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 30 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 30 of 36)
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The precipitous nature of the sides of this mass of hills
knocked up the oxen and forced us to slaughter two, one
of which — a very large one, and ornamented with upward
of thirty pieces of its own skin detached and hanging
down — Sekeletu had wished us to take to the white people
as a specimen of his cattle. We saw many elephants among
the hills, and my men ran off and killed three. When we
came to the top of the outer range of the hills, we had a
glorious view. At a short distance below us we saw the
Kafue, wending away over a forest-clad plain to the con-
fluence, and on the other side of the Zambesi, beyond that,
lay a long range of dark hills. A line of fleecy clouds
appeared lying along the course of that river at their base.
The plain below us, at the left of the Kafue, had more large
game on it than anywhere else I had seen in Africa.
Hundreds of buffaloes and zebras grazed on the open spaces,
and there stood lordly elephants feeding majestically,
nothing moving apparently but the proboscis. I wished
that I had been able to take a photograph of a scene so
seldom V-eheld, and which is destined, as gun^ increase, to
pass away from earth. When we descended, ire found all
the animals remarkably tame. The elephants stood beneath
the trees, fanning themselves with their large ears, as if
they did not see us at 200 or 300 yards' distance. The
number of animals was quite astonishing, and made mo
think that here I could realize an image of that time when
Megatheria fed undisturbed in the primeval forests.

We tried to leave one morning, but the rain, coming on
afresh, brought us to a stand, and after waiting an hour,
wet to the skin, we were fain to retrace our steps to our
sheds. These rains were from the east, and the clouds
might be seen on the hills exactly as the ^^Table-cloth'' on
Table Mountain. This was the first wetting we had got
Bince w© left Sesheke, for I had gained some experience in


travelling. In Londa we braved the rain, and, as I despised
being carried in our frequent passage through running
water, I was pretty constantly drenched; but now, when
we saw a storm coming, we invariably halted. The men
soon pulled grass sufficient to make a little shelter for
themselves by placing it on a bush, and, having got my
camp-stool and umbrella, with a little grass under my feet,
I kept myself perfectly dry. We also lighted large fires,
and the men were not chilled by streams of water running
down their persons and abstracting the heat, as they would
have been had they been exposed to the rain. When it
was over they warmed themselves by the fires, and we
travelled on comfortably. The effect of this care was that
we had much less sickness than with a smaller party in
journeying to Loanda. Another improvement made from
my experience was avoiding an entire change of diet. In
going to Loanda I took little or no European food, in order
not to burden my men and make them lose spirit, but
trusted entirely to what might be got by the gun and the
liberality of the Balonda; but on this journey I took some
flour which had been left in the wagon, with some got on
the island, and baked my own bread all the way in an ex-
temporaneous oven made by an inverted pot. W th these
precautions, aided, no doubt, by the greater healthiness
of the district over which we passed, I enjoyed perfect

When we left the Chipongo on the 30th, we passed among
the range of hills on our left, which are composed of mica
and clay slate. At the bottom we found a forest of large
sib'cified trees, all lying as if the elevation of the range had
made them fall away from it and toward the river. The
numbers of large game were quite astonishing. I never
saw elephants so tame as those near the Chiponga : they
stood close to our path without being the least afraid.
This is different from their conduct where they have been
accustomed to guns, for there they take alarm at the dis-
tance of a mile, and begin to run if a shot is fired even at


