-clothed Zambesians. They were, however, veterans in marauding, and the head men, instead of being depressed by fear, as the people of Mpende intended should be the case in using their charms, hinted broadly to me that I ought to allow them to keep Mpende’s wives. The roasting of meat went on fast and furious, and some of the young men said to me, “You have seen us with elephants, but you don’t know yet what we can do with men.” I believe that, had Mpende struck the first blow, he would soon have found out that he never made a greater mistake in his life.
His whole tribe was assembled at about the distance of half a mile. As the country is covered with trees, we did not see them; but every now and then a few came about us as spies, and would answer no questions. I handed a leg of the ox to two of these, and desired them to take it to Mpende. After waiting a considerable time in suspense, two old men made their appearance, and said they had come to inquire who I was. I replied, “I am a Lekoa” (an Englishman). They said, “We don’t know that tribe. We suppose you are a Mozunga, the tribe with which we have been fighting.” As I was not yet aware that the term Mozunga was applied to a Portuguese, and thought they meant half-castes, I showed them my hair and the skin of my bosom, and asked if the Bazunga had hair and skin like mine. As the Portuguese have the custom of cutting the hair close, and are also somewhat darker than we are, they answered, “No; we never saw skin so white as that;” and added, “Ah! you must be one of that tribe that loves (literally, ‘has heart to’) the black men.” I, of course, gladly responded in the affirmative. They returned to the village, and we afterward heard that there had been a long discussion between Mpende and his councilors, and that one of the men with whom we had remained to talk the day before had been our advocate. He was named Sindese Oalea. When we were passing his village, after some conversation, he said to his people, “Is that the man whom they wish to stop after he has passed so many tribes? What can Mpende say to refusing him a passage?” It was owing to this man, and the fact that I belonged to the “friendly white tribe”, that Mpende was persuaded to allow us to pass. When we knew the favorable decision of the council, I sent Sekwebu to speak about the purchase of a canoe, as one of my men had become very ill, and I wished to relieve his companions by taking him in a canoe. Before Sekwebu could finish his story, Mpende remarked, “That white man is truly one of our friends. See how he lets me know his afflictions!” Sekwebu adroitly took advantage of this turn in the conversation, and said, “Ah! if you only knew him as well as we do who have lived with him, you would understand that he highly values your friendship and that of Mburuma, and, as he is a stranger, he trusts in you to direct him.” He replied, “Well, he ought to cross to the other side of the river, for this bank is hilly and rough, and the way to Tete is longer on this than on the opposite bank.” “But who will take us across, if you do not?” “Truly!” replied Mpende; “I only wish you had come sooner to tell me about him; but you shall cross.” Mpende said frequently he was sorry he had not known me sooner, but that he had been prevented by his enchanter from coming near me; and he lamented that the same person had kept him from eating the meat which I had presented. He did every thing he could afterward to aid us on our course, and our departure was as different as possible from our approach to his village. I was very much pleased to find the English name spoken of with such great respect so far from the coast, and most thankful that no collision occurred to damage its influence.
