Kalawewa to Kandy, 12 January 1893

The day of departure from Kalawewa and return to Kandy had arrived. At 6 o’clock in the morning we were in the saddle to return by another road than we had taken to Dambul. My horse was an Australian fox from the governor’s stable. The nag didn’t promise much but proved to formidable during the ride especially displaying admirable stamina.

At the start we moved through familiar territory, then through beautiful jungle, over rocky ridges, past many ponds and marshes, as well as dried out river beds on whose banks large trees offered shade.

At the rest stop of Nalande close to a picturesque small Buddha temple we took a break. Back in the saddle again, Pirie explained we were advancing too slowly and made us trot at a speed worthy even for Russian trotters. If even that wasn’t sufficient, we galloped at a fast hunting speed without attention to the winding road, the numerous stones and roots, across rice fields, through the thickest jungle. A mad ride! Pirie in front on a thick black-brown horse, then I on the stiff, obstructing fox that sped like a dragon.  Kinsky and Clam on two large Australian wagon horses. Wurmbrand on a small polo pony, Prónay again on a 17 hands high wagon nag and at the end a constable black as the night on an old snow-white horse. The animals stood the great heat and the mad jog incredibly well. Soon we had covered 26 km. Dripping with sweat, horse and rider arrived in Dambul where we had to wait for the arrival of the hunters, the baggage and the wagons.

But we enjoyed the break very much! In Dambul, we were greeted with messengers from home, bringer of good news – the first letters and newspapers from Vienna.  Posted on 18 December, the mail had covered the distance from the Imperial city on the Danube to the jungle of Dambul in 25 days.

After a short rest, we continued our journey in wagons but made a stop to visit the large Kawadapella factory owned by a stock company and managed by Englishmen on whose extensive plantations grew tea, coffee and cacao.

Currently, about a fifth of Ceylon’s surface area is used for agricultural crops. These are partly native plants such as cotton, indigo, sugar cane, bamboo, fruits and spices of all sorts, partly foreign plants that owe their cultivation to the colonizing activities of the English. The introduction, adaptation and cultivation of new fertile and profitable trade crops offers one of the main levers of efficient production in all colonial even all agricultural areas.

Just as our Europe, formerly only covered with native plants, now offers a diverse vegetation of many able often foreign elements given a European right of domicile to immigrants often from Asiatic agricultural crops, so too has the economic speculative spirit and agricultural experience introduced new and extremely valuable agricultural crops to Ceylon which now occupy again and again the top ranks of agricultural production of the island.

Under Dutch rule (1656 bis 1802), the tradition of cultivating Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum ceylanicum) has played a key role in the island’s production and among the planter’s care. When coffee became a fashionable drink among civilized nations in the 18th and 19th century, the commercial outlook of the planters switched to the cultivation of coffee which up to the 17th century was only grown in Arabia. Its importance grew so much under English rule that in the middle of this century, the coffee plantations became the foremost source of wealth in Ceylon. This period ended abruptly when leaf spot or coffee pest (Hemileia vastatrix), a fungus, first observed in 1869, hit the planted fields and damaged them so intensively that in the decade between 1878 to 1889, the production volume of the coffee plantation were reduced by four fifth in their area of cultivation, even though in 1891, that area still covers around 27.000 hectares.

The damage caused by the coffee pest made the plantation owners, ably supported by English capitalists, switch to the cultivation of tea from 1873 on. The work necessary in labor and cost for the plantation of tea is larger than those required for coffee both in production and operation, further aggravated by the difference in price of the finished product to the disadvantage of tea. In spite of this, the cultivation of tea is bound to stay in Ceylon, it even surpassed in 1891 with its around 95.000 hectares the area dedicated to coffee.

The leaves of an intensive green color of the low-rise tea plant are collected, laid out to dry on linen cloth covered stellings and are then rolled in a machine and roasted until they have obtained a known darker coloring. The final step of the procedure consists of a machine sorting the leaves in three quality grades according to different criteria. The product then is ready for packaging. The whole process from collection to packaging takes around 48 hours. I have been told that in Kawadapella, 400 kg of tea are produced out of 1600 kg of leaves.

Since the 1860s, cinchona, originally from the Cordilleras of the Andes and out of whose bark is produced quinine, has been cultivated in Ceylon, so that in 1891 around 16.000 hectares have been planted with cinchona trees. An area of 263.000 hectares is used for the cultivation of coconut trees (Cocos nucifera) which provides wood, fiber, nuts and oils. The cultivation of rice takes up more than 267.000 hectares. The famous fruit gardens of Ceylon also cover extensive areas.

After we had sampled the plantation’s delicious tea which I had never tasted before, we took leave. Only 16 km more and we were in Matale. There a telegram reached me from Mr Jevers who had stayed back in Kalawewa that the buffalo I had shot had been found dead about 1000 paces from the place where I had fired.

From Matale, a special train transported us to Kandy.

A real Scottish bagpiper called us to dinner in the pavilion at 8 o’clock. The dinner was attended, besides the governor and his family, by General Massy with his charming daughter who spoke German. After the dinner, the two young ladies, Miss Havelock and Miss Massy, and two young adjutants of the governor, two Scottish highland officers in their sharp dresses, performed gracious Scottish national dances to the sound of the bagpipes.

Links

  • Location: Kandy, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 12.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. While the attention is directed towards Paris but no news has yet reached Vienna about the latest situation, the Neue Freie Presse continues to fill its pages with survey articles, this time about the state of Italy. In the United States it is reported that the Union general Benjamin Butler has died at the age of 75 years. During the American Civil War, Butler was in charge of the occupation of New Orleans and earned the nickname „Beast“ from the local secessionist population. Butler later was a supporter of president U.S. Grant and ran unsuccessfully for president himself.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing Shakespeare’s Richard III while the k.u.k Hof-Operntheater performs Verdi’s The Troubadour, both events are reserved for subscribers.

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