7 – Kolomo River & Batoka Tribe

Sights from the Kolomo River & Peculiarities of the Batoka Tribe


     On the Kolomo River Livingstone saw an elephant which had no tusks, which was a rare sight in Africa.  It was extremely wary and ran off at the sight of men.  Buffaloes were plentiful and he shot into the herd and brought one down.  Not realizing it had been shot, the other animals started goring it and lifted it with their horns to get it away from the herd.  This was the way they kept disease from killing their herds.  

     Also Livingstone noticed that nearly every buffalo had a peculiar looking bird which was riding on its back.  He found out that they served a double purpose.  The bird ate the insects which were attached to the animal’s back, thereby ridding him of infestations that could make him sick.  The bird also warned him when danger was near.  

     Livingstone was most of the time in awe at the tameness of the elephants and buffaloes.  They would travel in huge parties and would just come trotting up to their party out of curiosity.  Sometimes he would have to fire his gun in the air to scare them off enough so they could get through all the animals.  He also found enormous flocks of geese and ducks which were tame because they had never been hunted.  He was continually amazed at the animals the whole time he was in Africa.  

     On rare occasions a white or albino child would be born to the African women.  They were always regarded with much dread and superstition.  One of the women came to his station with one of the albinos.  The father had ordered her to throw him away, but she couldn’t bear to do it and she kept him for many years.  He was very intelligent for his age.  The father would not have his wife back as long as she kept the son.  After a while she got tired of being alone, so she took the boy out one day and killed him close to the village so she could go back to her husband.  

     In some of the tribes if a woman had twins, one of them would have to die.  If an ox beat the ground with its tail while lying in the pen, it would have to die.  They thought that it was calling death to the tribe.  If a fowl crowed before midnight, they killed it also.  Livingstone’s men often carried them on their guns, and if one began to crow in a forest the owner would give it a beating, by way of teaching it not to be guilty of crowing at unseasonable hours.  The Africans were extremely superstitious people.

     Only on one occasion did Livingstone ever witness anything like a fist fight between the natives.  An old woman harassed a young native for hours with her tongue.  At last he got very irritated with her and uttered some words of impatience.  The woman’s son sprang on him for talking back to his elder.  They caught each other, and a sort of pushing, dragging wrestling match ensued.   The old woman wanted Livingstone to intervene, but he just remained neutral and let them fight it out.  They ended the scuffle with their clothes being torn off, and picked up their clothing and ran off.  They each threatened to bring their gun and settle the dispute in mortal combat, but only one came back.  The old woman went back to her harassing until the men ordered her to go away from them.  Their disputes were usually conducted with much noisy swearing, but they generally terminated by both parties bursting into a laugh.  


     Peculiarities of the Batoka Tribe

     The Batokas inhabited a part of the country near the Kafue river.  They were very friendly and came out in great numbers to see the white man.  They brought presents of corn and other provisions with them.  The men went entirely naked, without the slightest bit of shame.  Livingstone asked one of the men if he did not think it would be better to have on a little covering for himself.  He laughed with surprise at being thought to be indecent.  They thought it was a good joke that Livingstone told them that if they had no other clothing, they might put on a bunch of grass.

     When someone came into the village, they had a truly different way of welcoming them.  They would throw themselves on their backs on the ground, and, rolling from side to side, slap the outside of their thighs as expressions of thankfulness and welcome, while uttering the words “Kina bomba”.  Livingstone wrote that he never did get used to this method of welcoming and tried his best to get them to change their ways.  Instead of stopping, though, they only put more effort into doing it to make him more upset.  He wrote in his diary that he was thankful that he had been brought up differently than doing something that was disrespectful to his body.  

     One day as his party was passing through some thick trees and brush, they were surprised by the sudden appearance of three buffaloes.  The animals mistakenly thought that they were surrounded and tried to fight their way out of the predicament they were in.  Livingstone’s ox set off at a gallop, and when he looked back, he saw one of the men thrown about 5 feet up in the air.  He landed on top of one of the buffaloes and he was carried off on its back.  Fortunately he didn’t even break a bone or even pierce his skin.  His bruises were dressed and in a week he was able to work again. 

     About 300 miles inland from the coast, they came across a settlement named Tete, which was on the Zambesi river.  Here Livingstone was surprised to find a Portuguese fort and settlement.  They received him very cordially here.  The commandant provided everything that they needed and lodged the whole party in the very best manner that he could.  

     After resting a few days, a canoe was found and eight of the men accompanied Livingstone to Quilimane, which was all the way back down the river at the seacoast.  One of the men named Sekwebu had become so attached to the white man that he begged to accompany him to England, and Livingstone finally consented.  He also gave him a grave warning that if he chose to go that he might die in such a cold country.  Sekwebu replied that it was OK with him if he should die at his feet.  

     They sailed on the ship Frolic, and reached Mauritius on August 12, 1856.  Sekwebu was becoming adept at picking up English and becoming a favorite with both the men and the officers.  All the things that he was seeing were completely new to him, but he was learning fast and thought everyone very agreeable.  He couldn’t get over the fact that there was so much water everywhere.  In Africa you could go for hundreds of miles and never see water except for the rivers.  He thought that all the rivers had come together all together side by side.  

     There were so many new things being thrown at him constantly that his mind just seemed to climax and he could not handle any more.  One night he just became insane.  He had gotten into one of the smaller boats, and when Livingstone attempted to go get him, he told him that if he did he would jump into the water.  They wanted to put him in chains, but as so many of the Africans had been sold as slaves, Livingstone could not bear to do that to him.  The next night he had another attack of insanity and tried to spear one of the crew members, then he leaped overboard.  Although he could swim well, he pulled himself down under the water and never came up.  They never did find his body.

     This is the end of Livingstone’s First Expedition into the interior of Africa.  During this First Expedition he had spent 16 years in Africa.  The next text will start his second expedition.

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God has radically changed my life, and I want to share the awesome things I am learning with you. I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life.


About Cathy Deaton


My name is Cathy Deaton, Owner of Fan the Flame Ministries. God has radically changed my life, and He has shown me that I am to share the awesome things I am learning especially with the Millennial Generation (1981 – 1996), but I love connecting with Christians of all ages. I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life. You truly can make a difference for God in an uncertain world.