14 – 24 October

October 14.

As we proceeded the broad swampy bed of this river or morass appeared on

our right for a mile, the country being still covered by an open forest

of box, having also grass enough upon it. At eight miles we approached

some low hills of clay-slate, and I ascended one to the southward of our

route from which I recognised a sufficient number of previously observed

points to enable me to determine its relative position and theirs. On

this hill I found the beautiful Brownonia which we had seen before only

on Macquarie range beside the Lachlan. We here also met with the rare

Spadostylis cunninghamii, whose heart-shaped glaucous leaves so much

reminded us of the European euphorbias that it would have been mistaken

for one of them if it had not been for its shrubby habit and bright

yellow pea flowers.

PASS THROUGH FUTTER’S RANGE.

The country crossed beyond this hill was first undulating then hilly, and

at length became so much so that it was necessary to pick a way for the

carts with much caution. Nevertheless we at length succeeded in crossing

this range also at its lowest part where the hill to the northward of it,

already mentioned as the end of a range, bore nearly north. On reaching

the head of this pass the prospect before us, after winding through such

a labyrinth of hills, was agreeable enough. One fertile hollow led to an

open level country which appeared to be bounded at a great distance by

mountains; and I concluded that I should find in this extensive valley

the rivers King and Ovens. Keeping along the verdant flat (which was

watered by a good chain of ponds) we encamped about a mile and a half

beyond the pass, and I then named that feature above it Futter’s range

after a successful and public-spirited colonist of New South Wales.

IMPEDED BY A SWAMP AMONG REEDS.

October 15.

We had not proceeded more than half a mile in the general direction I

proposed for our route when a reedy swamp compelled me to turn northward

and, after travelling in that direction about a mile and a half, we found

the swamp on our right had produced a small stream running nearly on a

level with the plain. Its banks were soft and boggy, and beyond it we saw

through the trees extensive tracts covered with reeds. I was soon

compelled by the rivulet to deviate from my intended route even to the

westward of north until, at 10 1/2 miles, on meeting with a chain of

ponds falling to the eastward, I turned north-east, which bearing, at

less than a mile forward, again brought us upon the stream running from

the swamp but which was here flowing between firm banks and forming ponds

of some magnitude. We forded it with difficulty by crossing at two

points, that we might not break too much the soft earth over which it

flowed by the passage of all in one place.

JUNCTION OF THE RIVERS OVENS AND KING.

At two miles further on we met with another stream of less magnitude

flowing also to the north-west and at about a mile beyond it we reached

the bank of the Ovens, fortunately just below the junction of a rather

smaller stream which I took to be King’s river.

The two united formed a noble stream finely breaking up the dead levels

of the surrounding plains which indeed, where we approached it, formed

its highest bank and were there twenty-three feet above the water.

No time was lost in launching our boat, and we effected a passage and

encamped on the opposite bank before sunset, having driven all the cattle

and horses safely across also, although with considerable difficulty from

the steepness of the banks and softness of the soil at the water’s edge

on the side where they got to land.

October 16.

This morning the river had fallen three inches; its temperature was 59

degrees (of Fahrenheit) the current flowing at the rate of 1 1/4 miles

per hour; the mean depth two fathoms; and the width, where measured, 47

yards; the breadth of the river King at the junction being nearly as

much. The right bank to the distance of a mile and a half from the river

was low and alluvial, and intersected by narrow watercourses and lagoons.

On the alluvial flat where we crossed it stood a small isolated hill,

between which and the higher ground still farther back water was running,

apparently from a swamp, but as soon as we crossed this we reached firm

ground and travelled on an open forest plain for nearly eight miles.

ASCEND GRANITIC RANGES.

We then came upon a hill of granite, and from its summit I perceived that

we were already on the northern extremities of the high ranges we had

seen from the westward. After travelling some miles along the summits of

ridges in order to reach their connection with another range more to the

northward, I ascertained, on crossing the highest part of a second ridge,

that its northern slopes were very steep and rocky. A hill of

considerable height lay before us and therefore, as soon as I had

selected a spot for our camp in a little intervening valley, I hastened

to it, certainly in doubt how we should extricate the carts from the

rocky fastnesses before us. That summit afforded a commanding view of the

country beyond the granitic range, and I perceived that it was low to a

considerable distance northward, while the ranges beyond that extensive

basin seemed of no great elevation to the westward or north-west, and all

terminated on the level interior country where the horizon was broken by

only one remarkable hill which, as I afterwards learnt, was named Dingee.

