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 13 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 13 of 36)
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wild animals on such a nighty the fires are allowed almost
to go out } and, as there is no fear of hungry dogs coming
orer sleepers and devouring the food, or quietly eating up
the poor fellows' blankets, which at best were but greasy
gkins, which sometimes happened in the villages, the pic-
ture was one of perfect peace.

The cooking is usually done in the natives' own style;
and, as they carefully wash the dishes, pots, and the hands
before handling food, it is by no means despicable Some-
times alterations are made at my suggestion, and then they
believe that they can cook in thorough white man's fashion.
The cook always comes in for something left in the pot; so
all are eager to obtain the office.

1 taught several of them to wash my shirts, and they
did it w^ell, though their teacher had never been taught
that work himself. Frequent changes of linen and sunning
of my blanket kept me more comfortable than might have
been anticipated, and I feel certain that the lessons of
cleanliness rigidly instilled by my mother in childhood
helped to maintain that respect which these people enter-
tain for European ways. It is questionable if a descent to
barbarous ways ever elevates a man in the eyes of savages.

Part of our company marched along the banks with the
oxen, and part went in the canoes, but our pa,ce was regu-
lated by the speed of the men on shore. Their course waa
rather difficult, on account of the numbers of departing and
re-entering branches of the Leeambye, w^hich they had to
avoid or wait at till we ferried them over. The number
of alligators is prodigious, and in this river they are more
savage than in some others. Many children are carried
oif annually at Sesheke and ether towns; for, notwith-
standing the danger, when they go down for water they
almost always must play a while. This reptile is said by the

uatives to strike the victim with his tail, then drag him in
K 13

146 GAME.

and drown him. "Wlien lying in the water watching for
prey, the body never appears. Many calves are lost also,
and it is seldom that a number of cows can swim over at
Sesheke without some loss. I never could avoid shudder-
ing on seeing my men swimming across these branches,
after one of them had been caught by the thigh and taken
below. He, however, retained, as nearly all of them in
the most trying circumstances do, his full presence of mind,
and, having a small, square, ragged-edged javelin with
him, when dragged to the bottom gave the alligator a stab
behind the shoulder. The alligator, writhing in pain, left
him, and he came out with the deep marks of the reptile's
teeth on his thigh. Here the people have no antipathy to
persons who have met with such an adventure ; but in the
Bamangwato and Bakwain tribes, if a man is either bitten
or even has had water splashed over him by the reptile's
tail, he is expelled his tribe.

When we had gone thirty or forty miles above Libonta,
we sent eleven of our captives to the west, to the chief
called Makoma, with an explanatory message. This
caused some delay 3 but as we were loaded with presents
of food from the Makololo, and the wild animals were in
enormous herds, we fared sumptuously. It was grievous,
however, to shoot the lovely creatures, they were so tame.
With but little skill in stalking, one could easily get within
fifty or sixty j^ards of them. There I lay, looking at the
graceful forms and motions of beautiful pokus, leches, and
other antelopes, often till my men, wondering what was
the matter, came up to see, and frightened them away.
If we had been starving, I could have slaughtered them
with as little hesitation as I should cut off a patient's leg;
but I felt a doubt, and the antelopes got the benefit of it.

My men, having never had fire-arms in their hands be-
fore, found it so difficult to hold the musket steady at the
flash of fire in the pan, that they naturally expected me to
furnish them with '' gun-medicine," without which, it ia
almost universally believed, no one can shoot straight-


Great expectations had been formed when I arrived among
the Makololo on this subject; but, having invariably de-
clined to deceive them^ as some for their own profit have
done, my men now supposed that I would at last consent,
and thereby relieve myself from the hard work of hunting
by employing them after due medication. This I was most
willing to do, if I could have done it honestly; for, having
but little of the hunting-/wrore in my composition, I always
preferred eating the game to killing it. Sulphur is the
remedy most admired, and I remember Sechele giving a
large price for a very small bit. He also gave some
elephants' tusks, worth £30, for another medicine which
was to make him invulnerable to musket-balls. As I
uniformly recommended that these things should be tested
by experiment, a calf was anointed with the charm and
tied to a tree. It proved decisive, and Sechele remarked
it was "pleasanter to be deceived than undeceived." I
offered sulphur for the same purpose, but that was declined,
even though a person came to the town afterward and
rubbed his hands with a little before a successful trial of
shooting at a mark.

