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 27 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 27 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

During the time of our absence at Loanda, the Makololo
had made two forays and captured large herds of cattle.
One to the lake was in order to punish Lechulatebe for
the insolence he had manifested after procuring some fire-
arms ; and the other to Sebola Makwaia, a chief living far
to the N.E. This was most unjustifiable, and had been
condemned by all the influential Makololo.

In accordance with the advice of my Libonta friends, I
did not fail to reprove " my child Sekeletu'^ for his marau-
ding. This was not done in an angry manner, for no good
is ever achieved by fierce denunciations. Motibe, his
father-in-law, said to me, " Scold him much, but don't let
others hear you.'"

The Makololo expressed great satisfaction with the route
we had opened up to tho west, and soon after our arrival a
"picho" was called, in order to discuss the question of
removal to the Barotse valley, so that they might be nearer
the market. Some of the older men objected to abandon-
ing the line of defence afforded by the rivers Chobe and
Zambesi against their southern enemies the Matebele. The
Makololo generally have an aversion to the Barotse valley,
on account of the fevers which are annually engendered in
it as the waters dry up. They prefer it only as a (ialtlo-


fitation; for, though the herds are frequently thinned by aa
emdemic disease, (^peripneumonia,') they breed so fast that the
.osses are soon made good. Wherever else the Makololo
go, they always leave a portion of their stock in the charge
of herdsmen in that prolific valley. Some of the younger
men objected to removal because the rankness of the grass
at the Barotse did not allow of their running fast, and be-
cause there *' it never becomes cool."

Sekeletu at last stood up, and, addressing me, said, ''I am
perfectly satisfied as to the great advantages for trade of
the path which you have opened, and think that we ought
to go to the Barotse, in order to make the way from us to
Loanda shorter; but with whom am I to live there? If
you were coming with us, I would remove to-morrow; but
now you are going to the white man's country to bring Ma
Eobert, and when you return you will find me near to the
spot on which you wish to dwell.'' I had then no idea
that any healthy spot existed in the country, and thought
only of a convenient central situation, adapted for inter-
course with the adjacent tribes and with the coast, such as
that near to the confluence of the Leeba and Leeambye.

During the whole of my stay with the Makololo, Seke-
lutu supplied my wants abundantly, appointing some cows
to furnish me with milk, and, when he went out to hunt,
sent home orders for slaughtered oxen to be given. That
the food was not given in a niggardly spirit ma}^ be inferred
from the fact that when I proposed to depart on the 20th
of October he protested against my going off in such a
hot sun. ''Only wait," said he, "for the first shower, and
then I will let you go.'* This was reasonable, for the ther-
mometer, placed upon a deal box in the sun, rose to 138°.
It stood at 108° in the shade by day, and 96° at sunset.

I still possessed some of the coffee which I had brought
from Angola, and some of the sugar which I had left in my
wagon. So long as the sugar lasted, Sekeletu favored me
with his company at meals; but the sugar soon came to a
close. The Makololo, as formerly mentioned, were well


acquainted with the sugarcane, as it is cultivated by the
Burotsc, but never knew that sugar could be got tVom it.
When I explained the process by which it was produced,
Sekeletu asked if I could not buy him an apparatus for the
purj^ose of making sugar. He said he would plant the
cane largely if he only had the means of making the sugar
from it. I replied that I was unable to purchase a mill,
when he instantly rejoined, "Why not take ivory to buy
it?'' As I had been living at his expense, I was glad of
the opportunity to show my gratitude by ser\^ing him; and
when he and his principal men understood that I was
willing to execute a commission, Sekeletu gave me an
order for a sugar-mill, and for all the different varieties of
clothing that he had ever seen, especially a mohair coat, a
good rifle, beads, brass wire, &c. &c., and wound up by
saying, "And any other beautiful thing you may see in
your own country." As to the quantity of ivory required
to execute the commission, I said I feared that a large
amount would be necessary. Both he and his councillors
replied, " The ivory is all your own : if you leave any in
the country it will be your own fault." He was also
anxious for horses. The two I had left with him when 1
went to Loanda were still living, and had been of great use
to him in hunting the giraffe and eland; and he was now
anxious to have a breed. This, I thought, might be ob-
tained at the Portuguese settlements. All were very much
delighted with the donkeys we had brought from Loanda.
As we found that they were not affected by the bite of the
tsetse, and there was a prospect of the breed being con-
tinned, it was gratifying to see the experiment of their
introduction so far successful. The donkeys came aa
frisky as kids all the way from Loanda until we began
to descend the Leeambye. There we came upon so many
interlacing branches of the river, and were obliged to
drag them through such masses of tangled aquatic plants^
that we half drowned them, and were at last obliged ta
leave them, somewhat exhausted, at Nahele They exciiod

