Bhanderia to Sohela, 26 March 1893

Today it was time to say good-bye to beautiful Nepal; saying good-bye to the Nepalese natives, namely the hunting masters and shikaris, those splendid fellows who gained our highest esteem during our all too short stay; saying good-bye to our brave Hathis that had carried us faithfully and diligently for three weeks on many difficult marches and hunts.

Filled with the most beautiful memories of this successful and extremely interesting hunting journey, of strange events and of a fancy-free life in tents in the natural jungle we left Nepal. As if heaven wanted to make our departure very painful, the day was gorgeous and cloudless. The blue mountains and the glacier peaks gave a parting salute to us. The green jungle with its mighty shala trees lay very invitingly in front of us, so that we started to another tiger hunt.

Almost everyone of the brave Nepalese came to express his regrets of our departure. The uncle and nephew of the maharaja had turned out in full dress for their final attendance call. The former wore a colonel’s uniform, the latter one of a captain in the Nepalese guard. The uniform consisted of a darkblue, enlaced coat and similarly decorated pants made out of a thick barracan cloth. The headdress was formed solely out of a gold circlet with a golden cockade which was ornamented more or less richly with gemstones to distinguish the different ranks. I presented the two gentlemen with my photograph and also a large gilded hunting knife, truly monstrous weapons, which caused quite a bit of pleasure for the brave gentlemen. They placed the weapons immediately on their uniforms and had their picture taken in this outfit.

Then it was the turn of the lower civil servants, the mahauts, the soldiers of the escort, with one word, everyone of this small people, in whose land we had spent three weeks in the most agreeable manner, came to pay their respect and to perform their selam, after which the people were paid. It was a pretty picture to see them march past, the mahauts on their elephants in front.  receiving pay and tips and expressing their thanks. A comical appearance made our native post master who, having just received his pay, asked for a certificate that confirmed the honest means of getting into possession of this sum.

The others all asked for written references confirming „good behavior“, a request whose granting kept us at work all morning as the writing, signing and sealing of the letters went on without end.  The people expressed real joy about the red-white of the stamp of my chamber administration as these were also the national colors of Nepal.

Finally the camp was dismantled and everything packaged. On our elephant, we waved to all our friends a final salute of good-bye; then the caravan started moving to cross the border and advance south towards Sohela, the next camp location. We had intended to hunt during the march on Indian territory up to Sohela as there were, just as in Nepal, favorable jungles but the Nepalese, uncle and nephew of the maharaja, would not move into Anglo-Indian territory for any reason.

Even though this interfered with my hunting plans, I could not feel bad about the Nepalese strict refusal to break their complete isolation of their country from the Anglo-Indian territory. The constant concern of an annexation of their country by England seemed to be all too real, given the experience of the neighboring formerly independent princes, and the systematic limitation of traffic between Nepal and India seemed to be the only policy to preserve, at least for the present, Nepal’s independence.

The friendly relations, however, which we had with the Nepalese, perhaps intensified by the personal presents of the hunting knives made the representatives of the maharaja willing to offer special concessions. They were as follows: The Nepalese agreed to supply one hundred elephants under the command of a native captain especially for the purpose of our planned hunt on Anglo-Indian territory. But this was linked to the condition that these people were to return on the same evening with their elephants back to Nepalese territory.

On Indian ground we were received by an English official and  a chief forester who is in charge of around 115.000 hectares of the most beautiful teak and shala woods, a most precious stock. These forests were operated by some sort of selection cutting, i.e. the demand for wood for the government is met by cutting the most beautiful trunks in a forest area without there being a cultivation in our manner. The rejuvenation  takes place by spreading seeds. The new growth is left to nature.

In view of this mode of forestry, the task of the chief forester is mostly  limited to the construction of roads to transport the wood out of the forest, to the cutting of wooden ties for the local railway currently under construction in the district and protection of the forest. Given these elements of his duties, the chief forester does everything he can to prevent forest fires. He even asked us vividly during the hunt to refrain from smoking — a policy limitation that was in sharp contrast to the surrounding free nature.

We moved first along a recently constructed road through the forest, then turned south and formed a line for a hunt. Then we crossed a grass jungle that was very rich in furred game and water fowl so that we shot muntjacs, black boars and swamp deer, but the game was relatively timid and many a bullet missed its target in the grass. Then the chief forester proposed to go to an especially fine jungle, namely a wood surrounded by a stream at whose shore tall reeds were growing . But the brave man erred in regard to the quantity of game in this part of his district. The elephants only managed to advance at great difficulty as it was necessary to incessantly cross swampy spots and fallen trees. With the exception of metal storks and cormorants, we found no game here.

Finally we asked the head hunting master to cease further hunts in this terrain. He then lead us into a water jungle in which our elephants were nearly forced to swim and where only frightened water rails took flight.  It looked like the head hunting master did not know his assigned district very well and only special hunter’s luck led us by accident to an especially suitable hunting ground where we not only immediately discovered game but also namely peacocks.

Suddenly I heard a peacock cry loudly to the left of me and saw a whole flock take flight, a certain sign that a larger predator was in the jungle. Truly, the welcome cry of „Bagh! Bagh!“ soon rang out and by instinct all elephants rushed concentrically towards the spot where the cry was uttered. The circle was quickly formed, two shikaris rode for a long time within it. Finally the grass started moving, the elephants trumpeted — but instead of a tiger it was a very strong male boar that moved towards me. I shot it and ask myself if the drivers had shouted „Bagh“ just for fun? Given the great experience of the Nepalese this did not seem plausible but must have been true as there was no more movement within the circle and all mahauts rode up with their elephants to have a look at the boar.

Then a panther jumped between two elephants. The panther had been hiding motionless in the grass, escaped through the line in the confusion caused by the unexpected appearance and fled into the neighboring jungle without any possibility of firing a shot. Now it was the turn of the brave Nepalese again to display their skill. In no time we had encircled the panther again and I fired when I could see its skin through a small opening. The panther was wounded, fled into the grass and was just starting to jump at my elephant when the resident standing next to me killed it with a shot. The panther was small so that the large caliber bullet of the resident smashed in the whole head while my bullet sat between the breast and the neck.

Even though there were still some very inviting jungles close by, the Nepalese asked to return home with the majority of their elephants in order to reach the Nepalese territory before the sunset. We could not deny their request and thus we rode on riding elephants to the camp at  Sohela, at a distance of 16 km from the camp at Bhanderia, while the Nepalese marched north in long lines. How much we would have wanted to follow our hunting companions north!

The camp was close to the railway line under construction that was intended to lead from Mailani, a station of the Rohilkund Kumaon Railway, north over the Sarda river to close to the Nepalese border. The construction of this branch railway line serves mostly to develop the boundless woods close to the border which constitute an important but currently non-productive capital stock.

The last evening in the tent camp we devoted to the compiled listing of the hunting results  of our Nepalese expedition. It refreshed such rich memories of those felicitous and happy days!

Links

  • Location: Sohela, India
  • ANNO – on 26.03.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed until 2nd April, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the ballet „Excelsior“.

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