I explained to my men the nature of a gun, and tried to
teach them, but they would soon have expended all the
ammunition in my possession. , I was thus obliged to do
all the shooting myself ever afterward. Their inability
was rather a misfortune ; for, in consequence of working
too soon after having been bitten by the lion, the bone of
my left arm had not united well. Continual hard manual
labor, and some falls from ox-back, lengthened the liga-
ment by which the ends of the bones were united, and a
false joint was the consequence. The limb has never been
painful, as those of my companions on the day of the ren-
counter with the lion have been; but, there being a joint
too many, I could not steady the rifle, and was always
obliged to shoot with the piece resting on the left shoulder.
I wanted steadiness of aim, and it generally happened that



the more hungry the party became^ the more frequently 1
missed the animals.

Before we came to the junction of the Leeba and
Leeambye we found the banks twenty feet high, and com-
posed of marly sandstone. They are covered with trees,
and the left bank has the tsetse and elephants. I suspect
the fly has some connection with this animal, and the
Portuguese in the district of Tete must think so too, for
they call it the Musca da elephant, (the elephant-fly.)

We passed great numbers of hippopotami. They are
very numerous in the parts of the river where they are
never hunted. The males appear of a dark color, the
females of yellowish brown. There is not such a complete
separation of the sexes among them as among elephants.
They spend most of their time in the water, lolling about
in a listless, dreamy manner. "When they come out of the
river by night, they crop oif the soft succulent grasses
very neatly. When they blow, they puff up the water
about three feet high.




On the '27th of December we were at the confluence of the
Leeba and Leeambye, (lat. 14° 10.' 52" S., long. 23° 85' 40"
E.) Masiko, the Barotse chief, for whom we had some
captives, lived nearly due east of this point. They were
two little boys, a little girl, a young man, and two middle-
aged women. One of these was a member of a Babimpe
tribe, who knock out both upper and lower front teeth as
a distinction. As we had been informed by the captives
on the previous Sunday that Masiko was in the habit of
seizing all orphans, and those who have no powerful friend


m the tribe whose protection they can claim, and selling
them for clothing to the Mambari, we thought the objeo
tion of the women to go first to his town before seeing their
friends quite reasonable, and resolved to send a party of
our own people to see them safely among their relatives
I told the captive young man to infbrm Masiko that he
was very unlike his father Santuru, who had refused to
Bell his people to Mambari. He will probably be afraid to
deliver such a message himself, but it is meant for his peo-
ple, and they will circulate it pretty widely, and Masiko
may yet feel a little pressure from without. We sent
Mosantu, a Batoka man, and his companions, with the cap-
tives. The Barotse whom we had were unwilling to go to
Masiko, since they owe him allegiance as the son of San-
turn, and while they continue with Makololo are Consi-
dered rebels. The message by Mosantu was that " I was
sorry to find that Santuru had not borne a wiser son. San
turn loved to govern men, but Masiko wanted to govern
wild beasts only, as he sold his people to the Mambari ;''
adding an explanation of the return of the captives, and
an injunction to him to live in peace, and prevent his
people kidnapping the children and canoes of the Makololo,
as a continuance in these deeds would lead to war, which
I wished to prevent. He was also instructed to say, if
Masiko wanted fuller explanation of my views, he must
send a sensible man to talk with me at the first town of the
Balonda, to which I was about to proceed.

We ferried Mosantu over to the left bank of the Leeba.
The journey required five days, but it could not have been
at a quicker rate than ten or twelve miles per day; the
children were between seven and eight years of age, and
Qnable to walk fast in a hot sun.

