A Popular Account of Dr. Livingstone's Expedition to the Zambesi and Its Tributaries
The Landeens or Zulus are lords of the right bank of the Zambesi; and the Portuguese, by paying this fighting tribe a pretty heavy annual tribute, practically admit this. Regularly every year come the Zulus in force to Senna and Shupanga for the accustomed tribute. The few wealthy merchants of Senna groan under the burden, for it falls chiefly on them. They submit to pay annually 200 pieces of cloth, of sixteen yards each, besides beads and brass wire, knowing that refusal involves war, which might end in the loss of all they possess. The Zulus appear to keep as sharp a look out on the Senna and Shupanga people as ever landlord did on tenant; the more they cultivate, the more tribute they have to pay. On asking some of them why they did not endeavour to raise certain highly profitable products, we were answered, “What’s the use of our cultivating any more than we do? the Landeens would only come down on us for more tribute.”
In the forests of Shupanga the Mokundu-kundu tree abounds; its bright yellow wood makes good boat-masts, and yields a strong bitter medicine for fever; the Gunda-tree attains to an immense size; its timber is hard, rather cross-grained, with masses of silica deposited in its substance; the large canoes, capable of carrying three or four tons, are made of its wood. For permission to cut these trees, a Portuguese gentleman of Quillimane was paying the Zulus, in 1858, two hundred dollars a year, and his successor now pays three hundred.
At Shupanga, a one-storied stone house stands on the prettiest site on the river. In front a sloping lawn, with a fine mango orchard at its southern end, leads down to the broad Zambesi, whose green islands repose on the sunny bosom of the tranquil waters. Beyond, northwards, lie vast fields and forests of palm and tropical trees, with the massive mountain of Morambala towering amidst the white clouds; and further away more distant hills appear in the blue horizon. This beautifully situated house possesses a melancholy interest from having been associated in a most mournful manner with the history of two English expeditions. Here, in 1826, poor Kirkpatrick, of Captain Owen’s Surveying Expedition, died of fever; and here, in 1862, died, of the same fatal disease, the beloved wife of Dr. Livingstone. A hundred yards east of the house, under a large Baobab-tree, far from their native land, both are buried.
The Shupanga-house was the head-quarters of the Governor during the Mariano war. He told us that the province of Mosambique costs the Home Government between 5000l. and 6000l. annually, and East Africa yields no reward in return to the mother country. We met there several other influential Portuguese. All seemed friendly, and expressed their willingness to assist the expedition in every way in their power; and better still, Colonel Nunes and Major Sicard put their good-will into action, by cutting wood for the steamer and sending men to help in unloading. It was observable that not one of them knew anything about the Kongoné Mouth; all thought that we had come in by the “Barra Catrina,” or East Luabo. Dr. Kirk remained here a few weeks; and, besides exploring a small lake twenty miles to the south-west, had the sole medical care of the sick and wounded soldiers, for which valuable services he received the thanks of the Portuguese Government. We wooded up at this place with African ebony or black wood, and lignum vitæ; the latter tree attains an immense size, sometimes as much as four feet in diameter; our engineer, knowing what ebony and lignum vitæ cost at home, said it made his heart sore to burn wood so valuable. Though botanically different, they are extremely alike; the black wood as grown in some districts is superior, and the lignum vitæ inferior in quality, to these timbers brought from other countries. Caoutchouc, or India-rubber, is found in abundance inland from Shupanga-house, and calumba-root is plentiful in the district; indigo, in quantities, propagates itself close to the banks of the Aver, and was probably at some time cultivated, for manufactured indigo was once exported. The India-rubber is made into balls for a game resembling “fives,” and calumba-root is said to be used as a mordant for certain colours, but not as a dye itself.
We started for Tette on the 17th August, 1858; the navigation was rather difficult, the Zambesi from Shupanga to Senna being wide and full of islands; our black pilot, John Scisssors, a serf, sometimes took the wrong channel and ran us aground. Nothing abashed, he would exclaim in an aggrieved tone, “This is not the path, it is back yonder.” “Then why didn’t you go yonder at first?” growled out our Kroomen, who had the work of getting the vessel off. When they spoke roughly to poor Scissors, the weak cringing slave-spirit came forth in, “Those men scold me so, I am ready to run away.” This mode of finishing up an engagement is not at all uncommon on the Zambesi; several cases occurred, when we were on the river, of hired crews decamping with most of the goods in their charge. If the trader cannot redress his own wrongs, he has to endure them. The Landeens will not surrender a fugitive slave, even to his master. One belonging to Mr. Azevedo fled, and was, as a great favour only, returned after a present of much more than his value.
We landed to wood at Shamoara, just below the confluence of the Shiré. Its quartz hills are covered with trees and gigantic grasses; the buazé, a small forest-tree, grows abundantly; it is a species of polygala; its beautiful clusters of sweet-scented pinkish flowers perfume the air with a rich fragrance; its seeds produce a fine drying oil, and the bark of the smaller branches yields a fibre finer and stronger than flax; with which the natives make their nets for fishing. Bonga, the brother of the rebel Mariano, and now at the head of the revolted natives, with some of his principal men came to see us, and were perfectly friendly, though told of our having carried the sick Governor across to Shupanga, and of our having cured him of fever. On our acquainting Bonga with the object of the expedition, he remarked that we should suffer no hindrance from his people in our good work. He sent us a present of rice, two sheep, and a quantity of firewood. He never tried to make any use of us in the strife; the other side showed less confidence, by carefully cross-questioning our pilot whether we had sold any powder to the enemy. We managed, however, to keep on good terms with both rebels and Portuguese.
Senna is built on a low plain, on the right bank of the Zambesi, with some pretty detached hills in the background; it is surrounded by a stockade of living trees to protect its inhabitants from their troublesome and rebellious neighbours. It contains a few large houses, some ruins of others, and a weather-beaten cross, where once stood a church; a mound shows the site of an ancient monastery, and a mud fort by the river is so dilapidated, that cows were grazing peacefully over its prostrate walls.
