Across the Equator - A Holiday Trip in Java
by Thomas H. Reid
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The Health Resort of East Java.

Tosari on the Teng'ger mountains was the goal of our travels. We were anxious to escape from the heat of the plains, for the sun had now crossed the Equator, Java was in its summer season and the rains might come any day. From Djocjakarta, we should have arrived in Sourabaya in time for riz-tafel, but the wash-out at Moentilan still caused a delay of traffic and we were two hours late in reaching our destination.

Sourabaya is the most important port and business centre of Java, but this fact notwithstanding many of the foreign business houses still maintain their headquarters in Batavia. As a place of residence, each has its good points, and those who have lived in both are divided in preference. Possibly we were not in either long enough to form a lasting opinion, but we stayed so long in Sourabaya that we prefer Batavia. It would be sheer ingratitude, however, not to acknowledge the hearty welcome we received from the British colony in Sourabaya, and the personal help of members of that community. Here where the principal business of Java is conducted, as elsewhere throughout the Far East, it was satisfying to one's patriotism to see the respect in which British commercial enterprise and integrity is held by native and European alike, and that the most cordial good feeling exists on all sides.

To reach Tosari, the visitor proceeds first of all by train to Pasoeroean, leaving Sourabaya (Goebeng Station) at 6.42 a.m., and reaching Pasoeroean at 8.23. Here a single-pony carriage is engaged (two and a-half guilders) as far as Pasrepan, where a change is made to a two-pony carriage (three guilders). This conveyance takes one to Poespo, 2,600 feet above sea-level. A halt is made for tiffin in this delightful little hotel, whose pleasant looking proprietress, unfortunately, does not speak English. The remainder of the journey to the Sanatorium (6,000 feet) is made in the saddle or by sedan chair. Of this ride and a subsequent excursion we have painful recollections, but anyone accustomed to the saddle will enjoy this ascent through mountain scenery and vegetation, and even more the morning trip down to Poespo, through the forest, when returning to Sourabaya.

Tosari has been described as the Darjeeling of the Netherland Indies.

Here within four days' journey from Singapore, one may obtain a complete change of climate, and if there were only more frequent direct steamer communication between Singapore and Sourabaya, we predict with confidence that Tosari would become a favourite health resort for those who live on the northern side of the Equator. The rooms are comfortable, the food is good, the facilities for amusements at nightfall are ample, the walks and excursions are inexhaustible and the views are magnificent. The tariff (seven guilders per day—$4.90 in Singapore currency) is higher than that of any other hotel in Java, but those who intend to stay for a fortnight or more could probably arrange more favourable terms.

There is a resident doctor who has graduated in the Schools of Tropical Medicine, and when we were in Tosari there were visitors from Burma, Siam, Singapore, Penang, and all parts of Java, recruiting from malaria and other ailments peculiar to Far Eastern residence. But they were not all invalids, and formed a bright, companionable party.

The Teng'gerese who people this mountainous region are a race apart. Their religion is a mixture of paganism and Buddhism, and, though reputed to be kind and honest, they are an ignorant, uncouth, uncultured people. They dwell en famille in large square houses without windows, in isolated kampongs on the projecting ridges of the mountains. The door of each house is on the side nearest the Bromo crater, and as if tradition gave them cause to fear another destructive eruption they worship this volcano. Dirt prevails everywhere, and in consequence of the cool climate and the scarcity of water they seldom bathe, a fact that is very noticeable after one's acquaintance with the people of the plains.

To go to Tosari without seeing the Bromo is tantamount to going to Rome without entering St. Peter's. The journey is made on pony or in a sedan chair, by way of the Moengal Pass and the Dasar or Sand Sea, which is in reality the enormous Teng'ger crater, inside of which there are three more craters, the Bromo being the only one showing signs of activity.

A better view and more impressive is obtained from the Penandjaan Pass, a description of which is given in the next chapter.

Another trip worth making is to the lakes in the saddle-back mountain between the Teng'ger and the Semeroe. From this high plateau, the ascent of the Semeroe or Mahameroe is fairly easy and will prove attractive to those who are fond of mountaineering. It is the highest volcano in Java and has a perfect cone. The crater, from which smoke and ashes are constantly ejected, is not on the summit but is formed on the south-east side.

