Travelling in the typical volcano country of Java I could not resist to ascend a still active volcano, all the more so as the known Papandayan, one of the peaks of the South-eastern mountain range of Preang, is easily accessible from Garut. So we started very early in the morning and reached the foot of Papandayan after a drive of about three hours.The route is very difficult. It is very steep and the road goes continuously up and down which is the case of all roads in Java. The roads are generally very good, have a firm base, good water drain systems, firm bridges and other installations. The layout, however, is quite primitive as usually a straight line is chosen over hills and valleys and serpentines and similar technical solutions to ascend heights seemed unknown to the builders of Java’s roads or at least are not used by them.
Our carriage was drawn by four Javanese ponies that marched at a fast pace. They were driven by the coachman as well as additionally two boys with whips who stood on the rear axle of the carriage and jumped from time to time from the carriage, ran in front and urged the ponies on. All inclines were surpassed at full speed. The three persons beat the four ponies in unison and the peak was quickly reached. If the inclines proved too much or would have taken too long to surpass, two strong bulls were yoked to the carriage too so that we were driving with a six animal team. As carriage brakes or wheel spikes were unknown here, the Javanese use a primitive method to prevent the rapid descent of a carriage in hilly terrain. In such a case the carriage is fastened with rope which is held by about twenty coolies who are charged with the task of slowing down the speed of the descending carriage by the counterweight of their bodies.
On the whole tour to the Papandayan we were protected by escorts in which Wedanas or Demangs (district chiefs) and Djaros (Dessa chiefs or village chairmen) besides an number of the village elders and other local dignitaries rode along. These escorts offered, if this was possible, an even more comical look that the riders in Bandung and Garut. The fast speed of our drive seemed to be unfamiliar to the gentlemen and certainly too fast as many times a dignitary was separated from his horse or was carried nolens volens by the animal during the ride through of a village into the next barn.
We passed numerous Kampongs or Dessas, as the native villages are called. The leave their dwellings and assemble along the road to greet us. The civilized settled Javanese are characterized by their gentleness, calm and sense of order. Their main occupation was agriculture to which they tend much more industriously than the inhabitants of continental India. As the most numerous tribe of the Malay race, the Javanese generally are slim, well proportioned, of small stature with a light brown, bronze skin. Beard growth is very meager. The long hair is carried in an intertwined knot at the back of the head. The women, much smaller than their men are also of well proportioned stature.
The clothing is very simple: the men usually wear a calico jacket (Badju) that reaches the hip and some kind of female skirt called Bebed. On the head they carry a turban-like wrapped cloth whose ends West Javanese let hang out from the head; the women wear a sarong (Kain), slung around the waist as well as a breast cloth which covers the upper body knotted in the manner of a Scottish plaid. Above this the wear a calico jacket (Kabaya). The coolies often wear but a loin cloth while the children are most of the times completely nude.
Of jewelry there is little to be seen among the people. Instead in every man’s belt is his favorite weapon, the kris or duwong, a dagger-like sharply honed knife whose sheath is ornamented more or less richly according to the wealth of the owner.
The poor Javanese lives together with but one wife; the rich one, however, arranges his household, according to the rules of Islam, as a polygamy. In all cases, the women who carry the burden of most of the work are completely subordinate to the men. The way the Javanese mothers carry their babies is strange. The baby, wrapped in a cloth, is carried above the waist.
The general impression of the Javanese I received is very favorable. This judgment is based on two special moments: the agreeable cleanliness of the Javanese dwellings and the respectful and at the same time friendly manner towards foreigners.
At the foot of the volcano, riding ponies were awaiting us next to a house of a government official. The ponies were to carry us up the steep path after a short break.
On the open space in front of the government building multiple Gamelangs were posted whose combined play made an ear-shattering noise. Here I could closely examine the different instruments that the Javanese musicians use. Especially the Rebab with its two metal strings, a sort of slim violin with a crooked bow; then the Gendeer, a combination of upright bamboo tubes that are beaten with small hammers and produce different sounds according to their size. Furthermore the Gambang kaju, an instrument similar to our xylophone that consists of a box in which are wood and metal plates which are beat with wooden sticks.The different Bonongs, metal bowls that are hung between bamboo poles as well as large gongs, kettledrums and drum-like instruments that complete the Gamelang.
