Australia Twice Traversed, by Ernest Giles

Chapter 1.5. From 1st to 15th October, 1872.

A bluff hill. Quandong trees. The mulga tree. Travel South-south-east. Mare left behind. Native peaches. Short of water. Large tree. Timbered ridges. Horses suffer from thirst. Pine-trees. Native encampments. Native paintings in caves. Peculiar crevice. A rock tarn. A liquid prize. Caverns and caves. A pretty oasis. Ripe figs. Recover the mare. Thunder and lightning. Ornamented caves. Hands of glory. A snake in a hole. Heavy dew. Natives burning the country. A rocky eminence. Waterless region. Cheerless view. A race of Salamanders. Circles of fire. Wallaby and pigeons. Wallaby traps. Return to depot. Water diminishing. Glen Edith. Mark trees. The tarn of Auber. Landmarks to it. Seeds sown. Everything in miniature. Journey south. Desert oaks. A better region. Kangaroos and emus. Desert again. A creek channel. Water by scratching. Find more. Splendid grass. Native signs. Farther south. Beautiful green. Abundance of water. Follow the channel. Laurie's Creek. Vale of Tempe. A gap or pass. Without water. Well-grassed plain. Native well. Dry rock holes. Natives' fires. New ranges. High mountain. Return to creek. And Glen Edith. Description of it.

On starting from Mount Udor, on the 1st October, our road lay at first over rocks and stones, then for two or three miles through thick scrubs. The country afterwards became a trifle less scrubby, and consisted of sandhills, timbered with casuarina, and covered, as usual, with triodia. In ten miles we passed a low bluff hill, and camped near it, without any water. On the road we saw several quandong trees, and got some of the ripe fruit. The day was warm and sultry; but the night set in cool, if not cold. Mr. Carmichael went to the top of the low bluff, and informed me of the existence of low ridges, bounding the horizon in every direction except to the south-south-east, and that the intervening country appeared to be composed of sandhills, with casuarinas, or mulga scrubs.

In Baron von Mueller's extraordinary work on Select Extra-tropical Plants, with indications of their native countries, and some of their uses, these remarks occur:— “Acacia aneura, Ferd. v. Mueller. Arid desert — interior of extra tropic Australia. A tree never more than twenty-five feet high. The principal ‘mulga’ tree. Mr. S. Dixon praises it particularly as valuable for fodder of pasture animals; hence it might locally serve for ensilage. Mr. W. Johnson found in the foliage a considerable quantity of starch and gum, rendering it nutritious. Cattle and sheep browse on the twigs of this, and some allied species, even in the presence of plentiful grass; and are much sustained by such acacias in seasons of protracted drought. Dromedaries in Australia crave for the mulga as food. Wood excessively hard, dark-brown; used, preferentially, by the natives for boomerangs, sticks with which to lift edible roots, and shafts of phragmites, spears, wommerahs, nulla-nullas, and jagged spear ends. Mr. J.H. Maiden determined the percentage of mimosa tannic acid in the perfectly dry bark as 8.62.” The mulga bears a small woody fruit called the mulga apple. It somewhat resembles the taste of apples, and is sweet. If crab apples, as is said, were the originals of all the present kinds, I imagine an excellent fruit might be obtained from the mulga by cultivation. As this tree is necessarily so often mentioned in my travels, the remarks of so eminent a botanist upon it cannot be otherwise than welcome.

In the direction of south-south-east Mr. Carmichael said the country appeared most open. A yellow flower, of the immortelle species, which I picked at this little bluff, was an old Darling acquaintance; the vegetation, in many respects, resembles that of the River Darling. There was no water at this bluff, and the horses wandered all over the country during the night, in mobs of twos and threes. It was midday before we got away. For several hours we kept on south-south-east, over sandhills and through casuarina timber, in unvarying monotony. At about five o'clock the little mare that had foaled yesterday gave in, and would travel no farther. We were obliged to leave her amongst the sandhills.

