I was planning a visit to the headwaters of the Busang River, to be made in connection with our future journey. Few natives, if any, have entered that region, which was described as very mountainous, though the mountains cannot be very high. But all who were approached on the subject, whether Penyahbong or Malay, absolutely declined to take part in an expedition to that country, because they would be killed by an animal called nundun, which is very numerous there. They might be able to tackle one, they said, but as soon as you encounter one there are hundreds more coming for you, and there is nothing else to do but to run for your life. Those regions, although known to be rich in rubber trees, are shunned by all natives. Unless this is an altogether fabulous animal, which is hardly likely to be the case, because the Punans and Bukats confirmed its existence, it would appear to be a kind of bear which perhaps in fruit seasons gathers in great numbers, and which is ferocious.

Nundun, in Penyahbong and Bukat called bohang (bear), is said to run faster than a dog, is killed with the sumpitan at twenty to thirty metres distance, and is eaten. It is further declared that its habitat extends through the hilly regions between the headwaters of the Busang River and the Upper Barito, and that it is especially numerous near the kampong Kelasin. If any one with the hope of possibly finding a new species of mammal should care to follow the matter up, Kelasin on the Upper Barito would not be an extremely difficult place to reach, with good men. Both the lieutenant and I, having so many rifles, were much inclined to defy the terrors of the nundun, but desirable as this expedition would have been, it had to be given up because of the formidable difficulties in getting men, even if we followed the route over the watershed which is used by the natives.

Bangsul had undertaken to negotiate with us on behalf of the Penyahbongs and the Malays, and although in some ways he was an estimable man, his Malay characteristic of turning everything to his own advantage at times got the better of him and delayed an agreement. At first they demanded a sum amounting to seven florins a day for each of the twenty-nine men needed, but as fourteen Malay rubber-gatherers arrived very opportunely, it was agreed that we should be taken to the Kasao River for 300 florins and my six prahus. The natives had some trouble deciding how the prahus should be divided among them, the kapala insisting upon having the largest and best for himself.

This question having been settled through Bangsul, on March 22 we departed. Our prahus were poled most of the way on a stream which, though rather shallow, ran with a swift current, and at times made my heavily loaded craft take water. In Borneo it usually requires as many days to get up-stream as it takes hours to come down.

We stayed for the night at a former camping place of rattan seekers, a small, narrow clearing on the river brink, on which tents and sheds were huddled closely together in the way military men prefer when travelling in the utan. The paddlers had asked us to be ready at daylight, but at seven o'clock in the chilly and very foggy morning they were still warming themselves around the fire. An hour later, when we had finished loading the prahus, the river began to rise incredibly fast, at the rate of ten centimetres per minute in the first six minutes, and in two hours and a quarter it had risen 2.30 metres, when it became steady. In the meantime we had remade our camp, hoping that the river might permit us to travel next day. Three of the Penyahbongs went out hunting with the only sumpitan we had, and shortly afterward returned with a pig.

Early in the afternoon we were much surprised by the appearance of a prahu with three Dayaks who had a dog and a sumpitan and brought a pig which they had killed in the morning. They were the chief, with two companions, from Data Laong on the Kasao River for which we were aiming. The rumour of our party had reached his ears, and with thirty men he had been waiting for us on this side of the watershed. Their scanty provisions soon ran out, and after waiting nine days all had returned home except the present party, whom we welcomed. The new men proved a valuable addition to our crew. The kapala, who was attached to my prahu, was active and gave his orders as if he knew how, a great relief from a weak Malay that hitherto had been at "the helm." When the men with the poles were unable to move the boat against the current, the small, but strongly built man, with a few very powerful pushes, would bring it forward, making it vibrate by his strength.

At Tamaloe animals and birds were not plentiful, the call of the wah-wah usually imparting a little life to the mornings; and I once heard a crow. I do not remember to have seen on the whole Busang River the most familiar of all birds on the Bornean rivers, an ordinary sandpiper that flits before you on the beach. Birds singing in the morning are always rare except in the localities of paddi fields. The one most likely to attract attention on a forenoon is the giant hornbill, and as we advanced up the Busang its laugh might still be heard. Much more unusual was the call of some lonely argus pheasant or a crow. A few of the beautiful white raja birds were observed.

