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

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neighbourhood could not be said to have undergone any material change.
It might, however, be considered an extraordinary feature in it, that a
small hill of blue limestone existed upon the left bank of the river.
The last place at which we had seen limestone was at Yass, but I had
learned from Mr. Whaby, that, together with whinstone, it was abundant
near a Mr. Rose's station on the Dumot, that was not at any great
distance. The irregularity, however, of the intervening country, made
the appearance of this solitary rock more singular.

Although the fires of the natives had been frequent upon the river,
none had, as yet, ventured to approach us, in consequence of some
misunderstanding that had taken place between them and Mr. Stuckey's
stockmen. Mr. Roberts' stockmen [these men had lately fixed themselves
on the river a little below Mr. Whaby's], however, brought a man and a
boy to us at this place in the afternoon, but I could not persuade them
to accompany us on our journey - neither could I, although my native boy
understood them perfectly, gain any particular information from them.

In consequence of rain, we did not strike the tents so early as usual.
At 7 a.m. a heavy thunder storm occurred from the N.W. after which the
sky cleared, and we were enabled to push forward at 11 a.m., moving on
a general W.N.W, course, over rich flats, which, having been moistened
by the morning's showers, showed the dark colour of the rich earth of
which they were composed. Some sand-hills were, however, observed near
the river, of about fifteen feet in elevation, crowned by banksias; and
the soil of the flats had a very partial mixture of sand in it. How
these sand-hills could have been formed it is difficult to say; but
they produced little minor vegetation, and were as pure as the sand of
the sea-shore. Some considerable plains were noticed to our right, in
appearance not inferior to the ground on which we were journeying. At
noon we rose gradually from the level of these plains, and travelled
along the side of a hill, until we got to a small creek, at which we
stopped, though more than a mile and a half from the river. The clouds
had been gathering again in the N.W. quarter, and we had scarcely time
to secure our flour, when a second storm burst upon us, and it
continued to rain violently for the remainder of the day.


From a small hill that lay to our left Mr. M'Leay and I enjoyed a most
beautiful view. Beneath us to the S. E. the rich and lightly timbered
valley through which the Morumbidgee flows, extended, and parts of the
river were visible through the dark masses of swamp-oak by which it was
lined, or glittering among the flooded-gum trees, that grew in its
vicinity. In the distance was an extensive valley that wound between
successive mountain ranges. More to the eastward, both mountain and
woodland bore a dark and gloomy shade, probably in consequence of the
light upon them at the time. Those lofty peaks that had borne nearly
south of us from Pouni, near Yass, now rose over the last-mentioned
ranges, and by their appearance seemed evidently to belong to a high
and rugged chain. To the westward, the decline of country was more
observable than ever; and the hills on both sides of the river, were
lower and more distant from it. Those upon which we found ourselves
were composed of iron-stone, were precipitous towards the river in many
places, of sandy soil, and were crowned with beef-wood as well as box.
The change in the rock-formation and in the soil, produced a
corresponding change in the vegetation. The timber was not so large as
it had been, neither did the hills any longer bear the green appearance
which had distinguished those we had passed to their very summits. The
grass here grew in tufts amidst the sand, and was of a burnt appearance
as if it had suffered from drought.


Some natives had joined us in the morning, and acted as our guides; or
it is more than probable that we should have continued our course along
the river, and got enbarrassed among impediments that were visible from
our elevated position; for it was evident that the range we had
ascended terminated in an abrupt precipice on the river, that we could
not have passed. The blacks suffered beyond what I could have imagined,
from cold, and seemed as incapable of enduring it as if they had
experienced the rigour of a northern snow storm.

The morning of the 2nd December was cloudy and lowering, and the wind
still hung in the N.W. There was truly every appearance of bad weather,
but our anxiety to proceed on our journey overcame our apprehensions,
and the animals were loaded and moved off at 7 a.m. The rain which had
fallen the evening previous, rendered travelling heavy; so that we got
on but slowly. At 11, the clouds burst, and continued to pour down for
the rest of the day. On leaving the creek we crossed the spine of the
range, and descending from it into a valley, that continued to the
river on the one hand, and stretched away to the N.W. on the other, we
ascended some hills opposite to us, and moved generally through open,
undulating forest ground, affording good pasturage.


