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Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia — Volume 2 online

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in the delay that the necessity of unloading the dray, and reloading
it, occasioned. Mr. O'Brien, an enterprising settler, who had pushed
his flocks to the banks of the Morumbidgee, and who was proceeding to
visit his several stations, overtook us in the midst of our troubles.
We had already passed each other frequently on the road, but he now
preceded me to his establishment at Yass; at which I proposed remaining
for a day. We stopped about three miles short of the plains for the
night, at the gorge of the pass through which we had latterly been
advancing, and had gradually descended to a more open country. From the
place at which we were temporarily delayed, and which is not
inappropriately called the Devil's Pass, the road winds about between
ranges, differing in every respect from any we had as yet noticed. The
sides of the hills were steeper, and their summits sharper, than any we
had crossed. They were thickly covered with eucalypti and brush, and,
though based upon sandstone, were themselves of a schistose formation.


Yharr or Yass Plains were discovered by Mr. Hovel, and Mr. Hume, the
companion of my journey down the Macquarie, in 1828. They take their
name from the little river that flows along their north and north-west
boundaries. They are surrounded on every side by forests, and excepting
to the W.N.W., as a central point, by hill. Undulating, but naked
themselves, they have the appearance of open downs, and are most
admirably adapted for sheep-walks, not only in point of vegetation, but
also, because their inequalities prevent their becoming swampy during
the rainy season. They are from nine to twelve miles in length, and
from five to seven in breadth, and although large masses of sandstone
are scattered over them, a blue secondary limestone composes the
general bed of the river, that was darker in colour and more compact
than I had remarked the same kind of rock, either at Wellington Valley,
or in the Shoal Haven Gully. I have no doubt that Yass Plains will ere
long be wholly taken up as sheep-walks, and that their value to the
grazier will in a great measure counterbalance its distance from the
coast, or, more properly speaking, from the capital. Sheep I should
imagine would thrive uncommonly well upon these plains, and would
suffer less from distempers incidental to locality and to climate, than
in many parts of the colony over which they are now wandering in
thousands. And if the plains themselves do not afford extensive arable
tracts, there is, at least, sufficient good land near the river to
supply the wants of a numerous body of settlers.


We left Mr. O'Brien's station on the morning of the 21st, and,
agreeably to his advice, determined on gaining the Morumbidgee, by a
circuit to the N.W., rather than endanger the safety of the drays by
entering the mountain passes to the westward. Mr. O'Brien, however,
would not permit us to depart from his dwelling without taking away
with us some further proofs of his hospitality. The party had pushed
forward before I, or Mr. M'Leay, had mounted our horses; but on
overtaking it, we found that eight fine wethers had been added to our
stock of animals.


To the W.N.W. of Yass Plains there is a remarkable hill, called Pouni,
remarkable not so much on account of its height, as of its commanding
position. It had, I believe, already been ascended by one of the
Surveyor-general's assistants. The impracticability of the country to
the south of it, obliged us to pass under its opposite base, from which
an open forest country extended to the northward. We had already
recrossed the Yass River, and passed Mr. Barber's station, to that of
Mr. Hume's father, at which we stopped for a short time. Both farms are
well situated, the latter I should say, romantically so, it being
immediately under Pouni, the hill we have noticed. The country around
both was open, and both pasture and water were abundant.

