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 8 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 8 of 36)
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believed that he was afflicted with a slight degree of the
insanity of greediness, I upheld the honor of the English
name by paying his debts. As the guides of Mr. Gumming
were furnished through my influence, and usually got some
strict charges as to their behavior before parting, looking
upon me in the light of a father, they always came to give
me an account of their service, and told most of those
hunting-adventures which have since been given to the
world, before we had the pleasure of hearing our friend
relate them himself by our own fireside. I had thus a tole-
rably good opportunity of testing their accuracy, and I
have no hesitation in saying that, for those who love that
sort of thing, Mr. Cumming's book conveys a truthful idea
of South African hunting. Some things in it require ex
planation, but the numteers of animals said to have been
met with and killed are by no means improbable, consider-


ing the amount of large game then in the country. Two
other gentlemen hunting in the same region destroyed in
one season no fewer than seventy-eight rhinoceroses aloue.
Sportsmen, however, would not now find an equal number ;
for, as guns are introduced among the tribes, all these fine
animals melt away like snow in spring. In the more
remote districts, where fire-arms have not yet been intro-
duced, with the single exception of the rhinoceros, the
game is to be found in numbers much greater than Mr.
Gumming ever saw. The tsetse is, however, an insuper-
able barrier to hunting with horses there, and Europeans
can do nothing on foot. The step of the elephant when
charging the hunter, though aj^parently not quick, is so
long that the pace equals the speed of a good horse at a
canter. A young sportsman, no matter how great among
pheasants, foxes, and hounds, would do well to pause before
resolving to brave fever for the excitement of risking such
a terrific charge ; the scream or trumpeting of this enor-
mous brute when infuriated is more like what the shriek
of a French steam-whistle would be to a man standing on
the dangerous part of a railroad than any other earthly
Bound : a horse unused to it will sometimes stand shivering
instead of taking his rider out of danger. It has happened
often that the poor animal's legs do their duty so badly
that he falls and causes his rider to be trodden into a
mummy; or, losing his presence of mind, the rider may
allow the horse to dash under a tree and crack his cranium
against a branch. As one charge from an elephant has
made embryo Nimrods bid a final adieu to the chase, inci-
pient Gordon Cummings might try their nerves by stand-
ing on railways till the engines were within a few yards
of them. Hunting elephants on foot would be not less
dangerous,* unless the Ceylon mode of killing them bv

* Since writing the above statement, it has received confirmation in
the reported ileath of Mr Walhberg while hunting elephants on foot at
Lake Ngami.



one shot could be followed: it has never been tried in

Advancing to some wells beyond Letloche, at a spoi
named Kanne, we found them carefully hedged round by
the people of a Bakalahari village situated near the spot.
We had then sixty miles of country in front without water,
and very distressing for the oxen, as it is generally deep
soft sand. There is one sucking-place, around which were
congregated great numbers of Bushwomen with their egg-
shells and reeds. Mathuluane now contained no water, and
Motlatsa only a small supply ; so we sent the oxen across
the country to the deep well Nkauane, and half were lost
on the way. When found at last, they had been five whole
days without water. Yery large numbers of elands were
met with, as usual, though they seldom can get a sip of
drink. Many of the plains here have large expanses of
grass without trees ; but you seldom see a treeless horizon.



The Bakalahari, who live at Motlatsa Wells, have always
been veiy friendly to us, and listen attentively to instruc-
tion conveyed to them in their own tongue. It is, how-
ever, difficult to give an idea to a European of the little
effect teaching produces; because no one can realize the
degradation to which their minds have been sunk by cen-
turies of barbarism and hard struggling for the necessaries
of life : like most others, they listen with respect and
attention; but, when we kneel down and address an
unseen Being, the position and the act often appear to
them so ridiculous that they cannot refrain from bursting
into uncontrollable laughter. After a few services thoj


