6 – 20 May

May 6.

The chief of the new tribe had ordered a man to accompany us as guide, but after going a mile or two he fell back and left us; and we were thus compelled again to depend on the information of the gin for the situation of water. I regretted exceedingly the defection of this envoy, by whose means I hoped to have been passed from tribe to tribe.

The grass had improved very much on the banks of the Lachlan. A vast plain of very firm surface extended southward, but not a tree was visible upon it, while on our side the country was wooded in long stripes of trees.

WALJEERS LAKE.

About seven miles from the camp the river, the general course of which had been for several days about south-west, turned southward; and we came in sight of Waljeers. The natives had for some days told us of Waljeers, which proved to be the bed of a lake nearly circular and about four miles in circumference. It was perfectly dry, but in wet seasons it must be a fine sheet of water. As we approached its banks I observed that the surface, which was somewhat elevated above the country nearer the river, consisted of firm red soil with large bushes of atriplex, mesembryanthemum, and other shrubs peculiar to that kind of surface, which is so common on the left bank of the Bogan.

TRIGONELLA SUAVISSIMA.

The whole expanse of the lake was at this time covered with the richest verdure and the perfumed gale which: fanned the cheek and raised the hair, Like a meadow breeze in spring, heightened the charm of a scene so novel to us. I soon discovered that this fragrance proceeded from the plant resembling clover which we found so excellent as a vegetable during the former journey.* A young crop of it grew in scanty patches near the shores of the lake, and I recognised it with delight, as it seems the most interesting of Australian plants. The natives here called it Calomba and told us that they eat it. Barney said it grew abundantly at Murroagin after rain. It seems to spring up only on the richest of alluvial deposits, in the beds of lagoons during the limited interval between the recession of the water and the desiccation of the soil under a warm sun.** Exactly resembling new mown hay in the perfume which it gives out even when in the freshest state of verdure, it was indeed sweet to sense and lovely to the eye in the heart of a desert country. When at sea off Cape Leeuwin in September 1827, after a three months’ voyage and before we made the land, I was sensible of a perfume from the shore which this plant recalled to my recollection.

(*Footnote. Trigonella suavissima, Volume 1.)

(**Footnote. On leaving Sydney for this expedition I placed in charge of Mr. McLeay, colonial secretary, the first specimen of this plant produced by cultivation. It grew luxuriantly in a flower-pot from seeds brought from the Darling where it was discovered. Volume 1.)

In the bed of Waljeers we again found the Agristis virginica of Linnaeus,* and an Echinochloa allied to E. crusgalli, two kinds of very rich grass; but most of the verdure in the middle of the bed consisted of a dwarf species of Psoralea which grew but thinly.** Hibiscus was also springing very generally. The bed of this lake had been full of the freshwater mussel; and under a canoe (which I took away in the carts) were several large crayfish dead in their holes. Dry and parched as the bed of the lake then was, the natives found nevertheless live freshwater mussels by digging to a substratum of sand. I understood that they also find this shell alive in the same manner, in the dry bed of the Lachlan.

(*Footnote. See Volume 1.)

(**Footnote. The third species of Psoralea before referred to (March 19th). P. cinerea, Lindley manuscripts; herbacea, incana, foliis pinnatim trifoliolatis, foliolis dentatis punctatis ovatis acutis intermedio basi cuneato, racemo pedunculato denso multifloro foliis triplo longiore, bracteis minimis ovatis acuminatis, calycibus pellucide pauci-punctatis, caule ramisque strictis.)

This lake was surrounded by yarra trees similar to those on the banks of the river; and within them was a narrow belt of slender reeds but no bulrushes. On the western shore lay a small beach of sand. The banks were in height about eight feet above the ordinary water-line of the lake; and the greatest depth in the centre was about sixteen feet below that line. The yarra trees distinguishing the margin continued to form a dense belt extending westward from the northern shore; and the natives informed me that these trees surrounded a much smaller lake named Boyonga which lay, as they pointed, immediately to the northward of it.

On ascending the bank overlooking the western shore of Waljeers we found that it also consisted of firm red soil with high bushes of atriplex, etc., as on the opposite side. We next traversed a plain of the same elevation but of firmer texture than any we had seen nearer the Lachlan. The grass upon it was also good and abundant; and we found ourselves upon the whole in a better sort of country than we had seen for weeks; but still water was, if possible, scarcer than ever. After travelling about seven miles beyond Waljeers we regained the banks of the Lachlan; but I pursued its channel about two miles without finding a drop, and we encamped finally without having any for the animals after travelling upwards of sixteen miles.

May 7.

BARNEY IN DISGRACE.

