17 – King Chumbiri

King Chumbiri – Death of Kalulu

Terrible Death of Frank Pocock

At Balobo the party was extremely happy to find a humane old king named Chumbiri.  He treated them with a wonderful hospitality and allowed them to camp there for several days. 

The king came to visit Stanley with a large escort of musketeers who were dressed in bright colored cloths.  Stanley thought the old man was a character, even for Africa.  He wore a singular looking tall hat that was fashioned like those that were worn by the Armenian priests.  It was constructed out of close-plaited hyphene-palm fibre that would have been sufficient to outlast his life, even if he lived another hundred years. 

Hanging from the left shoulder across the chest, was a sword of the bill-hook pattern.  Then above the shoulder stood upright the bristles of an elephant’s tail.  His hand was armed with a buffalo’s tail, made into a fly-flapper, to whisk away mosquitoes and gnats off his face. 

To his wrists, he had attached charm-gourds, charm-powders in bits of red and black flannel, and a collection of wooden antiquities, besides a snuff-gourd and a parcel of tobacco leaves.  He was constantly filling his nose with snuff and then sneezing it out again.  He also carried a pipe that was six feet long and decorated with brass tacks.  From the pipe, he would draw long whiffs until his cheeks were distended, and then blow out all the smoke. 

He had 40 wives, each of whom was permanently collared with thick brass rings that must have weighed as much as 20 lbs.  When one of them died, he would cut off her head to secure the brass collar.

Stanley found him to be clever and kind-hearted, and one of the richest characters that he had met in all his travels.  He remained in the village for several days and studied the peculiarities of the people there.  He felt that his men also needed a rest. 

When they left, the king furnished him with 45 men who accompanied him nearly 50 miles before they turned back.  This was very valuable to Stanley in this wild and unknown country.

Below is a picture of King Chumbiri and one of his wives.

King Chumbiri and wife - Stanley's Travels

Adventure with a Python

Soon after they made camp after the first day’s march, Stanley heard the shrieks of a boy.  He rushed to the spot to see a huge python uncoil itself from the body of one of the black boys of the expedition and glide off into the jungle.  The snake had reared its horrid head to the height of a man, and in the darkness the boy thought it was someone from the party.  When he got near enough, the snake seized him.  He started screaming and the men rushed over and made so much noise that it scared the snake off.

They saw another python a few minutes later that was about to snatch a woman.  This time they killed the snake and measured it.  It measured 13 ft. 6 in. in length, and 15 in. around the thickest part of its body.

Death of Kalulu

On the 13th of March the expedition reached the first cataract of the Livingstone Falls, and they spent more than a month in passing the long series of cataracts that broke the flow of the river there.  Also, this part of the passage had claimed many lives of Stanley’s men. 

On the 28th of March, one of the largest canoes that contained Kalulu and five other favorite members of the expedition was swept over a cataract and all five were drowned.  Stanley mourned this loss deeply, because he had come to love Kalulu almost like a younger brother. 

The young boy had been presented to him by the Arabs on the occasion of his first visit there in search of David Livingstone.  He was then just a child, but he was very bright and Stanley took to him from the start. 

Stanley took him to the United States, where he attended school 18 months, and rapidly developed into an intelligent youth.  Then when Stanley was preparing for his second expedition, Kalulu begged him to be allowed to come.  The boy’s untimely death made such an impression upon Stanley that he named the fatal cataract Kalulu Falls in honor of his memory. 

After they left Kalulu Falls, they did not experience many more difficulties until the latter part of May when they arrived at a village called Mowa.  The people were friendly, but also very superstitious.  They gave them an abundant supply of food and treated them well. 

Stanley constantly wrote in his notebook as much as he could.  He made sketches, wrote stories about the people, and tried to record as much as possible so that he wouldn’t forget when he got back to civilization. 

The people saw him writing one day, and got very upset to the point of telling him they wanted to make war with him.  They also told him that they couldn’t understand why he hated them since they had been good to him.  He couldn’t understand what they were so upset about and asked them. 

They told him that tara-tara (paper) was very bad and that now their country would waste, their goats would die, their bananas would rot, and their women would dry up.  They told him that he must burn the paper or they would fight him. 

He excused himself and went into his tent and got a book of Shakespeare and substituted it for his writings.  They would not touch it, but allowed him to burn it himself.  He hated to sacrifice Shakespeare, but he felt he must save his valuable notebook. 

Terrible Death of Frank Pocock

On June 3rd, they had another terrible accident at the Masassa whirlpool.  Frank Pocock had been Stanley’s mainstay and was next in command to him.  Frank attempted to drive the rapids against the advice of his experienced boatman Uledi.  He was solemnly warned against doing it, but with a boldness that was totally unlike himself, he ordered the canoe pushed out into the stream. 

As they approached the terrible breakers, he realized his peril, but it was too late.  They were soon caught in the dreadful whirl of waters and sucked under with a mighty force that was sufficient to swallow a ship.  The eight Africans saved themselves, but Pocock drowned.  When Stanley was told this, he wept bitter tears of anguish.  He was already still upset over the loss of Kalulu, and this loss also was extremely hard for him to bear. 

Pocock was the last of the men who had sailed with him from England, and now he was the only one left.  By now, the terrible calamities had discouraged the men so much that Stanley could hardly get them to proceed. 

They felt that the rest of them would die also, and on the 20th of June 31 of them deserted the party.  They returned a few days afterwards, though, when they met with hostile reactions from the natives of the area. 

Stanley now relied on his great leadership abilities to keep them together and keep them determined enough to reach the ocean.  Famine was staring them in the face, and he knew that they would starve if they didn’t make a persistent and commanding advance toward the sea.  He knew that was all that could save them. 

Finally, about a month later they reached Ngoyo and found some friendly people.  Stanley found that all they liked to wear were rings in their ears and noses and nothing else.  He like them, though.  The famished party finally got something to eat here. 

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About Cathy Deaton


My name is Cathy Deaton, Owner of Fan the Flame Ministries. God has radically changed my life, and He has shown me that I am to share the awesome things I am learning especially with the Millennial Generation (1981 – 1996), but I love connecting with Christians of all ages. I have found that the Holy Spirit is an awesome teacher when I listen to, obey, and apply what He teaches to my life. You truly can make a difference for God in an uncertain world.