We continued until we had travelled forty miles from Mount Udor, but no signs of a creek or any place likely to produce or hold water had been found. The only difference in the country was that it was now more open, though the spinifex was as lively as ever.

We passed several quandong trees in full fruit, of which we ate a great quantity; they were the most palatable, and sweetest I have ever eaten. We also passed a few Currajong-trees (Brachychiton). At this point we turned nearly east. It was, however, now past sundown, too dark to go on any farther, and we had again to encamp without water, our own small supply being so limited that we could have only a third of a pint each, and we could not eat anything in consequence. The horses had to be very short-hobbled to prevent their straying, and we passed the night under the umbrage of a colossal Currajong-tree. The unfortunate horses had now been two days and nights without water, and could not feed; being so short-hobbled, they were almost in sight of the camp in the morning. From the top of a sandhill I saw that the eastern horizon was bounded by timbered ridges, and it was not very probable that the creek I was searching for could lie between us and them. Indeed, I concluded that the creek had exhausted itself, not far from where we had left it. The western horizon was now bounded by low ridges, continuous for many miles. I decided to make for our last camp on the creek, distant some five-and-twenty miles north-east. At five miles after starting, we came upon a mass of eucalypts which were not exactly gum-trees, though of that family, and I thought this might be the end of the exhausted creek channel, only the timber grew promiscuously on the tops of the sandhills, as in the lower ground between them. There was no appearance of any flow of water ever having passed by these trees, and indeed they looked more like gigantic mallee-trees than gums, only that they grew separately. They covered a space of about half a mile wide. From here I saw that some ridges were right before me, at a short distance, but where our line of march would intersect them they seemed so scrubby and stony I wished to avoid them. At one point I discerned a notch or gap. The horses were now very troublesome to drive, the poor creatures being very bad with thirst. I turned on the bearing that would take me back to the old creek, which seemed the only spot in this desolate region where water could be found, and there we had to dig to get it. At one place on the ridges before us appeared a few pine-trees (Callitris) which enliven any region they inhabit, and there is usually water in their neighbourhood. The rocks from which the pines grew were much broken; they were yet, however, five or six miles away. We travelled directly towards them, and upon approaching, I found the rocks upheaved in a most singular manner, and a few gum-trees were visible at the foot of the ridge. I directed Carmichael and Robinson to avoid the stones as much as possible, while I rode over to see whether there was a creek or any other place where water might be procured. On approaching the rocks at the foot of the ridge, I found several enormous overhanging ledges of sandstone, under which the natives had evidently been encamped long and frequently; and there was the channel of a small watercourse scarcely more than six feet wide. I rode over to another overhanging ledge and found it formed a verandah wide enough to make a large cave; upon the walls of this, the natives had painted strange devices of snakes, principally in white; the children had scratched imperfect shapes of hands with bits of charcoal. The whole length of this cave had frequently been a large encampment. Looking about with some hopes of finding the place where these children of the wilderness obtained water, I espied about a hundred yards away, and on the opposite side of the little glen or valley, a very peculiar looking crevice between two huge blocks of sandstone, and apparently not more than a yard wide. I rode over to this spot, and to my great delight found a most excellent little rock tarn, of nearly an oblong shape, containing a most welcome and opportune supply of the fluid I was so anxious to discover. Some green slime rested on a portion of the surface, but the rest was all clear and pure water. My horse must have thought me mad, and any one who had seen me might have thought I had suddenly espied some basilisk, or cockatrice, or mailed saurian; for just as the horse was preparing to dip his nose in the water he so greatly wanted, I turned him away and made him gallop off after his and my companions, who were slowly passing away from this liquid prize. When I hailed, and overtook them, they could scarcely believe that our wants were to be so soon and so agreeably relieved. There was abundance of water for all our requirements here, but the approach was so narrow that only two horses could drink at one time, and we had great difficulty in preventing some of the horses from precipitating themselves, loads and all, into the inviting fluid. No one who has not experienced it, can imagine the pleasure which the finding of such a treasure confers on the thirsty, hungry, and weary traveller; all his troubles for the time are at an end. Thirst, that dire affliction that besets the wanderer in the Australian wilds, at last is quenched; his horses, unloaded, are allowed to roam and graze and drink at will, free from the encumbrance of hobbles, and the traveller's other appetite of hunger is also at length appeased, for no matter what food one may carry, it is impossible to eat it without water. This was truly a mental and bodily relief. After our hunger had been satisfied I took a more extended survey of our surroundings, and found that we had dropped into a really very pretty little spot.

