Tracks of McKinlay and party across Australia/Chapter 10
HOMEWARD BOUND CARPENTARIA TO PORT DENISON.
Editor's Remarks—A Gamp of Landsborongh—June 5th, The Flinders (of McKinlay)—6th, The Binoe—13th, Gregory's Ranges; Mount Wildash; Hawker's Bluff; Morphett's Peak—16th, The Gilbert, the Old Camel served up—20th, Stuart's Creek—22nd, etc., Most difficult Country—25th, etc., Ice during Night—28th, Frank and George Creeks—July 5th, Strike the Burdekin—15th, A Platypus in the Burdekin—27th, Cross the Burdekin on a Raft—30th, Last Camel, Siva, killed for Food—August 2nd, Reach Harvey and Somers' Station, near Port Denison.
Unable to reach the sea, although so near to it, or even to get a glimpse of it from the low and swampy ground on which they have arrived, the party turns its back on the northern waters, and joyfully takes the homeward course. This course the leader had already decided should be by way of Port Denison, the remaining stock of provisions being inadequate for an attempt to return by the route by which they had arrived. Reascending the Leichhardt to find a crossing place, they came, on the third day's march, upon the tracks of Landsborough, in his preceding south-easterly route, which, however, they immediately lose by keeping more to the east. Here may arise some confusion. McKinlay comes upon a considerable river, which he crosses and recrosses repeatedly, and which he considers to be the Flinders, and so names accordingly. Landsborough falls in with another, and still larger river, evidently the main stream, which he too calls the Flinders. Between these two branches or supposed branches of the same river system, Walker came upon a third, which he called the Norman, while Burke describes a fourth, the Cloncurry, flowing from the south and west. The Flinders, therefore, embraces a very considerable watershed. We can hardly do better, towards avoiding a confusion of names, than by changing the Flinders of McKinlay to the name of its discoverer, and this without much apprehension from the rival claims of a lesser stream that pursues its unknown course somewhere about the centre of the country.
As the expedition advances eastward, a remarkable change is found in the features of the country. The grassy plains are succeeded by a country of the most rugged and difficult character, consisting of endless successions of hills, rising in some parts to considerable elevation, and presenting all but impassable obstacles to travelling. The Upper Burdekin is reached, rolling its fine clear waters through a country of the same character. Following this guiding channel, the travellers at length arrive amongst the settlements just after the last camel—defiant, contentious old Siva—had gone into the pot, as the last horse (save two) and the last bullock had done some time before, and when the exhausted stock of provisions had already been the subject of some anxiety.
Passing through a range of latitude varying from 17° to 20°, the climate of the country is remarkable. The intense cold, especially at night, is constantly alluded to. For instance, on 27th May, "cold keen wind, south-south-east," and on 28th, "bitterly cold," etc. Subsequently, on three different mornings, there was ice on the water in the pots, and the dew was frozen upon the blankets. Although the season was the middle of winter, this degree of cold, so frequently recurring, is unusual in other parts of the world in so low a latitude, and in positions of no great elevation above the sea level. But once more to the Journal. "" as Mr. Davis would have said most heartily, if the literal of the phrase could for once have been substituted for the figurative.
22nd. (Return Camp i.) This is a magnificent morning. Started early, but going over the same, I have not much to say. We camped about three miles north of our camp, going up a creek with plenty of water. Mr. McKinlay tried to cross the Leichhardt in one or two places, but failed, so we have to go down to the falls; the banks very precipitous. Came to camp on a lagoon.
23rd. Started on a bearing of 135°. We had an awful job to cross at the falls; the rocks were so rugged and slippery that several of the bullocks fell and barked their legs between the rocks; it took us a long time to get over. After crossing, a marked tree was observed, and the remains of an old camping place; the trees were cast about, and much bruised; the large tree was marked—
the arrow pointing upwards; so up one of our fellows got to see if anything was hidden, but after a long search, nothing was found. This was one of Landsborough's camps.
We went a short stage to-day from the detention at the falls, and camped at a lagoon with plenty of duck, teal, etc. I forgot to mention that we found a broken bottle at the foot of the tree, and we imagined that there might have been documents left in it. This we afterwards found to be erroneous, when we saw Landsborough in Melbourne, as he had not buried anything there. The horses' tracks were not yet obliterated. We marked a tree close to Landsborough's, MK, with a knife.
24th. The Queen's birth-day; very sorry we cannot drink her health. Started early; went twenty-two miles, and camped on a creek. There was a heavy dew last night; lots of game, but very wild, and difficult to be got at; natives binning all round, but none to be seen. Passed over stony ridges and flats; crossed a small creek and lagoon, with plenty of water; country well grassed, with plenty of light timber scattered about, and some bushes. Then over open country, rather swampy in places, soil very good; after that stony spinifex ridges for the rest of the way to camp, passing a creek or two, and a regular town-ship of ant-hills, of all shapes and sizes, to camp 3·30.
26th. (Camp v.) Passed through some curious country to-day, pebbly but well grassed, low ranges on both sides of us, then across a large plain, and camped on a swamp about seventeen miles from old camp; natives still firing about us, but none to be seen.
27th. Was nice and cold this morning; had to make some leather boots for the camels; they were very lame indeed. We went some thirty miles today, for we could not find water; when we did, it was so muddy that dire necessity alone made us drink it. We started at about 8·30 a.m.; came to a fine creek, well grassed and timbered, but very boggy where we struck it, and we had to take a small spell before Mr. McKinlay could find a crossing place; crossed, and soon after came upon another large one, two hundred yards wide, full of reeds and grass, but with no water where we crossed; we had a job to find water, Mr, McKinlay tried various belts of timber, in the hope of finding some, but without success. He says, "This is the most deceptive part of the country—every five minutes you are in the expectation of coming to water, but it has been our fate to find nothing but this muddy little drop; plenty of birds about, so there must be water somewhere." I don't recollect mentioning anything about our little sheep and their travels; they have gone as much as thirty-two and often twenty-five miles per diem, and were quite jolly; I wish we had some now. Ned and the bullocks not in to-night.
28th. Just after sunrise the bullocks came into camp all right, and men with them. The governor went off to look for water, and found two splendid lagoons a quarter of a mile from camp. He soon came back with the intelligence, so we saddled up, and were off for the nearest lagoon in a south direction. Maitland not up. We shall stop at this new camp some time to recruit the camels, as they are very lame, and there is plenty of feed for them; we shall also kill a bullock, and jerk him here—"Boxer, your doom is sealed!"
Middleton unwell again. Maitland came into camp late this afternoon, looking rather the worse for wear, quite knocked up. The governor says had we been obliged to go on a stage without luckily hitting on this place, I think he would have gone frantic, as he appeared in a sad state of mind on his arrival.