The grass was green and abundant and dew had fallen upon it during the night; our cattle therefore had not fared as badly as on other nights of privation; and were able to proceed. After we had left our former encampment and the envoy had deserted us it occurred to me that our friend Barney, who had accompanied us a long way, appeared rather too anxious to have a gin. He had been busy, as I subsequently learnt, in raising a hue and cry on the approach of the tribe we last met, in hopes that we might quarrel with them, and that he might get one, in consequence, on easy terms. I recollected that he reminded me of his wants in this respect at the very moment these people were approaching. I foresaw the mischief likely to arise from this readiness of Barney to insult native tribes while under the wing of our party; and the unfavourable impression he was likely to make on them respecting us if he were allowed to covet their gins. I therefore blamed him for causing the return of the guide who had been sent with us by that tribe, placed him in irons for the night and, much as I liked the poor fellow as an intelligent native, I thought it necessary to send him back this morning in company with a mute young savage, also from Cudjallagong, who seemed much inclined to become a follower of the camp. Our stock of provisions could not be too carefully preserved and such followers, when beyond their beat, might have had claims on it not to be resisted. There then remained with us, besides Piper and his gin, two intelligent native boys, each being named Tommy, together with The Widow and her child. The two Tommies obtained new chronometrical surnames, being known in the party as Tommy Came-first and Tommy Came-last. The former had been told plainly to go back, upon which he was heard to say he should follow the party, notwithstanding Majy’s orders, as he could always find opossums in the trees. I was pleased with his independence on being told this, and allowed him to accompany the party as well as his friend Tommy Came-last, whom he had picked up somehow in the woods.

A FAMILY OF NATIVES FROM THE MURRUMBIDGEE.

Our female guide maintained that there was a waterhole some miles onward at Pomabil; and we accordingly proceeded in that direction, regaining first the firm plains outside the trees growing on the river margin. We reached the part to which she had pointed and she went forward to look for the water but, on her calling out soon after that natives were there, we advanced into the wood, when we observed smoke arising and natives running away, pursued by The Widow. At length, perceiving that she stood talking to them, we went up. The strangers consisted of a family just come from the Murrumbidgee, and presented such a picture of the wild and wonderful that I felt a strong desire to make a sketch of the whole group. One man who was rather old being in mourning, as I was told, for the death of a brother, had his face, head and breast so bedaubed with white that he resembled a living skeleton; the others had large sticks, snakes and other reptiles in their hands, but they were perfectly naked and, crowding around him, presented a strange assemblage.

INCONVENIENT FORMALITY OF NATIVES MEETING.

I was anxious to learn from the principal personage the situation of the water; but on this first meeting it was necessary, as usual on all such occasions, to continue for some time patient and silent. This formality was maintained very remarkably by the old man and Piper. In vain did I desire the latter to ask him a question; each stood silent for a full quarter of an hour about eight yards apart, neither looking at the other. The female however became the intermediate channel of communication, for both spoke alternately in a low tone to her. At length Piper addressed the old man, raising his voice a little but with his head averted; and the other answered him in the same way; until at length by slow degrees they got into conversation. We were then informed that water was to be found a mile or two on, and the old man agreed to guide overseer Burnett and Piper to the place. I conducted the wheel-carriages along the firm plain outside and, after proceeding more than 2 1/2 miles, I heard a shot from Burnett, announcing his arrival at the water. I accordingly proceeded with the party in that direction, and we encamped near the river, amid the finest verdure that we had yet seen and after a journey of nine miles. We were informed that the Lachlan contained water in more abundance one or two days’ journey lower down, and that the Murrumbidgee was not far to the southward.

May 8.

This day being Sunday I gave the cattle rest; but Mr. Stapylton went down the river with two men to make sure of water at our next stage. They found a pond at the distance of about eleven miles; the way to it being over a fine hard plain covered with mesembryanthemum and salsolae. The party saw a large kangaroo, the first observed on the banks of the Lachlan during this journey. The old man and his family had proceeded across to Waljeers in order to procure mussels, the object, as I understood, of his journey from the Murrumbidgee.

May 9.

We moved to the pond above-mentioned, named Yambarenga, and found near it a number of large huts similar to those of the Darling. The water was very green and muddy but the taste was good. The plain we traversed this day exactly resembled the best of the ground on the Darling; and in some places I observed the Quandang bushes,* having their branches covered with a parasitical plant whose bright crimson flowers were very ornamental.**

(*Footnote. Fusanus acuminatus.)

(**Footnote. Loranthus quandang, Lindley manuscripts; incanus, foliis oppositis lineari-oblongis obsolete triplinerviis obtusis, pedunculis axillaribus folio multo bevioribus apice divaricato-bifidis 6-floris, floribus pentameris aequalibus, petalis linearibus, antheris linearibus basi insertis. Next L. gaudichaudi.)

