Schlagwort-Archiv: January

Tandur, 23 January 1893

Even though the council of the experienced hunters had decided to leave camp early to have time for multiple hunts, it was already 10 o’clock, due to fatal propensity for unpunctuality and time waste of the local Europeans and also the natives, when we finally did move. The time to departure was shortened by a sport new to me — an improvised falcon hunt. Some Hindus from Hyderabad had brought along trained falcons and a captured heron which they set free in the camp. As soon as the heron had reached a certain distance, they removed a falcon’s cap and swiftly the falcon flew towards the escaping heron, ascended up into the sky and then descended like a flash upon the heron striking it with its claws to the ground. Then it struck the heron’s back with its claws and beak and started to gorge. Two more falcons were launched into the air. They expertly caught a dead crow thrown up in the air.

But more important matters were awaiting us. Again we were promised much: the tiger must have certainly killed, they must certainly be between two of the tracking groups as their roars had been heard.

We rode on the same path as the day before until we reached the large tamarind where we again held a meeting for consultation. Every one of us was selected to mount on an elephant. It was the first time I sat in a hâuda. A peculiar, strange feeling to hover above the ground in a tub-like container on the back of a giant animal. With every step of the elephant it moved back and forth like in a ship. Even the mounting is difficult but not without comic effects: The elephant kneels down. One steps up over the rear legs on the inclined back and then hoists oneself into the hâuda. The elephant then stands up again, first with the front legs, then follow the short rear legs, so that the hâuda is almost horizontal but it is recommended to hold on tight to avoid being swept out.

The elephant is led by the Mahawat who sits on the animal’s head and indicates both speed and direction with a sharp hook (Gadschbag) , pricking the skin now right now left. The animal and its guide are living together in harmony despite the often un gentle treatment of the animal. The Mahawat talks without interruption with the smart animal and it fulfills with all the guide’s wishes, in sitting down on command, lifting one foot in the air to let the Mahawat mount the elephant, to raise the trunk and lower it, and it does whatever the guide demands. If the elephant turns naughty which happens from time to time, it is kicked sharply in the trunk which is answered by a trumpet-like cry. When the elephant come to a stream, they drink with their trunks or they pump it into their mouth so that if the heat is harsh and the flies to vexing, they can take some of the water from the mouth with the trunk and spray it over their body. Some Mahawat let their animals lay down and take a bath like this. Against flies, the elephants are very sensitive despite their thick skin: They chase them away with a large twig which they tear from a tree. One should not assume an elephant will stand still even for a minute. It will chase away flies that harry it or eat grass or leaves or swivel the trunk in the air — with one word, the hauda is permanently moving what makes it extraordinarily difficult to shoot safely from it.

At a small pond, the shikaris showed me a large tiger track that were said to be at least two days old. On a hill covered with bushes, we were placed in line at a distance of around 100 m each: first Stockinger and Prónay, then Wurmbrand, Clam, me, at the right flank Kinsky.

In front of our positions, there were natives sitting on tall trees reaching out of the bushes whose task it was to indicate the presence of a tiger with a large red cloth and point in the direction it was moving,

Due to our bad calculations, we had to wait in our positions for one and a half hours before the tracking started, which was not appreciated given the heat and the constantly shifting elephants. Finally the signal was given to start the hunt: Four drumbeats.  Soon we could hear the infernal cries of the trackers around 1000 m away, together with shots fired into the air, trumpet blasts, drumbeats and the screed of ratchets. With utmost attention we were waiting for the tiger to appear out of the jungle at any moment now. What did not appear, was a tiger. Instead we saw the trackers come closer — they were about 300 of them, constantly moving and exceedingly cautious, usually one behind the other standing in the most convenient spots, as these people obviously have great respect about tigers and are unwilling to advance before they have thrown a stone into the next bush so that even a small distance of a few 100 meters took a relatively long time for them to cover.

The natives of this region did not make a good impression on me as they seemed to be not very courageous, unreliable, not skillful and rather careless. If one wants to explain something to them or give them an order, it takes a long time as all shout and cry amongst themselves and then do the opposite of what they were requested to do.

As soon as the trackers appeared, they had a long tale to tell: The tiger had been in the jungle, one man had seen it but the tiger managed to escape – a tale I thought was fiction. But we were at our wit’s end. We wanted to continue the hunt but our hunting director explained to us that he had first to discuss this with the shikaris, then send them out again. Besides, the trackers would require a pause which I found astonishing as they had started but one hour ago. Finally another lunch helped to gloss over the local misbehavior. Having lost further precious time in this unnecessary procedure, we continued the hunt at half past four o’clock to chase after a very certain track, at least they said so.

We rode on the elephants into a pleasant valley surrounded by steep rocky sides when one shikari came running, gesticulating wildly. He reported that he had heard the tiger roar nearby. At the same time, he showed the calf allegedly killed just now but whose decomposition proved the shikari an instant liar. It looked like it had died at least six days ago and had nearly completely up to the bones been eaten by vultures . On a tree nearby, twenty or more large vultures cared little about our presence and continued to sit there quietly watching us.

As the elephants could not stand on the large rocks, we climbed up on mighty trees on whose upper branches were laid poles to construct a most airy place which offered the opportunity to sit down as well provide a bit of cover by the leaves on the branches. We were set up in a half-circle of shooters and waited for the action to begin. The tracking completely looked like the first one, only it took even longer as the trackers displayed utmost respect towards the ravine where it was said that the calf had been killed. They shot into the ravine for not less than an hour and made all kinds of noice before they dared to enter it. The sun had set a long time ago, the moon and the stars were up on the sky when the trackers finally reached our position.

Shortly before that a large owl had flown straight out of the rock cliff to my tree. With a bullet I shot the bird which, placing itself a bit above my head, had looked at me astonished with its large yellow eyes. Soon thereafter, a mongoose ran past my tree but I failed to shot the timid animal.

It was soon getting dark so that we on our elephants had to return to the camp. From there a number of Hindus with torches were marching towards us. The failure of the hunt had a bit diminished our good mood so that Clam excited everyone to laughter when he took one of the torches and improvised some kind of Arabian fantasy together with Prónay.

I can not explain why this hunting expedition, despite extensive and expensive preparations, ended without success. I believe, however, not to be completely wrong if I suspect the reason for the failure lay mostly in the dullness and unreliability of the natives as well as the leadership of the expedition was assigned not only according to hunting skills but personal relations what might easily happen given the size and complications of this expedition.

Tomorrow we will have to leave camp and dismantle it. I had no proud feeling about having neither seen nor shot the long-awaited tiger. Still I had some sentiment of satisfaction, as the romantic stay in a tent city, the life in open air, had presented a rich contrast between civilization and wilderness and offered the opportunity to get accustomed to the natives in a casual manner. Thus, the three day expedition in the hunting camp of Tandur was in total a very interesting episode.

Unfortunately two of our company were sick: Kinsky as well one marine who we had taken along from the „Elisabeth“, both were heavily stricken by fever,

Links

  • Location: near Tandur, India
  • ANNO – on 23.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers, The press is already filled with news about the upcoming wedding of Franz Ferdinand’s sister. The king of Württemberg and his wife already arrived yesterday in Vienna for this occasion and were received by the Emperor and the Viennese high society.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is performing a drama „Frau Susanne“, while the k.u.k Hof-Operntheater is repeating the performance of the ballet „Excelsior“.