a longer distance. My racn killed another here, and re-
warded the villagers of the Chiponga for their liberality in
meal by loading them with flesh. We spent a night at a
baobab, which was hollow and would hold twenty men
inside. It had been used as a lodging-house by the Babisa.
As we approached nearer the Zambesi, the country became
covered with broad-leaved bushes, pretty thickly planted,
and we had several times to shout to elephants to get out
of our way. At an open space, a herd of buffaloes came
trotting up to look at our oxen ; and it was only by shooting
one that I made them retreat. The meat is very much like
that of an ox, and this one was very fine. The only danger
Ave actually encountered was from a female elephant, with
three young ones of different sizes. Charging through the
centre of our extended line, and causing the men to throw
down their burdens in a great hurry, she received a spear
for her temerity. I never saw an elephant with more
than one calf before. We knew that we were near our
Zambesi again, even before the great river burst upon our
sight, by the numbers of waterfowl we met. I killed
four geese with two shots, and, had I followed the wishes
of my men, could have secured a meal of waterfowl for
the whole party. I never saw a river with so much animal
life around and in it, and, as the Barotse say, ^' Its fish and
fowl are always fat.^' When our eyes were gladdened by a
view of its goodly broad waters, we found it very much
larger than it is even above the falls. One might try to
make his voice heard across it in vain. Its flow was more
rapid than near Sesheke, being often four and a half miles
an hour; and, what I never saw before, the water was dis-
colored and of a deep brownish red. In the great valley
the Leeambye never becomes of this color. The adjacent
country, so far north as is known, is all level, and the soil,
being generally covered with dense herbage, is not abraded;
but on the eastern ridge the case is different : the grass is
short, and, the elevation being great, the soil is washed
down by the streams, and hence the discoloration which



we now view. The same thing was observed on the tvestem
ridge. We never saw discoloration till we reached the
Quango : that obtained its matter from the western slope
of the western ridge, just as this part of the Zambesi
receives its soil from the eastern slope of the eastern ridge.
It carried a considerable quantity of wreck of reeds, sticks,
and trees. We struck upon the river about eight miles east
of the confluence with the Kafue, and thereby missed a
sight of that interesting point. The cloudiness of the
weather was such that but few observations could be made
for determining our position; so, pursuing our course, we
went down the left; bank, and came opposite the island of
Menye makaba. The Zambesi contains numerous islands :
this was about a mile and a half or two miles long and up-
ward of a quarter of a mile broad. Besides human popu-
lation, it has a herd of buffaloes that never leave it. In
the distance they seemed to be upward of sixty. The
human and brute inhabitants understand each other; for
when the former think they ought to avenge the liberties
committed on their gardens, the leaders of the latter come
out boldly to give battle. They told us that the only time
in which they can thin them is when the river is full and
part of the island flooded. They then attack them from
their canoes. The comparatively small space to which
they have confined themselves shows how luxuriant the
vegetation of this region is ; for were they in want of more
pasture, as buffaloes can swim well, and the distance from
this bank to the island is not much more than 200 yards,
they might easily remove hither. The opposite bank ia
much more distant.

Eanges of hills appear now to run parallel with the
Zambesi, and are about fifteen miles apart. Those on the
north approach nearest to the river. The inhabitants on
that side are the Batonga, those on the south bank are
the Banyai. The hills abound in buffaloes, and elephants
are numerous; and many are killed by the people on
both banks. They erect stages on high trees overhang.


ing the paths by which the elephants come, and then use
a large spear with a handle nearly as thick as a man's
wrist, and four or five feet long. When the animal
comes beneath they throw the spear, and if it enters be-
tween the ribs above, as the blade is at least twenty inches
long by two broad, the motion of the handle, as it is aided
by knocking against the trees, makes frightful gashes
within and soon causes death. They kill them also by
means of a spear inserted in a beam of wood, which being
suspended on a branch of a tree by a cord attached to a
latch fastened in the path and intended to be struck by
the animaFs foot, leads to the fall of the beam, and, the
spear being poisoned, causes death in a few hours.

We were detained by continuous rains several days at
this island. The clouds rested upon the tops of the hills as
they came from the eastward, and then poured down plen-
teous showers on the valleys below. As soon as we could
move, Tomba Nyama, the head-man of the island, volun-
teered the loan of a canoe to cross a small river, called
the Chongwe, which we found to be about fifty or sixty
yards broad and flooded. All this part of the country was
well known to Sekwebu; and he informed us that, when
he passed through it as a boy, the inhabitants possessed
abundance of cattle and there were no tsetse. The exist-
ence of the insect now shows that it may return in com-
pany with the larger game. The vegetation along the
bank was exceedingly rank, and the bushes so tangled that
it was difficult to get on. The paths had been made by the
wild animals alone, for the general pathway of the people
is the river, in their canoes. We usually followed the foot-
paths of the game ; and of these there was no lack. Buf-
faloes, zebras, pallahs, and waterbucks abound ; and thero
is also a great abundance of wild pigs, koodoos, and the
black antelope. We got one buffalo as he was rolling him-
jelf in a pool of mud. He had a large piece of skin torii
out of his flank, it was believed, by an alligator.