Low sandstone hills, broken and split into most extraordinary shapes, forming huge caves and caverns, that once no doubt had been some of the cavernous depths of the ocean, were to be seen in every direction; little runnels, with a few gum-trees upon them, constituted the creeks. Callitris or cypress pines, ornamented the landscape, and a few blood-wood or red gum-trees also enlivened the scene. No porcupine, but real green grass made up a really pretty picture, to the explorer at least. This little spot is indeed an oasis. I had climbed high hills, traversed untold miles of scrub, and gone in all directions to try and pick up the channel of a wretched dry creek, when all of a sudden I stumbled upon a perfect little paradise. I found the dimensions of this little tarn are not very large, nor is the quantity of water in it very great, but untouched and in its native state it is certainly a permanent water for its native owners. It has probably not been filled since last January or February, and it now contains amply sufficient water to enable it to last until those months return, provided that no such enormous drinkers as horses draw upon it; in that case it might not last a month. I found the actual water was fifty feet long, by eight feet wide, and four feet deep; the rocks in which the water lies are more than twenty feet high. The main ridges at the back are between 200 and 300 feet high. The native fig-tree (Ficus orbicularis) grows here most luxuriantly; there are several of them in full fruit, which is delicious when thoroughly ripe. I had no thought of deserting this welcome little spot for a few days. On the following morning Mr. Carmichael and I loaded a pack-horse with water and started back into the scrub to where we left the little mare the day before yesterday. With protractor and paper I found the spot we left her at bore from this place south 70° west, and that she was now no more than thirteen or fourteen miles away, though we had travelled double the distance since we left her. We therefore travelled upon that bearing, and at thirteen and a half miles we cut our former track at about a quarter of a mile from where we left the mare. We soon picked up her track and found she had wandered about a mile, although hobbled, from where we left her. We saw her standing, with her head down, under an oak tree truly distressed. The poor little creature was the picture of misery, her milk was entirely gone — she was alive, and that was all that could be said of her. She swallowed up the water we brought with the greatest avidity; and I believe could have drank as much as a couple of camels could have carried to her. We let her try to feed for a bit with the other three horses, and then started back for the tarn. On this line we did not intersect any of the eucalyptus timber we had passed through yesterday. The mare held up very well until we were close to the camp, when she gave in again; but we had to somewhat severely persuade her to keep moving, and at last she had her reward by being left standing upon the brink of the water, where she was [like Cyrus when Queen Thomeris had his head cut off into a receptacle filled with blood] enabled to drink her fill.

In the night heavy storm-clouds gathered o'er us, and vivid lightnings played around the rocks near the camp: a storm came up and seemed to part in two, one half going north and the other south; but just before daybreak we were awakened by a crash of thunder that seemed to split the hills; and we heard the wrack as though the earth and sky would mingle; but only a few drops of rain fell, too little to leave any water, even on the surface of the flat rocks close to the camp. This is certainly an extraordinary climate. I do not believe a week ever passes without a shower of rain, but none falls to do any good: one good fallen in three or even six months, beginning now, would be infinitely more gratifying, to me at least; but I suppose I must take it as I find it. The rain that does fall certainly cools the atmosphere a little, which is a partial benefit.