824 THE author's influence with the natives.

the unbounded admiration of my men by their knowledge
of the different kinds of phmts, which, as they remarked,
'^'the animals had never before seen in their own country;"
and when the donkeys indulged in their music the^
startled the inhabitants more than if they had been lions.
We never rode them, nor yet the horse which had been
given by the bishop, for fear of hurting them by any

Although the Makololo were so confiding, the reader must
not imagine that they would be so to every individual who
might visit them. Much of my influence depended upon
the good name given me by the Bakwains, and that I
secured only through a long course of tolerably good con-
duct. No one ever gains much influence in this country
without purity and uprightness. The acts of a stranger
are keenly scrutinized by both young and old; and seldom
is the judgment pronounced, even by the heathen, unfair
or uncharitable. I have heard women speaking in admira-
tion of a white man because he was pure and never was
guilty of any secret immorality. Had he been, they would
have known it, and, untutored heathen though they be,
would have despised him in consequence. Secret vice
becomes known throughout the tribe; and, while one un-
acquainted with the language may imagine a peccadillo to
be hidden, it is as patent to all as it would be in London
had he a placard on his back. ^

27f/t October, 1855. — The first continuous rain of the
season commenced during the night, the wind being from
the N.E., as it always was on like occasions ac Kolobeng.
The rainy season was thus begun, and I made ready to go
The mother of Sekeletu prepared a bag of groundnuts, by
frying them with cream with a little salt, as a sort of sand-
wiches for my journey. This is considered food fit for a
chief. Others ground the maize from my own garden into
meal, and Sekeletu pointed out Sekwebu and Kanyata aa
the persons who sht uld head the party intended to form
my company. Sekwe^u had been captured by the Matebela


when a little boy, and the tribe in which he was a captive
had migrated to the country near Tete ; he had travelled
along both banks of the Zambesi several times, and was
intimately acquainted with the dialects spoken there. I
found him to be a person of great prudence and sound
judgment, and his subsequent loss at the Mauritius has
been, ever since, a source of sincere regret. He at once
recommended our keeping well away from the river, on
account of the tsetse and rocky country, assigning also as
a reason for it that the Leeambye beyond the falls turns
round to the N.N.E. Mamire, who had married the mother
of Sekeletu, on coming to bid me farewell before starting,
Baid, "You are now going among peoj^le who cannot be
trusted, because we have used them badly ; but you go with
a different message from any they ever heard before, and
Jesus will be with you and help you, though among enemies;
and if he carries you safely, and brings you and Ma Eobert
back again, I shall say he has bestowed a great favor upon
me. May we obtain a path whereby we may visit and be
visited by other tribes and by white men I" On telling
him my fears that he was still inclined to follow the old
marauding system, which prevented intercourse, and that
he, from his influential position, was especially guilty in the
late forays, he acknowledged all rather too freely for my
taste, but seemed quite aware that the old system was fai
from right. Mentioning my inability to pay the men who
were to accompany me, he replied, "A man wishes, of
course, to appear among his friends, after a long absence^
with something of his own to show : the whole of the
ivory in the country is yours, so you must take as much as
you can, and Sekeletu will furnish men to carry it/' These
remarks of Mamire ^re quoted literally, in order to show
the state of mind of the most influential in the tribe. And,
as I wish to give the reader a fair idea of the other side of
the question as well, it may be mentioned that Motibe
parried the imputation of the guilt of marauding by eveiy
possible subterfuge. He would not admit that they had



done wrong, and laid the guilt of the wars in which the
Makoiolo had engaged on the Boers, the Matebele, and
every other tribe except his own. "When quite a youth,
Motibe's family had been attacked by a party of Boers : he
hid himself in an ant-eater's hole, but was drawn out and
thrashed with a whip of hippopotamus-hide. When en-
joined to live in peace, he would reply; " Teach the Boers
to lay down their arms first." Yet Motibe, on other occa-
eions, seemed to feel the difference between those who are
Christians indeed and those who are so only in name. In
mII our discussions we parted good friends.