24TH. Mpende sent two of his principal men to order the people of a large island below to ferry us across. The river is very broad, and, though my men were well acquainted with the management of canoes, we could not all cross over before dark. It is 1200 yards from bank to bank, and between 700 and 800 of deep water, flowing at the rate of 3–3/4 miles per hour. We landed first on an island; then, to prevent our friends playing false with us, hauled the canoes up to our bivouac, and slept in them. Next morning we all reached the opposite bank in safety. We observed, as we came along the Zambesi, that it had fallen two feet below the height at which we first found it, and the water, though still muddy enough to deposit a film at the bottom of vessels in a few hours, is not nearly so red as it was, nor is there so much wreck on its surface. It is therefore not yet the period of the central Zambesi inundation, as we were aware also from our knowledge of the interior. The present height of the water has been caused by rains outside the eastern ridge. The people here seem abundantly supplied with English cotton goods. The Babisa are the medium of trade, for we were informed that the Bazunga, who formerly visited these parts, have been prevented by the war from coming for the last two years. The Babisa are said to be so fond of a tusk that they will even sell a newly-married wife for one. As we were now not far from the latitude of Mozambique, I was somewhat tempted to strike away from the river to that port, instead of going to the S.E., in the direction the river flows; but, the great object of my journey being to secure water-carriage, I resolved to continue along the Zambesi, though it did lead me among the enemies of the Portuguese. The region to the north of the ranges of hills on our left is called Senga, from being the country of the Basenga, who are said to be great workers in iron, and to possess abundance of fine iron ore, which, when broken, shows veins of the pure metal in its substance. It has been well roasted in the operations of nature. Beyond Senga lies a range of mountains called Mashinga, to which the Portuguese in former times went to wash for gold, and beyond that are great numbers of tribes which pass under the general term Maravi. To the northeast there are extensive plains destitute of trees, but covered with grass, and in some places it is marshy. The whole of the country to the north of the Zambesi is asserted to be very much more fertile than that to the south. The Maravi, for instance, raise sweet potatoes of immense size, but when these are planted on the southern bank they soon degenerate. The root of this plant (‘Convolvulus batata’) does not keep more than two or three days, unless it is cut into thin slices and dried in the sun, but the Maravi manage to preserve them for months by digging a pit and burying them therein inclosed in wood-ashes. Unfortunately, the Maravi, and all the tribes on that side of the country, are at enmity with the Portuguese, and, as they practice night attacks in their warfare, it is dangerous to travel among them.
29TH. I was most sincerely thankful to find myself on the south bank of the Zambesi, and, having nothing else, I sent back one of my two spoons and a shirt as a thank-offering to Mpende. The different head men along this river act very much in concert, and if one refuses passage they all do, uttering the sage remark, “If so-and-so did not lend his canoes, he must have had some good reason.” The next island we came to was that of a man named Mozinkwa. Here we were detained some days by continuous rains, and thought we observed the confirmation of the Bakwain theory of rains. A double tier of clouds floated quickly away to the west, and as soon as they began to come in an opposite direction the rains poured down. The inhabitants who live in a dry region like that of Kolobeng are nearly all as weather-wise as the rain-makers, and any one living among them for any length of time becomes as much interested in the motions of the clouds as they are themselves. Mr. Moffat, who was as sorely tried by droughts as we were, and had his attention directed in the same way, has noted the curious phenomenon of thunder without clouds. Mrs. L. heard it once, but I never had that good fortune. It is worth the attention of the observant. Humboldt has seen rain without clouds, a phenomenon quite as singular. I have been in the vicinity of the fall of three aerolites, none of which I could afterward discover. One fell into the lake Kumadau with a report somewhat like a sharp peal of thunder. The women of the Bakurutse villages there all uttered a scream on hearing it. This happened at midday, and so did another at what is called the Great Chuai, which was visible in its descent, and was also accompanied with a thundering noise. The third fell near Kuruman, and at night, and was seen as a falling star by people at Motito and at Daniel’s Kuil, places distant forty miles on opposite sides of the spot. It sounded to me like the report of a great gun, and a few seconds after, a lesser sound, as if striking the earth after a rebound. Does the passage of a few such aerolites through the atmosphere to the earth by day cause thunder without clouds?
We were detained here so long that my tent became again quite rotten. One of my men, after long sickness, which I did not understand, died here. He was one of the Batoka, and when unable to walk I had some difficulty in making his companions carry him. They wished to leave him to die when his case became hopeless. Another of them deserted to Mozinkwa. He said that his motive for doing so was that the Makololo had killed both his father and mother, and, as he had neither wife nor child, there was no reason why he should continue longer with them. I did not object to his statements, but said if he should change his mind he would be welcome to rejoin us, and intimated to Mozinkwa that he must not be sold as a slave. We are now among people inured to slave-dealing. We were visited by men who had been as far as Tete or Nyungwe, and were told that we were but ten days from that fort. One of them, a Mashona man, who had come from a great distance to the southwest, was anxious to accompany us to the country of the white men; he had traveled far, and I found that he had also knowledge of the English tribe, and of their hatred to the trade in slaves. He told Sekwebu that the “English were men”, an emphasis being put upon the term MEN, which leaves the impression that others are, as they express it in speaking scornfully, “only THINGS”. Several spoke in the same manner, and I found that from Mpende’s downward I rose higher every day in the estimation of my own people. Even the slaves gave a very high character to the English, and I found out afterward that, when I was first reported at Tete, the servants of my friend the commandant said to him in joke, “Ah! this is our brother who is coming; we shall all leave you and go with him.” We had still, however, some difficulties in store for us before reaching that point.