The few Senna merchants, having little or no trade in the village, send parties of trusted slaves into the interior to hunt for and purchase ivory. It is a dull place, and very conducive to sleep. One is sure to take fever in Senna on the second day, if by chance one escapes it on the first day of a sojourn there; but no place is entirely bad. Senna has one redeeming feature: it is the native village of the large-hearted and hospitable Senhor H. A. Ferrão. The benevolence of this gentleman is unbounded. The poor black stranger passing through the town goes to him almost as a matter of course for food, and is never sent away hungry. In times of famine the starving natives are fed by his generosity; hundreds of his own people he never sees except on these occasions; and the only benefit derived from being their master is, that they lean on him as a patriarchal chief, and he has the satisfaction of settling their differences, and of saving their lives in seasons of drought and scarcity.
Senhor Ferrão received us with his usual kindness, and gave us a bountiful breakfast. During the day the principal men of the place called, and were unanimously of opinion that the free natives would willingly cultivate large quantities of cotton, could they find purchasers. They had in former times exported largely both cotton and cloth to Manica and even to Brazil. “On their own soil,” they declared, “the natives are willing to labour and trade, provided only they can do so to advantage: when it is for their interest, blacks work very hard.” We often remarked subsequently that this was the opinion of men of energy; and that all settlers of activity, enterprise, and sober habits had become rich, while those who were much addicted to lying on their backs smoking, invariably complained of the laziness of the negroes, and were poor, proud, and despicable.
Beyond Pita lies the little island Nyamotobsi, where we met a small fugitive tribe of hippopotamus hunters, who had been driven by war from their own island in front. All were busy at work; some were making gigantic baskets for grain, the men plaiting from the inside. With the civility so common among them the chief ordered a mat to be spread for us under a shed, and then showed us the weapon with which they kill the hippopotamus; it is a short iron harpoon inserted in the end of a long pole, but being intended to unship, it is made fast to a strong cord of milola, or hibiscus, bark, which is wound closely round the entire length of the shaft, and secured at its opposite end. Two men in a swift canoe steal quietly down on the sleeping animal. The bowman dashes the harpoon into the unconscious victim, while the quick steersman sweeps the light craft back with his broad paddle; the force of the blow separates the harpoon from its corded handle, which, appearing on the surface, sometimes with an inflated bladder attached, guides the hunters to where the wounded beast hides below until they despatch it.
These hippopotamus hunters form a separate people, called Akombwi, or Mapodzo, and rarely—the women it is said never—intermarry with any other tribe. The reason for their keeping aloof from certain of the natives on the Zambesi is obvious enough, some having as great an abhorrence of hippopotamus meat as Mahomedans have of swine’s flesh. Our pilot, Scissors, was one of this class; he would not even cook his food in a pot which had contained hippopotamus meat, preferring to go hungry till he could find another; and yet he traded eagerly in the animal’s tusks, and ate with great relish the flesh of the foul-feeding marabout. These hunters go out frequently on long expeditions, taking in their canoes their wives and children, cooking-pots, and sleeping-mats. When they reach a good game district, they erect temporary huts on the bank, and there dry the meat they have killed. They are rather a comely-looking race, with very black smooth skins, and never disfigure themselves with the frightful ornaments of some of the other tribes. The chief declined to sell a harpoon, because they could not now get the milola bark from the coast on account of Mariano’s war. He expressed some doubts about our being children of the same Almighty Father, remarking that “they could not become white, let them wash ever so much.” We made him a present of a bit of cloth, and he very generously gave us in return some fine fresh fish and Indian corn.
The heat of the weather steadily increases during this month (August), and foggy mornings are now rare. A strong breeze ending in a gale blows up stream every night. It came in the afternoon a few weeks ago, then later, and at present its arrival is near midnight; it makes our frail cabin-doors fly open before it, but continues only for a short time, and is succeeded by a dead calm. Game becomes more abundant; near our wooding-places we see herds of zebras, both Burchell’s and the mountain variety, pallahs (Antelope melampus), waterbuck, and wild hogs, with the spoor of buffaloes and elephants.
Shiramba Dembé, on the right bank, is deserted; a few old iron guns show where a rebel stockade once stood; near the river above this, stands a magnificent Baobab hollowed out into a good-sized hut, with bark inside as well as without. The old oaks in Sherwood Forest, when hollow, have the inside dead or rotten; but the Baobab, though stripped of its bark outside, and hollowed to a cavity inside, has the power of exuding new bark from its substance to both the outer and inner surfaces; so, a hut made like that in the oak called the “Forest Queen,” in Sherwood, would soon all be lined with bark.
The portions of the river called Shigogo and Shipanga are bordered by a low level expanse of marshy country, with occasional clumps of palm-trees and a few thorny acacias. The river itself spreads out to a width of from three to four miles, with many islands, among which it is difficult to navigate, except when the river is in flood. In front, a range of high hills from the north-east crosses and compresses it into a deep narrow channel, called the Lupata Gorge. The Portuguese thought the steamer would not stem the current here; but as it was not more than about three knots, and as there was a strong breeze in our favour, steam and sails got her through with ease. Heavy-laden canoes take two days to go up this pass. A current sweeps round the little rocky promontories Chifura and Kangomba, forming whirlpools and eddies dangerous for the clumsy craft, which are dragged past with long ropes.
The paddlers place meal on these rocks as an offering to the turbulent deities, which they believe preside over spots fatal to many a large canoe. We were slily told that native Portuguese take off their hats to these river gods, and pass in solemn silence; when safely beyond the promontories, they fire muskets, and, as we ought to do, give the canoe-men grog. From the spoor of buffaloes and elephants it appears that these animals frequent Lupata in considerable numbers, and—we have often observed the association—the tsetse fly is common. A horse for the Governor of Tette was sent in a canoe from Quillimane; and, lest it should be wrecked on the Chifura and Kangomba rocks, it was put on shore and sent in the daytime through the pass. It was of course bitten by the tsetse, and died soon after; it was thought that the air of Tette had not agreed with it. The currents above Lupata are stronger than those below; the country becomes more picturesque and hilly, and there is a larger population.
