# How did they cover 1,000 miles in 110 days at a speed of 5 miles per day?

In the beginning of Chapter Four of King Solomon's Mines we are given the distance travelled:

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, 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.

(My emphasis)

In the very next paragraph we are told how long it took to travel this distance:

We left Durban at the end of January, and it was in the second week of May that we camped near Sitanda's Kraal.

However, at the end of Chapter Three we were given the speed that the oxen could travel at:

Then I bought a beautiful team of twenty salted Zulu oxen, which I had kept my eye on for a year or two. Sixteen oxen are the usual number for a team, but I took four extra to allow for casualties. These Zulu cattle are small and light, not more than half the size of the Africander oxen, which are generally used for transport purposes; but they will live where the Africanders would starve, and with a moderate load can make five miles a day better going, being quicker and not so liable to become foot-sore.

(My emphasis)

These facts seem inconsistent. Even if we liberally interpret "the end of January" to include a full week of January, and "the second week of May" to be the end of two full weeks, the entire period would only be 110 or 111 days (7 days in January + 28/29 days in February + 31 days in March + 30 days in April + 14 days in May). At a speed of 5 miles per day, though, it would take 200 days to traverse 1,000 miles.

Now it was stated in the first passage cited that the last 300 miles would be travelled on foot, in which case it is possible that they could cover much more ground than the oxen could. But even so, it should still take 140 days to travel the 700 miles with the oxen, so there is at least a full month unaccounted for.

How can this be reconciled?

• Guessing, there may be a difference between distance-traversed and straight-line distance. Also, if the path is unformed there may be some exploration needed and some backtracking. Commented May 2, 2021 at 19:36
• @Criggie Shouldn't that make it take longer, rather than shorter?
– Alex
Commented May 2, 2021 at 19:37
• A little common sense: normal walking speed for a person is 3 to 4 miles per hour. Now imagine how slow this trek would have had to be to make only 5 miles per day! Commented May 3, 2021 at 21:26

The phrase "can make five miles a day better going." does not refer to the absolute speed of the "Zulu cattle". It is saying that they can go five miles further a day than the "Africanders" can. We would first need to know the speed of the "Africanders" to be able to estimate the speed of the "Zulu".