We were struck by th 3 fact that, as soon as wo came


between the ranges of hills which flank the Zambesi, tlie
rains felt warm. At sunrise the thermometer stood at from
82° to 86° ; at mid-day in the coolest shade, namely, in my
little tent under a shady tree, at 96° to 98° ; and at sunset
it is 86°. This is different from any thing we experienced
in the interior; for these rains always- bring down the mer-
cury to 72° or even 68°. There, too, we found a small,
black coleopterous insect, which stung like the mosquito
but injected less poison : it puts us in mind of that insect,
which does not exist in the high lands we had left.

January 6, 1856. — Each village we passed furnished us
with a couple of men to take us on to the next. They
were useful in showing us the parts least covered with
jungle. When we came near a village, we saw men,
women, and children employed in weeding their gardens,
they being great agriculturists. Most of the men are
muscular, and have large ploughman-hands. Their color
is the same admixture — from very dark to light olive —
that we saw in Londa. Though all have thick lips and
flat noses, only the more degraded of the population pos-
sess the ugly negro physiognomy. They mark themselves
by a line of little raised cicatrices, each of which is a quar-
ter of an inch long : they extend from the tip of the noso
to the root of the hair on the forehead. It is remarkable
that I never met with an albino in crossing Africa,
though, from accounts published by the Portuguese, 1 was
led to expect that they were held in favor as doctors by
certain chiefs. I saw several in the south : one at Kuru-
man is a full-grown woman, and a man having this pecu-
liarity of skin was met with in the colony. Their bodies
are always blistered on exposure to the sun, as the skin
is more tender than that of the blacks. The Ktruman
woman lived some time at Kolobeng, and generally had on
her bosom and shoulders the remains of large b isters.
She was most anxious to be made black; but nitrate of
silver, taken internally, did not produce its usual eff'ect.
During the time I resided at Mabotsa, a woman camo ^

"TLOLO." ^ 805

the station with a fine boy, an albino. The father had
ordered her to throw him away; but she clung to hei
oflspring for many years. He was remarkably intelligent
for his age. The pupil of the eye was of a pink color, and
the eye itself was unsteady in vision. The hair, or vathei
wool, was yellow, and the features were those common
among the Bechuanas. After I left the place, the mother
is said to have become tired of living apart from the father,
who refused to have her while she retained the son. She
took him out one day and killed him close to the village of
Mabotsa, and nothing was done to her by the authorities.
From having met with no albinos in Londa, I suspect they
are there also put to death. We saw one dwarf only in
Londa, and brands on him showed he h<^d once been a
slave ; and there is one dwarf woman at Linyanti. The
general absence of deformed persons is partly owing to
their destruction in infancy, and partly to the mode of life
being a natural one so far as ventilation and food are con-
cerned. They use but few unwholesome mixtures as con-
diments, and, though their undress exposes them to the
vicissitudes of the temperature, it does not harbor vomites.
It was observed that, when smallpox and measles visited
the country, they were most severe on the half-castes who
were clothed. In several tribes, a child which is said to
^' tlola" (transgress) is put to death. " Tlolo," or trans-
gression, is ascribed to several curious cases. A child who
cut the upper front teeth before the under was always put
to death among the Bakaa, and, I believe, also among the
Bakwains. In some tribes, a case of twins renders one of
them liable to death ; and an ox which, while lying in the
Den, beats the ground with its tail, is treated in the same
way. It is thought to be calling death to visit the tribe.
When I was coming through Londa, my men carried a
great number of fowls, of a larger breed than any they
had at home. If one crowed before midnight, it had been
guilty of "tlolo," and was killed. The men often carried
them sitting on their guns, and, if one began to crow in a



forest, the owner would give it a beating, by way of teach-
ing it not to be guilty of crowing at unseasonable hours.

