Native encampment. Fires alight. Hogarth's Wells. Mount Marie and Mount Jeanie. Pointed ranges to the west. Chop a passage. Traces of volcanic action. Highly magnetic hills. The Leipoa ocellata. Tapping pits. Glen Osborne. Cotton-bush flats. Frowning bastion walls. Fort Mueller. A strong running stream. Natives' smokes. Gosse returning. Limestone formation. Native pheasants' nests. Egg-carrying. Mount Squires. The Mus conditor's nest. Difficulty with the horses. A small creek and native well. Steer for the west. Night work. Very desolate places. A circular storm. The Shoeing Camp. A bare hill. The Cups. Fresh looking creek. Brine and bitter water. The desert pea. Jimmy and the natives. Natives prowling at night. Searching for water. Horses suffering from thirst. Horseflesh. The Cob. The camp on fire. Men and horses choking for water. Abandon the place. Displeasing view. Native signs. Another cup. Thermometer 106°. Return to the Cob. Old dry well. A junction from the east. Green rushes. Another waterless camp. Return to the Shoeing Camp. Intense cold. Biting dogs' noses. A nasal organ. Boiling an egg. Tietkens and Gibson return unsuccessful. Another attempt west. Country burnt by natives.
We had now been travelling along the northern foot of the more southerly of the two lines of hills which separated, at the west end of the Champ de Mars; and on reaching the Bell Rock, this southern line ceased, while the northern one still ran on, though at diminished elevation, and we now travelled towards two hills standing together about west-north-west. On reaching them, in thirteen miles, I found a native encampment; there were several old and new bough gunyahs, and the fires were alight at the doors? of many of them. We could not see the people because they hid themselves, but I knew quite well they were watching us close by. There was a large bare slab of rock, in which existed two fine cisterns several feet in depth, one much longer than the other, the small one containing quite a sufficient supply for all my horses. I called these Hogarth's Wells, and the two hills Mount Marie and Mount Jeanie. I was compelled to leave one of these receptacles empty, which for ages the simple inhabitants of these regions had probably never seen dry before. Some hills lay south-westerly, and we reached them in nine miles; they were waterless. Southward the country appeared all scrub. The western horizon was broken by ranges with some high points amongst them; they were a long way off. To the west-north-west some bald ranges also ran on. I made across to them, steering for a fall or broken gap to the north-north-west. This was a kind of glen, and I found a watercourse in it, with a great quantity of tea-tree, which completely choked up the passage with good-sized trees, whose limbs and branches were so interwoven that they prevented any animal larger than a man from approaching the water, bubbling along at their feet. We had to chop a passage to it for our horses. The hills were quite destitute of timber, and were composed of huge masses of rifted granite, which could only have been so riven by seismatic action, which at one time must have been exceedingly frequent in this region.
I may mention that, from the western half of the Musgrave Range, all the Mann, the Tomkinson, and other ranges westward have been shivered into fragments by volcanic force. Most of the higher points of all the former and latter consist of frowning masses of black-looking or intensely red ironstone, or granite thickly coated with iron. Triodia grows as far up the sides of the hills as it is possible to obtain any soil; but even this infernal grass cannot exist on solid rock; therefore all the summits of these hills are bare. These shivered masses of stone have large interstices amongst them, which are the homes, dens, or resorts of swarms of a peculiar marsupial known as the rock wallaby, which come down on to the lower grounds at night to feed. If they expose themselves in the day, they are the prey of aborigines and eagles, if at night, they fall victims to wild dogs or dingoes. The rocks frequently change their contours from earthquake shocks, and great numbers of these creatures are crushed and smashed by the trembling rocks, so that these unfortunate creatures, beset by so many dangers, exist always in a chronic state of fear and anxiety, and almost perpetual motion. These hills also have the metallic clang of the Bell Rock, and are highly magnetic. In the scrubs to-day Gibson found a Lowan's or scrub pheasant's nest. These birds inhabit the most waterless regions and the densest scrubs, and live entirely without water.
