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 4 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 4 of 36)
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with the present of an ox. Sekomi's mother, who possesses
great influence over him, refused permission, because she
had not been propitiated. This produced a fresh message;
and the most honorable man in the Bakwain tribe, next
to Sechftle, was sent with an ox for both Sekomi and his
mother. This, too. was met by refusal. It was said,


* The Matebelc, the mortal enemies of the Bechuanas, are
m the direction of the lake, and, should they kill the white
man, we shall incur great blame from all his nation."

The exact position of the Lake Ngami had, for half a
century at least, beeu correctly pointed out by the natives,
who had visited it when rains were more copious in the
Desert than in more recent times, and many attempts had
been made to reach it by passing through the Desert in the
direction indicated; but it was found impossible, even for
Griquas, who, having some Bushman blood in them, may
be supposed more capable of enduring thirst than Euro-
peans. It was clear, then, that our only chance of suc-
cess was by going round, instead of through, the Desert.
The best time for the attempt would have been about the
end of the rainy season, in March or April, for then we
should have been likely to meet with pools of rain-water,
which always dry up during the rainless winter. I com-
municated my intention to an African traveller. Colonel
Steele, then aide-de-camp to the Marquis of Tweedale at
Madras, and he made it known to two other gentlemen,
whose friendship we had gained during their African travel,
namely, Major Vardon and Mr. Oswell. All of these gentle-
men were so enamored with, African hunting and African
discovery that the two former must have envied the latter
his good fortune in being able to leave India to undertake
afresh the pleasures and pains of desert life. I believe Mr.
Oswell came from his high position at a very considerable
pecuniary sacrifice, and with no other end in view but to
extend the boundaries of geographical knowledge. Before
I knew of his coming, I had arranged that the payment
of the guides furnished by Sechele should be the loan of
my wagon to bring hb k whatever ivory he might obtain
from the chief at the lake. When, at last, Mr. Oswell
came, bringing Mr. ]\^ jrray with him, he undertook to
defray the entire expe. se of the guides, and fully executed
his generous intention

Sechele himself wo'ld have come with us, but, fearing


that the much-talked-of assault of the Boers might take
place during our absence, and blame be attached to me for
taking him away, I dissuaded him against it by saying that
he knew Mr. Oswell ^< would be as determined as himself
to get through the Desert."



Just before the arrival of my companions, a party of the
people of the lake came to Kolobcng, stating that they
were sent by Lechulatebe, the chief, to ask me to visit
that country. They brought such flaming accounts of the
quantities of ivory to be found there, (cattle-pens made of
elephants' tusks of enormous size, &c.,) that the guides of
the Bakwains were quite as eager to succeed in reaching
the lake as any one of us could desire. This was fortunate,
as we knew the way the strangers had come was impass-
able for wagons.

Messrs. Oswell and Murray came at the end of May, and
we all made a fair start for the unknown region on the 1st
of June, 1849. Proceeding northward, and passing through
a range of tree-covered hills to Shokuane, ^'^rmerly the re-
sidence of the Bakwains, we soon after entered on the high
road to the Bamangwato, which lies generally in the bed
of an ancient river or wady that must formerly have flowed
N. to S.

Boatlanama, our next station, 's a lovely spot in the
otherwise dry region. The wells 'rom which we had to
lift out the water for our cattle j '-e deep, but they were
well filled. A few villages of Baka ahari were found near
them, and great numbers of pallah-*, springbucks, Guinea-
fowl, and small monkeys.

Lopepe came next Tliis place i^fforded another proo/








of the desiccation of the country. The first time I passed
it, Lopepe was a large pool with a stream flowing out of it
to the south; now it was with difficulty we could get our
cattle watered by digging down in the bottom of a well.

At Mashiie — where we found a never-failing supply of
pure water in a sandstone rocky hollow — we left the road
to the Bamangwato Hills, and struck away to the north
into the Desert. Having watered the cattle at a well called
Lobotani, about N. W. of Bamangwato, we next proceeded
to a real Kalahari fountain, called Serotli.

