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Two Trips to

Gorilla Land

the Cataracts of the Congo.


Richard F. Burton.

In Two Volumes

Vol. II.

London: 1876

Contents of Vol. I.

Chapter I. From Fernando Po to Loango Bay. - the German
Chapter II. To São Paulo De Loanda
Chapter III. The Festival. - a Trip to Calumbo - portuguese
Chapter IV. The Cruise along Shore - the Granite Pillar of
Chapter V. Into the Congo River. - the Factories. - trip to
Shark's Point. - the Padrao and Pinda
Chapter VI. Up the Congo River. - the Slave Depot. - porto Da
Lenha.-arrival at Boma
Chapter VII. Boma. - our Outfit for the Interior
Chapter VIII. A Visit to Banza Chisalla
Chapter IX. Up the Congo to Banza Nokki
Chapter X. Notes on the Nzadi or Congo River
Chapter XI. Life at Banza Nokki
Chapter XII. Preparations for the March
Chapter XIII. The March to Banza Nkulu
Chapter XIV. The Yellala of the Congo
Chapter XV. Return to the Congo Mouth
Chapter XVI. The Slaver and the Missionary in the Congo River
Chapter XVII. Concluding Remarks
Appendix: -
I. Meteorological
II. Plants collected in the Congo, at Dahome, and the Island of
Annabom, by Mr. Consul Burton
III. Heights of Stations, West Coast of Africa, computed from
Observations made by Captain Burton
IV. Immigration Africaine


The Cataracts of the Congo.

"Allí o mui grande reino está de Congo,
Por nós ja convertido à fé de Christo,
Por onde o Zaire passa claro e longo,
Rio pelos antiguos nunca visto."

"Here lies the Congo kingdom, great and strong,
Already led by us to Christian ways;
Where flows Zaïre, the river clear and long,
A stream unseen by men of olden days."

The Lusiada, V. 13.

Part II.

The Cataracts of the Congo.

Chapter I.

From Fernando Po to Loango Bay. - the German Expedition.

During the hot season of 1863, "Nanny Po," as the civilized
African calls this "lofty and beautiful island," had become a
charnel-house, a "dark and dismal tomb of Europeans." The yellow
fever of the last year, which wiped out in two months one-third
of the white colony - more exactly, 78 out of 250 - had not
reappeared, but the conditions for its re-appearance were highly
favourable. The earth was all water, the vegetation all slime,
the air half steam, and the difference between wet and dry bulbs
almost nil. Thoroughly dispirited for the first time, I was
meditating how to escape, when H. M. Steamship "Torch" steamed
into Clarence Cove, and Commander Smith hospitably offered me a
passage down south. To hear was to accept. Two days afterwards
(July 29, 1863) I bade a temporary "adios" to the enemy.

The bitterness of death remained behind as we passed out of the
baneful Bights. Wind and wave were dead against us, yet I greatly
enjoyed the gradual emerging of the sun through his shroud of
"smokes;" the increasing consciousness that a moon and stars
really exist; the soft blue haze of the sky, and the coolness of
73° F. at 6 A.M. in the captain's cabin. I had also time to enjoy
these charms. The "Torch" was not provided with "despatch-
boilers:" she was profoundly worm-eaten, and a yard of copper,
occasionally clapped on, did not prevent her making some four
feet of water a day. So we rolled leisurely along the well-known
Gaboon shore, and faintly sighted from afar Capes Lopez and St.
Catherine, and the fringing ranges of Mayumba-land, a blue line
of heights based upon gently rising banks, ruddy and white,
probably of shaly clay. The seventh day (August 5) placed us off
the well-known "red hills" of Loango-land.

The country looks high and bold after the desperate flatness of
the Bights, and we note with pleasure that we have left behind us
the "impervious luxuriance of vegetation which crowns the
lowlands, covers the sides of the rises, and caps their summits."
During the rains after October the grass, now showing yellow
stubble upon the ruddy, rusty plain, becomes a cane fence, ten to
twelve feet tall; but instead of matted, felted jungle, knitted
together by creepers of cable size, we have scattered clumps of
dark, lofty, and broad-topped trees. A nearer view shows great
cliffs, weather-worked into ravines and basins, ribs and ridges,
towers and pinnacles. Above them is a joyful open land,
apparently disposed in two successive dorsa or steps, with bright
green tiers and terraces between, and these are pitted with the
crater-like sinks locally called "holes," so frequent in the
Gaboon country. Southwards the beauty of eternal verdure will
end, and the land will become drier, and therefore better fitted
for Europeans, the nearer it approaches Mossamedes Bay. South of
"Little Fish," again, a barren tract of white sand will show the
"Last Tree," an inhospitable region, waterless, and bulwarked by
a raging sea.