Tandur, 22 January 1893

The English and native hunters did only want to leave camp at 11 o’clock explaining that the tigers are slower and easier to hunt at that hour. I did not agree with this late departure but followed the local customs. So we sent out our trackers and rifles with a number of elephants as an advance and followed half an hour later on the Nizam’s horses.

These horses are strangely broken in, or in our understanding, really broken for use. On their haunches, these horses are used to be constantly assisted by the rider to make bella figura, so that they prance around without interruption and rear up, which is barely tolerable for longer periods of time.

The tiger hunting area are low hilly ridges with bushes, with small ravines and valleys which remind me in character and view of the hills near Sopron.

Already in Bombay we received at least three telegrams a day which informed us that the tiger has killed at a certain place and that therefore success was nearly a certainty. Thus we were very hopeful and rode with joyful anticipation, We had hardly ridden a few miles and were close to the hunting spot when various shikaris came running and, vividly gesticulating, informed our hunting master Mr. Stevens. When I asked him he told me that the chances were not as high as originally expected, as the report about the killed calf was erroneous. It had torn itself away and was still alive and kicking.

Soon afterwards, natives arrived with whom the shikaris went into long consultation with the result that there was nothing to do today as the tiger had not killed anything and the best option was to return to camp. Bitterly disappointed by this message we breakfasted for comfort under a large tamarind and returned to camp by the same way we came under the certain expectation to find the tracked tiger.

As the clock only announced two o’clock, I with my gentlemen rode across the land to add something to my ornithological collection and enrich the kitchen table. In the cultivated fields where we expected to certainly meet some chicken or jackals we strangely found no game, in contrast the shores of the many small ponds and wet rice paddies were rich in common snipes and sandpipers so that we could hand our cook quite a number of animals.

Prior to our departure, I had had laid out a skinned sheep as bait near the native huts around our camp, so that I could, after our return to camp, kill within minutes 13 scavenger vultures (Neophron ginginianus) and 2 pariah kites (Milvus govinda).

Links

  • Location: near Tandur, India
  • ANNO – on 22.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers, Empress Elisabeth is currently sightseeing in Sevilla. The readers are informed that the Empress ate some pastry in the Café Suizo, famous for its chocolate. Given the extremely harsh dietary regimen of the Empress, that information must have been noteworthy.
  • The Wiener Salonblatt carries a short report about Franz Ferdinand in India. Noteworthy is how Franz Ferdinand’s account completely ignores the presence of the black sheep, archduke Leopold Ferdinand who was finally recalled to be off Franz Ferdinand’s back.
The Archdukes Franz Ferdinand and Leopold Ferdinand are received by the dignitaries of Bombay.

The Archdukes Franz Ferdinand and Leopold Ferdinand are received by the dignitaries of Bombay. (Wiener Salonblatt, 22 January 1893, no. 4, p. 4)

  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is performing a tragedy by Grillparzer in the afternoon, „Sappho“, and a comedy in the evening „Der Störefried“, while the k.u.k Hof-Operntheater repeats once again its ballet combo in the afternoon and in the evening, it is time for Gounod’s opera „Margarethe (Faust)“.

Tandur, 21 January 1893

After a bad night spent in an unaccustomed way, the first thing I saw was the honor guard of the troops of the Nizam of Hyderabad which were receiving me in Wadi at the border of their „state“, more precisely a territory of a prince under British protection. Even though equipped with all the trappings of power and ruling an area of 214.000 km2 with 11.5 millions of inhabitants, the Nizam of Hyderabad or Golkonda is not really an independent but a tributary Maharaja, guarded by an English resident and a British occupation force under the pretense of protecting the Nizam.

I lay still in bed and could not leave it quickly and only watched through the window at the festively decorated station. The honor guard consisted of beautiful black people with twirled moustaches and sideburns.

The area we were driving through to Tandur was without charm, a large plain, only now and then broken by low ridges where cultivated areas alternate with large, bare and sterile areas on which barely a thorny bush grows and stone and where rock formations ad erratic blocks become visible. In the fields one can see the cultivation of flax, ricinus, jowari (a type of sorghum), cotton, maize and tobacco. Peculiar is the manner of plowing fields which still relies on very primitive plows, simple tree trunks with a root hook. The harrow is represented by tied brushwood and the fruit is simply uprooted by hand in places where scythes and sickles are unknown.

Everywhere one notices destroyed or decayed forts and other types of fortifications near the villages – as the houses of the natives are already built out of stone. These ruins are monuments to the time when the rajas and princes of the land were living in constant feud among themselves. Also there are Portuguese forts with round corner towers and crenellated walls still standing.

After a 22 hour train ride from Wadi with the Nizam’s Guaranteed State Railway we reached Tandur where a three day hunting expedition was planned. The Nawab Vicar ul-Umra, a cousin of the Nizam’s minister, followed by many Englishmen and shikaris, had come to welcome me at the station. Among those present was also the commander of the Nizam’s troops, Colonel Nevill1 who had entered our train already at Wadi and told me his life story in fine Viennese dialect even though he was born an Englishman. He had formerly served in our army and has been a captain of the Haller hussars, During the visit of His Majesty in Milan in the year 1857, Nevill served as an orderly of His Majesty. At the battle of Magenta, acting as adjutant to Gyulay, he had received the military honors cross with wartime service decoration. He retired honorably after that campaign and moved back to England from where he later went to India to enter into the service of the Nizam.  As Generalisso, he is said to occupy an important position at his court,

It took quite a long time until we were ready to go as the transfer of all the baggage necessary for the hunt required extensive time and the communication with the natives proved difficult. In their ardor they often picked the wrong pieces instead of the right ones. Finally, everything was ready. In a large golden coach drawn by four artillery horses we drove first through Tandur which still had walled enclosures and fortifications then some miles across the countryside to reach the hunting camp about 16 km distant which we were set to occupy during the next thee days. I was truly surprised to see a complete tent city in a large open square arrangement equipped with the highest possible level of comfort and luxury.

In the middle of the camp opposite its entrance stands the large dining hall tent. It offers room for a table for 20 persons and has a large parlor in front of it under a tent roof with the mo are the tents intended for us. Each one of us was allocated an individual tent with an excellent bed, a very elegant desk and some furniture and swell rugs. The tent for me had furthermore a flag pole with my standard on it and was remarkable by its size and has the appearance of a house. The 18 tents we occupied are surrounded by a separation wall outside of which stood 40 tents for the bands of servants, cooks, hunters and grooms. About 400 natives which were to serve as laborers and trackers are housed in leaf huts among which graze cows, buffaloes, goats and sheep in herds which would supply our daily meat as, to express it in military terms, the commissary requirements of our camp exceeded 500 men.

At the camp entrance stood a native honor guard of 30 men to which were added seven large elephants, intended for the coming hunting days, and 20 richly decorated majestic Arabian horses supervised by two equerries in green uniforms.

This hunting camp in a truly grand manner I owed to the Nizam of Hyderabad who had asked about my health by telegram and whether I was satisfied with the prepared accommodations,

After the arrival in the camp, the Nizam’s son was presented to me to whom I expressed with the help of an interpreter my pleasure about this grand reception in the Hyderabad territory.

Then we inspected the horses which were presented by the equerries of Nizam and the elephants whose long tusks were protected from splintering by thick, richly decorated iron rings,

As soon as our baggage had arrived, I changed into hunting dress and explored the surrounding area with Wurmbrand while other gentlemen went for a ride. During our short expedition I bagged many representatives of many new bird species unknown to me, among them tiny quails (Turnix dussumieri), — called „button-quail“ by the English — and doves, singing birds and chats.  On small tamarinds I found for the first time a large number of the artfully braided nests of weavers.

