A few minutes later we came in sight of the Mahakam River. At this point it is only forty to fifty metres wide, and the placid stream presented a fine view, with surrounding hills in the distance. In the region of the Upper Mahakam River, above the rapids, where we had now arrived, it is estimated there are living nearly 10,000 Dayaks of various tribes, recognised under the general name Bahau, which they also employ themselves, besides their tribal names.

The first European to enter the Mahakam district was the Dutch ethnologist, Doctor A.W. Nieuwenhuis, at the end of the last century. He came from the West, and in addition to scientific research his mission was political, seeking by peaceful means to win the natives to Dutch allegiance. In this he succeeded, though not without difficulty and danger. Although he was considerate and generous, the Penihing chief Blarey, apprehensive of coming evil, twice tried to kill him, a fact of which the doctor probably was not aware at the time. Kwing Iran, the extraordinary Kayan chief, knew of it and evidently prevented the plan from being executed. Blarey did not like to have Europeans come to that country, which belonged to the natives, as he expressed it.

The Penihing kampong, Sungei Lobang, was soon reached. It is newly made, in accordance with the habit of the Dayaks to change the location of their villages every fourteen or fifteen years, and lies on a high bank, or rather a mud-ridge, which falls steeply down on all sides. It was the residence of the chief and the Penihings who brought us here, and if conditions proved favourable I was prepared to make a stay of several weeks in this populous kampong, which consists of several long, well-constructed buildings. The Dayaks assisted in putting up my tent, and of their own accord made a low palisade of bamboo sticks all around it as protection against the roaming pigs and dogs of the place. It proved of excellent service, also keeping away the obnoxious fowls, and during the remainder of my travels this measure of security, which I adopted, added considerably to my comfort. On receiving their payment in the evening the Dayaks went away in bad humour because they had expected that such a tuan besar as I was would give them more than the usual wages allowed when serving the Company, as the government is called. This tuan, they said, had plenty of money to boang (throw) away, and he had also a good heart.

Otherwise, however, these natives were kindly disposed and more attractive than either of the two tribes last visited. In husking rice the Penyahbongs, Saputans, and Penihings have the same method of gathering the grains back again under the pestle with the hands instead of with the feet, as is the custom of the Kenyahs and Kayans. All day there were brought for sale objects of ethnography, also beetles, animals, and birds. Two attractive young girls sold me their primitive necklaces, consisting of small pieces of the stalks of different plants, some of them odoriferous, threaded on a string. One girl insisted that I put hers on and wear it, the idea that it might serve any purpose other than to adorn the neck never occurring to them. Two men arrived from Nohacilat, a neighbouring kampong, to sell two pieces of aboriginal wearing apparel, a tunic and a skirt. Such articles are very plentiful down there, they said, and offered them at an astonishingly reasonable price.

Malay is not spoken here, and we got on as best we could - nevertheless the want of an interpreter was seriously felt. The chief himself spoke some and might have served fairly well, but he studiously remained away from me, and even took most of the men from the kampong to make prahus at another place. I was told that he was afraid of me, and certainly his behaviour was puzzling. Three months later I was enlightened on this point by the information that he had been arrested on account of the murder by spear of a woman and two men, a most unusual occurrence among Dayaks, who, as a rule, never kill any one in their own tribe. With the kampong well-nigh deserted, it soon became evident that nothing was to be gained by remaining and that I would better change the scene of my activities to Long Kai, another Penihing kampong further down the river.

A small garrison had been established there, and by sending a message we secured prahus and men, which enabled us to depart from our present encampment. There were some rapids to pass in which our collector of animals and birds nearly had his prahu swamped, and although it was filled with water, owing to his pluck nothing was lost. At Long Kai the lieutenant and Mr. Loing put up a long shed of tent material, while I placed my tent near friendly trees, at the end of a broad piece of road on the river bank, far enough from the kampong to avoid its noises and near enough to the river to enjoy its pleasant murmur.