The visitor who does not wish to retrace his steps to Poespo and Pasrepan may return to the plains by way of Malang or Lawang through beautiful sub-tropical and tropical mountain scenery.

Sunrise at the Penandjaan Pass.

When a sharp rap came to our door at two o'clock in the morning to summon us for a ride to the Penandjaan Pass, we repented the rash promise to carry out this over-night project to see the sun rise. It was no use to curl one's-self up under two heavy blankets and pretend that we had not heard. The "jongus" was insistent. Up we had to get, effect a hasty toilet in ice-cold water by the aid of a flickering lamp, and step into the outer darkness and mount the pony waiting beside our bedroom door.

Unfamiliar constellations shed a cold light on the hillside.

Our thickest clothing was penetrated by a searching though slight breeze, as our little rat of a pony, guided by the syce, clambered bravely up the brae that led through Tosari village.

The road bore away to the left, and we were soon slipping and jolting down a mountain path that sank into a crater-like ravine. It was like a descent into the infernal regions. Disaster seemed inevitable. A mistake by the pony or the slightest lurch would have precipitated us down some hundreds of feet; but the guide knew his way and so did the pony, as, sure-footed and cautious, it picked its way, first on one side of the road and then on the other, descending, descending, lower and lower, where the pale light failed to penetrate. The hill on the other side loomed so high that one could not believe there was a way out. Pit-pat, pit-pat went the pony with steady step, now on hard road now on yielding lava mud, across fragile bamboo bridges covered with bamboo lathing, down, down, down till at last we reach the ford. The seat was not an easy one for the unaccustomed rider, whose hands and feet were chilled almost beyond feeling by the unwonted cold. But it was arm-chair ease compared with the experience on the other side, as the pony pluckily pounded his way up the zigzag path for the summit of the hill. How either guide or pony could see a path will ever remain a puzzle. The over-hanging vegetation blotted out any recognisable landmarks; not even the ribbon of a road was visible to the eye. But the top was reached, and believing we were now on the level road for Penandjaan we tried to open up conversation with our guide.

It is not easy to carry on a connected conversation with a native of the Teng'ger when one's Malay vocabulary consists of about twenty words—and half of these numerals—and the native's knowledge of the English language, as one soon learned, consists entirely of "Yes" and "No." Yet, it is wonderful what one will attempt in the dark—the loneliness was so overpowering that one felt compelled to break the awesome silence.

But the conversation soon flagged, and one was thrown back upon one's own thoughts. And as the road once again shaped for another crater-like ravine, plunged in inkier darkness and shrouded in solemn stillness, thoughts surged rapidly through one's mind. The first thing that had attracted our attention as we mounted our pony was the delicious smell of roses in the grounds of the Tosari Hotel. Since nothing could be learned from the syce, nothing could be seen, nothing could be heard except the occasional bark of a dog from a remote hut on the hillside or the tuneful tingle of a bell on the neck of the uneasy occupant of an unseen cow-shed, one tried to learn something by the sense of smell. At first, the morning air was snell and sharp; there was an earthy aroma which suggested nothing but decaying vegetable matter, but soon it was succeeded by a pungent penetrating odour which made one wonder whence its source. This pungency remained for the remainder of the morning's ride, almost to the top of the mountain pass, some 9000 feet above sea-level, and we ascertained on our return that it proceeded from the enormous cabbages grown by the mountaineers for the markets on the plains of East Java.

As we plunged deeper into the forest, it was impossible to make out more than a dull outline of a white jacket and the white shoulder of our piebald pony. Had we not known that the guide was there, we might have wondered how the wonderful jacket succeeded in floating through space. The pony had no head to our sight; the reins we held in our hand might have been dispensed with so far as they acted as a guide to the pony, who picked his own foothold and followed the white jacket. With painful persistence, he picked the edge of the precipitous declivity which was lost in the bottomless abyss.

