David Livingstone.

Livingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean online

. (page 12 of 36)
Online LibraryDavid LivingstoneLivingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean → online text (page 12 of 36)
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ramification must be the reason why it appeared so
small to Mr. Oswell and myself in 1851. When all the
departing branches re-enter, it is a large, deep river. The
spot of embarkation was the identical island where we met
Sebituane, first known as the island of Maunku, one of his
wives. The chief lent me his own canoe; and, as it was
broader than usual, I could turn about in it with ease.

The Chobe is much infested by hippopotami, and, as
certain elderly males are expelled the herd, they become
soured in their temper, and so misanthropic as to attacis:
every canoe that passes near them.

The course of the river we found to be extremely tor-
tuous ; so much so, indeed, as to carry us to all points of the
compass every dozen miles. Some of us walked from a bend
at the village of Moremi to another nearly due east of that
point in six hours, while the canoes, going at more than
double our speed, took twelve to accomplish the voyage
between the same two places. And though the river is
from thirteen to fifteen feet in depth at its lowest ebb, and
broad enough to allow a steamer to ply upon it, the sud-
denness of the bendings would prevent navigation ; but,
should the country ever become civilized, the Chobe would
be a convenient natural canal. We spent forty-two and a
half hours, paddling at the rate of five miles an hour, in
coming from Linyanti to the confluence; there wo found a
dike of amygdaloid lying across the Leeambye.

The actual point of confluence of the Chobe and the
Leeambye is ill defined, on account of each dividing into
several branches as they inosculate ; but when the whole
body of water collects into one bed it is a goodly sighi



for one who has spent many years in the thirsty south
Standing on one bank, even the keen eye of the natives
cannot detect whether two large islands, a few miles east
of the junction, are mainland or not.

After spending one night at the Makololo village on
Mparia, we left the Chobe, and, turning round, began to
ascend the Leeambye; on the 19th of November we again
reached the town of Sesheke. It stands on the north bank
of the river, and contains a large population of Makalaka,
under Moriantsane, brother-in-law of Sebituane. There
are parties of various tribes here, assembled under their
respective head-men, but a few Makololo rule over all.
Their sway, though essentially despotic, is considerably
modified by certain customs and laws.

The following circumstance, which happened here whei
I was present with Sekeletu, shows that the simple mode
of punishment by forcing a criminal to work out a fine did
not strike the Makololo mind until now.

A stranger, having visited Sesheke for the purpose of
barter, was robbed by one of the Makalaka of most of his
goods. The thief, when caught, confessed the theft, and
tliat he had given the articles to a person who had removed
to a distance. The Makololo were much enraged at the
idea of their good name being compromised by this treat-
ment of a stranger. Their customary mode of punishing
a crime which causes much indignation is to throw the
criminal into the river; but^ as this would not restore the
lost property, they were sorely puzzled how to act. The
case was referred to me, and I solved the difficulty by pay-
ing for the loss myself and sentencing the thief to work
out an equivalent with his hoe in a garden. This system
was immediately introduced, and thieves are now sen-
tenced to* raise an amount of corn proportioned to their
offences. Among the Bakwains, a woman who had stolen
from the garden of another was obliged to part with her
own entirely : it became the property of her whoso field
was injured by the crime.


There is no stated day of rest in any pai't of this country,
except the day after the appearance of the new moon j and
the people then refrain only from going to their gardens.
A curious custom, not to be found among the Bechuanas,
prevails among the black tribes beyond them. They watch
most eagerly for the first glimpse of the new moon, and,
when they perceive the faint outline after the sun has set
deep in the west, they utter a loud shout of " Kua !" and
vociferate prayers to it. My men, for instance, called out,
^'Let our journey with the white man be prosperous ! Let
our enemies perish, and the children of Nake become rich !
May he have plenty of meat on this journey \" &c. &c.