Loango is a "pool harbour," like the ancient Portus Lemanus
(Hythe), a spit of shingle, whose bay, north-east and south-west,
forms an inner lagoon, bounded landwards by conspicuous and
weather-tarnished red cliffs. This "lingula" rests upon a base of
terra firma whose westernmost projection is Indian Point. From
the latter runs northwards the "infamous" Indian Bar, compared by
old sailors with a lengthened Bill of Portland; a reef some three
miles long, which the waves assault with prodigious fury; a
terror to slavers, especially in our autumn, when the squalls and
storms begin. The light sandy soil of the mainland rests upon
compact clay, and malaria rises only where the little drains,
which should feed the lagoon, evaporate in swamps. Here and there
are clumps of tall cocoas, a capot, pullom or wild cotton-tree,
and a neat village upon prairie land, where stone is rare as on
the Pampas. Southwards the dry tract falls into low and wooded

The natural basin, entered by the north-east, is upwards of a
mile in length, and the narrow, ever-shifting mouth is garnished
with rocks, the sea breaking right across. Gunboats have floated
over during the rains, but at dead low water in the dry season we
would not risk the gig. Guided by a hut upon the beach fronting
French Factory and under lee of the breakers off Indian Bar, I
landed near a tree-motte, in a covelet smoothed by a succession
of sandpits. The land sharks flocked down to drag the boat over
the breakwater of shingle. They appeared small and effeminate
after the burly negroes of the Bights, and their black but not
comely persons were clad in red and white raiment. It is a tribe
of bumboat men, speaking a few words of English, French, and
Portuguese, and dealing in mats and pumpkins, parrots, and
poultry, cages, and Fetish dolls called "idols."

Half a mile of good sandy path led to the English Factory, built
upon a hill giving a charming view. To the south-east, and some
three miles inland from the centre of the bay, we were shown
"Looboo Wood," a thick motte conspicuously crowning a ridge, and
forming a first-rate landmark. Its shades once sheltered the
nyáre, locally called buffalo, the gorilla, and perhaps the more
monstrous "impungu" (mpongo). Eastward of the Factory appears
Chomfuku, the village of Jim Potter, with a tree-clad sink,
compared by old voyagers with "the large chalkpit on Portsdown
Hill," and still much affected by picnickers. At Loanghili, or
Loanguilli, south of Looboo Wood, and upon the right bank of a
streamlet which trickles to the sea, is the cemetery, where the
kings are buried in gun-boxes.

The Ma-Loango (for mwani, "lord" of Loango), the great despot who
ruled as far as the Congo River, who used to eat in one house,
drink in another, and put to death man or beast that saw him
feeding, is a thing of the past. Yet five miles to the eastward
(here held to be a day's march) King Monoyambi governs "big
Loango town," whose modern native name, I was told, is Mangamwár.
He shows his power chiefly by forbidding strangers to enter the

The Factory (Messrs. Hatton and Cookson) was a poor affair of
bamboos and mats, with partition-walls of the same material, and
made pestilent by swamps to landward. Little work was then doing
in palm oil, and the copper mines of the interior had ceased to
send supplies. We borrowed hammocks to cross the swamps, and we
found French Factory a contrast not very satisfactory to our
insular pride. M. Charles de Gourlet, of the Maison Régis, was
living, not in a native hut lacking all the necessaries of
civilized man, but in a double-storied stone house, with
barracoons, hospital, public room, orchestra, and so forth,
intended for the "emigrants." Instead of water, the employés had
excellent cognac and vermouth, and a succulent cuisine replaced
the poor Britishers' two barrels of flour and biscuit. No wonder
that in our half-starved fellow countrymen we saw little of the
"national failing, a love of extravagant adventure." The
Frenchmen shoot, or at least go out shooting, twice a week, they
walk to picnics, learn something of the language, and see
something of the country. They had heard a native tradition of
Mr. Gorilla's "big brother," but they could give no details.

I will conclude this chapter with a notice of what has taken
place on the Loango Coast a decade after my departure. Although
Africa has changed but little, Europe has, and we can hardly envy
the German nation its eminence and unexpected triumphs in war
when we see the energy and persistency with which they are
applying themselves to the arts of peace - especially of
exploration. And nowhere have they been more active than in this
part of the world, where their old rivals, the English, are
apparently contented to sit at home in ease, working their
factories and counting out their money.