The flora was not very richly represented, only a bushlike Rosaceae with rich yellow flowers was noticed by me which found use as an offering in temples after the practical Indians found the gold sacrifices of former times too costly. Thus instead of yellow gold, they sacrifice yellow flowers  Who doesn’t remember the lamentations of Calchas about the decreasing propensity to sacrifice …

Very favorable news about the tigers arrived. It is said that they have seized a tied calf and were in a jungle nearby according to the shikaris. In the evening I received a telegram from Mr Jevers of Colombo which contained the good news that a large elephant probably the one I shot and wounded on 8th January. It was found dead about 1000 m from the place where I had shot it,

Links

  • Location: near Tandur, India
  • ANNO – on 21.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers, On its front page, the Neue Freie Presse informs its readers that the former Serbian king and queen have reconciled themselves after an earlier scene in Biarritz. In Bornemouth, England, was arrested Cornelius Herz, one of the key operators responsible for the Panama scandal, He is expected to be rendered to France for prosecution. The newspaper reports that Franz Ferdinand spent his time in Bombay mostly by sightseeing.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing the comedy „Die Welt in der man sich langweilt“, while the k.u.k Hof-Operntheater had a special honorary event for invited guests, a théâtre paré.

  1. Colonel Richard Nevill C.I.E.  entered the Nizam’s service in 1874 as Major, appointed Commander of the Indian Empire C.I.E. for services rendered to the Colonial and Indian exhibition in 1886 as representative of the Nizam. Died in 1896. 

From Bombay to Tandur, 20 January 1893

Having used the morning to prepare the mail, I drove to Tellery again to complete my shopping, third time being a charm.

At noon there was a group photography to preserve a fixed memory of my visit at Government House of me, Lord and Lady Harris and all the staff of the house.

Then I inspected the stables of Lord Harris. In open boxes Australian carriage horses as well as English and Arabian riding horses and polo ponies are quartered. Acting as an equerry of the governor is his personal doctor who masters this task as outstandingly as the medicinal one. The horses are in fine condition, although some are broken down due to the sharp turns, namely on chivvies on hard ground. In all of India, one preferably uses Australian horses, tall and strong with their characteristic carp back, as carriage horses. The price of these horses fluctuates between 380 and 1550 fl. in Austrian currency. To ride and play polo one uses in British India mostly Arabians and some locally raised animals. Very funny are the 12 to 14 hands high ponies of which first-rate specimen can be had for the ridiculous price of 12 to 17 fl. in Austrian currency.

Now it was time to leave Bombay behind. I said good.bye to Lady Harris and drove with Lord Harris to the station where the special train of the vice king was awaiting me which the vice king has been put at my disposition for the duration of my journey across India. With heartfelt thanks I and the governor parted ways and soon the train rode towards our next destination, Tandur, where we were expected to hunt tigers.

Well acquainted with the English grasp of the relationship between comfort and luxury and expecting to see the special train of the highest magistrate of India equipped to the utmost Oriental opulence, I was truly astonished about the simplicity of the fittings and equipment of the wagons of this train which would leave many an Englishman to miss their familiar comfort, especially in matter of the bedding. Especially remarkable was the fact that the wagons and even the individual compartments were without direct passages, corridors or doors so that the „cell mates“ of the neighboring compartments could only communicate during the rare way stations.

From Bombay to Tandur which lies in a south-eastern direction of Bombay, we made use of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway to Wadi. It first crosses Bombay’s suburbs, then past Parel and the government salt mines across a large bridge over the estuary that separates Salsette island from the mainland and then turns towards the mountains.

The physiognomy of the area changes quickly. High mountains, rich in bizarre forms, assembled out of regular parallel layers that display themselves as long strips or lines, followed by valleys dedicated mostly to growing rice. Small palm tree groves, some tall palm trees alternate with thin Euphorbia hedges, but the vegetation is not as rich and majestic as in Ceylon. Higher up the mountain, the valley are narrower with dry yellow grass and some crooked trees, steep and abrupt ridge. In the valleys and canyons deep down below us one can see teak trees (Tectona grandis), wild bananas, Ficus religiosa und Ficus indica.

The railway is built similar to the one from Colombo to Kandy with steep ascents, crosses many tunnels and offers charming views on the fancy rock needles, the long, narrow and steep wall-like rocky ridges, the mostly bare tops of the Western Ghats. Ghats are called the stair-like steps  of the numerous parallel mountain ranges on the Indian West and East coast bordering the Dekhan high plateau. To the south the seemingly less wild than arduous Western Ghats at an average altitude of 1200 m and the lower and less important Eastern Ghats continue in mountain ranges of up to 2630 m that are covered in woods, called Nilgiri Hills (blue mountains). At Lanauli Station the railway reaches its highest point and continues almost at an even altitude across cultivated land. Late at night we passed  Poona, 119 km south-east of Bombay, the favorite summer retreat of the governor. The same location also has camps for all troops that maneuver there.

Links

  • Location: Poona, India
  • ANNO – on 20.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers, The Neue Freie Presse reminds its readers about the centenary of the execution of Louis XVI of France iby guillotine on 21st January 1793 which plunged Austria into two decades of war first against the French republic then Napoleon. Much space is devoted to the report about the fourth ball of the city of Vienna. The weather is still dreadful, even though some sport is taking place on the frozen Danube canal.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing the comedy „Magnetische Kuren“, while the k.u.k Hof-Operntheater combines the opera „Freund Fritz“ (l’amico Fritz) by Pietro Mascagni with Carinthian songs „Am Wörthersee“.

Kandy to Colombo, 13 January 1893

At half past 7 o’clock in the morning, the Papal delegate for India, Monsignore Zaleski, who stays most of the year in Kandy, celebrated a mass in the small Catholic church attended by the whole Catholic community consisting mostly of mixed bloods of Europeans and Sinhalese. A large number of mostly dark-colored priests assisted the Montsignore while music and song in a not so harmonic way was contributed by the faithful. After the end of the mass I wanted to meet the delegate but unfortunately did find him there.

We then went on a glorious morning drive on Lawrence Drive, a road that leads along a number of hills with a beautiful view of Kandy, the large pond, the Buddha temple, the whole panorama of the city and the mountain peaks in the distance. Everything was still covered in a blueish morning mist: the city houses at my feet, the Kandy valley and the distant mountain ranges.

After I had browsed through the Reuter dispatches, eager for news about home, I took my leave from Sir Arthur und Lady Havelock in the governor’s pavilion. To remember the hours spent together with this lovely couple with a visible memento, we had a group photograph of us with the couple taken.

The return drive to Colombo was glorious, part of which I did in the locomotive to have an unrestricted view. I couldn’t get enough of the wonderful scenery of the whole journey.

The afternoon in Colombo was dedicated to shopping. We took the dinner, upon the invitation of our consular agent Schnell in his country house located outside the city. Mr and Mrs Schnell, the latter a young and pretty woman dressed in a patriotic black and yellow dress, gave me the honors and after the dinner, enchanted me with a performance of a devil dance which differed markedly from that seen in Kalawewa. It was, I might say, more civilized, less grotesque and notable especially by the dancer’s large wooden grimacing head masks out of which they very skilfully blew and spit fire. Music and song were of the same type as that of the jungle dance performed in Kalawewa. We were sitting under palm trees in a garden kiosk while the dancers moved on the open green.