Wild pigs and deer continued plentiful, but the monkeys seemed gradually to disappear. Fish there were in plenty, but they were now of smaller kinds, not agreeable to eat, having an oily taste and mostly very bony. At all our camping places ants of various kinds were numerous, also inside of the tent, but they did not seem to be obnoxious. Just before sunset the loud voices of the cicadas began, and after dark lovely moths were attracted by my lamp, while during the night bats flew in and out of my tent. The humidity of the atmosphere was great. Safety matches would not strike fire unless kept in an airtight box. My cameras were inside of solid steel boxes, provided with rubber bands against the covers, making them water-tight. Nevertheless, upon opening one that had been closed for three weeks the camera inside was found to be white with mould.

It was rough and hard travelling on account of incessant low kihams to be passed, or banks of small stones over which the prahus had to be dragged. The Penyahbongs had not yet learned to be good boatmen, often nearly upsetting the prahu when getting in or out. Occasionally long quiet pools occurred, and the scenery here was grand and thrilling. Graceful trees of infinite variety bent over the water, bearing orchids of various colours, while creepers hung down everywhere, all reflected in a calm surface which seldom is disturbed by the splashing of fish. The orchids were more numerous than I had ever seen before. A delicate yellow one, growing in spikes, had a most unusual aromatic fragrance, as if coming from another world.

In the morning a curtain of fog lies over the landscape, but about nine o'clock it begins to lift, and creeping up over the tree-tops gradually dissolves in the sun-light, while between the trees that border the river the deep-blue sky appears, with beautiful small cumulus clouds suspended in the atmosphere. With the exception, perhaps, of a large blue kingfisher sitting in solitary state on a branch extending over the water, or a distant hornbill with its cheerful grandiose laugh, there are no evidences of animal life, nevertheless the exquisite scenery seems to lure the beholder on and on. To pass through this superb and silent realm was like a pleasant dream. There are no mosquitoes and consequently no malaria.

We were progressing through a country of which little is known accurately beyond its somewhat hilly character, and the fact that it is uninhabited except for small transient parties of Malays searching for rattan or rubber. The upper part of our route to the divide, a comparatively short distance, had not, to my knowledge, been traversed by white men before. Errors were corrected on the map of the watershed region.

One day at noon, while we were waiting for the largest prahu to overtake us, fresh tracks of pig were discovered on the bank, and the Saputan dog, a very wise animal, was landed. A few minutes later he began the peculiar barking which indicated that he had caught the scent, and one man seized a sumpitan and ran off into the utan as fast as his legs could carry him, holding the weapon in his right hand in a horizontal position, spear end first. It sounded as if the dog might be holding the pig in the water a little higher up, but this was soon found to be a mistake when the barking was heard close by. The Saputan kapala then jumped from my prahu, drew his parang, and with wonderful elastic movements disappeared in the utan. Two or three minutes later they returned, one man bearing in his arms a scarcely half-grown live pig, which had been hit by the sumpitan. The whole affair lasted barely ten minutes.

At another place, where we were again waiting for the big prahu, the Penyahbongs amused themselves with wrestling in water up to their shoulders. After some dancing around, the fight would invariably finish by both disappearing and after a few seconds coming to view again. This caused much merriment, especially to the wrestlers themselves, who laughed immoderately when reappearing.

We entered the tributary Bulau, and a couple of hours later arrived at its junction with Bakkaang, at the source of which we expected to cross the watershed. The river, which was rather narrow, would be difficult to ascend unless we had showers. Luckily rain fell during the night, and although delayed by trees that had fallen across the stream, which was from six to ten metres wide, we made a good day's work and camped at an attractive old clearing of rattan gatherers.

I spent the next forenoon in an excursion to a place within the jungle, where birds and animals sometimes congregate in great numbers to obtain the salt water which issues from the earth or rocks. This masin (salt water) was known to the Malay rattan seekers in our party, who had snared birds and deer there. In the dry season hundreds of birds of various kinds would gather. By wading up a small stream for twenty minutes we reached a place where water exuded from a rock, especially at its top, and by following the stream upward for another twenty minutes we arrived at the larger one, where the ooze from the rocks overflowed the ground. Only tracks were seen, but our guide said that after three rainless days in succession birds and animals would be sure to come there. Myriads of yellowish-gray flies covered the ground as well as the rocks, and after having taken some specimens of algae, also some white gelatinous stuff with which the Malays rub themselves when afflicted with beri-beri, I returned to camp.