In the evening of our second day at Serotli, a hyena,
appearing suddenly among the grass, succeeded in raising
a panic among our cattle. This false mode of attack is
the plan which this cowardly animal always adopts. His
courage resembles closely that of a turkey-cock. He will
bite if an animal is running away ; but if the animal stand
still, so does he. Seventeen of our draught-oxen ran away,
and in their flight went right into the hands of Sekomi,
whom, from his being unfriendly to our success, we had no
particular wish to see. Cattle-stealing, such as in the cir-
cumstances might have occurred in Caffraria, is here un-
known; so Sekomi sent back our oxen, and a message
strongly dissuading us against attempting the Desert.
''Where are you going? You will be killed by the sun
and thirst, and then all the white men will blame me for
not saving you." This was backed by a private message
from his mother. '^ Why do you pass me ? I always made
the people collect to* hear the word that you have got.
What guilt have I, that you pass without looking at me ?"
We replied by assuring the messengers that the white men
would attribute our deaths to our own stupidity and ^'hard-
headedness,'' (tlogo, e thata,) "as we did not intend to
allow our companions and guides to return till they had
put us into our graves." We sent a handsome present to
Sekomi, and a promise that, if he allowed the Bakalahari
to keep the wells open for us, we would repeat the gift on
our return.


A Aer exhausting all his eloquence in tVuitless attempts
to persuade us to return, the under-chief, who headed the
party of Sekorai's messengers, inquired, ^'Who is taking
them?'^ Looking round, he exclaimed, with a face ex-
pressive of the most unfeigned disgust, '' It is Eamotobi V'
Our guide belonged to Sekomi's tribe, but had fled to
Sechele ; as fugitives in this country are always well re-
ceived, and may even afterward visit the tribe from which
they had escaped, Eamotobi was in no danger, though doing
that which he knew to be directly opposed to the interests
of his own chief and tribe. '

For sixty or seventy miles beyond Serotli, one clump of
bushes and trees seemed exactly like another; but, as we
walked together this morning, Eamotobi remarked, '* When
we come to that hollow we shall light upon the highway
of Sekomi; and beyond that again lies the river Mokoko;"
which, though we passed along it, I could not perceive to
be a river-bed at all.

After breakfast, some of the men, who had gone forward
on a little path with some footprints of water-loving
animals upon it, returned with the joyful tidings of
*'metse/' water, exhibiting the mud on their knees in con-
firmation of the news being true. It does one's heart good
to see the thirsty oxen rush into a pool of delicious rain-
water, as this was. In they dash until the water is deep
enough to be nearly level with their throat, and then they
stand drawing slowly in the long, refreshing mouthfuls^
until their formerly collapsed sides distend as if they would
burst. So much do they imbibe, that a sudden jerk, when
they come out on the bank, makes some of the water run
out again from their mouths ; but, as they have been days
without food too, they very soon commence to graze, and
of grass there is always abundance everywhere. This
pool was called Mathuluana ; and thankful we were to have
obtained so welcome a supply of water.

After giving the cattle a rest at this spot, we proceeded
down the dry bed of the river ^lokoko.


At Nchokotsa we came upon the first of a great number
of sa't-pans, covered with an efflorescence of lime, probably
the nitrate. A thick belt of mopane-trees (a Bauhinid)
hides this salt-pan, which is twenty miles in circumference,
entirely from the view of a person coming from the south-
east ; and, at the time the pan burst upon our view, the
setting sun was casting a beautiful blue haze over the white
incrustations, making the whole look exactly like a lake.
Oswell threw his hat up in the air at the sight, and shouted
out a huzza which made the poor Bushwoman and the
Bakwains think him mad. I was a little behind him, and
was as completely deceived by it as he; but, as we had
agreed to allow each other to behold the lake at the same
instant, I felt a little chagrined that he had, unintentionally,
got the first glance. We had no idea that the long-looked-
for lake was still more than three hundred miles distant.
One reason of our mistake was that the river Zouga was
often spoken of by the same name as the lake, — viz. : Noka
ea Batletli, Q' Eiver of the Batletli.'')