One of the blacks being anxious to get an opossum out of a dead tree,
every branch of which was hollow, asked for a tomahawk, with which he
cut a hole in the trunk above where he thought the animal lay
concealed. He found however, that he had cut too low, and that it had
run higher up. This made it necessary to smoke it out; he accordingly
got some dry grass, and having kindled a fire, stuffed it into the hole
he had cut. A raging fire soon kindled in the tree, where the draft was
great, and dense columns of smoke issued from the end of each branch as
thick as that from the chimney of a steam engine. The shell of the tree
was so thin that I thought it would soon be burnt through, and that the
tree would fall; but the black had no such fears, and, ascending to the
highest branch, he watched anxiously for the poor little wretch he had
thus surrounded with dangers and devoted to destruction; and no sooner
did it appear, half singed and half roasted, than he seized upon it and
threw it down to us with an air of triumph. The effect of the scene in
so lonely a forest, was very fine. The roaring of the fire in the tree,
the fearless attitude of the savage, and the associations which his
colour and appearance, enveloped as he was in smoke, called up, were
singular, and still dwell on my recollection. We had not long left the
tree, when it fell with a tremendous crash, and was, when we next
passed that way, a mere heap of ashes.


Shortly before it commenced raining, the dogs started an emu, and took
after it, followed by M'Leay and myself. We failed in killing it, and I
was unfortunate enough to lose a most excellent watch upon the
occasion, which in regularity was superior to the chronometer I had
with me.

As there was no hope of the weather clearing up, I sent M'Leay and one
of the blacks with the flour to the river, with directions to pile it
up and cover it with tarpaulins, as soon as possible, remaining myself
to bring up the drays. It was not, however, until after 4 p.m. that we
gained the river-side, or that we were enabled to get into shelter.
Fraser met with a sad accident while assisting the driver of the teams,
who, accidentally, struck him with the end of the lash of his whip in
the eye, and cut the lower lid in two. The poor fellow fell to the
ground as if he had been shot, and really, from the report of the whip,
I was at first uncertain of the nature of the accident.


We had gradually ascended some hills; and as the sweep of the valley
led southerly, we continued along it until we got to its very head;
then, crossing the ridge we descended the opposite side, towards a
beautiful plain, on the further extremity of which the river line was
marked by the dark-leafed casuarina. In spite of the badness of the
weather and the misfortunes of the day, I could not but admire the
beauty of the scene. We were obliged to remain stationary the following
day, in consequence of one of the drays being out of repair, and
requiring a new axle-tree. I could hardly regret the necessity that
kept us in so delightful a spot. This plain, which the natives called
Pondebadgery, and in which a station has since been formed, is about
two miles in breadth, by about three and a-half in length. It is
surrounded apparently on every side by hills. The river running E. and
W. forms its southern boundary. The hills by which we had entered it,
terminating abruptly on the river to the north-east, form a semi-circle
round it to the N.N.W. where a valley, the end of which cannot be seen,
runs to the north-west, of about half a mile in breadth. On the
opposite side of the river moderate hills rise over each other, and
leave little space between them and its banks. The Morumbidgee itself,
with an increased breadth, averaging from seventy to eighty yards,
presents a still, deep sheet of water to the view, over which the
casuarina bends with all the grace of the willow, or the birch, but
with more sombre foliage. To the west, a high line of flooded-gum trees
extending from the river to the base of the hills which form the west
side of the valley before noticed, hides the near elevations, and thus
shuts in the whole space. The soil of the plain is of the richest
description, and the hills backing it, together with the valley, are
capable of depasturing the most extensive flocks.