Mr. O'Brien had been kind enough to send one of the natives who
frequented his station to escort us to his more advanced station upon
the Morumbidgee. Had it not been for the assistance we received from
this man, I should have had but little leisure for other duties: as it
was however, there was no fear of the party going astray. This gave
M'Leay and myself an opportunity of ascending Pouni, for the purpose of
taking bearings; and how ever warm the exertion of the ascent made us,
the view from the summit of the hill sufficiently repaid us, and the
cool breeze that struck it, although imperceptible in the forest below,
soon dried the perspiration from our brows. The scenery around us was
certainly varied, yet many parts of it put me forcibly in mind of the
dark and gloomy tracks over which my eye had wandered from similar
elevations on the former journey. This was especially the case in
looking to the north, towards which point the hills forming the right
of the valley by which we had entered the plains, decreased so rapidly
in height that they were lost in the general equality of the more
remote country, almost ere they had reached abreast of my position.
From E.S.E. to W.S.W. the face of the country was hilly, broken and
irregular; forming deep ravines and precipitous glens, amid which I was
well aware the Morumbidgee was still struggling for freedom; while
mountains succeeded mountains in the back-ground, and were themselves
overtopped by lofty and very distant peaks. To the eastward, however,
the hills wore a more regular form, and were lightly covered with wood.
The plains occupied the space between them and Pouni; and a smaller
plain bore N.N.E. which, being embosomed in the forest, had hitherto
escaped our notice.

We overtook the party just as it cleared the open ground through which
it had previously been moving. A barren scrub succeeded it for about
eight miles. The soil in this scrub was light and sandy.

We stopped for the night at the head of a valley that seemed to have
been well trodden by cattle. The feed, therefore, was not abundant, nor
was the water good. We had, however, made a very fair journey, and I
was unwilling to press the animals. But in consequence, I fancy, of the
scarcity of food, they managed to creep away during the night, with the
exception of three or four of the bullocks, nor should we have
collected them again so soon as we did, or without infinite trouble,
had it not been for our guide and my black boy. We unavoidably lost a
day, but left our position on the 23rd, for Underaliga, a station
occupied by Doctor Harris, the gentleman I have already had occasion to
mention. We reached the banks of the creek near the stock hut, about 4
p.m., having journeyed during the greater part of the day through a
poor country, partly of scrub and partly of open forest-land, in
neither of which was the soil or vegetation fresh or abundant. At about
three miles from Underaliga, the country entirely changed its
character, and its flatness was succeeded by a broken and undulating
surface. The soil upon the hills was coarse and sandy, from the
decomposition of the granite rock that constituted their base.
Nevertheless, the grass was abundant on the hills, though the roots or
tufts were far apart; and the hills were lightly studded with trees.


In the course of the day we crossed the line of a hurricane that had
just swept with resistless force over the country, preserving a due
north course, and which we had heard from a distance, fortunately too
great to admit of its injuring us. It had opened a fearful gap in the
forest through which it had passed, of about a quarter of a mile in
breadth. Within that space, no tree had been able to withstand its
fury, for it had wrenched every bough from such as it had failed to
prostrate, and they stood naked in the midst of the surrounding wreck.
I am inclined to think that the rudeness of nature itself in these wild
and uninhabited regions, gives birth to these terrific phenomena. They
have never occurred, so far as I know, in the located districts. Our
guide deserted us in the early part of the day without assigning any
reason for doing so. He went off without being noticed, and thus lost
the reward that would have been bestowed on him had he mentioned his
wish to return to Yass. I the more regretted his having sneaked off,
because he had had the kindness to put us on a track we could not well


Underaliga, is said to be thirty miles from the Morumbidgee. The
country between the two has a sameness of character throughout. It is
broken and irregular, yet no one hill rises conspicuously over the
rest. We found ourselves at one time on their summits beside huge
masses of granite, at others crossing valleys of rich soil and green
appearance. A country under cultivation is so widely different from one
the sod of which has never been broken by the plough, that it is
difficult and hazardous to form a decided opinion on the latter. If you
ask a stockman what kind of a country lies, either to his right, or to
his left, he is sure to condemn it, unless it will afford the most
abundant pasture. Accustomed to roam about from one place to another,
these men despise any but the richest tracts, and include the rest of
the neighbourhood in one sweeping clause of condemnation. Thus I was
led to expect, that we should pass over a country of the very worst
description, between Underaliga and the Morumbidgee. Had it been
similar to that midway between Yass and Underaliga, we should, in
truth, have found it so; but it struck me, that there were many rich
tracts of ground among the valleys of the former, and that the very
hills had a fair covering of grass upon them. What though the soil was
coarse, if the vegetation was good and sufficient? Perhaps the greatest
drawback to this part of the interior is the want of water; yet we
crossed several creeks, and remarked some deep water holes, that can
never be exhausted, even in the driest season. Wherever the situation
favoured our obtaining a view of the country on either side of us,
while among these hills, we found that to the eastward lofty and
mountainous; whilst that to the westward, had the appearance of fast
sinking into a level.


