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 5 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 5 of 36)
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had most generously ordered an outfit for the half-naked


chHdreTi, which cost about £200, and presented it to us,
saying he thought Mrs. Livingstone had a right to tho
game of her own preserves.

Foiled in this second attempt to reach Sebituano, we
returned again to Kolobeng, whither we were soon followed
by a number of messengers from that chief himself. When
he heard of our attempts to visit him, he despatched three
detachments of his men with thirteen brown cows to
Lechulatebe, thirteen white cows to Sekomi, and thirteen
black cows to Sechele, with a request to each to assist the
white men to reach him. Their policy, however, was to
keep him out of view, and act as his agents in purchasing
with his ivory the goods he wanted. This is thoroughly
African ; and that continent being without friths and arms
of the sea, the tribes in the centre have always been de-
barred from European intercourse by its universal preva-
lence among all the people around the coasts.

Before setting out on our third journey to Sebituane, it
was necessary to visit Kuruman; and Sechele, eager, for
the sake of the commission thereon, to get the ivory of
that chief into his own hands, allowed all the messengers
to leave before our return. Sekomi, however, was more
than usually gracious, and even furnished us with a guide,
but no one knew the path beyond Nchokotsa which we
intended to follow. When we reached that point, we found
that the n ainspring of the gun of another of his men,
who was well acquainted with the Bushmen, through whose
country we should pass, had opportunely broken. I never
undertook to mend a gun with greater zest than this; for,
under promise of his guidance, we went to the north in-
stead of westward. All the other guides were most libe-
rally rewarded by Mr. Oswell.

AYe passed quickly over a hard country, which is perfectly
flat. A little soil lying on calcareous tufa, over a tract ot
several hundreds of miles, supports a vegetation of fine,
Bweet short grass, and mopane and baobab trees.

We found a great number of wells in this tufa. A pla««


called Matlomagan-yana, or the ^^ Links/' is quite a chain
of these never-failing springs. As they occasionally be-
come fall in seasons when no rain falls, and resemble some-
what in this respect the rivers we have already mentioned,
it is probable they receive some water by percolation from
the river-system in the country beyond. Among these
links we found many families of Bushmen; and, unlike
those on the plains of the Kalahari, who are generally of
short stature and light yellow color, these were tall, strap-
ping fellows, of dark complexion. Heat alone does not
produce blackness of skin, but h^at with moisture seems
to insure the deepest hue.

One of these Bushmen, named Shobo, consented to be our
guide over the waste between these springs and the country
of Sebituane. vShobo gave us no hope of water in less than
a month. Providentially, however, we came sooner than
we expected to some supplies of rain-water in a chain of
pools. It is impossible to convey an idea of the dreary
scene on which we entered after leaving this spot : the only
vegetation was a low scrub in deejp sand; not a bird or in-
sect enlivened the landscape. It was, without exception,
the most uninviting prospect I ever beheld; and, to make
matters worse, our guide Shobo wandered on the second
day. We coaxed him on at night, but he went to all points
of the compass on the trails of elephants whirh had been
here in the rainy season, and then would sit iown in the
path, and in his broken Sichuana say, ''ISo water, all
country only ; Shobo sleeps ; he breaks down ; country
only," and then coolly curl himself up and go to sleep.
The oxen were terribly fatigued and thirsty; and, on the
morning of the fourth day, Shobo, after professing igno-
rance of every thing, vanished altogether. We went on in
the direction in which we last saw him, and about eleven
o'clock began to see birds; then the trail ot a rhinocerorj.
At this we unyoked the oxen, and they, apparentl}^ know
ing the sign, rushed along to find the water in the rivei
Mahabe, which comes from the Tamunak'le, and lay to the


west of US. The supply of water in the wagons had been
wasted by one of our servants, and by the afternoon only
a small portion remained for the children. This was a bit-
terly anxious nighty and next morning the less there was
of water the more thirsty the little rogues became. The
idea of their perishing before our eyes was terrible. It
would almost have been a relief to me to have been re-
pioached with being the entire cause of the catastrophe;
but not one syllable of upbraiding was uttered by their
mother, though the tearful eye told the agony within. In
the afternoon of the fifth day, to our inexpressible relief,
some of the men returned with a supply of that fluid of
which we had never before felt the true value.