I gave many public addresses to the people of Sesheke
under the outspreading camel-thorn -tree, which serves as a
shade to the kotla on the high bank of the river. It was
pleasant to see the long lines of men, women, and children
winding along from different quarters of the town, each
party following behind their respective head-men. They
often amounted to between five and six hundred souls, and
required an exertion of voice which brought back the com-
plaint for which I had got the uvula excised at the Cape.
They were always very attentive ; and Moriantsane, in
order, as he thought, to please me, on one occasion rose up
in the middle of the discourse, and hurled his staff at the
heads of some young fellows whom he saw working with
a skin instead of listening. My hearers sometimes put very
sensible questions on the subjects brought before them; at
other times they introduced the most frivolous nonsense
immediately after hearing the most solemn truths. Some
begin to pray to Jesus in secret as soon as they hear of the
white man's God, with but little idea of what they are
about, and no doubt are heard by Him who, like a father,
pitieth his children. Others, waking by night, recollect
what has been said about the future world so clearly that
they tell next day what a fright they got by it, and resolve
not to listen to the teaching again ; and not a few keep to
the determination not to believe, as certain villagers in the


Boutli, who put all their cocks to death because they
crowed the words, '' Tlang lo rapeleng/' — " Come along to

On recovering partially from a severe attack of fever
which remained upon me ever since our passing the village
of Moremi on the Chobe, w© made ready for our departure
up the river by sending messages before us to the villagee
to prepare food. We took four elephants' tusks, belonging
to Sekeletu, with us, as a means of testing the difference of
prices between the Portuguese, whom we expected to reach,
and the white traders from the south. Moriantsane sup-
plied us well with honey, milk, and meal. The rains were
just commencing in this district; but, though showers
sufficient to lay the dust had fallen, they had no influence
whatever on the amount of water in the river, yet never
was there less in any part than three hundred yards of a
deep flowing stream.

Our progress up the river was rather slow : this was
caused by waiting opposite different villages for supplies
of food. We might have done with much less than we got;
but my Makololo man, Pitsane, knew of the generous orders
of Sekeletu, and was not at all disposed to allow them to
remain a dead letter. The villages of the Banyeti con-
tributed large quantities of mosibe, a bright-red bean
yielded by a large tree. The pulp enclosing the seed is not
much thicker than a red wafer, and is the portion used. It
requires the addition of honey to render it at all jjalatable.

To these were added great numbers of the fruit which
yields a variety of the nux vomica, from which we derive
that virulent poison strychnia. The pulp between the nuts
Is the part eaten, and it is of a pleasant juicy nature, having
a sweet acidulous taste. The fruit itself resembles a large
yellow orange, but the rind is hard, and, with the pips and
bark, contains much of the deadly poison. They evince
their noxious qualities by an intensely bitter taste. The
nuts, swallowed inadvertently, cause considerable pain,
but not death ; and, to avoid this inconvenience, the people


dry the pulp before the fire, in order to b3 able the more
easily to get rid of the noxious seed.

The rapids in the part of the river between Katima-
molelo and ]!^ameta are relieved by several reaches of still,
deep water, fifteen or twenty miles long. In these very
large herds of hippopotami are seen -, and the deep furrows
they make, in ascending the banks to graze during the
nights, are everywhere apparent. They are guided back
to the water by the scent; but a long-continued pouring rain
makes it impossible to perceive by that means in which
direction the river lies, and they are found bewildered on
the land. The hunters take advantage of their helplessness
on these occasions to kill them.

It is impossible to judge of the numbers in a herd, for
they are almost always hidden beneath the waters; but, as
they require to come up every few minutes to breathe,
when there is a constant succession of heads thrown up,
then the herd is supposed to be large. They love a still
reach of the stream, as in the more rapid parts of the
channel they are floated down so quickly that much exer-
tion is necessary to regain the distance lost, by frequentl;)^
swimming up again : such constant exertion disturbs them
in their nap. They prefer to remain by day in a drowsy,,
yawning state, and, though their eyes are open, they take
little notice of things at a distance. The males utter a
loud succession of snorting grunts, which may be heard
a mile off. The canoe in which I was, in passing over a
wounded one, elicited a distinct grunting, though the
animal lay entirely under the water.

The young, when very little, take their stand on the
neck of the dam, and the small head, rising above tho
large, comes soonest to the surface. The dam, knoAving
the more urgent need of her calf, comes more frequently to
the surface when it is in her care. But in the rivers of
Londa, where they are much in danger of being shot, even
the hippopotamus gains wit by experience; for, while thoso
in the Zambesi put up their heads openly to blow, those



referred to keep their noses among water-plants, and
breathe so quietly that one would not dream of their exist-
ence in the river except by footprints on the banks.