get over this tendency. I was once present when a mis-
Rionary attempted to sing among a wild heathen tribe of
Bechuanas, who had no music in their composition : the
effect on the risible faculties of the audience was such that
the tears actually ran down their cheeks. Nearly all their
thoughts are directed to the supply of their bodily wants ;
and this has been the case with the race for ages. If asked,
then, what effect the preaching of the gospel has at the com-
mencement on such individuals, I am unable to tell, except
that some have confessed long afterward that they then first
began to pray in secret. Of the effects of a long-continued
course of instruction there can be no reasonable doubt, as
mere nominal belief has never been considered sufficient
proof of conversion by any body of missionaries ; and, after
the change which has been brought about by this agency,
we have good reason to hope well for the future : those I
have myself witnessed behaving in the manner described;
when kindly treated in sickness, often utter imploring
words to Jesus, and, I believe, sometimes really do pray to
him in their afflictions. As that great Redeemer of the
guilty seeks to save all he can, we may hope that they
find mercy through his blood, though little able to appre-
ciate the sacrifice he made.

Leaving Motlatsa on the 8th of February, 1853, we
passed down the Mokoko, which, in the memory of per-
sons now living, was a flowing stream.

At Nchokotsa, the rainy season having this year been
delayed beyond the usual time, we found during the day
the thermometer stand at 96° in the coolest possible

We dug out several wells ; and, as we had on each occa-
sion to wait till the water flowed in again, and then allow
our cattle to feed a day or two and slake their thirso
thoroughly, as far as that could be done, before starting,
our progress was but slow. At Koobe there was such a
mass of mud in the pond, worked up by the wallowing
rhinoceros to the consistency of mortar, that only by great


labor could we get a space cleared at one side for the watei
to ooze through and collect in for the oxen.

At Kapesh we came among our old friends the Bushmen,
under Horoye. This man, Horoye, a good specimen of
that tribe, and his son Mokantsa, and others, were at least
six feet high, and of a darker color than the Bushmen of
the south. They have always plenty of food and water ;
and, as they frequent the Zouga as often as the game in
company with which they live, their life is very different
from that of the inhabitants of the thirsty plains of the

Those among whom we now were kill many elephants,
and, when the moon is full, choose that time for the chase,
on account of its coolness. Hunting this animal is the
best test of courage this country affords. The Bushmen
choose the moment succeeding a charge, when the ele-
phant is out of breath, to run in and give him a stab with
their long-bladed spears. In this case the uncivilized have
the advantage over us ; but I believe that, with half their
training. Englishmen would beat the Bushmen.

At Maila we spent a Sunday with Kaisa, the head-man
of a village of Mashona, who had fled from the iron sway
of Mosilikatse, whose country lies east of this. I wished
him to take charge of a packet of letters for England, to
be forwarded when, as is the custom of the Bamangwato,
the Bechuanas come hither in search of skins and food
among the Bushmen; but he could not be made to compre-
hend that there was no danger in the consignment. He
feared the responsibility and guilt if any thing should hap-
pen to them ; so I had to bid adieu to all hope of letting
my family hear of my welfare till I should reach the west

At Unku we came into a tract of country which had
been visited by refreshing showers long before, and every
spot was covered with grass run up to seed, and the flowers
of the forest were in full bloom. Instead of the dreary
prospect around Koobe and Nchokotsa, we had here a do*


ligKiful scene, — all the ponds full of water, and the birds
twittorin/r joyfully As the game can now obtain water
everywhe-re, they become very shy, and cannot be found
in their accustomed haunts.

1st March. — The thermometer in the shade generally
stood at 98° from 1 to 3 p.m.; but it sank as low as 65° by
night; 60 that the heat was by no meaDS exhausting. At
the suriice of the ground, in the sun, the thermometer
marked 125°, and, three inches below it, 138°. The hand
cannot 1^ held on the ground, and even the hornv soles of
the feet of the natives must be protected by sandals of
hide ; y-et the ants were busy working on it. The water
in the ponds was as high as 100° ; but, as water does not
conduct heat readily downward, deliciously-cool water
may be obtained by any one walking into the middle and
lifting up the water from the bottom to the surface with
his hands.