The ship anchored in the stream, off Tette, on the 8th September, 1858, and Dr. Livingstone went ashore in the boat. No sooner did the Makololo recognize him, than they rushed to the water’s edge, and manifested great joy at seeing him again. Some were hastening to embrace him, but others cried out, “Don’t touch him, you will spoil his new clothes.” The five headmen came on board and listened in quiet sadness to the story of poor Sekwebu, who died at the Mauritius on his way to England. “Men die in any country,” they observed, and then told us that thirty of their own number had died of smallpox, having been bewitched by the people of Tette, who envied them because, during the first year, none of their party had died. Six of their young men, becoming tired of cutting firewood for a meagre pittance, proposed to go and dance for gain before some of the neighbouring chiefs. “Don’t go,” said the others, “we don’t know the people of this country;” but the young men set out and visited an independent half-caste chief, a few miles to the north, named Chisaka, who some years ago burned all the Portuguese villas on the north bank of the river; afterwards the young men went to Bonga, son of another half-caste chief, who bade defiance to the Tette authorities, and had a stockade at the confluence of the Zambesi and Luenya, a few miles below that village. Asking the Makololo whence they came, Bonga rejoined, “Why do you come from my enemy to me? You have brought witchcraft medicine to kill me.” In vain they protested that they did not belong to the country; they were strangers, and had come from afar with an Englishman. The superstitious savage put them all to death. “We do not grieve,” said their companions, “for the thirty victims of the smallpox, who were taken away by Morimo (God); but our hearts are sore for the six youths who were murdered by Bonga.” Any hope of obtaining justice on the murderer was out of the question. Bonga once caught a captain of the Portuguese army, and forced him to perform the menial labour of pounding maize in a wooden mortar. No punishment followed on this outrage. The Government of Lisbon has since given Bonga the honorary title of Captain, by way of coaxing him to own their authority; but he still holds his stockade.
Tette stands on a succession of low sandstone ridges on the right bank of the Zambesi, which is here nearly a thousand yards wide (960 yards). Shallow ravines, running parallel with the river, form the streets, the houses being built on the ridges. The whole surface of the streets, except narrow footpaths, were overrun with self-sown indigo, and tons of it might have been collected. In fact indigo, senna, and stramonium, with a species of cassia, form the weeds of the place, which are annually hoed off and burned. A wall of stone and mud surrounds the village, and the native population live in huts outside. The fort and the church, near the river, are the strongholds; the natives having a salutary dread of the guns of the one, and a superstitious fear of the unknown power of the other. The number of white inhabitants is small, and rather select, many of them having been considerately sent out of Portugal “for their country’s good.” The military element preponderates in society; the convict and “incorrigible” class of soldiers, receiving very little pay, depend in great measure on the produce of the gardens of their black wives; the moral condition of the resulting population may be imagined.
Droughts are of frequent occurrence at Tette, and the crops suffer severely. This may arise partly from the position of the town between the ranges of hills north and south, which appear to have a strong attraction for the rain-clouds. It is often seen to rain on these hills when not a drop falls at Tette. Our first season was one of drought. Thrice had the women planted their gardens in vain, the seed, after just vegetating, was killed by the intense dry heat. A fourth planting shared the same hard fate, and then some of the knowing ones discovered the cause of the clouds being frightened away: our unlucky rain-gauge in the garden. We got a bad name through that same rain-gauge, and were regarded by many as a species of evil omen. The Makololo in turn blamed the people of Tette for drought: “A number of witches live here, who won’t let it rain.” Africans in general are sufficiently superstitious, but those of Tette are in this particular pre-eminent above their fellows. Coming from many different tribes, all the rays of the separate superstitions converge into a focus at Tette, and burn out common sense from the minds of the mixed breed. They believe that many evil spirits live in the air, the earth, and the water. These invisible malicious beings are thought to inflict much suffering on the human race; but, as they have a weakness for beer and a craving for food, they may be propitiated from time to time by offerings of meat and drink. The serpent is an object of worship, and hideous little images are hung in the huts of the sick and dying. The uncontaminated Africans believe that Morungo, the Great Spirit who formed all things, lives above the stars; but they never pray to him, and know nothing of their relation to him, or of his interest in them. The spirits of their departed ancestors are all good, according to their ideas, and on special occasions aid them in their enterprises. When a man has his hair cut, he is careful to burn it, or bury it secretly, lest, falling into the hands of one who has an evil eye, or is a witch, it should be used as a charm to afflict him with headache. They believe, too, that they will live after the death of the body, but do not know anything of the state of the Barimo (gods, or departed spirits).
The mango-tree grows luxuriantly above Lupata, and furnishes a grateful shade. Its delicious fruit is superior to that on the coast. For weeks the natives who have charge of the mangoes live entirely on the fruit, and, as some trees bear in November and some in March, while the main crop comes between, fruit in abundance may easily be obtained during four months of the year; but no native can be induced to plant a mango. A wide-spread superstition has become riveted in the native mind, that if any one plants this tree he will soon die. The Makololo, like other natives, were very fond of the fruit; but when told to take up some mango-stones, on their return, and plant them in their own country—they too having become deeply imbued with the belief that it was a suicidal act to do so—replied “they did not wish to die too soon.” There is also a superstition even among the native Portuguese of Tette, that if a man plants coffee he will never afterwards be happy: they drink it, however, and seem the happier for it.
The Portuguese of Tette have many slaves, with all the usual vices of their class, as theft, lying, and impurity. As a general rule the real Portuguese are tolerably humane masters and rarely treat a slave cruelly; this may be due as much to natural kindness of heart as to a fear of losing the slaves by their running away. When they purchase an adult slave they buy at the same time, if possible, all his relations along with him. They thus contrive to secure him to his new home by domestic ties. Running away then would be to forsake all who hold a place in his heart, for the mere chance of acquiring a freedom, which would probably be forfeited on his entrance into the first native village, for the chief might, without compunction, again sell him into slavery.