THE MURRUMBIDGEE SEEN FROM THE LACHLAN.

South of the spot where we now encamped the ground, which consisted of firm red clay, gradually rose; and from a tree Burnett observed the tall yarras of the Murrumbidgee at a distance of about eight miles. The latitude observed was 34 degrees 14 minutes 37 seconds South, longitude 144 degrees 25 minutes East.

May 10.

A thick fog prevented the men from getting the cattle together as early as usual. In the meantime I made a drawing of the native female and the scenery around; and we finally left the encamping ground at a quarter before eleven. The first part of this day’s journey was over a rising ground, on leaving which the country seemed as if it descended westward into a lower basin, so that I took the river Lachlan which lay below to be already the Murrumbidgee.

RICH TINTS ON THE SURFACE.

We next travelled over a fine hard plain covered very generally with small bushes of a beautiful orange-flowered, spreading under-shrub, with broad thin-winged fruit;* but the Mesembryanthemum aequilaterale grew almost everywhere and seemed to take the place of grass. It crept over the light red earth, ornamenting it with a rich variety of bright green, light red, purple, and scarlet tints which, when contrasted with the dead portions that were all of a pale grey colour, produced a fine harmonious foreground, fit for any landscape. The plains were intersected by a small wood of goborro (dwarf box) and after crossing this and keeping the lofty yarra trees in view we found these trees at length growing on ground which was intersected by hollows full of reeds, other parts of the surface bearing a green crop of grass.

(*Footnote. Ropera aurantiaca, Lindley manuscripts; foliolis linearibus obtusis succulentis petiolo aequalibus, petalis obovatis obtusissimis, fructibus orbiculatis. November 1838: This Ropera has grown in the gardens of the Horticultural Society at Chiswick and proves a pretty new annual flower.)

IMPROVED APPEARANCE OF THE RIVER.

The banks of the river bore here a very different aspect from any parts which we had seen above; and I supposed that we were at length approaching its junction with the Murrumbidgee. The bed was broader but not so deep, and contained abundance of water at every turning. Ducks, pigeons, cockatoos and parrots were numerous; and we had certainly reached a better country than any we had yet traversed.

INHABITED TOMB.

On a corner of the plain, just as we approached the land of reedy hollows, I perceived at some distance a large, lonely hut of peculiar construction, and I accordingly rode to examine it. On approaching it I observed that it was closed on every side, the materials consisting of poles and large sheets of bark, and that it stood in the centre of a plot of bare earth of considerable extent, but enclosed by three small ridges, the surface within the area having been made very level and smooth. I had little doubt that this was a tomb but, on looking through a crevice, I perceived that the floor was covered with a bed of rushes which had been recently occupied. On removing a piece of bark and lifting the rushes, I ascertained, on thrusting my sabre into the hollow loose earth under them, that this bed covered a grave.

Tommy Came-first, who was with me, pronounced this to be the work of a white man; but by the time I had finished a sketch of it The Widow had hailed him from the woods and told him that it was a grave, after which I could not prevail on him to approach the spot. I carefully replaced the bark, anxious that no disturbance of the repose of the dead should accompany the prints of the white man’s feet. I afterwards learnt from The Widow that the rushes within that solitary tomb were actually the nightly bed of some near relative or friend of the deceased (probably a brother) and that the body was thus watched and attended in the grave through the process of corruption or, as Piper interpreted her account, until no flesh remains on the bones; “and then he yan (i.e. goes) away!” No fire, the constant concomitant of places of shelter, had ever been made within this abode alike of the living and the dead, although remains of several recent fires appeared on the heath outside.

DEAD TREES AMONG THE REEDS.

In the afternoon we came upon the river where rich weeds and lofty reeds enveloped a soft luxuriant soil. The yarra, or bluegum, not only grew on its banks, but spread over the flats; but I remarked that where the reeds grew thickest most of the trees were dead; and that almost all bore on their trunks the marks of inundation. These dead trees among reeds suggest several questions: Were they killed by the frequent burning of the reeds in summer? If so, how came they to grow first to such a size among them? Or did excess of moisture or its long continuance kill them? Are seasons now different from those which must have admitted of the growth of these trees for half a century? Or have changes in the levels of the deposits made by the larger rivers below, produced inundations above, to a greater extent than they had spread formerly?

I was returning with the overseer from examining the country some miles in advance of the carts, and with the intention of encamping where I had left them halted, when I found the men had followed my track into some bad ground. After extricating them from it I proceeded three miles further to Bidyengoga, which we did not reach until dark. Water was found in the bed of the Lachlan on our penetrating through a broad margin of reeds towards some lofty yarra trees. Latitude 34 degrees 12 minutes 17 seconds South; longitude 144 degrees 18 minutes East.