The devil dance was followed by an act of a conjurer who performed many tricks. The way in which he demonstrated the growth of a mango tree was interesting. The conjurer laid out a cloth on the ground, lifted it after a bit of hocus-pocus and, well, there suddenly was inch-high small green plant. The conjurer repeatedly covered the plant with the cloth and every time he lifted it, the plant had grown. It grew larger and larger and became a rich bush with long beautiful leaves, a growing little tree, a blooming tree and finally there stood a full grown blooming mango tree with ripe fruits in front of us on the green. He also showed his skills as a snake charmer. Out of two baskets, to the sound of a shalm, emerged two cobra snakes. They beamed and displayed their hood with clearly visible marks that looked like glasses and starred and moved hissing towards their master which looked dangerous but was in reality harmless as the teeth of the snakes had been removed. Still, Mrs Schnell uttered a light scream when one of the beasts turned and advanced on the green toward our feet.

This garden party concluded our stay in Ceylon. We took leave of our very obliging hosts and returned hours later on board of SMS Elisabeth.

Links

  • Location: Colombo, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 13.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. In Paris, the Panama scandal is still raging in the streets, in the newspapers, in parliament as well as in the court room where the third day in court has started. A new 3,5 m long photographic panorama of Vienna’s city center has been completed and will soon be on public display. Out of Calcutta comes a telegram that informs about the planning of a governmental gala dinner for Franz Ferdinand, a reception of the Austro-Hungarian community, museum visits, parades, a native dance performance as well as a sightseeing trip to Darjeeling.
  • The Wiener Salonblatt Nr. 3 of 15 January already includes a notice about Franz Ferdinand’s stay in Ceylon and departure to Bombay.
Notice in the Wiener Salonblatt no. 3 about Franz Ferdinand's stay in Ceylon

Notice on page 8 in the Wiener Salonblatt no. 3 about Franz Ferdinand’s stay in Ceylon

  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Der Bibliothekar“, a comedy by Gustav von Moser while the k.u.k Hof-Operntheater performs Jules Massenet’s Werther.

Kalawewa, 11 January 1893

We had asked the governor by telegraph to prolong the trip by one day because I wanted to try my luck in hunting an elephant again, despite my quite shattered confidence about the successful completion of that venture.

Already at half past 4 o’clock, with the moon and the stars still up on the sky, we departed in the boat. All nature seemed asleep and not a breath of air was noticeable, until finally a beam of light in the east announced the approaching day. By and by one could listed to the voices of the adult birds. Ducks flew from here to there and everywhere one could hear the hoarse cries of the herons and cormorants. When it had become a bit more light, we started examining the shore and soon noticed that the whole elephant herd had left its usual jungle spot and had moved across part of the pond. Kinsky who had at first intended to stalk an elephant separated from the herd, joined us and we were then wading for a good hour through arms and pools of water, swamps and thickets. The activity of wading was a rather refreshing bath in the water given the increasing heat of the air.

The landscape of this part of the hunting area was a wonderful spectacle due to its rich swamp vegetation which consisted of numerous open spaces of open water covered in water lilies and huge erect trees standing in between them. On these trees sat the most beautiful great white herons and in particular, a specimen of a Lesser Adjutant (Leptopilus javanicus) I had not observed before with metallic green wings, a white breast and reddish legs. Amazed, all those birds were watching our wading caravan.

Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus, source: Photo by Greg Hume/Wikicommons)

Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus, source: Photo by Greg Hume/Wikicommons)

The elephant tracks were easy to distinguish in the wet earth. The herd must include a rather tall elephant as the guides explained because of the large number of torn twigs.

In the shadow of a huge tree we rested and developed a new campaign plan as the elephants had retreated into a relatively small jungle area after having waded across the pond. This area, bordered by the pond and the road was nearly triangular in size. As long as the elephants had not yet crossed the road, we would win the game. Quickly we advanced but noticed after a few steps in the red sand of the road that the elephants had crossed over the road from the safe jungle which made us feel sad because a pursuit now became unthinkable. Just as we were freely expressing our anger, a shikari approached with a joyful face and reported that the elephants had recrossed the road into the jungle a bit farther than our resting place. They were still there as one could clearly hear them breaking branches. Already at the beginning of today’s hunt, learning from the experience of the previous days, I had requested to keep my hunting party small. Thus, Kinsky and Pirie remained near the road crossings, while I and Mr Murray and my favorite shikari, an old man with a flowing beard and a jovial friendly face, entered into the jungle.

We advanced about five hundred paces when I heard the elephants and saw a large elephant shortly after in a small clearing. He stood calmly and browsed now and then on the bushes. A glorious view. My hunter’s heart was beating faster in view of this giant reminding me of anti-diluvian animals. I sneaked up as close as possible, aimed at the ear and pressed the trigger, and saw the elephant go down with the shot. The shot caused a lot of activity in the jungle, from all sides one could hear elephants turn and run – it was a terrible noise as, we later learned, about thirty elephants fled in all directions. I was still standing on the spot I had fired the first shot when I saw, six paces in front of me, a huge single elephant with long tusks break out of the thicket into the small clearing at full speed. My second barrel was still loaded and so I fired at the spot between eye and ear. A trumpet-like sound was the response and the apparently heavily wounded giant careened off, breaking whole trunks in two and fled in the opposite direction. The remaining animals of the herd were unaware of the shooter’s location and ran around like crazy in the dense jungle. Moment by moment, I saw either the legs or the tusk or the head of an elephant appear between the bushes. Unfortunately my companions were so excited and lost their heads so that they failed to hand me my reserve rifles. Instead they kept up a well-nourished rapid fire but without targets and goals which only made the elephants even more timid and even increased the risk of shooting each other. Standing in the midst of the hail of bullets I shouted out to the wild shooters to cease fire but without effect. In the mean time, I had reloaded my rifle and jumped into the clearing where I had heard a loud noise. In the thick undergrowth I vaguely saw many animals  flee by quickly, chose one large animal glancing through one small gap and shot it down in full flight.

A strong feeling of hunter’s satisfaction was swelling in my breast as I stood before my second elephant, a strong cow dying there. I returned to my first elephant and checked that we had killed an extraordinarily strong male that even had tusks – a great rarity among elephants on Ceylon. My old shikari was giddy with pleasure and expressed his admiration in Sinhalese and even patted me.

dead elephant (p. 74)

Dead elephant (p. 74)

Now shots rang out on the street both in the direction of Pirie as well as from that of Kinsky. Soon Pirie returned in a highly excited mood and congratulated me vividly when I shouted out at considerable distance that I had bagged two elephants and told me that he had bagged also a strong elephant and wounded a second one. I had to show him my two specimen on the spot and personally cut off the two tails that serve as trophies in the whole of India and upon the particular request of the Sinhalese to mount upon my two elephants to mark the moment of possession.

Everyone was laughing, crying and gesticulating and jumped around the elephants so that my request to go after the third strongly bleeding elephant went unheard.