A rather singular case of voluntary slavery came to our knowledge: a free black, an intelligent active young fellow, called Chibanti, who had been our pilot on the river, told us that he had sold himself into slavery. On asking why he had done this, he replied that he was all alone in the world, had neither father nor mother, nor any one else to give him water when sick, or food when hungry; so he sold himself to Major Sicard, a notoriously kind master, whose slaves had little to do, and plenty to eat. “And how much did you get for yourself?” we asked. “Three thirty-yard pieces of cotton cloth,” he replied; “and I forthwith bought a man, a woman, and child, who cost me two of the pieces, and I had one piece left.” This, at all events, showed a cool and calculating spirit; he afterwards bought more slaves, and in two years owned a sufficient number to man one of the large canoes. His master subsequently employed him in carrying ivory to Quillimane, and gave him cloth to hire mariners for the voyage; he took his own slaves, of course, and thus drove a thriving business; and was fully convinced that he had made a good speculation by the sale of himself, for had he been sick his master must have supported him. Occasionally some of the free blacks become slaves voluntarily by going through the simple but significant ceremony of breaking a spear in the presence of their future master. A Portuguese officer, since dead, persuaded one of the Makololo to remain in Tette, instead of returning to his own country, and tried also to induce him to break a spear before him, and thus acknowledge himself his slave, but the man was too shrewd for this; he was a great elephant doctor, who accompanied the hunters, told them when to attack the huge beast, and gave them medicine to ensure success. Unlike the real Portuguese, many of the half-castes are merciless slave-holders; their brutal treatment of the wretched slaves is notorious. What a humane native of Portugal once said of them is appropriate if not true: “God made white men, and God made black men, but the devil made half-castes.”
The officers and merchants send parties of slaves under faithful headmen to hunt elephants and to trade in ivory, providing them with a certain quantity of cloth, beads, etc., and requiring so much ivory in return. These slaves think that they have made a good thing of it, when they kill an elephant near a village, as the natives give them beer and meal in exchange for some of the elephant’s meat, and over every tusk that is brought there is expended a vast amount of time, talk, and beer. Most of the Africans are natural-born traders, they love trade more for the sake of trading than for what they make by it. An intelligent gentleman of Tette told us that native traders often come to him with a tusk for sale, consider the price he offers, demand more, talk over it, retire to consult about it, and at length go away without selling it; next day they try another merchant, talk, consider, get puzzled and go off as on the previous day, and continue this course daily until they have perhaps seen every merchant in the village, and then at last end by selling the precious tusk to some one for even less than the first merchant had offered. Their love of dawdling in the transaction arises from the self-importance conferred on them by their being the object of the wheedling and coaxing of eager merchants, a feeling to which even the love of gain is subordinate.
The native medical profession is reasonably well represented. In addition to the regular practitioners, who are a really useful class, and know something of their profession, and the nature and power of certain medicines, there are others who devote their talents to some speciality. The elephant doctor prepares a medicine which is considered indispensable to the hunters when attacking that noble and sagacious beast; no hunter is willing to venture out before investing in this precious nostrum. The crocodile doctor sells a charm which is believed to possess the singular virtue of protecting its owner from crocodiles. Unwittingly we offended the crocodile school of medicine while at Tette, by shooting one of these huge reptiles as it lay basking in the sun on a sandbank; the doctors came to the Makololo in wrath, clamouring to know why the white man had shot their crocodile.
A shark’s hook was baited one evening with a dog, of which the crocodile is said to be particularly fond; but the doctors removed the bait, on the principle that the more crocodiles the more demand for medicine, or perhaps because they preferred to eat the dog themselves. Many of the natives of this quarter are known, as in the South Seas, to eat the dog without paying any attention to its feeding. The dice doctor or diviner is an important member of the community, being consulted by Portuguese and natives alike. Part of his business is that of a detective, it being his duty to discover thieves. When goods are stolen, he goes and looks at the place, casts his dice, and waits a few days, and then, for a consideration, tells who is the thief: he is generally correct, for he trusts not to his dice alone; he has confidential agents all over the village, by whose inquiries and information he is enabled to detect the culprit. Since the introduction of muskets, gun doctors have sprung up, and they sell the medicine which professes to make good marksmen; others are rain doctors, etc., etc. The various schools deal in little charms, which are hung round the purchaser’s neck to avert evil: some of them contain the medicine, others increase its power.
Indigo, about three or four feet high, grows in great luxuriance in the streets of Tette, and so does the senna plant. The leaves are undistinguishable from those imported in England. A small amount of first-rate cotton is cultivated by the native population for the manufacture of a coarse cloth. A neighbouring tribe raises the sugar-cane, and makes a little sugar; but they use most primitive wooden rollers, and having no skill in mixing lime with the extracted juice, the product is of course of very inferior quality. Plenty of magnetic iron ore is found near Tette, and coal also to any amount; a single cliff-seam measuring twenty-five feet in thickness. It was found to burn well in the steamer on the first trial. Gold is washed for in the beds of rivers, within a couple of days of Tette. The natives are fully aware of its value, but seldom search for it, and never dig deeper than four or five feet. They dread lest the falling in of the sand of the river’s bed should bury them. In former times, when traders went with hundreds of slaves to the washings, the produce was considerable. It is now insignificant. The gold-producing lands have always been in the hands of independent tribes. Deep cuttings near the sources of the gold-yielding streams seem never to have been tried here, as in California and Australia, nor has any machinery been used save common wooden basins for washing.
Kebrabasa Rapids—Tette—African fever—Exploration of the Shiré—Discovery of Lake Shirwa.
Our curiosity had been so much excited by the reports we had heard of the Kebrabasa rapids, that we resolved to make a short examination of them, and seized the opportunity of the Zambesi being unusually low, to endeavour to ascertain their character while uncovered by the water. We reached them on the 9th of November. The country between Tette and Panda Mokua, where navigation ends, is well wooded and hilly on both banks. Panda Mokua is a hill two miles below the rapids, capped with dolomite containing copper ore.