This bird is figured in Gould's work on Australian ornithology; it is called the Leipoa ocellata. Two specimens of these birds are preserved in the Natural History Department of the British Museum at Kensington. We obtained six fresh eggs from it. I found another, and got five more. We saw several native huts in the scrubs, some of them of large dimensions, having limbs of the largest trees they could get to build them with. When living here, the natives probably obtain water from roots of the mulga. This must be the case, for we often see small circular pits dug at the foot of some of these trees, which, however, generally die after the operation of tapping. I called the spot Glen Osborne*; we rested here a day. We always have a great deal of sewing and repairing of the canvas pack-bags to do, and a day of rest usually means a good day's work; it rests the horses, however, and that is the main thing. Saturday night, the 4th October, was a delightfully cool one, and on Sunday we started for some hills in a south-westerly direction, passing some low ridges. We reached the higher ones in twenty-two miles. Nearing them, we passed over some fine cotton-bush flats, so-called from bearing a small cotton-like pod, and immediately at the hills we camped on a piece of plain, very beautifully grassed, and at times liable to inundation. It was late when we arrived; no water could be found; but the day was cool, and the night promised to be so too; and as I felt sure I should get water in these hills in the morning, I was not very anxious on account of the horses. These hills are similar to those lately described, being greatly impregnated with iron and having vast upheavals of iron-coated granite, broken and lying in masses of black and pointed rock, upon all their summits. Their sides sloped somewhat abruptly, they were all highly magnetic, and had the appearance of frowning, rough-faced, bastion walls. Very early I climbed up the hills, and from the top I saw the place that was afterwards to be our refuge, though it was a dangerous one. This is called the Cavanagh Range, but as, in speaking of it as my depot, it was called Fort Mueller*, I shall always refer to it by that name. What I saw was a strong running stream in a confined rocky, scrubby glen, and smokes from natives' fires. When bringing the horses, we had to go over less difficult ground than I had climbed, and on the road we found another stream in another valley, watered the horses, and did not then go to my first find. There was fine open, grassy country all round this range; we followed the creek down from the hills to it. On reaching the lower grassy ground, we saw Mr. Gosse's dray-track again, and I was not surprised to see that the wagon had returned upon its outgoing track, and the party were now returning eastwards to South Australia. I had for some days anticipated meeting him; but now he was going east, and I west, I did not follow back after him. Shortly afterwards, rounding the spurs of these hills, we came to the channel of the Fort Mueller creek, which I had found this morning, and though there was no surface-water, we easily obtained some by digging in the sandy creek-bed. A peculiarity of the whole of this region is, that water cannot exist far from the rocky foundations of the hills; the instant the valleys open and any soil appears, down sinks the water, though a fine stream may be running only a few yards above. Blankets were again required for the last two nights. I found my position here to be in latitude 26° 12´, longitude 127° 59´ 0´´.
Leaving this encampment, we struck away for a new line of ranges. The country was very peculiar, and different from any we had yet met; it was open, covered with tall triodia, and consisted almost entirely of limestone. At intervals, eucalyptus-trees of the mallee kind, and a few of the pretty-looking bloodwood-trees and some native poplars were seen; there was no grass for several miles, and we only found some poor dry stuff for the horses in a patch of scrub, the ground all round being stony and triodia-set. To-day we came upon three Lowans' or native pheasants' nests. These birds, which somewhat resemble guinea-fowl in appearance, build extraordinarily large nests of sand, in which they deposit small sticks and leaves; here the female lays about a dozen eggs, the decomposition of the vegetable matter providing the warmth necessary to hatch them. These nests are found only in thick scrubs. I have known them five to six feet high, of a circular conical shape, and a hundred feet round the base. The first, though of enormous size, produced only two eggs; the second, four, and the third, six. We thanked Providence for supplying us with such luxuries in such a wilderness. There are much easier feats to perform than the carrying of Lowans' eggs, and for the benefit of any readers who don't know what those eggs are like, I may mention that they are larger than a goose egg, and of a more delicious flavour than any other egg in the world. Their shell is beautifully pink tinted, and so terribly fragile that, if a person is not careful in lifting them, the fingers will crunch through the tinted shell in an instant. Therefore, carrying a dozen of such eggs is no easy matter. I took upon myself the responsibility of bringing our prize safe into camp, and I accomplished the task by packing them in grass, tied up in a handkerchief, and slung round my neck; a fine fardel hanging on my chest, immediately under my chin. A photograph of a person with such an appendage would scarcely lead to recognition. We used some of the eggs in our tea as a substitute for milk. A few of the eggs proved to possess some slight germs of vitality, the preliminary process being the formation of eyes. But explorers in the field are not such particular mortals as to stand upon such trifles; indeed, parboiled, youthful, Lowans' eyes are considered quite a delicacy in the camp.