To begin with the beginning. The year 1872 found the Berlin
Geographical Society intent upon "planting a lance in Africa,"
and upon extending and connecting the discoveries of Livingstone,
Du Chaillu, Schweinfurth, and other travellers. Delegates from
the various associations of Germany met in congress, and
organized (April 19, 1873) the Germanic "Afrikanische
Gesellschaft." Ex-President Dr. Adolf Bastian, a well-known
traveller in Siam, Cambodia, China, and the Indian Archipelago,
and who, moreover, had visited Ambassi or Salvador do Congo, the
old missionary capital, in 1857, was at once sent out as pioneer
and vanguard to prospect the coast for a suitable station and a
point de départ into the interior - a scientific step dictated by
trained and organized common sense. The choice of leader fell
upon Dr. Gussfeldt, Herr von Hattorf being his second in command,
and with them were associated Dr. Falkenstein as zoologist, and
Dr. Soyaux as botanist. A geologist, Dr. Lenz, of Hamburg, was
sent to connect the Ogobe and Okanda rivers with, the Loango
coast, unless he found a likely northeastern route. In this case,
the Society would take measures to supply him with the necessary

The expedition began unfortunately, by the loss of outfit and
instruments in the "Nigritia," wrecked off Sierra Leone: it
persevered, however, and presently met Dr. Bastian and Professor
von Gorschen at Cabinda. The former had collected much
information about the coast. He had learned from slaves that the
old kingdoms of Loango, Mahango, and Angay are bounded eastwards,
or inland, by Mayombe, a belt of forest, the threshold of the
unknown interior. It begins the up-slope to the great Ghat ridge,
which, visible after a day's journey, separates the coast from
the central basin. A fortnight or three weeks' march leads to an
open country, a land of metalliferous hills, where the people
barter their goods against gunpowder and weapons, brought by
traders from the east. These "Orientals" are now heard of almost
all along the West African coast, and doubtless, in several
places, the report will prove true. The prospector had also
visited, in search of a depôt, Futila in Cabinda-land; the
Tschiluango (Chiloango), or Cacongo River, a fine navigable
stream, where the people float down their palm oil; Landana;
"Chinsonso" (Chinxoxo, pronounced Chinshosho), Chicambo, Loango,
and the Quillu (Kwillu) stream, the latter breaking through the
coast range, disemboguing near Loango Bay, and reported to be
connected with the great Congo. He found the old despotism of
Loango to be insignificant, reduced, in fact, to the strip of
coast between the Quillu and the Luema-Lukallo Rivers. The slave
trade, once a monopoly of kings, princes, and chiefs, is now no
more; legitimate commerce has levelled ranks, and the real power
is in the hands of the wealthiest merchants.

From the Abbé Durand, librarian of the Paris Geographical
Society, we learn: 1. That Loango is in the Province of Cacongo;
2. That Cacongo is considered a province of Loango; 3. That
Cacongo forms a kingdom of itself, with a capital, Ringwele. The
name of the late king was "Dom João, Capitão Mempolo," and,
though he had died some years ago, he was not buried, for the
usual reasons, in early 1874. Meanwhile his nephew and successor,
Mwátá Bona, was acting regent until the obsequies shall take

The station finally chosen by the German explorers was Chinxoxo,
or, as Herr Kiepert uncompromisingly writes it,
"Tschinschonkscho." It is within easy distance of the Chiloango
or "Luiza Loango" River; and its port, Landana in Cabindaland,
has become a thoroughly Europeanized settlement, with five
trading stations up stream. An empty Dutch factory was repaired,
and the house, containing a parlour, three small bed rooms, and
the usual offices, was ready for habitation by the second week in