I found several more caves to-day up in the rocks, and noticed that the natives here have precisely the same method of ornamenting them as the natives of the Barrier Range and mountains east of the Darling. You see the representation of the human hand here, as there, upon the walls of the caves: it is generally coloured either red or black. The drawing is done by filling the mouth with charcoal powder if the device is to be black, if red with red ochre powder, damping the wall where the mark is to be left, and placing the palm of the hand against it, with the fingers stretched out; the charcoal or ochre powder is then blown against the back of the hand; when it is withdrawn, it leaves the space occupied by the hand and fingers clean, while the surrounding portions of the wall are all black or red, as the case may be. One device represents a snake going into a hole: the hole is actually in the rock, while the snake is painted on the wall, and the spectator is to suppose that its head is just inside the hole; the body of the reptile is curled round and round the hole, though its breadth is out of all proportion to its length, being seven or eight inches thick, and only two or three feet long. It is painted with charcoal ashes which had been mixed up with some animal's or reptile's fat. Mr. Carmichael left upon the walls a few choice specimens of the white man's art, which will help, no doubt, to teach the young native idea, how to shoot either in one direction or another.

To-day it rained in light and fitful shallows, which, as usual, were of no use, except indeed to cause a heavy dew which wet all our blankets and things, for we always camp without tent or tarpaulin whenever it does not actually rain. The solar beams of morning soon evaporated the dew. To the west-south-west the natives were hunting, and as usual burning the spinifex before them. They do not seem to care much for our company; for ever since we left the Glen of Palms, the cave-dwelling, reptile-eating Troglodytes have left us severely alone. As there was a continuous ridge for miles to the westward, I determined to visit it; for though this little tarn, that I had so opportunely found, was a most valuable discovery, yet the number of horses I had were somewhat rapidly reducing the water supply, and I could plainly perceive that, with such a strain upon it, it could not last much more than a month, if that; I must therefore endeavour to find some other watered place, where next I may remove.

On the morning of the 7th October it was evident a warm day was approaching. Mr. Carmichael and I started away to a small rocky eminence, which bore a great resemblance to the rocks immediately behind this camp, and in consequence we hoped to find more water there. The rocks bore south 62° west from camp; we travelled over sandhills, through scrub, triodia, and some casuarina country, until we reached the hill in twenty miles. It was composed of broken red sandstone rock, being isolated from the main ridge; other similar heaps were in the vicinity.

We soon discovered that there was neither water nor any place to hold it. Having searched all about, we went away to some other ridges, with exactly the same result; and at dark we had to encamp in the scrubs, having travelled forty miles on fifty courses. The thermometer had stood at 91° in the shade, where we rested the horses in the middle of the day. Natives' smokes were seen mostly round the base of some other ridges to the south-east, which I determined to visit to-morrow; as the fires were there, natives must or should be also; and as they require water to exist, we might find their hidden springs. It seemed evident that only in the hills or rocky reservoirs water could be found.

