Steaming slowly through the phosphorescent seas of the starlit night, we anchor at dawn in the forest-lined bay of Amoerang, the principal harbour of the Minahasa. The picturesque Northern Cape of Celebes contains a population differing in origin and character from all other races of the vast island, and conveys the idea of a distinctive country. The mountain panorama of shelving ridges and fretted promontories, breaking the outlines of the rocky coast with infinite variety, culminates in the chiselled contours of volcanic peaks, cutting sharply into the silvery blue of a stainless sky. Amoerang, half-buried in sago-palms, on the green rim of the secluded haven, shows slight resemblance to the campongs generally encountered on the western coast. Wooden cottages, though built on piles of wood or stone, and thatched with atap (plaited palm leaves) possess many features in common with the screened and balconied dwellings of Japan. The people, in aspect and feature, also convey suggestions of the Japanese origin ascribed to them, for ancient traditions assert that the Minahasa was colonised by an Asiatic tribe, driven out of Formosa by native savages, in one of those wild raids upon the peaceful maritime population which drove them to face the perils of an unknown sea, rather than fall into the ruthless hands of the bloodthirsty aborigines who inhabited the forests and mountains of the interior. Many of the hapless exiles perished through hunger, thirst, storm, and shipwreck of their slightly-built craft, during the long wanderings which ended as though by chance for the survivors, in the distant Minahasa. The Malay element in those Japanese refugees, displayed the usual characteristics of skill in boat-building and navigation, together with that accurate observation of natural phenomena which alone could compensate for the lack of scientific knowledge. The women, with oblique eyes and oval faces, wear the gay sarong and white kabaja customary in Eastern Java. The men, in shapeless gowns and wide trousers, with broad hats of battered straw on their close-cropped hair, afford a sorry spectacle of unbecoming and disorderly attire, conveying grotesque hints of Japanese ideas beneath the squalid ugliness overlaying them. The fishermen, conveniently unclad for the necessities of their calling, wear only a yellow or scarlet waist-cloth, the bright touch of colour emphasising the deep bronze of their slight but athletic forms. The people of the Minahasa, Christianised after the Calvinistic methods of Dutch and German missionaries a century ago, have always been specially favoured by the Government of Holland, and large sums are annually expended in improving the status of this distant colony. The making of roads, the building of schools and churches, and the improvement of social conditions, are liberally catered for, not only for the advantage of the Minahasa, but that no excuse may exist for any rebellion against such paternal rule. Tribal insurrections continually recur in the great Archipelago, where a storm in a teacup often swells into dangerous proportions, and the peaceful adherence of the Minahasa to the powers that be becomes an important factor in turbulent Celebes. The race, so strangely amalgamated with alien interests, shows the apathy of a temperament incapable of developement on foreign lines, though unable to resist the pressure imposed upon it. The pretty campong seems silent as the grave. No native warongs, or restaurants, enliven the straight roads with their merry crowds or cheerful gossip, and sellers of food and drink, whose cries echo through the streets of Makassar, are unknown in this northern port, where even the arrival of the fortnightly steamer fails to excite much interest in the public mind.
A rash determination to drive across the Minahasa, and pick up the boat at Menado, involves unimagined difficulties. Heavy waggons drawn by brown sappies (i.e., bullocks), which travel at the rate of two miles an hour, suffice for native use in remote Amoerang, but at length a dilapidated gig, with two sorry steeds harnessed in tandem fashion by sundry bits of old rope, is produced. Having frequently experienced the pace accomplished by many a Timor pony of emaciated and dejected aspect, faith accepts even this unpromising team for the long drive of thirty miles. Quaint campongs, with bamboo fences and curiously arched gateways, flank the woodland road. Each little garden flames with red poinsettia, purple convolvulus, and yellow daisies. The latticed screens pushed back from open verandahs, show Japanese-looking rooms, furnished with the European lamps, chairs, and tables, exported by thousands to the Minahasa, but the same atmosphere of stagnation broods over these quiet villages, and even the children, returning from a bamboo schoolhouse on the edge of the forest, show the staid and solemn demeanour of their elders. For a few miles all goes well, with the trifling exception of occasional breakages in the countless knots of the rope harness. The last whistle of the steamer floats upward as she leaves her anchorage, and refusing to yield to a faint misgiving as to the success of the present enterprise, eyes and thoughts concentrate themselves on the increasing beauty of the mountain road, the living emerald of the rice-fields, and the picturesque mills for husking the grain, which give special character to this unique district of Celebes. Suddenly the rickety conveyance comes to a full stop, and a kicking match begins, the plunging ponies refusing to budge an inch. The incapable Jehu implores his fare's consent to an immediate return, but meets with an inexorable refusal, the halting Malay sentences eked out with an unmistakable pantomime of threats and warnings. The driver's whip, supplemented by an English umbrella, produces no effect on the obtuse animals, which have to be led, or rather hauled, on their unwilling way. One obstreperous steed becomes so unmanageable that it becomes necessary to hitch him to the back of the cart, at the imminent risk of overturning it, in his determination to thwart his companion's enforced progress. Mile after mile the wearisome struggle continues. Even a lumbering bullock waggon passes us again and again, in the numerous stoppages required for fresh conflict. The endless hours of the weary day drag on like a terrible nightmare, but a descent into a profound ravine of these mountain solitudes at length enables the driver to start the team at a rate which makes it impossible for them to stop, and he vaults lightly into his place as we spin merrily downhill. Our troubles are not over, for on the next upward grade the old game of rearing, backing, and futile attempts at buck-jumping, begins again. Despairing eyes rest on a thatched booth at the roadside, containing a row of bottles hung up by a string, with the bamboo