Finally I returned to the road as it was hopeless trying to command the people where I found Kinsky who advanced towards me proudly because he had also bagged a fleeing elephant. The elephants, thirty in numbers, had noticed Kinsky on his hunting position and had turned but he had smartly run in advance of their path and shot down from a rock. Apparently all local elephants made timid by the previous two days of hunting had retreated to this small part of the jungle on the other side of the pond. Wurmbrand and Clam who hunted in that territory had thus only saw the fresh tracks leading into said jungle and went back as soon as they became aware that is was following the same tracks far in advance. Clam then pursued a family of monkeys of which he bagged two after much running and shooting.

Surrounded by the shikaris still shouting with joy I returned to the bungalow to fetch Hodek and returned after a quick breakfast into the jungle where Hodek and a photographer from Kandy took pictures. Hodek then cut up the elephant into pieces. With great trouble the heads, the legs as well as the large pieces of the inch-thick hide were separated. The cutting off of the legs with large axes resembled the cutting of strong trees.

Hundreds of curious Sinhalese who had assembled with their wives and kids in two from the surrounding villages observed the entertainment in a large circle.

As sufficient time remained I decided to undertake a trip on the pond to bag some water fowl. In a small boat, Pirie, I and my hunter rowed out into the northern part of the pond we had not yet entered. The sun was already close to the horizon and shone picturesquely upon the barren giant trees and their convoluted almost snakelike branches and their roots glittering in the water. Right at the moment of departure I bagged a few cormorants, as well as a black-white kingfisher, more precisely a pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis). I then did not continue to shoot at swamp fowl as I discovered up in the air a circling majestic white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaetos leucogaster). After some time of searching for it, I found its eyrie on a tall tree occupied by the female that apparently guarded the young. I sent up two shots which hit the animal but did not kill it so that he soared away only to return after a few minutes, but flying at much higher altitude. As a second shot proved unsuccessful, I decided to check again an hour later.

I then managed to discover two eyries also occupied by white-bellied sea eagles but these owners were more timid than the female eagle of the first eyrie. Even though I had sent away the boat and waited out of the water on an erect trunk, the eagles did not return but chipped without much motion far away.

Two tall monkeys that performed huge jumps from tree to tree I shot with bullets without bagging them because one was caught in the tree branches while the other sank immediately in the water.

An hour passed, I returned to the first eyrie and bagged with a wide shot the beautiful old eagle. That was not all. Saint Hubertus was very gracious on that day! We had only rowed for about a few hundred paces when we discovered a strong wild male buffalo (Bos bubalus) sunning himself at the edge of the pond. The distance was considerable, we approached it with quiet rowing strokes in a diagonal direction. When the buffalo finally took notice of us, he didn’t flee in no way but on the contrary even advanced a few steps and glanced at us challengingly, angrily. In this moment, the mighty bull presented a magnificent view: He soon raised, soon lowered his strong head with long horns. Then he dug into the morass and stomped the ground, sending water and mud through the air a meter wide. The lights were glowing, the flanks of the bull were trembling, without interruption his tail was whipping his shaggy body. Our presence seemed to infuriate the animal greatly as it thrashed the earth more and more violently bristling with his blood-shot nostrils.

Even though Pirie assured me that my small 450 rifle would have little effect I still tried a shot with a hundred groves up, trusting in the quality of my favorite rifle. The buffalo was hit and ran away. While he was fleeing, I shot a second time. After about fifty paces, he stood there quietly and glanced back angrily, a moment I used to send another bullet after it. Well hit, he disappeared back into the jungle.

We disembarked and found a few steps away the bloody tracks but we couldn’t continue the hunt because oft he approaching darkness.

When we returned to the bungalow it was already night. We were talking valiantly during the dinner we truly deserved and all participants were very merry. After the dinner we experienced the spectacle of one of the strange devil dances which the superstitious Sinhalese perform to banish evil spirits. They also perform symbolic dances which illustrate the fight with the evil spirits. Dressed in the most diverse costumes with gems made out of silver and shells, about twenty men in alteration performed various grotesque and ferocious dances that reminded me sometimes of a Csardas, sometimes they only consisted of convulsive clownesque jumps and body contortions while the dancers sang or uttered hoarse cries. Longish, barrel-like drums were beat in time by the dancers themselves or by persons close by and completed the musical arrangement of the strange ballet. The local elderly and the chiefs had attended the performance in rich dress and sat beside us. An hour later, fireworks were burned, then this interesting and wild feast was over.

At an advanced hour in the middle of the wilderness far from civilized settlement and inhabited only by Sinhalese, full of elephants, buffaloes and crocodiles I was suddenly reminded about institutions of the civilized world. Two reporters had followed me here to interview me! An interview in a bungalow late at night after many tiring days of hunting seemed a bit much to me and thus the two dedicated professional victims of journalism had to depart without completing their mission and find their own bivouac miles away.

Links

  • Location: Kalawewa, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 11.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Neue Freie Presse informs that Empress Elisabeth (namesake of the SMS Elisabeth) has arrived in Malaga after a visit to Granada (where it had been falsely reported that she had been in danger of bandits). The Empress will continue to Cadiz, Lisbon and Madeira. In Paris, eight intractable amblers were arrested by the police on the Place de la Concorde as well five anarchists carrying guns and daggers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is offering Donizetti’s opera „Lucrezia Borgia“; the k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater plays „Dorf und Stadt“, again a replacement due to the indisposition of a Mr Sonnenthal. Is this due to Vienna’s especially ghastly winter weather of 1893 or were the actors and singers of the 19th century much more fragile creatures than today?

Kalawewa, 10 January 1893

The shikaris had reported yesterday evening that the wounded elephant had been spotted. They saw him in the midst of a herd, crying loudly so that he will die in the coming days. The other elephants are in another part of the jungle but also close to the pond. At 5 o’clock, I was ready but a hard rain kept us back so that we only entered the jungle at 6 o’clock. This time only Mr Pirie and the shikaris kept me company. Shortly after disembarking I saw three new species namely a hare (Lepus nigricollis), somewhat smaller and shorter ears than the ones at home, as well as a peacock and the majestic timid Ceylon junglefowl (Gallus lafayetti).

We were soon on the tracks of the elephants and stalked them in the jungle until after a short while I heard the monsters browsing branches and saw in thick bushes the legs and trunks of multiple elephants. I intended to approach them from a supposedly good direction but was unfortunately prevented by my companions who cautioned me to wait. The consequence was that the elephants escaped with great turmoil as soon as the wind changed and before I could fire a shot.

Now it also started raining very heavily so that we were truly soaked and like “wet poodles”. My companions assured me that we would soon close in again on our fugitives but this event only happened after seven hours of searching and stalking.

At first we followed the tracks but then decided that it was easier in the heavy rain to send out two shikaris to find the elephants again, encircle and confirm their location. We used the waiting time for breakfast. During the search for an apt breakfast location we met an exceedingly rare and interesting animal, a very colossal specimen of a lizard (Varanus salvator) that reminded me about the fairy tale of the wyrm (Tatzelwurm). The reptile was laying about 2 m off the path, blinking at us with its tiny eyes and didn’t move even though we were talking loudly and argued how to kill it because I didn’t want to shoot due to the elephants. Finally we cut down a young tree, Pirie approached the lizard like Saint George the dragon and hit the worm on the head. The animal thrashed its long spiked tail wildly and stirred up the earth. Multiple hits caused the animal’s skull to crack and it soon lay dying on its back. We then crippled it and opened its breast with a deep incision.