29th. (Camp viii.) Spelled here at this fine lagoon; it is a pretty sheet of water, with plenty of lilies growing on it. Three or four of the lads are taken ill with shivering and a. kind of ague. Mr. McKinlay says "it is an awkward part of the world to get ill in." Getting the meat jerked to-day. These chaps being ill we are rather short-handed. Our solitary bullock does not seem to feel lonely. He came into camp, saw his old mate, and then went off to feed quite quietly. Bell went to look after Maitland during the day, and returned without seeing him at the old camp, he having orders to go no further. He found a curious fruit—nothing but stone and skin; so, unless the kernel is good, it is valueless. N.B. The stone only contained two or three small seeds; no one tasted them. Liver and cold water for tea, but the men who are ill cannot touch it.
30th. Repairing pack-bags and saddles. On going out this morning after the camels, I found an old acquaintance—a pretty little tree, bearing a red seed with a black eye; I knew it directly; it is called by the blacks in the West Indies "crab-eye." I took a lot of them to camp not thinking much of them myself; finding that none of the party had seen any before, I sallied forth again, and gathered a good supply.
We had some good bathing here, but very cold; it did us a power of good, though. The three men still ill. The governor says—"If these lagoons are permanent—and no doubt there are many more—this is a splendid pastoral country." Feed good enough for any stock, and timber to suit almost any purpose. There is a large bean here, the same, Mr. McKinlay says, that poor Leichhardt used instead of coffee.
Repairing to-day and shoeing some horses, and getting everything ready for an early start to-morrow. I hope the sick folk will be better. We had a first-rate breakfast this morning—potted bullock's head. You may laugh, but it was most excellent. It is true there was not much spice in it, but it went down well with a good appetite.
June 1st. (Camp viii.) Shall not start to-day after all. Getting the things ready repacked. Spelling the sick men and animals as long as we can. The camels being so lame, the governor ordered the hobbles to be taken off, consequently one of them is non est to-night. He won't be very far, as he is very lame; I daresay planted in some of the bushes.
A number of natives visited us to-day; the most curious fellows imaginable. There seemed to be only one spokesman among them, and he was an elderly gentleman, the younger ones making a kind of noise between a whistle and a hiss. Saw no lubra among them. There were many more males in the trees to the rear of our camp. Gave those who came up some old horseshoes, and some bullocks' horns; the latter they seemed to think a great curiosity. The governor could not make much out of their motions and hissing. They soon left us, and promising to return. They are not such fine men as those on the lakes. They did not like the appearance of the camels, and looked on them with great awe, and wanted them to be driven away; they happened to be the only animals in camp when they came up.
Sick men not improved, but I fear we must start to-morrow, whether or no, as it will not do for us to remain camped too long, with only one bullock for food. Some old horse won't go badly should we be driven to that.
2nd. Found camels early this morning, so we shall not be detained, and eastward ho! again to-day. I hope we shall not stop any more till we get to a station. I am far more jolly writing this to-day than I was when jotting it down in pencil in my pocket-book. Over my shoulder are peeping rather a nice lively pair of eyes, belonging to a certain young lady of my acquaintance. Ah! what does Tom Moore say—let me see if I can recollect. Oh I here it is:
"If woman can make the worst wilderness dear,"
The other line, slightly altered,
"Think, think, what a heaven she'd make of this here."
I hope we shall soon see some merry faces and laughing eyes at Port Denison. Pretty creatures, what should we do without them!
Our path is through a good deal of scrub today, and we came only about twelve miles, on account of the sick men, and camped on a lagoon, in which all those who were well had a bathe, as usual, whenever there was water enough. It was very cold; a most tremendous dew last night and this morning; everything was wet through, and McKinlay's waterproof over his bedding had a gallon of water resting on it in the hollows. I never experienced such a heavy dew in my life. There was also a thick fog; could not see ten yards ahead of you. The fog lifted between 8 and 9 a.m., when we prepared to start. Palmer ill with the fever, making four on sick-list.
"Although this country is rather too thickly wooded to be called open forest, it is still an excellent pastoral country, the grasses sweet and plenty of water, the lagoons being covered with nymphans or water lily, and the soil sandy. We passed many patches of burnt ground, some burnt earlier than the rest, haying green grass nine to twelve inches high.
"Saw nothing of the natives this morning before starting. Several palms seen through the forest; a few close by this camp of no great height. The feed in general is very dry, except in the neighbourhood of the creeks or lagoons."
3rd. A heavy dew last night and this morning, but not so bad as the night before. A long twenty-seven miles walk to-day—not very comfortable for the invalids. Passed through lots of spinifex and timbered ground, but not so dense as yesterday. Here we lost a fine horse, Harry: he had been ridden into camp, and began to blow a good deal, and died at 9 p.m. He was poisoned or bitten by a snake. We passed several creeks with very little water in them. Fortunately the governor ordered us to fill our canteens, and he was right; for we camped without water, and found what we had brought with us quite a godsend. We had to keep a sharp look-out after the horses and bullocks. This is nasty work, as it is nearly dark. Kept the fire in all night. None of the horses got away, and the camels being tied up, we shall get away early to-morrow morning. The female camel, Krishna, very lazy, and would not go along by fair or foul means. She is nearly done up. I expect we shall have to leave her behind. She ought to be jerked. It fairly tires me leading the old brute.
Came only about six miles to-day; have come to a water-hole, and not finding water up or down the creeks, Mr. McKinlay thought it best to stop there. Old Krishna is to be let go her own way, and high time too. We filled our canteens and bags with water, and then let the animals drink. It being only a small hole, soon got muddy. How the poor things go into the water! they not having had any since the morning.
4th. (Camp x.) The silk cotton, which I have seen growing in India, is here with its beautiful red blossom, and having no leaves while in flower.
5th. There is a creek on our right; then we come to a large one, with a little water in, where we camp, as there is good feed for the camels, for they have been tied up for the last two or three nights. Sick men mending, except Kirby, who is very weak. This river here, Mr. McKinlay says, is the "Flinders." It has lots of paper-barked trees on it, and some very fine ones on its banks: we camped in its bed. We got a bath today in a hole; water as clear as crystal. We passed several frames, six feet long by four feet wide, and three feet from the ground, on forks, making a kind of sleeping-place; the darkies are refined up here.
6th. Kirby still continues very weak; no energy left. The rest better. Passed through plenty of scrub as usual, and crossed the Flinders twice to-day. Struck another river, the Binoe. The country open, timber, well-grassed. Camped on a small creek running into the Binoe. Few lagoons close by covered with yellow lilies. Plenty of water in the small creek, but none in the Binoe just here. Any quantity of corkscrew or spiral palm. The old camel not in yet. A native companion shot this morning. Very little game.
7th. (Camp xiii.) Started about 8 a.m., over some rough country, low ranges, with thick scrub, some very lofty barren ranges to our left, some eight miles off, very rocky, timbered to the top. We crossed the Flinders at a very wide branch, and crossed and recrossed the Binoe. Camped on the Flinders, at a long sheet of water; quantities of the bronzed stones strewed in our path to-day. We shall kill our last bullock, and then for "old horse." We must make the most of him; he is rather wild sometimes, rushing among the horses, and going through them sideways, etc.; so the sooner he is killed the better. Native fires ahead, but no darkies to be seen. Killed the bullock; not an ounce of fat on him.