We slept under the shadow of a hill, and mounted to its top in the morning. The view was anything but cheering; ridges, like islands in a sea of scrub, appeared in connection with this one; some distance away another rose to the south-east. We first searched those near us, and left them in disgust, for those farther away. At eight or nine miles we reached the latter, and another fruitless search was gone through. We then went to another and another, walking over the stones and riding through the scrubs. We found some large rocky places, where water might remain for many weeks, after being filled; but when such an occurrence ever had taken place, or ever would take place again, it was impossible to tell. We had wandered into and over such frightful rocky and ungodly places, that it appeared useless to search farther in such a region, as it seemed utterly impossible for water to exist in it all. Nevertheless, the natives were about, burning, burning, ever burning; one would think they were of the fabled salamander race, and lived on fire instead of water. The fires were starting up here and there around us in fresh and narrowing circles; it seems as though the natives can only get water from the hollow spouts of some trees and from the roots of others, for on the surface of the earth there is none. We saw a few rock wallaby, a different variety to the scrub or open sandhill kinds. Bronze-winged pigeons also were occasionally startled as we wandered about the rocks; these birds must have water, but they never drink except at sundown, and occasionally just before sunrise, then they fly so swiftly, with unerring precision, on their filmy wings, to the place they know so well will supply them; and thirty, forty, or fifty miles of wretched scrub, that would take a poor human being and his horse a whole day to accomplish, are passed over with the quickness of thought. The birds we flushed up would probably dart across the scrubs to the oasis we had so recently found. Our horses were getting bad and thirsty; the day was warm; 92° in the shade, in thirst and wretchedness, is hot enough, for any poor animal or man either. But man enters these desolate regions to please himself or satisfy his desire for ambition to win for himself — what? a medal, a record, a name? Well, yes, dear reader, these may enter into his thoughts as parts of a tangible recognition of his labours; but a nobler idea also actuates him — either to find, for the benefit of those who come after him, some beauteous spots where they may dwell; or if these regions can't supply them, of deserts only can he tell; but the unfortunate lower is forced into such frightful privations to please the higher animals. We now turned up towards the north-west, amongst scrubs, sandhills, and more stony ridges, where another fruitless search ended as before. Now to the east of us rose a more continuous ridge, which we followed under its (base) foot, hoping against hope to meet some creek or gully with water. Gullies we saw, but neither creeks or water. We continued on this line till we struck our outgoing track, and as it was again night, we encamped without water. We had travelled in a triangle. To-day's march was forty-three miles, and we were yet twenty-nine from the tarn — apparently the only water existing in this extraordinary and terrible region.

In one or two places to-day, passing through some of the burning scrubs and spinifex, we had noticed the fresh footprints of several natives. Of course they saw us, but they most perseveringly shunned us, considering us probably far too low a type of animal for their society. We also saw to-day dilapidated old yards, where they had formerly yarded emu or wallaby, though we saw none of their wurleys, or mymys, or gunyahs, or whatever name suits best. The above are all names of the same thing, of tribes of natives, of different parts of the Continent — as Lubra, Gin, Nungo, etc., are for woman. No doubt these natives carry water in wallaby or other animals' skins during their burning hunts, for they travel great distances in a day, walking and burning, and picking up everything alive or roasted as they go, and bring the game into the general camp at night. We passed through three different lines of conflagrations to-day. I only wish I could catch a native, or a dozen, or a thousand; it would be better to die or conquer in a pitched battle for water, than be for ever fighting these direful scrubs and getting none. The following morning the poor horses looked wretched in the extreme; to remain long in such a region without water is very severe upon them; it is a wonder they are able to carry us so well. From this desert camp our depot bore north 40° east. The horses were so exhausted that, though we started early enough, it was late in the afternoon when we had accomplished the twenty-nine or thirty miles that brought us at last to the tarn. Altogether they had travelled 120 miles without a drink. The water in the tarn had evidently shrunk. The day was warm — thermometer 92° in shadiest place at the depot. A rest after the fatigue of the last few days was absolutely necessary before we made a fresh attempt in some new locality.

Glen Edith.

It is only partly a day's rest — for I, at least, have plenty to do; but it is a respite, and we can drink our fill of water. And oh! what a pleasure, what a luxury that is! How few in civilisation will drink water when they can get anything else. Let them try going without, in the explorer's sense of the expression, and then see how they will long for it! The figs on the largest tree, near the cave opposite, are quite ripe and falling; neither Carmichael nor Robinson care for them, but I eat a good many, though I fancy they are not quite wholesome for a white man's digestive organs; at first, they act as an aperient, but subsequently have an opposite effect. I called this charming little oasis Glen Edith, after one of my nieces. I marked two gum-trees at this camp, one “Giles 24”, and another “Glen Edith 24 Oct 9, 72”. Mr. Carmichael and Robinson also marked one with their names. The receptacle in which I found the water I have called the Tarn of Auber, after Allan Poe's beautiful lines, in which that name appears, as I thought them appropriate to the spot. He says:—

“It was in the drear month of October,

The leaves were all crisped and sere,

Adown by the Tarn of Auber,

In the misty mid regions of Weir.”