A short time before we reached the Morumbidgee, we forded a creek,
which we crossed a second time where it falls into the river. After
crossing it the first time we opened a flat, on which the marks of
sheep were abundant. In the distance there was a small hill, and on its
top a bark hut. We were not until then aware of our being so near the
river, but as Mr. O'Brien had informed me that he had a station for
sheep, at a place called Juggiong, by the natives, on the immediate
banks of the river, I did not doubt that we had, at length, arrived at
it. And so it proved. I went to the hut, to ascertain where I could
conveniently stop for the night, but the residents were absent. I could
not but admire the position they had taken up. The hill upon which
their hut was erected was not more than fifty feet high, but it
immediately overlooked the river, and commanded not only the flat we
had traversed in approaching it, but also a second flat on the opposite
side. The Morumbidgee came down to the foot of this little hill from
the south, and, of course, running to the north, which latter direction
it suddenly takes up from a previous S.W. one, on meeting some hills
that check its direct course. From the hill on which the hut stands, it
runs away westward, almost in a direct line, for three miles, so that
the position commands a view of both the reaches, which are overhung by
the casuarina and flooded-gum. Rich alluvial flats lie to the right of
the stream, backed by moderate hills, that were lightly studded with
trees, and clothed with verdure to their summits. Some moderate
elevations also backed a flat, on the left bank of the river, but the
colour of the soil upon the latter, as well as its depressed situation,
showed clearly that it was subject to flood, and had received the worst
of the depositions from the mountains. The hills behind it were also
bare, and of a light red colour, betraying, as I imagined, a distinct
formation from, and poorer character than, the hills behind us. At
about three miles the river again suddenly changes its direction from
west to south, for about a mile, when it inclines to the S.E. until it
nearly encircles the opposite hills, when it assumes its proper
direction, and flows away to the S.W.


We crossed the Underaliga creek a little below the stock hut, and
encamped about a mile beyond it, in the centre of a long plain. We were
surrounded on every side by hills, from which there was no visible
outlet, as they appeared to follow the bend of the river, with an even
and unbroken outline. The scenery around us was wild, romantic, and
beautiful; as beautiful as a rich and glowing sunset in the most
delightful climate under the heavens could make it. I had been more
anxious to gain the banks of the Morumbidgee on this occasion, than I
had been on a former one to gain those of the Macquarie, for although I
could not hope to see the Morumbidgee all that it had been described to
me, yet I felt that on its first appearance I should in some measure
ground my anticipations of ultimate success. When I arrived on the
banks of the Macquarie, it had almost ceased to flow, and its current
was so gentle as to be scarcely perceptible. Instead, however, of a
river in such a state of exhaustion, I now looked down upon a stream,
whose current it would have been difficult to breast, and whose waters,
foaming among rocks, or circling in eddies, gave early promise of a
reckless course. It must have been somewhat below its ordinary level,
and averaged a breadth of about 80 feet. Its waters were hard and
transparent, and its bed was composed of mountain debris, and large
fragments of rock. As soon as the morning dawned, the tents were struck
and we pursued our journey. We followed the line of the river, until we
found ourselves in a deep bight to the S.E. The hills that had been
gradually closing in upon the river, now approached it so nearly, that
there was no room for the passage of the drays. We were consequently
obliged to turn back, and, moving along the base of the ranges, by
which we were thus apparently enclosed, we at length found a steep
pass, the extreme narrowness of which had hidden it from our
observation. By this pass we were now enabled to effect our escape. On
gaining the summit of the hills, we travelled south for three or four
miles, through open forests, and on level ground. But we ultimately
descended into a valley in which we halted for the night. On a closer
examination of the neighbourhood, it appeared that our position was at
the immediate junction of two valleys, where, uniting the waters of
their respective creeks, the main branch declines rapidly towards the
river. One of these valleys extended to to the S.W., the other to the
W.N.W. It was evident to us that our route lay up the former; and I
made no doubt we should easily reach Whaby's station on the morrow.