May 11.

VISIT SOME RISING GROUND.

Rising ground appeared on the horizon about four miles to the north-west, and an intervening plain of firm clay covered with atriplex and salsolae rose towards it from the very margin of the reedy basin of the river. Although anxious to see the junction of the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee, curiosity irresistible led me to the rising ground, while Mr. Stapylton traced the supposed line of the Lachlan and the overseer conducted the carts and party westward. Unlike the hills I had seen on the limits of interior plains elsewhere, the ridge I now visited consisted of the same rich loam as the plains themselves.

VIEW NORTHWARD.

It was connected with other low ridges which extended in a north-western direction into a country finely diversified with hill, dale, and patches of wood, but in all probability at that time entirely without water. The dry bed of a lake lay in a valley immediately north of the hills on which I stood. A few trees of stunted appearance alone grew in the hollow. On the top of this ridge I ate a russet apple which had grown in my garden at Sydney, and I planted the seeds in a spot of rich earth likely to be saturated with water as often as it fell from the heavens.

DIFFICULTIES IN FINDING EITHER OF THE RIVERS OR ANY WATER.

Southward I could see no trace of the Lachlan, and I hastened towards the highest trees where I thought it turned in that direction. I thus met the track of the carts at rightangles and galloped after them as they were driving through scrubs and over heaths away to the westward. When I overtook them I found that Mr. Stapylton had crossed over to them and told Burnett to say to me that he had not seen the Lachlan.

SEARCH FOR THE MURRUMBIDGEE.

A row of lofty yarra trees appeared to the southward and, as I expected to find the Murrumbidgee among them, I directed my course thither, travelling to the westward of south as well as any appearance of water would allow. We passed through a scrub which swarmed with kangaroos, bronze-wing pigeons, and cockatoos; also by a rather singular hollow resembling the bed of a dry lake, in which we found several grasses apparently new and very beautiful,* together with a low but wide-spreading bush which bore a fruit resembling a cherry in size and taste, but with a more elongated stone.

(*Footnote. A Poa near P. australis, R. Br. and Bromus australis of R. Br.)

After descending into what I had thought was the bed of a river we found unequal ground and saw, at a distance, patches of reeds, also lofty yarra trees growing all about. On reaching the reeds we found they filled only very slight hollows in the surface and, after passing through them, we crossed another firm plain with atriplex and salsolae. No river was to be seen, but another line of trees bounded this plain, exactly like those on the banks of streams, and on reaching it I felt confident of finding water; but on the contrary there was only an open forest of goodly trees without the least indication of it.

A NIGHT WITHOUT WATER.

The sun had now set and I directed the people to encamp while I rode forward in search of this river. Passing through a thick scrub I observed another line of river trees, but I penetrated their shades with no better success than before.

HEAVY FALL OF RAIN.

A dark and stormy night of wind and rain closed over us and, notwithstanding the want of water which we were again destined to experience, we got wet enough before we regained the camp. Mr. Stapylton had arrived there before me without having seen either the Lachlan or the Murrumbidgee in the course he had taken, and as the general bearings and directions I had given him did not admit of his deviating too far from the route of the carts he had been obliged to return unsuccessful. After so long a day’s journey the cattle were doomed to pass another night yoked up, although surrounded by luxuriant pasture, for thus only could we prevent them from straying in search of water. The rain however moistened the grass on this as on three former occasions when we had suffered the same privation; and the cattle were ordered to be loosened to feed at the earliest dawn.

May 12.

It had rained heavily during the night so that water was no longer scarce. The canoe brought from Waljeers had been placed to receive the rain and conduct it into a cask which was thus filled.

TWO MEN MISSING.

On getting up I learnt that two men had set off in quest of water and had been absent all night. That they should have taken this step without first asking permission was wrong, but that nobody had mentioned the circumstance to me till then was still more vexatious as, by firing shots and throwing up rockets, these men might have found their way back in the dark. I was very glad however to hear them at length answer our shots, and not at all sorry to see them come in thoroughly drenched with the empty kettles on their shoulders. After this I learnt, when we were about to start, that six of the bullocks had got away; Piper however managed to trace and bring them back. The weather then cleared up and we proceeded, in a south-west direction as nearly as patches of scrub permitted, in search of the Murrumbidgee; for I was then convinced, from the different appearance of the country, that we had got beyond the junction of the Lachlan. On passing the scrubs we crossed a plain of the same kind which we had so often met. It sloped towards a belt of large trees in a flat, where we also saw reeds, the ground there being very soft and heavy for the draught animals. Passing this flat we again reached firm ground with stately yarra trees; and charming vistas through miles of open forest scenery had indeed nearly drawn me away from the bearing which was otherwise most likely to hit the river.