Once only we lost our way. Turn after turn was negotiated safely, first down into the bottom of the ravine and through the mountain torrent, then up the hillside again, mysterious zigzag after zigzag, and one had become reconciled to the jolting motion of the pony, the steady tramp of his tiny hoofs, and his heavy breathing where the path was steepest, and gave one's-self up to reverie. How terrible, we thought, must have been the scene on the mountain slopes when the enormous craters of the Teng'ger range were belching forth their death-dealing streams of lava, their showers of ashes and stones and choking sulphurous fumes! How insignificant was man before the powerful agencies of Nature! How bright were the occasional stars one saw wherever there was a break in the trees that lined our path! How wonderful that each of those stars, those planets, might be peopled by beings puzzling over the disputed facts of the Creation, as we were; who might also be worrying over a future existence and the redemption of a sinful people; who might be endeavouring to solve labour problems and trade disputes and discussing whether free trade or preferential tariffs were best for a nation's welfare! Was there somebody up in one of those other planets on a pony's back, as we were, robbing one's-self of much-needed rest to reach a mountain top to see the sun rise?

These and other thoughts kept recurring to one when, suddenly, as if it had been shot, the pony planted his forefeet and refused to follow the guiding lead of the syce.

We had made a wrong turning and the syce all but slipped over a precipice. Had it not been for the pony's instinct, all three of us would have been plunged into Eternity, and some of the problems of the previous moment might have been solved.

Out came the syce's matches, as he clung to the pony's bridle. Not nearly so bright as the lambent phosphorescence from the fireflies which flickered across our path, the puny light of the match was sufficient for the guide to pick up the ribbon-like path, and once more we were on our way to the top.

Three deep ravines were traversed before we made the final upward movement, and then Nature's lamp lights were being shut out in hundreds at a time as the soft dawn began to diffuse itself. With Dawn's left hand in the sky, we thought of Omar Khayyam's stanza, and felt impelled to cry out to the sleepers in the hollow—

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night Has flung the stone that puts the Stars to Flight: And lo! the Hunter of the East has caught The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light,

The dawn had been preluded by the awakening chirrups of songsters in the wood. A shriller note was struck by some feathered Daphnis piping to his Chloe. Deep down in the valleys and in the villages perched perilously on projecting ledges of the mountain, faint twinkling lights began to appear, and the lowing of the cattle and the answering and re-echoed crowing of rival poultry-yards sent the thoughts back to Homeland scenes some 10,000 miles away.

As we stood on the wall of the enormous crater, overlooking the Sand Sea, and watched the long shafts of golden light shoot up to the zenith from behind the mountain peaks to the East, we felt that our ride had not been in vain.

To be abroad at early dawn in the tropics is to enjoy the most delightful period of the day. An English essayist has well expressed the exhilaration one feels: "There is something beautiful in the unused day, something beautiful in the fact that it is still untouched, unsoiled." Only those who have stood on the hill tops, far removed from the haunts of men, have any true idea of the grandeur of Nature and the insignificance of man.

The sun rose speedily in the full power of his golden radiance to paint the landscape. There was no transition. Out of the darkness there rose a view, enormous, diversified, impressive.

Miles away on the west, the five summits of the Ardjeono had been the first to reflect the rays hidden from us. Penanggoenan's sugar-loaf top soon caught them up and passed them on to Kawi's three lofty peaks. To the south, was the Semeroe, Java's loftiest volcano; to the east, the Yang Plateau; to the north, the sea and the island of Madoera. We could trace the coast-line 9,000 feet below, away westward beyond Sourabaya, where white-crested surf beat silently upon the streak of yellow sand. The vast plains of East Java showed a pattern of variegated colour, which stretched out to the cultivated slopes of the hills. Mountain hamlets and villages on the plains sent out blue vapours from morning fires. The rivers were distinguishable by their leafy fringe as much as by the reflection of the blue sky overhead. Between us and the Yang Plateau, there were rolling billows of white cloud, tipped by the colours from the sun's spectrum.

But it was the panorama spread out like a model beneath our feet which arrested attention and impressed one most. We stood on the edge of an enormous crater—the Teng'ger—with a circumference of fifteen miles. Where, in prehistoric times, flames and ashes and lava had boiled and belched, there was now a sea of yellow sand, out of which stood other three volcano peaks—the Battok, the Bromo, and the Widodaren—showing purple in the morning light. The Battok is a perfect cone, the lava-covered sides standing out in clearly defined ridges like the buttresses of a Gothic structure. The Bromo is the only one of the three now active. As we gaze down, we are startled by a deep groaning noise, and out of the wide crater mouth there issues a mass of grey smoke and ashes laden and streaked with fire. Simultaneously, a huge mass of cloud, cruciform in shape, is shot up hundreds of feet into the air from the Semeroe. It rests a few seconds above the bare, ash-strewn cone, and then drifts heavily to westward, to make way for the next eruption.