We were now far beyond the acknowledged limits of the located parts of
the colony, and Mr. Whaby's station was the last at which we could
expect even the casual supply of milk or other trifling relief. Yet,
although the prospect of so soon leaving even the outskirts of
civilization, and being wholly thrown on our own resources, was so
near, it never for a moment weighed upon the minds of the men. The
novelty of the scenery, and the beauty of the river on which they were
journeying, excited in them the liveliest anticipations of success. The
facility with which we had hitherto pushed forward blinded them to
future difficulties, nor could there be a more cheerful spectacle than
that which the camp daily afforded. The animals browzing in the
distance, and the men talking over their pipes of the probable
adventures they might encounter. The loads had by this time settled
properly, and our provisions proved of the very best quality, so that
no possible improvement could have been made for the better.


On the morrow we pushed up the southernmost of the valleys, at the
junction of which we had encamped, having moderate hills on either side
of us. At the head of the valley we crossed a small dividing range into
another valley, and halted for the night, on the banks of a creek from
the westward, as we found it impossible to reach Whaby's station, as we
had intended, before sunset. Nothing could exceed the luxuriance of the
vegetation in this valley, but the water of the creek was so
impregnated with iron, as to be almost useless. Being anxious to obtain
a view of the surrounding country, I ascended a hill behind the camp,
just as the sun was sinking, a time the most favourable for the object
I had in view. The country, broken into hill and dale, seemed richer
than any tract I had as yet surveyed; and the beauty of the near
landscape was greatly heightened by the mountainous scenery to the S.
and S.E. Both the laxmania, and zanthorea were growing around me; but
neither appeared to be in congenial soil. The face of the hill was very
stony, and I found, on examination, that a great change had taken place
in the rock-formation, the granite ranges having given place to
chlorite schist.

We reached Whaby's about 9 a.m. of the morning of the 27th, and
received every attention and civility from him. The valley in which we
had slept opened upon an extensive plain, to the eastward of which the
Morumbidgee formed the extreme boundary; and it was in a bight, and on
ground rather elevated above the plain, that he had fixed his
residence. He informed me that we should have to cross the river, as
its banks were too precipitous, and the ranges too abrupt, to admit of
our keeping the right side; and recommended me to examine and fix upon
a spot at which to cross, before I again moved forward, expressing his
readiness to accompany me as a guide. We accordingly rode down the
river, to a place at which some stockman had effected a passage, - after
a week's labour in hewing out a canoe. I by no means intended that a
similar delay should occur in our case, but I saw no objection to our
crossing at the same place; since its depth, and consequent
tranquillity, rendered it eligible enough for that purpose.


The Dumot river, another mountain stream, joins the Morumbidgee
opposite to Mr. Whaby's residence. It is little inferior to the latter
either in size or in the rapidity of its current, and, if I may rely on
the information I received, waters a finer country, the principal
rock-formation upon it being of limestone and whinstone. It rises
amidst the snowy ranges to the S.E., and its banks are better peopled
than those of the stream into which it discharges itself. Of course,
such a tributary enlarges the Morumbidgee considerably: indeed, the
fact is sufficiently evident from the appearance of the latter below
the junction.

During our ride with Whaby down its banks, we saw nothing but the
richest flats, almost entirely clear of timber and containing from 400
to 700 acres, backed by ranges that were but partially wooded, and were
clothed with verdure to their very summits. The herds that were
scattered over the first were almost lost in the height of the
vegetation, and the ranges served as natural barriers to prevent them
from straying away.