Varanus Salvator (source: Jerzy Strzelecki/Wikicommons)

Varanus Salvator (source: Jerzy Strzelecki/Wikicommons)

It was a giant animal: No less than 2 m long and 0.5 m of circumference and 20 cm high, it resembled a crocodile for which I had first taken it to be one. The skin was enormously thick and we could pierce it only with a sharp hunting knife. It consisted of hard scales, the back was black with yellow rings and points, the underside totally yellow, the legs were turned to the outside like those of a dachshund and had long claws. We left the strange animal on the ground, marked the place and moved to a small clearing to breakfast there while a swarm of hornbills flew over our heads.

My prudent John had brought fresh clothes assuming correctly that I would be completely soaked from the rain. As the sun was currently again shining in a friendly manner I quickly changed my dress. As soon as I had completed the change, it started to pour again and within minutes I was drenched again to my skin. But one quickly grows accustomed to such things and I even excellently slept on the ground for two hours.

In the mean time, the shikaris who had been sent out had returned with two messages. The first one was very good: It confirmed the location of the elephants. The second, however, was less so: our monster, the wyrm (Tatzelwurm) had fled and was nowhere to be found. The second message was so unbelievable that Pirie instantly ran to the spot to confirm there that indeed the reptile had disappeared. Only a small blood track led from the spot where we had cracked the worm to some steps away in the grass. I was inconsolable about having lost such a highly interesting curiosity for my collection. I could not understand how that wyrm had escaped with a broken skull and a cracked spine. Instead of attributing it to the unbroken force to live I assumed a more plausible reason, as without doubt the very living superstition of the natives knew of good uses for such a captured worm.

Still the lost reptile did not make me forget the elephants that had been sighted again. They were exceedingly disquiet and moved without interruption from here to there so that we achieved to stalk one only with great effort. I came really close and could have gotten even closer if I hadn’t noticed the elephant to show signs of discomposure as my companions again overzealously had sneaked up on me and had been apparently noticed by the elephant. It was high time. I aimed for a spot at the root of the trunk and shot. At the same moment, four more shots rang out beside me – Pirie and the black shikari had fired the reserve rifles. It is a bad habit to sneak up on the point man in the thickest jungle with a loaded gun which causes even the most calm hunter to become nervous and turn safe stalking into a difficult action.

The dense smoke caused by the five shots of in total 40 grams of powder obscured my view for quite some time and only after the air had become clear again I noticed the sad truth – the elephant had disappeared. Due to the heavy rain there was no question of continuing the stalking. Such a tropical rain can only be compared to our hardest cloudburst in our land.

A truly miserable day today. Somebody must have uttered a hunter’s curse upon me. Annoyed, freezing and completely wet I marched nearly 7 km to my boat which brought me back across the pond to my bungalow. Here I was fortified with punch and various grogs which Mr. Jevers had given me against fever.

Links

  • Location: Kalawewa, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 10.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Neue Freie Presse informs that soldiers have been ordered into the streets of Paris to protect the parliament from the mob. The police will cut all access to the Place de la Concorde and multiple regiments have been placed on alert. The first page also carries a devastating critique of the opera „Die Rantzau“, which was to be repeated in the Operntheater the same day. Switzerland informs that it has lifted all the cholera epidemic-induced import restrictions.
  • Dillinger’s Reisezeitung (issue no. 2, 10. Januar 1893, p.3) carries a short report about Franz Ferdinand’s stay in Ceylon together with an etching of Colombo: „Currently, the ram cruiser SMS Elisabeth is swaying in Colombo harbor, where Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este is staying, fêted by the local British colonial administration within the city walls whose picture we are showing in the current issue.“ Then follows a short account more or less identical to the one published in the diary with a rather nasty deviation: Dillinger’s description of the population is much more racist: „Colombo’s population of 112.000 persons is divided into numerous tribes, races and mixed races. Besides the Europeans there are: Sinhalese, Parses, Jews, Muslims, Malays, Tamils, Kaffirs, as well as degenerate descendants of the Portuguese and mixed-bloods of English and Dutch with local women. All these are divided again by creed: the Sinhalese are Buddhists, the Tamils Brahmins and the mixed-bloods usually Catholics. A large number of Protestant creeds, especially Weysleyians, are present, even the Salvation Army has adherents and missionaries.“
Colombo Harbor, Ceylon (Dillingers Illustrierte Reisezeitung, no. 2, 10. Januar 1893, p.3)

Colombo Harbor, Ceylon (source: Dillingers Illustrierte Reisezeitung, no. 2, 10. Januar 1893, p.3)

  • The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is repeating the opera „Die Rantzau“; the k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater offers a comedy „Der Unterstaatssekretär“ by Adolf Milbrandt as replacement for the the third part of Grillparzer’s trilogy „Das goldene Vließ – Medea“ because of the indisposition of a Mr Kraftel.

Kalawewa, 9 January 1893

This day was dedicated to ornithology. We started in the morning to disperse us in all directions in order to bag as many different bird species for my collection as possible.

I patrolled along the dams and bagged specimen of different cuckoos among them Zanclostomus viridirostris plus two species of bee-eaters (Merops philippinus and viridis), a majestic, intensively colored yellow black oriole (Oriolus melanocephalus), a charming red-breasted minvet (Pericrocotus peregrinus), a grass-greene Jerdon’s Leafbird (Chloropsis jerdoni), a starling species (Acridotheres melanosternus), bulbuls (Molpastes haemorrhous), zebra finches (Uroloncha punctata and striata), a marvelous blue sunbird (Arachnechthra lotenia), a tiny spotted dove (Turtur suratensis), a beautiful brown-white Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) as well as an interesting darter (Plotus melanogaster).

Blue-winged Leafbird (C. cochinchinensis). Photo by J.M.Garg/Wikicommons

Blue-winged Leafbird (C. cochinchinensis). Photo by J.M.Garg/sWikicommons

In a dense group of trees in the pond I saw to my great pleasure for the first time a group of monkeys which moved with phenomenal speed from branch to branch and executed huge jumps through the air to reach the next tree. A shot fired at great distance served only to disperse the group from view.

From the dams I drove to various smaller ponds which were full of game. I could identify snakebirds, large and small silver and purple herons, water rails, kingfishers, Indian masked lapwings and multiple darters. I also observed the beautiful lesser whistling duck (Dendrocygna javanica). Everywhere there were semi-feral buffaloes in the water which dispersed and fled as soon as a shot was fired. In one small pond, as soon as I approached, hundreds of common snipes soared up into the air.

Wurmbrand and I waded for a long time during which I managed to bag a 2 m long snake. Towards noon we were resting under a shady tree and soon all members of the hunting party assembled there, all with interesting catches.

After a reviving two-hour rest a native informed us that he knew about a pond close by with crocodiles. The Sinhalese, however, seemed to be related to some of our Alpine folks in terms of estimating distances and time as at a rapid march we had to walk more than 6 km and cross two fords to get there. We were compensated with the sight of two large crocodiles that were sunning themselves at the edge of the pond which we had finally reached. I tried to sneak up on them but the timid animals slid into the water and disappeared for good.

How forceful crocodiles are is demonstrated by a fight that happened recently between one of these animals and a grown buffalo close to Kalawewa and had ended with a victory of the crocodile which had dragged its enemy – biting into its head – under water.

Various natives brought us opened coconuts whose milk I tried but contrary to expectations found very bland and sweet.

I then killed some darters, a beautiful black drongo (Dicrurus ater) and finally returned to our bungalow where I soon slipped under my mosquito net.