The man who wished to accompany us came and told us before our departure that his wife would not allow him to go, and she herself came to confirm the decision. Here the women have only a small puncture in the upper lip, in which they insert a little button of tin. The perforation is made by degrees, a ring with an opening in it being attached to the lip, and the ends squeezed gradually together. The pressure on the flesh between the ends of the ring causes its absorption, and a hole is the result. Children may be seen with the ring on the lip, but not yet punctured. The tin they purchase from the Portuguese, and, although silver is reported to have been found in former times in this district, no one could distinguish it from tin. But they had a knowledge of gold, and for the first time I heard the word “dalama” (gold) in the native language. The word is quite unknown in the interior, and so is the metal itself. In conversing with the different people, we found the idea prevalent that those who had purchased slaves from them had done them an injury. “All the slaves of Nyungwe,” said one, “are our children; the Bazunga have made a town at our expense.” When I asked if they had not taken the prices offered them, they at once admitted it, but still thought that they had been injured by being so far tempted. From the way in which the lands of Zumbo were spoken of as still belonging to the Portuguese (and they are said to have been obtained by purchase), I was inclined to conclude that the purchase of land is not looked upon by the inhabitants in the same light as the purchase of slaves.
FEBRUARY 1ST. We met some native traders, and, as many of my men were now in a state of nudity, I bought some American calico marked “Lawrence Mills, Lowell”, with two small tusks, and distributed it among the most needy. After leaving Mozinkwa’s we came to the Zingesi, a sand-rivulet in flood (lat. 15° 38’ 34” S., long. 31° 1’ E.). It was sixty or seventy yards wide, and waist-deep. Like all these sand-rivers, it is for the most part dry; but by digging down a few feet, water is to be found, which is percolating along the bed on a stratum of clay. This is the phenomenon which is dignified by the name of “a river flowing under ground.” In trying to ford this I felt thousands of particles of coarse sand striking my legs, and the slight disturbance of our footsteps caused deep holes to be made in the bed. The water, which is almost always very rapid in them, dug out the sand beneath our feet in a second or two, and we were all sinking by that means so deep that we were glad to relinquish the attempt to ford it before we got half way over; the oxen were carried away down into the Zambesi. These sand-rivers remove vast masses of disintegrated rock before it is fine enough to form soil. The man who preceded me was only thigh-deep, but the disturbance caused by his feet made it breast-deep for me. The shower of particles and gravel which struck against my legs gave me the idea that the amount of matter removed by every freshet must be very great. In most rivers where much wearing is going on, a person diving to the bottom may hear literally thousands of stones knocking against each other. This attrition, being carried on for hundreds of miles in different rivers, must have an effect greater than if all the pestles and mortars and mills of the world were grinding and wearing away the rocks. The pounding to which I refer may be heard most distinctly in the Vaal River, when that is slightly in flood. It was there I first heard it. In the Leeambye, in the middle of the country, where there is no discoloration, and little carried along but sand, it is not to be heard.
