Cianjur to Tanggeng, 17 April 1893

Today starts our hunting expedition to Cipandak which will take us across the jungles of Preang. Already at 5 o’clock in the morning, reveille was called and soon afterwards the special train departed which took us within half an hour to Tjibeber. Here it was time to say good-bye to our travel companions and the resident and entrust us to the guidance of Mr. Kerkhoven and Baron van Heeckeren van Walien, the two main organizers of the hunts who were expecting us with horses that we should use. After examining the saddling and bridles, the caravan set off, the necessary baggage having been sent ahead the day before, carried by coolies.

Our cavalcade was quite strangely composed and would have made many European spectators smile. In front of the column rode a native official with two village councilors on very small ponies. Then followed I and the gentlemen of my entourage, all in the most „tropical“ costume on excellent horses provided by the two planters. The end of the column was formed by our servants many of whom were riding a horse for the first time and were comical to look at on their fidgeting Sandelhout ponies, as well as Hodek and his assistant, furthermore a large number of village elders with gold laced hats and in half Dutch, half Javanese clothes.

In very beautiful and relatively not hot weather we advanced one behind the other towards the mountains. As we were at first riding through a small plain I would have preferred to proceed at a canter but  Mr Kerkhoven made me aware that the undulating terrain we would soon enter would only permit to ride all day in trot. This perspective did not meet my approval as we had to cover a large distance of 47 km. Truly after a short time the road began to ascend steeply up the mountains. The road was filled with stones and very difficult for our horses.

During the day we found ample compensation for the uninterrupted ride at a trot in the beauty of the countryside we were passing through. The monotonous rice paddies of the plains ended and the vegetation changed its character. Where there were no coffee or cinchona plantations, gorgeous jungle was rising high. Behind us lay culture in front of us nature! There stood on both sides of the road sky high Rasamala trees (Altingia excelsa, part of the family of Hamamelideae), whose trunks would grow up to 45 m and were the best wood for carpentry next to the teak tree; bananas and banians; Urostigma species (Urostigma religiosum, altissimum); all kinds of low jungle trees such as Ficus valida, obovata, javanica and Myristica species; thick groups of Bambusaceae etc. In between all kinds of herb- or treelike ferns were growing most luxuriously and orchids in full bloom and in hundreds of forms, called Angrek in Malay. Here I saw those plants grow for the first time in open air and enjoyed the sight of the rich variety of enchantingly beautiful flowers.

The road was meandering without break soon up over hills, ridges and saddles, down into green valleys and soon up steeply to cragged mountains. The road seems to be never driven in despite its width but only used by riders and pedestrians. The upkeep of the road is extraordinarily difficult due to the considerable slopes and the strong downpours in this zone. Every 4 m to 5 m stood a numbered stone that marked the road which had to be maintained by work groups from the inhabitants of the closest villages.

From time to time one sees small villages made completely out of bamboo, especially where two plantations are close together. The villages  look nice and friendly and are almost all built upon poles due to the copious rain. Despite being in the jungle, elements of culture had already reached these villages. A proof was supplied by finding a Singer sewing machine in one of the houses!

The population in this area seemed to be even more submissive than those in the northern part; as already at a great distance they took up their squatting position with downcast head and eyes as a sign of respect as if nobody was deemed worthy enough to look us in the face.

I rode on this tour on an old white horse named „Ratu“ that had been imported from Australia that took me despite its advanced age at to the cinchona plantations in Sukanagara (Soekanagara) in a kind of fast trot of 4,5 hours. Here the administrator, Mr Vlooten, invited me to a breakfast in his nicely decorated one story house. With great pleasure I accepted the friendly offer and stayed half an hour in the gentleman’s house at Sukanagara, where I also found a stove to my surprise. Answering my question Mr Vlooten explained that at an altitude of 877 m above the sea level it was very cool in the morning in August so that he had to heat. So close to the equator I would not have thought this possible!

Again in the saddle we entered the jungle, leaving behind the extended plantation dedicated entirely to the cultivation of cinchona. We had switched horses in Sukanagara and I now rode a delicate thoroughbred mare raised by Baron van Heeckeren that had earlier won many prizes on the racing course.

Just in the woods we were reminded about the still active rainy season by a heavy downpour; first heavy drops were falling and finally a heavy storm came down on us whose force made within half an hour all the streams and rivers rise so highly that we could only pass with difficulties two rivers that would otherwise have been easy. The first water course named Tji Djampang could be still passed by riding across, even though the high waves were breaking nearly above us and our horses. At the second river named Tji Lumut, riding across was impossible. We had to use a bamboo raft while the horses swam across led by the bridle.

I noticed here two large black monkeys of the kind which are called in Java Budeng (Semnopithecus maurus) in the branches of a tall tree where even the long-tailed four handed animal had sought shelter from the storm.

The downpours softened the road, the clay ground became very smooth and difficult for the horses so that we advanced very slowly. The jungle had ended in some places and given way to ridges and mountain slopes without trees but covered densely with alang.

Towards evening we passed over the Tji Buni (Boeni) through a high covered bridge. The river was foamingly roaring over the rocks like one of our local mountain rivers and finally went out of sight at a chasm. On the opposite shore, in the midst of all the green scenery, the small village of Tanggeng was greeting us where we would spend the night in a government bungalow, in Malay Passang Rahal, a lodge for government officials. Gamelang music was heard at the entrance to the village while a couple of the village belles expressed their joy about our arrival by smiling and singing while beating bamboo sticks on a wood block which thus produced a dull tune.

This lodge too had been built out of bamboo only and had just enough room for six among us — me, Wurmbrand, Prònay. Clam, Kerkhoven and Heeckeren — while the rest had to sleep on the veranda. Behind the lodge there were simple barns for the horses.

We exchanged our completely wet clothes for dry ones, took a frugal meal and smoking sat together for a short time on the veranda while out in the distance one could hear the sound of the Gamelang which reminded me about our Southern Slavic music. Then we went to bed as we had completed an intense march. The monotonous chirping of a Javanese locust and the tiny whirring of countless beetles, butterflies and other insects that all  had taken refuge in the house from the rain swayed us into a refreshing well earned slumber.

Links

  • Location: Tanggeng, Indonesia
  • ANNO – on 17.04.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is playing „Die neue Zeit“, while the k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the ballet „Cavalleria Rusticana“.

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