Proceeding to the north, from Kama-kama, we entered
into dense JMohonono bush, which required the constant
application of the axe by three of our party for two days.
This bush has fine silvery leaves, and the bark has a sweet
taste. The elephant, with his usual delicacy of taste, feeds
much on it. On emerging into the plains beyond, we found
a number of Bushmen, who afterward proved very service-
able. The rains had been copious ; but now great numbers
of pools were drying up. Lotus-plants abounded in them,
and a low, sweet-scented plant covered their banks.
Breezes came occasionally to us from these drying-up
pools ; but the pleasant odor they carried caused sneezing
in both myself and people ; and on the 10th of March (when
ill lat. 19° IG' 11" S., long. 24° 24' E.) we were bi-ought
to a stand by four of the party being seized with fever.
I had seen this disease before, but did not at once recognise
it as the Aft*ican fever : I imagined it was only a bilious
attack arising from full feeding on flesh; for, the large
game having been very abundant, we always had a good

•upply. But, instead of the first sufferers recovering soon^


9 GRAPEtt.

every man of our party was in a few days laid low, except
a Bakwain and myself. He managed the oxen, while 1
attended to the wants of the patients and went out occa-
sionally with the Bushmen to get a zebra or buflalo, so as
to induce them to remain with us.

Here for the first time I had leisure to follow the instruc-
tions of my kind teacher, Mr. Maclear, and calculated seve-
ral longitudes from lunar distances. The hearty manner
in which that eminent astronomer and frank, friendly man
had promised to aid me in calculating and verifying my
work conduced more than any thing else to inspire me
with perseverance in making astronomical observations
throughout the journey.

We wished to avoid the tsetse of our former path, so
kept a course on the magnetic meridan from Lurilopepe.
The necessity of making a new path much increased our
toil. W« were, however, rewarded in lat. 18° with a sight
we had not enjoyed the year before, namely, large patches
of grape-bearing vines. There they stood before my eyes;
but the sight was so entirely unexpected that I stood some
time gazing at the clusters of grapes with which they were
loaded, with no more thought of plucking' than if I had
been beholding them in a dream. The Bushmen know
and eat them ; but they are not well flavored, on account
of the great astringency of the seeds, which are in shape
and size like split peas. The elephants are fond of the
fruit, plant, and root alike.

The forest, through which we were slowly toiling, daily
became more dense, and we were kept almost constantly
at work with the axe ; there was much more leafiness in
the trees here than farther south. The leaves are chiefly
of the pinnate and bi-pinnate forms, and are exceedingly
beautiful when seen against the sky : a great variety of
the papilionaceous family grow in this part of the country.

Fleming had until this time always assisted to drive his
own wagon, but about the end of March he knocked up, as
well as his people. Aa I could not drive two wagons, J

Bushmen's mode op lion-hunting. 91

shared with him the remaining water, half a caskful, and
went on, with the intention of coming back for him as
soon as we should reach the next pool. Heavy rain now
commenced; I was employed the whole day in cutting down
trees, and every stroke of the axe brought down a thick
shower on my back, which in the hard work was very
refreshing, as the water found its way down into my shoes
In the evening we met some Bushmen, who volunteered
to show us a pool ; and, having unyoked, I walked some
miles in search of it. As it became dark they showed
their politeness — a quality which is by no means confined
entirely to the civilized — by walking in front, breaking the
branches which hung across the path, and pointing out the
fallen trees. On returning to the wagon, we found that
being left alone had brought out some of Fleming's energy,
for he had managed to come up.

As the water in this pond dried up, we were soon
obliged to move again. One of the Bushmen took out his
dice, and, after throwing them, said that God told him to
go home. He threw again, in order to show me the com-
mand, but the opposite result followed; so he remained
and was useful, for we lost the oxen again by a lion driving
them off to a very great distance. The lions here are not
often heard. They seem to have a wholesome dread of the
Bushmen, who, when they observe evidence of a lion's
having made a full meal, follow up his spoor so quietly
that his slumbers are not disturbed. One discharges a
poisoned arrow from a distance of only a few feet, while
his companion simultaneously throws his skin cloak on the
beast's head. The sudden surprise makes the lion lose his
presence of mind, and he bounds away in the greatest con-
fusion and terror. Our friends here showed me the poison
which they use on these occasions. It is the entrails
of a caterpillar called N'gwa, half an inch long. They
squeeze out these, and place them all around the bottom
of the barb, and allow the poison to dry in the sun. They
are very careful in cleaning their nails after worKmg with


it, as a small portion introduced into a scratch acts like
morbid matter in dissection-wounds. The agony is so
g^eat that the person cuts himself, calls for his mother's
breast as if he were returned in idea to his childhood again,
or flies from human habitations a raging maniac. The
effects on the lion are equally terrible. He is heard moan-
ing in distress, and becomes furious, biting the trees and
ground in rage.