tube for coins. Holding the ropes, and currying favour with the ponies by leading them to a patch of grass, it becomes possible for the boy to leave them for a sorely-needed drink of the sago-wine. The fiendish animals try to upset the cart, and the fight recommences for the fiftieth time, but the brown huts of a campong in a cactus thicket inspire hope, and after a furious battle in the street, to the intense delight of the Japanese-looking people, a man comes to the rescue with a stout pony. The boy mounts one battered steed, the other is left behind in a hospitable stable, and we trot briskly on through lovely scenery of forest and mountain to Kanas, at the head of the beautiful lake of Tondano, hitherto seen in glimpses at an immense depth between encircling peaks. Wearied almost to stupefaction by eleven hours of a combat, after which victory seems scarcely less ghastly than defeat, we would gladly remain for the night at the little Rest House of Kanas, but prudence compels us to push on to Tondano, at the other end of the lake, while a capable pony remains at disposal. The lake road is a vista of entrancing loveliness, overhung by arching bamboos and great sago-palms, the vanguard of the forest which clothes the lower spurs of the purple mountain ranges, shutting off the long blue lake from the outside world. A rudely-built bloto, merely the hollowed trunk of a tree, crosses the water, with a torch flickering at the prow, for the sun has set, and the crimson afterglow begins to fade from the serrated crests of the opposite heights. The ripple of the water in the reeds at the edge of the road, and the sigh of the evening breeze, fluttering the leaves and creaking the yellow canes of the great bamboos, alone stir the silence, which comes as a welcome relief after the toil and excitement of the day; but alas! we have all forgotten the perils of the road at nightfall, and in the sudden darkness, deepened by the shadowy trees, a false step might precipitate cart and passengers into the deep water. Any advance becomes dangerous on the winding way, which follows every curve of the irregular shore, so a halt is called, while the boy rides on towards some twinkling lights denoting a lakeside campong. After a long wait, he returns in triumph with three matches and a piece of flaming tow in a bottle. By observing due precaution, we can now follow his guidance, while he holds out the flaring light with extended arm. As we turn round the foot of the lake into a raised causeway above fields of ripening rice, the full moon comes up behind the sombre hills, and transfigures the night with a sparkling flood of silver glory. We reach the white Dutch town of Tondano as the clock strikes ten, but everyone is in bed at this dissipated hour, and difficulty is experienced even in getting admission to the little Hotel, though the delight of finding an English-speaking landlord atones for a somewhat ungracious reception after a long and painful pilgrimage, which should serve as a solemn warning against the rash attempt to penetrate the wilds of the Minahasa under native guidance.
Tondano, with houses and verandahs gleaming in spotless whiteness among green spaces and luxuriant trees, appears a typical Dutch town, incongruous but picturesque. The absolute purity and transparency of the atmosphere give value and intensity to every shade of colour, and the scarlet hybiscus flowers show the incandescent glow belonging rather to lamps than to blossoms. The river Tondano forms a series of lovely cascades below the town, situated four miles from the lake at the present time, for the marshy flats have been reclaimed as rice-grounds, thus somewhat diminishing the stretch of water. The steep drive down to Menado offers a succession of lovely views. The little port, in a nest of verdure, encircles the azure bay, where our steamer, merely a white speck in the distance, lies at anchor. A turn of the road discloses a glimpse of the mountain lake, a sheet of sapphire sparkling in the morning sun, but retrospective thoughts in this instance convey pain as well as pleasure, for "mounting ambition" has for once "o'erleapt itself," and failure counterbalances success. Menado, divided by the river, is inhabited by two distinct tribes of the mysterious colonists who came from the farthest East to these unknown shores. The ubiquitous Chinaman has found a firm footing in the northerly port of Celebes, and the splendidly-carved dragons of a stately temple, rich in ornaments of green jade, blue porcelain, and elaborate brass-work, denote the important status of the wealthy community. A busy passer supplies the usual pictures of native life, but the people of the Minahasa, here as elsewhere, lack both the gay insouciance of the South, and the strenuous energy of the Northern mind, the residuum of apathetic dullness, deprived of all the salient characteristics which constitute charm and interest. European houses of Dutch officials stand in ideal gardens of brilliant flowers and richest foliage. The little Hotel Wilhelmina is a paradise of exotic blossoms, but Menado, apart from a lovely situation, and the usual riot of glorious verdure which makes every tropical weed a thing of beauty, offers little inducement for a prolonged stay. The bay, exposed to contrary winds and chafed by conflicting currents, tosses in perpetual turmoil, though a long jetty diminishes the former difficulties of the stormy passage between ship and shore. In the amber light of sunset, the dark mountain ranges stand out with unearthly clearness. The jagged peaks of Klabat and Soedara in the background, bringing into prominence the grey cliffs and purple ravines of the smoking Lokon. The wonderful scenery of the Malay Archipelago seldom lacks that element of terror which enhances the radiant loveliness of Nature by painting it on a tragic background of storm and cloud, the vague suggestion of evanescence intensifying the mysterious charm with poetic significance. The receding coast discloses a striking panorama of the mountain heights piled one upon another, the grey towers and bastions guarding this narrowing Cape of the Minahasa, a veritable outpost of Nature, eternally washed by the restless seas. As the steamer rounds the savage promontories, and threads the blue straits formed by two rocky islets at the northern extremity, the weird and desolate landscape conveys a strange sense of separation even from the alien humanity which peoples the far-reaching peninsula of the Minahasa, and this northern extremity appears a limitless waste. Chaotic masses of imperishable granite, splintered reefs thrusting black spikes through the creaming surge, and wind-swept cliffs of fantastic form, characterise the solemn headland, unpainted and unsung, although the sea-girt sanctuary of Nature demands interpretation through the terms of Art and Poetry.