REACH THE MURRUMBIDGEE.

I however continued to follow it and, in the midst of such scenery without being at all aware that I was approaching a river, I suddenly saw the water before me and stood at last on the banks of the Murrumbidgee.

This magnificent stream was flowing within eight feet of its banks with considerable rapidity, the water being quite clear; and it really exceeded so much my expectations (surpassing far the Darling and all the Australian rivers I had then seen) that I was at first inclined to think it could be nothing less than the Murray which, like the Darling, might have been laid down too far to the west. At all events I was delighted to find that this corner of Australia could supply at least one river worthy of the name. After thirsting so long amongst the muddy holes of the Lachlan I witnessed, with no slight degree of satisfaction, the jaded cattle drinking at this full and flowing stream, resembling a thing of life in its deep and rippling waters. Now at length there was an end to the privations we had so often suffered from want of water; and the bank was also clothed with excellent grass–a pleasing sight for the cattle. Reeds appeared in patches back from the river but, unlike the banks of the Darling, the best and clearest ground was on the immediate margin of the Murrumbidgee.

NATIVES ON THE OPPOSITE BANK.

Piper, with that keenness of vision so peculiar in savages, soon descried some natives on the other side, and pointed out to me a tribe filing in a straggling line through the woods at a distance. I made him cooey to them, they answered the call, and in a short time appeared on the opposite bank. Our first interview with these sons of the woods was highly creditable to them. They advanced in a numerous group, but in a silent and submissive manner, each having a green bough twined round the waist or in his hand. They sat down on the opposite bank and The Widow, having taken a position exactly facing them, held a parley which commenced before I could get to the spot. It was now that we learnt the full value of this female, for it appeared that while some diffidence or ceremony always prevents the male natives, when strangers to each other, from speaking at first sight, no such restraint is imposed on the gins; who with the privilege of their sex are ever ready to speak, and the strangers as it seemed to answer; for thus at least we held converse with this tribe across the river. Our female guide, who had scarcely before ventured to look up, stood now boldly forward and addressed the strange tribe in a very animated and apparently eloquent manner; and when her countenance was thus lighted up, displaying fine teeth and great earnestness of manner, I was delighted to perceive what soul the woman possessed, and could not but consider our party fortunate in having met with such an interpreter.

THEY SWIM ACROSS.

At length the strangers proposed swimming over to us and we invited them to do so.

AFRAID OF THE SHEEP.

They then requested that those wild animals, the sheep and horses, might be driven away, at which The Widow and Piper’s gin laughed heartily, but they were removed accordingly. The warriors of the Murrumbidgee were about to plunge into the angry flood, desirous, no doubt, of showing off like so many Caesars before these females, but their fears of the sheep, which they could not hide, must have said little for their prowess in the eyes of the damsels on our side of the water. The weather was cold, but the stranger who first swam across bore in one hand a piece of burning wood and a green branch. He was no sooner landed than he converted his embers into a fire to dry himself. Immediately after him followed a grey-haired chief (of whom I had heard on the Lachlan) and two others. It appeared however that Piper did not at first understand their language, saying it was “Irish”; but it happened that there was with this tribe a native of Cudjallagong (Regent’s lake) and it was rather curious to see him act as interpreter between Piper and the others.

THEIR REPORTS ABOUT THE JUNCTION OF THE DARLING.

We learnt that the Murrumbidgee joined a much larger river named the Milliwa, a good way lower down, and that these united streams met, at a still greater distance, the Oolawambiloa, a river from the north which received a smaller one, bringing with it all the waters of Wamboul (the Macquarie). These natives proposed to amuse us with a corrobory dance, to which I did not object, but they postponed it until the following evening.

May 13

SEARCH UP THE RIVER FOR JUNCTION OF THE LACHLAN..

Having been very anxious to complete my survey of the Kalare by determining the true situation of its junction with the Murrumbidgee, I set out this morning with the intention of tracing this river upwards to that point, which I thought could not be at a greater distance than ten or twelve miles. We sought it however in vain, until darkness put a stop to our progress after we had measured full twenty miles. We lay down by the riverside and, although entirely without either food or shelter, determined to prosecute our search at daylight next morning.

May 14.

COURSE OF THE MURRUMBIDGEE.