Such is the general landscape from the centre of Pondebadgery Plain.
Behind the line of gum-trees, the river suddenly sweeps away to the
south, and forms a deep bight of seven miles, when, bearing up again to
the N.W. it meets some hills about 10 miles to the W.N.W. of the plain,
thus encircling a still more extensive space, that for richness of
soil, and for abundance of pasture, can nowhere be excelled; such,
though on a smaller scale, are all the flats that adorn the banks of
the Morumbidgee, first on one side and then on the other, as the hills
close in upon them, from Juggiong to Pondebadgery.


It is deeply to be regretted that this noble river should exist at such
a distance from the capital as to be unavailable. During our stay on
the Pondebadgery Plain, the men caught a number of codfish, as they are
generally termed, but which are, in reality, a species of perch. The
largest weighed 40lb. but the majority of the others were small, not
exceeding from six to eight. M'Leay and I walked to the N.W. extremity
of the plain, in order to ascertain how we should debouche from it, and
to get, if possible, a view of the western interior. We took with us
two blacks who had attached themselves to the party, and had made
themselves generally useful. On ascending the most westerly of the
hills, we found it composed of micaceous schist, the upper coat of
which was extremely soft, and broke with a slaty fracture, or crumbled
into a sparkling dust beneath our feet. The summit of the hill was
barren, and beef-wood alone grew on it. The valley, of which it was the
western boundary, ran up northerly for two or three miles, with all the
appearance of richness and verdure. To the south extended the flat I
have noticed, more heavily timbered than we had usually found them,
bounded, or backed rather, by a hilly country, although one fast losing
in its general height. To the W.N.W. there was a moderate range of
hills on the opposite side of an extensive valley, running up
northerly, from which a lateral branch swept round to the W.N.W. with a
gradual ascent into the hills, which bore the same appearance of open
forest, grazing land, as prevailed in similar tracts to the eastward.
The blacks pointed out to us our route up the valley, and stated that
we should get on the banks of the river again in a direction W. by N.
from the place on which we stood. We accordingly crossed the principal
valley on the following morning, and gradually ascended the opposite
line of hills. They terminate to the S.E. in lofty precipices,
overlooking the river flats, and having a deep chain of ponds under
them. The descent towards the river was abrupt, and we encamped upon
its banks, with a more confined view than any we had ever had before.
There was an evident change in the river; the banks were reedy, the
channel deep and muddy, and the neighbourhood bore more the appearance
of being subject to overflow than it had done in any one place we had
passed over. The hills were much lower, and as we gained the southern
brow of that under which we encamped, we could see a level and wooded
country to the westward. The line of the horizon was unbroken by any
hills in the distance, and the nearer ones seemed gradually to lose
themselves in the darkness of the landscape.

The two natives, whom the stockmen had named Peter and Jemmie, were of
infinite service to us, from their knowledge of all the passes, and the
general features of the country. Having, however, seen us thus far on
the journey from their usual haunts, they became anxious to return, and
it was with some difficulty we persuaded them to accompany us for a few
days longer, in hopes of reward. The weather had been cool and
pleasant; the thermometer averaging 78 of Fahrenheit at noon, in
consequences of which the animals kept in good condition, the men
healthy and zealous. The sheep Mr. O'Brien had presented to us, gave no
additional trouble; they followed in the rear of the party without
attempting to wander, and were secured at night in a small pen or fold.
No waste attended their slaughter, nor did they lose in condition, from
being driven from ten to fifteen miles daily, so much as I had been led
to suppose they would have done.


Character of the Morumbidgee where it issues from the hilly
country - Appearance of approach to swamps - Hamilton Plains - Intercourse
with the natives - Their appearance, customs, &c. - Change in the
character of the river - Mirage - Dreariness of the country - Ride towards
the Lachlan river - Two boats built and launched on the Morumbidgee; and
the drays, with part of the men sent back to Goulburn Plains.


