15 – Arrival At Bambarre

Although still weak and much reduced in flesh, on the 12th of July Livingstone procured a boat and some rowers and several carriers and crossed Lake Tanganika and landed at Kasinge.  This was because of his intention to visit the Manyuema country, which was about two hundred miles northwest of Ujiji.  This was an unexplored district that not even the Arab traders had ever even visited yet.  The main reason for this was that the people there were reported to be cannibals.  Some of the Arab traders heard about the trip, though, and decided they wanted to visit the country also because their trade was now destroyed in the southwest part of the country because of the wars waging there.  

     A native of Kasinge was engaged by Livingstone to act as guide, and on August 4 the party started on the land journey.  There was no incident worthy of record until September 2, when they reached Katemba almost exhausted from continual travel.  

     There was plenty of buffaloes and elephants that were plentiful there.  They killed one of the elephants for food, and Livingstone had the heart cooked for himself and found it really tasty.  

     Upon arriving at Bamberre, Livingstone found a singular country and a curious people.  The roadways were all good, and appeared to have been used for hundreds of years, as there were worn passages in the rocks that were sometimes two or more feet deep.  The forests were so dense that nothing but wild animals could penetrate them.  There was plenty of game but because of the dense forest it was almost impossible to shoot.  

     The people tattooed themselves with figures of crocodiles, elephants, and other animals.  The houses were all kept well and filled with firewood on shelves.  Each of the houses had a bed on a raised platform in an inner room.  They were so simple and unused to strangers that when they saw Livingstone they thought he had come from another world to kill them.  They had many little wooden idols and charms, and believed that the beetle would keep them from harm.  Livingstone found a type of wood in the country that, when burned, emitted a horrible foul odor.

     Livingstone’s quarters were very comfortable at Manyuema, and he improved in health and flesh rapidly.  the only inconvenience he suffered was from the soldier-ants.  They filled his hut and ate every little bit of food they could find, and sometimes would even attack a person.  The ants had deadly enemies, though.  They were called sirufu ants.  These ants would swarm into the huts and devour every soldier-ant in them.  Livingstone actually saw one of these invasions and wrote about it in his diary as follows:

     “A whole regiment of soldier-ants in my hut were put into a panic by a detachment of driver-ants, called sirafu.  The chungu, or black soldiers, rushed out with their eggs and young, putting them down and running for more.  A dozen sirufu pitched on one chungu and killed him.  The chungu made new quarters for themselves.  When the white ants cast off their colony of winged emigrants, a copy was erected like an umbrella over the ant hill.  As soon as ants fly against the roof they tumble down in a shower, and their wings instantly become detached from their bodies.  They are then helpless, and are swept up in baskets to be fried, when they make a very palatable food.”

     If it were not for the sirufu, the soldier-ants would have completely taken over the country.  The natives thought of eating the ants as a wonderful delicacy.  

     After more than a month’s stay among the Manyuema, Livingstone felt that he needed to explore the Lualaba river.  It was a stream of considerable size that flowed through the Manyuema country and discharged its waters into Lake Kamalondo to the south.  On the journey he met with some opposition from the natives.  Some of them mistrusted his intentions and endeavored to turn him back.  He was able to tread cautiously, though and avoid a collision with them.  The women were all stark naked and appeared much more hostile than the men, but Livingstone was able to appease them with the beads and trinkets that he had brought with him.  

     Ivory was very plentiful because little value was placed upon it by the natives.  The Arab traders had brought several slaves with them in hopes of trading them to the Manyuemas for ivory.  This backfired on them because the tribe would not receive the male slaves, but wanted female ones that they could have for wives.  This was a bitter disappointment for the Arabs, who then did not know what to do with the slaves.  They finally decided to go further north and see if they had better luck.  

     Livingstone had no better success, for he could not hire a canoe no matter how many presents he had brought to give the people.  He was finally forced to abandon his intended exploration of the Lualaba.  