On the 3d of November we bade adieu to our friends at
Linyanti, accompanied by Sekeletu and about 200 followers.
We were all fed at his expense, and he took cattle for this
purpose from every station we came to. The principal
men of the Makoiolo, Lebeole, Ntlarie, Nkwatlele, &c. were
also of the party. We passed through the patch of the
tsetse, which exists between Linyanti and Sesheke, by night.
The majority of the company went on by daylight, m
order to prepare our beds. Sekeletu and I, with about
forty young men, waited outside the tsetse till dark. We
then went forward, and about ten o'clock it became so
pitchy dark that both horses and men were completely
blinded. The lightning spread over the sky, forming eight
or ten branches at a time, in shape exactly like those of a
tree. This, with great volumes of sheet-lightning, enabled
us at times to see the whole country. The intervals between
the flashes were so densely dark as to convey the idea of
etone-blindness. The horses trembled, cried out, and turned
round, as if searching for each other, and every new flash


revealed the men taking different directions, laughing, and
Btiirablino; against each other. The thunder was of that tre-
mendously-loud kind only to be heard in tropical countries,
and which friends from India have assured me is louder
in Africa than any they have ever heard elsewhere. Then
came a pelting rain, which completed our confusion. After
the intense heat of the day, we soon felt miserably cold,
and turned aside to a fire we saw in the distance. This
had been made by some people on their march; for this
path is seldom without numbers of strangers passing to and
from the capital. My clothing having gone on, I lay down
on the cold ground, expecting to spend a miserable night :
but Sekeletu kindly covered me with his own blanket and
lay uncovered himself. I was much affected by this act
of genuine kindness. If such men must perish by the
advance of civilization, as certain races of animals do be-
fore others, it is a pity. God grant that ere this time
comes they may receive that gospel which is a solace for
the soul in death !

While at Sesheke, Sekeletu suiDplied me with twelve
oxen, — three of which were accustomed to being ridden
upon, — hoes, and beads to purchase a canoe when we
should strike the Leeambye beyond the falls. He likewise
presented abundance of good fresh butter and honey, and
did every thing in his power to make me comfortable for
the journey. I was entirely dependent on his generosity;
for the goods I originally brought from the Cape were all
expended by the time I set off from Linyanti to the west
coast. I there drew £70 of my salary, paid my men with
it, and purchased goods for the return-journey to Linyanti.
These being now all expended, the Makololo again fitted
me out, and sent me on to the east coast. I was thus
dependent on their bounty and that of other Africans for
the means of going from Linyanti to Loanda, and again
from Linyanti to the east coast, and I feel deeply grateful
to them. Coin would have been of no benefit, for gold and
fiilver are quite unknown. We were here joined by



Moriantsane^ uncle of Sekeletu and head-man of Sesheke;
and, entering canoes on the 13th, some sailed down the
river to the confluence of the Chobe, while others drove the
cattle along the banks, spending one night at Mparia, the
island at the confluence of the Chobe, which is composed
of trap having crystals of quartz in it coated with a
pellicle of green copper-ore. Attempting to proceed down
the river next day, we were detained some hours by a
strong east wind raising waves so large as to threaten to
swamp the canoe. The river here is very large and deep,
and contains two considerable islands, which from either
bank seem to be joined to the opposite shore.

Having descended about ten miles, we came to the
island of Nampene, at the beginning of the rapids, where
we were obliged to leave the canoes and j^roceed along the
banks on foot. The next evening we slept opposite the
island of Chondo, and, then crossing the Lekone or Lek-
wine, early the following morning were at the island of
Sekote, called Kalai. This Sekote was the last of the
Batoka chiefs whom Sebituane rooted out.