On October 26th, Dr. Güssfeldt, after shaking off the "seasoning
fever" at Ponta Negra, proceeded to make a trial trip, and a
route survey with compass and chronometer, up the important
Quillu River. As usual, it has a bar; within the last few years
the right bank has been carried away by the floods, and some of
the old factories are under water. The average breadth is 400
paces, which diminishes to 25 at the rocky "gates" near Kama-
Chitoma, Manyamatal and Gotu. At 29 direct miles from the mouth
lies "Chimbak," a trading station, where Dr. Güssfeldt rested and
recruited strength for a month. Thence he went leisurely up
stream to the Bumina Rapids, and found the easterly rhumb of the
river bending to the N.E. and the N.N.E.; its channel did not
exceed 50 yards in width, and precipitous rock-walls rose on
either hand. At Bumina as at Gotu the Quillu breaks through the
parallel lines of Ghats, whose trend is from N.W. to S.E.; in
fact, these "Katarakten" are the Yellalas of the Congo. A march
of four hours brought him to the Mayombe country (circ. S. Lat.
4°), which must not be confounded with the Ma-yumba or
northernmost possession of the Congo kingdom; the latter word
properly means "King of Yumba," as Ma-Loango is Mwani-Loango. The
Mayombe chief proved friendly, and assisted Dr. Güssfeldt to hire
bearers (November 7) for Yangela, where his excursion ended. The
boundary-line is marked by a large gate, like the two openings in
the wooden wall denoting the Loango frontier between the Quillu
and Luema rivers. The character of the country changed to the
normal park-like aspect of Africa above the Ghats; the dense
forests waxed thin; picturesque views presented themselves,
reminding the wayfarer of Switzerland; and bare, dome-shaped
mountains formed the background. At Nsunsi, about 2,100 feet
above sea-level, the eye ranged over the Yangela country, as far
as the land of the Batetye, whose grassy plains are traversed by
ranges trending to the W.S.W., and apparently culminating to the
south. At the Tondo village the skull of a gorilla was remarked.
The upper Quillu, after its great bend, proved to be 350 to 400
paces broad; and the traveller ascertained that, instead of being
connected with the great artery, it rises in a lake nearly due
north of Nsundi (Sundi), near the country of the Babongo and the
Babum. Dr. Güssfeldt returned to the coast on December 2, and
prepared for the great march into the interior.

Dr. Falkenstein, the medicus and zoologist, in November 1873
reported favourably of Chinxoxo. The station is situated on a
hilly ridge commanding a view of the sea. "It looks imposing
enough, but it would produce more effect if we could hoist the
German flag, as the other establishments here do those of their
respective nations. German ships would then take home news of the
progress of our undertaking, and the natives would see at a
distance this token of the enterprising spirit of the German
nation, and come to us with provisions and other natural
products." He adds, "In Fernando Po, an island which I would
recommend as a sanatorium for wealthy hypochondriacs, we found an
extraordinary abundance of fruit, cocoa-nuts, bananas, mangoes,
delicious oranges, and pine-apples...The ivory trade on the
Gaboon is very flourishing. A German firm which I visited
exports, £10,000 worth per annum, the value of total exports
being, £26,000. The tusks are very large; one weighed about 80
lbs., and some have ranged to 120 lbs. The other articles
exported are gum and ebony, which are brought by the natives,
especially the Fans and Mpangwes (sic) from the interior. The
slave trade is said still to be carried on by Europeans, though
it is not known where the slaves go to " (of course to São Thomé
and Prince's Island). "In the immediate vicinity of our station
the chief trade is in palm oil and ground nuts..... Rings,
chains, crosses, watches, &c., are readily taken by the savages
in exchange for native goods, and I obtained a valuable fetish
for a chain and a cross worth a silbergroschen."

After three months spent upon the coast, and much suffering from
fever, the energetic Dr. Bastian was welcomed home on December
13, 1873. His present book[FN#1] makes only one instalment of the
work, the other being the "Correspondenzblätter der Afrikanischen
Gesellschaft." Briefly, everything has been done to lay the
foundation for success and to advertise the undertaking. Finally,
not satisfied with these steps, the German Society for the
Exploration of equatorial Africa organized in September, 1874, a
second expedition. Captain Alexander von Homeyer, a well-known
ornithologist, will lead it viâ S. Paulo de Loanda and Cassange
(Kasanji) to the mysterious lands of the Mwata ya Nvo, and thus
supplement the labours of Portuguese travellers. This fine
undertaking set out early in 1875.

Chapter II.

To São Paulo De Loanda.

