King Solomon's Mines HTML version
An Elephant Hunt
Now I do not propose to narrate at full length all the incidents of our long travel up to
Sitanda's Kraal, near the junction of the Lukanga and Kalukwe Rivers. It was a journey of
more than a thousand miles from Durban, the last three hundred or so of which we had to
make on foot, owing to the frequent presence of the dreadful "tsetse" fly, whose bite is
fatal to all animals except donkeys and men.
We left Durban at the end of January, and it was in the second week of May that we
camped near Sitanda's Kraal. Our adventures on the way were many and various, but as
they are of the sort which befall every African hunter--with one exception to be presently
detailed--I shall not set them down here, lest I should render this history too wearisome.
At Inyati, the outlying trading station in the Matabele country, of which Lobengula (a
great and cruel scoundrel) is king, with many regrets we parted from our comfortable
wagon. Only twelve oxen remained to us out of the beautiful span of twenty which I had
bought at Durban. One we lost from the bite of a cobra, three had perished from
"poverty" and the want of water, one strayed, and the other three died from eating the
poisonous herb called "tulip." Five more sickened from this cause, but we managed to
cure them with doses of an infusion made by boiling down the tulip leaves. If
administered in time this is a very effective antidote.
The wagon and the oxen we left in the immediate charge of Goza and Tom, our driver
and leader, both trustworthy boys, requesting a worthy Scotch missionary who lived in
this distant place to keep an eye on them. Then, accompanied by Umbopa, Khiva,
Ventvogel, and half a dozen bearers whom we hired on the spot, we started off on foot
upon our wild quest. I remember we were all a little silent on the occasion of this
departure, and I think that each of us was wondering if we should ever see our wagon
again; for my part I never expected to do so. For a while we tramped on in silence, till
Umbopa, who was marching in front, broke into a Zulu chant about how some brave
men, tired of life and the tameness of things, started off into a vast wilderness to find new
things or die, and how, lo and behold! when they had travelled far into the wilderness
they found that it was not a wilderness at all, but a beautiful place full of young wives
and fat cattle, of game to hunt and enemies to kill.
Then we all laughed and took it for a good omen. Umbopa was a cheerful savage, in a
dignified sort of way, when he was not suffering from one of his fits of brooding, and he
had a wonderful knack of keeping up our spirits. We all grew very fond of him.
And now for the one adventure to which I am going to treat myself, for I do dearly love a
About a fortnight's march from Inyati we came across a peculiarly beautiful bit of well-
watered woodland country. The kloofs in the hills were covered with dense bush, "idoro"
bush as the natives call it, and in some places, with the "wacht-een-beche," or "wait-a-
little thorn," and there were great quantities of the lovely "machabell" tree, laden with
refreshing yellow fruit having enormous stones. This tree is the elephant's favourite food,
and there were not wanting signs that the great brutes had been about, for not only was
their spoor frequent, but in many places the trees were broken down and even uprooted.
The elephant is a destructive feeder.