Links

  • Location: Kalawewa, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 09.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Neue Freie Presse informs that the Emperor had a family dinner yesterday evening with Archduke Ludwig Victor. Vienna is still suffering from the icy cold: Minus 8° C. Trains are having difficulties to reach their destinations and the passengers have great trouble entering and exiting the train due to the large masses of snow on the platforms. The Viennese singers, 7000 throats strong and organized in 150 clubs, have constituted themselves as the Wiener Sängerhausverein.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is playing Weber’s „Freischütz“ as a replacement for „Don Juan“ due to the indisposition of a Ms. Schläger; the k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater offers the first part of Grillparzer’s trilogy „Das goldene Vließ“.

Kalawewa, 8 January 1893

In great excitement, the preparations for the elephant hunt were undertaken, the various rifles tested and also an elephant skull sawn in two to show the spot that kills an elephant without fail and the projects for a successful hunt were extensively studied.

I had just tried a shot with the eight-bore-rifle and having returned to the bungalow, stood on the veranda with the gentlemen when one of the English gentlemen handled one of the large caliber guns without care. The gun went off amidst us. The projectile plunged through the ceiling so that one could see through the light from the blue sky. We fortunately escaped with only a rain of small brick pieces.

Finally after long discussions, we were ready to go and our expedition consisting of Captain Pirie who assumed the lead in our elephant hunt, multiple native hunters called shikaris, departed in a boat across the pond. Mr. Murray, Wurmbrand and Kinsky followed at a certain distance as spectators.

The sun was burning hot on the surface of the lake on whose edge trees sat snakebirds, large and small cormorants, various herons as well as beautiful kingfishers. They let our boat approach them closely without interference. After we had crossed the pond, we debarked out into the jungle and soon found the mighty tracks of the elephants. The animals had sought the watering hole during the night and had then returned into the boundless thicket. Two shikaris, an old guy and a younger man, were sent out and soon returned with the message that the elephants were in the thickest jungle but one could seek them out there. With a prayer to Saint Hubertus we entered the jungle, first the shikaris then I, Pirie and at the end another shikari who carried a spare rifle.

Someone who has never entered such an elephant jungle will be unable to understand the thickness of thorns as well as the difficulty of moving in it as one can advance only in a crouching position or on all fours. I might compare such a jungle with our thickest areas in the Danube wetlands with the notable difference that in the tropical heat, the mosquitoes and the terrible thorns made the situation much harder. At any moment thorns and bushes held back the cap or dress, with bloody hands and face, with torn clothes, scratched and excited one emerged finally into the open space again.

Assiduously we crawled on until half an hour later we heard a tiny cracking of twigs made by eating elephants. Although I am normally not prone to hunting fever, I must admit that I was gripped by it when listening out for the elephants and stalking them.

Like Red Indians we sneaked forward in a row towards where we had heard noises when suddenly a shikari crouched and gestured toward a bush. I could not see anything clearly but only heard the loud noise which I first assumed was made by the grinding of the elephant teeth but later learned that it was made by the flapping of the elephant ears. The wind was not from a favourable direction and thus we had to stalk them from another direction as these colossal animals neither possess good eyes nor good hearing but are excellent in catching a scent. We approached to about 25 yards from the elephants. I saw through the thick bushes only a huge mass laying on the ground which looked like a termite mound or a haystack but could not, despite all efforts,  for the longest time not distinguish the form of an elephant.

Finally, there was some commotion among the bulky animals so that I could see a huge black elephant with his back towards me whose legs were pushed to all sides. From time to time its trunk aptly caught a few leaves while its ears fought against the mosquitoes. In a similar posture was an even bigger elephant, apparently a happy mother as at her feet a kid was sleeping while in the background a half grown elephant was standing. An image of the truest peace of these quiet beasts in the deepest jungle.

I hoped to sneak closer upon them but it seems the wind had already changed as the black elephant stood up, turned in our direction and then fled into the thicket. All his companions then also stood up and tried to escape. Although all hunters had told me only to shoot at a distance of 6 to 8 m and only to target the place between the eye and the ear or the grove above the trunk, I decided to try my luck with a shot at the middle of the head of one of the animals. After the smoke had cleared, we went to the location and found blood tracks but unfortunately no elephant. We unsuccessfully pursued the tracks for some time. Captain Pirie believed that the distance of 20 m had been to great and the bullet was unlikely to have pierced the inch-thick elephant hide. In a pretty bad mood I worked my way back out of the jungle to the gentlemen who had stayed behind.

It is astonishing how little noise an animal the size of an elephant is making. Even a whole herd of these colossal animals in the thicket sneaks about like foxes and only very close by does one hear the snapping noise of breaking branches.

Finally at 4 o’clock in the afternoon we traced some elephants again which was confirmed by two of our shikaris who had been sent out earlier.

Again I started sneaking up but unfortunately I let myself be diverted from the one I originally intended. Thus I approached up to 10 m of a unworried browsing elephant standing in thick bushes together with a comrade but unfortunately from the backside of the elephant so I couldn’t shoot. At that moment, one of the shikaris must have stepped on a twig as the elephant became uneasy, turned and tried to escape. Now I could see his head and fired into the light – with a dull crash the monster fell. Quickly two further shots rang out by my companions so that due to the thick smoke on the ground I could distinguish nothing. Suddenly did out of the smoke and above our own heads appear an elephant’s head. The elephant charged towards us and seemed to have identified us as targets. Quickly we jump to the side while, stomping on trees and bushes, the large herd runs by – for all of us, a very exciting and thrilling moment. As Pirie assured me healthy elephants rarely pursue humans as this was the case here. If we had not retreated into the bushes, the elephant would have crushed us as the distance between the angry animal and us was less than two meters.

While this scene was taking place, the elephant that had stumbled rose again and escaped. Following the copious blood tracks Pirie and I pursued it for more than an hour paying no attention to the branches and thorns until we had to stop due to our exhaustion from the hunt and because it started getting dark and we feared of forcing the very sick elephant to disappear entirely.

Returning tot he bungalow not exactly with the sunniest disposition I bagged some sandpipers, red-wattled lapwings (Lobivanellus indicus) and kingfishers close by that had ventured out along the pond. The evening saw us reunited for supper where everybody told his day’s events as best as he could. The other gentlemen had hunted various small game in the vicinity and brought back monkeys, striped squirrels and various birds home, giving Hodek plenty of work to do.

Links

  • Location: Kalawewa, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 08.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Neue Freie Presse uses the slow news day to comment about the construction project going on at the Hofburg in Vienna and give an update about the Bosnia.
  • The Wiener Salonblatt which had promised to publish a weekly update about Franz Ferdinand’s journey fails to do so in its second number of the year. Its pages are filled with aristocratic wedding announcements and reports instead.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is playing Shakespeare’s „Romeo und Julie“ (today usually translated as „Romeo und Julia“, they are Italian not French); the k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater offers Emilia Galotti in the afternoon and the comedy „Die Biedermänner“ in the evening.

Kandy to Kalawewa, 7 January 1893

In the morning at 6 o’clock we started on the hunting expedition into the interior of the island of an expected duration of five days, 108 km north from Kandy to the ponds and jungle of Kalawewa.

Up to Matale we took a special train to Mahaiyawa Station through smiling valleys an high mountain peaks covered in light mist while deeper down thaw was glittering on the leaves and flowers. The day was glorious and cool.