8th. All hands jerking bullock. Patients better. Mr. McKinlay out on a ramble. Brought home a snake eight feet long. This is a fine sheet of water, 400 yards long and thirty wide. Lots of large bean vines. Very pretty it is, cut up into small islands, with the sandy courses going all round them. Some of them have fine gums growing on them. Some traces of game here—kangaroo, wallaby, emu, etc.
9th. (Camp xiv.) In camp spelling, mending bags, and finishing beef. Good roast beef for dinner; it went well without mustard, salt, or pepper even. Shoeing horses. Governor and Middleton out on a cruise to see the country.
Mr. McKinlay says:—
"I took Middleton with me to go out to reconnoitre and feel our way for next stage through the hills a-head. Found that the water-course comes from north, or a little west of north, from between the heavy-timbered ranges to north and west, and. bald hills, or nearly so, to north and east, and probably winds round nearer its source more to the east. A number of thinly-wooded hills, with small creeks running from them to west and south appear to run round south for some distance, perhaps ten to fifteen miles or more. Beyond the highest, in the distance, the natives are busy burning, and this leads me to suppose they are on the other or principal branch of the Flinders River; but I shall know more about it in a few days. Abundance of water in the small creeks, as far east and south as I went to-day, and some lagoons in the flats. The natives commence their range of fires from 20° west of south to 30° east of south, and I think I shall find that it will meet me on my course. Wind in the afternoon from south by east, strong occasionally; towards evening it died away. Beef now dry. We start from here to-morrow if all is right, and we have nothing more to detain us. The horses are shod, except one, and that one, one of the best, no shoes being large enough. I hope he will be able to get along. Our food now consists of about 230 lb. of dry and salt beef, everything else in the shape of food gone, but I think we will have sufficient to carry us into the settled }} districts of Queensland, on the Burdekin River, where we will be able to get a fresh supply. We have a little salt, and amongst the lot about half a pound of soap."
10th. We are off to-morrow. I hope the bullock will see us to a station, but I doubt it; the meat is well jerked. Sun very hot. Bathed of course. Making all ready for an early start tomorrow morning.
11th. Started early. Country well wooded. Crossed two creeks. The bed of one of them was one mass of conglomerate, with large boulders of iron-stone, as if they had been thrown up by fire lately. Lots of quartz, sandstone, etc. The creek resembles very much the one we left, with the small islands, sandy bed, and fine trees and shrubs of all kinds. Our way lay through open forest and plains, intersected by small creeks. Passed also lagoons now and then on the plains.
Mr. McKinlay again says:—
"Over first stony ridge at 10·10, and considerable sized double creek at 10·17, dry at crossing. Top of next high range at 11·15; five and a quarter miles. Very extensive view. Spelled on top of hill waiting for the camels for forty-five minutes, till noon. Then started on bearing of 127½° for south-west end of large range in the distance, that would otherwise come right across my original course. There is an immense large black circular range from 127½° round by east to west-north-west, with reaphooky faces and scrubby tops, and a number of detached conical and coronet-topped hills. At 1 p.m. water in a rocky creek close to the right. Watered the horses. Spelled ten minutes, till 1·10. Crossed creek at 1·15. Sandy, scrubby forest. Crossed another sandy creek at 1·57. Crossed another sandy creek at 2·3. At 3·15 on top of rocky mulga hill, with granite and mass of quartz pebbles. Some difficulty in getting over and down a rocky range (granite principally). Struck a small creek, with sufficient water for our use, and good feed, and camped at 3·50 at distance of ten and three-quarters to eleven miles on last bearing. Distance travelled about sixteen miles. Course of the ranges close by, the one that we last crossed, and the one just close by before us, 40° west of south, with the drainage in same direction."
12th. (Camp xv.) We went only six miles today, and camped on a very pretty deep running stream; well wooded all about here; nearly all of the trees paper-barked; some of them were broken off at their tops twelve or twenty feet. There must have been a tornado, and high too, only just to have broken the tops off. We are now in the ranges, scrambling, climbing, ascending and descending, and getting over rocks and precipices as well as we can. Arrived at a large isolated hill; the governor ascended, and we spelled for some time, while he did the climbing. He says you have an extensive view; the whole country is black and dismal in every direction. A large range in the distance, with large gaps; drainage all to the south-west. We started again round this hill, and here we came on the tracks of horses; traced them going west. The ground must have been very wet when they passed. We soon got to a fine valley, well timbered and grassed. We were obliged to camp at this short distance, for Maitland, who had stayed behind, was nowhere to be seen. When he does come up he will catch it and no mistake; i. e., if he ever does, for this is no country to track in, unless for a native; the ground very hard and stony; the camels leave no prints, only a stone turned over here and there.
13th. Came a long day's journey to-day over a most awful country as ever was seen for poor beasts to travel over; immense boulders to cross over somehow or other; the scenery magnificent and grand. We travelled from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and found no water; I dare say we have come twenty-five miles in distance, but only about twelve on our course; we were continually tacking, for to go straight was impossible. We camped at last on a little bit of a creek, with about a quart of water in it, in a small hole under a rock; we dug and got enough for the horses, camels, etc., and enough for ourselves. There were some little fish, an inch or so long, dead; round this and several other holes plenty of feed for the animals.
This day's work was so intricate that I must leave Mr. McKinlay to describe it:—
"13th. (Camp xvi.) Dewless night; wind from east by north. I take this to be the main branch of the Flinders, the hills on its right proper banks are very bold and must be over 3000 feet high. If they are not before named, I have called them Gregory's Ranges, after Augustus Gregory, Esq., now Surveyor-General of Queensland. The point I changed my course at yesterday I have called Mount Wildash, after F. Wildash, Esq., of Queensland. Immediately east of Mount Wildash, close by, is another bluff equally high, which I have called Hawker's Bluff, after the Hon. G. C. Hawker. Started at 7·58 a.m., on bearing of 100°, for the southern end of. dark range in the distance; at 8·30, south of conspicuous sandstone rocky peak, which I have called Morpheas Peak, after John Morphett, Esq., of Adelaide; dip of about 35° in the sandstone to about north-east or a little more east. Kept the above course three miles over good travelling country; spelled a few minutes, then up and down and over very rocky ranges, in many places precipitous and most intricate travelling from 9 a.m. till 11·30; three and a half miles further, then table-land till 1·50, the drainage is to the east, no doubt to go south after it has cleared the rocky ranges. Spelled, watering the camels, from 2·25 to 2·45 p.m., up to this eight and three-quarters miles further. Commenced ascending another mass of similar rocky ranges; stopped at 3·40, two and a quarter miles further, to look out a track to endeavour to get out of this awful place. Started again at 4·55 p.m., after spelling one and a quarter hours, could not get the animals over. Went back till 5·22, one mile on our track, or to sixteen and a half miles on bearing 100°, to try another place, southerly and westerly along and over very rocky ranges till 6·15, about two miles on average bearing of 215° to 220°. Came to a small sandy creek, then another, where by digging we will be able to give the animals some water; there is plenty of feed. It has been a very distressing day for the poor brutes. Distance, sixteen and a half miles on course of 100°, and two miles on 220°. Gave each of the animals from two to five buckets. Although when first seen the little water that was visible did not exceed a quart, with a few small dead fish about one and a half inches long, after digging, and clearing away the sand we got sufficient for to-night and to-morrow morning. It has been close and oppressive, which has added to the distress of the horses and camels. One of the latter, an old Indian, could hardly be persuaded to come along. Very light rain commenced about dark or a little after, bat I doubt whether it will come to anything; however, it will damp the grass for the poor animals, and make it more palatable."