Wth of November, 1853. — At Gonye Falls. ISTo rain has
fallen here; so it is excessively hot. The trees have put on
their gayest dress, and many flowers adorn the landscape
yet the heat makes all the leaves droop at mid-day and
look languid for want of rain. If the country increases
as much in beauty in front as it has done within the last
four degrees of latitude, it will be indeed a lovely land.

We all felt great lassitude in travelling. The atmo-
sphere is oppressive both in cloud and sunshine. The evapo-
ration from the river must be excessively great; and I feel
as if the fluids of the system joined in the general motion
of watery vapor upward, as enormous quantities of water
must be drunk to supply its place.

When under way our usual procedure is this : — We get
up a little before five in the morning; it is then beginning
to dawn. While I am dressing, cofi^ee is made ; and, having
filled my pannikin, the remainder is handed to my com-
panions, who eagerly partake of the refreshing beverage
The servants are busy loading the canoes, while the prin-
cipal men are sipping the coff'ce, and, that being soon over,
we embark. The next two hours are the most pleasant
part of the day's sail. The men paddle away most vigor
ously : the Barotse, being a tribe of boatmen, have large,
deeply-developed chests and shoulders, with indifferent
lower extremities. They often engage in loud scolding of
each other, in order to relieve the tedium of their work.
About eleven we land, and eat any meat which may have


reinnined from the previous evening meal, or a biscuit with
honey, and drink water.

After an hour's rest, we again embark and cower under
an umbrella. The heat is oppressive, and, being weak
from the last attack of fever, I cannot land and keep the
camp supplied with flesh. The men, being quite uncovered
in the sun, perspire profusely, and in the afternoon begin
to stop, as if waiting for the canoes which have been left
behind. Sometimes we reach a sleeping-place two hours
before sunset, and, all being troubled with languor, we
gladly remain for the night. Coffee again, and a biscuit, or
a piece of coarse bread made of maize-meal, or that of the
native corn, make up the bill of fare for the evening, un-
less we have been fortunate enough to kill something, —
when we boil a potful of flesh. This is done by cutting it
up into long strips and pouring in water till it is covered.
When that is boiled dry, the meat is considered ready.

The people at Gon^^e carry the canoes over the space
requisite to avoid the falls by slinging them on poles tied
on diagonally. They place these on their shoulders, and,
setting about the work with good humor, soon accomplish the
task. They are a merry set of mortals; a feeble joke sets
them off in a fit of laughter. Here, as elsewhere, all peti-
tioned for the magic lantern; and, as it is a good means of
conveying instruction, I willingly complied.

The falls of Gonye have not been made by wearing back
like those of Niagara, but are of a fissure form. For many
miles below, the river is confined in a narrow space of not
more than one hundred yards wide. The water goes boiling
along, and gives the idea of great masses of it rolling over
and over, so that even the most expert swimmer would find
it diflScult to keep on the surface. Here it is that the river,
when in flood, rises fifty or sixty feet in perpendicular
height. The islands above the falls are covered with foliage
as beautiful as can be seen anywhere. Viewed from the
mass of rock which overhangs the fall, the scenery was the
loveliest I had seen.

Nothing worthy of note occurred on our way to Nameta.


There we heard that a party of the Makololo, headed by
Lerimb^ had made a foray to the north and up the Leeba,
in the very direction in which we were about to proceed.
Mpololo, the uncle of Sekeletu, is considered the head-man
of the Barotse valley ; and the perpetrators had his full
sanction, because Masiko, a son of Santuru, the former
chief of the Barotse, had fled high up the Leeambye, and,
establishing himself there, had sent men down to the vici-
nity of Naliele to draw away the remaining Barotse from
their allegiance. Lerimo's party had taken some of thia
Mesiko's subjects prisoners, and destroyed several villages
of the Balonda, to whom we were going. This was in
direct opposition to the policy of Sekeletu, who wished to
be at peace with these northern tribes j and Pitsane, my
head-man, was the bearer of orders to Mpololo to furnish
us with presents to the very chiefs they had attacked.
Thus, we were to get large pots of clarified butter and
bunches of beads, in confirmation of the message of peace
we were to deliver.