     The forests which lined the road were exceedingly dense, and Livingstone noticed that wherever any place was cleared, in a short time gigantic grass claimed it back again.  The grass, however, was burned frequently.  The large trees would not succomb to the fire, but would put out new wood below the burnt places.  In these places Livingstone found numbers of parrots building their nests.  Above, the natives would construct straw huts and live secure from the attacks of wild animals.  The men would make a stair up 150 feet by tying climbing plants called binayoba around, at about four feet distance, as steps.  

     Since Livingstone could not explore the river, he returned to Bambarre, and joined the Arabs on their journey to the north.  The route lay through a marshy district, and so many streams had to be crossed that fever again attacked him, which, aided by a severe spell of dysentery, so exhausted his strength that he could scarcely support himself.  They came to a village that had fine gardens of maize, bananas and nuts, but the people told them that they could not stop there.  

     The main body of the Arabs was about three miles in advance, but Livingstone had to sit down and rest at the next little hamlet.  He asked for a hut to rest in.  A woman with leprous hands gave him her hut, which was very clean.  Out of her good heart, she prepared dumplings for him out of green maize, because she saw that he was hungry.  She gently told him that he needed the food, but he could not eat because of being afraid of getting leprosy.  He thanked her very much for it and waited until she left and then got rid of it.  

     He stayed there for eight days resting and trying to recover his strength.  He drank only water that had  been boiled, and ate a species of potato called nyumbo.  It was famed among the natives as being an herb that restored health.  There was also many fish here that he could eat, and at the end of the eight days he felt much better.  

     On June 26th, he decided  to again try to get to the Lualaba river by a northwest route.  The Arabs had made war against the Manyuema people supposedly over a string of beads which had been stolen.  Livingstone knew that it was really over the fact that the men would not trade for the ivory.  He also knew that he needed to leave because there might be repercussions to follow.  They traveled several days wading in rivers breast and neck deep,  through awful beds of mud, over fallen trees, and through dense brush.  After all this torture, he discovered that he had miscalculated and had gone too far north.  His feet were extremely lacerated, and continued to get worse and worse.  He had to finally give up and limp back to Bambarre.  

     Livingstone had heard much about these people being cannibals, but was not inclined to believe it until the had come back to recover and heard the people talking about it.  Then he realized that the reports he had heard were not exaggerated.  This was his note written in his diary:

     “On August 17th, Monayembe, the chief, came bringing two goats;  one he gave to Mohamed, the other to Moenekuss’s son, acknowledging that he had killed his elder brother;  he had killed eleven persons over at Linamo in our absence, in addition to those killed in villages on our southeast when we were away.  It transpired that Kandahara, brother of old Moenekuss, whose village is near this, killed three women and a child, and that a trading man came over from Kassangangaye and was murdered too, for no reason but to eat his body.  When they tell of each other’s deeds they disclose a horrid state of blood-thirsty callousness.  The people over a hill north-northeast of this killed a person out hoeing; if a man is alone in a field, he is almost sure of being slain.  Some said that people in the vicinity stole the buried dead; but Posho’s wife died, and in Wanyamwesi fashion, was thrown out of camp unburied.  Mohamed threatened an attack if Manyuema did not cease exhuming the dead.  It was effectual; neither men nor hyenas touched her, though exposed now for seven days.

     The head of Moenekuss is said to be preserved in a pot in his house, and all public matters are gravely communicated to it, as if his spirit dwelt therein; his body was eaten; the flesh was removed from the head and eaten too; his father’s head is said to be kept also.  The foregoing refers to Bambarre alone.  In other districts graves show the sepulture is customary, but here no grave appears.  In the Metamba country, adjacent to the Lualaba, a quarrel with a wife often ends in the husband killing her and eating her heart, mixed up in a huge mess of goat’s flesh; this has the charm character.  Fingers are taken as charms in other parts, but in Bambarre alone is the depraved taste the motive for cannibalism.”

     Livingstone was here with the cannibals for a period of 80 days until the lacerations on his feet were healed.  The only thing which afforded any relief at all was malachite, rubbed down with water on a  stone and applied with a feather.  While he was suffering so much from this 30 of the natives died with the same thing.  They did not have the same immunity as Livingstone and were quick to die from the malady. 

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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.