Kajeli, 29 June 1893

An eight-hour night drive brought us to the East coast of the island of Buru where we anchored in the bay of Kajeli next to the town of the same name.

To our surprise there was no rain today but beautiful sunshine in whose radiance the bay of Kajeli presented a very charming picture. In the distance we could see a mighty mountain whose peak was almost completely enveloped in clouds and which the natives call a „holy mountain“ as its top has never been touched by a European foot. The Eastern promonitory of Kajeli were two cone-shaped mountains called „mother and daughter“ while the mountain descends to the coast at a soft slope.

Kajeli itself lies in a swampy plain criss-crossed by small streams and is covered with mangrove trees. The plain extends to the land tongue of Lissaletta that limits our view on the right.

The post master and the commander of the fort Defentie appeared on board to arrange the program for the next two days with the resident according to which Kajeli would be first visited and then birds would be hunted. This met my special applause as Buru, like all Maluku islands, was known for its richness and diversity of its bird world. For the second day a hunt for deer, wild boars (Sus celebensis) and hairy babirusa (Babirussa alfurus) was planned. The strange babirussa is found outside its mainland of Celebes only on Soela, Mangoeli and Buru and is a very strange and rare animal with two pairs of tusks grown together above the snout. Understandably I desired to kill such an animal.

After the end of the discussion we drove on land and had to be carried in decorated chairs by coolies over the water to a triumphal arch as the boats could not land due to the muddy shore. The dignitaries of Kajeli received us festively.

The post master, the highest ranking government official on Buru, is not only in charge of the district of Kajeli but also a large part of the island that is divided in areas ruled by rajas. As post masters usually are appointed native just like in Dobo and also the commander of the small, semi-decayed fort and the mayor of Kajeli were pure-blood Malays.

Among the crowd I especially noticed two Alfures who had come from Ceram with trading goods. They looked stronger and better built than their Malayan relatives. Characteristic was their ferocity with which they provocatively glanced around. In contrast to the Amboinese, they were only wearing a loincloth made out of palm bast on which the Alfures use to mark the number of heads they have captured by colored rings. It is well known that the Alfures even today go on manhunts in Ceram armed with very sharp kris and spears made out of ironwood. Thanks to the courtesy of Baron van Hoevell I came into possession of many characteristic Alfurian ornaments and weapons.

As I thought that the morning hours were especially suitable for hunting birds I shifted the visit of the town Kajeli to a later time and asked the post master and the controller of Amboina who were in charge of the expedition on Buru to point out the best hunting grounds to me. After prolonged discussion which included the consultation of the best hunting expert of Kajeli — by the way, a suspicious looking individual wearing a worn black coat and a black hat  — it was recommended to us to drive to a land tongue as there would be parrots of five different species.

The time required for the drive to that land tongue was estimated at two hours. But instead of choosing the steamers, surely the fastest and most practical means of transports, the organizers of the excursion had opted to use sailing praus. Due to the complete lack of wind the sails could not be used so that the praus had to be moved by oars. Further delay was caused by the quickly increasing heat which soon tired the oarsmen.

Despite all this we finally reached our destination after a protracted drive and thought that now the hunt would soon start — but here too there were all kinds of discussions necessary. Finally the hunting expert took charge and advanced about 400 paces along the coast until we reached a point where at a shallow spot there were large tree trunks in the sea. Here there were some seagulls, sandpipers and plovers but at such large a distance that it was impossible to take a shot at them. Only Clam who had waded closer managed to bring back a harmless tern as the only catch.

Soon the people explained to us that the hunt was over now and that we could return to Kajeli, as there were no parrots here and also it made no sense to wait for pelicans which the hunting expert had believed to find here. Entering into the mangrove forest would be impossible too due to the swamp. Rather angry that we had thus lost a morning we had to spend the next two hours being rowed back to Kajeli in the midday heat but we landed outside of it as we decided to go hunting on our own in the woods surrounding the settlement.

Here everything looked dead and quiet at first. In the muggy heat no bird wanted to move and only gorgeous butterflies of all sizes and colors were fluttering around. The forest was not contiguous and closed but alternating with open areas of coarse grass called „kusu-kusu“. In the wooden areas in this terrain stood palm trees namely the fibrous sago palm (Pigafetta filaris), ficus  and eucalyptus trees in whose shadow I waited for some time until bird voices were to be heard again. Even though I hunted until the evening, our catch was not very rich: I bagged only two parrots of different species, one in green, the other in red (Tanygnathus megalorhynchus and Eos rubra), as well as a specimen of a gorgeous white, actually light-yellow fruit pigeon (Myristicivora melanura), finally a mysterious flier (Macropteryx [Dendrochelidon] mystacea) with long white hairs under the bills and some smaller birds. My gentlemen only caught two pigeons and a large grey fruit pigeon with metallic green wings (Carpophaga perspieillata) and a small green and yellow colored Pompadour green pigeon (Osmotreron aromatica) with a grey head.

In the hunting terrain I could examine a strange example of the manner in which the natives here build paths. I had asked my guide to bring us back to Kajeli by the shortest route as the sun was already low on the horizon. This proved to be a well traveled straight „linea recta“ path but which crossed a small river twenty-four times which we had to wade across every time for want of bridges. But this did not trouble me much as my stay in the tropical region had acquainted me with wading streams, rivers and swamps on a daily basis, in rain or not, and becoming soaked.

The short time left before the approach of darkness I used to visit Kajeli and the house of the post master. The settlement offered little that was notable with the exception of the semi-decayed fort whose low walls, it is said, are built upon the foundations dating from the Portuguese rule. The post master gave me in his house the skulls of two fully grown babirussas as a present and brought out three living cuscus that looked comically with their large goggle eyes. I immediately had them sent on board. Cuscus (Phalanger) are strange marsupials from the Austro-Malayan region and are divided into five species.

The evening was spent on board where again a case of sickness had to be noted as Hodek had become a victim of the fever.

Links

  • Location: Amboina
  • ANNO – on 29.06.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Dorf und Stadt“. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is closed from 1 June to 19 July.

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