14th. Came over country as bad or worse than yesterday, till we arrived at a creek. Went down it four or five miles. Craggy and rocky hills. Our pack bags fearfully torn yesterday coming through the scrub and stringy bark. Passed through lots of fine timber to-day. We had to spell a time. One of the horses bolted with his packs; he took fright at something, and off he was like a shot; tore the bags off him, burst his girth bucking, and in the end got all his traps off but his halter. This occurred in a thick forest of small stringy bark, by the side of a creek. Palmer and Bell went after him, and he was at last caught, how or where I never asked. We were soon on the road again after he was brought in. One of our horses, "Boco" by name, completely knocked up, poor devil! He could go no more, so we took off his load and set him free. We never saw him any more. The next part after leaving the nag was rugged and steep, then over sharp rocky ridges; in fact, the roughest country that could be travelled over was the track to-day. Found lots of water in holes in a creek. The scenery very fine. The sides of creek eighty to a hundred feet high.
We had to go through some long water-holes, and in passing through, old "Nano" the camel fell, nearly done up, and would not or could not rise. We had to send to camp, which was not very far from this, and unpack the brute, and carry all the things into camp. Just before we got there we had to make them jump down five feet, a sort of a fall in the rainy season. They did it very well, and we got to camp all right, but weary and glad to rest. We lost for a time to-day Mr. McKinlay's carpet-bag and Kirby's valise. They must have been torn off by the branch of a tree. We had to go back for them, which detained us a long time. We, with the camels, passed another horse done brown, and left to take care of himself, the softest and most useless of the lot, though he cost £50. There are two more horses on the give-up system, and will have to be left behind should we have any more severe country to go through. I fear it won't change yet, for there is nothing but ranges to be seen. Everywhere we seem to be in the midst of a mountainous district with grand scenery; but we have no time to think of pictures. I said to one of our fellows, "What magnificent scenery!" "D—— the scenery, I want my dinner." Horrid broth! Went nineteen miles to-day, sixteen on our course, so did not do so badly. Having to go such long stages for water, and through such a country, plays old Harry with our beasts. No good grass for horses, all coarse. Camels eat it and seem to like it.
15th. Looking very much for rain this morning. I hope we shall not have much, as the travelling is bad enough now; only went short, following the large creek down the bed, up to the horses' knees in sand; several of them hors de combat accordingly. After we got to camp and dined, Mr. McKinlay went up to the top of a high hill to take a view round. He says:—
"After getting to camp, ascended the hills on the right, or eastern side of the river, and never beheld such a fearfully grand country in my life—nothing but towers and pinnacles of sandstone conglomerate, fit for nothing but wallaby and euro; and if it is for a thousand years from this time, it can be used by no other animals but them and the natives, as it is at present. The apparent course of this river, from tho greatest height I could get to, is about 305°, going, in the first place, after passing the camp, a little more north for three or four miles. It is a terrible country. Should the river, on a closer examination to-morrow, prove to go as I imagine it does, I have nothing for it but to retrace my steps, and go up the main branch, and try and cross the range at top. Still very cloudy, and looks as if it would rain every minute. I wish I had a little more food. If I had I would give tho animals a week here, but I have barely sufficient for six days. Oaks have been seen to-day in the bed of the river, since tho junction of the two channels. The river runs below the junction of the two branches for some distance, but here it is dry its full width, which is about 150 to 200 yards, and is very picturesque, with beautiful drooping gums, papery bark trees, and various others, and the bold cliffs towering one above tho other with awful grandeur. No one can conceive how much effect the travel of the last few days and the shortness of nourishing food has had upon our animals, winch, ten days ago, were fit for anything—always excepting this description of awful country. Wind from all points of the compass."
This river is the "Gilbert," I expect, and we shall stay a few days to recruit the horses. They want a spell badly.
16th. (Camp xix.) I hope old "Nano," camel, will be left behind, he is quite done for, and has never stirred since we camped yesterday. His feet are quite raw, as if they had been cut with a knife, from the rough country we have been going over. He is an old worn-out brute, and has carried many a ton of forage and rations for our troops in India, I'll engage, long before he went exploring; it is time he went to grass. It rained heavily last night, and Bell and I took the precaution to build a tent, where we slept quite snugly, while the others who camped out got soaking wet before they well knew it.
The scenery up and down this creek (the Gilbert) is grand, and the feed better than we have had for some time. [We refer our readers to the illustration, copied from a sketch made by one of the party on the spot.]The old camel is to be killed! Old and worn out, with sores all over him, he will be a nice morsel, without the slightest bit of fat to be seen. What would Mr. McGuire say to this as part of the Coronation banquet? He is dead, and we
SKETCH ON THE GILBERT
17th. (Camp xix.) Rained pretty smart last night; the men cutting up meat for jerking; very bad day for the purpose, for it won't dry. We had some more of him for breakfast; meat rather tasteless, but the heart, roasted for dinner, was as good as a bullock's. Mr. McKinlay says the party, after starving two or three meals, have taken quietly to him now, and rather like—like it!—yes, in preference to starvation.
18th. Waterloo-day. Still in camp. We played too, and drank water, keeping up the day with a vengeance. Heavy dew last night. First part of day repairing saddles. Mr. McKinlay and Middleton sorting out the most useful things to take, the rest will be buried under an old dead tree, forty yards up the bank. The camel won't be good for much; what with the dew and no sun, it can't dry.
19th. Missed one of the horses this morning, and on looking for him found him quite dead, perhaps bitten by a snake. He was one of our best pack-horses, and always in good condition the whole way. Mr. McKinlay was very much put out at this, but it cannot be helped. Two of our best dead, two left behind; leaving only twenty-two, and two camels.