Leaving Mosantu to pursue his course, we shall take but
one glance down the river, which we are now about t/>
teave, for it comes at this point from the eastward, and our
course is to be directed to the northwest, as we mean to
go to Loanda in Angola. From the confluence, where wa



now are, down to Mosioatnnya, there are many long
reaches, where a vessel equal to the Thames steamers ply-
ing between the bridajes could run as freely as they do on
the Thames. It is often, even here, as broad as that river
at London Bridge; but, without accurate measurement of
the depth, one could not say which contained most water.
There are, however, many and serious obstacles to a con-
tinued navigation for hundreds of miles at a stretch.
About ten miles below the confluence of the Loeti, for in-
stance, there are many large sand-banks in the stream; then
you have a hundred miles to the river Simah, where a
Thames steamer could ply at all times of the year; but,
again, the space between Simah and Katima-molelo has five
or six rapids with cataracts, one of which — Gonye — could
not be passed at any time without portage. Between
these rapids there are reaches of still, deep water, of
several miles in length. Beyond Katima-molelo to the
confluence of the Chobe you have nearly a hundred miles,
again, of a river capable of being navigated in the same
way as in the Barotse valley.

Now, I do not say that this part of the river presents a
very inviting prospect for extemporaneous European enter-
prise ; but when we have a pathway which requires only
the formation of portages to make it equal to our canals
for hundreds of miles, where the philosophers supposed
there was naught but an extensive sandy desert, we must
confess that the future partakes at least of the elements
of hope. ' My deliberate conviction was and is that the
part of the country indicated is as capable of supporting
millions of inhabitants as it is of its thousands. The grasa
of the Barotse valley, for instance, is such a densely-matted
mass, that, when "laid,'' the stalks bear each other up, yo
that one feels as if walking on the sheaves of a haystack,
and the leches nestle under it to bring forth their young
The soil which produces this, if placed under the plough,
instead of being mere pasturage, would yield grain su<3R
cient to feed vast multitudes.


We now began to ascend the Leeba. The water is black
in color as compared with the main stream, which here
assumes the name of Kabompo. The Leeba flows placidly,
and, unlike the parent river, receives numbers of little rivu-
lets from both sides. It winds slowly through the most
charming meadows, each of which has either a soft, sedgy
centre, large pond, or trickling rill down the middle.

A large buffalo was wounded, and ran into the thickest
part of the forest, bleeding profusely. The young men
went on his trail ; and, though the vegetation was so dense
that no one could have run more than a few yards, most
of them went along quite carelessly, picking and eating a
fruit of the melon-family called mponko. When the animal
heard them approach, he always fled, shifting his stand
and doubling on his course in the most cunning manner.
In other cases I have known them to turn back to a point
a few yards from their own trail, and then lie down in a
hollow waiting for the hunter to come up. Though a
heavy, lumbering-looking animal, his charge is then rapid
and terrific. More accidents happen by the bufi'alo and
the black rhinoceros than by the lion. Though all are
aware of the mischievous nature of the buffalo when
wounded, our young men went after him quite carelessly.
They never lose their presence of mind, but, as a buffalo
charges back in a forest, dart dexterously out of his way
behind a tree, and, wheeling round, stab him as he passes.

On the 28 th we slept at a spot on the right bank from
which had just emerged two broods of alligators. We had
seen many young ones as we came up ; so this seems to be
their time of coming forth from the nests, for we saw them
sunning themselves on sand-banks in company with the
old ones. We made our fire in one of the deserted nests,
which were strewed all over with the broken shells. At
the Zouga we saw sixty eggs taken out of one such nest
alone. They are about the size of those of a goose, only
the eggs of the alligator are of the same diameter at both
endS; and the white shell is partially elastic, from having a

152 alligators' eggs.

Btrong intomal membrane and but little lime ii. its compo
Bition. The distance from the water was about ten feet
^nd there were evidences of the same place having beei
used for a similar purpose in former years. A broad path
led up from the water to the nest, and the dam, it was saia
by my companions, after depositing the eggs, covers them
up, and returns afterward to assist the young out of the
place of confinement and out of the egg. She leads them
to the edge of the water, and then leaves them to catch
small fish for themselves.

