The port of Sourabaya, supreme in mercantile importance, ranks as the second city of Java, as it contains the military headquarters, the principal dockyards, and the arsenal. Leagues of rice and sugar-cane lie between Solo and Sourabaya, the landscape varied by gloomy teak woods, feathery tamarinds, and stately mango trees. White towns nestle in rich vegetation, and the green common known as the aloon-aloon marks each hybrid suburb, Europeanized by Dutch canals, white bridges, and red-tiled houses, planted amid a riotous wealth of palm and banana. A broad river, brimming over from the deluge of the previous night, flows through burning Sourabaya; a canal, gay with painted praus connecting it with the vast harbour, where shipping of all nations lies at anchor, the sheltered roads bristling with a forest of masts and funnels. Bungalows, in gorgeous gardens, flank dusky avenues of colossal trees, for even Sourabaya, the hottest place in steaming Java, enjoys "a boundless contiguity of shade." In the sawa fields broad-eaved huts, set on stilts above the swamp, protect the brown boys who frighten birds from the rice, for the clapping and shouting must be carried on under shelter from the ardent sun. No air blows from the rippling water, set with acres of lotus-beds, the fringed chalices of rose and azure swaying on their plate-like leaves of palest green. The heterogeneous character of Sourabaya gives unwonted interest to the streets, uniquely brilliant in grouping and colour. Gilded eaves of Chinese houses, many-tiered Arab mosques, encrusted with polished tiles of blue and purple, white colonnades of Dutch bungalows, and pointed huts of woven basket-work within wicker gate and bamboo fence, mingle in fantastic confusion to frame a series of living pictures. Cream-coloured bullocks and spirited Timor ponies, in creaking waggons and ramshackle carriages, pass in endless procession. Bronze-hued coolies balance heavy loads on the swaying pikolan, a sloping pole of elastic bamboo, and strolling players, rouged and tinselled, collect crowds in every open space where a fluttering tamarind-tree offers a welcome patch of shadow to each turbaned audience, clad in the paradisaical garb of the tropics. Graceful Malay women flit silently past, in pleasing contrast to their burly Dutch mistresses, clad in a caricature of native garb which the appalling heat of Sourabaya renders a more slatternly disguise than even colonial sans géne accomplishes elsewhere. Orchids spread broad spathes of scented bloom from grey trunks of courtyard trees, and cascades of crimson and purple creepers tumble over arch and wall. Insinuating Chinamen untie bundles of sarongs, scarves, and delicate embroideries on the marble steps of hotel porticoes, where the prolonged "shopping" of the drowsy East is catered for by the industrious Celestial, when tokos are closed, and the tradesman sleeps on the floor amid his piled-up wares, for the slumber of Java is too deep to be lightly disturbed, and the solemnity of the long siesta seems regarded almost as a religious function. In this far-off land of dreams it seems "always afternoon," and the complacency wherewith the entire population places itself "hors de combat" becomes a perpetual irritation to the traveller, anxious to seize a golden opportunity of fresh experience. The sun sinks out of sight before the sultry atmosphere begins to cool. The weird "gecko," a large lizard which foretells rain, screams "Becky! Becky!" in the garden shadows, and a cry of "Toko! Toko!" echoes from another unseen speaker of a mysterious language, while wraith-like forms of his tiny brethren make moving patterns on the white columns, as the hungry little reptiles hunt ceaselessly for the mosquitos which form their staple diet. Lashing rain and deafening thunder at length cool the fiery furnace, blue lightning flares on the solid blackness of heaven, and the storm only dies away when we start at dawn for Tosari, the mountain sanatorium of the Tengger. The flat and flooded land glows with the vivid green of springing rice, tremulous tamarind and blossoming teak bordering a road gay with pilgrim crowds, for the great volcano of the Tengger remains one of Nature's mystic altars, dedicated to prayer and sacrifice. Moslem girls in yellow veils jostle brown men with