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 28 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 28 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

returned to my friends at Kalai, and, saying to Sekeletu
that he had nothing else worth showing in his country, his
curiosity was excited to visit it the next day. I returned
with the intention of taking a lunar observation from the
island itself; but the clouds were unfavorable, consequently
all my determinations of position refer to Kalai. (Lat. ly
51' 54" S., long. 25° 41' E.) Sekeletu acknowledged to feel-
ing a little nervous at the probability of being sucked into
the gulf before reaching the island. His companions
amused themselves by throwing stones down, and won-
dered to see them diminishing in size, and even disappear-
ing, before they reached the water at the bottom

I had another object in view in my return to the island.
I observed that it was covered with trees, the seeds of
which had probably come down with the stream from the
distant north, and several of which I had seen nowhere
else, and every now and then the wind wafted a little of
the condensed vapor over it, and kept the soil in a state (»f
moisture, which caused a sward of grass, growing as green
as on an English lawn. I selected a spot — not too near
the chasm, for there the constant deposition of the moisture
nourished numberb of polyp' of a mushroom shape and
fleshy consistence, but somewhat back — and made a little
garden. I there planted about a hundred peach and apricct
stones, and a quantity of cofl'ee-seeds. I had attempted
fruit-trees before, but, when left in charge of my Makololo
friends, they were always allowed to wither, after having
vegetated, by being forgotten. I bargained for a hedgo
with one of the Makololo, and, if he is faithful, I have great


hopes of Mosioatunya's abilities as a nursery-man. My
only source of fear is the hippopotami, whose footprints J
saw on the island. When the garden was prepared, I cut
my initials on a tree, and the date 1855. This was the only
instance in which I indulged in this piece of vanity. The
garden stands in front, and, were there no hippopotami, I
have no doubt but this will be the parent of all the gardens
which may yet be in this new country. We then went up
to Kalai again.

20th November. — Sekeletu 'and his large party having
conveyed me thus far, and furnished me with a company
of one hundred and fourteen men to carry the tasks to the
coast, we bade adieu to the Makololo and proceeded north-
ward to the Lekone. The country around is very beautiful,
and was once well peopled with Batoka, who possessed
enormous herds of cattle. When Sebituane came in former
times, with his small but warlike party of Makololo, to
this spot, a general ri^ng took place of the Batoka through
the whole country, in order to "eat him up;'' but his usual
success followed him, and, dispersing them, the Makololo
obtained so many cattle that they could not take any note
of the herds of sheep and goats. The tsetse has been
brought by buffaloes into some districts where formerly
cattle abounded. This obliged us to travel the first few
stages by night. We could not well detect the nature of
the country in the dim moonlight: the path, however,
seemed to lead along the high bank of what may have
been the ancient bed of the Zambesi before the fissure was
made. The Lekone now winds in it in an opposite direc-
tion to that in which the ancient river must have flowed.

lAth. — We remained a day at the village of Moyara.
Here the valley in which the Lekone flows trends away to
the eastward, while our course is more to the northeast-
The country is rocky and rough, the soil being red sand,
which is covered with beautiful green trees, yielding abun-
dance of wild fruits. The father of Moyara was a powerful
chief; but the son now sits among the ruins of the towix.


with four or five wives and very few people. At his hamlet
a number of stakes are planted in the ground, and I counted
fifty-four human skulls hung on their points. These were
Matebele, who, unable to approach Sebituane on the island
of Loyela, had returned sick and famishing. Moyara'a '
father took advantage of their reduced condition, and, after
putting them to death, mounted their heads in the Batoka
fashion. The old man who perpetrated this deed now lies
in the middle of his son's huts, with a lot of rotten ivory
over his grave. One cannot help feeling thankful that the
reign of such wretches is over. They inhabited the wholo
of this side of the country, and were probably the barrier to
the extension of the Portuguese commerce in this direction.
When looking at these skulls, I remarked to Moyara that
many of them were those of mere boys. He assented
readily, and pointed them out as such. I asked why hia
father had killed boys. ^' To show his fierceness," was the
answer. '^Is it fierceness to kill boys?'' '^ Yes: they had
no business here." When I told him that this would pro-
bably insure his own death if the Matebele came again, he
replied, "When I hear of their coming I shall hide the
bones." He was evidently proud of these trophies of
his father's ferocity; and I w^as assured by other Batoka
that few strangers ever returned from a visit to this quar-
ter. If a man wished to curry favor with a Batoka chief,
he ascertained when a stranger was about to leave, and
waylaid him at a distance from the town, and when he
brought his head back to the chief it was mounted as a
trophy, the different chiefs vicing with each other as to
which should mount the greatest number of skulls in his