At early dawn there was brilliant lightning to the west, and the horizon in that direction became cloudy. Thunder also was heard, but whatever storm there might have been, passed away to the south of us. In the course of a few miles we left the limestone behind, and sandhills again came on. We went over two low ridges, and five or six miles of scrub brought us to the hills we were steering for. Some pine-clad bare rocks induced us to visit them to see if there were rock-holes anywhere. Mr. Tietkens found a native well under one of the rocks, but no water was seen in it, so we went to the higher hills, and in a gully found but a poor supply. There was every appearance of approaching rain, and we got everything under canvas, but in the night of the 9th October a heavy gale of wind sprang up and blew away any rain that might have fallen. As, however, it was still cloudy, we remained in camp.
From the highest hill here, called Mount Squires, the appearance of the country surrounding was most strange. To the west, and round by north-west to north, was a mass of broken timbered hills with scrubby belts between. The atmosphere was too hazy to allow of distinct vision, but I could distinguish lines of hills, if not ranges, to the westward for a long distance. The view was by no means encouraging, but as hills run on, though entirely different now from those behind us, our only hope is that water may yet be discovered in them. The whole region round about was enveloped in scrubs, and the hills were not much more than visible above them.
The sky had remained cloudy all yesterday, and I hoped, if the wind would only cease, rain would surely fall; so we waited and hoped against hope. We had powerful reverberations of thunder, and forked and vivid lightnings played around, but no rain fell, although the atmosphere was surcharged with electricity and moisture. The wished-for rain departed to some far more favoured places, some happier shores from these remote; and as if to mock our wishes, on the following morning we had nearly three minutes' sprinkling of rain, and then the sky became clear and bright.
By this time we had used up all the water we could find, and had to go somewhere else to get more. A terrible piece of next-to-impassable scrub, four or five miles through, lay right in our path; it also rose and fell into ridges and gullies in it. We saw one of the Mus conditor, or building rats' nests, which is not the first we have seen by many on this expedition. The scrub being so dense, it was impossible to see more than two or three of the horses at a time, and three different times some of them got away and tried to give us the slip; this caused a great deal of anxiety and trouble, besides loss of time. Shortly after emerging from the scrubs, we struck a small creek with one or two gumtrees on it; a native well was in the bed, and we managed to get water enough for the horses, we having only travelled six miles straight all day. This was a very good, if not actually a pretty, encampment; there was a narrow strip of open ground along the banks, and good vegetation for the horses. We slept upon the sandy bed of the creek to escape the terrible quantities of burrs which grew all over these wilds.