In that direction I saw also open plains along which I thought I could

trace the line of the Ovens. In the lower country before me I hoped to

find the Murray, according to the map of Messrs. Hovell and Hume, which

in the two rivers we had recently passed seemed wonderfully correct.

LOFTY MASS NAMED MOUNT ABERDEEN.

I again recognised in the south and south-east some of the snowy peaks

formerly noticed, and I named the most lofty mass Mount Aberdeen. Beyond

what I considered to be the course or bed of the Murray there appeared

some steep ranges, to avoid which I chose a course more to the northward

than I should otherwise have pursued in my way towards Yass. Before I

returned to the camp I sought and succeeded in finding and marking out, a

line of route by which the carts could be conducted across these rocky

ranges and down to the lower country beyond them. On that range we found

a handsome blue flower which I had previously seen growing abundantly on

Bowral range near Mittagong within the present colony. We found in these

valleys abundance of good grass.

October 17.

We descended from the higher range without difficulty, and then crossed

several low ridges of quartz and clay-slate extending westward; some

flats of good land lay between these ridges and, at about 6 miles, we met

with a creek or chain of ponds. At 13 1/2 miles we entered a rich plain

terminating northward at a low but remarkable hill which I had observed

from the mountains.

REACH THE MURRAY.

The grass grew luxuriantly on this plain and after crossing and passing

through the forest beyond it I recognised with satisfaction the lofty

yarra trees and the low verdant alluvial flats of the Murray. No one

could have mistaken this grand feature; for the vast extent of verdant

margin with lofty trees and still lakes could belong to no other

Australian river we knew of. On descending the berg or outer bank which

was sloping and grassy, I found the still lagoons so numerous that I

could not, without very great difficulty and after a ride of nearly an

hour, obtain a sight of the flowing river. I found it at length running

bank-high and still of greater width than any other known Australian

river.

THE RIVER VERY DIFFICULT OF ACCESS.

The water was then just beginning to pour over its borders into the

alluvial margins by which I had approached it; and on the opposite side

the border consisted of a reedy swamp, evidently impassable and unfit for

a landing-place. In no direction could I find access for our carts to the

running stream. Deep and long winding reaches of still water shut me out,

either from the high berg or bank at one part, or from the flowing stream

at another. Returning from the river in a different direction I found, in

a situation where I had nearly gained as I imagined the high bank after

riding a mile, that a deep reach still separated me from that high bank

which I then saw was beyond it, so that in order to return to the carts I

was obliged to retrace my steps for several miles. Having got round at

length I ascended the hill before mentioned for the purpose of taking

some angles, and I found that it consisted of granite, the component

parts being white quartz and felspar and black mica. I named this

remarkable feature, probably the lowest hill of granite on the Murray,

Mount Ochtertyre. I had sufficient daylight left to conduct the party

over part of this hill to a portion of the riverbank accessible then to

carts by fording only one lagoon. The velocity of the Murray at the spot

where we could thus approach its border exceeded that of any other river

we had previously crossed, being at the rate of 2 1/2 miles per hour.

October 18.

At daylight this morning the boat was sent across with Burnett and Piper,

who landed to examine the ground within the reeds on that bank; and they

ascertained it was so intersected by various deep lagoons that we could

no longer hope to pass that way. I next went down the river in the boat

and found at about a mile and a half below our camp a place where I

thought we might effect a passage. This point was under a steep bank of

red earth on the opposite shore where the river seemed to be encroaching.

A CARRIAGE TRACK DISCOVERED.

We landed and endeavoured to ascertain by looking for cattle marks

whether any stations were near; and having heard that the flocks of the

settlers already extended to the Murray we proceeded northward, eager to

discover the tracks of civilised men. The wheels of a gig drawn by one

horse and accompanied by others were traced by Piper, but the impressions

were several months old. We walked as far as a spacious plain at some

distance from the river without seeing any more recent tracks; and we

were at length convinced that no station extended then in the immediate

neighbourhood. The left bank between the spot where our camp then was and

the crossing-place which I had selected was low though apparently firm;

but on landing and returning along it I met with several narrow channels

into which water was then flowing from the river and which afterwards

cost us considerable trouble to cross with our carts.