Next day we came to Namilanga, or ^* The Well of Joy."
It is a small well dug beneath a very large fig-tree, the
shade of which renders the water dehghtfully cool. The
temperature through the day was 104° in the shade and 9-4°
after sunset, but the air was not at all oppressive. Thia
well receives its name from the fact that, in former times,


marauding-parties, in returning witli cattle, sat down here
and were regaled with boyaloa, music, and the lullilooing
of the women from the adjacent towns.

All the surrounding country was formerly densely peo-
pled, though now desolate and still. The old head-man
of the place told us that his father once went to Bambala,
where white traders lived, when our informant was a child,
and returned when he had become a boy of about ten years
He went again, and returned when it was time to knock
out his son's teeth. As that takes place at the age of
puberty, he must have spent at least five years in each
'ourney. He added that many who went there never re-
turned, because they liked that country better than this.
They had even forsaken their wives and children ; and
children had been so enticed and flattered by the finery
bestowed upon them there that they had disowued their
parents and adopted others. The place to which they had
gone, which they named Bambala, was probably Damba-
rari, which was situated close to Zumbo. This was the
first intimation we had of intercourse with the whites.
The Barotse, and all the other tribes in the central valley,
have no such tradition as this; nor have either the one or
the other any account of a trader's visit to them in ancient

All theBatoka tribes followthe curious custom of knock-
ing out the upper front teeth at the age of puberty. This
IS done by both sexes ; and though the under teeth, being
relieved from the attrition of the upper, grow long and
somewhat bent out and thereby cause the under lip to pro-
trude in a most unsightly way, no young woman thinks
herself accomplished until she has got rid of the upper in-
cisors. This custom gives all the Batoka an uncouth, old-
man-like appearance. Their laugh is hideous; yet they
are so attached to it that even Sebituane was unable to
eradicate the practice. He issued orders that none of the
children living under him should be subjected to the custom
by their parents, and disobedience to his mandates was


usually punished with severity; but, notwithstanding this,
the children would appear in the streets without their in-
cisors, and no one would confess to the deed. When ques-
toned respecting the origin of this 2)i*actice, the Batoka
reply that their object is to be like oxen, and those who
retain their teeth they consider to resemble zebras.
Whether this is the true reason or not it is difficult to
say; but it is noticeable that the veneration for oxen which
prevails in many tribes should be associated with hatred
to the zebra, as among the Bakwains, that this operation
is performed at the same age that circumcision is in other
tribes, and that here that ceremony is unknown. The
custom is so universal that a person who has his teeth is
considered ugly; and occasionally, when the Batoka bor-
rowed my looking-glass, the disparaging remark would bo
made respecting boys or girls who still retained their teeth,
'' Look at the great teeth !" Some of the Makololo give a
more facetious explanation of the custom : they say that,
the wife of a chief having in a quarrel bitten her husband's
hand, he, in revenge, ordered her front teeth to be knocked
out, and all the men in the tribe followed his example : but
this does not explain why they afterward knocked out
their own.