Finally we had seen everything; we mounted the ponies and now we advanced at a trot towards the peak of the Papandayan. The path led through gardens, coffee and cinchona plantations; then came open areas covered with alang and finally virgin jungle that accompanied us nearly up to the crater. The ride in the middle of this tropical luxurious forest with its countless clear streams and sources was gorgeous. The path ascended at a more and more steep grade and was so smooth in the darkness of the forest that our small ponies could climb up only with great effort.
At a distance of 1 km from the crater, the character of the landscape changes. The tall trees, the tree ferns and palms recede and bush-like myrtle takes their place. Along the path one already finds lava and pieces of sulphur; the sources emerging out of the ground are hot and contain much iron and sulphur. The atmosphere lets one expect the presence of a crater. At the turn of the path, suddenly all vegetation ceases. We are in the midst of a sea of stones. White stones crossed by sulphurous veins are surrounding us. Large naked rocks lay around in wild disorder; Naked, the stones of both mountain sides limiting this desert are shimmering. No bird, no butterfly, no insect. Everything is dead and monotonous. In some distance one can already see the fog-like vapors of the crater rise. We are at the spot where the last eruption has created an eternally bare debris field and thus has left indelible marks.
Once the volcano Papandayan had a height of up to 3000 m; but about 50 years ago there was such an extraordinary eruption that a vast stone mass sent destruction down the mountain to the valleys, so that the actual crater now is at an altitude of only 2634 m above sea level.
There was still a very steep stretch to cover; our horses climbed like goats over the stones, then we stood at the edge of the crater. Papandayan is one of the few volcanoes whose crater one can climb and thus permits to examine the subterranean forces at work really closely.
The crater has the shape of a cone that is covered all over with burnt pumice stone as well as yellow glittering sulphurous crystals and sulphur pieces of the strangest shape. These sulphur products are created out of the slowly cooling vapors that escaping out of numerous small openings with a hissing sound fill the atmosphere with foul-smelling suffocating air. The volcano also throws out boiling water and out of many openings and cuts hot springs emerge. We pushed poles that we had taken along into these opening and threw stones into them which were thrown out again in a hot state. We also tried to open the ground at multiple spots. We had barely pierced a few centimeters when boiling water was gushing out or whizzing pieces of stone were sent flying into the air, driven by sulphur gas. The cone of the crater is totally hollow. Everywhere it resounded and echoed. In many spots it is even dangerous to walk as the fragile crust will split all to easily and crumble. Only recently a Malay had disappeared in such a crack and was never seen again. The booming, hissing and whizzing, the pungent and burning vapors nearly intoxicated us so that we could only breathe freely many hundred paces from the crater. Unfortunately we noticed that all golden objects we were carrying had turned black.
Still within the range of the crater, the government had built a bamboo hut for my visit in which a rich breakfast was served. But I must admit that other meals tasted better as in this atmosphere all dishes seemed to be spiked with the ingredients of this witch’s kitchen. There was music here too at this altitude. Without interruption, the monotonous sounds of the bamboo instruments were played while we were at the top of the volcano.
After I had collected some stone samples I left the strange volcano after a too short stay which sent after us a thundering last salute of departure.
At the location where our carriages were ready, the natives arranged a ram fight which the animals executed with grim determination. This spectacle differed from similar ones seen which we had seen in India by the fact that the people here let the rams fight to the end until one of the two combatants gave up and beaten, fled the field.
The regent who had heard about my passion of collecting was so kind to arrange an ethnographic exhibition after our return to the place in front of his palace. I could then select the suitable objects for my collection. There were all kinds of instruments that the natives used to cultivate the ground as well as use in their homes. Furthermore tools for artisans as smiths, potters etc. Some music instruments and complete Gamelangs; weapons, mostly arrows, bows and kris.
In the evening we again enjoyed a performance of a Wajang, namely this time a Wajang Kulit, in which colorfully painted leather puppets were moved behind a white paper screen as shadow figures. As in the other Wajangs music was played and out of the background a nasal voice narrated the story which had a tiring effect.
At the conclusion of the performance the comely pair, the regent and his court lady, again amused us with a dance. This one was performed, apparently due to the success of the dancers the evening before, with even much more vigor and ended with the enhanced detail that not only a Ganymede appeared but three Wedanas who offered champaign.