PASSAGE OF THE RIVER.

That part of the bank which I had selected for driving the cattle into

the river, that they might swim over, was soft and boggy, but in the

opposite shore where they were to go out we cut in the firm clay at the

base of the red cliff before mentioned a landing-place and path with

picks and spades, so that the cattle on reaching that side could pass

along the foot of the cliff to a lower part of the bank adjacent. After

all other obstacles had been surmounted and the best portion of the day

had been spent in conducting the party to within a short distance of this

place my horse unexpectedly sunk in what had appeared to be firm ground.

CATTLE.

This impediment the party however overcame by cutting down some brush and

small trees, and opening a lane through which we at length contrived to

bring the cattle forward to the bank. It was near sunset before they

could be driven into the water; yet we finally succeeded in forcing the

whole to swim to the other side that evening with the exception of one

bullock which, having got bogged, was smothered in the mud on the first

rush of the others into the water. The landing of some of these animals

on the opposite bank was attended with difficulty for they did not all

make for the proper place, some turning towards the bank they had left

and endeavouring to re-ascend it much lower down where the banks were

either too soft or inaccessible: others swimming straight down the stream

turned to parts of the opposite bank which they could not climb. With

these last I was prepared to contend, having taken my station in the boat

to watch such contingencies; and by dragging the foremost of those who

had swum back across the river by the horns, and those which had arrived

at the wrong place out with ropes; we succeeded at length in forcing all

that had floated too far down to land on the right bank. But the greater

number had got out higher up the river upon some fallen portions of the

red cliff instead of taking the path we had cut under it; and the footing

there was so slight that, as they crowded on each other, groups fell,

from time to time, back into the river. The last part of the operation

was therefore to row towards these, when Woods, who was in the boat, soon

induced one of the bullocks well-known to him to take the path, upon

which all the rest followed until they reached the grassy flat where

others more fortunate than themselves were already feeding. At the close

of this laborious day I encamped on the right bank, leaving still on the

other side however a small party in charge of the horses and carts. The

day was extremely hot and the full and flowing river gave an unusual

appearance of life and motion to the desert whose wearisome stillness was

so unvarying elsewhere. Serpents were numerous and some were seen of a

species apparently peculiar to this river. Here they invariably took to

it, and one beautiful reptile in particular, being of a golden colour

with red streaks, sprang from under my horse’s feet and rode upon the

strong current of the boiling stream, keeping abreast of us and holding

his head erect, as if in defiance and without once attempting to make

off, until he died in his glory by a shot from Roach.

HORSES.

October 19.

The first half of this day was required for the passage of the horses one

by one; and for taking the carts across. We left the boat carriage on the

left bank and sunk the boat in a deep lagoon on the right bank, to remain

there until the party should return to the spot with a stock of

provisions for Mr. Stapylton. Here the last mountain barometer, which had

been carried in excellent order throughout the journey, lost mercury so

copiously that I could not hope to use it any more, time being then too

valuable to admit of delay; and thus my list of observations terminated

on the Murray. I supposed that the intense heat of the sun to which the

instrument had been exposed when tied to a tree for some hours after the

tents had been struck had contracted the leathern bag so much as to

loosen it from the edges of the cylinder, and thus formed openings

through which the mercury had escaped. The breadth of the Murray was 80

yards at the place where we crossed it and the mean depth was 3 1/2

fathoms. At length I saw with great satisfaction my party on the right

bank of this great river; having now no other stream to cross until we

reached the Murrumbidgee where we might consider ourselves at home.

PARTY RETURNING TO MEET MR. STAPYLTON.

Just at this time Archibald McKane, a carpenter, came forward and

proposed to return with any two of the men and the native Tommy to meet

the party coming after us upon the Goulburn; and to construct there such

rafts of casks and other gear as might enable Mr. Stapylton to cross that

river and the Ovens and so come forward to the Murray; an arrangement

which would render it unnecessary for me to send back any cattle or the

boat as intended. I was much pleased with the proposal of McKane and,

Tommy Came-last being also willing to return, I appointed John Douglas, a

sailor and most handy man, and Charles King, a man who feared nothing, to

accompany McKane. Full rations were issued to the four and, having given

them a letter for Mr. Stapylton, the little party returned towards the

houseless wilds, when we left the Murray to continue our journey

homewards. Although we did not set off before one o’clock we this day

travelled fourteen miles, but did not encamp till long after sunset. The

scarcity of water compelled us to travel thus far, for none had been seen

except one small muddy pool until I reached the valley where we encamped,

and even there we found little more than enough for ourselves and cattle.