The cattle, in rushing along to the water in the Mahabe,
probably crossed a small patch of trees containing tsetse,
an insect which was shortly to become a perfect pest to us.
Sliobo had found his way to the Bayeiye, and appeared;
when we came up to the river, at the head of a party;
and, as he wished to show his importance before his friends,
he walked up boldly and commanded our whole cavalcade
to stop, and to bring forth fire and tobacco, while he coolly
sat down and smoked his pij)e. It was such an inimitably
natural way of showing off that we all stopped to admire
the acting, and, though he had left us previously in the
lurch, weall liked Shobo, a fine specimen of that wonder-
Jul people, the Bushmen.

Next day we came to a village of Banajoa, a tribe which
extends far to the eastw^ard. They were living on the bor-
ders of a marsh in which the Mahabe terminates. They
had lost their crop of corn, (Holcus sorghum,') and now sub
eisted almost entirely on the root called "tsitla,'^ a kind of ^7x^

aroidoea, which contains a very large quantity of sweet-ta9^ted
starch. When dried, pounded ^to^meal, and allowed to fer-
ment, it forms a not unpleasant article of food. The women
^Kave all the hair off their heads, and seem darker than tlio
Bechuanas. Their huts were built on poles, and a fire is
liiade beneath by night, in order that the smoke may drive


away the mosquitos, which abound on the Mahabe and
Tamunak'le more than in any other part of the country.
The head-man of this village, Majane, seemed a little want-
ing in ability, but had had wit enough to promote a youngei
member of the family to the office. This person, the most
like the ugly negro of the tobacconists' shops I ever saw,
was called Moroa Majane, or son of Majane, and proved an
active guide across the river Sonta, and to the banks of^"
the Chobe, in the country of Sebituane. We had come
through another tsetse district by nighty and at once passed
our cattle over to the northern bank to preserve them from
its ravages.

A few remarks on the Tsetse, or Glossina morsitans, may
here be appropriate. It is not much larger than the com-
mon house-fly, and is nearly of the same brown color as
the common honey-bee; the after-part of the body has
three or four yellow bars across it; the wings project be-
yond this part considerably, and it is remarkably alert,
avoiding most dexterously all attempts to catch it with
the hand at common temperatures; in the cool of the morn-
ings and evenings it is less r^gile. Its peculiar buzz when
once heard can never be forgotten by the traveller whose
means of locomotion are domestic animals ; for it is well
known that the bite of this poisonous insect is certain
death to the ox, horse^ and dog. In this journey, though
we were not aware of any great number having at any
time lighted on our cattle, we lost forty-three fine oxen by
its bite. We watched the animals carefully, and believe
that not a score of flies were ever upon them.

A most remarkable feature in the bite of the tsetse is its
perfect harmlessness in man and wild animals, and even
calves so long as they continue to suck the cow. We
never experienced the slightest injury from them ourselves,
personally, although we lived two months in their hahitatj
which was in this case as sharply defined as in many others,
for the south bank of the Chobe was infested by them, and
the northern bank, where our cattle were placed, only fifty


yards distant, contained not a single specimen. This was
the more remarkable as we often saw natives carrying over
raw meat to the op^^osite bank with many tsetse settled

_Jippn it. r ^

The poison does not seem to be injected by a sting, or by
ova placed beneath the skin; for, when one is allowed to
feed freely on the hand, it is seen to insert the middle prong
of three portions, into which the proboscis divides, some-
what deeply into the true skin ; it then draws it out a littlo
way, and it assumes a crimson color as the mandibles come
into brisk operation. The previously-shrunken belly swells
out, and, if left undisturbed, the fly quietly departs when it
is full. A slight itching irritation follows, but not more ...
than in the bite of a mosquito. In the ox this same bite
produces no more immediate effects than in man. It does
not startle him as the gad-fly does ; but a few days after-
ward the following symptoms supervene : the eye and nose
begin to run, the coat stares as if the animal were cold, a
swelling appears under the jaw and sometimes at the navel;
and, though the animal continues to graze, emaciation com-
mences, accompanied with a peculiar flaccidity of the mus-
cles, and this proceeds unchecked until, perhaps months after-
ward, purging comes on, and the animal, no longer able
to graze, perishes in a state of extreme exhaustion. Those
which are in good condition often perish soon after the bite
is inflicted, with staggering and blindness, as if the brain
were affected by it. Sudden changes of temperature pro-
duced by falls of rain seem to hasten the progress of the
complaint; but, in general, the emaciation goes on unin-
terruptedly for months, and, do what we will, the poor
animals perish miserably.

