Today, the first of the month Sawal after the end of the fasting month Ramelan (Ramasan) or Pasa, was the Javanese feast of Idul-Fitr. This day — Garebeg Puwasa day — is considered the start of the new year by the natives which became apparent to us during the ride when the small settlements we passed through were all filled with music and a festive air.
After a long refreshing sleep we departed to first climb a mountain along our route whose steepness was in no way less demanding than one of our own mountain trails. The sky had completely cleared up, the sun stood high and we enjoyed a wonderful view upon the countless mountain peaks and volcanoes during our way up and on the way down upon the mountain ranges and surrounding valleys. A large part of the Preang residency lay in front of our eyes and feet, a splendid piece of West Java.
The full enjoyment of these enchanting panoramic views suffered from the care demanded by the difficult terrain so that we had to attend to our horses, as the rain of the last few days had made the steps cut into the steepest parts of the mountain trail very smooth and slippery so that our horses had great difficulty in climbing. Finally, with great effort we reached the top which marked the divide between the districts Djampang wetan and Tjidamar. There we were greeted by the district chief of Tjidamar with many bows.
Our very tired horses required a short rest and then the route descended on relatively good trails only to go up again. The scenery surpassed in beauty even that seen the day before which had enchanted us so much. This was true tropical forest in which one picturesque view displaced the next one; each, however, was enchanting and unique. Here giant trees are lining the trail that was thickly covered with grass. There emerges rampantly growing brushwood in a clearing, Then we are enclosed for miles by a thick high forest which provided cover for game that was unreachable for the hunters. Whether it was a tree, a bush, a herb or moss, every plant was luxurious and beautiful, the diversity of the plants decorating the ground seemed inexhaustible. Thus the trunk of a dead tree provided the seeding space and root bed for twenty of the most different plant species. We all agreed that the vegetation of Java surpassed the splendid plant variety of Ceylon by far, to say nothing about the other floral kingdoms of India.
The poverty of the variety of birds was noticed by us as, apart from some Columbidae as well as some small nectarines, I only saw a single large hornbill.
Starting at a settlement where the horses were switched, the trail descended steeply towards the Southern coast of Java as well as towards Sindangbarangab which was situated close to the sea coast. Now we saw between the trees deep down below us the glittering wide blue sea and were able to distinguish clearly the white line of the strong breaking waves.
The descent happened mostly on foot with us leading the horses by the reins. Then we crossed the deep river Sadea, which went very quickly despite the small bamboo barges we used that could only carry one horse at a time.
After 7,5 km in plain terrain along the river shore we reached the small rest lodge of the district village of Sindangbarang, which was surrounded by a settlement and lay in the shadow of mighty trees and was to serve us as our much desired accommodation after a long ride. Our horses too seemed to appreciate the rest. They had covered 28 km of very demanding terrain so that they had to be pushed at the end of the ride and were stumbling constantly.
Despite Sindangbarang’s location about 20 minutes from the sea coast, one could still hear the booming sea in the rest lodge. Towards evening I went to the beach with the gentlemen of my entourage in order to bag some ornithological catches. We enjoyed the view of the powerful breakwater that expands over the totally flat sand just like at Ostend or Helgoland. But just the view of the salty water did not provide sufficient entertainment and thus Clam and I ran without a plan into the man-high waves and took a gorgeous refreshing bath. The other gentlemen soon followed our example and now we were standing in the most diverse costumes on the beach and let the foaming waves splash around us which was very agreeable after the heat of the day. Our clothes which we had not taken off were however considerably damaged so that we returned to the rest lodge all happy and entertained but in very deficient clothing.
To honor the great Ramelan feast there was a common spectacle in the village so that I made an extended tour to learn more about the customs and manners on Java, but it did not offer much that was new or remarkable. Some native women were beating again in time with bamboo sticks upon a hollowed out tree trunk, singing or actually howling, while nearby large crowds were packed around a Wajang. This Wajang, which reminded me vividly of a Javanese version of a „Punch and Judy theater“, was similar to a shadow play which we had seen in Garut.
Until late in the night one could hear the monotonous beats of the gong and melancholic music of the Gamelang which didn’t help to catch some sleep that was so necessary for all and led not to words of appreciation but rather to expressions of displeasure.