When we reached the part of the river opposite to the
village of Manenko, the first female chief whom we encoun-
tered, two of the people called Balunda, or Balonda, came
to us in their little canoe. From them we learned that
Kolimbota, one of our party, who had been in the habit of
visiting these parts, was believed by the Balonda to have
acted as a guide to the marauders under Lerimo, whose
captives we were now returning. They very naturally
suspected this, from the facility with which their villages
had been found ; and, as they had since removed them to
some distance from the river, they were unwilling to lead
us to their places of concealment. We were in bad repute;
but, having a captive boy and girl to show in evidence of
Sekeletu and ourselves not being partakers in the guilt of
inferior men, I could fully express my desire that all should
live in peace. They evidently felt that I ought to have
taught the Makololo first, before coming to them; for they
remarked that- what I advanced was very good, but guilt
lay at the door of the Makololo for disturbing the pre-
viously-existing peace. They then went away to report
us to Manenko.

When the strangers visited us again in the evening, they
were accompanied by a number of the people of an Am-
bonda chief named Sekelenke. The Ambonda live far tc
the N.W.; their language (the Bonda) is the common dia-
lect in Angola. Sekelenke had fled, and was now living
with his village as a vassal of Masiko. Sekelenke had

sekelknke's present 15b

gone with his villagers to hunt elephants on the right
bank of the Lecba, and was now on .his way back to
Masiko. lie sent me a dish of boiled zebra's flesh, and a
request that I should lend him a canoe to ferry his wives
and family across the river to the bank on which we were
encamped. Many of Sekelenke's people came to salute the
first white man they ever had an opportunity of seeing;
but Sekelenke himself did not come near. We heard he
was offended with some of his people for letting me know
he was among the comj^any. He said that I should be
displeased with him for not coming and making some pre
sent. This was the only instance in which 1 was shunned
in this quarter.

Sekelenke and his people, twenty-four in number, defiled
past our camp, carrying large bundles of dried elephants*
meat. Most of them came to say good-bye, and Sekelenke
himself sent to say that he had gone to visit a wife living
in the village of Manenko. It was a mere African manoeuvre
to gain information, and not to commit himself to either
one line of action or another with respect to our visit. As
he was probably in the party before us, I replied that it
was all right, and when my people came up from Masiko
I would go to v^y wife too.

To our first message offering a visit of exj)lanation to
Manenko, we got an answer, with a basket of manioc-roots,
that we must remain where we were till she should visit
us. Having waited two days already for her, other mes-
sengers arrived with orders for me to come to- her. After
four days of rains and negotiation, I declined going at all,
and proceeded up the river to the small stream Makondo,
(lat. ia° 23' 12" S.,) which enters the Lceba from the east,
and is between twenty and thirty yards broad.

January 1, 1854. — We had heavy rains almost everyday;
indeed,' the rainy season had fairly set in. Baskets of the
purple fruit called mawa were frequently brought to us by
the villagers; not for sale, but from a belief that their


chiefs would be pleased to hear that they had treated us
well : we gave them pieces of meat in return.

When crossing at the confluence of the Leeba and Ma-
kondo, one of rnj men picked up a bit of a steel watch-
chain of English manufacture, and we were informed that
this was the spot where the Mambari cross in coming to
Masiko. Their visits explain why Sekelenke kept his tusks
so carefully. These Mambari are very enterprising mer-
chants : when they mean to trade with a town, they delibe-
rately begin the affair by building huts, as if they knew
that little business could be transacted without a liberal
allowance of time for palaver. They bring Manchester
goods into the heart of Africa; these cotton prints look so
wonderful that the Makololo could not believe them to be
the work of mortal hands. On questioning the Mambari,
they were answered that English manufactures came out
of the sea, and beads were gathered on its shore. To
Africans our cotton-mills are fairy dreams. ''How can the
irons spin, weave, and print so beautifully?" Our country
is like what Taprobane was to our ancestors, — a strange
realm of light, whence came the diamond, muslin, and
peacocks; an attempt at explanation of our manufactures
usually elicits the expression, " Truly ye are gods V

When about to leave the Makondo, one of my men had
dreamed that Mosantu was shut up a prisoner in a stockade :
this dream depressed the spirits of the whole party, and
when I came out of my little tent in the morning, they
were sitting the pictures of abject sorrow. I asked if we
were to be guided by dreams, or by the authority I derived
from Sekeletu, and ordered them to load the boats at once;
they seemed ashamed to confess their fears; the Makololo
picked up courage and upbraided the others for having
Buch superstitious views, and said this was always their
way: if even a certain bird called to them, they would turn
back from an enterprise, saying it was unlucky. They
entered the canoes at last, and were the better of a little
scolding for be'ng inclined to put dreams before authority.


