We passed through a tract of country covered with mopane trees, where the hard baked soil refused to let the usual thick crops of grass grow; and here we came upon very many tracks of buffaloes, elephants, antelopes, and the spoor of one lion. An ox we drove along with us, as provision for the way, was sorely bitten by the tsetse. The effect of the bite was, as usual, quite apparent two days afterwards, in the general flaccidity of the muscles, the drooping ears, and looks of illness. It always excited our wonder that we, who were frequently much bitten too by the same insects, felt no harm from their attacks. Man shares the immunity of the wild animals.
Finding a few people on the evening of the 20th of August, who were supporting a wretched existence on tamarinds and mice, we ascertained that there was no hope of our being able to buy food anywhere nearer than the Lakelet Pamalombe, where the Ajawa chief, Kainka, was now living; but that plenty could be found with the Maravi female chief, Nyango. We turned away north-westwards, and struck the stream Ribve- ribve, or Rivi-rivi, which rises in the Maravi range, and flows into the Shire.
As the Rivi-rivi came from the N.W. we continued to travel along its banks, until we came to people who had successfully defended themselves against the hordes of the Ajawa. By employing the men of one village to go forward and explain who we were to the next, we managed to prevent the frightened inhabitants from considering us a fresh party of Ajawa, or of Portuguese slaving agents. Here they had cultivated maize, and were willing to sell, but no persuasion could induce them to give us guides to the chieftainess, Nyango. They evidently felt that we were not to be trusted; though, as we had to certify to our own character, our companions did not fail "to blow our own trumpet," with blasts in which modesty was quite out of the question. To allay suspicion, we had at last to refrain from mentioning the lady's name.
It would be wearisome to repeat the names of the villages we passed on our way to the north-west. One was the largest we ever saw in Africa, and quite deserted, with the usual sad sight of many skeletons lying about. Another was called Tette. We know three places of this name, which fact shows it to be a native word; it seems to mean a place where the water rushes over rocks. A third village was called Chipanga (a great work), a name identical with the Shupanga of the Portuguese. This repetition of names may indicate that the same people first took these epithets in their traditional passage from north to south.
At this season of the year the nights are still cold, and the people, having no crops to occupy their attention, do not stir out till long after the sun is up. At other times they are off to their fields before the day dawns, and the first sound one hears is the loud talking of men and women, in which they usually indulge in the dark to scare off beasts by the sound of the human voice. When no work is to be done, the first warning of approaching day is the hemp-smoker's loud ringing cough.
Having been delayed one morning by some negotiation about guides, who were used chiefly to introduce us to other villages, we two whites walked a little way ahead, taking the direction of the stream. The men having been always able to find out our route by the prints of our shoes, we went on for a number of miles. This time, however, they lost our track, and failed to follow us. The path was well marked by elephants, hyenas, pallahs, and zebras, but for many a day no human foot had trod it. When the sun went down a deserted hamlet was reached, where we made comfortable beds for ourselves of grass. Firing muskets to attract the attention of those who have strayed is the usual resource in these cases. On this occasion the sound of firearms tended to mislead us; for, hearing shots next morning, a long weary march led us only to some native hunters, who had been shooting buffaloes. Returning to a small village, we met with some people who remembered our passing up to the Lake in the boat; they were as kind as they could be. The only food they possessed was tamarinds, prepared with ashes, and a little cowitch meal. The cowitch, as mentioned before, has a velvety brown covering of minute prickles, which, if touched, enter the pores of the skin and cause a painful tingling. The women in times of scarcity collect the pods, kindle a fire of grass over them to destroy the prickles, then steep the beans till they begin to sprout, wash them in pure water, and either boil them or pound them into meal, which resembles our bean- meal. This plant climbs up the long grass, and abounds in all reedy parts, and, though a plague to the traveller who touches its pods, it performs good service in times of famine by saving many a life from starvation. Its name here is Kitedzi.
Having travelled at least twenty miles in search of our party that day, our rest on a mat in the best hut of the village was very sweet. We had dined the evening before on a pigeon each, and had eaten only a handful of kitedzi porridge this afternoon. The good wife of the village took a little corn which she had kept for seed, ground it after dark, and made it into porridge. This, and a cup of wild vegetables of a sweetish taste for a relish, a little boy brought in and put down, with several vigorous claps of his hands, in the manner which is esteemed polite, and which is strictly enjoined on all children.
On the third day of separation, Akosanjere, the headman of this village, conducted us forward to our party who had gone on to Nseze, a district to the westward. This incident is mentioned, not for any interest it possesses, apart from the idea of the people it conveys. We were completely separated from our men for nearly three days, and had nothing wherewith to purchase food. The people were sorely pressed by famine and war, and their hospitality, poor as it was, did them great credit, and was most grateful to us. Our own men had become confused and wandered, but had done their utmost to find us; on our rejoining them, the ox was slain, and all, having been on short commons, rejoiced in this "day of slaughter." Akosanjere was, of course, rewarded to his heart's content.