While opposite the village of a head man called Mosusa, a number of elephants took refuge on an island in the river. There were two males, and a third not full grown; indeed, scarcely the size of a female. This was the first instance I had ever seen of a comparatively young one with the males, for they usually remain with the female herd till as large as their dams. The inhabitants were very anxious that my men should attack them, as they go into the gardens on the islands, and do much damage. The men went, but the elephants ran about half a mile to the opposite end of the island, and swam to the main land with their probosces above the water, and, no canoe being near, they escaped. They swim strongly, with the proboscis erect in the air. I was not very desirous to have one of these animals killed, for we understood that when we passed Mpende we came into a country where the game-laws are strictly enforced. The lands of each chief are very well defined, the boundaries being usually marked by rivulets, great numbers of which flow into the Zambesi from both banks, and, if an elephant is wounded on one man’s land and dies on that of another, the under half of the carcass is claimed by the lord of the soil; and so stringent is the law, that the hunter can not begin at once to cut up his own elephant, but must send notice to the lord of the soil on which it lies, and wait until that personage sends one authorized to see a fair partition made. If the hunter should begin to cut up before the agent of the landowner arrives, he is liable to lose both the tusks and all the flesh. The hind leg of a buffalo must also be given to the man on whose land the animal was grazing, and a still larger quantity of the eland, which here and every where else in the country is esteemed right royal food. In the country above Zumbo we did not find a vestige of this law; and but for the fact that it existed in the country of the Bamapela, far to the south of this, I should have been disposed to regard it in the same light as I do the payment for leave to pass — an imposition levied on him who is seen to be weak because in the hands of his slaves. The only game-laws in the interior are, that the man who first wounds an animal, though he has inflicted but a mere scratch, is considered the killer of it; the second is entitled to a hind quarter, and the third to a fore leg. The chiefs are generally entitled to a share as tribute; in some parts it is the breast, in others the whole of the ribs and one fore leg. I generally respected this law, although exceptions are sometimes made when animals are killed by guns. The knowledge that he who succeeds in reaching the wounded beast first is entitled to a share stimulates the whole party to greater exertions in dispatching it. One of my men, having a knowledge of elephant medicine, was considered the leader in the hunt; he went before the others, examined the animals, and on his decision all depended. If he decided to attack a herd, the rest went boldly on; but if he declined, none of them would engage. A certain part of the elephant belonged to him by right of the office he held, and such was the faith in medicine held by the slaves of the Portuguese whom we met hunting, that they offered to pay this man handsomely if he would show them the elephant medicine.
When near Mosusa’s village we passed a rivulet called Chowe, now running with rain-water. The inhabitants there extract a little salt from the sand when it is dry, and all the people of the adjacent country come to purchase it from them. This was the first salt we had met with since leaving Angola, for none is to be found in either the country of the Balonda or Barotse; but we heard of salt-pans about a fortnight west of Naliele, and I got a small supply from Mpololo while there. That had long since been finished, and I had again lived two months without salt, suffering no inconvenience except an occasional longing for animal food or milk.
In marching along, the rich reddish-brown soil was so clammy that it was very difficult to walk. It is, however, extremely fertile, and the people cultivate amazing quantities of corn, maize, millet, ground-nuts, pumpkins, and cucumbers. We observed that, when plants failed in one spot, they were in the habit of transplanting them into another, and they had also grown large numbers of young plants on the islands, where they are favored by moisture from the river, and were now removing them to the main land. The fact of their being obliged to do this shows that there is less rain here than in Londa, for there we observed the grain in all stages of its growth at the same time.
The people here build their huts in gardens on high stages. This is necessary on account of danger from the spotted hyaena, which is said to be very fierce, and also as a protection against lions and elephants. The hyaena is a very cowardly animal, but frequently approaches persons lying asleep, and makes an ugly gash on the face. Mozinkwa had lost his upper lip in this way, and I have heard of men being killed by them; children, too, are sometimes carried off; for, though he is so cowardly that the human voice will make him run away at once, yet, when his teeth are in the flesh, he holds on, and shows amazing power of jaw. Leg-bones of oxen, from which the natives have extracted the marrow and every thing eatable, are by this animal crunched up with the greatest ease, which he apparently effects by turning them round in his teeth till they are in a suitable position for being split.
We had now come among people who had plenty, and were really very liberal. My men never returned from a village without some corn or maize in their hands. The real politeness with which food is given by nearly all the interior tribes, who have not had much intercourse with Europeans, makes it a pleasure to accept. Again and again I have heard an apology made for the smallness of the present, or regret expressed that they had not received notice of my approach in time to grind more, and generally they readily accepted our excuse at having nothing to give in return by saying that they were quite aware that there are no white men’s goods in the interior. When I had it in my power, I always gave something really useful. To Katema, Shinte, and others, I gave presents which cost me about £2 each, and I could return to them at any time without having a character for stinginess. How some men can offer three buttons, or some other equally contemptible gift, while they have abundance in their possession, is to me unaccountable. They surely do not know, when they write it in their books, that they are declaring they have compromised the honor of Englishmen. The people receive the offering with a degree of shame, and ladies may be seen to hand it quickly to the attendants, and, when they retire, laugh until the tears stand in their eyes, saying to those about them, “Is that a white man? then there are niggards among them too. Some of them are born without hearts!” One white trader, having presented an OLD GUN to a chief, became a standing joke in the tribe: “The white man who made a present of a gun that was new when his grandfather was sucking his great-grandmother.” When these tricks are repeated, the natives come to the conclusion that people who show such a want of sense must be told their duty; they therefore let them know what they ought to give, and travelers then complain of being pestered with their “shameless begging”. I was troubled by importunity on the confines of civilization only, and when I first came to Africa.