Conspicuous among the trees, for its gigantic size, and bark coloured exactly like Egyptian syenite, is the burly Baobab. It often makes the other trees of the forest look like mere bushes in comparison. A hollow one, already mentioned, is 74 feet in circumference, another was 84, and some have been found on the West Coast which measure 100 feet. The lofty range of Kebrabasa, consisting chiefly of conical hills, covered with scraggy trees, crosses the Zambesi, and confines it within a narrow, rough, and rocky dell of about a quarter of a mile in breadth; over this, which may be called the flood-bed of the river, large masses of rock are huddled in indescribable confusion. The drawing, for the use of which, and of others, our thanks are due to Lord Russell, conveys but a faint idea of the scene, inasmuch as the hills which confine the river do not appear in the sketch. The chief rock is syenite, some portions of which have a beautiful blue tinge like lapis lazuli diffused through them; others are grey. Blocks of granite also abound, of a pinkish tinge; and these with metamorphic rocks, contorted, twisted, and thrown into every conceivable position, afford a picture of dislocation or unconformability which would gladden a geological lecturer’s heart; but at high flood this rough channel is all smoothed over, and it then conforms well with the river below it, which is half a mile wide. In the dry season the stream runs at the bottom of a narrow and deep groove, whose sides are polished and fluted by the boiling action of the water in flood, like the rims of ancient Eastern wells by the draw-ropes. The breadth of the groove is often not more than from forty to sixty yards, and it has some sharp turnings, double channels, and little cataracts in it. As we steamed up, the masts of the “Ma Robert,” though some thirty feet high, did not reach the level of the flood-channel above, and the man in the chains sung out, “No bottom at ten fathoms.” Huge pot-holes, as large as draw-wells, had been worn in the sides, and were so deep that in some instances, when protected from the sun by overhanging boulders, the water in them was quite cool. Some of these holes had been worn right through, and only the side next the rock remained; while the sides of the groove of the flood-channel were polished as smooth as if they had gone through the granite-mills of Aberdeen. The pressure of the water must be enormous to produce this polish. It had wedged round pebbles into chinks and crannies of the rocks so firmly that, though they looked quite loose, they could not be moved except with a hammer. The mighty power of the water here seen gave us an idea of what is going on in thousands of cataracts in the world. All the information we had been able to obtain from our Portuguese friends amounted to this, that some three or four detached rocks jutted out of the river in Kebrabasa, which, though dangerous to the cumbersome native canoes, could be easily passed by a steamer, and that if one or two of these obstructions were blasted away with gunpowder, no difficulty would hereafter be experienced. After we had painfully explored seven or eight miles of the rapid, we returned to the vessel satisfied that much greater labour was requisite for the mere examination of the cataracts than our friends supposed necessary to remove them; we therefore went down the river for fresh supplies, and made preparation for a more serious survey of this region.
The steamer having returned from the bar, we set out on the 22nd of November to examine the rapids of Kebrabasa. We reached the foot of the hills again, late in the afternoon of the 24th, and anchored in the stream. Canoe-men never sleep on the river, but always spend the night on shore. The natives on the right bank, in the country called Shidima, who are Banyai, and even at this short distance from Tette, independent, and accustomed to lord it over Portuguese traders, wondered what could be our object in remaining afloat, and were naturally suspicious at our departing from the universal custom.
They hailed us from the bank in the evening with “Why don’t you come and sleep onshore like other people?”
The answer they received from our Makololo, who now felt as independent as the Banyai, was, “We are held to the bottom with iron; you may see we are not like your Bazungu.”
This hint, a little amplified, saved us from the usual exactions. It is pleasant to give a present, but that pleasure the Banyai usually deny to strangers by making it a fine, and demanding it in such a supercilious way, that only a sorely cowed trader could bear it. They often refuse to touch what is offered—throw it down and leave it—sneer at the trader’s slaves, and refuse a passage until the tribute is raised to the utmost extent of his means.
Leaving the steamer next morning, we proceeded on foot, accompanied by a native Portuguese and his men and a dozen Makololo, who carried our baggage. The morning was pleasant, the hills on our right furnished for a time a delightful shade; but before long the path grew frightfully rough, and the hills no longer shielded us from the blazing sun. Scarcely a vestige of a track was now visible; and, indeed, had not our guide assured us to the contrary, we should have been innocent of even the suspicion of a way along the patches of soft yielding sand, and on the great rocks over which we so painfully clambered. These rocks have a singular appearance, from being dislocated and twisted in every direction, and covered with a thin black glaze, as if highly polished and coated with lamp-black varnish. This seems to have been deposited while the river was in flood, for it covers only those rocks which lie between the highest water-mark and a line about four feet above the lowest. Travellers who have visited the rapids of the Orinoco and the Congo say that the rocks there have a similar appearance, and it is attributed to some deposit from the water, formed only when the current is strong. This may account for it in part here, as it prevails only where the narrow river is confined between masses of rock, backed by high hills, and where the current in floods is known to be the strongest; and it does not exist where the rocks are only on one side, with a sandy beach opposite, and a broad expanse of river between. The hot rocks burnt the thick soles of our men’s feet, and sorely fatigued ourselves. Our first day’s march did not exceed four miles in a straight line, and that we found more than enough to be pleasant.
The state of insecurity in which the Badèma tribe live is indicated by the habit of hiding their provisions in the hills, and keeping only a small quantity in their huts; they strip a particular species of tree of its bitter bark, to which both mice and monkeys are known to have an antipathy, and, turning the bark inside out, sew it into cylindrical vessels for their grain, and bury them in holes and in crags on the wooded hill-sides. By this means, should a marauding party plunder their huts, they save a supply of corn. They “could give us no information, and they had no food; Chisaka’s men had robbed them a few weeks before.”
“Never mind,” said our native Portuguese, “they will sell you plenty when you return, they are afraid of you now, as yet they do not know who you are.” We slept under trees in the open air, and suffered no inconvenience from either mosquitoes or dew: and no prowling wild beast troubled us; though one evening, while we were here, a native sitting with some others on the opposite bank was killed by a leopard.
