Overland Journey to the Ovens and Melbourne

No. IV.

26 November 1853 The Sydney Morning Herald

The next morning, Sunday, 20th February, we resumed our journey through Bargo at the usual hour.

The day was rather sultry, although the sun only poured forth his effulgence at intervals. 

Fortunately, however, the road for many miles was a remarkably good one.

We passed over a hard gravelly country, thickly covered with iron and stringy bark, and a great variety of under wood.

It reminded us very forcibly of the kind of country we had passed over between Sydney and Liverpool.

Although rich patches were to be met with here and there, we did not on the whole consider the land adapted to agricultural purposes.

Indeed we found it as a general rule, that where the iron and stringy bark abounded to any great extent, the land for the most part was poor and thinly grassed, the surface being hard clay mixed with gravel or sand.

About mid-day we reached Bargo Inn, and being rather fatigued we availed ourselves of the opportunity to stop and dine.

The place has a neat cottage-like appearance, and is admirably provided in the way of accommodation.

Having rested an hour here, we proceeded on our journey and camped in the evening at a place called Natti on the banks of a small stream, our distance from Sydney being then 71 miles. 

Close by was a large and tolerably well-built house, which we were told had once been used as an hotel, but which was now used by Mr. Robert Campbell, M.L.C. as a country residence.

Soon after camping this gentleman paid us a visit, and as one of our party was still very ill with lumbago or rheumatism, he kindly furnished us with a bottle of ointment, which proved of considerable service in alleviating the complaint.

The sky was very cloudy during the whole of the afternoon, and in the evening we had a few light showers of rain, which compelled us for the first time to erect our tent.

This had to be done after dark, in consequence of the lateness of   the hour at which we camped.

Had we been even so disposed, it would have been impossible to camp earlier, owing to there being no water within a convenient distance.

Some of the land about here had the appearance of having been once under cultivation, but it was then over-grown, the young trees or saplings and the place altogether had something of the air of a deserted village.

The next morning was ushered in by a cool southerly wind, which had a very grateful influence after the heat of the previous day.

The sky was cloudy, but no rain fell and the travelling on the whole was rather pleasant. 

The road, however, was very bad, and in some places, especially where it was sandy or rocky, a thing which not unfrequently occurred.

The scenery although by no means romantic, was more diversified than that which we passed the previous day and the soil was richer and more adapted to agricultural purposes. 

We could not help noticing, however, what we had often noticed before - the almost total absence of cultivation.

Abundance of available land was everywhere to be met with, but, with the exception of supporting sheep and cattle, it had never been devoted to the uses of mankind.  

Occasionally a neat little farm opened upon the view, but the ruined hut, and fields covered with weeds, showed that for two or three seasons at least it had failed to produce its quota of human food.

Remembering that we were bound for the diggings ourselves, we could well appreciate the cause of this general desertion and dilapidation.

In a few hours the somewhat novel and neat little town of Berrima burst upon our view; strange to say, the most imposing, if not the most ornamental building in it, is a brick gaol of considerable size.

It is situated in the centre of the town, and has a red glaring appearance which cannot fail to attract notice. 

It is the fruit of the old penal times, and was constructed for the convenience of the Assizes, which were formerly held at Berrima, but which have long since been removed to Goulburn.

It is therefore useless, as a gaol "Othello's occupation's gone," and in passing through the town, I could not help thinking that, with the Court House, it would make a very good establishment for a National school.

Some of the other buildings are far from inferior, especially two or three of the hotels.

The town altogether is very well situated, and the streets are laid out with something like regularity.

The Berrima river, which in a semi-circular form encloses nearly one-half the town, affords an abundant and permanent supply of excellent fresh water. 

At the time I speak of, there was a good deal of business being transacted in consequence of the number of diggers who were passing to and fro. All kinds of stores were exorbitantly high particularly maize and oats which we could hardly procure at any price.

Having stopped an hour at Berrima, we resumed our journey through a country which, for the first three or four miles, was any but picturesque.

As we progressed however the scenery changed, and in the course of the afternoon we passed some fine agricultural land, but as usual there was very little of it under cultivation.

This may be owing to the scarcity of water along this part of the road, - a fact to which I can bear practical testimony.

We had to travel until near nine o'clock at night before we could meet with sufficient water to enable us to camp.

And this was at a wild dreary looking place called Black Bob's Creek, in every respect unsuitable for camping were it not for the water.

To add to the unpleasantness of our situation, a person, whom we afterwards found was a National Schoolmaster, came up and informed us that we could not be allowed to put our horse on any part of the adjacent ground.

He told us that the property was under his management, and that if we attempted to trespass he would impound the horse.

In vain did we plead fatigue and point out the inconvenience of having to travel further in the dark.

He was inexorable, and, being driven to desperation, we at length defied him to do his best, and informed him boldly that it was our intention to remain whatever the consequences might be.

We were also informed that the property belonged to a person locally known by the appellation of the "Blocker," and who was described to us as a most formidable character.