When going to their ladangs in the morning the Dayaks passed my tent, thence following the tiny affluent, Kai, from which the kampong received its name. Under the trees I often had interviews with the Penihings, and also with the nomadic Bukats and Punans who had formed settlements in the neighbouring country. Some of them came of their own accord, others were called by Tingang, the kapala of Long Kai, who did good service as interpreter, speaking Malay fairly well. From my tent I had a beautiful view of the river flowing between wooded hills, and the air was often laden with the same delicious fragrance from the bloom of a species of trees which I had observed on the Kasao River. Here, however, the odour lasted hours at a time, especially morning and evening. On the hills of the locality grow many sago palms, to which the natives resort in case rice is scarce.

It was quite agreeable to see a flag again, the symbol of the Dutch nation being hoisted every day on the hill where the military encampment was located, usually called benting (fortress). Even the striking of a bell every half-hour seemed acceptable as a reminder of civilisation. The soldiers were natives, mostly Javanese. The lieutenant, Th. F.J. Metsers, was an amiable and courteous man who loaned me Dutch newspapers, which, though naturally months out of date, nevertheless were much appreciated. We were about 1 north of equator and usually had beautiful, clear nights in the month of May. The Great Bear of the northern hemisphere was visible above the horizon and the planet Venus looked large and impressive. There were no mosquitoes and the air was fine, but at times the heat of the day was considerable, especially before showers. After two days of very warm weather without rain ominous dark clouds gathered in the west, and half an hour later we were in the thick of a downpour and mist which looked as if it might continue for days. But in inland Borneo one knows a rainstorm will soon belong to the past. Two hours later the storm abated and before sunset all was over, and the night came again clear and glorious.

One afternoon seven prahus with thirty-odd Dayaks were seen to arrive from down the river, poling their way. They were Kayans from Long Blu, en route for the Upper Kasao to gather rattan. Some of them called on me and evidently already knew of the expedition. They carried only rice as provisions and told me they intended to be away three months. On the Upper Kasao there is no more rubber to be found, and, according to them, on the upper part of Mahakam there is no more rattan.

The Penihings of Long Kai are good-natured and pleasant, and it was refreshing to be among real, natural people to whom it never occurs that nudity is cause for shame; whom the teaching of the Mohammedan Malays, of covering the upper body, has not yet reached. This unconsciousness of evil made even the old, hard-working women attractive. They were eager to sell me their wares and implements, and hardly left me time to eat. Their houses had good galleries and were more spacious than one would suppose from a casual glance.

One morning I entered the rooms of one of the principal blians, from whom I wanted to buy his shield, used as a musical instrument to accompany his song. The shield looks like the ordinary variety used by all the tribes of the Mahakam and also in Southern Borneo, but has from four to ten rattan strings tied lengthwise on the back. In singing to call good spirits, antohs, especially in case somebody is ill, he constantly beats with a stick on one of the strings in a monotonous way without any change of time. Among the Penihings this shield is specially made for the blian's use, and unless it be new and unused he will not sell it, because the blood of sacrificial animals has been smeared on its surface and the patient would die. The only way I could secure one was by having it made for me, which a blian is quite willing to do.

This man paid little attention to my suggestion of buying, but suddenly, of his own accord, he seized the shield and played on it to show me how it was done. While he sings he keeps his head down behind the shield, which is held in upright position, and he strikes either with right or left hand. He had scarcely performed a minute when a change came over him. He stamped one foot violently upon the floor, ceased playing, and seemed to be in a kind of trance, but recovered himself quickly. A good antoh, one of several who possessed him, had returned to him after an absence and had entered through the top of his head. So strong is the force of auto-suggestion.