Started up a tributary, and then struck into the main creek about ten miles; bad work for the animals, but they did it very well. We buried this morning all sorts of rubbish at the foot of an old dead tree, and medicine, too, and a tin box, in which most of the things were placed, and then it was consigned to its resting-place, till some hardy bushman finds the tree, and the mark where to dig for some treasures of the McKinlay expedition. A large arrow marked on the tree denotes the spot where the tin box is to be found. Mr. McKinlay remarks under this date:—
20th. (Camp xx.) Heavy dew again last night. We followed the creek up till we struck a branch. We went up till we came to an impassable barrier of rocks. Here we spelled a short time till Mr. McKinlay returned from a trip beyond the rocks. He told us the country was utterly impassable for animals, so we had to retrace our steps a short distance, and ascend the hillside. On the top we had to stop again to see our way out. Mr. McKinlay went ahead to look out for a road. Off again up the bed of the creek, and camped at a small pool. Another horse knocked up. I think he was ill, for he was a good nag; we had to leave him for he could go no further. The travelling in the sand takes it out of the nags awfully. Distance about ten miles. We saw a few kangaroo to-day.
"I never saw animals fall off so suddenly in my life. Followed our tracks back to the junction of the two branches about two and a half miles, then took the left hand or south-east branch; found it improve much more than I had anticipated. The rocky hills recede occasionally and leave a nice bank of grass—but most of it recently burned by the natives. On our left, the rock appeared now to be chiefly slate, while on the right it still remained sandstone and quartz; the bed is broad and generally very open and sandy, upon which we have principally to travel; followed it for about eight miles in about an east-south-east course. From here (camp xx.) for some distance (seen from a hill here) the river appears to receive, from the east by south generally, plenty of water at intervals, and generally at those places running; no doubt, all the way it runs either over or under the land. Where we are now encamped the river is upwards of 150 yards broad. We found on turning out the camel meat to air that it was quite putrid, and had consequently to throw the whole of it away; at this time it is a very great loss to us—the loss of upwards of seventy pounds of food. Even with the spell our horses have had they come along very indifferently, and I am almost afraid some more of them will have to be left behind, as I have not sufficient food to wait spelling for them till they get flesh; there does not appear to be the same nourishment in the grass that there is almost anywhere else. Saw the smoke of natives a few miles ahead of us; I suppose we will see something of them to-morrow. Some figs were got by some of the party this morning before starting; I ate one of them apparently ripe, it was very insipid, the principal part of them were full of small flies. Distance travelled by bed of river, not direct, about ten and a half miles."
"Started at 8·10 a.m.; at three and a quarter miles came to a barrier right across from range to range, and after considerable detention succeeded in finding a road on our left round the range that the barriers form from; at four miles came to where one branch (the largest) comes from the south, with plenty of water in its bed in the stone and rocks; the other branch is considerably to the east, so will try it, although it does not at all look a watery branch, but is much more in the direction I want to go. About same course; over much more open country, hilly, and thinly clad with small iron-bark timber, and is chiefly of slate formation and well grassed, but no water in its bed as far as we went, say about five and a half miles further; where we fortunately got sufficient at the junction of a small side-creek with the main water-course to suit our immediate wants. It is perfectly surprising to see such a broad channel with such ranges close by and no water. One other of our best horses obliged to be left behind to-day; he has been ailing for some short time, and all at once refused to proceed. A few kangaroo seen to-day. I trust we will fall in with plenty of water to-morrow—our horses never do so well as when they can go to water themselves, instead of watering out of buckets. For some distance the creek bears to north of east; in fact, the next bend, about a mile long, is from north or so, when it appears to turn to south and east. We managed occasionally during to-day to get upon the slopes from the hills on either side of the creek, which was much better travelling than in the soft sandy bed of the creek, which I have called Stuart's Creek, after Mr. McDouall Stuart, the indefatigable explorer of South Australia. This part would make a good sound sheep country, if water at all times was obtainable. A number of oaks all along this branch, and more just here on our left side of the creek where the water is, and we are encamped."
21st. Here we go! three more horses left behind. Go it, ye cripples! So that we don't have to walk it won't signify; but if we go on as we are doing now, burning the candles at both ends, i. e. eating the camels and horses and leaving them behind, and with nothing else to depend on for grub, we shall soon be in serious difficulty.
It won't do to be wrecked in sight of home, so, lads, cheer up and keep your peckers ditto; that's the way to pull through a difficulty; and when we are on the last horse, it will be time enough then to think of going to David Jones, Esq., and he will have a nice lot if he gets us. We had a few drops of rain this morning; kept course of creek, and camped at a water-hole, our distance some thirteen miles. One of the camels seems very C D; he had to be thrashed to get him on. A very rough day's travel, but the country is pretty. One of the horses left behind joined the others during the night, and was with them driven into camp, but was too weak to go on, so we left him with good water and feed, but there is none for the camels now; I think they are too knocked-up to eat.
22nd. (Camp xxii.) Weather cloudy before starting. We had to lighten the camels by leaving the greased tent; the other was left on the "Gilbert." There are a few oak trees just above our camp. Passed through well-grassed country, with iron bark, open forest, making for the foot of a range in the distance. We arrived at this point, and of all the places for horses to climb up, this was the worst; it was almost like the side of a house. Here we had the devil's own row; two of the horses nearly got killed. They, instead of going up the road that had been somewhat cleared for them, took it into their heads to go their own way; they made up the steep ascent, and after scrambling and trying their best to get up, came head over heels down this infernal pass. I thought they were both killed; but no, they were all well, and on their legs, but very much frightened. Bell, I thought, must have been killed; he was close under them when they fell, but he had his wits about him, and watched to see which side of a tree they were coming; he then darted just in the nick of time, and escaped being smashed, which he certainly would have been had he not done as he did.
However, we all at last got to the top of the hill, although with the greatest difficulty as regards the camels, and we repacked them. The question was how to progress, so the governor, as usual, rode ahead to see what was to be done, and we spelled. I thought we should have to go back, which was almost impossible; but our leader never goes back on the course. Had he come to a scrub, such as Stuart describes north, if he could not have gone through it, he would have gone round it.
Country splendidly timbered, and the scenery grand. I forgot to mention that all the jerked camel had to be thrown away, which was a bad loss to us in our crippled state.
23rd. (Camp xxiii.) A great event is to happen to-night, a horse must die, and Mr. "Buckeye" must be sacrificed to the insatiable appetites of your explorers. The nag was soon caught and killed, and the heart, liver, kidneys, etc., made into a stew without salt. We had a small spoonful of pepper which we added. It was not so bad, and a steak or two not to be despised. We shall camp here two or three days and jerk him. It is a very cold-looking country about here.
24th. Cutting up and jerking Mr, Buckeye. Worked up course and distance with Mr. McKinlay (dead reckoning remember). I found we ought to be some forty miles from the Burdekin River, the nearest point, having travelled 260 miles since we crossed the Leichhardt Falls. Camp is not a nice one, the grass up to our necks nearly. The country well wooded with iron-bark trees. Middleton and Kirby still continue very unwell, they being continually sick. We are obliged to cook in turns, for our cook is ill also. Some of the horses got lamed.
