Livingstone was continually in total amazement at the sheer numbers of animals that approached them as they camped out in the open. Eighty-one buffaloes came by in slow procession by their campfire one evening without having any fear that they would be shot. Lions would roar and carry on within a few hundred yards of the campfire. Rowing along the river, there was always an interesting array of sights to see. There were many different kinds of birds that were beautiful to look at. Iguanas lay sunning themselves on branches that overhung the bank of the river. They were highly esteemed by the natives as a delicacy to eat.
In the deep waters of the river, there would be whole herds of hippopotamuses that would be just lying there in the river. They prefer very still, deep water for the drowsy state that they prefer to be in during the day. They would lay in the water just with their noses barely above the top so that they would not be detected and shot by a hunter. There could be a huge number of them in the water and you wouldn’t even know it unless they came up for some reason.
As they traveled down the river, some of them had to walk along the side because there was not enough boats for everyone. In several places, they had to cross and were in great danger from the alligators there. They had killed many small children and calves who were too small to be aware of the dangers. Livingstone himself was attacked by one when he was crossing the river. The only reason that he got away was because he had his spear with him, and speared the alligator behind the shoulder. Even then he came out of the river with the deep marks of the reptile’s teeth on his thigh. To date, a lion had badly injured his shoulder, and now an alligator had injured his thigh. He tried to teach the natives how to shoot for meat, but they were terrible at it and most of it fell to him to do. He had a very hard time, because his shoulder had needed surgery and the bones had never knitted together like they should have. It was hard for him to shoot well enough to kill game.
Gradually the party came to another river called the Luba. He was now among the Balonda people, a tribe that had a vague idea of spirit life, which we could say was somewhat a form of religion. This did not benefit them in understanding the gospel, though, because they had turned their religion into much superstition about everything. They filed their teeth to a point and tattooed themselves by somehow raising the skin into small elevated circles. When they had done enough of these circles, they could form a design with them. They couldn’t actually put dye in their skin because it was so dark that it wouldn’t have shown up.
This tribe was ruled by a woman chief named Nyamoana. She believed in charms and witchcraft, and was a woman of much cunning and immense influence. At first she was very wary of Livingstone, and thought he was there to harm them, but soon she changed her mind and became friendly. She not only bade him to depart in peace, but even accompanied him to the next village named Kabompo, which contained many thousand people, and was ruled by a chief called Shinte. Here he was treated to a royal reception, with the warriors going through their military exercises of leaping and throwing spears.
The chief asked Livingstone to visit him, but the chief had to wait a few days because he was suffering from a high fever. When he was feeling better, he visited the chief and brought along with him a magic lantern which threw life-size pictures on the wall. Shinte at once sent for all his wives and the dignitaries of his court and had them all assemble to watch the show. The first picture was Abraham about to slaughter his son Isaac; it was shown as large as life, and the uplifted knife was in the act of striking the lad. The Balonda men remarked that the picture was much more like a god than the things of wood or clay they worshiped. Livingstone explained that this man was the first of a race to whom God had given the Bible which he now held, and that among his children our Savior appeared. The ladies sat with silent awe, but when he moved the slide, the uplifted dagger seemed to move toward them and they thought they were in danger of being stabbed instead of Isaac. They all shouted at once and started running around trying to get away from the dagger. They finally got out and could not be persuaded to come back in. However, Shinte sat bravely through the whole thing and afterward examined the instrument with interest. Livingstone was careful to explain to him how it worked so that he would not think that there was anything supernatural in it.
Shinte acquired a great liking for Livingstone so much so that he did not want him to leave. He believed that so long as the white man was in his village that his people would have nothing but good luck and pleasure. It was the rainy season, and Livingstone could not procure guides to help him go further, so one night he was in his tent alone. Shinte slipped in, not wanting anyone to know that he was there. He looked at all the things in the tent closely, being very curious about each thing. He then drew out from his clothing a string of beads and the end of a conical shell, which he hung about Livingstone’s neck with the remark, “There, now you have a proof of my friendship.” The value of the present was immense. Two of the shells could have bought a slave, and five would have been considered a handsome price for an elephant’s tuck which was worth $150 in England.
After leaving Shinte, Livingstone proceeded northward, through many other various villages. While passing through a village governed by a chief named Ionga Panza, one of the guides deserted and took with him some articles from the chief. The chief held Livingstone responsible because he had brought the thief into the country. Things were tense for a time, but in order to avoid a calamity, Livingstone agreed to give Panza an ox in place of the stolen articles. It just happened that the ox had part of his tail cut off and the chief would not accept it, because he suspected that the tail had purposely been cut off and some witchcraft medicine inserted. They had to give him another ox, but Livingstone knew that if he cut the tails off the other oxen that he would not have a problem with any of the natives stealing them, and he did so.
The objective of the expedition was to go to the settlement of St. Paul de Loanda, on the southwestern coast of Africa. As they drew near the sea, Livingstone noticed that his men were becoming very uneasy, not knowing what to expect. On ascending some hills near the town they caught a glimpse of the ocean. They just stood there and regarded it with total awe. One of them described his feelings afterwards in the following way: “we marched along with our father, believing that what the ancients had always told us was true, that the world has no end; but all at once the world said to us, ‘I am finished: there is no more of me.’ ” They had always imagined that the world was one extended plain without limit. Africa was so large that it was easy for them to believe that the whole world was only covered with land.
Livingstone arrived at Loanda on the 31st of May, 1854. He was extremely fatigued and had severe dysentery. Loanda was a population of twelve thousand people. There was only one Englishman there who was a commissioner for the suppression of the slave trade. This man looked upon Livingstone as a brother, and took him at once to his house, giving him his own bed and making him comfortable in every way.
Livingstone remained there for nearly four months, much of the time being bedridden by fever. He had excellent medical care this time, though, because there was an English man-of-war anchored right in the bay. There was a surgeon on it who devoted much of his time to caring for the sick man. Livingstone was so emaciated and debilitated, and the malaria had such firm hold on him that his system was almost incapable of rallying. He was forced to much of the time either keep to his bed or be very careful how he expended any little energy that he had.
Even with being so sick, he constantly talked of returning to the interior of Africa and opening up a new route to other parts of the interior by way of the Zambesi River. So when he was able to sit up, he wrote letters that were published in the town paper telling about his plans, and the residents gave him the aid that he required to complete his purposes. The merchants gave to each of his men a good horse and an elegant uniform and presented him handsome specimens of their trade, along with two donkeys to carry the wares.
At length he recovered, and in his personal diary he writes the following: “I took with me a good stock of cotton cloth, fresh supplies of ammunition and beads, and gave each of my men a musket. As my companions had amassed considerable quantities of goods, they were unable to carry mine, but the bishop furnished me with twenty carriers, and sent forward orders to all the commandants of the districts through which we were to pass to render me every assistance in their power. Being now supplied with a good new tent made by my friends on Board the Philomel, we left Loanda on the 20th of September, 1854, and passed round by sea to the mouth of the River Bengo.”
In the next text, we will cover his trip back into the interior of Africa and all the trials he survived and things he saw.