An Overland Journey to The Ovens and Melbourne No. VIII

20 January 1854 The Sydney Morning Herald

On Monday, the 28th February, we again set out on our journey, determining to reach Yass before dark, which from the Chain of Ponds is reckoned to be 21 miles.

We saw a great number of dead bullocks and horses, which had evidently been worked to death by unmerciful drivers and riders.

As usual, the carcases were in the possession of an immense number of crows, who certainly render a great service in ridding the country of such nuisances.

The road for the first few miles passes over a very mountainous country, enriched with every diversity of scenery, presenting at times the most magnificent views of long chains of mountains, high table lands, and rich alluvial plains, disposed in beautiful array, in the blue distance.

The day was rather cloudy and the sun only poured forth his brilliancy at intervals.

The consequence was, that some parts of the landscape were thrown into a deep shade, whilst others were bathed in a bright yellow sunshine, which, when contrasted with the dark and mottled sky above, added greatly to the grandeur and interest of the scene. 

After crossing these mountains the road descends into a comparatively low country, almost level, and covered with the most luxuriant pasturage.

The appearance was more like that of a field of wheat at harvest time, the grass being three or four feet high, and quite yellow with age.

On one side of the road, however, the grass had been recently burnt, and there was nothing but the thick black stubble to show that the land had once been equally rich in herbage.

We dined in one of the gorges of the mountains, but having no water we made but a very poor meal, and set out on our journey again with as little delay as possible.

The road from the mountains to the Yass River, a distance of five or six miles, is extremely good, and, being a gradual descent, we got over in a very short space of time, and camped on the banks of the river about an hour before sundown.

The particular locality is called "Hume's Crossing Place," and is so called from the fact that all the traffic passes over it at this point.

The river at different parts is perfectly dry in the summer time, and has more the appearance of a chain of ponds.

There is no bridge over any part of it, and if it were not for a few stones which are thrown together in a very rough manner, at the crossing place, the river would have to be waded in nearly all seasons.

The country about here is all that the squatter or agriculturist could desire. Splendid table lands and gently undulating plains abound in every direction.

As usual, however, about the time allude to, there was very little of the land under cultivation, although there was abundant evidence of the occupation of the place in the number of small farmhouses, and occasional well laid out homesteads, which were to be met with along the banks of the river.

The residence of Mr. Hume, the well-known companion of Captain Hovell, in the explorations which revealed to us the splendid agricultural and pastoral country of Victoria, is particularly worthy of note, both on account of the delightful position which it occupies on the banks of the river, and the judgment and taste with which the grounds are laid out.

The place where we camped is about three miles this side of the township of Yass, and as it afforded every convenience in the shape of water and pasturage, we had no wish to proceed farther, although we might easily have got into the town that evening. 

There was another consideration which weighed with us. Had we gone into the township, we should have been obliged to put up at one of the hotels, which, in these times involves a very serious expenditure.

As it turned out, however, it would perhaps have been, better for us had we adopted this course, for in the morning, when we awoke, the horse was nowhere to be found.

For the first time we had put him out un-hobbled, thinking from the excellence of the pasturage and openness of the country that he would not be induced to wander far, and if he did, that it would not be very difficult to find him.

Unfortunately for us, our anticipations turned out to be ill-founded, and the first thing that suggested itself to us was, that the horse had been stolen, having been informed that the district was celebrated for horse-stealing.

Having spent the whole of the day in making an elaborate search, extending over five or six miles, in every direction, we at length gave up all hope of finding him except through the medium of a reward, which we at once offered, thinking that it would be far better to give two or three pounds in this way than to expend 20 or 30 in the purchase of another horse, besides incurring a great loss of time. 

We were advised to do this by Mr. Hume, who gave us some valuable advice, and who kindly offered to assist us in every way that he could.

He also informed us in the course of conversation that gold had been discovered at a place called Blind Man's Creek, about fifteen miles distant from Yass.

This information was afterwards corroborated by the return to Yass of two or three parties who had been digging at this creek, and who had brought with them several very fine specimens of coarse gold.

The accounts, however, were not sufficiently encouraging to induce us to give up our design of going to Adelong Creek, and eventually to the Ovens, both which diggings were then in the ascendant.

The autumn had already begun to set in, and it was a matter of great moment to us to get to the Ovens before the commencement of winter.

We felt, therefore, that it would be worse than useless to attempt to stop at any diggings on the road, unless we could do so with a full certainty of finding it advantageous to remove.

Such I believe are the considerations which weigh with most people in our position, and it must not be wondered at if rich and extensive gold fields should yet be discovered in tracts of country over which thousands of experienced diggers have travelled before, without ever once attempting to elucidate the fact.

The next day came, but still the horse was not forth- coming, and to make the matter worse, it appeared that there was no horse to be purchased in the district, even at any price.

Our only course, therefore, was to wait patiently until fortune favoured us either with the return of the lost one, or with an opportunity to purchase one.

In the course of the day myself and one of the party went into Yass, for the purpose of giving information to the police, and whilst doing so we took occasion to examine the pound, in the hope that someone might have done us the kindness for such under the circumstances it would have been to place the animal in custody.

But no such luck was in store for us, and we were obliged to return to the camp as wise as when we left it.

The township of Yass is much larger than I expected to find it.

On the whole it has a very pretty appearance and contains some neat brick buildings and well furnished hotels.

On the one side are extensive undulating plains, and on the other very high hills, thinly timbered, but evidently very fertile.

It is watered by a bend of the Yass river, which passes in a northerly direction through one part of the town, and then runs in a very serpentine course towards the east.

On the third morning of our stay at the crossing place the horse was brought to us by a stockman, to whom we gave the promised reward, I need not say that we were all highly delighted, and lost no time in resuming our journey.

Having reached Yass, we determined to stop there during the remainder of the day for the purpose of getting some repairs done to the cart and providing ourselves with sundry stores, there being no other township of any importance along the road nearer than Gundagai, which is distant from Yass about sixty-five miles.

In the morning we again set out on our course, end about midday arrived at a small picturesque village called Bowning.

It is distant about nine miles from Yass, and seems to be a kind of depot for the use of the squatters.

It is situated at the foot of a conical mountain of great height and beauty, from which it takes its name.

This mountain I was also told forms one of the boundary marks between the settled and unsettled districts of the colony.