As the Bushmen have the reputation of curing the
wounds of this poison, I asked how this was effected.
They said that they administer the caterpillar itself in
combination with fat; they also rub fat into the wound,
saying that " the N'gwa wants fat, and, when it does not
find it in the body, kills the man: we give it what it
wants, and it is content :" a reason which will commend
itself to the enlightened among ourselves.

None of the men of our party had died, but two seemed
unlikely to recover; and Kibopechoe, my willing Mokwain,
at last became troubled with boils, and then got all the
symptoms of fever. As he lay down, the others began to
move about, and complained of weakness only. Believing
that frequent change of place was conducive to their
recovery, we moved along as much as we could, and came
to the hill N'gwa, (lat. 18° 27' 20" S., long. 24° 13' 36" E.)
This being the only hill we had seen since leaving Bamang-
wato, we felt inclined to take off our* hats to it. It is
three or four hundred feet high, and covered with trees.

Our Bushmen wished to leave us, and, as there was no
use in trying to thwart these independent gentlemen, 1
paid them, and allowed them to go. The payment, how-
over, acted as a charm on some strangers who happenoa
to be present, and induced them to volunteer their aid.

We at last came to the Sanshureh, which presented an
impassable barrier; so we drew up under a magnificent
.baobab-tree, (lat. 18° 4' 27" S., long. 24° 6' 20" E.,) and
resolved to explore the river for a ford. The great quan-
tity of water wo had passed through was part of th«


annual inundation of the Chobe ; and this, which appeared
a large, deep river, filled in many parts with reeds, and
having hippopotami in it, is only one of the branches by
which it sends its superabundant water to the southeast.

We made so many attempts to get over the Sanshureh,
both to the west and east of the wagon, in the hope of
reaching some of the Makololo on the Chobe, that my
Bushmen friends became quite tired of the work. By
means of presents I got them to remain some days; but at
last they slipped away by night, and I was fain to take
one of the strongest of my still weak companions and cross
the river in a pontoon, the gift of Captains Codrington and
Webb. We each carried some provisions and a blanket,
and penetrated about twenty miles to the westward, in
the hope of striking the Chobe. It was much nearer to us
in a northerly direction, but this we did not then know.
The plain, over which we splashed the whole of the first
day, was covered with water ankle deep, and thick grass
which reached above the knees. In the evening we came
to an immense wall of reeds, six or eight feet high, without
any opening admitting of a passage. When we tried to
enter, the water always became so deep that we were fain
to desist. We concluded that we had come to the banks
of the river we were in search of; so we directed our course
to some trees which appeared in the south, in order to get
a bed and a view of the adjacent locality. Having shot a
leche, and made a glorious fire, we got a good cip of tea
and had a comfortable night.

Next morning, by climbing the highest trees, we could
see a fine large sheet of water, but surrounded on all sides
oy the same impenetrable belt of reeds. This is the broad
part of the river Chobe, and is called Zabesa. Two tree-
covered islands seemed to be much nearer to the water
than the shore on which we were ; so we made an attempt
to get to them first. It was not the reeds alone we had
to pass through; a peculiar serrated grass, which at certain
angles cut the hands like a razor, was mingled with thd


reed, and the climbing convolvulus, with stalks which felt
as strong as whipcord, bound the mass together. We felt
like pygmies in it, and often the only way we could get
on was by both of us leaning against a part and bending
it down till we could stand upon it. The perspiration
streamed off our bodies, and as the sun rose high, there
being no ventilation among the reeds, the heat was stifling,
and the water, which was up to the knees, felt agreeably
refreshing. After some hours' toil we reached one of the
islands. Here we met an old friend, the bramble-bush.
My strong moleskins were quite worn through at the knees,
and the leather trousers of my companion were torn and
nis legs bleeding. Tearing my handkerchief in two, I tied
the pieces round my knees, and then encountered another
difficulty. We were still forty or fifty yards from the clear
water, but now we were opposed by great masses of papy-
rus, which are like palms in miniature, eight or ten feet
high, and an inch and a half in diameter. These were
laced together by twining convolvulus so strongly that the
weight of both of us could not make way into the clear
water. At last we fortunately found a passage prepared
by a hippopotamus. Eager as soon as we reached the
island to look along the vista to clear water, I stepped in
and found it took me at once up to the neck.