white prayer-marks and clanking bangles. The sari of India replaces the sarong of Java, with fluttering folds of red and purple; children, clad only in silver chains and medals, or strings of blue beads, dart through the crowd, from whence the familiar types of Malay and Javanese personality are absent. We change carts in a busy roadside passer, which drives a roaring trade in rice-cakes and fruit, syrups and stews, to mount through changing zones of vegetation, where palms give place to tree ferns, and luscious frangipanni or gardenia yields to rose and chrysanthemum. From the half-way house of Poespo, a forest road ascends to Tosari. Sombre casuarina, most mournful of the pine tribe, mingles with teak and mahogany in dense woods falling away on either side from the shadowy path. Innumerable monkeys swing from bough to bough, eating wild fruits, and breaking off twigs to pelt the intruders on their domains. At length the sylvan scenery gives place to endless fields of cabbage, potatoes, maize, and onions, for the cool heights of the Tengger range serve the prosaic purpose of market-garden to Eastern Java, and all European vegetables may be cultivated here with success. A patchwork counterpane of green, brown, and yellow, clothes these steep slopes, but the extent of the mountain chain, and the phantasmal outlines of volcanic peaks, absorb the incongruities grafted upon them. Valerian and violet border the track between swarthy pines with grey mosses hanging down like silver beards from forked branches, and sudden mists shroud the landscape in vaporous folds, torn to shreds by gusts of wind, to melt away into the blue sky, suddenly unveiled in dazzling glimpses between the surging clouds. A long flight of mossy steps ascends to the plateau occupied by the Sanatorium, with wide verandahs and a poetic garden, like some old Italian pleasaunce, with fountain and sundial, espaliered orange boughs, and ancient rose-trees overhanging paved walks, gay parterres, and avenues of myrtle or heliotrope. Flowers are perennial even on these airy heights, and dense hedges of datura, with long white bells drooping in myriads over the pointed foliage, transform each narrow lane into a vista of enchantment. Eastern Java spreads map-like beneath the overhanging precipice, the blue strait of Madoera curving between fretted peak and palm-clad isle. The velvety plum-colour of nearer ranges fades through tints of violet and mauve into the ethereal lilac of distant summits. The lowlands gleam with brimming fish-ponds and flooded sawas, as though the sea penetrated through creek and inlet to the heart of the green country, the vague glitter of this watery world investing the scene with dream-like unreality. Brown campongs cling to mountain crest and precipitous ledge. These almost inaccessible fastnesses were colonised after the Moslem conquest by a Hindu tribe which refused to relinquish Brahminism. Driven from place to place by the fanatical hordes of Islam on the downfall of the Hindu empire, the persecuted race, a notable exception to native inconstancy and indifference, retreated by degrees to this mountain stronghold, where they successfully retained their religious independence, and defended themselves from Mohammedan hostility. Brahminism through centuries of isolation, has assimilated many extraneous heathen rites, and wild superstitions have overlaid the original creed. The worship of the Tenggerese is now mainly directed to the ever-active crater of the awe-inspiring Bromo, always faced by the longer side of the windowless communal houses, built to contain the several generations of the families which in patriarchal fashion inhabit these spacious dwellings. Huge clouds of smoke from the majestic volcano curl perpetually above the surrounding peaks, and float slowly westward, the thunderous roar of the colossal crater echoing in eternal menace through the rarefied air, and regarded as the voice of the god who inhabits the fiery Inferno. These lonely hills, ravaged by tempest and haunted by beasts of prey, are the hiding-places of fear and the cradles of ever-deepening superstition. Wild fancies sway the untaught mountaineers, responsive to Nature's wonders, though powerless to interpret their signification. The constant struggle for existence produces a character