The Batoka of the Zambesi are generally very dark in
color, and very degraded and negro-like in appearance,
while those who live on the high lands we are now ascend-
ing are frequently of the color of coffee and milk. We
had a large number of the Batoka of Mokwine in our
party, sent by Sekeletu to carry his tusks. Their greater
degradation was probably caused by the treatment of their
chiefs, — the barbarians of the islands. I found them more
difficult to manage than any of the rest of .my companions,
being much less reasonable and impressible than the others.
My party consisted of the head-men aforementioned, Sok-
webu, and Kanyata. We were joined at the falls by
another head-man of the Makololo, named Monah^'a, in

command of the Batoka. We had also some of the Bana-
W 29


joa under Mosisinyane, and, last of all, a small party of
Bashubia and Barotse under Tuba Mokoro, which had been
furnished by Sekeletu because of their ability to swim
'^j'hey carried their paddles with them, and, as the Makololo
suggested, were able to swim over the rivers by night and
steal canoes if the inhabitants should be so unreasonable
as to refuse to lend them. These different parties assorted
together into messes : any orders were given through their
head-man, and when food was obtained he distributed it to
the mess. Each party knew its own spot in the encamp
ment; and, as this was always placed so that our backa
should be to the east, the direction from whence the pre-
vailing winds came, no time was lost in fixing the sheds of
our encampment. They each took it in turn to pull grass
to make my bed ; so I lay luxuriously.

November 26. — As the oxen could only move at night, in
consequence of a fear that the buffaloes in this quartei
might have introduced the tsetse, I usually performed the
march by day on foot, while some of the men brought on
the oxen by night. On coming to the villages undei
Marimba, an old man, we crossed the TJnguesi, a rivulet
which, like the Lekone, runs backward. It falls into the
Leeambye a little above the commencement of the rapids.

We passed the remains of a very large town, which, fronc
the only evidence of antiquity afforded by ruins in thib
country, must have been inhabited for a long period : the
millstones of gneiss, trap, and quartz were worn down two
and a half inches perpendicularly. The ivory gravestones
soon rot away. Those of Moyara's father, who must have
died not more than a dozen years ago, were crumbling into
powder ; and we found this to be generally the case all
over the Batoka country. The region around is pretty
well covered with forest ; but there is abundance of open
pasturage, and, as we are ascending in altitude, we find
the grass to be short and altogether unlike the tangled
herbage of the Barotse valley.





November 27. — Still at Marimba's. In the adjacent
country palms abound, but none of that species which
yields the oil : indeed, that is met with only near the
coast. There are numbers of flowers and bulbs just shoot-
ing up from the soil. The surface is rough and broken
into gullies; and, though the country is parched, it has
not that appearance, so many trees having put forth their
fresh green leaves at the time the rains ought to have
come. Among the rest stands the mola, with its dark
brownish-green color and spreading oak-like form. In the
distance there are ranges of low hills. On the north we
have one called Kanjele, and to the east that of Kaonka, to
which we proceed to-morrow. We have made a consider-
able detour to the north, both on account of our wish to
avoid the tsetse and to visit the people. Those of Kaonka
are the last Batoka we shall meet in friendship with tho

November 28. — The inhabitants of the last of Kaonka's
villages complained of being plundered by the independent
Batoka. The tribes in front of this are regarded by the
Makololo as in a state of rebellion. I promised to speak to
the rebels on the subject, and enjoined on Kaonka the duty
of giving them no offence. According to Sekeletu's order,
Kaonka gave us the tribute of maize-corn and groundnuts
which would otherwise have gone to Linyanti. This had
been done at every village, and we thereby saved the
people the trouble of a journey to the capital. My own
Batoka had brought away such loads of provisions from
their homes that we were in no want of food.


After leaving Kaonka, we travelled over an uninhabited,
gently-undulating, and most beautiful district, the border-
territory between those who accept and those who reject
the sway of the Makololo. The face of the country appears
as if in long waves running north and south. There are
no rivers, though water stands in pools in the hollows.
We were now come into the country which my people all
magnify as a perfect paradise. Sebituane was driven from
it by the Matebele. It suited him exactly for cattle, corn,
and health. The soil is dr}^, and often a reddish sand :
there are few trees, but fine large shady ones stand dotted
here and there over the country where towns formerly
stood. One of the fig family I measured and found to be
forty feet in circumference ; the heart had been burned out,
and some one had made a lodging m it, for we saw the
remains of a bed and a fire. The sight of the open country,
with the increased altitude we were attaining, was most
refreshing to the spirits. Large game abound. We see in
the distance buffaloes, elands, hartebeest, gnus, and ele-
phants, all very tame, as no one disturbs them. Lions,
which always accompany other large animals, roared about
us; but, as it was moonlight, there was no danger. In the
evening, while standing on a mass of granite, one began to
roar at me, though it was still light. The temperature was
pleasant, as the rains, though not universal, had fallen in
many places. It was very cloudy, preventing observations.
The temperature at 6 a.m. was 70°, at mid-day 90°, in the
evening 84°. This is very pleasant on the high lands, with
but little moisture in the air.