We steered away nearly west for the highest hills we had seen yesterday; there appeared a fall or gap between two; the scrubs were very thick to-day, as was seen by the state of our pack-bags, an infallible test, when we stopped for the night, during the greater part of which we had to repair the bags. We could not find any water, and we seemed to be getting into very desolate places. A densely scrubby and stony gully was before us, which we had to get through or up, and on reaching the top I was disappointed to find that, though there was an open valley below, the hills all round seemed too much disconnected to form any good watering places. Descending, and leaving Gibson and Jimmy with the horses, Mr. Tietkens and I rode in different directions in search of water. In about two hours we met, in the only likely spot either of us had seen; this was a little watercourse, and following it up to the foot of the hills found a most welcome and unexpectedly large pond for such a place. Above it in the rocks were a line of little basins which contained water, with a rather pronounced odour of stagnation about it; above them again the water was running, but there was a space between upon which no water was seen. We returned for the horses and camped as near as we could find a convenient spot; this, however, was nearly a mile from the water. The valley ran north-east and south-west; it was very narrow, not too open, and there was but poor grass and herbage, the greater portion of the vegetation being spinifex. At eight o'clock at night a thunderstorm came over us from the west, and sprinkled us with a few drops of rain; from west the storm travelled north-west, thence north to east and south, performing a perfect circle around; reaching its original starting point in about an hour, it disappeared, going northerly again. The rest of the night was beautifully calm and clear. Some of our horses required shoeing for the first time since we had left the telegraph line, now over 600 miles behind us. From the top of a hill here the western horizon was bounded by low scrubby ridges, with an odd one standing higher than the rest; to one of these I decided to go next. Some other hills lay a little more to the south, but there was nothing to choose between them; hills also ran along eastward and north-eastwards. At eight o'clock again to-night a thunderstorm came up from the westward; it sprinkled us with a few drops of rain, and then became dispersed to the south and south-east.
The following day we passed in shoeing horses, mending pack-bags, restuffing pack-saddles, and general repairs. While out after the horses Mr. Tietkens found another place with some water, about two miles southerly on the opposite or west side of the valley. Finishing what work we had in hand, we remained here another day. I found that water boiled in this valley at 209°, making the approximate altitude of this country 1534 above sea level. This we always called the Shoeing Camp. We had remained there longer than at any other encampment since we started; we arrived on the 14th and left on the 18th October.
Getting over a low fall in the hills opposite the camp, I turned on my proper course for another hill and travelled fifteen miles; the first three being through very fine country, well grassed, having a good deal of salt bush, being lightly timbered, and free from spinifex. The scrub and triodia very soon made their appearance together, and we were forced to camp in a miserable place, there being neither grass nor water for the unfortunate horses.
The next morning we deviated from our course on seeing a bare-looking rocky hill to the right of our line of march; we reached it in ten miles. Searching about, I found several small holes or cups worn into the solid rock; and as they mostly contained water, the horses were unpacked, while a farther search was made. This hill was always after called the Cups. I rode away to other hills westward, and found a fresh-looking creek, which emptied into a larger one; but I could find nothing but brine and bitter water. For the first time on this journey I found at this creek great quantities of that lovely flower, the desert pea, Clianthus Dampierii. The creek ran south-westward. I searched for hours for water without success, and returned to the party at dusk. Mr. Tietkens had found some more water at another hill; and he and Gibson took some of the horses over to it, leaving Jimmy alone.
Jimmy walked over to one cup we had reserved for our own use, to fill the tin-billy for tea. Walking along with his eyes on the ground, and probably thinking of nothing at all, he reached the cup, and, to his horror and amazement, discovered some thirty or forty aboriginals seated or standing round the spot. As he came close up to, but without seeing them, they all yelled at him in chorus, eliciting from him a yell in return; then, letting fall the tin things he was carrying, he fairly ran back to the camp, when he proceeded to get all the guns and rifles in readiness to shoot the whole lot. But Mr. Tietkens and Gibson returning with the horses, having heard the yells, caused the natives to decamp, and relieved poor Jimmy's mind of its load of care and fear. No doubt these Autocthones were dreadfully annoyed to find their little reservoirs discovered by such water-swallowing wretches as they doubtless thought white men and horses to be; I could only console myself with the reflection, that in such a region as this we must be prepared to lay down our lives at any moment in our attempts to procure water, and we must take it when we find it at any price, as life and water are synonymous terms. I dare say they know where to get more, but I don't. Some natives were prowling about our encampment all the first half of the night, and my little dog kept up an incessant barking; but the rest was silence.