On the 4th of July we went forward on horseback toward
what we supposed to be the lake, and again and again did
we seem to see it; but at last we came to the veritable
water of the Zouga, and found it to be a river running to
the N.E. A village of Bakurutse lay on the opposite bank;
these live among Batletli, a tribe having a cHck in their
iwnguage, and who were found by Sebituane to possess large
herds of the great horned cattle. They seem allied to the
Hottentot family. Mr. Oswell, in trying to cross the river,
got his horse bogged in the swampy bank. Two Bakwaina
and I managed to get over by wading beside a fishing-weir.
The people were friendly, and informed us that this water
came out of Ngami. This news gladdened all our hearts,
for we now felt certain of reaching our goal. We might,
they said, be a moon on the way : but we had the river
Zouga at our feet, and by following it we should at last
reach the broad water.

Next day, when we were quite disposed to bo friendly


with every one, two of the Bamangwato, who had bton
Bent on before us by Sekomi to drive away all the Bushmen
and Bakalahari from our path, so that they should not
assist or guide us, came and sat down by our fire. We had
seen their footsteps fresh in the way, and they had watched
our slow movements forward, and wondered to see how we,
without any Bushmen, found our way to the waters. This
was the first time they had seen Eamotobi. "You have
reached the river now," said they; and we, quite disposed
to laugh at having won the game, felt no ill-will to any one.
They seemed to feel no enmity to us, either; but, after an
apparently friendly conversation, proceeded to fulfil to the
last the instructions of their chief. Ascending the Zouga
in our front, they circulated the report that our object was
to plunder all the tribes living on the river and lake; but
when they had got half-way up the river, the principal man
sickened of fever, turned back some distance, and died.
His death had a good effect, for the villagers connected it
with the injury he was attempting to do us. They all saw
through Sekomi's reasons for wishing us to fail in our at-
tempt; and, though they came to us at first armed, kind
and fair treatment soon produced perfect confidence.

When we had gone up the bank of this beautiful river
about ninety-six miles from the point where we first struck
it, and understood that we were still a considerable distance
from the Ngami, we left all the oxen and wagons, except
Mr. Oswell's, which was the smallest, and one team, at
Ngabisane, in the hope that they would be recruited for the
home journey, while we made a push for the lake. The
Bechuana chief of the Lake region, who had sent men to
ISechele, now sent orders to all the people on the river to
assist us, and we were received by the Bakoba, whose lan-
guage clearly shows that they bear an affinity to the tribes in
the north. They call themselves Bayeiye, i.e. men ; but the
Bechuanas call them Bakoba, which contains somewhat of
the idea of slaves. They have never been known to fight,
' And, indeed, have a tradition that their forefathers, in their


first essays at war, made their bows of the Palma Christi^
and, when these broke, they gave up fighting altogether.
They have invariably submitted to the rule of every horde
• which has overrun the countries adjacent to the rivers on
which they specially love to dwell. They are thus the
Quakers of the body politic in Africa.

Twelve days after our departure from the wagons at
N'gabisane we came to the northeast end of Lake Ngami;
and on the 1st of August, 1849, we went down together to
the broad part, and, for the first time, this fine-looking
sheet of water was beheld by Europeans. The direction
of the lake seemed to be N.N.E. and S.S.W. by compass.
The southern portion is said to bend round to the west, and
to receive the Teoughe from the north at its northwest
extremity. We could detect no horizon where we stood
looking S.S.W., nor could we form any idea of the extent
of the lake, except from the reports of the inhabitants of
the district; and, as they professed to go round it in three
days, allowing twenty-five miles a day would make it
seventy-five, or less than seventy geographical miles in cir-
cumference. Other guesses have been made since as to its
circumference, ranging between seventy and one hundred
miles. It is shallow, for I subsequently saw a native punt-
ing his canoe over seven or eight miles of the northeast
end ; it can never, therefore, be of much value aa a com-
mercial highway. In fact, during the months preceding
the annual supply of water from the north, the lake is so
shallow that it is with difficulty cattle can approach the
water through the boggy, reedy banks. These are low on
all sides, but on the west there is a space devoid of trees,
showing that the waters have retired thence at no very
ancient date. This is another of the proofs of desiccation
met with so abundantly throughout the whole country. A
number of dead trees lie on this space, some of them em-
bedded in the mud, right in the water. We were informed
by the Bayeiye, who live on the lake, that when the annual
inundation begins, not only trees of great size, but ante-









lopes, as the springbuck and tsessebc, (Acronotus lunata,) are
swept down by its rushing waters ; the trees are gradually
driven by the winds to the opposite side, and become em
bedded in the mud.