If these are not the misty mid regions of Weir, I don't know where they are. There are two heaps of broken sandstone rocks, with cypress pines growing about them, which will always be a landmark for any future traveller who may seek the wild seclusion of these sequestered caves. The bearing of the water from them is south 51° west, and it is about a mile on that bearing from the northern heap; that with a glance at my map would enable any ordinary bushman to find it. I sowed a quantity of vegetable seeds here, also seeds of the Tasmanian blue gum-tree, some wattles and clover, rye and prairie-grass. In the bright gleams of the morning, in this Austral land of dawning, it was beautiful to survey this little spot; everything seemed in miniature here — little hills, little glen, little trees, little tarn, and little water. Though the early mornings were cool and pleasant, the days usually turned out just the opposite. On the 11th Mr. Carmichael and I got fresh horses, and I determined to try the country more to the south, and leaving Alec Robinson and the little dog Monkey again in charge of glen, and camp, and tarn, away we went in that direction. At first we travelled over sandhills, timbered with the fine Casuarina decaisneana, or desert oak; we then met some eucalyptus-trees growing promiscuously on the tops of the sandhills, as well as in the hollows. At twelve miles we rode over a low ridge; the country in advance appeared no more inviting than that already travelled. Descending to the lower ground, however, we entered upon a bit of better country, covered with green grass, there was also some thick mulga scrub upon it. Here we saw a few kangaroos and emus, but could not get a shot at them. Beyond this we entered timbered country again, the desert oak being quite a desert sign. In a few miles farther another ridge fronted us, and a trifle on our left lay a hollow, or valley, which seemed to offer the best road, but we had to ride through some very scrubby gullies, stony, and covered with spinifex. It eventually formed the valley of a small creek, which soon had a few gum-trees on it. After following this about four miles, we saw a place where the sand was damp, and got some water by scratching with our hands. The supply was insufficient, and we went farther down and found a small hole with just enough for our three horses, and now, having found a little, we immediately wanted to find a great deal more. At twenty-six miles from the tarn we found a place where the natives had dug, and there seemed a good supply, so we camped there for the night. The grass along this creek was magnificent, being about eight inches high and beautifully green, the old grass having been burnt some time ago. It was a most refreshing sight to our triodia-accustomed eyes; at twelve o'clock the thermometer stood at 94° in the shade. The trend of this little creek, and the valley in which it exists, is to the south-east. Having found water here, we were prepared to find numerous traces of natives, and soon saw old camps and wurleys, and some recent footmarks. I was exceedingly gratified to find this water, as I hoped it would eventually enable me to get out of the wretched bed of sand and scrub into which we had been forced since leaving the Finke, and which evidently occupies such an enormous extent of territory. Our horses fed all night close at hand, and we were in our saddles early enough. I wanted to go west, and the further west the better; but we decided to follow the creek and see what became of it, and if any more waters existed in it. We found that it meandered through a piece of open plain, splendidly grassed, and delightful to gaze upon. How beautiful is the colour of green! What other colour could even Nature have chosen with which to embellish the face of the earth? How, indeed, would red, or blue, or yellow pall upon the eye! But green, emerald green, is the loveliest of all Nature's hues. The soil of this plain was good and firm. The creek had now worn a deep channel, and in three miles from where we camped we came upon the top of a high red bank, with a very nice little water-hole underneath. There was abundance of water for 100 or 200 horses for a month or two, and plenty more in the sand below. Three other ponds were met lower down, and I believe water can always be got by digging. We followed the creek for a mile or two farther, and found that it soon became exhausted, as casuarina and triodia sandhills environed the little plain, and after the short course of scarcely ten miles, the little creek became swallowed up by those water-devouring monsters. This was named Laurie's Creek.