As this was the point from which we intended to strike
off to the northeast, I resolved on the following day to
visit the falls of Victoria, called by the natives Mosioa-
tunya, or, more anciently, Shongwe. Of these we had
often heard since we came into the country : indeed, one
of the questions asked by Sebituane was, " Have you smoke
that sounds in your country ?" They did not go near
enough to examine them, but, viewing them with awe at
a distance, said, in reference to the vapor and noise, "Mosi
oa tunya," (smoke does sound there.) It was previously
called Shongwe, the meaning of which I could not ascer-
tain. The word for a "pot'' resembles this, and it may
mean a seething caldron; but I am not certain of it.
Being persuaded that Mr. Oswell and myself were the very
lirst Europeans who ever visited the Zambesi in the centre
of the country, and that this is the coifnecting-link between
the known and unknown portions of that river, I decided


to use the same liberty as the Makololo did, and gave tha
only English name I have affixed to any part of the
country. No better proof of previous ignorance of tliia
river could be desired than that an untravelled gentleman,
who had spent a great part of his life in the study of the
geography of Africa and knew every thing written on the
subject from the time of Ptolemy downward, actually
asserted in the "AthenaDum/' while I was coming up tne
Bed Sea, that this magnificent river, the Leeambye, " had
no connection with the Zambesi, but flowed under the
Kalahari Desert and became lost;" and "that, as all the
old maps asserted, the Zambesi took its rise in the very
hills to which we have now come." This modest assertion
smacks exactly as if a native of Timbuctoo should declare
that the "Thames" and the "Pool" were different rivers,
he having seen neither the one nor the other. Leeambjo
and Zambesi mean the very same thing, — viz., the Eiver.

Sekeletu intended to accompany me; but, one canoe
only having come instead of the two he had ordered, he
resigned it to me. After twenty minutes' sail from Kalai
we came in sight, for the first time, of the columns of vapor
appropriately called "smoke," rising at a distance of five
or six miles, exactly as when large tracts of grass are
burned in Africa. Five columns now arose, and, bending
in the direction of the wind, they seemed placed against a
low ridge covered with trees ; the tops of the columns at
this distance appeared to mingle with the clouds. They
were white below, and higher up became dark, so as to
simulate smoke very closely. The whole scene was ex-
tremely beautiful. The banks and islands dotted over the
river are adorned with sylvan vegetation of great variety
of color and form. At the period of our visit several trees
were spangled over with blossoms. Trees have each their
own physiognomy. There, towering over all, stands the
great burly baobab, each of whose enormous arms would
form the trunk of a large tree, besides groups of graceful
palms, which, with their feathery-shaped leaves depicted



on the flky, lend their beauty to the scene. As a hiero-
glyphic they always mean ^' far from home/^ for one can
never get over their foreign air in a picture or landscape.
The silvery mohonono — which in the tropics is in form like
the cedar of Lebanon — stands in pleasing contrast with the
dark color of the motsouri, whose cypress-form is dotted
over at present with its pleasant scarlet fruit. Some trees
resemble the great spreading oak ; others assume the cha-
racter of our own elms and chestnuts; but no one can
imagine the beauty of the view from any thing witnessed
in England. It had never been seen before by European
eyes ; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by
angels in their flight. The only want felt is that of moun-
tains in the background. The fails are bounded on three
sides by ridges three hundred or four hundred feet in
height, which are covered with forest, with the red soil
appearing among the trees. When about half a mile from
the falls, I left the canoe by which we had come down
thus far, and embarked in a lighter one, with men well
acquainted with the rapids, who, by passizig down the
centre of the stream in the eddies and still places caused
by many jutting rocks, brought me to an island situated in
the middle of the river and on the edge of the hp over
which the water rolls. In coming hither there was danger
of being swept down by the streams which rushed along
on each side of the island; but the river was now low, and
we sailed where it is totally impossible to go when the
water is high. But, though we had reached the island,
and were within a few yards of the spot a view from
which would solve the whole problem^ I believe that no
one could perceive where the vast body of water went : it
seemed to lose itself in the earth, the opposite lip of the
fissure into which it disappeared being only eighty feet
distant. At least I did not comprehend it until, creeping
with awe to the verge, I peered down into a large rent
which had been made from bank to bank of the broad
Zambesi, and saw that a stream of a thousand yards broad