At Loango, by invitation of Commander Hoskins, R.N., I
transferred myself on board H.M. Steamship "Zebra," one of the
nymphs of the British navy, and began the 240 miles southwards.
There was no wind except a slant at sunset, and the current often
carried us as far backwards as the sails drove us onwards. The
philosophic landlubber often wonders at the eternal restlessness
of his naval brother-man, who ever sighs for a strong wind to
make the port, and who in port is ever anxious to get out of it.
I amused myself in the intervals of study with watching the huge
gulls, which are skinned and found good food at Fernando Po, and
in collecting the paper-nautilus. The Ocythoë Cranchii was often
found inside the shell, and the sea was streaked as with cotton-
flecks by lines of eggs several inches long, a mass of mucus with
fine membraneous structure adhering to the rocks, and coagulating
in spirits or salt water. The drum-fish was not heard except when
we were at anchor; its sound somewhat suggests a distant frog-
concert, and I soon learned to enjoy what M. Dufosse has
learnedly named "ichthyopsophosis," the song of the fish. Passing
Cabinda, 57 miles from Loanda, but barely in sight, we fell in
with H.M. Steamship "Espoir," Commander Douglas, who had just
made his second capture of a slave-schooner carrying some 500
head of Congos. In these advanced days, the representative man
walks up to you as you come on board; touches his cap or his
wool, and expresses his best thanks in West Coast English; when
you offer him a dram he compares it with the trade article which
"only ‘ting, he no burn." The characteristic sights are the
captured Moleques or negrokins, who, habited in sacks to the
knees, choose an M.C. to beat time, whilst they sing in chorus,
extending the right arm, and foully abusing their late masters,
who skulk about the forecastle.

Ten days sped by before we sighted the beginning of the end, Cape
Spilemberta and Dande Point, two bluffs in distinct serrations;
the aspect of the land was pleasant, a vista of tall cliffs,
white or red, rising wall-like from a purple sea, jagged with
sharp, black reef and "diabolito," and bearing on the summit a
plateau well grown with grass and tree. We then opened a deep
bight, which has the honour of being entitled the longest
indentation from Cape Lopez to Great Fish Bay, some 17° or a
thousand miles of coast. A gap in the cliff line and darker
vegetation showed the Zenza River, generally called Bengo from
the district (Icolo e Bengo) which it traverses. Here was once a
busy settlement much frequented by shipping, which thus escaped
harbour dues. The mosquito-haunted stream, clear in the dries,
and, as usual, muddy during the rains, supports wild duck, and,
carried some ten miles in "dongos" or flat-bottomed boats,
supplies the capital of Angola with drinking water and dysentery.

As we glide towards the anchorage two features attract my
attention: the Morro or hill-ridge on the mainland, and the
narrow strip which forms the harbour. The escarpment, sweeping
from a meridian to a parallel, juts westward in the bluff Cape
Lagostas (Lobsters), a many-coloured face, in places not unlike
the white cliffs of Dover; it then trends from north-east to
south-west, bending at last in a picturesque bow, with a shallow
sag. The material is the tauá or blood-red marl of the Brazil,
banded with white and brown, green, chocolate, and yellow; huge
heaps of "rotten earth," washed down by the rains, cumber the
base of the ruined sea-wall north of the town; in front is a
pellucid sea with the usual trimmings, while behind roll the
upland stubbles of autumn, here mottled black with fire, there
scattered with the wild ficus and the cashew, a traveller from
the opposite hemisphere.

The Ilha de Loanda, which gave its name to the city, according to
Mr. W. Winwood Reade ("Savage Africa," chapter xxv.), is "derived
from a native word meaning bald:" I believe it to be the Angolan
Luánda, or tribute. Forming the best harbour of the South African
coast, it is made by the missionaries of the seventeenth century
to extend some ten leagues long. James Barbot's plan (A.D. 1700)
shows seven leagues by one in breadth, disposed from north-east
to south-west, and, in the latter direction, fitting into the
"Mar Aparcelado" or shoaly sea, a curious hook-shaped bight with
a southern entrance, the "Barra de Curinba" (Corimba). But the
influences which formed the island, or rather islands (for there
are two) have increased the growth, reducing the harbour to three
and a half miles by two in breadth, and they are still
contracting it; even in the early nineteenth century large ships
floated off the custom house, and it is dry land where boats once
rode. Dr. Livingstone ("First Expedition," chapter xx.) believes
the causa causans to be the sand swept over the southern part of
the island: Douville more justly concludes that it is the gift of
the Cuanza River, whose mud and ooze, silt and débris are swept
north by the great Atlantic current. Others suppose that it
results from the meeting of the Cuanza and the Bengo streams; but
the latter outfall would be carried up coast. The people add the
washings of the Morro, and the sand and dust of the sea-shore
south of the city.

This excellent natural breakwater perfectly shelters the shipping
from the "calemas," or perilous breakers on the seaward side, and
the surface is dotted with huts and groves, gardens and palm

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