Having laid down our work on the map last evening (by the light of the fire) I found that we were to the eastward, not only of our late camp where we had wanted water, but also even of our last camp on the Lachlan, and to the southward of it thirteen miles. It thus appeared that the river had taken a very extraordinary turn to the south or south-east, probably near our last encampment upon it. After measuring three miles further this morning, by which I was enabled to intersect a low hill in the situation where I expected to find the Kalare, and being then on a bend of the Murrumbidgee whence I could see no other indication of it save the line of trees some miles off, in which however it no doubt was, the whole intervening space being covered with Polygonum junceum, I was content with intersecting the point where that line joined the Murrumbidgee, chiefly out of consideration for the men who were with me. It was well that I then determined to return, for one man became so faint, when within a few miles of the camp, that the two others had to remain with him until I rode forward to it and sent back the doctor with something for them to eat.

The course of the Murrumbidgee, as far as I traced it in that excursion, appeared to be about west, and I distinctly saw, from the highest point I attained on that river, rising ground at a great distance also bearing east. Under these circumstances it was obvious that the long course of the river Lachlan is in no part better defined than where it enters the basin of the Murrumbidgee. Water, which had been so scarce in other parts, was abundant where its channel and immediate margins assumed the reedy character of the greater river. So far from terminating in a lagoon or uninhabitable marsh, the banks of the Lachlan at fifty miles below the spot where Mr. Oxley supposed he saw its termination as a river, are backed on both sides by rising ground, until the course turns finally southward into the Murrumbidgee.

TRIBE FROM CUDJALLAGONG VISITS THE CAMP IN MY ABSENCE.

On my arrival at the camp I found that six of the party mounted had set out in search of me at midday. A strong tribe had arrived soon after my departure and, in conjunction with those natives whom we found there, it had been molesting the camp during the whole of the night. On first coming up the men composing it boldly approached the fires and took their seats, demanding something to eat.

MOVEMENTS OF THE TRIBE.

It appeared that they had followed our cart track downwards, having with them a native of Cudjallagong. They inquired particularly why Majy had gone to the junction of the Kalare with so few people; and they gave a very unfavourable account of the tribe at that place. This alarmed Mr. Stapylton, and when he observed the tribe set off in the morning, back along the cart track, he despatched the party on horseback under Burnett with orders to observe the movements of the tribe, to look for my track and, if possible, to join me. The party returned to the camp about eight in the evening, to my great satisfaction, for I had been apprehensive that they might have proceeded to seek me at the junction and I had despatched two men to recall them as soon as I returned.

CAUGHT FOLLOWING MY STEPS.

Burnett reported when he returned that he had found our track after making a considerable circuit five or six miles from the camp; and as Piper, who accompanied him, was tracing my steps homewards, on perceiving some natives running along it, he concluded that we were just before them and sounded the bugle, when they proved to be the tribe before mentioned, all armed with spears. What their object was I cannot say, for three of them had been trotting along the footmarks, while the rest of the tribe in a body kept pace abreast of them. On hearing the bugle it appeared that they seemed much alarmed and drew up at a distance.

PIPER QUESTIONS THEM.

They would not allow Piper to approach them, but one at length came forward and informed him that Majy was gone home. Piper was so dubious about this that he insisted on examining the points of their spears.

During the nights passed at this camp the natives were on the alert, so that their various movements, cooeys, and calls kept the party in a state of watchfulness, aware, as experience had taught us, of their thieving propensities. Some rockets sent up about the time I was expected on the evening of our absence had however scared them a little; and it is probable that the man from Cudjallagong had given them new ideas about soldiers. Piper’s watchword, also, when taking up his carabine, usually was “Bell gammon soldiers.”* They left the neighbourhood of our camp on my return and we saw no more of the tribe which had followed me.

(*Footnote. Meaning Soldiers are no joke!)

May 15.

THE MURRUMBIDGEE COMPARED WITH OTHER RIVERS.

The night had been stormy with rain so that I had not been able to ascertain the latitude of the point at which we had reached this important river. It was Sunday and, although the two men sent after Burnett’s party had come in early enough, we remained in the same camp. I had already been struck with the remarkable dissimilarity between the Murrumbidgee and all the interior rivers previously seen by me, especially the Darling. The constant fulness of its stream, its water-worn and lightly-timbered banks, and the firm and accessible nature of its immediate margin, unbroken by gullies, were all characters quite the reverse of those which I had seen elsewhere. Whatever reeds or polygonum might be outside, a certain space along the river was almost everywhere clear, probably from its constant occupation by the natives.

HEAPS OF STONES USED IN COOKING.