In spite of frequent light showers the stream failed to rise appreciably, and our goods had to be carried on the back of the men to our next camping place. The following morning we started in a heavy rain at which we rejoiced, because it enabled us to use our prahus until we reached the foot of the dividing ridge. At noon we arrived in camp, with our clothing thoroughly wet. What the downpour might have left intact the Penyahbongs, forgetting everything but the safety of the prahus, had done their best to drench by splashing water all the time. Just as we had made camp the rain ceased and with it, being near the source of the stream, the overflow too passed away. In dry weather it would be a tedious trip to get up the Bakkaang.

For two days we were busy carrying our goods to the top of the ridge. Neither the Malays nor the Penyahbongs are very strong carriers, and they complained of being stenga mati (half dead) from their exertions. On the third day, when the ascent was to be finished, eight of them complained of being sakit (sick) or played out, and they looked it. Fortunately the Saputan chief, who a few days previously had left us to procure more men, returned with four companions, who came in very opportunely. The ascent is neither long nor difficult, a seldom used path leading across the ridge at the most convenient place. The elevation above sea level, taken April 2, by boiling point thermometer, was 425 metres (1,394.38 feet), and the ridge seemed to run evenly to either side. The space for a camp was somewhat cramped, and the small yellow bees that are so persistent in clinging to one's face and hands were very numerous; they will sting if irritated. Even the lieutenant, ordinarily impervious to that kind of annoyance, sought the protection of his mosquito net.

The calls of argus pheasant and wah-wah next morning sounded familiar. The north side of the Bukit, or mountain (the name applied by the natives to the ridge), is steeper and rougher than the south side, but the descent presents no difficulties. We followed the small river Brani, most of the time wading it. The distance to the junction of the Brani with the Kasao River [*] is hardly five hours' walking, but copious showers, which at times changed the river to a torrential stream, interfered with the transportation of our goods, which required five days.

[Footnote *: Kasao is the Malay name. The Saputans call the river Katju.]

Our friend, the Saputan chief, had materially assisted us, and he was desired to walk down to his kampong - by boat only an hour's journey on the swift current - and bring men and prahus to take us away. He was very willing and exceedingly efficient, but he was also, in his childish way, intent on making as much out of us as possible. He wanted to bring too many prahus and men, for all the male population of the kampong were anxious to get this job, he said. I made him a fair offer, and three times he came to tell me that he still had to think over it. Finally, after three hours' deliberation, he accepted my proposition - provided I would pay for two days instead of one! In order to get action, and considering all the days they voluntarily had waited for us at the ridge, I acceded to this amendment and he went away happy.

The men and the prahus came promptly and we began loading; I was glad at the prospect of getting away from the low-lying country, where we had our camp among bamboo trees, with the chance of being flooded should the river rise too high. As we were standing near my tent, getting ready to take it down, a plandok (mouse-deer, tragulus) came along - among the Saputans, and probably most Dayaks, reputed to be the wisest and most cunning of all animals, and in folklore playing the part of our fox. It was conspicuously pregnant and passed unconcernedly just back of the tent. As the flesh is a favourite food of both Dayaks and Malays they immediately gave chase, shouting and trying to surround it, which made the plandok turn back; then the wonderfully agile Saputan chief darted after it and actually caught it alive. Extraordinary agility is characteristic of most Dayaks. An army officer in his report of the Katingans describes how a Dayak "suddenly jumped overboard, drew his parang, and with one stroke cut a fish through the middle. Before we knew what had happened the material for our supper was on board."

After a pleasant drifting down the current of the Kasao River, about noon on April 7 we arrived at Data Laong, a Saputan kampong consisting of three small communal houses. On the river bank a small space had been cleared of grass for my tent. The people seemed very amenable to my purposes and there was a primitive atmosphere at the place. We had used seventeen days from Tamaloe, much in excess of the time calculated, but under unfavourable circumstances we might easily have used double. There was reason to be satisfied at arriving here safely without having incurred any losses. We could look forward with confidence to the remainder of the journey, mainly down the great Mahakam River, toward distant Samarinda, because the Dayaks along the route were very numerous and had plenty of prahus.