utterly opposed to that of the suave and facile Malay. The graces of life are unknown, but the strenuous temperament of the Tenggerese is shown by indefatigable industry in the difficult agriculture of the mountain region, and the careful cultivation of the vegetables for which the district is renowned. Day by day, the Tenggerese women—gaunt, scantily-clad, and almost unsexed by incessant toil in the teeth of wind and weather—carry down their burdens to the plain, their backs bent under the weight of the huge crates, while the brown and wizened children are prematurely aged and deformed by their share in the family toil. The more prosperous inhabitant carries his vegetables on a mountain pony, trained to wonderful feats in the art of sliding up and climbing down walls of rock almost devoid of foothold, for the riding of Tenggerese youth and maiden rivals that of the Sioux Indian. Misdirected zeal strips the hills of forest growth; the scanty pines of the higher zone serving as fuel, and the ruthless destruction of timber brings the dire result of decreasing rainfall. Only bamboo remains wherewith to build the communal houses, formerly constructed of tastefully blended woods, and the flimsy substitute, unfitted to resist drenching rain and raging wind, is dragged with the utmost difficulty from cleft and gorge along rude tracks hewn out in the mountain side. Rice, elsewhere the mainstay of life in Java, has never been cultivated by the Tenggerese, the sowing and planting of the precious crop being forbidden to them during the era of gradual retreat before the Mohammedan army centuries ago, and the innate conservatism of the secluded tribe, in spite of life's altered environment, clings to the dead letter of an obsolete law. The tigers, once numerous round Tosari, have retreated into the jungle clothing the lower hills, and seldom issue from their forest lairs unless stress of weather drives them upward for a nightly prowl round byre and pen. The destruction of covert renders Tosari immune from this past peril, and the tragic tiger stories related round the hearthstone of the communal house are becoming oral traditions of a forgotten day, gathering round themselves the moss and lichen of fable and myth.
The main interest of Tosari centres round the stupendous Bromo, possessing the largest crater in the world, a fathomless cavity three miles in diameter, veiled in Stygian darkness, and suggesting the yawning mouth of hell. This bottomless pit, bubbling like a boiling cauldron, pouring out black volumes of sulphureous smoke, and clamouring with unceasing thunder, was for ages a blood-stained altar of human sacrifice. Every year the fairest maiden of the Tengger was the chosen victim offered to Siva, who, in his attribute of a Consuming Fire, occupied the volcanic abyss. The worship of the Divine Destroyer has ever been a fruitful source of crime and cruelty, and a tangible atmosphere of evil lingers round those hoary temples of India dedicated to the Avenging Deity, whose fanatical followers are reckoned by millions. Through the inversion of creed peculiar to Hindu Pantheism, the propitiation of Divine wrath has become the fundamental principle of religion, and pathetic appeals for mercy continually ascend from darkened hearts to those unseen powers vividly present to Hindu thought, which, amid countless errors and degradations, has never ceased to grasp the central fact of Eternity. The impalpable air teems with Divinity. Watchful eyes and clutching hands surround the pilgrim's path, and unseen spirits dog faltering footsteps as they stumble through the snares and pitfalls of earthly life. In the rude tribes of the Tengger, hereditary faith reflects the uncompromising features of local environment. The lotus-eating races of the tropical lowlands, with their feeble grasp on the sterner aspects of creed and character, have nothing in common with this Indian tribe, remaining on the outskirts of an alien civilisation. The creed for which the early Tenggerese fought and conquered, has cooled from white heat to a shapeless petrifaction, and weird influences throng the ruined temple of a moribund faith, but the shadows which loom darkly above the mouldering altars still command the old allegiance, and a thousand hereditary ties bind heart and soul to the past.