FEBRUARY 4TH. We were much detained by rains, a heavy shower without wind falling every morning about daybreak; it often cleared up after that, admitting of our moving on a few miles. A continuous rain of several hours then set in. The wind up to this point was always from the east, but both rain and wind now came so generally from the west, or opposite direction to what we had been accustomed to in the interior, that we were obliged to make our encampment face the east, in order to have them in our backs. The country adjacent to the river abounds in large trees; but the population is so numerous that, those left being all green, it is difficult to get dry firewood. On coming to some places, too, we were warned by the villagers not to cut the trees growing in certain spots, as they contained the graves of their ancestors. There are many tamarind-trees, and another very similar, which yields a fruit as large as a small walnut, of which the elephants are very fond. It is called Motondo, and the Portuguese extol its timber as excellent for building boats, as it does not soon rot in water.
On the 6th we came to the village of Boroma, which is situated among a number of others, each surrounded by extensive patches of cultivation. On the opposite side of the river we have a great cluster of conical hills called Chorichori. Boroma did not make his appearance, but sent a substitute who acted civilly. I sent Sekwebu in the morning to state that we intended to move on; his mother replied that, as she had expected that we should remain, no food was ready, but she sent a basket of corn and a fowl. As an excuse why Boroma did not present himself, she said that he was seized that morning by the Barimo, which probably meant that his lordship was drunk.
We marched along the river to a point opposite the hill Pinkwe (lat. 15° 39’ 11” S., long. 32° 5’ E.), but the late abundant rains now flooded the Zambesi again, and great quantities of wreck appeared upon the stream. It is probable that frequent freshets, caused by the rains on this side of the ridge, have prevented the Portuguese near the coast from recognizing the one peculiar flood of inundation observed in the interior, and caused the belief that it is flooded soon after the commencement of the rains. The course of the Nile being in the opposite direction to this, it does not receive these subsidiary waters, and hence its inundation is recognized all the way along its course. If the Leeambye were prolonged southward into the Cape Colony, its flood would be identical with that of the Nile. It would not be influenced by any streams in the Kalahari, for there, as in a corresponding part of the Nile, there would be no feeders. It is to be remembered that the great ancient river which flowed to the lake at Boochap took this course exactly, and probably flowed thither until the fissure of the falls was made.
This flood having filled the river, we found the numerous rivulets which flow into it filled also, and when going along the Zambesi, we lost so much time in passing up each little stream till we could find a ford about waist deep, and then returning to the bank, that I resolved to leave the river altogether, and strike away to the southeast. We accordingly struck off when opposite the hill Pinkwe, and came into a hard Mopane country. In a hole of one of the mopane-trees I noticed that a squirrel (‘Sciurus cepapi’) had placed a great number of fresh leaves over a store of seed. It is not against the cold of winter that they thus lay up food, but it is a provision against the hot season, when the trees have generally no seed. A great many silicified trees are met with lying on the ground all over this part of the country; some are broken off horizontally, and stand upright; others are lying prone, and broken across into a number of pieces. One was 4 feet 8 inches in diameter, and the wood must have been soft like that of the baobab, for there were only six concentric rings to the inch. As the semidiameter was only 28 inches, this large tree could have been but 168 years old. I found also a piece of palm-tree transformed into oxide of iron, and the pores filled with pure silica. These fossil trees lie upon soft gray sandstone containing banks of shingle, which forms the underlying rock of the country all the way from Zumbo to near Lupata. It is met with at Litubaruba and in Angola, with similar banks of shingle imbedded exactly like those now seen on the sea-beach, but I never could find a shell. There are many nodules and mounds of hardened clay upon it, which seem to have been deposited in eddies made round the roots of these ancient trees, for they appear of different colors in wavy and twisted lines. Above this we have small quantities of calcareous marl.