On the 30th we crossed the river Kalomo, which is about
fifty yards broad, and is the only stream that never drioH
ap on this ridge. The current is rapid, and its course is
toward the south, as it joins the Zambesi at some distance
below the falls. The Unguesi and Lekone, with their
feeders, flow westward, this river to the south, and all
those to which we are about to come take an easterly di-
rection. We were thus at the apex of the ridge, and found


that, as water boiled at 202°, our altitude above the Icve!
of the sea was over 5000 feet.

We met an elej)hant on the Kalomo which had no* tusks
This is as rare a thing in Africa as it is to find them witK
tusks in Ceylon. As soon as she saw us she made off. It
is remarkable to see the fear of man operating even on this
huge beast. Buffaloes abound, and we see large herds of
them feeding in all directions by day. When much dis-
turbed by man, they retire into the densest parts of the
forest and feed by night only. We secured a fine large
bull by crawling close to a herd. When shot, he fell down,
and the rest, not seeing their enemy, gazed about, wonder-
ing where the danger lay. The others came back to it,
and, when we showed ourselves, much to the amusement
of my companions, they lifted him up with their horns,
and, half supporting him in the crowd, bore him away.
All these wild animals usually gore a wounded companion
and expel him from the herd; even zebras bite and kick
an unfortunate or a diseased one. It is intended by this
instinct that none but the perfect and healthy ones should
propagate the species. In this case they manifested their
usual propensity to gore the wounded; but our appearance
at that moment caused them to take flight, and this, with
the goring being continued a little, gave my men the im-
pression that they were helping away their wounded com-
panion. He was shot between the fourth' and fifth ribs ;
the ball passed through both lungs and a rib on the oppo-
site side, and then lodged beneath the skin. But, though
it was eight ounces in weight, yet he ran off some distance,
and was secured only by the people driving him into a pool
of water and killing him there with their spears. The
herd ran away in the direction of our camp, and then came
bounding past us again. We took refuge on a large ant-
hill, and as they rushed by us at full gallop I had a good
opportunity of seeing that the leader of a herd of about
sixty was an old cow : all the others allowed her a full
half-length in their front. On her withers sat about twenty



buffalo-birds, {Textor erythrorhynchus, Smith,) which aft Mjg
part of guardian spirits to the animals. When the buffalo
is quietly feeding, this bird may be seen hopping on the
ground picking up food, or sitting on its back ridding it of
the insects with which their skins are sometimes infested.
The sight of the bird being much more acute than that of
the buffalo, it is soon alarmed by the approach of any dan-
ger, and, flying up, the buffaloes instantly raise their heads
to discover the cause which has led to the sudden flight of
their guardian. They sometimes accompany the buffaloes
in their flight on the wing; at other times they sit as above

Another African bird — namely, the Buphaga Africana —
attends the rhinoceros for a similar purpose. It is called
*^kala'' in the language of the Bechuanas. When these
people wish to express their dependence upon another,
they address him as "my rhinoceros,^' as if they were the
birds. The satellites of a chief go by the same name
This bird cannot be said to depend entirely on the insects
on that animal, for its hard, hairless skin is a protection
against all except a few spotted ticks; but it seems to bo
attached to the beast somewhat as the domestic dog is to
man; and, while the buffalo is alarmed by the sudden flying
up of its sentinel, the rhinoceros, not having keen sight,
but an acute ear, is warned by the cry of its associate, the
Buphaga Africana. The rhinoceros feeds by night, and its
sentinel is frequently heard in the morning uttering its
well-known call as it searches for its bulky companion.
One species of this bird, observed in Angola, possesses a bill of
a peculiar scoop or stone-forceps form, as if intended only
to tear off insects from the skin; and its claws are as sharp
as needles, enabling it to hang on to an animal's ear whilo
performing a useful service within it. This sharpness of
the claws allows the bird to cling to the nearly-insensible
cuticle without irritating the nerves of pain on the true
skin, exactly as a burr does to the human hand; but, in the
case of the Bnpliaga Africana and erythrorhyncha, other


food is partaken of, for we observed flocks of them roosting
on the reeds in spots where neither tame nor wild animals
were to be found.