25th. The dew very heavy last night, and ice in our pannikins about the thickness of half-a-crown. The meat is drying well, as the days are hot. It is always rather dull in camp during this process. Mending what we have, which is little enough, and very little to mend with.
26th. In camp all day looking after the meat, except early in the morning, then after 10 a.m., then 4 p.m., when I visited the camels. Heavy fog indeed, and got fearfully wet going through the high grass, but had no change of raiment, so were obliged to dry our clothes on us. Men still very sick. We shall start in the morning, as the meat is jerked, and weighed sixty-nine pounds, with six pounds of beef, seventy-five pounds; about six days' grub, so that if we don't hit a station in that time another nag must die.
27th. Up early. Breakfast, and immediately got the animals and passed through some beautiful country, well watered and admirably adapted for pastoral purposes. One of our camels rather lazy, "Coppin;" he won't last long I fear. He is a magnificent beast, and pluck to the backbone, like his former owner, G. Coppin, Esq. I shall be sorry if we are obliged to kill him.
28th. (Camp xxiv.) Started early on our course, and went about ten miles over magnificent country, well watered and wooded, and very pretty. Crossed several running brooks, evidently fed by some large swamp here. We also crossed a large fast-running stream, which Mr. McKinlay has called Frank, after Mr. F. Marchant, of Arkaba; he could not have called such a fine stream after a better fellow. I had the pleasure of seeing him on our trip up; he is the beau ideal of the Australian bushman. A few miles further on we come to another fine creek called George, after his brother George, of Wilpena, whom we had also the good fortune to foregather with on our northern trip, and have since our return had the pleasure of meeting him in Adelaide. We soon after got to the top of a rocky range. Extensive view of level country. Camped after passing over a large boggy swamp, striking another large creek, sandy bed with some water in it. Two more horses nearly knocked up. There is plenty of excellent food for the animals.
29th. (Camp xxv.) Up and away in good time, over fine country the whole way, well wooded and grassed. Old Jack, a horse that has carried the governor many and many a mile, and travelling has carried me, is to die to-day, a fine plodding old brute, but, alas! he can hold out no longer, it was a labour to get him along, so I expect we shall be soon having another horse ragout.
30th. A little dew last night, and wind light. Crossed a creek shortly after starting, thickly timbered, but not so good as lately. Afterwards ridges of sandstone and granite, then crossed an oak dry creek, east-south-east, and a little further on another—plenty of kangaroo—then to a swamp with a water-hole, with water in it sufficient for our purposes, and camped. Maitland so ill he could hardly stick to the pigskin. Kirby about the same, he is come to a shadow, and Palmer and Hodgkinson both complaining. Distance about nine miles. Bad travelling on account of the slopes being so steep, and we are going down in the water-courses, pretty well grassed though and good sort. Killed old Jack. Although a mere skeleton he will make some soup for a few days, with a little liver (but no bacon), and give the sick men a spell, and time to recruit at all events, and they want it badly.
July 1st. (Camp xxvii.) No dew last night. Bell better, but complaining, and so am I a little; Middleton quite well. Stiff wind from north; men busy jerking the remains of poor old Jack. Saw some large kangaroo, but very shy. Fine timber about here. Sorry to say the maggots got into the horse-flesh, which did not improve it in appearance, but it is of no use being particular now. Oh! for a rump steak, plenty of mustard, pepper, and salt, mashed potatoes, and two bottles of stout. Never mind!
2nd. This is called "Jack's Swamp," after the old horse. It is a splendid fine day, and the jerking going on well. Maitland is better, but Kirby and Palmer only about the same. The horses seem to be doing pretty well.
3rd. Still in camp. Little dew last night; the hills round here have the appearance of decayed sandstone, very precipitous, and in some places even overhanging. Shall finish jerking to-day. Kirby is improving a little; Maitland much better, but Palmer is not quite so well. I hope they will all feel equal for to-morrow's trip.
4th. Started early this morning. The weather looks fine. Great quantities of quartz to be seen. Passed a rugged range ten to eleven miles. Struck more creeks, with an island of dark coloured abrupt rocks. Some way down it receives a deep tributary from the west, so we had to go into the main creek to pass it. Here we camped. Lots of feed and water. Here we found a fine creeper running over trees and bushes, bearing a beautiful scarlet fruit. We thought we had found a prize, but of all the vile tasting things I ever met with this was the worst. It is very handsome, and would look nicely over a verandah. We took plenty of seeds.
Mr. McKinlay and self went up a high range after dinner and had a most extensive view—hill and dale, forest and plains. Saw plenty of native smokes to the north, and here we had for the first time the sight of what must be the Burdekin River, the stately gum trees of enormous height well defining its course. Very hot travelling to-day.
5th. Followed the creek down, when all of a sudden we heard the governor sing out that there were two horse-tracks in the bed of the creek. Was there not a shout of joy, inasmuch as we expected soon to see a homestead, or a hut at any rate; but, alas! "as the sparks fly upwards," we were doomed to disappointment; and we had to camp as usual with only old horse and water for supper. We ascended the side of the creek, and found a tree marked with a K roughly cut in the bark, also the remains of a hut.
After having seen these the first signs of civilization for so many months, we travelled over some open country with spinifex and grass up to the horses' bellies. The country undulating, the creek out of sight, and at last we struck the long wished-for Burdekin. We went a few miles down it and camped. The sand in the creek was very heavy, and fatigued the nags much. Mr. McKinlay says from here the river appears to flow 15° north of east. The bed of the river at this part is about ninety to a hundred yards wide, and a very strong current running. A few small fish to be seen. Magnificent gums on its banks, and plenty of excellent timber in every direction. This will be a most difficult part of the country for drays to travel, on account of the very steep-sided creeks, and at anything like a flood quite impracticable. The K we supposed to be the initial of some party exploring, and we were not wrong in our judgment, for we met Mr. Kennedy and had a long talk with him, in feet he asked us if we had seen his "K."
6th. Came over a nasty country to-day. Poor little "Coppin" was so weak that, from touching his pack against a stump as he was going down the steep bank of a creek, he fell into a deep hole, and there he was quite helpless. We had to unload him the best way we could to get him up. This was done, and all went on well again. Soon after this accident another horse fell into a deep hole, and we had to dig him out. The country was well grassed, but cut up with deep water-courses. One of our horses, "Spider," the one Bell was riding, can go no further, so we shall kill him, and spell a day or so to jerk him; there will not be much of him, as he is only a bag of bones.
We camped on the side of the "Burdekin." It was a pretty spot, quite like fairy land. The gums on the river magnificent, and plenty of good grass, but no green fodder for the genus homo.
Old Spider is now dead, and we shall have, as usual, a stew of his liver, kidneys, etc. I think we are beginning to like "dead horse," some prefer it to bullock. I forgot this morning we had an addition to our soup in the shape of one salted bullock's hide, cut up in slices, and it improved the flavour of our otherwise insipid and scanty breakfast. The country, although difficult travelling, was well wooded. Crossed a creek which flows into the Burdekin.
