In the country of Chonga Michi, about 80 or 90 miles up the river, we found decent people, though of the same tribe, who treated strangers with civility. A body of Makoa had come from their own country in the south, and settled here. The Makoa are known by a cicatrice in the forehead shaped like the new moon with the horns turned downwards. The tribe possesses all the country west of Mosambique; and they will not allow any of the Portuguese to pass into their country more than two hours' distance from the fort. A hill some ten or twelve miles distant, called Pau, has been visited during the present generation only by one Portuguese and one English officer, and this visit was accomplished only by the influence of the private friendship of a chief for this Portuguese gentleman. Our allies have occupied the Fort of Mosambique for three hundred years, but in this, as in all other cases, have no power further than they can see from a gun-carriage.
The Makoa chief, Matingula, was hospitable and communicative, telling us all he knew of the river and country beyond. He had been once to Iboe and once at Mosambique with slaves. Our men understood his language easily. A useless musket he had bought at one of the above places was offered us for a little cloth. Having received a present of food from him, a railway rug was handed to him: he looked at it-- had never seen cloth like that before--did not approve of it, and would rather have cotton cloth. "But this will keep you warm at night."--"Oh, I do not wish to be kept warm at night."--We gave him a bit of cotton cloth, not one-third the value of the rug, but it was more highly prized. His people refused to sell their fowls for our splendid prints and drab cloths. They had probably been taken in with gaudy-patterned sham prints before. They preferred a very cheap, plain, blue stuff of which they had experience. A great quantity of excellent honey is collected all along the river, by bark hives being placed for the bees on the high trees on both banks. Large pots of it, very good and clear, were offered in exchange for a very little cloth. No wax was brought for sale; there being no market for this commodity, it is probably thrown away as useless.
At Michi we lose the tableland which, up to this point, bounds the view on both sides of the river, as it were, with ranges of flat- topped hills, 600 or 800 feet high; and to this plateau a level fertile plain succeeds, on which stand detached granite hills. That portion of the tableland on the right bank seems to bend away to the south, still preserving the appearance of a hill range. The height opposite extends a few miles further west, and then branches off in a northerly direction. A few small pieces of coal were picked up on the sandbanks, showing that this useful mineral exists on the Rovuma, or on some of its tributaries: the natives know that it will burn. At the lakelet Chidia, we noticed the same sandstone rock, with fossil wood on it, which we have on the Zambesi, and knew to be a sure evidence of coal beneath. We mentioned this at the time to Captain Gardner, and our finding coal now seemed a verification of what we then said; the coal-field probably extends from the Zambesi to the Rovuma, if not beyond it. Some of the rocks lower down have the permanent water-line three feet above the present height of the water.
A few miles west of the Makoa of Matingula, we came again among the Makonde, but now of good repute. War and slavery have driven them to seek refuge on the sand-banks. A venerable-looking old man hailed us as we passed, and asked us if we were going by without speaking. We landed, and he laid down his gun and came to us; he was accompanied by his brother, who shook hands with every one in the boat, as he had seen people do at Kilwa. "Then you have seen white men before?" we said. "Yes," replied the polite African, "but never people of your quality." These men were very black, and wore but little clothing. A young woman, dressed in the highest style of Makonde fashion, punting as dexterously as a man could, brought a canoe full of girls to see us. She wore an ornamental head-dress of red beads tied to her hair on one side of her head, a necklace of fine beads of various colours, two bright figured brass bracelets on her left arm, and scarcely a farthing's worth of cloth, though it was at its cheapest.
As we pushed on westwards, we found that the river makes a little southing, and some reaches were deeper than any near the sea; but when we had ascended about 140 miles by the river's course from the sea, soft tufa rocks began to appear; ten miles beyond, the river became more narrow and rocky, and when, according to our measurement, we had ascended 156 miles, our further progress was arrested. We were rather less than two degrees in a straight line from the Coast. The incidents worth noticing were but few: seven canoes with loads of salt and rice kept company with us for some days, and the further we went inland, the more civil the people became.
When we came to a stand, just below the island of Nyamatolo, Long. 38 degrees 36 minutes E., and Lat. 11 degrees 53 minutes, the river was narrow, and full of rocks. Near the island there is a rocky rapid with narrow passages fit only for native canoes; the fall is small, and the banks quite low; but these rocks were an effectual barrier to all further progress in boats. Previous reports represented the navigable part of this river as extending to the distance of a month's sail from its mouth; we found that, at the ordinary heights of the water, a boat might reach the obstructions which seem peculiar to all African rivers in six or eight days. The Rovuma is remarkable for the high lands that flank it for some eighty miles from the ocean. The cataracts of other rivers occur in mountains, those of the Rovuma are found in a level part, with hills only in the distance. Far away in the west and north we could see high blue heights, probably of igneous origin from their forms, rising out of a plain.
The distance from Ngomano, a spot thirty miles further up, to the Arab crossing-places of Lake Nyassa Tsenga or Kotakota was said to be twelve days. The way we had discovered to Lake Nyassa by Murchison's Cataracts had so much less land carriage, that we considered it best to take our steamer thither, by the route in which we were well known, instead of working where we were strangers; and accordingly we made up our minds to return.
The natives reported a worse place above our turning-point--the passage being still narrower than this. An Arab, they said, once built a boat above the rapids, and sent it down full of slaves; but it was broken to pieces in these upper narrows. Many still maintained that the Rovuma came from Nyassa, and that it is very narrow as it issues out of the lake. One man declared that he had seen it with his own eyes as it left the lake, and seemed displeased at being cross-questioned, as if we doubted his veracity.