We used every drop of water from every cup, and moved away for the bitter water I found yesterday. I thought to sweeten it by opening the place with a shovel, and baling a lot of the stagnant water out; but it was irreclaimable, and the horses could not drink it.
Mr. Tietkens returned after dark and reported he had found only one poor place, that might yield sufficient for one drink for all the horses; and we moved down three miles. It was then a mile up in a little gully that ran into our creek. Here we had to dig out a large tank, but the water drained in so slowly that only eight horses could be watered by midday; at about three o'clock eight more were taken, and it was night before they were satisfied; and now the first eight came up again for more, and all the poor wretches were standing in and around the tank in the morning. The next day was spent in doling out a few quarts of water to each horse, while I spent the day in a fruitless search for the fluid which evidently did not exist. Six weeks or two months ago there must have been plenty of water here, but now it was gone; and had I been here at that time, I have no doubt I might have passed across to the Murchison; but now I must retreat to the Shoeing Camp. When I got back at night, I found that not half the horses had received even their miserable allowance of three quarts each, and the horse I had ridden far and fast all day could get none: this was poor little W.A. of my first expedition. One little wretched cob horse was upon the last verge of existence; he was evidently not well, and had been falling away to a shadow for some time; he was for ever hiding himself in the scrubs, and caused as much trouble to look after him as all the others put together. He was nearly dead; water was of no use to him, and his hide might be useful in repairing some packbags, and we might save our stores for a time by eating him; so he was despatched from this scene of woe, but not without woeful cruelty; for Jimmy volunteered to shoot him, and walked down the creek a few yards to where the poor little creature stood. The possibility of any one not putting a bullet into the creature's forehead at once, never occurred to me; but immediately after we heard the shot, Jimmy came sauntering up and said, “Oh! he wants another dose.” I jumped up and said, “Oh, you young —” No, I won't say what I told Jimmy. Then Gibson offered to do it, and with a very similar result. With suaviter in modo, sed fortiter in re, I informed him that I did not consider him a sufficiently crack shot to enable him to win a Wimbledon shield; and what the deuce did he — but there, I had to shoot the poor miserable creature, who already had two rifle bullets in his carcass, and I am sure with his last breath he thanked me for that quick relief. There was not sufficient flesh on his bones to cure; but we got a quantity of what there was, and because we fried it we called it steak, and because we called it steak we said we enjoyed it, though it was utterly tasteless. The hide was quite rotten and useless, being as thin and flimsy as brown paper. It was impossible now to push farther out west, and a retreat to the Shoeing Camp had to be made, though we could not reach it in a day. Thermometer while on this creek 99, and 100° in shade. This place was always called the Cob.
We had great difficulty in driving the horses past the Cups, as the poor creatures having got water there once, supposed it always existed there. Some of these little indents held only a few pints of water, others a few quarts, and the largest only a few gallons. Early the second day we got back, but we had left so little water behind us, that we found it nearly all gone. Six days having elapsed makes a wonderful difference in water that is already inclined to depart with such evaporation as is always going on in this region. We now went to where Mr. Tietkens had found another place, and he and Gibson took the shovel to open it out, while Jimmy and I unpacked the horses. Here Jimmy Andrews set fire to the spinifex close to all our packs and saddles, and a strong hot wind blowing, soon placed all our belongings in the most terrible jeopardy. The grass was dry and thick, and the fire raged around us in a terrific manner; guns and rifles, riding- and pack-saddles were surrounded by flames in a moment. We ran and halloed and turned back, and frantically threw anything we could catch hold of on to the ground already burnt. Upsetting a couple of packs, we got the bags to dash out the flames, and it was only by the most desperate exertions we saved nearly everything. The instant a thing was lifted, the grass under it seemed to catch fire spontaneously; I was on fire, Jimmy was on fire, my brains were in a fiery, whirling blaze; and what with the heat, dust, smoke, ashes, and wind, I thought I must be suddenly translated to Pandemonium. Our appearance also was most satanic, for we were both as black as demons.