8th. Started down the river. "Copping," the camel, very bad, can hardly go at all; he is regularly baked, and no mistake. Travelling very rough, up sides of steep creeks, and down rocky ravines, and crossing a deep creek from the south-east, camped on the Burdekin again.8th. We came upon a lot of native spears on our arrival last night, which I forgot to mention, and also an oven full of baked roots, something like the sweet potatoe, which were very soon devoured by us. The natives must have been alarmed at the noise the camel made coming into camp, or they would not have made off in that way, leaving
A CAMP AT THE BURDEKIN.
We shall leave old "Coppin" to take care of himself, there is plenty of good grass and water; he is a plucky beast, and I hope he will do well. All the old clothes, a heavy cavalry sword, and many other things too numerous to mention, will be buried here, with the camel saddle hanging on a tree to mark the spot; so that if any one passes this way they will find one good camp oven, sword, and a pair of buckskin breeches. Distance eight miles.
10th. Oh, was it not cold this morning! ice in our quart pots, and over the tarpaulings. Farewell, old "Coppin," you are a noble little beast; many a long mile you and I have travelled together. Breakfast this morning—crows, bullock hide, and jerked horse; not bad, only there was not enough of it, that was the only fault. Country not so bad for travelling, a few pinches here and there. Only one camel left—"Siva."
11th. A heavy dew last night. Started at 8·15 a.m., through a good and well-grassed country, the river wide and picturesque, majestic gum-trees, and creepers of every description. "Goliah," one of our horses, is done; so we shall kill him tonight. It won't do to leave him, as we are now reduced to four pack-horses. We tie him up for an hour, and then he is laid low with a revolver bullet, and then as usual the old feast of liver and kidneys.
Camped in the bed of the Burdekin, and shall stop here to jerk the horse; his head will make a great stew, for it is about the largest one I ever saw. This camp was a very pretty one, and we had some nice bathing, which suited us all well, and refreshed us.
12th. In camp to-day, drying seeds of the large red fruit. Caught some fine bream to-day. Heavy dew last night, but as we camped under a large "tope" of trees we did not get much of it; lots of excellent fish caught. We start to-morrow morning, meat being nicely jerked, the weather having been fine for the purpose.
13th. This is about the nicest camp we have had on the Burdekin. I hope we shall go a good long stage to-morrow, if the ground is anything at all like decent.
14th. (Camp xxxiii.) Started early, after a good breakfast composed of—what do you think, reader?—you will never guess, so I may as well tell you: five crows, one shag, one pigeon, some bullock hide, and jerked horse; not a bad mixture, you will say. The country was good, undulating, and well grassed, some table land, and then scrub. Crossed two creeks, with corkscrew palms on the banks; then we follow close under the ranges, well grassed, then over a nice flat beautiful grass, but thinly timbered, and some of it rather swampy. We struck the river again, and camped at a place where it is from 700 to 800 yards broad.
15th. Some fine bream were caught to-day by the men and the governor. Most of us, with the exception of the cook and two left in charge of camp, were out with rod and line fishing for our supper. A little rain with some thunder; plenty of hawks and cormorants. The governor saw a platypus in the river this afternoon, the first during our long journey. Distance fifteen miles.
16th. (Camp xxxv.) Started early this morning; very cold and misty, and after travelling some six miles came on some dray tracks. Did not our spirits rise I Three to one and five to one was offered and taken that we had damper and coffee or tea this evening; but no such luck, for we camped on a small river that flows into the Burdekin. Lots of horse and sheep tracks; in fact, we are camped close to where there has been a large flock. I fancy they must have gone on the other side of the Burdekin, and so have escaped us.
17th. (Camp xxxvi.) Came over some very fine country, adapted both for agricultural and pastoral, the soil very rich, and I believe would grow any thing. Camped on a fine river flowing into the Burdekin, after having crossed two creeks. I dare say we have passed stations, but it will not do for us to go out of our way (course) to look for them in our present plight; the only plan is to go on, and chance coming on one en route. Distance to-day about twenty-two miles. Saw more dray tracks to-day, probably made by the same dray as the others were made by.
The old proverb sayeth that "hope deferred maketh the heart sick;" but I say that bad grub, and little of it, maketh you yearn after something better. We made a sweepstakes of £1 each, seven of us, each taking a day of the week determined by lots, and the holder of the ticket of the day on which we first make the habitation of a white man takes the £7.
18th. Fine cold morning, ice in all the pots. We found a very pretty fruit, a plum of a beautiful colour, and very good eating; the tree was covered, and we stopped under it for twenty minutes, one up in the tree throwing the fruit down, and we below stowing it away in bags, etc.; none of it quite ripe, but still when we got to camp we found it very good when boiled. After dinner we tried some roasted, and they were better. Wylde and I had a tent some fifty yards from the rest, and we were roasting them nearly all night. In the morning what was our surprise to find our teeth, which were quite black over night, as white as snow, and every one was the same—some peculiar acid I suppose.
Here we killed Hodgkinson's pony, and shall remain a day or two to boil him down, as we have buried our jerking ropes some time ago. We must carry it in that way, otherwise it would not keep, for though the nights are very cold, the days are hot. All the country down the Burdekin is much the same, well-grassed, with rocky creeks and water-ways.
19th. Here we shall spell to boil the horse down. Nights still cold, and days warm. All of us cutting up the animal. Then some went away fishing, some roasting plums or mending the remains of their clothes. The quantity of fruit we have eaten I should have thought would have made us ill, but it is quite the reverse. Poole caught some fine fish. Only about twenty-two miles from the "Fanning," says the governor; so perhaps we may have some substantial food to-morrow.
20th. (Camp xxxviii.) Started at 8 a.m. over a rocky creek through fine undulating country, with creeks, spiral palms, and oaks, which at eleven miles struck the river high range on the other side. Crossed creeks, two, and camped by some oaks. The timber here is not so fine as above. The river nearly 800 yards wide, with strong current on right side. Cold boiled horse, and a quart of superior Burdekin water for dinner. Fifteen fine bream caught—not a bad supper.
21st. We had frost last night; our blankets were quite white with it. Crossed many sandy creeks with paper-bark trees, gums, and palms; a beautiful and well-grassed valley on our left, highly timbered, plenty of limestone here, and at sixteen miles camped on a little water in a small creek.
22nd. (Camp xl.) Started about 7·30. Crossed the west creek to the one we camped on, and in eight or nine miles struck the Burdekin again. Country pretty, open in places, rough in others. No traces whatever of horses or stock of any kind on this side of the river. Another horse must be killed to-day, and we shall stop here to boil him down. On these days of slaughter, and when in camp, we fare sumptuously every day, as we have as much as we can eat from the head, bones, etc. In fact, all goes into the pot except the hoofs. After we leave the camp we are then on our old rations, twelve pounds per diem for ten men.