The most wary animal in a herd is generally the "leader."
When it is shot, the others often seem at a loss what to do
and stop in a state of bewilderment. I have seen them
then attempt to follow each other, and appear quite con-
fused, no one knowing for half a minute or more where to
direct the flight. On one occasion I happened to shoot the
leader, a young zebra mare, which at some former time
had been bitten on the hind-leg by a carnivorous animal,
and, thereby made unusually wary, had, in consequence,
become a leader. If they see either one of their own herd
or any other animal taking to flight, wild animals invariably
flee. The most timid thus naturally leads the rest. It is
not any other peculiarity, but simply this provision, which
is given them for thx3 preservation of the race. The great
increase of wariness which is seen to occur when the females
bring forth their young, causes aU the leaders to be at that
time females ; and there is a probability that the separa-
tion of sexes into distinct herds, which is annually observed
in many antelopes, arising from the simple fact that the
greater caution of the she antelopes is partaken of only by
the young males, and their more frequent flights now have
the efl'ect of leaving the old males behind. I am inclined
to believe this, because they are never seen in the act of
expelling the males.

December 2, 1855. — We remained near a small hill, called
Maun do, where we began to be frequently invited by the
honey-guide, (Cuculus indicator.) Wishing to ascertain the
truth of the native assertion that this bird is a deceiver,
and by its call sometimes leads to a wild beast and not to
honey, I inquired if any of my men had ever been led by
this friendly little bird to any thing else than what its
name implies. Only one of the one hundred and fourteen
could say Jie had been led to an elephant instead of a hive.
I am quite convinced that the majority of people who

344 sebituane's former residence

commit themselves to its guidance are led to honey, and tc
It alone.

On the 3d we crossed the river Mozuma, or river of Dila,
having travelled through a beautifully-undulating pastoral
country. To the south, and a little east of this, stands the
hill Taba Cheu, or " White Mountain," from a mass of white
rock, probably dolomite, on its top. But none of the hills
are of any great altitude.

At the river of Dila we saw the spot where Sebituane
lived, and Sekwebu pointed out the heaps of bones of cattle
which the Makololo had been obliged to slaughter after
performing a march with great herds captured from the
Batoka through a patch of the fatal tsetse. When Sebi-
tuane saw the symptoms of the poison, he gave orders to
his people to eat the cattle. He still had vast numbers ;
and when the Matebele, crossing the Zambesi opposite this
part, came to attack him, he invited the Batoka to take
repossession of their herds, he having so many as to be
unable to guide them in their flight. The country was at
that time exceedingly rich in cattle, and, besides pasturage,
it is all well adapted for the cultivation of native produce.
Being on the eastern slope of the ridge, it receives more
rain than any part of the westward. Sekwebu had been
instructed to point out to me the advantages of this posi-
tion for a settlement, as that which all the Makololo had
never ceased to regret. It needed no eulogy from Sek-
webu; I admired it myself, and the enjoyment of good
health in fine open scenery had an exhilarating eifect on
my spirits. The great want was population, the Batoka
having all taken refuge in the hills. We were now in the
vicinity of those whom the Makololo deem rebels, and felt
some anxiety as to how we should be received.

On the 4th we reached their first village. Eemaining at
a distance of a quarter of a mile, we sent two men to
inform them who we were and that our purposes were
peaceful. The head-man came and spoke civilly, but, when
nearly dark, the people of another village arrived and


beliavod very differently. They began bj^ trying to ppejir
a young man who had gone for water. Then they ap-
proached lis, and one came forward howling at the top of
his voice in the most hideous manner: his eyes were shot

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 28 of 36)