When opened, the cellular tissue on the surface of the
b(.>dy beneath the skin is seen to be injected with air, as if
a quantity of soap-bubbles were scattered over it, or a dis-
honest, awkward butcher had been trying to make it look
■fat. The fat is of a greenish-yellow color and of an oily
consistence. All the muscles are flabby, and the heart


often so Bofl that the fingers may be made to meet through
it. The lungs and liver partake of the disease. The
stomach and bowels are pale and empty, and the gall-
bladder is distended with bile.

The mule, ass, and goat enjoy the same immunity from
the tsetse as man and game. Many large tribes on the
Zambesi can keep no domestic animals except the goat, in
consequence of the scourge existing in their country. Our
children were frequently bitten, yet suffered no harm;
and we saw around us numbers of zebras, buffaloes, pigs,
pallahs and other antelopes, feeding quietly in the very
habitat of the tsetse, yet as undisturbed by its bite as
oxen are when they first receive the fatal poison.

The Makololo whom we met on the Chobe were delighted
to see us; and, as their chief Sebituane was about twenty
miles down the river, Mr. Oswell and I proceeded in canoes
to his temporary residence. He had come from the Barotse
town of JSTaliele down to Sesheke as soon as he heard of
white men being in search of him, and now came one hundred
miles more to bid us welcome into his country. He was
upon an island, with all his principal men around him, and
engaged in singing when we arrived. It was more like
church-music than the sing-song e e e, 86 sb se, of the
Bechuanas of the south, and they continued the tune for
some seconds after we approached. We informed him of the
difficulties we had encountered, and how glad we were that
they were all at an end by at last reaching his presence.
He signified his own joy, and added, ^' Your cattle are a^'
bitten by the tsetse, and will certainly die; but never min
I have oxen, and will give you as many as you need.'' We,
in our ignorance, then thought that as so few tsetse had
bitten them no great mischief would follow. He then pre-
sented us with an ox and a jar of honey as food, and handed
us over to the care of Mahale, who had headed the party
to Kolobeng, and would now fain appropriate to himself
the whole credit of our coming. Prepared skins of oxen,
as soft as cloth were given to cover us through the night j


and, as nothing could be returned to this chief, Mahale be-
came the owner of them. Long before it was day, Sebiiiian©
came, and sitting down by the fire, which was lighted for
our benefit behind the hedge where we lay, he narrated the
difiiculties he had himself experienced, when a young man,
in crossing that same desert which we had mastered long

He was much pleased with the proof of confidence we
had shown in bringing our children, and promised to take
us to see his country, so that we might choose a part in
which to locate ourselves. Our plan was, that I should
remain in the pursuit of my objects as a missionary,
while Mr. Oswell explored the Zambesi to the east. Poor
Sebituane, however, just after realizing what he had so long
ardently desired, fell sick of inflammation of the lungs,
which originated in and extended from an old wound got at
Melita. I saw his danger, but, being a stranger, I feared
to treat him medically, lest, in the event of his death, I
should be blamed by his people. I mentioned this to one
of his doctors, who said, " Your fear is prudent and wise :
this people would blame you." He had been cured of this
complaint, during the year before, by the Barotse making
a large number of free incisions in the chest. The Mako-
lolo doctors, on the other hand, now scarcely cut the skin.
On the Sunday afternoon in which he died, when our usual
religious service was over, I visited him with my little boy
Robert. " Come near," said Sebituane, " and see if I am
any longer a man. I am done." He was thus sensible of
the dangerous nature of his disease; so I ventured to as-
sent, and added a single sentence regarding hope after
death. "Why do you speak of death?'' said one of a
relay of fresh doctors; ^'Sebituane will never die." If I
had persisted, the impression would have been produced
that by speaking about it I wished him to die. After
sitting with him some time, and commending him to the
mercy of God, I rose to depart, when the dj'ing chieftain,
raising himself up a little from his prone j)osition, called a


Bervant, and said, "Take Eobert to Maunku, [one of his
wives,] and tell her to give him some milk/' These were
the last words of Sebituane.