October 20.

After travelling five miles over tolerable land we crossed a range of

very fine-grained granite consisting of felspar, quartz, and small

particles of mica and having a very crystalline aspect. This range was a

branch from a higher mass on our right. At seven miles we crossed the

shoulder of a hill whence I intersected others to the right. This also

consisted of fine-grained granite, similar to that of the other hill, but

it was not so red and had fewer spangles of mica.

A CREEK TERMINATING IN A SWAMP.

At eight miles we came to a chain of deep ponds which seemed a tributary

to some greater water, as indicated by the yarra trees and flats before

us, apparently covered with verdure. On advancing into these flats

however we found them soft and swampy, being so very wet and so covered

with dead trees that we were obliged to retrace our steps and turn

eastward, thus crossing to a higher bank altogether east of the chain of

ponds; and along this we proceeded without seeing any further continuance

of the deep serpentine channel, full of water, which appeared to

terminate there. That woody swamp seemed very extensive and was the only

instance met with in the course of our travels of the termination of a

stream in a swamp, although I understood subsequently that this was the

fate of various minor brooks descending towards that part of the interior

plains. We found there a curious black-headed grass which proved to be of

the carex genus. At 11 1/2 miles we arrived at a running stream, its

course being northward; and at 15 1/2 miles we reached a very fine little

rivulet flowing between grassy banks twenty-five feet high, the soil

consisting of a red earth similar to that on the interior plains and the

banks of the Murray.

MOUNT TRAFALGAR. RUGGED COUNTRY STILL BEFORE US.

October 21.

At five miles we were abreast of a pointed hill which I ascended and

named Mount Trafalgar in honour of that memorable day. From it I obtained

a view of the country before us, and I perceived in the direction of our

intended route some high cone-shaped hills. A ridge extended from them to

the westward, but its height seemed gradually to diminish in that

direction, although it presented two very abrupt and remarkable hills

whose steepest side being towards the north overlooked as I supposed the

spacious basin of the Murrumbidgee. One solitary mount appeared much

farther to the westward and was also steep-sided towards the north. On

descending I shaped my course towards the hollow where the ridge could be

most easily crossed. At 8 3/4 miles we met with some good ponds of water

and beyond them the winding channel of a smaller watercourse falling

southward from the range already mentioned. After crossing and recrossing

this channel and its various branches we at length gained the crest of

the range, and I directed the party to halt while I hastened to a conical

summit on the left, apparently the highest and most pointed of those

previously observed. It consisted of syenite and from it I obtained a

very extensive view to the northward, but yet could not see any

favourable opening in the direction in which I wished to reach the

Murrumbidgee: on the contrary as we reduced our distance from home the

obstacles to our reaching it seemed to increase.

PROVISIONS NEARLY EXHAUSTED.

Our provisions had been counted out to a day, and any delay beyond the

time required to cross that country at our usual rate of travelling might

have been attended with great inconvenience. Mr. Stapylton’s party, then

so far behind, were depending upon us for supplies; while a labyrinth of

mountains, entirely without roads or inhabitants, was to be crossed in a

limited time with carts before any such supplies could be obtained and

sent back. Some high and distant mountains appeared to the eastward, and

in the west I intersected the hills I had previously seen which were now

much nearer to us. On returning from the hill to the party we descended

from the range into some flats of good open land where a solitary

kangaroo became an object of intense interest now that our provisions

were exhausted. The week was out for which the last of our stock had been

issued in very small rations; and although most of the men had

endeavoured to make this very reduced week’s allowance to last them nine

days no mutton remained, nor could it well have been preserved during

such hot weather. This kangaroo would have been therefore a most welcome

addition to our store; but we had no dogs and I was so anxious as to

venture a shot at too great a distance and to our great disappointment it

escaped. We finally encamped in a valley which fell to the right or

eastward, near some good ponds, and after performing a journey of upwards

of 15 miles. I found near the hill I first ascended in the morning a new

kind of grass with large seeds.*

(*Footnote. Danthonia eriantha, Lindley manuscripts; panicula

subcoarctata lanceolata, spiculis sub-4-floris gluma laevi multo

brevioribus, palea exteriori laevigata basi apiceque villosissima,

aristis lateralibus subulatis debilibus intermedia brevioribus, foliis

setaceis vaginisque patentim pilosis, collo barbato.)