From our camp, the Morumbidgee held a direct westerly course for about
three miles. The hills under which we had encamped, rose so close upon
our right as to leave little space between them and the river. At the
distance of three miles, however, they suddenly terminated, and the
river changed its direction to the S.W., while a chain of ponds
extended to the westward, and separated the alluvial flats from a
somewhat more elevated plain before us. We kept these ponds upon our
left for some time, but, as they ultimately followed the bend of the
river, we left them. The blacks led us on a W. by S. course to the base
of a small range two or three miles distant, near which there was a
deep lagoon. It was evident they here expected to have found some other
natives. Being disappointed, however, they turned in towards the river
again, but we stopped short of it on the side of a serpentine sheet of
water, an apparent continuation of the chain of ponds we had left
behind us, forming a kind of ditch round the S.W. extremity of the
range, parallel to which we had continued to travel. This range, which
had been gradually decreasing in height from the lagoon, above which it
rose perpendicularly, might almost be said to terminate here. We fell
in with two or three natives before we halted, but the evident want of
population in so fine a country, and on so noble a river, surprised me
extremely. We saw several red kangaroos in the course of the day, and
succeeded in killing one. It certainly is a beautiful animal, ranging
the wilds in native freedom. The female and the kid are of a light
mouse-colour. Wild turkeys abound on this part of the Morumbidgee, but
with the exception of a few terns, which are found hovering over the
lagoons, no new birds had as yet been procured; and the only plant that
enriched our collection, was an unknown metrosideros. In crossing the
extremity of the range, the wheels of the dray sunk deep into a
yielding and coarse sandy soil, of decomposed granite, on which
forest-grass prevailed in tufts, which, being far apart, made the
ground uneven, and caused the animals to trip. We rose at one time
sufficiently high to obtain an extensive view, and had our opinions
confirmed as to the level nature of the country we were so rapidly
approaching. From the N. to the W.S.W. the eye wandered over a wooded
and unbroken interior, if I except a solitary double hill that rose in
the midst of it, bearing S. 82 degrees W. distant 12 miles, and another
singular elevation that bore S. 32 degrees W. called by the natives,
Kengal. The appearance to the E.S.E. was still that of a mountainous
country, while from the N.E., the hills gradually decrease in height,
until lost in the darkness of surrounding objects to the northward. We
did not travel this day more than 13 miles on a W. by N. course. The
Morumbidgee, where we struck it, by its increased size, kept alive our
anticipations of its ultimately leading us to some important point. The
partial rains that had fallen while we were on its upper branch, had
swollen it considerably, and it now rolled along a vast body of water
at the rate of three miles an hour, preserving a medium width of 150
feet; its banks retaining a height far above the usual level of the
stream. A traveller who had never before descended into the interior of
New Holland, would have spurned the idea of such a river terminating in
marshes; but with the experience of the former journey, strong as hope
was within my breast, I still feared it might lose itself in the vast
flat upon which we could scarcely be said to have yet entered. The
country was indeed taking up more and more every day the features of
the N.W. interior. Cypresses were observed upon the minor ridges, and
the soil near the river, although still rich, and certainly more
extensive than above, was occasionally mixed with sand, and scattered
over with the claws of crayfish and shells, indicating its greater
liability to be flooded; nor indeed could I entertain a doubt that the
river had laid a great part of the levels around us under water long
after it found that channel in which nature intended ultimately to
confine it. We killed another fine red kangaroo in the early part of
the day, in galloping after which I got a heavy fall.

The two blacks who had been with us so long, and who had not only
exerted themselves to assist us, but had contributed in no small degree
to our amusement, though they had from M'Leay's liberality, tasted all
the dainties with which we had provided ourselves, from sugar to
concentrated cayenne, intimated that they could no longer accompany the
party. They had probably got to the extremity of their beat, and dared
not venture any further. They left us with evident regret, receiving,
on their departure, several valuable presents, in the shape of
tomahawks &c. The last thing they did was to point out the way to us,
and to promise to join us on our return, although they evidently little
anticipated ever seeing us again.