*euped down a hundred feet and then became suddenly
compressed into a space of fifteen or twenty yards. The
er.tire falls are simply a crack made in a hard basaltic
rock from the right to the left bank of the Zambesi, and
then prolonged from the left bank away through thirty or
forty miles of hills. If one imagines the Thames filled
with low, tree-covered hills immediately beyond the tunnel,
extending as far as Gravesend, the bed of black basaltic
rock instead of London mud, and a fissure made therein
ii'om one end of the tunnel to the other down through the
keystones of the arch, and prolonged from the left end of
the tunnel through thirty miles of hills, the pathway being
one hundred feet down from the bed of the river instead
of what it is, with the lips of the fissure from eighty to
one hundred feet apart, then fancy the Thames leaping
boldly into the gulf, and forced there to change its direc-
tion and flow from the right to the left bank and then
rush boiling and roaring through the hills, he may have
some idea of what takes place at this, the most wonderful
Bight I had witnessed in Africa. In looking down into the
fissure on the right of the island, one sees nothing but a
dense white cloud, which, at the time we visited the spot,
had two bright rainbows on it. (The sun was on the
meridian, and the declination about equal to the latitude
of the place.) From this cloud rushed up a great jet of
vapor exactly like steam, and it mounted two hundred or
three hundred feet high; there, condensing, it changed ita
hue to that of dark smoke, and came back in a constant
shower, which soon wetted us to the skin. This shower
falls chiefly on the opposite side of the fissure, and a few
yards back from the lip there stands a straight hedge of
evergreen trees, whose leaves are always wet. From their
roots a number of little rills run back into the gulf; but,
as they flow down the steep wall there, the column of
vapor, in its ascent, licks them up clean off" the rock, and
away they mount again. They are constantly running
'down, but never reach the bottom.


On the left of tlie island we see the water at the bottom,
a white rolling mass moving away to the prolongation of
the fissure, which branches off near the left bank of the
river. A piece of the rock has fallen off a spot on the left
of the island, and juts out from the water below, and from
it I judged the distance which the water falls to be about
one hundred feet. The walls of this gigantic crack are
perpendicular, and composed of one homogeneous mass of
rock. The edge of that side over which the water falls is
worn off two or three feet, and pieces have fallen away, so
as to give it somewhat of a serrated appearance. That
over which the water does not fall is quite straight, except
at the left corner, where a rent appears and a piece seems
inclined to fall off. Upon the whole, it is nearly in the
state in which it was left at the period of its formation.
The rock is dark brown in color, except about ten feet from
the bottom, which is discolored by the annual rise of the
water to that or a greater height. On the left side of the
island we have a good view of the mass of water which
causes one of the columns of vapor to ascend, as it leaps
quite clear of the rock, and forms a thick unbroken fleece
all the way to the bottom. Its whiteness gave the idea of
snow, a sight I had not seen for many a day. As it broke
into (if I may use the term) pieces of water all rushing on
m the same direction, each gave off several rays of foam,
exactly as bits of steel, when burned in oxygen gas, give
off rays of sparks. The snow-white sheet seemed like
myriads of small comets rushing on in one direction, each
of which left behind its nucleus-rays of foam. I never saw
the appearance referred to noticed elsewhere. It seemed
to be the effect of the mass of water leaping at once clear
of the rock and but slowly breaking up into s.pray.

I have mentioned that we saw five columns of vapoi
ascending from this strange abyss. They are evidently
formed by the compression suffered by the force of the
water's own fall into an unyielding wedge-shaped space.
Of the five columns^ two on the right and one on the left of


the island were the largest, and the streams which formed
them seemed each to exceed in size the falls of the Clyde
at Stonebyres when that river is in flood. This was the
period of low- water in the Leeambye; but, as far as I
could guess, there was a flow of five or six hundred yards
of water^ which, at the edge of the fall, seemed at least
three feet deep.

Having feasted my eyes long on the beautiful sight, I

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 27 of 36)