One of the Tette slaves, who wished to be considered a great traveller, gave us, as we sat by our evening fire, an interesting account of a strange race of men whom he had seen in the interior; they were only three feet high, and had horns growing out of their heads; they lived in a large town and had plenty of food. The Makololo pooh-poohed this story, and roundly told the narrator that he was telling a downright lie. “We come from the interior,” cried out a tall fellow, measuring some six feet four, “are we dwarfs? have we horns on our heads?” and thus they laughed the fellow to scorn. But he still stoutly maintained that he had seen these little people, and had actually been in their town; thus making himself the hero of the traditional story, which before and since the time of Herodotus has, with curious persistency, clung to the native mind. The mere fact that such absurd notions are permanent, even in the entire absence of literature, invests the religious ideas of these people also with importance, as fragments of the wreck of the primitive faith floating down the stream of time.
We waded across the rapid Luia, which took us up to the waist, and was about forty yards wide. The water was discoloured at the time, and we were not without apprehension that a crocodile might chance to fancy a white man for dinner. Next day one of the men crawled over the black rocks to within ten yards of a sleeping hippopotamus, and shot him through the brain. The weather being warm, the body floated in a few hours, and some of us had our first trial of hippopotamus flesh. It is a cross-grained meat, something between pork and beef,—pretty good food when one is hungry and can get nothing better. When we reached the foot of the mountain named Chipereziwa, whose perpendicular rocky sides are clothed with many-coloured lichens, our Portuguese companion informed us there were no more obstructions to navigation, the river being all smooth above; he had hunted there and knew it well. Supposing that the object of our trip was accomplished we turned back; but two natives, who came to our camp at night, assured us that a cataract, called Morumbwa, did still exist in front. Drs. Livingstone and Kirk then decided to go forward with three Makololo and settle the question for themselves. It was as tough a bit of travel as they ever had in Africa, and after some painful marching the Badèma guides refused to go further; “the Banyai,” they said, “would be angry if they showed white men the country; and there was besides no practicable approach to the spot, neither elephant, nor hippopotamus, nor even a crocodile could reach the cataract.” The slopes of the mountains on each side of the river, now not 300 yards wide, and without the flattish flood-channel and groove, were more than 3000 feet from the sky-line down, and were covered either with dense thornbush or huge black boulders; this deep trough-like shape caused the sun’s rays to converge as into a focus, making the surface so hot that the soles of the feet of the Makololo became blistered. Around, and up and down, the party clambered among these heated blocks, at a pace not exceeding a mile an hour; the strain upon the muscles in jumping from crag to boulder, and wriggling round projections, took an enormous deal out of them, and they were often glad to cower in the shadow formed by one rock overhanging and resting on another; the shelter induced the peculiarly strong and overpowering inclination to sleep, which too much sun sometimes causes. This sleep is curative of what may be incipient sunstroke: in its first gentle touches, it caused the dream to flit over the boiling brain, that they had become lunatics and had been sworn in as members of the Alpine club; and then it became so heavy that it made them feel as if a portion of existence had been cut out from their lives. The sun is excessively hot, and feels sharp in Africa; but, probably from the greater dryness of the atmosphere, we never heard of a single case of sunstroke, so common in India. The Makololo told Dr. Livingstone they “always thought he had a heart, but now they believed he had none,” and tried to persuade Dr. Kirk to return, on the ground that it must be evident that, in attempting to go where no living foot could tread, his leader had given unmistakeable signs of having gone mad. All their efforts of persuasion, however, were lost upon Dr. Kirk, as he had not yet learned their language, and his leader, knowing his companion to be equally anxious with himself to solve the problem of the navigableness of Kebrabasa, was not at pains to enlighten him. At one part a bare mountain spur barred the way, and had to be surmounted by a perilous and circuitous route, along which the crags were so hot that it was scarcely possible for the hand to hold on long enough to ensure safety in the passage; and had the foremost of the party lost his hold, he would have hurled all behind him into the river at the foot of the promontory; yet in this wild hot region, as they descended again to the river, they met a fisherman casting his hand-net into the boiling eddies, and he pointed out the cataract of Morumbwa; within an hour they were trying to measure it from an overhanging rock, at a height of about one hundred feet. When you stand facing the cataract, on the north bank, you see that it is situated in a sudden bend of the river, which is flowing in a short curve; the river above it is jammed between two mountains in a channel with perpendicular sides, and less than fifty yards wide; one or two masses of rock jut out, and then there is a sloping fall of perhaps twenty feet in a distance of thirty yards. It would stop all navigation, except during the highest floods; the rocks showed that the water then rises upwards of eighty feet perpendicularly.
Still keeping the position facing the cataract, on its right side rises Mount Morumbwa from 2000 to 3000 feet high, which gives the name to the spot. On the left of the cataract stands a noticeable mountain which may be called onion-shaped, for it is partly conical and a large concave flake has peeled off, as granite often does, and left a broad, smooth convex face as if it were an enormous bulb. These two mountains extend their bases northwards about half a mile, and the river in that distance, still very narrow, is smooth, with a few detached rocks standing out from its bed. They climbed as high up the base of Mount Morumbwa, which touches the cataract, as they required. The rocks were all water-worn and smooth, with huge potholes, even at 100 feet above low water. When at a later period they climbed up the north-western base of this same mountain, the familiar face of the onion-shaped one opposite was at once recognised; one point of view on the talus of Mount Morumbwa was not more than 700 or 800 yards distant from the other, and they then completed the survey of Kebrabasa from end to end.
They did not attempt to return by the way they came, but scaled the slope of the mountain on the north. It took them three hours’ hard labour in cutting their way up through the dense thornbush which covered the ascent. The face of the slope was often about an angle of 70 degrees, yet their guide Shokumbenla, whose hard, horny soles, resembling those of elephants, showed that he was accustomed to this rough and hot work, carried a pot of water for them nearly all the way up. They slept that night at a well in a tufaceous rock on the N.W. of Chipereziwa, and never was sleep more sweet.