As we were now in the district of Chicova, I examined the geological structure of the country with interest, because here, it has been stated, there once existed silver mines. The general rock is the gray soft sandstone I have mentioned, but at the rivulet Bangue we come upon a dike of basalt six yards wide, running north and south. When we cross this, we come upon several others, some of which run more to the eastward. The sandstone is then found to have been disturbed, and at the rivulet called Nake we found it tilted up and exhibiting a section, which was coarse sandstone above, sandstone-flag, shale, and, lastly, a thin seam of coal. The section was only shown for a short distance, and then became lost by a fault made by a dike of basalt, which ran to the E.N.E. in the direction of Chicova.
This Chicova is not a kingdom, as has been stated, but a level tract, a part of which is annually overflowed by the Zambesi, and is well adapted for the cultivation of corn. It is said to be below the northern end of the hill Bungwe. I was very much pleased in discovering this small specimen of such a precious mineral as coal. I saw no indication of silver, and, if it ever was worked by the natives, it is remarkable that they have entirely lost the knowledge of it, and can not distinguish between silver and tin. In connection with these basaltic dikes, it may be mentioned that when I reached Tete I was informed of the existence of a small rapid in the river near Chicova; had I known this previously, I certainly would not have left the river without examining it. It is called Kebrabasa, and is described as a number of rocks which jut out across the stream. I have no doubt but that it is formed by some of the basaltic dikes which we now saw, for they generally ran toward that point. I was partly influenced in leaving the river by a wish to avoid several chiefs in that direction, who levy a heavy tribute on those who pass up or down. Our path lay along the bed of the Nake for some distance, the banks being covered with impenetrable thickets. The villages are not numerous, but we went from one to the other, and were treated kindly. Here they call themselves Bambiri, though the general name of the whole nation is Banyai. One of our guides was an inveterate talker, always stopping and asking for pay, that he might go on with a merry heart. I thought that he led us in the most difficult paths in order to make us feel his value, for, after passing through one thicket after another, we always came into the bed of the Nake again, and as that was full of coarse sand, and the water only ankle deep, and as hot as a foot-bath from the powerful rays of the sun, we were all completely tired out. He likewise gave us a bad character at every village we passed, calling to them that they were to allow him to lead us astray, as we were a bad set. Sekwebu knew every word he said, and, as he became intolerable, I dismissed him, giving him six feet of calico I had bought from native traders, and telling him that his tongue was a nuisance. It is in general best, when a scolding is necessary, to give it in combination with a present, and then end it by good wishes. This fellow went off smiling, and my men remarked, “His tongue is cured now.” The country around the Nake is hilly, and the valleys covered with tangled jungle. The people who live in this district have reclaimed their gardens from the forest, and the soil is extremely fertile. The Nake flows northerly, and then to the east. It is 50 or 60 yards wide, but during most of the year is dry, affording water only by digging in the sand. We found in its bed masses of volcanic rock, identical with those I subsequently recognized as such at Aden.
13TH. The head man of these parts is named Nyampungo. I sent the last fragment of cloth we had, with a request that we should be furnished with a guide to the next chief. After a long conference with his council, the cloth was returned with a promise of compliance, and a request for some beads only. This man is supposed to possess the charm for rain, and other tribes send to him to beg it. This shows that what we inferred before was correct, that less rain falls in this country than in Londa. Nyampungo behaved in quite a gentlemanly manner, presented me with some rice, and told my people to go among all the villages and beg for themselves. An old man, father-in-law of the chief, told me that he had seen books before, but never knew what they meant. They pray to departed chiefs and relatives, but the idea of praying to God seemed new, and they heard it with reverence. As this was an intelligent old man, I asked him about the silver, but he was as ignorant of it as the rest, and said, “We never dug silver, but we have washed for gold in the sands of the rivers Mazoe and Luia, which unite in the Luenya.” I think that this is quite conclusive on the question of no silver having been dug by the natives of this district. Nyampungo is afflicted with a kind of disease called Sesenda, which I imagine to be a species of leprosy common in this quarter, though they are a cleanly people. They never had cattle. The chief’s father had always lived in their present position, and, when I asked him why he did not possess these useful animals, he said, “Who would give us the medicine to enable us to keep them?” I found out the reason afterward in the prevalence of tsetse, but of this he was ignorant, having supposed that he could not keep cattle because he had no medicine.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57