These indications of Nature's activity in the crucible at the earth's centre make one reflect on the possible consequences of the next great convulsion, and the fate that is in store for those intrepid villagers who have perched their primitive huts on the very edge of the Teng'ger crater. With these reflections, we turn away from one of the most solemn and impressive sights it has been our privilege to witness, silently mount our pony and retrace our steps for the snugly-situated Hotel at Tosari, no longer regretting, nay, rather thankful, that we had resolved and achieved our resolution to climb the Penandjaan Pass to see the sun rise.

Hotels and Travelling Facilities

Before going to Java, the tourist ought to make himself acquainted with the outlines of the history of the island since it came under European domination. Half the charm of European travel, if one is something more than a mere unreflective globetrotter, lies in the historic associations of the places visited, and it is the comparative absence of this quality which robs new countries of the interests they would otherwise possess for educated people. Scenery alone surfeits the appetite.

In Java, as in most Oriental countries, the traveller feels that he is moving in an atmosphere of antiquity, and though it has become a misnomer to refer to "The Unchanging East," it is borne in upon one that in the large group of islands comprised in the Philippine and Malay Archipelagoes, from Luzon in the north to Java in the south, from Samar in the east to Sumatra in the west, centuries of western contact has left but a slight impress upon the characters of the people. Changes there are, undoubtedly. Modern civilisation has advanced like a resistless wave and gradually engulfed an older civilisation, but here in Java one feels that the change has not been so decisive; and railways and canals and cultivation notwithstanding, the difference in general advancement between the Javanese and the Japanese is most marked, and even the Chinese, conservative though they are in most ways, have more character and look more hopeful soil for the reception and development of western ideas.

A solid foundation for the trip to Java may be laid by perusing Sir Stamford Raffles' history, the second edition of which, published in 1830, will be found in Raffles Library. It covers the whole period from the time the Portuguese arrived in the Farther East in 1510 to the British occupation. Making Malacca his headquarters, Albuquerque sent various expeditions to the surrounding islands, and Antonio de Abrew was his emissary to Java and the Moluccas. The Dutch appeared in 1595, obtaining their first footing in the East Indies at Bantam, the English East India Company establishing a factory at the same place in 1602.

Of the capture of Java by the British troops brief details have already been given.

An interesting account of "The Conquest of Java" is given by Captain William Thorn, a Dragoon officer, who served on the staff of one of the brigadiers. It was written in 1815 while he was on his way back to England, and is so plentifully illustrated with field maps as to add interest to one's visit to Batavia and Buitenzorg and the seaports of Samarang and Sourabaya.

We are indebted to Dr. Hanitsch, the Curator, for the following list of books on Java in Raffles Library:—

The Dutch in Java; 1904, by Clive Day.

Java, Facts and Fancies; 1905, by Augusta de Wit.

Facts and Fancies about Java; 1908, by Augusta de Wit.

Life in Java, 2 vols; 1864, by W. B. d'Almeida.

Voyage Round the World; 1870, by Marquis de Beauvoir.

With the Dutch in the East; 1897, by W. Cool.

Geschiedenis der Nederlanders of Java; 1887, by M. L. Deventer.

From Jungle to Java; 1897, by Arthur Keyser.

Java; 2 vols., 1861, by J. W. Money.

Java; 1830, by Sir Stamford Raffles.

Fuehrer auf Java; 1890, by L. F. M. Schulze.

The Conquest of Java; 1815, by William Thorn.

A Visit to Java; 1893, by W. B. Worsfold.

Rambles in Java; 1853, (anon.).

The Hindu Ruins in the Plain of Parambanan; 1901, by Dr. I. Groneman.

The Tjandi-Baeraebudur in Central Java; 1901, by Dr. I. Groneman.

Boro-Boedoer op het Eiland Java; 1873, by F. C. Wilsen, 2 vols.

In addition to a selection from the above-named, the intending visitor should read "Java: The Garden of the East" by Miss E. R. Scidmore, 1898, and the Rev. G. M. Reith's "A Padre in Partibus" will be found entertaining.