When we reached Litofe, we heard that a fresh foray
was in contemplation ; but I sent forward orders to disband
the party immediately. At Ma-Sekeletu's town we found
the head-offendei, Mpololo himself, and I gave him a bit
of my mind, to the effect that, as I was going with the full
sanction of Sekeletu, if any harm happened to me in con-
sequence of his ill-advised expedition the guilt would rest
with him. Ma-Sekeletu, who was present, heartily approved
all I said, and suggested that all the captives taken by
Lerimo should be returned by my hand, to show Masiko
that the guilt of the foray lay not with the superior per-
sons of the Makololo, but with a mere servant. Her good
sense appeared in other respects besides; and, as this was
exactly what my own party had previously resolved to
suggest, we were pleased to hear Mpololo agree to do what
he was advised. He asked me to lay the matter before
the under-chiefs of Naliele, and when we reached that
place, on the 9th of December, I did so in a picho, called


expressly for the purpose. Lerimo was present, and felt
rather crestfallen when his exploit was described by Moho-
risi, one of my companions, as one of extreme cowardice,
he having made an attack upon the defenceless villagers of
Londa, while, as we had found on our former visit, a lion
had actually killed eight people of Nalicle without his
daring to encounter it. The Makololo are cowardly iu
respect to animals, but brave against men. Mpololo took
all the guilt upon himself before the people, and delivered
up a captive child whom his wife had in her possession ;
others followed his example, till we procured the release of
five of the prisoners. Some thought, as Masiko had tried
to take their children by stratagem, they ought to take his
by force, as the two modes suited the genius of each people :
the Makalaka delight in cunning, and the Makololo in
fighting; and others thought, if Sekeletu meant them to
be at peace with Masiko, he ought to have told them so.

It is rather dangerous to tread in the footsteps of a
marauding-party with men of the same tribe as the
aggressors, but my people were in good spirits, and several
volunteers even offered to join our ranks. We, however,
adhered strictly to the orders of Sekeletu as to our com-
panions, and refused all others.

The people of every village treated us most liberally,
presenting, besides oxen, butter, milk, and meal, more than
we could stow away in our canoes. The cows in this valley
are now yielding, as they frequently do, more milk than
the people can use, and both men and women present
butter in such quantity that I shall be able to refresh my
men as we move along. Anointing the skin prevents the
excessive evaporation of the fluids of the body, and acts as
clothing in both sun and shade. They always made their
presents gracefully. When an ox was given, the owner
would say, ^' Here is a little bit of bread for you." This was
pleasing, for I had been accustomed to the Bechuanas pre-
senting a miserable goat, with the pompous exclamation,
"Behold an ox!" The women persisted in giving me



copious supplies of shrill praises, or ^^lullilooing;" but,
though I frequently told them to modify their "great lords''
and ** great lions" to more humble expressions, they so evi-
dently intended to do me honor that I could not help being
pleased with the poor creatures' wishes for our success.

The rains began while we were at Naliele; this is much
later than usual ; but, though the Barotse valley has been
in need of rain, the people never lack abundance of food.
The showers are refreshing, but the air feels hot and close;
ihe thermometer, however, in a cool hut, stands only at
84°. The access of the external air to any spot at once
■raises its temperature above 90°. A new attack of fever
here caused excessive languor; but, as I am already getting
tired of quoting my fevers, and never liked to read travels
myself where much was said about the illnesses of the
traveller, I shall henceforth endeavor to say little about

We here sent back the canoe of Sekeletu, and got the
loan of others from Mpololo. Eight riding-oxen, and seven
for slaughter, were, according to the orders of that chief,
also furnished; some were intended for our own use, and
others as presents to the chiefs of the Balonda. Mpololo
was particularly liberal in giving all that Sekeletu ordered,
though, as he feeds on the cattle he has in charge, he might
have felt it so much abstracted from his own perquisites.