23rd. (Camp xli.) Governor and Middleton rode out on the other side of the river, and report lots more fresh cattle tracks. Where are all the settlers, I wonder? We are only stationed ninety miles from Port Denison, so we shall not starve, but may have to ride and walk by turns if we eat any more horses.
24th. Travelled eighteen miles, and camped in the bed of the Burdekin. No "damper" yet, nothing but boiled horse. The country rugged, thickly-wooded with iron-bark. The Burdekin narrows just below our camp, two high round-topped hills on the right. Here we are, poor forlorn explorers, left with only two pack-horses and one camel! Yes, reduced to this extremity from twenty-six horses, twelve bullocks, one hundred sheep, and four camels.
27th. Spelled here to boil down old horse. Mr. McKinlay, Middleton, and Wylde went up river to see if they could find a crossing, for we cannot go any further down this side, as it is completely blocked up with boulders and rocks, to say nothing of hills too steep for the beasts to climb up. Instead of finding what they wanted, what do you suppose they saw? Three or four full-grown alligators! Pleasant that, as we shall have to swim the river, and raft the things across it; rather took away our appetites when we heard of it. One of these brutes eighteen or twenty feet long. The governor says he gave them a shot or two.
We have a raft to make to-morrow, and little or no wood to do it with; there is one pretty good tree and some dry stuff. We put the water-bags and "billies" (tin saucepans) inverted underneath to make it as buoyant as possible.
28th. Now comes the tug of war; to be or not to be, that is the question. The raft is loaded with a few things, as much as it can bear, with grass at the bottom to keep the goods from the water, and macintosh cover over all. Palmer, Hodgkinson, Wylde, and self, naked in the water loading; it is a very gingerbread affair. Now all is ready, Hodgkinson and self start with the first load, he towing the said machine, and I behind helping him along, both doing our best to get to the other side as fast as possible. I never expected to get across; I thought that one of us must certainly go, as the alligators were close to us. We did not get across very fast, but at last landed on a spit of sand, and felt more at our ease. This was to be my place, for to the raft was attached a long string, composed of every available rope, fishing-line, bridles, etc., so as to make it long enough to reach the nearest point, I remaining to pull the raft across, and another fellow paddling back again to the other side. I took what we had brought up a kind of inlet, and landed it on terra firma; so I had to be dressing and undressing, in and out of the water all day.Well, we got all across safely, and camel, but the nags would not come, and night closing on us we had to defer bringing them till tomorrow. Mr. McKinlay, Bell, and Poole are over there. How cold it was. I had to strip and pilot the governor through the intricate passage, and land him safely with the other goods. Old Kirby had got a good fire, and we made ourselves comfortable, but alas! I had to take the three men's dinners to the spit, where Wylde was waiting to row the concern over with the grub to the fellows
"The Alligators were close to us."
29th. (Camp. xlv.) It was a work of difficulty, and no mistake. First we had to get the horses to the spit; that was not so bad, but to get them to the place where we were camped, that was the rub. We had to get three lines fastened to each horse; one in front to guide him to the landing-place, and one on either side to keep him straight, and keep him from swaying. It is a vile place, and I hope I may never see it or its like again if I have to get horses through it. Went about thirteen miles.
30th. (Camp xlvi.), Camped on a small stream running into the Burdekin, 100 yards off. Wylde and Hodgkinson are to dig a hole, for here everything is to be left behind and buried, and only the clothes we stand in and our blankets, those carried on our horses, to be kept. We take old "Siva" on to our next camp, and there he is to die, poor old fellow! he is to be lightened of everything; for on the first onset we have to climb a high and very steep hill, and were he loaded he could not by any means get up it; so this is the reason why we are leaving all our household goods to be buried. I wonder if we shall find a station near enough to send for them—seeds, stones, curiosities of all kinds, some brought hundreds of miles.
Started about 10 a.m., and had to skirt the hill, for the horses could not carry us straight over; the old camel got on well. Up a steep ascent, down into a valley, then over another, and so on till we camped. A very heavy day for all of us, as we had to walk the greater part of the time.
We camped at a running stream of beautiful water; there we shall kill our faithful ally "Siva." I shall be sorry to see him drop—he has been such a noble animal. We have a fine shady camp here; fine trees, with leaves twelve to fifteen inches long by ten inches broad; these leaves smoke well, as I learned by one of our party (Ned) coming to me and asking for my pipe. I lent it to him, and soon discovered him blowing a cloud; and happy he looked, with a knowing smile on his face, as much as to say "have a whiff." I was not long in trying it, and it turned out first-rate. Quickly did all the rest gather some leaves; and that night we had a good smoke of this very fine substitute for the nicotian weed.
There has been an old native encampment here. The remains of ancient whirlies are to be seen, etc., etc. Had some "Siva" for supper; his tripe very good, so we shall have all the rest prepared to-morrow, which, with his feet, will make one good meal, and his head, etc., another. Our spell here will do the horses good too. We shall boil down the meat, and each man carry so much on his saddle. The governor, in feet, will handicap us.
31st. Spelled here in this comfortable cool camp. Very convenient finding these leaves to smoke. Natives not far off, firing the grass in different directions.
August 1st. Boiling down camel all day. Poole sick with a touch of fever and ague, and cannot eat anything. There is not much choice, that's quite certain. Mr. McKinlay and Bell off for a ramble over the hills to see what they can see. On their return, they report the country ahead pretty level. Preparing for a start to-morrow. Four days' meat left, so that if we don't hit a station in that time look out those that have not good boots, as we must kill another horse. So we shall all have to walk in our turn. My boots, happily, are good.
2nd. Started early this morning; last man taking with him on his saddle in front a certain quantity of boiled camel, as we are now reduced to one riding-horse and one pack ditto. He carries the few necessaries of Mr. McKinlay—books, papers, etc.
After travelling for some ten miles we suddenly came on some cattle tracks, and shortly after were gratified by seeing the animals themselves, with two of our own countrymen "tailing" them. Were we not jolly! The station is situated on the "Bowen," a stream running north into the Burdekin, and belongs to Messrs. Harvey and Somers. Mr. Somers was from home when we arrived; but he soon made his appearance, and hospitality in the most extended sense of the term was the law. We had already astonished some cold roast-beef, etc., etc. The murphys were fine, and you may be sure we did justice to the novel fare.
Singular enough, here we met Mr. Brahe, a gentleman who was out in that fatal expedition with Burke, and, as many of my readers may remember, was stationed at Cooper's Creek, where he waited till he could wait no longer, but he was blamed for leaving. I don't see that the slightest blame can be attached to him; that is my opinion, and also of many others whom I have conversed with on the subject.
The flour we eat in the shape of bread, puddings, etc., has had a most curious effect on us all. We have been in the greatest pain; it would not digest somehow or other, and, strange to say, all are suffering from swelled legs and feet.
And now, dear reader, having brought you into the settled districts again, with just one concluding chapter I shall take my leave.