A band of native musicians came to our camp one evening, on our own way down, and treated us with their wild and not unpleasant music on the Marimba, an instrument formed of bars of hard wood of varying breadth and thickness, laid on different-sized hollow calabashes, and tuned to give the notes; a few pieces of cloth pleased them, and they passed on.
The rainy season of Tette differs a little from that of some of the other intertropical regions; the quantity of rain-fall being considerably less. It begins in November and ends in April. During our first season in that place, only a little over nineteen inches of rain fell. In an average year, and when the crops are good, the fall amounts to about thirty-five inches. On many days it does not rain at all, and rarely is it wet all day; some days have merely a passing shower, preceded and followed by hot sunshine; occasionally an interval of a week, or even a fortnight, passes without a drop of rain, and then the crops suffer from the sun. These partial droughts happen in December and January. The heat appears to increase to a certain point in the different latitudes so as to necessitate a change, by some law similar to that which regulates the intense cold in other countries. After several days of progressive heat here, on the hottest of which the thermometer probably reaches 103 degrees in the shade, a break occurs in the weather, and a thunderstorm cools the air for a time. At Kuruman, when the thermometer stood above 84 degrees, rain might be expected; at Kolobeng, the point at which we looked for a storm was 96 degrees. The Zambesi is in flood twice in the course of the year; the first flood, a partial one, attains its greatest height about the end of December or beginning of January; the second, and greatest, occurs after the river inundates the interior, in a manner similar to the overflow of the Nile, this rise not taking place at Tette until March. The Portuguese say that the greatest height which the March floods attain is thirty feet at Tette, and this happens only about every fourth year; their observations, however, have never been very accurate on anything but ivory, and they have in this case trusted to memory alone. The only fluviometer at Tette, or anywhere else on the river, was set up at our suggestion; and the first flood was at its greatest height of thirteen feet six inches on the 17th January, 1859, and then gradually fell a few feet, until succeeded by the greater flood of March. The river rises suddenly, the water is highly discoloured and impure, and there is a four-knot current in many places; but in a day or two after the first rush of waters is passed, the current becomes more equally spread over the whole bed of the river, and resumes its usual rate in the channel, although continuing in flood. The Zambesi water at other times is almost chemically pure, and the photographer would find that it is nearly as good as distilled water for the nitrate of silver bath.
A third visit to Kebrabasa was made for the purpose of ascertaining whether it might be navigable when the Zambesi was in flood, the chief point of interest being of course Morumbwa; it was found that the rapids observed in our first trip had disappeared, and that while they were smoothed over, in a few places the current had increased in strength. As the river fell rapidly while we were on the journey, the cataract of Morumbwa did not differ materially from what it was when discovered. Some fishermen assured us that it was not visible when the river was at its fullest, and that the current was then not very strong. On this occasion we travelled on the right bank, and found it, with the additional inconvenience of rain, as rough and fatiguing as the left had been. Our progress was impeded by the tall wet grass and dripping boughs, and consequent fever. During the earlier part of the journey we came upon a few deserted hamlets only; but at last in a pleasant valley we met some of the people of the country, who were miserably poor and hungry. The women were gathering wild fruits in the woods. A young man having consented for two yards of cotton cloth to show us a short path to the cataract led us up a steep hill to a village perched on the edge of one of its precipices; a thunderstorm coming on at the time, the headman invited us to take shelter in a hut until it had passed. Our guide having informed him of what he knew and conceived to be our object, was favoured in return with a long reply in well-sounding blank verse; at the end of every line the guide, who listened with deep attention, responded with a grunt, which soon became so ludicrous that our men burst into a loud laugh. Neither the poet nor the responsive guide took the slightest notice of their rudeness, but kept on as energetically as ever to the end. The speech, or more probably our bad manners, made some impression on our guide, for he declined, although offered double pay, to go any further.
A great deal of fever comes in with March and April; in March, if considerable intervals take place between the rainy days, and in April always, for then large surfaces of mud and decaying vegetation are exposed to the hot sun. In general an attack does not continue long, but it pulls one down quickly; though when the fever is checked the strength is as quickly restored. It had long been observed that those who were stationed for any length of time in one spot, and lived sedentary lives, suffered more from fever than others who moved about and had both mind and body occupied; but we could not all go in the small vessel when she made her trips, during which the change of place and scenery proved so conducive to health; and some of us were obliged to remain in charge of the expedition’s property, making occasional branch trips to examine objects of interest in the vicinity. Whatever may be the cause of the fever, we observed that all were often affected at the same time, as if from malaria. This was particularly the case during a north wind: it was at first commonly believed that a daily dose of quinine would prevent the attack. For a number of months all our men, except two, took quinine regularly every morning. The fever some times attacked the believers in quinine, while the unbelievers in its prophylactic powers escaped. Whether we took it daily, or omitted it altogether for months, made no difference; the fever was impartial, and seized us on the days of quinine as regularly and as severely as when it remained undisturbed in the medicine chest, and we finally abandoned the use of it as a prophylactic altogether. The best preventive against fever is plenty of interesting work to do, and abundance of wholesome food to eat. To a man well housed and clothed, who enjoys these advantages, the fever at Tette will not prove a more formidable enemy than a common cold; but let one of these be wanting—let him be indolent, or guilty of excesses in eating or drinking, or have poor, scanty fare,—and the fever will probably become a more serious matter. It is of a milder type at Tette than at Quillimane or on the low sea-coast; and, as in this part of Africa one is as liable to fever as to colds in England, it would be advisable for strangers always to hasten from the coast to the high lands, in order that when the seizure does take place, it may be of the mildest type. Although quinine was not found to be a preventive, except possibly in the way of acting as a tonic, and rendering the system more able to resist the influence of malaria, it was found invaluable in the cure of the complaint, as soon as pains in the back, sore bones, headache, yawning, quick and sometimes intermittent pulse, noticeable pulsations of the jugulars, with suffused eyes, hot skin, and foul tongue, began. [1 - A remedy composed of from six to eight grains of resin of jalap, the same of rhubarb, and three each of calomel and quinine, made up into four pills, with tincture of cardamoms, usually relieved all the symptoms in five or six hours. Four pills are a full dose for a man—one will suffice for a woman. They received from our men the name of “rousers,” from their efficacy in rousing up even those most prostrated. When their operation is delayed, a dessert-spoonful of Epsom salts should be given. Quinine after or during the operation of the pills, in large doses every two or three hours, until deafness or cinchonism ensued, completed the cure. The only cases in which, we found ourselves completely helpless, were those in which obstinate vomiting ensued.]