The expedition to the Bromo, by horse or litter, affords the supreme experience of Javanese volcanoes. The broken track, knee-deep in mud and rent by landslips, traverses fields of Indian corn, rocky clefts, and rugged water-courses. The familiar flora of Northern Europe fringes babbling brooks, their banks enamelled with wild strawberries and reddening brambles. Curtains of ghostly mist lift at intervals to disclose the magical pink and blue of the mountain distance, as sunrise throws a shaft of scarlet over the grim cliff's of the Moengal Pass. A chasm in the stony wall reveals the famous Sand Sea below the abrupt precipice, a yellow expanse of arid desert encircling three fantastic volcanoes. The pyramidal Batok, the cloud-capped Bromo, and the serrated Widodaren, set in the wild solitude of this desolate Sahara, form a startling picture, suggesting a sudden revelation of Nature's mysterious laboratories. The deep roar of subterranean thunder, and the fleecy clouds of sulphureous smoke ever rising from the vast furnaces of the Bromo, emphasise the solemnity of the marvellous scene. Native ideas recognise this terror-haunted landscape as the point where Times touches Eternity, and natural forces blend with occult influences. Tjewara Lawang, "the gate of the spirits," traditionally haunted by the countless Devas of Hindu Pantheism, bounds the ribbed and tumbled Sand Sea with a black bridge of fretted crags, from whence the invisible host keeps watch and ward over the regions of eternal fire.
By a fortunate coincidence, the annual festival of the Bromo is celebrated to-day, when Siva, the Third Person of the Hindu Triad, is propitiated by a living sacrifice. Goats and buffaloes were flung into the flaming crater long after the offering of human victims was discontinued, but, alas for the chicanery of a degenerate age! even the terrified animals thrown into the air by the sacrificing priest never reach the mystic under-world, their downward progress being arrested by a skilled accomplice, who catches them at a lower level, and risks great Siva's wrath by preserving them for more prosaic uses. The silence of the Sand Sea is broken to-day by the bustle of a gay market on the brink of the yellow plain. The terrific descent through a gash in the precipice, carved by falling boulders, landslips, and torrential rains, lands the battered pilgrim in the midst of a lively throng in festal array. Girls in rose and orange saris, with silver pins in sleek dark hair plaited with skeins of scarlet wool, dismount from rough ponies for refreshment, or gallop across the Sand Sea to the mountain of sacrifice. The turbaned men in rough garb of indigo and brown show less zeal than their womenkind, and betel-chewing, smoking, or the consumption of syrups and sweetmeats, prove more attractive than the religious service, for modern materialism extends even to these remote shores, and the Avenging God is often worshipped by proxy.
The Sand Sea was originally the base of the Tengger volcano, split from head to foot by an appalling eruption, which forced mud, sand, and lava from the enclosing walls into the surrounding valley. Fresh craters formed in the vast depths of sand and molten metal; the three new volcanoes—Bromo, Battok, and Widodaren—casting themselves up from the blazing crucibles hidden beneath the fire-charged earth. We stand on the thin and crumbling crust of the globe's most friable surface, a mere veil concealing fountains of eternal fire, foaming solfataras, and smoking fumaroles. Circle after circle, the great belt of volcanic peaks rises around us, visible outlets of incalculable forces, ever menacing the world with ruin and havoc.
On the steep descent, a few devout pilgrims offer preliminary sacrifices of food, or flowers, to the Devas of the mountains, laying the little treasures in oval vaults dug by human hands, before entering the inner courts of the fiery sanctuary. The yellow Sand Sea, swept by a moaning wind, sends up whirling eddies, and the dusky haze shimmers in fantastic outlines, which probably originated the idea of spiritual presences hovering round the scene. Grey heather and clumps of cypress-grass dot the wild Sahara with their dry and colourless monotony, but give place on the southern side to patches of fern and turf, the scanty pasture of the mountain ponies, herding together until sickness or accident breaks the ranks, when the hapless sufferer, deserted by his kind, falls an easy prey to the wild dogs of the Tengger ranges. A heap of bleaching bones points to some past tragedy, and terrifies the swerving horses of the native pilgrims. The ascent of the Bromo is negotiated from the eastern side to the lip of the gigantic crater. Slanting precipices of lava, their grey flanks scored with black gullies