There was from 6000 to 10,000 acres of fine grass land in this little plain, and it was such a change from the sterile, triodia, and sandy country outside it, I could not resist calling it the Vale of Tempe. We left the exhausted creek, and in ten miles from our camp we entered on and descended into another valley, which was open, but had no signs of any water. From a hill I saw some ridges stretching away to the south and south-west, and to the west also appeared broken ridges. I decided to travel about south-west, as it appeared the least stony. In eight miles we had met the usual country. At eighteen we turned the horses out for an hour on a burnt patch, during which the thermometer stood at 94° in the shade; we then left for some ridges through a small gap or pass between two hills, which formed into a small creek-channel. As it was now dark, we camped near the pass, without water, having travelled thirty-five miles. In the morning we found the country in front of us to consist of a small well grassed plain, which was as green, as at the last camp. The horses rambled in search of water up into a small gully, which joins this one; it had a few gum-trees on it. We saw a place where the natives had dug for water, but not very recently. We scratched out a lot of sand with our hands, and some water percolated through, but the hole was too deep to get any out for the horses, as we had no means of removing the sand, having no shovel. Upon searching farther up the gully we found some good-sized rock-holes, but unfortunately they were all dry. We next ascended a hill to view the surrounding country, and endeavour to discover if there was any feature in any direction to induce us to visit, and where we might find a fresh supply of water. There were several fires raging in various directions upon the southern horizon, and the whole atmosphere was thick with a smoky haze. After a long and anxious scrutiny through the smoke far, very far away, a little to the west of south, I descried the outline of a range of hills, and right in the smoke of one fire an exceedingly high and abruptly-ending mountain loomed. To the south east-wards other ranges appeared; they seemed to lie nearly north and south.

The high mountain was very remote; it must be at least seventy or seventy-five miles away, with nothing apparently between but a country similar to that immediately before and behind us; that is to say, sandhills and scrub. I was, however, delighted to perceive any feature for which to make as a medium point, and which might help to change the character and monotony of the country over which I have been wandering so long. I thought it not improbable that some extensive watercourses may proceed from these new ranges which might lead me at last away to the west. For the present, not being able to get water at this little glen, although I believe a supply can be obtained with a shovel, I decided to return to the tarn at Glen Edith, which was now fifty-five miles away, remove the camp to the newly-found creek at the Vale of Tempe, and then return here, open out this watering place with a shovel, and make a straight line for the newly-discovered high mountain to the south. By the time these conclusions had been arrived at, and our wanderings about the rocks completed, it was nearly midday; and as we had thirty-five miles to travel to get back to the creek, it took us all the remainder of the day to do so; and it was late when we again encamped upon its friendly banks. The thermometer to-day had stood at 96°. We now had our former tracks to return upon to the tarn. The morning was cool and pleasant, and we arrived at the depot early. Alec Robinson informed me that he believed some natives had been prowling about the camp in our absence, as the little dog had been greatly perturbed during two of the nights we were away. It was very possible that some natives had come to the tarn for water, as well as to spy out who and what and how many vile and wicked intruders had found their way into this secluded spot; but as they must have walked about on the rocks they left no traces of their visit.


This morning's meal was to be the last we should make at our friendly little tarn, whose opportune waters, ripe figs, miniature mountains, and imitation fortresses, will long linger in my recollection. Opposite the rocks in which the water lies, and opposite the camp also, is a series of small fort-like stony eminences, standing apart; these form one side of the glen; the other is formed by the rocks at the base of the main ridge, where the camp and water are situated. This really was a most delightful little spot, though it certainly had one great nuisance, which is almost inseparable from pine-trees, namely ants. These horrid pests used to crawl into and over everything and everybody, by night as well as by day. The horses took their last drink at the little sweet-watered tarn, and we moved away for our new home to the south.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54