Much must depend upon the notions of the tourist as to the cost of a trip in Java, but our experience is that Java is the cheapest country we have ever visited. The hotels are superior to those found in the interior of Japan, and, as the guilder, which has a value of 70 cents in Singapore currency or about 1s. 7 3/4d. in English currency, may be taken as the unit of value for travelling purposes, our readers will see at a glance what a fortnight or three weeks' trip is likely to cost from the following hotel rates:—

Hotel des Indes, Batavia 6 guilders per day

Hotel Bellevue, Buitenzorg 6 " "

Hotel, Sindanglaya 6 " "

Hotel Garoet 6 " "

Gov't. Hotel, Maos 4 " "

Hotel Mataram, Djocjakarta 5 " "

Hotel Simpang, Sourabaya 6 " "

Sanitorium, Tosari 7 " "

Hotel du Pavilion, Samarang 5 " "

There are a few extras, and the servants are civilised enough to expect small tips. Charges for liquors are invariably reasonable.

The hotels are scrupulously clean and the accommodation excellent, and in a tropical country one appreciates the facilities for bathing.

In his delightful poem of "Lucile," Owen Meredith wrote:—

We may live without poetry, music and art; We may live without conscience, and live without heart; We may live without friends; we may live without books; But civilised man cannot live without cooks. He may live without books,—what is knowledge but grieving? He may live without hope,—what is hope but deceiving? He may live without love,—what is passion but pining? But where is the man that can live without dining?

Here the poet leaves the realms of poetic fantasy to record a simple fact of everyday life—one which is appreciated by every man and woman irrespective of nationality or temperament. As in all other matters pertaining to the comfort of the European in the tropics, the Dutch, in the matter of food, seem to us to have achieved better results than we have in the British Colonies. The "riz-tafel" may not appeal to the English palate, but there is no lack of clean, wholesome dishes, and side dishes that make us wonder at the toleration of the traveller with the Indian and Colonial caravanserai. The tourist who visits Java after traversing India will be agreeably surprised at the difference in favour of the Dutch Colony in this respect.

In the matter of the personal attention to their guests by the management of some of Hotels in the interior, and the supply of information, there could easily be an improvement, and doubtless there will be a great change when tourist traffic becomes more general, as it promises to do in the near future. Our own experience was that we were left, almost invariably, to the tender mercies of the servants, and as one's Malay was limited this led to avoidable inconvenience.

Nothing, however, could exceed the courtesy and attention of the management at the Hotel des Indes, in Batavia, and the Hotel du Pavilion in Samarang, and the Manager of the Hotel at Sindanglaya.

We have already mentioned Stamm and Weijns Restaurant in Batavia. Coupled with it for excellence of table is Grimm's famous restaurant in Sourabaya.

This year, thanks to the efforts of some of the leading hotel proprietors, the government of Netherlands India has awakened to the possibilities of Java as a country for tourists. Co-operating with the Hotels and steam-ship companies, special inducements were held out to visitors during the months of May and June, in the way of reduced fares, and the success of the venture will doubtless lead to its continuance.

The Koninklyke Paketvaart Maatschappij (Ship's Agency, late J. Daendels and Co.) issues tickets at single-fare rates to Batavia and Sourabaya, the fare to Batavia and back being $45; to Sourabaya and back $63; and to Batavia and along the Coast Ports to Sourabaya and back to Singapore (sixteen days on board ship) $74. The tickets are available by the steamers of the Royal Nederland Line and the Rotterdamsche Lloyd.

Travel by rail throughout the Island is cheap. For the convenience of visitors with limited time to devote to Java, a tourist ticket has been arranged. This may be obtained from the Steamship Company in Singapore. The price is $40 (Singapore currency). The tour laid down by the coupons covers the whole of Java from Tanjong Priok, the port of Batavia, to the easternmost end of the island beyond Sourabaya on the way to Tosari and Bromo. Buitenzorg and the Preanger health resorts may be visited on the tickets, the famous Hindu ruins near Djocjakarta, and the health resorts of Eastern Java. The journey may be broken wherever the tourist cares to stay, and the ticket is available for sixty days.

Directions are printed on the ticket in English in regard to baggage and other matters, and a small outline map is a useful adjunct.