The water of the lake is perfectly fresh when full, hut
brackish when low; and that coming down the Tamunak'le
we fbund to be so clear, cold, and soft, the higher we
ascended, that the idea of melting snow was suggested to
our minds. We found this region, with regard to that from
which we had come, to be clearly a hollow, the lowest
point being Lake Kumadau ; the point of the ebullition of
water, as shown by one of Newman's barometric thermome-
ters, was only between 2074° and 206°, giving an elevation
of not much more than two thousand feet above the level of
the sea. We had descended above two thousand feet in
coming to it from Kolobeng. It is the southern and lowest
part of the great river-system beyond, in which large tracts
of country are inundated annually by tropical rains.

My chief object in coming to the lake was to visit Sebi- -"
tuane, the great chief of the Makololo, who was reported
to live some two hundred miles beyond. We had now
come to a half-tribe of the Bamangwato, called Batauana.
Their chief was a young man named Lechulatebo. Sebi-
tuane had conquered his father Moremi, and Lechulatebe
received part of his education while a captive among the
Bayeiye. His uncle, a sensible man, ransomed him, and,
having collected a number of families together, abdicated
the chieftainship in favor of his nephew. As Lechulatebe
had just come into power, he imagined that the proper
way of showing his abilities was to act directly contrary
to every thing that his uncle advised. When we came, tho
uncle recommended him to treat us handsomely : therefore
the hopeful youth presented us with a goat only. It ought
to have been an ox. So I proposed to my companions to
loose the animal and let him go, as a hint to his master.
They, however, did not wish to insult him. I, being more
of a native, and familiar with their customs, knew that


this shabby present was an insult to us. We wished to
purchase some goats or oxen ; Lechulatebo offered us ele-
phants' tusks. ''No, we cannot eat these; we want some-
thing to fill our stomachs.'' " Neither can I ; but I hear
you white men are all very fond of these bones; so I offer
them: I want to put the goats into my own stomach.^' A
trader, who accompanied us, was then purchasing ivory
at the rate of ten good large tusks for a musket worth
thirteen shillings. They were called "bones;" and I
myself saw eight instances in which the tusks had been
left to rot with the other bones where the elephant fell. The
Batauana never had a chance of a market before; but, in
less than two years after our discovery, not a man of them
could be found who was not keenly alive to the great value
of the article.

On the day after our arrival at the lake, I applied to
Lechulatebe for guides to Sebituane. As he was much
afraid of that chief, he objected, fearing lest other white
men should go thither also, and give Sebituane guns ;
whereas, if the traders came to him alone, the possession
of fire-arms would give him such a superiority that Sebi-
tuane would be afraid of him. It was ' in vain to explain
that I would inculcate peace between them, — that Sebi-
tuane had been a father to him and Sechele, and was as
anxious to see me as he, Lechulatebe, had been. He
offered to give me as much ivory as I needed without
going to that chief; but, when I refused to take any, he
unwillingly consented to give me guides. Next day, how-
ever, when Oswell and I were prepared to start, with the
horses only, we received a senseless refusal; and like Se-
komi, who had thrown obstacles in our way, he sent men
to the Bayeiye with orders to refuse us a passage across
the river. Trying hard to form a raft at a narrow part, i
worked many hours in the water ; but the dry wood was
so worm-eaten it would not bear the weight of a single
person. I was not then aware of the number of alligators
which exist in the Zouga, and never think of my labor in


tho water without feeling thankful that I escaped their
jaws. The season was now far advanced; and as Mr. Os-
weil, with his wonted generous feelings, volunteered, on
the spot, to go down to the Cape and bring up a boat, w*
resolved to make our way south again.