October 22.

Soon after we set out this morning we approached a range of barren hills

of clay-slate on which grew the grass tree (xanthorrhoea) and stunted

eucalypti. On ascending this range I perceived before me a deep ravine,

and beyond it hills less promising than even these which were

sufficiently repulsive to travellers with wheel-carriages. Turning

therefore from that hopeless prospect towards the eastward, we crossed

the head of a valley falling to the right, and after a somewhat tortuous

course we gained the highest part of a range beyond it, from which a

grassy vale descended on the opposite side towards the north-east. This

vale turned to the left after we had followed it 2 1/4 miles and we next

crossed a ridge of quartz rock.

CATTLE TRACKS FOUND.

Beyond the ridge the natives found some old cattle tracks and this

intelligence very much pleased and encouraged the men.

BURNETT’S RIVULET.

At two miles farther on we came upon a little rivulet flowing to the

westward through a good grassy valley, and it was joined about the place

where we came upon it by one coming from the south. The stream washed the

base of a lofty mountain which I ascended while the people were passing

our carts, cattle, and equipment across the rivulet which I named after

my trusty follower Burnett.* The mountain consisted of granite and was so

smooth that I could ride to its summit. The weather was boisterous and

the country which that height presented to my view seemed quite

inaccessible, at least in the direction of the colony where:

Hills upon hills and alps on alps arose.

(Footnote. See figure with the fowling-piece in Plate 17 Volume 1.)

IMPEDIMENTS IN THE ROUTE.

The only valley of any extent which could be seen was that watered by the

rivulet below, and this extended, as I have stated, to the westward, a

direction in which we could not follow it with any prospect of either

getting nearer home or reaching a cattle station. Our provisions were

exhausted, while the rocky fastnesses of a mountain region still

threatened to shut us out from the Murrumbidgee, a river on whose banks

we hoped to meet with civilised people once more and which, according to

the map, was almost within our reach. Again and again I examined the

mountains with my glass, and only discovered that they were numerous and

all ranging towards the north-west, a direction right across our way to

the Murrumbidgee. I could indeed trace among the hills in the north the

grand valley through which the river flowed, but the intervening ranges

seemed to deny any access to it from this side. I was determined however

to find some valley likely to lead us into that of the Murrumbidgee, and

although it could only be looked for beyond that mountain range, our

route had been so good and so direct thus far, from the very shores of

the southern ocean, that I could not despair of crossing the

comparatively small space occupied by these mountains; and I descended

the hill firmly resolved to continue our course in the same direction as

we best could. I found on reaching the foot that, to the delight of the

men, more cattle marks had been discovered in the valley, and in one

place Piper pointed out a spot where a bullock had been eaten by the

natives. Following the little stream upwards I at length placed our camp

in a grassy valley near its head and then, on riding forward, I found

that no obstruction existed to our progress with the carts on the

following day for at least several miles.

October 23.

The hills we ascended offered much less impediment than I had reason to

apprehend when I surveyed them at a distance, but they became at length

so steep-sided and sharp-pointed that to proceed further, even by keeping

the crests of a range, seemed a very doubtful undertaking: to cross such

ranges was still more difficult while the principal chain, which led to

the south-east, appeared equally impracticable even had its direction

been more favourable.

AT LENGTH REACH A VALLEY LEADING IN THE DESIRED DIRECTION.

Drizzling rain came on and prevented me from seeing far beyond the point

we had reached when I at length halted the party and, taking Piper with

me, descended into a valley before us in order to ascertain its general

direction and whether the carts might not pass along it. We found in this

valley the tracks not of cattle only but of well shod horses: we also

discovered that it opened into extensive green flats and, its direction

being northerly, I hastened back and conducted the party into it by the

best line of descent I could find, although it was certainly very steep.

