Travels in Africa - Park Denham, Clapperton, Lander, and Others
While describing the inhabitants of Southern Africa, we have left the general features of the country itself undescribed. The following passage will supply the deficiency: - 'Southern Africa consists,' says a writer, of a most strange assemblage of mountains and plains, of spots lovely and picturesque beyond description, and gifted with inexhaustible fertility, and of seemingly boundless plains, where barrenness reigns so completely para mount, that the very principle of vegetation appears to be extinct. At a certain distance from the colony we enter upon regions over which the clouds of ignorance - almost the only clouds one meets with - still brood. We traverse large rivers, which rise no one knows where, and envelop their exits in equal obscurity. Ranges of mountains also, with appellations un couth, and hiding no one knows what treasures of the animal and vegetable kingdoms in their unvisited recesses, sweep before us along the verge of the horizon, dim, blue, and shadowy, like so many fragments of fairyland. And if the great outlines of the landscape be original and bold, the filling up and coloring are no less so. Everything upon which the eye rests has the appearance of having been cast in a mould nowhere else made use of in the system of nature. Among the terrestrial animals, what bulk and fantastic formations! How numerous and strikingly contrasted are the groups that present themselves! In their character and habits what extremes seem to meet! How unspeakably lavish seems to be the waste of vitality Yet who will dare to say that, in this prodigious outpouring of animal life, there is a single creature that does not enjoy and adorn the scene on which it moves? If there be anything we should be disposed to think out of place, it is the stunted representatives of humanity, who, under the name of Bushmen, roam in indescribable misery and degradation over those sublime savannahs. To a man of imagination, nothing more inspiring can be conceived than climbing one of the breezy peaks overlooking that strange wilderness, at the moment that the dawn is busily unfolding all its varied features. From every tree the heavy dew drops pour like rain; streams of white mist, smooth and glassy as a tranquil river, float slowly down the valleys, reflecting from their surface the trees, and cliffs, and crags on either hand. Here, through openings between feathery mimosas, weeping-willows, and tall trembling reeds, we catch a glimpse of some quiet lake, the haunt of the hippopotamus; while a herd of graceful purple antelopes are seen drinking on its further margin. There, amidst thick clumps of camel-thorn, we behold a drove of giraffes, with heads eighteen feet high, browsing on the tops of trees. Elsewhere, the rhinoceros pokes his long ugly snout from a brake; while the lion, fearless in the consciousness of his own strength, parades his tawny bulk over the plain, or reclines, in sphinx-like attitude, beneath some ancient tree.'
EASTERN AFRICA. With the exception of the countries bordering on the Red Sea - Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia - which cannot be included in so general a survey as the present, the eastern coast of Africa is undoubtedly the least-known portion of the whole circuit of the continent. The tract of country extending from the northern extremity of Caffreland to Cape Guardafui, and including the states or territories of Sofala, Mozambique, Zanguebar, and Ajan, was early visited by the Portuguese in their voyages to India; and in the course of the sixteenth century, various settlements were planted in it by them, similar to those which they planted along the Guinea Coast. The most conspicuous difference was, that here the ruling race were not pure negroes, but men of Arabic descent, and vehement Mohammedans. It was from these that the Portuguese wrested the immense line of coast-territory which they once held in this part of Africa, and of which they made Mozambique the capital. On the ruin of the Portuguese power in India, their settlements in Eastern Africa declined; the Arabs and blacks reconquered a great portion of their ancient territory; and it is now merely by sufferance that the once-powerful Portuguese retain a footing on the coast at all. What they do possess, however, they guard with the utmost jealousy; and they testify extreme aversion to the intrusion of any other European nation into those territories where they once lorded it so proudly. Mr. Salt, who visited Mozambique in 1808, found it to contain a population of less than three thousand, of whom only five hundred were Portuguese. ' The rural population of this part of Africa,' says Mr. Macculloch, 'is in the most degraded state; and although the soil be naturally rich and productive, the culture of cotton, indigo, sugar, and other articles of commerce is wholly neglected. Rice, millet, and manioc are raised almost without labor, furnishing, with cocoa-nuts, almost the entire food of the slaves. The commerce of Mozambique has greatly decreased, in consequence of our exertions to suppress the traffic in slaves; but although much diminished, the slave trade is still carried on to a considerable extent both with Brazil and Arabia. These slaves, who are chiefly of the tribe of the Monjores, and brought from the centre of the continent, a distance of forty or forty-five days' journey from the colony, are procured from the native merchants in exchange for salt, shells, tobacco, coarse cloths, etc. Goods costing about two dollars, will bring in, as far as the case may be, either a slave or an elephant's tusk, weighing from sixty to eighty pounds of ivory. Hippopotamus' tusks, gold dust, Columbo-root, gums, and amber, are the other chief exports.'