Among nearly all the nations of South Africa the sight of a white person excited terror in the natives. In the villages the dogs would run away with their tails between their legs as if they had seen a lion. The women would peer from behind the walls until the person came near them, and then they would hastily dash into the house. When a little child would meet a white man in the street, he would set up a scream and give you the impression that he was not far from having a fit. After Livingstone got to know the people in the villages, he told the women that they should not make their children afraid of the white man. The mothers would tell them that if they didn’t behave that she would send for the white man to bite them. Naturally, they were terrified of all white men and wouldn’t give them a chance to get to know them very easily.
At a place called Tamba, Livingstone found people of a light olive color who were timid and civil. They filed their teeth to a point. This made the smile of the women frightful looking, much like the grin of an alligator. The men wore hair that was very lubricated with oil all the time. Their shoulders were always dripping wet from the oil dripping down them. The men always were very ornamented in one way or another. Some of them were musicians and were always found playing day and night. Others thought of themselves as warriors and would never go out of their hut without a bow and arrows or a gun decorated showing all the animals that they had killed. Still others would never go anywhere without a canary in a cage. Ladies could be seen tending to little lap-dogs, which were intended to be eaten. Their villages would generally be in forests, and composed of groups of irregularly-planted brown huts, with banana and cotton trees and tobacco growing around them. Round baskets would be laid on the thatch of the huts for the hens to lay eggs in. All their transactions were conducted with civil banter and good temper.
Livingstone tarried a few days with his good friend Shinte, who was in the last text, and then began a descent of the Leeba River. This river was very beautiful. It was tranquil and clear and its banks were adorned with a rich and varied vegetable production, and game was found in great abundance close to the river.
As he arrived on the river banks several of the natives came out and asked him to attack a herd of buffaloes who were feeding in the village garden. The animals were so tame that he was able to come within six yards of them. He still had great trouble shooting because his arm had been badly damaged by the lion earlier. After a few minutes, though, he saw a large buffalo running directly toward him, with seemingly hostile intentions. The only tree on the plain was 100 yards off and there was no other escape from the mad buffalo. He intended to shoot the buffalo right in the forehead, hoping that he wouldn’t miss because of his shoulder. He fired and heard the ball strike while at the same time he was falling on his face. Luckily Livingstone hit the buffalo and it made him bound past him on to the water, where he was found dead. He was constantly having close calls in this land of Africa.
Upon reaching Libonta, in the Makololo country, and the neighboring villages, the natives were overjoyed to see him again. This was where he had left from to go to the ocean and had been gone for many months. There were a few awkward scenes that happened after they first got back. Some of the wives of the natives had not waited for them, but had remarried and even had children with their new husbands in the time that they had been gone. But as polygamy was almost universally practiced among all African tribes, it didn’t cause too much of a stir among them. Their minds were naturally blunted against such things because it was all they had known all their lives. They quickly resolved it and got on with their lives.
Livingstone left Naliele on the 13th of August. While they were rowing along the shore line at midday a hippopotamus struck the canoe with her forehead, and lifted one half of it quite out of the water. The force of the butt threw one of the natives out of the canoe and into the river. The rest sprang to the shore which was about ten yards off. No one was hurt in the attack, and the animal was a female whose young one had been speared the day before. No damage was done except wetting the eight people in the canoe and the goods they were carrying. The natives thought the beast must be mad to attack them, as this was not a usual occurrence.
Livingstone continued down the river and visited Victoria Falls. The Leeba River had now given place to the Leeambye River, as the different natives had different names for the rivers. As he approached the rapids, he saw a large island that was large enough for a considerable town. He decided to go ashore and found the grave of a chief named Sekote, which was ornamented with seventy large elephant tusks planted around it with the points turned inward. This particular action was a sign of his wealth and greatness. Livingstone knew that the falls were not far off and on the following day he pushed on to see them with only one native as a guide. He soon came near enough to see five great columns of vapor ascending and moving off like smoke, descending again in torrents of rain upon a thick covert of trees a mile or so off.
The following is the description of the falls that Livingstone put in his diary: No one can imagine the beauty of the view from any thing witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight. The only want felt is that of mountains in the background. The falls are bounded on three sides by ridges 300 or 400 feet in height, which are covered with forest, with the red soil appearing among the trees. When about half a mile from the falls, I left the canoe by which we had come down thus far, and embarked in a lighter one, with men well acquainted with the rapids, who, by passing down the centre of the stream in the eddies and still places caused by many jutting rocks, brought me to an island situated in the middle of the river, and on the edge of the lip over which the water rolls. In coming hither there was danger of being swept down by the streams which rushed along on each side of the island; but the river was now low, and we sailed where it is totally impossible to go when the water is high. But, though we had reached the island, and were within a few yards of the spot, a view from which would solve the whole problem, I believe that no one could perceive where the vast body of water went; it seemed to lose itself in the earth, the opposite lip of the fissure into which it disappeared being only 80 feet distant. At least I did not comprehend it until, creeping with awe to the verge, I peered down into a large rent which had been made from bank to bank of the broad Zambesi, and saw the stream of a thousand yards broad leap down a hundred feet, and then become suddenly compressed into a space of fifteen or twenty yards. The entire falls are simply a crack made in a hard basaltic rock from the right to the left bank of the Zambesi and then prolonged from the left bank away through thirty or forty miles of hills.
Livingstone thought that these falls were without a doubt one of the World’s Wonders and that if they could ever become accessible to the civilized world, they would attract millions of tourists each year.
After staying at the falls for a long time, measuring the stream, and estimating the character of the surrounding soil for garden purposes, Livingstone planted some peach and apricot seeds, and some coffee grains, on the little island and then proceeded on his journey to the east coast of Africa.
Below is a picture taken from the book of an artist’s rendition of Victoria Falls at the time David Livingstone was there.