We were not informed of his death until the next day.
The burial of a Bechuana chief takes place in his cattle-
pon, and all the cattle are driven for an hour or two around
and over the grave, so that it may be quite obliterated.
We went and spoke to the people, advising them to keep
together and support the heir. They took this kindly;
and in turn told us not to be alarmed, for they would not
think of ascribing the death of their chief to us ; that
Sebituane had just gone the way of his fathers; and,
though the father had gone, he had left children, and they
hoped that we would be as friendly to his children as we
intended to have been to himself

He was decidedly the best specimen of a native chief I
ever met. I never felt so much grieved by the loss of a
black man before ; and it was impossible not to follow him
in thought into the world of which he had just heard be-
fore he was called away, and to realize somewhat of the
feelings of those who pray for the dead. The deep, dark
question of what is to become of such as he must, how-
ever, be left where we find it, believing that, assuredly,
the '^ Judge of all the earth will do right.''

At Sebituane's death the chieftainship devolved, as hei
father intended, on a daughter named Ma-mochisane. He
had promised to show us his country and to select a suitable
locaUty for our residence. We had now to look to the
daughter, who was living twelve days to the north, at
Naliele We were obliged, therefore, to remain until a
message came from her; and, when it did, she gave us
perfect liberty to visit any part of the country we chose.
Mr. Oswell and I then proceeded one hundred and thirty
miles to the northeast, to Sesheke ; and in the end of June,
1851, we were rewarded by the discovery of the Zambesi, in
the centre of the continent. This was a most important
point, for tKat river was not previously known to exist


there at all. The Portuc^nese maps all represent it as
^nsing fai to the east of where we now were ; and, if evei
any thing like a chain of trading-stations had existed
across the country between the latitudes 12° and 18° south,
this magnificent portion of the river must have been
known before. We saw it at the end of the dry season* at
the time when the river is about at its lowest; and yet
there was a breadth of from three hundred to six hundred
yards of deep, flowing water. Mr. Oswell said he had
never seen such a fine river even in India. At the period
of its annual inundation it rises fully twenty feet in per-
pendicular height, and floods fifteen or twenty miles of
lands adjacent to its banks.

Occasionally the country between the Chobe and Zam-
besi is flooded, and there are large patches of swamps lying
near the Chobe or on its banks. The Makololo were living
among these swamps for the sake of the protection the
deep reedy rivers afforded them against their enemies.

!N"ow, in reference to a suitable locality for a settlement
for myself, I could not conscientiously ask them to aban-
don their defences for my convenience alone. The healthy
districts were defenceless, and the safe localities were so
deleterious to human life that the original Basutos had
nearly all been cut off by the fever : I therefore feared t?
eubject my family to the scourge.

As there was no hope of the Boers allowing the peace-
able instruction of the natives at Kolobeng, I at once re-
solved to save my family from exposure to this unhealthjr
region by sending them to England, and to return alone,
with a view to exploring the country in search of a
healthy district that might prove a centre of civilization
and open up the interior by a path to either the east or
west coast. This resolution led me down to the Cape in
April, 1852, being the first time during eleven vears that I
had visited the scenes of civilization. Our route to Capo
Town led us to pass through the centre "'f the colony
during the twentieth month of a Caffre wrr; and if thos<j


who periodically pay enormous sums for these inglorious
affairs wish to know how our little unprotected party
could quietly travel through the heart of the colony to
the capital with as little sense or sign of danger as if wo
had been in England, they must engage a ^^ Times Special
Correspondent" for the next outbreak to explain where
the money goes, and who have been benefited by the
blood and treasure expended.