On the following morning, we started for the place at which it had been
arranged that we should cross the Morumbidgee, but, though no more than
five miles in a direct line from Whaby's house, in consequence of the
irregularity of the ground, the drays did not reach it before noon. The
weight and quantity of our stores being taken into consideration, the
task we had before us was not a light one. Such, however, was the
industry of the men, that before it became dark the whole of them,
including the drays and sheep, were safely deposited on the opposite
bank. We were enabled to be thus expeditious, by means of a punt that
we made with the tarpaulins on an oblong frame. As soon as it was
finished, a rope was conveyed across the river, and secured to a tree,
and a running cord being then fastened to the punt, a temporary ferry
was established, and the removal of our stores rendered comparatively
easy. M'Leay undertook to drive the horses and cattle over a ford below
us, but he did not calculate on the stubborn disposition of the latter,
and, consequently, experienced some difficulty, and was well nigh swept
away by the current. So great was his difficulty, that he was obliged
to land, to his great discomfiture, amidst a grove of lofty nettles.
Mulholland, who accompanied him, and who happened to be naked, was
severly stung by them. The labour of the day was, however,
satisfactorily concluded, and we lay down to rest with feelings of
entire satisfaction.

A great part of the following day was consumed in reloading, nor did we
pursue our journey until after two o'clock. We then passed over tracks
on the left of the river of the same rich description that existed on
its right; they were much intersected by creeks, but were clear of
timber, and entirely out of the reach of floods. At about seven miles
from where we started, we found ourselves checked by precipitous rocks
jutting into the stream, and were obliged once more to make
preparations for crossing it. Instead of a deep and quiet reach,
however, the Morumbidgee here expanded into a fretful rapid; but it was
sufficiently shallow to admit of our taking the drays over, without the
trouble of unloading them. There was still, however, some labour
required in cutting down the banks, and the men were fully occupied
until after sunset; and so well did they work, that an hour's exertion
in the morning enabled us to make the passage with safety. On ascending
the right bank, we found that we had to force through a dense body of
reeds, covering some flooded land, at the base of a range terminating
upon the river; and we were obliged, in order to extricate ourselves
from our embarrassments, to pass to the N.W. of the point, and to cross
a low part of the range. This done, we met with no further
interruptions during the day, but travelled along rich and clear flats
to a deep bight below an angle of the river called Nangaar by the
natives; where we pitched our camp, and our animals revelled amid the
most luxuriant pasture. Only in one place did the sandy superficies
upon the plain indicate that it was there subject to flood.

The Morumbidgee from Juggiong to our present encampment had held a
general S.S.W. course, but from the summit of a hill behind the tents
it now appeared to be gradually sweeping round to the westward; and I
could trace the line of trees upon its banks, through a rich and
extensive valley in that direction, as far as my sight could reach. The
country to the S.E. maintained its lofty character, but to the westward
the hills and ranges were evidently decreasing in height, and the
distant interior seemed fast sinking to a level. The general direction
of the ranges had been from N. to S., and as we had been travelling
parallel to them, their valleys were shut from our view. Now, however,
several rich and extensive ones became visible, opening from the
southward into the valley of the Morumbidgee, and, as a further
evidence of a change of country from a confused to a more open one, a
plain of considerable size stretched from immediately beneath the hill
on which I was to the N.W.


The Morumbidgee itself, from the length and regularity of its reaches,
as well as from its increased size, seemed to intimate that it had
successfully struggled through the broken country in which it rises,
and that it would henceforward meet with fewer interruptions to its
course. It still, however, preserved all the characters of a mountain
stream; having alternate rapids and deep pools, being in many places
encumbered with fallen timber, and generally running over a shingly
bed, composed of rounded fragments of every rock of which the
neighbouring ranges were formed, and many others that had been swept by
the torrents down it. The rock formation of the hills upon its right
continued of that chlorite schist which prevailed near Mr. Whaby's,
which I have already noticed, and quartz still appeared in large
masses, on the loftier ranges opposite, so that the geology of the

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Online LibraryCharles SturtTwo Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia — Volume 2 → online text (page 2 of 18)