Having got safe down with our carts we found excellent pasturage, the

cattle marks being very numerous and at length quite fresh, even the

print of young calves’ feet appeared, and all the traces of a numerous

herd.

WILD CATTLE SEEN.

In short cattle tracks resembling roads ran along the banks of the chain

of ponds which watered this valley; and at length the welcome sight of

the cattle themselves delighted our longing eyes, not to mention our

stomachs which were then in the best possible state to assist our

perceptions of the beauty of a foreground of fat cattle. We were soon

surrounded by a staring herd consisting of at least 800 head, and I took

a shot at one; but my ball only made him jump, upon which the whole body,

apparently very wild, made off to the mountains.

OBLIGED TO KILL ONE OF OUR WORKING BULLOCKS.

Symptoms of famine now began to show themselves in the sullenness of some

of the men, and I most reluctantly allowed them to kill one of our poor

working animals, which was accordingly shot as soon as we encamped and

divided amongst the party.

BY FOLLOWING THE VALLEY DOWNWARDS, WE ARRIVE ON THE MURRUMBIDGEE.

The valley preserved a course somewhat to the westward of north, and I

now felt confident that by following it downwards we should reach the

Murrumbidgee without meeting further impediment. This unexpected relief

from the hopeless prospects of the drizzling morning was infinitely more

refreshing to me than any kind of food could possibly have been, even

under such circumstances.

October 24.

As we continued our journey downwards the waterholes in the chain of

ponds became small and scarce, while we found the cattle-tracks more and

more numerous. No change took place in the character of the valley for

nine miles; but I recognised then at no great distance the hills which on

the 22nd I had supposed to lie beyond the Murrumbidgee. On riding to a

small eminence on the right I perceived the dark umbrageous trees

overshadowing that noble river, and close before me the rich open flats

with tame cattle browsing upon them, or reclining in luxuriant ease, very

unlike the wild herd. The river was flowing westward over a gravelly

bottom, its scenery being highly embellished by the lofty casuarinae,

whose sombre masses of darkest green cover the water so gracefully and

afford both coolness and shade. Now we could trace the marks of horsemen

on the plain; and as we travelled up the river horses and cattle appeared

on both banks. At length we discovered a small house or station and a

stockyard. On riding up to it an old man came to the door, beating the

ashes from a loaf nearly two feet in diameter. His name was Billy Buckley

and the poor fellow received us all with the most cordial welcome,

supplying us at once with two days’ provisions until we could send across

the river for a supply. Just then several drays appeared on the opposite

side, coming along the ROAD from Sydney, and these drays contained a

supply from which Mr. Tompson the owner accommodated me with enough to

send back to meet Mr. Stapylton on the banks of the Murray.

WRITE MY DESPATCH.

Having pitched my tent close by the house of my new friend Billy, I wrote

a brief account of our proceedings to the government while my horses were

permitted to rest two days preparatory to my long ride to Sydney.

PIPER MEETS HIS FRIENDS.

Piper’s joy on emerging from the land of Myalls (or savages) was at least

as great as ours, especially when he met here with natives of his

acquaintance–“CIVIL blackfellows,” as he styled them, bel (not) Myalls.

He was at least a Triton among the minnows, and it was pleasant to see

how much he enjoyed his lionship among his brethren. Little Ballandella

had been taken great care of by Mrs. Piper and was now feasted with milk

and seemed quite happy.

NATIVE NAMES OF RIVERS.

I learnt from the natives we found here their names for the greater

rivers we had passed, and of some of the isolated hills. Everywhere the

Murray was known as the Millewa; but I was not so sure about Bayunga, a

name which I had understood to apply to the Goulburn, Hovell or Ovens.

A STOCK-KEEPER’S HOSPITALITY.

When Billy Buckley, who was only a stockkeeper at that station, saw my

party arrive and was at length aware who we were, he came to me when

enjoying a quiet walk on the riverbank at some distance from his house,

carrying in his hand a jug of rich milk and a piece of bread which I

afterwards learnt, with dismay, had been baked in butter. I felt bound in

civility to partake of both, but the consequence was an illness which

very much interfered with my enjoyment of that luxuriant repose I had

anticipated in my tent, under the shade of the casuarinae on the brink of

the living stream.