Having placed my family on board a homeward-bound
ship, and promised to rejoin them in two years, we parted,
for, as it subsequently proved, nearly five years. The
Directors of the London Missionary Society signified their
cordial approval of my project, by leaving the matter
entirely to my own discretion ; and I have much pleasure
in acknowledging my obligations to the gentlemen com-
posing that body for always acting in an enlightened
spirit and with as much liberality as their constitution
would allow.

I have the like pleasure in confessing my thankfulness
to the Astronomer Eoyal at the Cape, Thomas Maclear,
Esq., for enabling me to recall the little astronomical
knowledge which constant manual labor and the engross-
ing nature of missionary duties had effaced from my
memory, and in adding much that I did not know before.
The promise he made on parting, that he would examine
and correct all my observations, had more effect in making
me persevere in overcoming the difiiculties of an unassisted
solitary observer than any thing else ; so, whatever credit
may be attached to the geographical positions laid down
m my route must be attributed to the voluntary aid of
the excellent and laborious astronomer of the Cape Obser-

Having given the reader as rapid a sketch as possible
of events which attracted notice between 1840 and 1852, I
now proceed to narrate the incidents of the last and
longest journey of all; performed in 1852-56




Having sent my family home to England, I started in
the beginning of June, 1852, on my last journey from
Cape Town. This journey extended from the southern
extremity of the continent to St. Paul de Loando, the
capital of Angola, on the west coast, and thence across
South Central Africa in an oblique direction to Kilimane
(Quilimane) in Eastern Africa. I proceeded in the usual
conveyance of the country, the heavy lumbering Cape
wagon drawn by ten oxen, and was accompanied by two
Christian Bechuanas from Kuruman, — than w^hom I never
saw better servants anywhere, — by two Bakwain men,
and two young girls, who, having come as nurses with our
children to the Cape, were returning to their home at
Kolobeng. Wagon-travelling in Africa has been so often
described that I need say no more than that it is a prolonged
system of picnicking, excellent for the health, and agree-
able to those who are not over-fastidious about trifles,
and who delight in being in the open air.

Our route to the north lay near the centre of the cone-
shaped mass of land which constitutes the promontory of
the Cape.

The slow pace at which we woiind our way through the
colony made almost any subject interesting. The attention
is attracted to the names of different places, because they
indicate the former existence of buffaloes, elands, and ele-
phants, which are now to be found only hundreds of miles
beyond. A few blesbucks, (Antilope pygarga,) gnus, bluo-
bucks, {A. cerulea,') steinbucks, and the ostrich, {Struthio
camelus,) continue, like the Bushmen, to maintain a pre-
carious existence when all the rest are gone. The eie-


phaat, the most sagacious, flees the sound of fire-aiins
first; the gnu and ostrich, the most wary and the most
stupid, last. The first emigrants found the Hottentots in
possession of. prodigious herds of fine cattle, but no horses,
asses, or camels. The original cattle, which may still be
seen in some parts, of the frontier, must haye been brought
south from the north-northeast, for from this point the
natives universally ascribe their original migration. They
brought cattle, sheep, goats, and dogs : why not the horse,
the delight of savage hordes ? Horses thrive well in the
Cape Colony when imported. Naturalists point out cer-
tain mountain-ranges as limiting the habitat of certain
classes of animals ; bat there is no Cordillera in Africa to
answer that purpose, there being no visible barrier between
the northeastern Arabs and the Hottentot tribes to prevent
the different hordes, as they felt their way southward,
from indulging their taste for the possession of this noble

I am here led to notice an invisible barrier, more insur-
mountable than mountain-ranges, but which is not opposed
to the southern progress of cattle, goats, and sheep. The
tsetse would prove a barrier only until its well-defined
fiabitat was known ; but the disease passing under the
term of horse-sickness (^peripneumonia) exists in such viru-
lence over nearly seven degrees of latitude that no precau-
tion would be sufficient to save these animals. The horse
is so liable to this disease, that only by great care in stabling
can he be kept anywhere between 20° and 27° S. during
the time between December and April. The winter, begin-
ning in the latter month, is the only period in which Eng-
lishmen can hunt on horseback, and they are in danger of
losing all their studs some months before December. To
this disease the horse is especially exposed, and it is almost
always fatal. One attack, however, seems to secure im-
munity from a second. Cattle, too, are subject to it, but

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 5 of 36)