The women here are in the habit of piercing the upjier
Up and gradually enlarging the orifice until they can insert
a shell. The lip then appears drawn out beyond the per-
pendicular of the nose, and gives them a most ungainly
aspect. Sekwebu remarked, " These women want to make
their mouths like those of ducks;" and, indeed, it does
appear as if they had the idea that female beauty of lip
had been attained by the Ornithorhynchus paradoxus alone.
This custom prevails throughout the country of the Maravi,
and no one could see it without confessing that fashion had
never led women to a freak more mad. We had rains now
every day, and considerable cloudiness ; but the sun often
burst through with scorching intensity. All call out against
it then, saying, " Oh, the sun •! that is rain again.'' It is
worth noticing that my companions never complained of
the heat while on the highlands; but when we descended
into the lowlands of Angola, and here also, they began to
fret on account of it. I myself felt an oppressive steami-
ness in the atmosphere which I had not experienced on
the higher lands.

As the game was abundant and my party very large, I
had still to supply their wants with the gun. We slaugh-
tered the oxen only when unsuccessful in hunting. We
always entered into friendly relations with the head-men
of the different villages, and they presented grain and other
food freely. One man gave a basinful of rice, — the first
we met with in the country. It is never seen in the in-
terior. He said he knew it was ^' white man's corn," and,
when I wished to buy some more, he asked me to give him
a slave. This was the first symptom of the slave-trade on
this side of the country. The last of these friendly head
men was named Mobala ; and, having passed him in peace,
we had no anticipation of any thing else ; but after a few
hours we reached Selole or Chilole, and found that he not
only considered us enemies, but had actually sent an ex-

selole's hostility. 367

press to raise the tribe of Mburuma against us. All the
women c f Selole had fled, and the few people we met ex-
liibited Ligns of terror. An armed party had come from
Mburuma in obedience to the call ; but the head-man of
the com])any, being Mburuma's brother, suspecting that it
was a hoax, came to our encampment and told us the whole.
When wo explained our objects, he told us that Mburuma, he
had no doubt, would receive us well. The reason why Se-
lole acted in this foolish manner we afterward found to be
this : an Italian named Simoens, and nicknamed Siriatomba,
(don't eat tobacco,) had married the daughter of a chief
called Sekokole, living north of Tete. He armed a party
of fifty slaves with guns, and, ascending the river in canoes
some distance beyond the island Meya makaba, attacked
several inhabited islands beyond, securing a large number
of prisoners and much ivory. On his return, the different
chiefs — at the instigation of his father-in-law, who also did
not wish him to set up as chief — united, attacked and dis-
persed the party of Simoens, and killed him while trying
to escape on foot, Selole imagined that I was another
Italian, or, as he expressed it, " Siriatomba risen from the
dead.*' In his message to Mburuma he even said that
Mobala, and all the villages beyond, were utterly destroyed
by our fire-arms; but the sight of Mobala himself, who had
come to the village of Selole, led the brother of Mburuma
to see at once that it was all a hoax. But for this the
foolish fellow Selole might have given us trouble.

We saw many of the liberated captives of this Italian
among the villages here, and Sekwebu found them to be
Matebele. The brother of Mburuma had a gun, which was
the first we had seen in coming eastward. Before we
reached Mburuma, my men went to attack a troop of ele-
phants, as they were much in need of meat. When the
troop began to run, one of them fell into a hole, and before
he could extricate himself an opportunity was afforded foi
all the men to throw their spears. When he rose he was
like a huge porcupine, for each of the seventy or eighty men

868 elephants' tenacity of life.