We reached Matale in a bit less than three quarters of an hour and mounted high wagons there, after the baggage, the guns, the photographic apparatus and Hodek’s sorcerer’s toolbox stuff were loaded.

The road led through the most beautiful palm and banana groves in which there were plenty of Sinhalese settlements whose inhabitants were lining the road with curious eyes. Colorful birds and majestic butterflies flew past among which was a Papilio iophon  of carmine red with white-black wings and a intensive black-yellow Ornithoptera darsius which caught my special attention given my particular professional interest to its color choice. The bearer of our colors we renamed into “Lepidopteron austriacum”. We also observed the white and orange colored Hebomoia glaucippe which followed our wagon for a long time, as well as the white black Hestia iasonia, multiple small lemon yellow Terias, also the glorious white black and light-blue speckled Papilio parinda and in the jungle swarms of Chilasa clytioides. The first parrots we saw were greeted by our wild cries.

After about 30 km the scenery and vegetation change. High tall deciduous trees mixed with impenetrable bushes and mighty Euphorbias replace palm trees. The wildlife also changes and becomes more numerous. We observed a cuckoo bird named Indian jungle crow, multiple heron species, noticeably many bee-eaters, striped squirrels and a mongoose.

Every 19 to 20 km government built small, one floor rest stop houses provide accommodation for the travelers, food and sometimes also horses along the excellent road cutting through the park-like landscape. We changed our horse teams regularly at these stops. These horse teams were sometimes 17 hands tall Australians, sometimes small Indian double ponies or military horses. Everything went according to plan and we drove extraordinarily quickly.

Towards 11 o’clock in the morning, we had travelled for 45 km to have a breakfast rest on the cone-shaped rock Dambulla after a visit to its famous Buddha temple. At the foot of the rock we were received by the most respected local nobleman escorted by his spear-armed lifeguard. As the ascent to the temple is rather long and steep, we were carried on small seats mounted on poles by teams of eight Sinhalese. The poor devils were sweating and breathing mightily but in the tropical heat my egoism has to surpass my compassion, so I staggered comfortably up to the entrance of the temple which is remarkable both due to its age and construction style.

Five important caves with very small entrances have been hacked by humans into the rock and serve as a temple for Buddha. His image and scenes from his life are depicted in countless variations. At the entrance to this temple caves one can see on the opposite side under a canopy a statue of Buddha which shows him as an example of tranquility partly standing as an instructing god partly sitting with his hands folded in his lap. The face of god which expresses nothing less than intelligence as well as his extremities are in all images covered in flashy yellow color while his dress is playfully colored. In a third posture, namely lying, Buddha is present five times in the temple caves of Dambulla. These statues are hewn out of the rock, each 20 m long and 3 m high and resemble more whales than an image of a god. Around these representations are pedestals with a number of sitting Buddhas of larger-than-life size partly made out of stone, partly made out of burned clay.

The walls and the ceiling of the caves are often covered in highly imaginative paintings which most of the times treat the life of Buddha and give the impression of a large hanging rug due to their thoughtful arrangement and disposition. Apart a few statues of Buddha we saw in the temples also those of the Indian king Räma, the legendary conqueror of Ceylon.

A mythical darkness reigns in these six-hundred-year-old rooms as only a few beautiful bronze lamps decorated with giant peacocks emit a bit of light while the scent of white flowers, temple flowers which amply grow outside the temple, are overpowering the senses.

A number of bonzes told us – naturally in Sinhalese language – apparently highly interesting things of which we understood nothing which ended with a very comprehensible demand for baksheesh.

The charming governor who cared so much about our well-being had had a tiny house built out of bamboo sticks and palm leaves on the height of the rock near a small pond. There we found a dining room with kitchen as well as a luxuriously equipped cabin for each of us to rest at noon. We blessed Sir Arthur E. Havelock in thought, as that comfortable place nor only allowed us ample refreshment and quiet rest but also an almost fairy-like panorama of that part of the island. Deep down below us was the wide green sea of palm and deciduous trees out of which one could detect a small lake or a Sinhalese settlement and, island-like, mountain peaks in blue hue. Also the famous and notorious Sigiri mountain on which the kings of yore had built important fortresses with stone galleries that could be viewed with a spyglass.

For long we could not force us to separate us from this enchanting panorama but as another 37 km were still to be covered we had to enter into the wagon again.

The heat had diminished and quickly we drove along the road. The only interruption was caused by two Sinhalese high priests who offered with many bows a long piece of writing which asked for a contribution for the restoration of a Buddha temple as one of the men in the party translated. Perhaps one head of the Buddha is now receiving an even more beautiful canary yellow coating thanks to my small contribution.

The sun was just setting when the thick tropical forest opened up in front of us.

A cry of amazement escaped from our lips after we had reached the top of the high dam in front of us which offered a completely new picture. On the one side the enormous water basin of Kalawewa, a pond in glittering blue in which hundreds of dead large trees pushed their branches to the sky – the golden red light of the sun rays relay turns this landscape into one of Dore’s fantastic landscapes. On the other side of the dam is the endless jungle with its closed canopy and the grotesque forms of the mountain peaks in the distance.

The dam on which we moved – built by king Dhatu Sena during the 5th century AD, incredibly without any technical assistance but only with the use of human labor – had a length of 9.6 km, a height of 20 m, a width of 7 m and dams the water of two rivers so that a pond is formed as a reservoir which covers a circumference of 64 km. The goal of this great land improvement work is the irrigation of numerous rice fields in the surrounding areas while a large bifurcating canal with locks supplies water to the 83 km distant Anuradhapura as well as over 100 village ponds on its way.

With time, the giant stone and earth dam had become loose and the dam broke and the whole surrounding area was flooded. Everywhere the fever, nourished by the miasma, ravaged the population so much that the survivors decided to emigrate. After the canal leading to Anuradhapura had been repaired some kilometers from that place by governor Sir William Gregory (1871-1877) did the British government order the whole canal repaired during the years from 1884 to 1887 and also to repair the dam which also restored the pond. The government intends to urge Sinhalese from the northern provinces to settle in this area offering the settlers free land, a measure only partially successful as people still fear the fever. The fear of the fever is grounded in reality as we could personally witness seeing many locals deeply marked by treacherous disease.

The accumulated water due to the restitution of the dam has made large tracts productive but flooded and killed the large trees at the edge which formerly had stood on firm ground.

We had reached our destination and found our home for the next days, the hunting camp, ready. Up on the dam crest, next to a small engineer house small bungalows out of bamboo and palm leaves had been built which made a comfortable and friendly impression. First were the small rooms for me and the men of my entourage, then a large dining room, the kitchens and, a bit lower down, a barn for about thirty horses.

For a long time we sat in front of our bungalows on this beautiful evening and enjoyed the myriads of fireflies swarming around the tree branches.

Links

  • Location: Kalawewa, Ceylon
  • ANNO – on 07.01.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Swiss government informs that it denies the rumors circulating in the press that it will replace its ambassador to Austria, Mr Aepli. Amidst the turmoils of the Panama scandals in France, it is unclear whether the former minister Charles Baïhaut has been arrested, as Le Figaro says, or not.
  • The Neue Freie Presse informs its readers about Franz Ferdinand’s journey with an update about his time in Aden and informs about his sightseeing trip to the city.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing Adolf von Wilbrandt’s  „Der Meister von Palmyra“; the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater again combines an opera and a ballet: Pietro Mascagni’s Die Rantzau and the ballet the „Four Seasons“.