Having returned to Kolobeng, I remained there till
April, 1850, and then left in company with Mrs. Living-
stone, our three children, and the chief Sechele, — who had
now bought a wagon of his own, — in order to go across the
Zouga at its lower end, with the intention of proceeding
up the northern bank till we gained the Tamunak'le, and
of then ascending that river to visit Sebituane in the north.
Sekomi had given orders to fill up the wells which we had
dug with much labor at Serotli; so we took the more
eastern route through the Bamangwato town and by
Letloche. That chief asked why I had avoided him in our
former journeys. I replied that my reason was that I
knew he did not wish me to go to the lake, and I did not
want to quarrel with him. '^Well,'^ he said, ^'you beat
me then, and I am content.''

Parting with Sechele at the ford, as he was eager to
visit Lechulatebe, we went along the northern woody
bank of the Zouga with great labor, having to cut down
very many trees to allow the wagons to pass. Our losses
by oxen falling into pitfalls were very heavy. The Ba-
yeiye kindly opened the pits when they knew of our ap-


preach ; but, when that was not the case, we could blame
no one on finding an established custom of the country
inimical to our interests. On approaching the confluence
of the Tamunak'le we were informed that the fly called
tsetse* abounded on its banks. This was a barrier we
never expected to meet; and, as it might have brought
our wagons to a complete stand-still in a wilderness,
where no supplies for the children could be obtained,
we were reluctantly compelled to recross the Zouga.

From the Bayeiye we learned that a party of English-
men, who had come to the lake in search of ivory, were
all laid low by fever; so we travelled hastily down about
sixty miles to render what aid was in our power. We
were grieved to find, as we came near, that Mr. Alfred
Eider, an enterprising young artist who had come tc
make sketches of this country and of the lake immediately
after its discovery, had died of fever before our arrival;
but, by the aid of medicines and such comforts as could be
made by the only English lady who ever visited the lake,
the others happily recovered.

Sechele used all his powers of eloquence with Lechula-
tebe to induce him to furnish guides, that I might be able
to visit Sebituane on ox-back, while Mrs. Livingstone and
the children remained at Lake Ngami. He yielded at
last. I had a very superior London-made gun, the gift of
Lieutenant Arkwright, on which I placed the greatest
value, both on account of the donor and the impossibility
of my replacing it. Lechulatebe fell violently in love with
it, and offered whatever number of elephants' tusks I might
ask for it. I too was enamored with Sebituane ; and, as he
promised in addition that he would furnish Mrs. Living-
stone with meat all the time of my absence, his argu-
ments made me part with the gun. Though he had no
Ivory at the time to pay me, I felt the piece would be well

* Olossina morsitans, the first specimens of "vvliich were brought to
England in 1848 by my friend Major Vardon, from the banks of th«

46 MR. oswell's hunt: xa.

spent on those terms, and delivered it to him, All being
ready for our departure, I took Mrs. Livingstone about six
miles from the town, that she might have a peep at the
broad part of the lake. Next morning we had other work
to do than part, for our little boy and girl were seized
with fever. On the day following, all our servants were
down too with the same complaint. As nothing is better
in these cases than change of place, I was forced to give
up the hope of seeing Sebituane that year; so, leaving my
gun as part payment for guides next year, we started for
the pure air of the Desert.

Some mistake had happened in the arrangement with
Mr. Oswell, for we met him on the Zouga on our return,
and he had devoted the rest of this season to elephant-
hunting, at which the natives universally declare he is the
greatest adept that ever came into the country. He hunted
without dogs. It is remarkable that this lordly animal
is so completely harassed by the presence of a few yelp-
ing curs as to be quite incapable of attending to man. He
makes awkward attempts to crush them" by falling on hiw
knees, and sometimes places his forehead against a tret
ten inches in diameter; glancing on one side of the tree
and then on the other, he pushes it down before him, aa
if he thought thereby to catch his enemies. The only
danger the huntsman has to apprehend is the dogs' run-
ning toward him, and thereby leading the elephant to
their master. Mr. Oswell has been known to kill foui
large old m^ale elephants a day. The value of the ivory in
ihese cases would be one hundred guineas. We had reason
to be proud of his success, for the inhabitants conceived
from it a very high idea of English courage, and when
they wished to flatter me wou\d say, ^'If you were not a
missionary you would just be like Oswell; you would not
hunt with dogs either.^' When, in 1852, we came to the
Cape, my black coat eleven years out of fashion, and with-
out a penny of salary to draw, we found that Mr. Oswell

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 4 of 36)