below the volcanic ash which covers the upper slopes, rise to the jagged pinnacles bordering the black gulf of eternal mystery and night. A rickety ladder of bamboo, approached through a chaos of boulders, mounts to the edge of the profound abyss. The ladder has been renewed for this Day of Atonement, and worshippers clad in rainbow hues crowd round the base of the volcano, while the priests of Siva, in motley robes of brilliant patchwork, adorned with cabalistic tracery in white, ascend the swaying rungs, bearing their struggling victims, bleating, crowing, and clucking in mortal terror. Stalwart arms toss the black goat with accurate aim to an assistant priest, who passes on his clever "catch" to a third expert in the task of hoodwinking Siva and depriving him of his lawful prey. Sundry cocks and hens, evidently toothsome morsels, are then thrown from one priest to another, and saved for the cooking-pot, but a tough-looking chanticleer of the Cochin China persuasion is finally selected, and cast into the seething pit to propitiate the terrible wrath of the Avenging Deity at the smallest expense and loss to the astute priesthood. At the close of the sacerdotal is sacreligious performance, we mount the shaking ladder to a thatched shed on the rim of the crater. From hence, between the dense volumes of smoke, the huge cavity is visible to a depth of 600 feet. Sallow clouds of sulphur emerge from a pandemonium of tumultuous clamour; red-hot stones shoot upward, but fall back into the chasm before they reach us; burning ashes strike the smooth walls with a weird scream, and then whirl back into the darkness; yellow solfataras rise in foaming jets, with the fierce hiss of unseen serpents, and bellowing thunders shake the earth. The superb spectacle of nature's power in her armoury of terror is unique among the volcanos of Java, for unless the Bromo blazes in the throes of a violent eruption, when the ascent to the crater becomes impossible, no danger exists in gazing down into the mysterious abyss. At every gust which rages round this laboratory of Nature, the vast clouds—black, yellow, and blue—floating away into space, assume grotesque forms suggesting primeval monsters or menacing giants, darkening the skies with their ghostly presence. Driving rain and a rising gale hasten a rapid descent to the Sand Sea, but the sudden storm dies away into sunlit mists. The climb to the Moenggal Pass is complicated by a series of pools and cascades; the horses pick their own perilous way, but the management of the chairs by the noisy coolies demands superhuman strength and security of hand and foot, the crazy and battered doolie escaping falls and collisions by a continuous miracle.
The expedition to Ngandwona, in the heart of the hills, skirts green precipices and traverses brown campongs forlorn and neglected, like this stranded Hindu race, incapable of adjustment to life's law of change, and retaining the form without the spirit of the past. The glens lie veiled in cloud, but the peaks bask in sunshine. Waterfalls dash through thickets of crimson foxglove, and daturas swing their fragrant bells over the dancing water. A little goatherd, leading his bleating flock, plays on a reed flute to summon a straggler from a distant crag. The brown figure, in linen waistcloth and yellow turban, suggests that Indian personality which has survived ages of exile on these lonely heights. The route to Ngandwona discloses the Tengger in a different aspect; the volcanos are far away, and this central region is rich in pastoral pictures full of lulling charm. The voice of the Bromo still breaks the silence of the deep valley with a mysterious undertone, but only benignant Devas haunt this flower-filled hollow, remote alike from the terrors of Nature and the influences of the external world.
The following day varies the character of the range, exposed to every vicissitude of temperature and climate. White billows of fog beat upon the mountain tops like a silent sea, and blot out the landscape with an impenetrable veil. Thunder echoes through the rocky caves with incessant reverberations, and rain settles down in a drenching flood. The chill of the wooden Hotel penetrates to the bone; enthusiasm wanes below zero, and even scorching Sourabaya appears preferable to this wet and windy refuge on the storm-swept heights. The hurricane proves brief in proportion to the violence displayed, and the walk to Poespo at dawn, behind the baggage-coolie, is a vision of delight. Violet mountains lean against the pale blue of a rain-washed sky, tjewara and teak glisten with jewelled lustre, and the Tengger, bathed in amethystine light, lifts itself above the world as the realm of purity and peace, ever revealed and prophesied by the glory of mountain scenery.