One artificial feature not observed by me in other places distinguishes the localities principally frequented by the natives, and consists in the lofty mounds of burnt clay or ashes used by them in cooking. The common process of natives in dressing their provisions is to lay the food between layers of heated stones; but here, where there are no stones, the calcined clay seems to answer the same purpose, and becomes better or harder the more it is used. Hence the accumulation of heaps resembling small hills.* Some of them were so very ancient as to be surrounded by circles of lofty trees; others, long abandoned, were half worn away by the river which, in the course of ages, had so far changed its bed that the burnt ashes reached out to mid-channel; others, now very remote from the river, had large trees growing out of them.

(*Footnote. And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones: and they took stones, and made a heap, and they did eat there upon the heap. Genesis 31:46. “Thevenot describes the way of roasting a sheep, practised by the Armenians, by which also the use of smoky wood is avoided; for having flayed it, they cover it again with the skin, and put it into an oven upon the quick coals, covering it also with a good many of the same coals, that it may have fire under and over to roast it well on all sides; and the skin keeps it from being burnt.” Harmer. Whoever has seen the Australian natives cook a kangaroo must recognise in this description the very same process.)

HIGH REEDS ON THE RIVERBANK.

I saw the first of these heaps when near the end of the last day’s journey along the Lachlan, where this river partook of the reedy character of the Murrumbidgee. I understood that the balyan or bulrush-root which is the chief food of the natives there is prepared in those kilns when a family or tribe are together. I ascertained the name of the place to be Weyeba; its latitude is 34 degrees 21 minutes 34 seconds South; longitude 143 degrees 56 minutes 27 seconds East.

May 16.

We commenced our journey down the Murrumbidgee. Our route passed occasionally through reeds as we cut off the bends of the river; but they formed no serious impediment although they stood so high that we occasionally experienced some difficulty in following each other through them. Having found, after surveying the river a few miles down, that the general course was about south-west, as I had also found it to be above our camp, I followed that direction as a general line of route, leaving the river at length at some distance to the left. The country looked well, lofty yarra trees and luxuriant grass giving it the appearance of fine forest land; but most of these trees bore marks of inundation, and the water appeared to have reached several feet up their trunks. At length I came on a native path conducting westward; but as it led to rising ground with Atriplex halimoides, etc., I bent our course to the south and reached the river at sunset.

LAKE WEROMBA.

Burnett and Piper followed the native path until they came to the bed of a fine lake about half a mile across, and they met some natives who told them that the name of it was Weromba. Mr. Stapylton also discovered a small lake of the same sort near our route and south of the other. Both sheets of water, like that of Waljeers, were surrounded by a ridge of rising ground consisting of the red earth of the dry plains, and it was covered with the salsolaceous shrubs peculiar to them. These lakes seem to be supplied only from the highest floods of the river, and to constitute a remarkable and peculiar feature in the character of the surface. I had been informed of a very large one of the same kind named Quawingame near the left bank of the Lachlan, and not far from its junction with the Murrumbidgee; but the singular turn of the first-mentioned river prevented me from seeing it.

NATIVE ENCAMPMENT.

As we drew near the river I perceived the huts of a tribe with a fire smoking before each. I immediately sent back for the gins, but before they could come up the natives whom we saw there noticed us and immediately disappeared among the reeds, shrieking as if they had been mad. Our females soon after approached their huts and called on them to return, but in vain.

RIVERBANKS OF DIFFICULT ACCESS. BEST HORSE DROWNED.

A misfortune befel us this evening which made the party better aware of the treacherous nature of the banks of this part of the Murrumbidgee. I had just time before it got dark to find a place where the cattle could approach the water, the banks being almost everywhere water-worn and perpendicular, and consequently inaccessible and dangerous to animals in descending to drink. To this point I had sent the sheep, and the men were leading the horses also towards it when the foremost, which unfortunately was the best, made a rush to the water at a steeper place, and fell into the river. He swam however to the other side but, in returning, sank in the middle of the stream, never to rise again. He had winkers on and I think it probable that he had put his foot into a short rein which was attached to the collar. This horse was of the Clydesdale breed and drew the cart containing my instruments throughout the journey along the Darling last year. His name was Farmer–an unfortunate appellation for surveying horses–for Farmer’s Creek, in the new road to Bathurst, was named after another horse which fell there and broke his neck while I was marking out the line.

CROSS A COUNTRY SUBJECT TO INUNDATIONS.

The land adjacent to the river was of the richest quality; and the grass on it was luxuriant and the forest scenery fine. The lofty trees certainly bore marks of inundation one or two feet high; but as land still higher was not far distant it cannot be doubted, notwithstanding its liability to become flooded, that the soil might supply the wants of an industrious population; especially as its spontaneous productions are the chief support of the aboriginal inhabitants.

May 17.

TRAVERSE A BARREN REGION AT SOME DISTANCE FROM THE RIVER.