Leaving Naliele, amid abundance of good wishes for the
success of our expedition, and hopes that we might return
accompanied with white traders, we began again our ascent of
the river. It was now beginning to rise, though the rains
had but just commenced in the valley. The banks are low,
but cleanly cut, and seldom sloping. At low-water they are
from four to eight feet high, and make the river always
assume very much the aspect of a canal.

These perpendicular banks afford building-places to a
pretty bee-eater,* which loves to breed in society. The

* Merops apiaster and M. hullockoideSy (Smith.)


face of tne sand-bank is perforated with hundreds of holes
leading to their nests, each of which is about a foot apart
from the other; and as we pass they pour out of their
hiding-places and float overhead.

17th December. — At Libonta. We were detained for days
together collecting contributions of fat and butter, accord-
ing to the orders of Sekeletu, as presents to the Balonda
chiefs. Much fever prevailed, and ophthalmia was rife, aa
is generally the case before the rains begin. Some of my /

own men required my assistance, as well as the people of
Libonta. A lion had done a good deal of mischief here,
and when the people went to attack it two men were badly
wounded; one of them had his thigh-bone quite broken,
showing the prodigious power of this animal's jaws. The
inflammation produced by the teeth-wounds jDroved fatal to
one of them.

Here we demanded the remainder of the captives, and
^ot our number increased to nineteen. They consisted of
women and children, and one young man of twenty. One
of the boys was smuggled away in the crowd as we em-
barked. The Makololo under-chiefs often act in direct
opposition to the will of the head-chief, trusting to cir-
cumstances and brazen-facedness to screen themselves from
his open displeasure; and, as he does not always find it
convenient to notice faults, they often go to considerable
lengths in wrong-doing.

Libonta is the last town of the Makololo ; so, when we
parted from it, we had only a few cattle-stations and out-
lying hamlets in front, and then an uninhabited border-
country till we came to Londa or Lunda. Libonta is situ-
ated on a mound, like the rest of the villages in the Barotse
valley, but here the tree-covered sides of the valley begin
to approach nearer the river. The village itself belongs to
two of the chief wives of Sebituane, who furnished us with
an ox and abundance of other food. The same kindness
was manifested by all who could afford to give any thing;
and, as I glance over their deeds of generosity recorded ia


my journal, my heart glows with gratitude to them, and I
hope and pray that God may spare me to make them som®

Before leaving the villages entirely, we may glance at
our way of spending the nights. As soon as we land, some
of the men cut a little grass for my bed, while Mashauana
plants the poles of the little tent. These are used by day
for carrying burdens, for the Barotse fashion is exactly
like that of the natives of India, only the burden is fastened
near the ends of the pole, and not suspended by long cords.
The bed is made, and boxes ranged on each side of it, and
thcL the tent pitched over all. Four or five feet in front
of my tent is placed the principal or kotla fire, the wood
for which must be collected by the man who occupies the
post of herald and takes as his perquisite the heads of all
the oxen slaughtered and of all the game too. Each per-
son knows the station he is to occupy in reference to tho
post of honor at the fire in front of the door of the tent.
The two Makololo occupy my right and left, both in eating
and sleeping, as long as the journey lasts. But Mashauana,
my head-boatman, makes his bed at the door of the tent as
soon as I retire. The rest, divided into small companies
according to their tribes, make sheds all round the fire,
leaving a horseshoe-shaped space in front sufficient for the
cattle to stand in. The fire gives confidence to the oxenj
so the men are always careful to keep them in sight of it.
The sheds are formed by planting two stout forked poles
m an inclined direction, and placing another over these in a
horizontal position. A number of branches are then stuck in
the ground in the direction to which the poles are inclined,
the twigs drawn down to the horizontal pole and tied with
strips of bark. Long grass is then laid over the brancheg
in sufficient quantity to draw off the rain, and we liave
sheds open to the fire in front but secure from beasts be-
hind. In less than an hour we were usually all under cover.
We never lacked abundance of grass during the whole
journey. It is a picturesque sight at night, when the clear


bright moon of these climates glances on the sleeping forms
arouodj to look out upon the attitudes of profound repose
both men and beasts assume. There being no danger from

Online LibraryDavid LivingstoneLivingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean → online text (page 12 of 36)