Very curious are the effects of African fever on certain minds. Cheerfulness vanishes, and the whole mental horizon is overcast with black clouds of gloom and sadness. The liveliest joke cannot provoke even the semblance of a smile. The countenance is grave, the eyes suffused, and the few utterances are made in the piping voice of a wailing infant. An irritable temper is often the first symptom of approaching fever. At such times a man feels very much like a fool, if he does not act like one. Nothing is right, nothing pleases the fever-stricken victim. He is peevish, prone to find fault and to contradict, and think himself insulted, and is exactly what an Irish naval surgeon before a court-martial defined a drunken man to be: “a man unfit for society.”
Finding that it was impossible to take our steamer of only ten-horse power through Kebrabasa, and convinced that, in order to force a passage when the river was in flood, much greater power was required, due information was forwarded to Her Majesty’s Government, and application made for a more suitable vessel. Our attention was in the mean time turned to the exploration of the river Shiré, a northern tributary of the Zambesi, which joins it about a hundred miles from the sea. We could learn nothing satisfactory from the Portuguese regarding this affluent; no one, they said, had ever been up it, nor could they tell whence it came. Years ago a Portuguese expedition is said, however, to have attempted the ascent, but to have abandoned it on account of the impenetrable duckweed (Pistia stratiotes.) We could not learn from any record that the Shiré had ever been ascended by Europeans. As far, therefore, as we were concerned, the exploration was absolutely new. All the Portuguese believed the Manganja to be brave but bloodthirsty savages; and on our return we found that soon after our departure a report was widely spread that our temerity had been followed by fatal results, Dr. Livingstone having been shot, and Dr. Kirk mortally wounded by poisoned arrows.
Our first trip to the Shiré was in January, 1859. A considerable quantity of weed floated down the river for the first twenty-five miles, but not sufficient to interrupt navigation with canoes or with any other craft. Nearly the whole of this aquatic plant proceeds from a marsh on the west, and comes into the river a little beyond a lofty hill called Mount Morambala. Above that there is hardly any. As we approached the villages, the natives collected in large numbers, armed with bows and poisoned arrows; and some, dodging behind trees, were observed taking aim as if on the point of shooting. All the women had been sent out of the way, and the men were evidently prepared to resist aggression. At the village of a chief named Tingané, at least five hundred natives collected and ordered us to stop. Dr. Livingstone went ashore; and on his explaining that we were English and had come neither to take slaves nor to fight, but only to open a path by which our countrymen might follow to purchase cotton, or whatever else they might have to sell, except slaves, Tingané became at once quite friendly. The presence of the steamer, which showed that they had an entirely new people to deal with, probably contributed to this result; for Tingané was notorious for being the barrier to all intercourse between the Portuguese black traders and the natives further inland; none were allowed to pass him either way. He was an elderly, well-made man, grey-headed, and over six feet high. Though somewhat excited by our presence, he readily complied with the request to call his people together, in order that all might know what our objects were.
In commencing intercourse with any people we almost always referred to the English detestation of slavery. Most of them already possess some information respecting the efforts made by the English at sea to suppress the slave-trade; and our work being to induce them to raise and sell cotton, instead of capturing and selling their fellow-men, our errand appears quite natural; and as they all have clear ideas of their own self-interest, and are keen traders, the reasonableness of the proposal is at once admitted; and as a belief in a Supreme Being, the Maker and Ruler of all things, and in the continued existence of departed spirits, is universal, it becomes quite appropriate to explain that we possess a Book containing a Revelation of the will of Him to whom in their natural state they recognise no relationship. The fact that His Son appeared among men, and left His words in His Book, always awakens attention; but the great difficulty is to make them feel that they have any relationship to Him, and that He feels any interest in them. The numbness of moral perception exhibited, is often discouraging; but the mode of communication, either by interpreters, or by the imperfect knowledge of the language, which not even missionaries of talent can overcome save by the labour of many years, may, in part, account for the phenomenon. However, the idea of the Father of all being displeased with His children, for selling or killing each other, at once gains their ready assent: it harmonizes so exactly with their own ideas of right and wrong. But, as in our own case at home, nothing less than the instruction and example of many years will secure their moral elevation.
The dialect spoken here closely resembles that used at Senna and Tette. We understood it at first only enough to know whether our interpreter was saying what we bade him, or was indulging in his own version. After stating pretty nearly what he was told, he had an inveterate tendency to wind up with “The Book says you are to grow cotton, and the English are to come and buy it,” or with some joke of his own, which might have been ludicrous, had it not been seriously distressing.
In the first ascent of the Shiré our attention was chiefly directed to the river itself. The delight of threading out the meanderings of upwards of 200 miles of a hitherto unexplored river must be felt to be appreciated. All the lower part of the river was found to be at least two fathoms in depth. It became shallower higher up, where many departing and re-entering branches diminished the volume of water, but the absence of sandbanks made it easy of navigation. We had to exercise the greatest care lest anything we did should be misconstrued by the crowds who watched us. After having made, in a straight line, one hundred miles, although the windings of the river had fully doubled the distance, we found further progress with the steamer arrested, in 15 degrees 55 minutes south, by magnificent cataracts, which we called, “The Murchison,” after one whose name has already a world-wide fame, and whose generous kindness we can never repay. The native name of that figured in the woodcut is Mamvira. It is that at which the progress of the steamer was first stopped. The angle of descent is much smaller than that of the five cataracts above it; indeed, so small as compared with them, that after they were discovered this was not included in the number.