It was a matter of considerable interest to me to meet here representatives of two nomadic tribes of Borneo who had formed small settlements in this remote region. I had already made the acquaintance of the Punans in the Bulungan, but as they are very shy I welcomed the opportunity of meeting them on more familiar terms. For more than a generation a small number has been settled at Serrata, six hours walking distance from Long Kai. The other nomads, called Bukats, from the mountains around the headwaters of the Mahakam, have lately established themselves on the river a short distance above its junction with the Kasao; a few also live in the Penihing kampong Nuncilao. These recent converts from nomadic life still raise little paddi, depending mostly upon sago. Through the good offices of the Long Kai kapala people of both tribes were sent for and promptly answered the call. The Punan visitors had a kapala who also was a blian, and they had a female blian too, as had the Bukats.

The Punans are simple-minded, shy, and retiring people, and the other nomads even more so. The first-named are more attractive on account of their superior physique, their candid manners, and somewhat higher intellect. The natural food of both peoples is serpents, lizards, and all kinds of animals and birds, the crocodile and omen birds excepted. With the Bukats, rusa must not be eaten unless one has a child, but with the Punans it is permissible in any case. The meat of pig is often eaten when ten days old, and is preferred to that which is fresh. In this they share the taste of the Dayak tribes I have met, with the exception of the Long-Glats. I have known the odour from putrefying pork to be quite overpowering in a kampong, and still this meat is eaten without any ill effect. Salt is not used unless introduced by Malay traders. And evidently it was formerly not known to the Dayaks.

None of these jungle people steal and they do not lie, although children may do either. They were much afraid of being photographed and most of the Bukats declined. A Bukat woman had tears in her eyes as she stepped forward to be measured, but smiled happily when receiving her rewards of salt, tobacco, and a red handkerchief. It had been worth while to submit to the strange ways of the foreigner.

Both tribes are strictly monogamous and distinguished by the severe view they take of adultery, which, however, seldom occurs. While it is regarded as absolutely no detriment to a young girl to sleep with a young man, matrimonial unfaithfulness is relentlessly punished. Payment of damages is impossible. The injured Punan husband cuts the head from both wife and corespondent and retires to solitude, remaining away for a long time, up to two years. If the husband fails to punish, then the woman's brother must perform the duty of executioner. The Bukats are even more severe. The husband of an erring wife must kill her by cutting off her head, and it is incumbent on her brother to take the head of the husband. At present the Punans and Bukats are relinquishing these customs through fear of the Company.

The Bukats told me that they originally came from the river Blatei in Sarawak, and that Iban raids had had much to do with their movements. According to their reports the tribe had recently, at the invitation of the government, left the mountains and formed several kampongs in the western division. One of them, with short stubby fingers, had a broad Mongolian face and prominent cheek-bones, but not Mongolian eyes, reminding me somewhat of a Laplander.

The Punans and the Bukats have not yet learned to make prahus, but they are experts in the manufacture of sumpitans. They are also clever at mat-making, the men bringing the rattan and the women making the mats. Cutting of the teeth is optional. The gall of the bear is used as medicine internally and externally. In case of fractured bones a crude bandage is made from bamboo sticks with leaves from a certain tree. For curing disease the Punans use strokes of the hand. Neither of these nomadic tribes allow a man present when a woman bears a child. After child-birth women abstain from work four days. When anybody dies the people flee, leaving the corpse to its fate.

Having accomplished as much as circumstances permitted, in the latter part of May we changed our encampment to Long Tjehan, the principal kampong of the Penihings, a little further down the river. On a favourable current the transfer was quickly accomplished. We were received by friendly natives, who came voluntarily to assist in putting up my tent, laying poles on the moist ground, on which the boxes were placed inside. They also made a palisade around it as they had seen it done in Long Kai, for the Dayaks are very adaptable people. Several men here had been to New Guinea and they expressed no desire to return, because there had been much work, and much beri-beri from which some of their comrades had died. One of them had assisted in bringing Doctor Lorenz back after his unfortunate fall down the ravine on Wilhelmina Top.