Discovering the Rusizi River, Did it Flow IN or OUT?! Part III

Livingstone and Stanley continue their exploration on Lake  Tanganyika, and continue heading north in order to investigate whether the Rusizi River ran IN or OUT of the lake. Earllier entries are here and here.  I’ve highlighted place names in Blue and underlined or put in RED the villages in which they camped.

Stanley’s description of people, flora, and fauna are not as detailed in this entry – presumably due to his being quite sick with a fever. In the meantime, Livingstone had been busy discussing the river-issue with arab merchants and locals along the way to the Lake, and has this to say:

…The Arabs are positive that water flows from that Lake to the Victoria Nyanza, and assert that Dagara, the father of Rumanyika, was anxious to send canoes from his place to Ujiji, or, as some say,to dig a canal to Ujiji

.. A man from the upper part of Tanganyika gives the same account of the river from Rusisi that Burton and Speke received when they went to its mouth. He says that the water of the Lake goes up some distance, but is met by Rusisi water, and driven back thereby. The Lake water, he adds, finds an exit northwards and eastwards by several small rivers which would admit small canoes only.

Source:  Livingstone, The Last Journals of David Livingstone, vol.ii.  1874.


On the ninth morning from Ujiji, about two hours after sunrise, we passed the broad delta of the Mugere, a river which gives its name also to the district on the eastern shore ruled over by Mukamba. We had come directly opposite the most southern of its three mouths, when we found quite a difference in the colour of the water. An almost straight line, drawn east and west from the mouth would serve well to mark off the difference that existed between the waters. On the south side was pure water of a light green, on the north side it was muddy, and the current could be distinctly seen flowing north. Soon after passing the first mouth we came to a second, and then a third mouth, each only a few yards broad, but each discharging sufficient water to permit our following the line of the currents several rods north beyond the respective mouths.

 Beyond the third mouth of the Mugere a bend disclosed itself, with groups of villages beyond on its bank.  These were Mukamba’s, and in one of them lived Mukamba, the chief.  The natives had yet never seen a white man, and, of course, as soon as we landed we were surrounded by a large concourse, all armed with long spears–the only weapon visible amongst them save a club-stick, and here and there a hatchet.

 We were shown into a hut, which the Doctor and I shared between us.  What followed on that day I have but a dim recollection, having been struck down by fever–the first since leaving Unyanyembe [mid-Tanzania].  I dimly recollect trying to make out what age Mukamba might be, and noting that he was good-looking withal, and kindly-disposed towards us.  And during the intervals of agony and unconsciousness, I saw, or fancied I saw, Livingstone’s form moving towards me, and felt, or fancied I felt, Livingstone’s hand tenderly feeling my hot head and limbs. 

I had suffered several fevers between Bagamoyo* and Unyanyembe**, without anything or anybody to relieve me of the tedious racking headache and pain, or to illumine the dark and gloomy prospect which must necessarily surround the bedside of the sick and solitary traveller.  But though this fever, having enjoyed immunity from it for three months, was more severe than usual, I did not much regret its occurrence, since I became the recipient of the very tender and fatherly kindness of the good man whose companion I now found myself.

*   BagamoyoArab/swahili market town, on the coast across from Zanabar.

** Unyanyembe – Arab/swahili market town of Tabora, half-way between the coast and the lake.

The next morning, having recovered slightly from the fever, when Mukamba came with a present of an ox, a sheep, and a goat, I was able to attend to the answers which he gave to the questions about the Rusizi River and the head of the lake.  The ever cheerful and enthusiastic Mgwana was there also, and he was not a whit abashed, when, through him, the chief told us that the Rusizi, joined by the Ruanda, or Luanda, at a distance of two days’ journey by water, or one day by land from the head of the lake, flowed INTO the lake.

Thus our hopes, excited somewhat by the positive and repeated assurances that the river flowed OUT away towards Karagwah, collapsed as speedily as they were raised.

We paid Mukamba the honga, consisting of nine doti and nine fundo of samsam, lunghio, muzurio n’zige.  The printed handkerchiefs, which I had in abundance at Unyanyembe, would have gone well here. After receiving his present, the chief introduced his son, a tall youth of eighteen or thereabouts, to the Doctor, as a would-be son of the Doctor; but, with a good-natured laugh, the Doctor scouted all such relationship with him, as it was instituted only for the purpose of drawing more cloth out of him.  Mukamba took it in good part, and did not insist on getting more.

Our second evening at Mukamba’s, Susi, the Doctor’s servant, got gloriously drunk, through the chief’s liberal and profuse gifts of pombe [beer].  Just at dawn neat morning I was awakened by hearing several sharp, crack-like sounds.  I listened, and I found the noise was in our hut.  It was caused by the Doctor, who, towards midnight, had felt some one come and lie down by his side on the same bed, and, thinking it was me, he had kindly made room, and laid down on the edge of the bed.  But in the morning, feeling rather cold, he had been thoroughly awakened, and, on rising on his elbow to see who his bed-fellow was, he discovered, to his great astonishment, that it was no other than his black servant, Susi, who taking possession of his blankets, and folding them about himself most selfishly, was occupying almost the whole bed. 

The Doctor, with that gentleness characteristic of him, instead of taking a rod, had contented himself with slapping Susi on the back, saying, “Get up, Susi, will you?  You are in my bed.  How dare you, sir, get drunk in this way, after I have told you so often not to. Get up.  You won’t?  Take that, and that, and that.”  Still Susi slept and grunted; so the slapping continued, until even Susi’s thick hide began to feel it, and he was thoroughly awakened to the sense of his want of devotion and sympathy for his master in the usurping of even his master’s bed.  Susi looked very much crestfallen after this exposé of his infirmity before the “little master,” as I was called.

Sketch of Susi by Stanley

The next day at dusk–Mukamba having come to bid us good-bye, and requested that as soon as we reached his brother Ruhinga, whose country was at the head of the lake, wewould send our canoe back for him, and that in the meanwhile we should leave two of our men with him, with their guns, to help defend him in case Warumashanya should attack him as soon as we were gone–we embarked and pulled across. 

In nine hours we had arrived at the head of the lake in Mugihewa, the country of Ruhinga; Mukamba’s elder brother.  In looking back to where we had come from we perceived that we had made a diagonal cut across from south-east to north-west, instead of having made a direct east and west course; or, in other words, from Mugere–which was at least ten miles from the northernmost point of the eastern shore–we had come to Mugihewa, situated at the northernmost point of the western shore. 

Had we continued along the eastern shore, and so round the northern side of the lake, we should have passed by Mukanigi, the country of Warumashanya, and Usumbura* of Simveh, his ally and friend..  But by making a diagonal course, as just described, we had arrived at the extreme head of the lake without any difficulty.

* Usumbura – area of what is now Bujumbura.

Part IV is Here: Discovering the Rusizi River, Did it flow IN or OUT?! Part IV

Where we are, on the n.e. corner of the lake looking at the modern town, Uvira, at the base of the congo hills. The Rusizi Delta is the tongue of green .

Picture taken from our current location, which is the n.e. corner of the lake, looking across at the modern town of Uvira in the Congo. The Rusizi River Delta is the green tongue of land.

About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
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