It rained all the morning, but about eleven we reached tho
village of Sheakondo, on a small stream named Lonkonye.
We sent a message to the head-man, who soon appeared
with two wives, bearing handsome presents of manioc :
Sheakondo could speak the language of the Barotse well,
and seemed awe-struck when told some of the "words of
God/' He manifested no fear, always spoke frankly, and,
when he made an asseveration, did so by simply pointing
up to the sky above him.

Sheakondo's old wife presented some manioc-roots, and
then politely requested to be anointed with butter: as I
had been bountifully supplied by the Makololo, I gave her
as much as would suffice, and, as they have little clothing,
I can readily believe that she felt her comfort greatly
enhanced thereby.

The favorite wife, who was also present, was equally
anxious for butter. She had a profusion of iron rings on
her ankles, to which were attached little pieces of sheet-
iron, to enable her to make a tinkling as she walked in her
mincing African style; the same thing is thought pretty
by our own dragoons in walking jauntingly.

On the 6th of January we reached the village of another
female chief, named Nyamoana, who is said to be the
mother of Manenko, and sister of Shinte or Kabompo, the
greatest Balonda chief in this part of the country. Her
people had but recently come to the present locality, and
had erected only twenty huts. Her husband, Samoana,
was clothed in a kilt of green and red baize, and was armed
with a spear and a broadsword of antique form, about
eighteen inches long and three broad. The chief and her
husband were sitting on skins placed in the middle of a
circle thirty paces in diameter, a little raised above the
ordinary level of the ground, and having a trench round it.
Outside the trench sat about a hundred persons of all ages
and both sexes. The men were well armed with bows,
arrows,, spears, and broadswords. Beside the husband sat
a rather aged wom^ip having a bad outward squint in the


left eye. We put down our arms about forty yards off, and
[ walked up to the centre of the circular bench, and saluted
aim in the usual way by clapping the hands together in
their fashion. He pointed to his wife, as much as to say,
The honor belongs to her. I saluted her in the same way,
and, a mat having been brought, I squatted down in front
of them.

The talker was then called, and I was asked who wa;
my spokesman. Having pointed to Kolirabota, who knevi
their dialect best, the palaver began in due form. I ex-
plained the real objects I had in view, without any attemp!
to mystify or appear in any other character than my own,
for I have always been satisfied that, even though there
were no other considerations, the truthful way of dealing
with the uncivilized is unquestionably the best. Kolimbota
repeated to Nyamoana's talker what I had said to him
He delivered it all verbatim to her husband, who repeated
it again to her. It was thus all rehearsed four times over,
in a tone loud enough to be heard by the whole party of
auditors. The response came back by the same round-
aboi^t route, beginning at the lady to her husband, &c.

After explanations and re-explanations, I perceived that
our new friends were mixing up my message of peace and
friendship with Makololo affairs, and stated that it was
not delivered on the authority of any one less than that
of their Creator, and that if the Makololo did again break
his laws and attack the Balonda, the guilt would rest with
the Makololo and not with me. The palaver then came to
a close.

By way of gaining their confidence, I showed them my
hair, which is considered a curiosity in all this region. They
said, " Is that hair? It is the mane of a lion^ and not hair
at all.'' Some thought that I had made a wig of lion'h
mane, as they sometimes do with fibres of the '^ife,'' and
dye it black and twist it so as to resemble a mass of then
own wool. I could not return the joke by telling them
that theirs was not hair, but the wool of sheep, for they


have none of these in the country ; and even though they
had, as Herodotus remarked, '^ the African sheep are clothed
with hair, and men's heads with wool." > So I had to bo
content with asserting that mine wa^ the real original hair,
such as theirs would have been had it not been scorched

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 13 of 36)