Eeturning nearly worn out, we proceeded up the bank
of the Chobe till we came to the point of departure of the
branch Sanshureh ; we then went in the opposite direction,
or down the Chobe, though from the highest trees we could
see nothing but one vast expanse of reed, with here and
there a tree on the islands. This was a hard day's work ;
and, when we came to a deserted Bayeiye hut on an ant-
hill, not a bit of wood or any thing else could be got for a
fire except the grass and sticks of the dwelling itself I
dreaded the " Tampans, " so common in all old huts; but
outside of it we had thousands of mosquitos, and cold
dew began to be deposited, so we were fain to crawl be-
neath its shelter.


"We were close to the reeds, and could listen to the strange
sounds which are often heard there. By day I had seen
water-snakes putting up their heads and swimming about.
There were great numbers of otters, {Lutra inunguis, F.
Cuvier,) which have made little spoors all over the plains
m search of the fishes, among the tall grass of these flooded
prairies; curious birds, too, jerked and wriggled among
these reedy masses, and we heard human-like voices and
unearthly sounds, with splash, guggle, jupp, as if rare fun
were going on in their uncouth haunts. After a damp,
cold night, we set to, early in the morning, at our work of
exploring again, but left the pontoon in order to lighten
our labor. The ant-hills are here very high, some thirty
feet, and of a base so broad that trees grow on them ; while
the lands, annually flooded, bear nothing but grass. From
one of these ant-hills we discovered an inlet to the Chobe ;
and, having gone back for the pontoon, we launched our-
selves on a deep river, here from eighty to one hundred
yards wide. I gave my companion strict injunctions to
stick by the pontoon in case a hippopotamus should look
at us; nor was this caution unnecessary, for one came up
at our side and made a desperate plunge off. We had
passed over him. The wave he made caused the pontoon
to glide quickly away from him.

We paddled on from mid-day till sunset. There was
nothing but a wall of reed on each bank, and we saw every
prospect of spending a supperless night in our float ; but,
just as the short twilight of these parts was commencing,
we perceived on the north bank the village of Moremi, one
of the Makololo, whose acquaintance I had made on our
foimer visit, and who was now located on the island Ma.
honta, (lat. 17° 58' S., long. 24° 6' E.) The villagers looked
as we may suppose people do who see a ghost, and in their
l:gurative way of speaking said, "^^He has dropped among
us from the clouds, yet came riding on the back of a hip-
popotamus! We Makololo thought no one could cross tke


Chobe without our knowledge, but liere he drops among
us like a bird/'

Next day we returned in canoes across the flooded lands,
and found that, in our absence, the men had allowed the
cattle to wander into a very small patch of wood to the
west containing the tsetse; this carelessness cost me ten
fine large oxen. After remaining a few days, some of the
head-men of the Makololo came down from Linyanti, with
a large party of Barotse, to take us across the river. This
they did in fine style, swimming and diving among the
oxen more like alligators than men, and taking the wagons
to pieces and carrying them across on a number of canoes
lashed together. We were now among friends; so, going
about thirty miles to the north, in order to avoid the still
flooded lands on the north of the Chobe, we turned west-
ward toward Linyanti, (lat. 18° 17' 20" S., long. 23° 50' 9"
E.,) where we arrived on the 23d of May, 1853. This ia
the capital town of the Makololo, and only a short distance '
from our wagon-stand of 1851, (lat. 18° 20' S., long. 23° '
50' E.)




The whole population of Linyanti, numbering between
six and seven thousand souls, turned out en masse to see
the wagons in motion. They had never witnessed the pho-
nomenon before, we having on the former occasion departed

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 8 of 36)