In pursuing our journey, we entered a forest, consisting of box-trees,
casuarinae, and cypresses, on a light sandy soil, in which both horses
and bullocks sunk so deep that their labour was greatly increased, more
especially as the weather had become much warmer. At noon I altered my
course from N.W. by W. to W.N.W., and reached the Morumbidgee at 3 in
the afternoon. The flats bordering it were extensive and rich, and,
being partially mixed with sand, were more fitted for agricultural
purposes than the stiffer and purer soil amidst the mountains; but the
interior beyond them was far from being of corresponding quality. We
crossed several plains on which vegetation was scanty, probably owing
to the hardness of the soil, which was a stiff loamy clay, and which
must check the growth of plants, by preventing the roots from striking
freely into it. The river where we stopped for the night appeared to
have risen considerably, and the fish were rolling about on the surface
of the water with a noise like porpoises. No elevations were visible,
so that I had not an opportunity of continuing the chain of survey with
the points I had previously taken.


As we proceeded down the river on the 8th, the flats became still more
extensive than they had ever been, and might almost be denominated
plains. Vegetation was scanty upon them, although the soil was of the
first quality. About nine miles from our camp, we struck on a small
isolated hill, that could scarcely have been of 200 feet elevation;
yet, depressed as it was, the view from its summit was very extensive,
and I was surprised to find that we were still in some measure
surrounded by high lands, of which I took the following bearings,
connected with the present ones.

A High Peak.....N. 66 E. distance 40 miles.
Kengal ........ N. 110 E. distant.
Double Hill ... S. 10 W. distant.

To the north, there were several fires burning, which appeared rather
the fires of natives, than conflagrations, and as the river had made a
bend to the N.N.W., I doubted not that they were upon its banks. From
this hill, which was of compact granite, we struck away to the W.N.W.,
and shortly afterwards crossed some remarkable sand-hills. Figuratively
speaking, they appeared like islands amidst the alluvial deposits, and
were as pure in their composition as the sand on the sea-shore. They
were generally covered with forest grass, in tufts, and a coarse kind
of rushes, under banksias and cypresses. We found a small fire on the
banks of the river, and close to it the couch and hut of a solitary
native, who had probably seen us approach, and had fled. There cannot
be many inhabitants hereabouts, since there are no paths to indicate
that they frequent this part of the Morumbidgee more at one season than

On the 9th, the river fell off again to the westward, and we lost a
good deal of the northing we had made the day before. We journeyed
pretty nearly equidistant from the stream, and kept altogether on the
alluvial flats. As we were wandering along the banks of the river, a
black started up before us, and swam across to the opposite side, where
he immediately hid himself. We could by no means induce him to show
himself; he was probably the lonely being whom we had scared away from
the fire the day before. In the afternoon, however we surprised a
family of six natives, and persuaded them to follow us to our halting
place. My boy understood them well; but the young savage had the
cunning to hide the information they gave him, or, for aught I know, to
ask questions that best suited his own purposes, and therefore we
gained little intelligence from them.

Every day now produced some change in the face of the country, by which
it became more and more assimilated to that I had traversed during the
first expedition. Acacia pendula now made its appearance on several
plains beyond the river deposits, as well as that salsolaceous class of
plants, among which the schlerolina and rhagodia are so remarkable. The
natives left us at sunset, but returned early in the morning with an
extremely facetious and good-humoured old man, who volunteered to act
as our guide without the least hesitation. There was a cheerfulness in
his manner, that gained our confidence at once, and rendered him a
general favourite. He went in front with the dogs, and led us a little
away from the river to kill kangaroos, as he said. At about two miles
we struck on an inconsiderable elevation, which the party crossed at
the S.W. extremity. I ascended it at the opposite end, but although the
view was extensive, I could not make out the little hill of granite
from which I had taken my former bearings, and the only elevation I
could recognise as connected with them, was one about ten miles
distant, bearing S. 168 W. I could observe very distant ranges to the
E.N.E. and immediately below me in that direction, there was a large
clear plain, skirted by acacia pendula, stretching from S.S.E. to
N.N.W. The crown and ridges of the hill on which I stood, were barren,
stony, and covered with beef-wood, the rock-formation being a coarse
granite. The drays had got so far ahead of me that I did not overtake
them before they had halted on the river at a distance of ten miles.


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Online LibraryCharles SturtTwo Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia — Volume 2 → online text (page 3 of 18)