had discharged more than one spear at him. As they had no
more, they sent for me to finish him. In order to put him
at once out of pain, I went to within twenty yards, there
being a bank between us which he 30uld not readily climb.
I rested the gun upon an ant-hill, so as to take a steady
aim; but, though I fired twelve two-ounce bullets (all I
had) into different parts, I could not kill him. As it was
becoming dark, I advised my men to let him stand, being
sure of finding him dead in the morning ; but, though we
searched all the next day, and went more than ten miles,
we never saw him again. 1 mention this to young men
who may think that they will be able to hunt elephants
on foot by adopting the Ceylon practice of killing them
by one ball in the brain. I believe that in Africa the
practice of standing before an elephant, expecting to kill
him with one shot, would be certain death to the hunter ;
and I would add for the information of those who may
think that, because I met with a great abundance of game
here, they also might find rare sport, that the tsetse exists
all along both banks of the Zambesi, and there can be no
hunting by means of horses. Hunting on foot in this climate
is such excessively hard work that I feel certain the keenest
sportsman would very soon turn away from it in disgust.
I myself was rather glad, when furnished with the excuse
that I had no longer any balls, to hand over all the hunting
to my men, who had no more love for the sport than myself,
as they never engaged in it except when forced by hunger.
Some of them gave me a hint to melt down my plate by
asking if it were not lead. I had two pewter plates and a
piece of zinc, which I now melted into bullets. I also spent
the remainder of my handkerchief^ in buying spears for
them. My men frequently surrounded herds of buffaloes
and killed numbers of the calves. 1, too, exerted myself
greatly; but, as 1 am now obliged to shoot with the left
arm, I am a bad shot, and this, with the lightness of the
bullets, made me very unsuccessful. The more the hunger,
the less my suco^ss, invariably


I may hero add an adventure with an elephant of ono
who has had more narrow escapes than any man living,
but whose modesty has always prevented him from publish-
ing any thing about himself. When we were on the banks of
the Zouga in 1850, Mr. Oswell pursued one of these animals
into the dense, thick, thorny bushes met with on the margin
of that river, and to which the elephant usually flees for
safety. He followed through a narrow pathway by lifting
up some of the branches and forcing his way through the
i-est; but, when he had just got over this difficulty, he saw
the elephant, whose tail he had but got glimpses of before,
now rushing toward him. There was then no time to lift up
branches; so he tried to force the horse through them. Ho
could not effect a passage; and, as there was but an instant
between the attempt and failure, the hunter tried to dis-
mount, but in doing this one foot was caught by a branch,
and the spur drawn along the animal's flank; this made
him spring away and throw the rider on the ground with
his face to the elephant, which, being in full chase, still
went on. Mr. Oswell saw the huge fore-foot about to de-
scend on his legs, parted them, and drew in his breath as
if to resist the pressure of the other foot, which he expected
would next descend on his body. He saw the whole
length of the under part of the enormous brute pass over
him : the horse got away safely. I have heard of but ono
other authentic instance in which an elephant went over a
man without injury, and, for any one who knows the nature
of the bush in which this occurred, the very thought of an
encounter in it with such a foe is appalling. As the thorns
are placed in pairs on opposite sides of the branches, and
these turn round on being pressed against, one pair brings
the other exactly into the position in which it must pierce
the intruder. They cut like knives. Horses dread this
bush extremely; indeed, most of them refuse to face its

On reaching Mburuma's village, his brother came to
meet us. We explained the reason of our delay, and h«

370 mburuma's village and people.

told us that we were looked upon with alarm. He Baid
that Siriatomba had been killed near the village of Selole,
and hence that man's fears. He added that the Italian had
come talking of peace, as we did, but had kidnapped chil-
dren and bought ivory with them, and that we were sup-
posed to be following the same calling. I pointed to my
men, and asked if any of these were slaves, and if we had
any children among them, and I think we satisfied him that
we were true men. Eeferring to our ill success in hunting
the day before, he said, "The man at whose village you
remained was in fault in allowing you to want meat, for be
had only to run across to Mburuma; he would have given
him a little meal, and, having sprinkled that on the ground
as an offering to the gods, you would have found your
elephant." The chiefs in these parts take upon themselves
an office somewhat like the priesthood, and the peo]»ld
imagine that they can propitiate the Deity through them.
In illustration of their ideas, it may be mentioned that,
when we were among the tribes west of Semalembue,
several of the people came forward and introduced them
selves, — one as a hunter of elephants, another as a hunter
of hippopotami, a third as a digger of pitfalls, — apparently
wishing me to give them medicine for success in theii
avocations, as well as to cure the diseases of those to

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 30 of 36)