A beautiful morning. The latitude of this camp being exactly that of the most southern bend of the river in Arrowsmith’s map, I ventured upon a course nearly west in order to clear the bends. The lofty trees I had seen before me were found to be situated, not on the banks of the river, but amongst scrubs. We afterwards came to sandhills and extensive tracts covered with that most unpleasing of shrubs to a traveller, the Eucalyptus dumosa, and the prickly grass mentioned by Mr. Oxley. We traversed ridges of sand rising perhaps sixty feet above the plains, nearer the river; and, when viewed from trees, the same kind of country seemed unlimited in all directions. I therefore travelled south-south-west and afterwards southward; until we once more entered among the yarra trees on the more open ground by the river, and encamped after a journey of about twelve miles. The country we had this day traversed was of so unpromising a description that it was a relief to get even amongst common scrubs, and escape from those of the Eucalyptus dumosa. This species is not a tree but a lofty bush with a great number of stems, each two or three inches in diameter; and the bushes grow thickly together, having between them nothing but the prickly grass in large tufts. This dwarf wood approached to the very river, where we encamped without leaving an intermediate plain, as on the Lachlan. In this country, however dreary it appeared, we found a beautiful grevillea not previously seen by us.

KANGAROOS THERE.

During the day we saw also a great many kangaroos and killed two of them.

ANOTHER HORSE IN THE RIVER.

Notwithstanding every precaution in watering the cattle, and at a place selected too as the best that could be found after a careful examination of two miles of the river, one of the horses fell in; but on this occasion it was safely got out again. The abundance of water, though a novelty to us, was a source of new trouble and anxiety from the danger our cattle were in of being drowned, owing to the precipitous banks and soft mud of the river. This peril was indeed so imminent that in the morning it was thought most prudent to water all the horses with a bucket, and not to risk the loss of the bullocks by suffering them to drink at all.

May 18.

Being determined to keep the river in sight, we this day continued our journey along its margin. I found we could follow the general course without entering bends by travelling at the base of a second bank, which seemed to divide the yarra-tree flats from the scrubby ground behind.

LAGOONS PREFERABLE TO THE RIVER FOR WATERING CATTLE.

We came thus upon some rainwater in the clay of the plains which, being sufficient to satisfy the bullocks, we gladly availed ourselves of the opportunity it afforded of watering them without unyoking. After proceeding about three miles further we saw a lagoon between us and the Murrumbidgee. It resembled a bend of the river, and contained abundance of water on which were three pelicans and a number of ducks. When we had travelled nearly far enough to encamp, we came on two other lagoons of the same kind, similarly situated and both containing water. The grass being good, I determined to pitch our tents between them, as the cattle might thus be watered for one night at least without the risk of being bogged or drowned. These lagoons looked like different bends of a river, although we saw the ends of both and passed on firm ground between them. It was evident however that they could only be supplied by the inundations of the river. On this day we killed a kangaroo.

May 19.

HIGH WIND, DANGEROUS IN A CAMP UNDER TREES.

During the night the weather was tempestuous; at three A.M. it blew a hurricane and the rain fell heavily afterwards. I was not sorry when the wind abated for we were so confined for room between the two lagoons that my tent had been pitched, and most of our encampment placed, unavoidably under a large yarra tree, a very unsafe position during high winds, but fortunately no branches fell. In the morning, after proceeding about a mile, another lagoon lay before us, which was full of water and indeed terminated in the river. We avoided it by turning to the right and gaining the higher ground above the level of floods. We continued along this upper land, thus crossing two small plains; but soon after, being apprehensive of going too far from the river, we again entered the open forest of yarra trees which marked so distinctly its immediate margin. At 3 1/2 miles we passed a bend of the river, full of dead trees, the banks being quite perpendicular and loose. After reaching another bend three miles further we noticed two lagoons, apparently the remains of an ancient channel of the river; and at ten miles we came upon a creek as capacious as the Lachlan and full of large ponds of water. Mr. Stapylton examined this creek some way up and he found that it came from the north-east; and on arriving at a favourable place I crossed with the party and encamped, the day having been very rainy and cold. We soon discovered that this channel was only a branch of one from the north and, the latter being very deep, I determined to halt next day, that its course might be explored while the men made a fit passage across it for the carts.

May 20.

This morning the weather appeared beautifully serene; and the barometer had risen higher than I had ever seen it on this side of the mountains. Mr. Stapylton, who left the camp in the morning, returned about sunset after exploring the creek through a very tortuous course, more or less to the northward of west. He had also ascertained that it supplied a small lake about eight miles to the westward of our camp, whence he had perceived its course bending again towards the river, of which he in fact considered it only a branch: and I therefore concluded that the ponds of water so abundant in it were but the remains of a flood in the Murrumbidgee.