These trees were planted by the old Jesuit missionaries over three hundred years ago, and, if they could arise and tell what they had seen in the old slave-trading days, "they could many a tale unfold." Many is the poor miserable wretch, tired to death with marching with the "kori stick" bound to his neck, who must have died within sight of this fine plantation. A cool stream meanders through the valley, and it is a welcome spot to reach after passing through the stony and scorched country which lies between here and Tete.
From August to December this is one of the hottest places I have seen in Africa; the heat is often so great that the natives in the stonier parts find it difficult to walk, as the rocks and stones will burn one's hand if they are touched, and hard though the natives' feet are they get blistered and burnt. If there happens to be a good moon, the best thing is to march by night, although night marching is most tiring, as it is impossible in the more shaded parts of the path to see holes, stumps, and rocks, and many a grunt will be heard from the carriers, who give their bare feet nasty jars and cuts. But, as I have said, the natives are most patient and long-suffering when engaged on rough travel, and one cannot help admiring their fine qualities in that way.
Besides the grains and sweet potatoes which they grow, the natives have a certain amount of livestock, such as sheep, goats, pigs, pigeons, ducks, and fowls, and a few of the chiefs keep cattle.
A bird like a fowl is no meal for a native, as he could easily eat five or six at a sitting without feeling uncomfortable, but it affords a relish, what they term "ndeo," pronounced indeo, to their usual dish of ufa porridge. They gather various wild plants and eat wild mushrooms of different kinds, and sometimes they grow chillies for a seasoning. One of their favourite seasonings is the ground-nut, and they grow large quantities of them, and, of course, the pumpkin is commonly grown all over the country.
Cucumbers of a coarse variety, are also grown and eaten uncooked, as we eat them with our salmon and salads at home. Tomatoes are found everywhere of a small variety, and they grow in the native gardens.
A vegetable which has a hard, shell-like skin is grown, and these are made into gourds for carrying water and for drinking it. They call the large gourds "chipanda," and the small ones for drinking out of "tumo."
In some districts with large lakes and rivers in the vicinity they catch and eat a quantity of fish, and the ordinary barbel or mud-fish is the commonest.
It has a very muddy taste and is rather full of bones, and the European will think them but poor eating compared to the delicious fish he gets at home. There are many other kinds of fish, but as I have never lived on Lake Nyasa, which I believe is full of fish, I do not know the names of the commonly used kinds.
In the large rivers, such as the Zambesi and Luangwa, there are several sporting fish, including the tiger fish, which needs the strongest piano wire traces to hold him, as he has jaws like a pair of nippers, and will go through an ordinary gimp trace without the least effort. I have never had the necessary equipment there to go in for fishing, and, except for a year spent on the Luangwa River in 1905, I have not lived near any very large river which could afford good fishing. Doubtless there are a number of fish in this country that would give good sport, and I believe spoons are the best lure, although minnows might be useful also. For bait, the entrails of fowls are good.
The hooks should be pretty large, and, for ordinary mudfish, twisted wire is better than gut. The latter deteriorates here very quickly when exposed to heat, and is not strong enough for African fish.
The following are the usual prices away from a township for the livestock and foodstuffs sold by the natives :
Cattle, bulls (depends on age)
£1 to £3 each
cows ( ) ......
£2 to £4
75. to 105.
ewes ... ... ... ...
85. to 125.
Goats, billies ...
25. to 55.
nannies (sometimes with kid)
45. to 75.
15. to 25. each
Fowls (sometimes 4d. or 6d. each) ...
Pigeons ... ...
Maize (depends on district and season)
½d. to 2d. per lb.
Sweet potatoes (depends on district and season)
½d. to 2d. per lb.
Eggs (often bought for a dessert-spoonful of salt)............
Three a penny.
Pumpkins ... ... .............
1d. to 2d. each.
Bananas or plantains ...
6d. per bunch.
1d. to 2d. per lb.
Mushrooms (four varieties) ...
For the picking.
Many of the above commodities can be bartered for eat or salt, which are always in great demand.
Native axes or adzes
Baskets (according to size)
3d. to 6d.
Mats, long (20ft. or so), name mkeka...
1s. 6d. to 35.
short (6ft. or so),
IS. to 25.
Otter skins (in some places cheaper) ...
25. to 45.
55. to 105.
15. to 35.
Native drums (the real thing) ...
10s. to £l
(made to sell)
25. 6d. to 55.
£1 to £2
Ordinary sleeping mats used by natives
Hunters (gunbearers and spoorers)
Carriers (usual price 45. and food extra)
Cooks (according to experience) ...
Table boys (according to experience)
Plate washers and pot cleaners (according to experience)
Head boys (capitao)
Common plantation labour
Children (the women do not often work on plantations)
Brickmakers (1000 to 1200 bricks per day)
105. to 125.
Bricklayers (according to experience)
75. to 155.
Carpenters ( " " )
105. to £2
Native clerks ( " " )
105. to 305.
Machilleros (men to carry a machilla) ...
45. to 55.
Interpreters (cooks and head boys often speak English) ... ......... ......
105. to £1
The price of labour in Nyasaland and North-Eastern Rhodesia, especially away from the Zambesi river, the railway, and townships, is much more moderate than it is in North-Western Rhodesia, where the prices of labour seem to have followed those usual in Southern Rhodesia. In the latter place a boy will often get £1 to £2 per mensem but he will cook and work hard. In Nyasaland and adjoining territories the personal servants necessary follow the custom of India, but not to such a degree, and one usually keeps too many boys whose time is not fully employed.
Unless European ladies are present it is not usual to engage female labour, although round Blantyre the cook's wife will often be able to wash and iron clothes, as she may have been taught the work at the mission.
Ladies often keep a female dhobie or washerman, and a nurse, when they get one ; but more often the latter is a young boy who attends to the white children, and takes them out for their daily coach ride and breath of fresh air.
This youngster also bathes and amuses the male children, and he will often take great interest in their welfare, and be most reliable and trustworthy.
The youngsters are more intelligent than the adults, as they more readily adapt themselves to their altered conditions of lifein fact, some of them get too smart at times and require censure.
All labour is so cheap here that people who at home have not been in a position to keep many servants will find that their lives are much easier in Central Africa than they could ever be in Britain.
If a man cannot keep well in tropical Africa, he had better leave it for another climate, as he will have no happiness there if his health is bad, for the discomforts and hardships he will often need to undergo, if he lives a wild life, will be more than he can bear.