There was no shade; we hadn't a drop of water; and without speaking a word, off we went up the gully to try and get a drink; there was only just enough thick fluid for us, the horses standing disconsolately round. The day was hot, the thermometer marked 105°. There was not sufficient water here for the horses, and I decided, as we had not actually dug at our old camp, to return there and do so. This we did, and obtained a sufficiency at last. We were enabled to keep the camp here for a few days, while Mr. Tietkens and I tried to find a more northerly route to the west. Leaving Gibson and Jimmy behind, we took three horses and steered away for the north. Our route on this trip led us into the most miserable country, dry ridges and spinifex, sandhills and scrubs, which rolled along in undulations of several miles apart. We could get no water, and camped after a day's journey of forty miles.
Though the day had been very hot, the night became suddenly cool. In the morning of the 28th of October, at five miles we arrived at a scrubby sand ridge, and obtained a most displeasing view of the country further north. The surface seemed more depressed, but entirely filled up with dense scrubs, with another ridge similar to the one we were on bounding the view; we reached it in about eight miles. The view we then got was precisely similar to that behind us, except that the next undulation that bounded the horizon was fifteen to eighteen miles away. We had now come fifty-one miles from the Shoeing Camp; there was no probability of getting water in such a region. To the west the horizon was bounded by what appeared a perfectly flat and level line running northwards. This flat line to the west seemed not more than twenty-five to thirty miles away; between us and it were a few low stony hills. Not liking the northern, I now decided to push over to the western horizon, which looked so flat. I have said there were some stony hills in that direction; we reached the first in twenty miles. The next was formed of nearly bare rock, where there were some old native gunyahs. Searching about we found another of those extraordinary basins, holes, or cups washed out of the solid rock by ancient ocean's force, ages before an all-seeing Providence placed His dusky children upon this scene, or even before the waters had sufficiently subsided to permit either animal or man to exist here. From this singular cup we obtained a sufficient supply of that fluid so terribly scarce in this region. We had to fill a canvas bucket with a pint pot to water our horses, and we outspanned for the remainder of the day at this exceedingly welcome spot. There were a few hundred acres of excellent grass land, and the horses did remarkably well during the night. The day had been very hot; the thermometer in the shade at this rock stood at 106°.
This proved a most abominable camp; it swarmed with ants, and they kept biting us so continually, that we were in a state of perpetual motion nearly all the time we were there. A few heat-drops of rain fell. I was not sorry to leave the wretched place, which we left as dry as the surrounding void. We continued our west course over sandhills and through scrub and spinifex. The low ridges of which the western horizon was formed, and which had formerly looked perfectly flat, was reached in five miles; no other view could be got. A mile off was a slightly higher point, to which we went; then the horizon, both north and west of the same nature, ran on as far as could be seen, without any other object upon which to rest the eye. There were a few little gullies about, which we wasted an hour amongst in a fruitless search for water. The Bitter Water Creek now lay south of us; I was not at all satisfied at our retreat from it. I was anxious to find out where it went, for though we had spent several days in its neighbourhood, we had not travelled more than eight or ten miles down it; we might still get a bucket or two of water for our three horses where I had killed the little cob. We therefore turned south in hopes that we might get some satisfaction out of that region at last. We were now, however, thirty-nine or forty miles from the water-place, and two more from the Cob. I was most anxious on account of the water at the Shoeing Camp; it might have become quite exhausted by this time, and where on earth would Gibson and Jimmy go? The thermometer again to-day stood at 106° in the shade.
It was late at night when we reached the Cob tank, and all the water that had accumulated since we left was scarcely a bucketful.
