The Victoria Falls of the Zambesi--Marvellous grandeur of the Cataracts--The Makololo's town--The Chief Sekeletu.
During the time we remained at Motunta a splendid meteor was observed to lighten the whole heavens. The observer's back was turned to it, but on looking round the streak of light was seen to remain on its path some seconds. This streak is usually explained to be only the continuance of the impression made by the shining body on the retina. This cannot be, as in this case the meteor was not actually seen and yet the streak was clearly perceived. The rays of planets and stars also require another explanation than that usually given.
Fruit-trees and gigantic wild fig-trees, and circles of stones on which corn safes were placed, with worn grindstones, point out where the villages once stood. The only reason now assigned for this fine country remaining desolate is the fear of fresh visitations by the Matebele. The country now slopes gradually to the west into the Makololo Valley. Two days' march from the Batoka village nearest the highlands, we met with some hunters who were burning the dry grass, in order to attract the game by the fresh vegetation which speedily springs up afterwards. The grass, as already remarked, is excellent for cattle. One species, with leaves having finely serrated edges, and of a reddish-brown colour, we noticed our men eating: it tastes exactly like liquorice-root, and is named kezu-kezu. The tsetse, known to the Batoka by the name "ndoka," does not exist here, though buffaloes and elephants abound.
A small trap in the path, baited with a mouse, to catch spotted cats (F. Genetta), is usually the first indication that we are drawing near to a village; but when we get within the sounds of pounding corn, cockcrowing, or the merry shouts of children at play, we know that the huts are but a few yards off, though the trees conceal them from view. We reached, on the 4th of August, Moachemba, the first of the Batoka villages which now owe allegiance to Sekeletu, and could see distinctly with the naked eye, in the great valley spread out before us, the columns of vapour rising from the Victoria Falls, though upwards of 20 miles distant. We were informed that, the rains having failed this year, the corn crops had been lost, and great scarcity and much hunger prevailed from Sesheke to Linyanti. Some of the reports which the men had heard from the Batoka of the hills concerning their families, were here confirmed. Takelang's wife had been killed by Mashotlane, the headman at the Falls, on a charge, as usual, of witchcraft. Inchikola's two wives, believing him to be dead, had married again; and Masakasa was intensely disgusted to hear that two years ago his friends, upon a report of his death, threw his shield over the Falls, slaughtered all his oxen, and held a species of wild Irish wake, in honour of his memory: he said he meant to disown them, and to say, when they come to salute him, "I am dead. I am not here. I belong to another world, and should stink if I came among you."
All the sad news we had previously heard, of the disastrous results which followed the attempt of a party of missionaries, under the Rev. H. Helmore, to plant the gospel at Linyanti, were here fully confirmed. Several of the missionaries and their native attendants, from Kuruman, had succumbed to the fever, and the survivors had retired some weeks before our arrival. We remained the whole of the 7th beside the village of the old Batoka chief, Moshobotwane, the stoutest man we have seen in Africa. The cause of our delay here was a severe attack of fever in Charles Livingstone. He took a dose of our fever pills; was better on the 8th, and marched three hours; then on the 9th marched eight miles to the Great Falls, and spent the rest of the day in the fatiguing exercise of sight-seeing. We were in the very same valley as Linyanti, and this was the same fever which treated, or rather maltreated, with only a little Dover's powder, proved so fatal to poor Helmore; the symptoms, too, were identical with those afterwards described by non-medical persons as those of poison.
We gave Moshobotwane a present, and a pretty plain exposition of what we thought of his bloody forays among his Batoka brethren. A scolding does most good to the recipient, when put alongside some obliging act. He certainly did not take it ill, as was evident from what he gave us in return; which consisted of a liberal supply of meal, milk, and an ox. He has a large herd of cattle, and a tract of fine pasture-land on the beautiful stream Lekone. A home-feeling comes over one, even in the interior of Africa, at seeing once more cattle grazing peacefully in the meadows. The tsetse inhabits the trees which bound the pasture-land on the west; so, should the herdsman forget his duty, the cattle straying might be entirely lost. The women of this village were more numerous than the men, the result of the chief's marauding. The Batoko wife of Sima came up from the Falls, to welcome her husband back, bringing a present of the best fruits of the country. Her husband was the only one of the party who had brought a wife from Tette, namely, the girl whom he obtained from Chisaka for his feats of dancing. According to our ideas, his first wife could hardly have been pleased at seeing the second and younger one; but she took her away home with her, while the husband remained with us. In going down to the Fall village we met several of the real Makololo. They are lighter in colour than the other tribes, being of a rich warm brown; and they speak in a slow deliberate manner, distinctly pronouncing every word. On reaching the village opposite Kalai, we had an interview with the Makololo headman, Mashotlane: he came to the shed in which we were seated, a little boy carrying his low three-legged stool before him: on this he sat down with becoming dignity, looked round him for a few seconds, then at us, and, saluting us with "Rumela" (good morning, or hail), he gave us some boiled hippopotamus meat, took a piece himself, and then handed the rest to his attendants, who soon ate it up. He defended his forays on the ground that, when he went to collect tribute, the Batoka attacked him, and killed some of his attendants. The excuses made for their little wars are often the very same as those made by Caesar in his "Commentaries." Few admit, like old Moshobotwane, that they fought because they had the power, and a fair prospect of conquering. We found here Pitsane, who had accompanied the Doctor to St. Paul de Loanda. He had been sent by Sekeletu to purchase three horses from a trading party of Griquas from Kuruman, who charged nine large tusks apiece for very wretched animals.
In the evening, when all was still, one of our men, Takelang, fired his musket, and cried out, "I am weeping for my wife: my court is desolate: I have no home;" and then uttered a loud wail of anguish.
We proceeded next morning, 9th August, 1860, to see the Victoria Falls. Mosi-oa-tunya is the Makololo name and means smoke sounding; Seongo or Chongwe, meaning the Rainbow, or the place of the Rainbow, was the more ancient term they bore. We embarked in canoes, belonging to Tuba Mokoro, "smasher of canoes," an ominous name; but he alone, it seems, knew the medicine which insures one against shipwreck in the rapids above the Falls. For some miles the river was smooth and tranquil, and we glided pleasantly over water clear as crystal, and past lovely islands densely covered with a tropical vegetation. Noticeable among the many trees were the lofty Hyphaene and Borassus palms; the graceful wild date-palm, with its fruit in golden clusters, and the umbrageous mokononga, of cypress form, with its dark-green leaves and scarlet fruit. Many flowers peeped out near the water's edge, some entirely new to us, and others, as the convolvulus, old acquaintances.