Throughout the island, the carriages for hire are execrable. The four-pony victoria which took us from Djocjakarta to the Buddhist ruins at Parambanan had not gone half a mile when one of the wheels came off, and we were lucky to escape without serious damage. It will always remain a marvel to us how the ramshackle kreta held together which took us from Buitenzorg to Sindanglaya, over the Poentjak Pass, and we are astonished that the Dutch authorities, who are exacting in other respects, do not exercise a wholesome supervision over the ponies employed in these cross-country carts and carriages, for a more wretched collection of horseflesh could scarcely be imagined.

We have already commented on the Toelatings Kaart. This relic of a past age, which did not add much to the revenue, and impressed one unfavourably with a rigid officialism at the port of entry that did not obtrude itself upon one's notice in the interior, may now be avoided by the traveller registering at the Tourist Bureau. In our own case, we were never called upon to produce the kaart.

The general impression left by one's visit to Java is the excessive cleanliness of town and country and the widespread cultivation. There are, of course, black spots in the towns; but they are as nothing to the traveller who has perambulated the native quarters of any British Colony in the Far East. When we think of the millions of dollars Hongkong has expended to cope with filth-created plagues and to reduce the native rookeries of China town, it fills us with the highest admiration for Dutch administration in Java. The Government of the Straits Settlements is entering upon a similar campaign to rectify past sins against the laws of sanitation and hygiene, and hundreds of thousands of dollars might have been available for other purposes had the Chinese been handled as the Dutch handle them in Batavia, Samarang and Sourabaya. It may be overdoing the cult for whitewash to whiten the walls of every bridge and the stack of every sugar mill in the country, but it is pleasing to the Europeans to see that one nation has been successful in carrying its ideas of cleanliness into the tropics and in making the Oriental conform to the ordinary laws for the protection of the health of the common people.

To those of our readers who may be induced to visit Java, we would tender a few words of advice.

If it is intended to compress a tour of the principal places we have noted into a fortnight's holiday, travel, if possible, to Sourabaya, and go first of all to Tosari. After a few days there, Djocjakarta should be made the headquarters for a two or three days' inspection of the Buddhist ruins, and then Bandoeng could be made a halting place while a decision is arrived at as to whether Sindanglaya, Soekaboemi or Garoet is to be visited next before going on to Buitenzorg and Batavia. We recommend this course because there is a more frequent service of steamers between Batavia and Singapore, and by ascertaining the sailing dates while at some of the Preanger health resorts one is able to time one's arrival at Batavia and so avoid the heat of the seaport.

We have painted Java in rosy colours because we found it beautiful, the people companionable and the conditions agreeable. It is possible that others may go over our tracks without deriving a tithe of the enjoyment.

No one should travel unless he has a genius for travel and a ready adaptability to prevailing conditions. He should bear in mind that it is he who is the odd piece in the machinery, and that unless he adjusts himself to the other working pieces he will only have himself to blame if things do not run smoothly. If Java is visited in the right spirit, we have not the least doubt that the traveller will be delighted with all he sees and experiences, and will come away with an assured conviction that it was no exaggeration which styled the island "The Garden of the East."

[Map: JAVA.]

Transcriber's Notes:

Inconsistencies in the hyphenation of words preserved. (court-yard, courtyard; over-night, overnight)

Pg. 52, the phrase: "collection of Buddas". The author might have meant "collection of Buddhas", as "Buddha" is used elsewhere in the text. However the author's original spelling is preserved.

Pg. 55, "daning" changed to "dancing". (and maidens dancing.)

Pg. 63, the title "tivan" is also spelled "tavan" in two instances in the preceding paragraphs. As it is unclear which spelling the author intended, the original spelling is preserved in all cases.

Pg. 70, unusual time expression "2.9 p.m." The original text is preserved. (so I started at 2.9 p.m., and, after)

Pg. 74, duplicated word "at" removed. (reaching Pasoeroean at 8.23)

Pg. 90, text contains the expression "1/7 3/4d" which, for clarity, has been rendered as "1s. 7 3/4d." (or about 1s. 7 3/4d. in English currency)

In the original text, the author was inconsistent with respect to whether the "ae" ligature was used in the word "archaeological". This inconsistency has been preserved.


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