Though the sky was quite overcast, and rain threatened to fall nearly all night, yet none whatever came. The three horses were huddled up round the perfectly empty tank, having probably stood there all night. I determined to try down the creek. One or two small branches enlarged the channel; and in six or seven miles we saw an old native well, which we scratched out with our hands; but it was perfectly dry. At twelve miles another creek joined from some hills easterly, and immediately below the junction the bed was filled with green rushes. The shovel was at the Shoeing Camp, the bed was too stony to be dug into with our hands. Below this again another and larger creek joined from the east, or rather our creek ran into it. There were some large holes in the new bed, but all were dry. We now followed up this new channel eastwards, as our horses were very bad, and this was in the direction of the home camp. We searched everywhere, up in hills and gullies, and down into the creek again, but all without success, and we had a waterless camp once more. The horses were now terribly bad, they have had only the third of a bucket of water since Wednesday, it being now Friday morning. We had still thirty miles to go to reach the camp, and it was late when the poor unfortunate creatures dragged themselves into it. Fortunately the day had been remarkably cool, almost cold, the thermometer only rose to 80° in the shade. The water had held out well, and it still drained into the tank.
On the following morning, the 1st November, the thermometer actually descended to 32°, though of course there was neither frost nor ice, because there was nothing fluid or moist to freeze. I do not remember ever feeling such a sensation of intense cold. The day was delightfully cool; I was most anxious to find out if any water could be got at the junction of the two creeks just left. Mr. Tietkens and Gibson took three fresh horses, and the shovel, on Monday, the 3rd of November, and started out there again.
Remaining at the camp was simple agony, the ants were so numerous and annoying; a strong wind was blowing from the eastwards, and the camp was in a continual cloud of sand and dust.
The next day was again windy and dusty, but not quite so hot as yesterday. Jimmy and I and the two dogs were at the camp. He had a habit of biting the dogs' noses, and it was only when they squealed that I saw what he was doing; to-day Cocky was the victim. I said, “What the deuce do you want to be biting the dog's nose for, you might seriously injure his nasal organ?” “Horgin,” said Jimmy, “do you call his nose a horgin?” I said, “Yes, any part of the body of man or animal is called an organ.” “Well,” he said, “I never knew that dogs carried horgins about with them before.” I said, “Well, they do, and don't you go biting any of them again.” Jimmy of course, my reader can see, was a queer young fellow. On one occasion further back, a good many crows were about, and they became the subject of discussion. I remarked, “I've travelled about in the bush as much as most people, and I never yet saw a little crow that couldn't fly;” then Jimmy said, “Why, when we was at the Birthday, didn't I bring a little crow hin a hague hin?” I said, “What's hin a hague hin?” To which he replied, “I didn't say hin a hague hin, I says Hand her hague hin.” After this, whenever we went hunting for water, and found it, if there was a sufficient quantity for us we always said, “Oh, there's enough to boil a hague in anyhow.” Late in the evening of the next day, Jimmy and I were watching at the tank for pigeons, when the three horses Mr. Tietkens took away came up to drink; this of course informed me they had returned. The horses looked fearfully hollow, and I could see at a glance that they could not possibly have had any water since they left. Mr. Tietkens reported that no water was to be got anywhere, and the country to the west appeared entirely waterless.
I was, however, determined to make one more attempt. Packing two horses with water, I intended to carry it out to the creek, which is forty miles from here. At that point I would water one horse, hang the remainder of the water in a tree, and follow the creek channel to see what became of it. I took Gibson and Jimmy, Mr. Tietkens remaining at the camp. On arriving at the junction of the larger creek, we followed down the channel and in five miles, to my great surprise, though the traveller in these regions should be surprised at nothing, we completely ran the creek out, as it simply ended among triodia, sandhills, and scrubby mulga flats. I was greatly disappointed at this turn of affairs, as I had thought from its size it would at least have led me to some water, and to the discovery of some new geographical features. Except where we struck it, the country had all been burnt, and we had to return to that spot to get grass to camp at. Water existed only in the bags which we carried with us. I gave the horse I intend riding to-morrow a couple of buckets of water. I suppose he would have drank a dozen — the others got none. The three of us encamped together here.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:50