Overland Journey to the Ovens and Melbourne No. 2

31 October 1853 The Sydney Morning Herald

The next morning (18th February,) we resumed our journey, the weather being very warm, and the road, as usual, very dusty.

The country of the Cowpastures now burst on our view in all its beauty and diversity of scenery its long gentle slopes, and rich alluvial flats which in the distance, in a robe of blue mist, rose majestically that series of gigantic mountains composing a part of what is called the Dividing Range.

I now beheld, for the first time, though rather indistinctly, the irregular and somewhat curious features of the famous Razorback.

It was with something like a mingled feeling of delight and pain that I contemplated this noble prospect.

We had made one serious mistake in the fitting out of our expedition. We had taken with us a supply of tools, which we found could have been purchased more advantageously at the diggings. 

The consequence was that our horse was overloaded for so long a journey; and as the roads began to get very bad, we were apprehensive that he would knock up at the first really trying "pinch."

I had often heard of the difficulties and hardships of getting a loaded team over the Razorback mountain, and under the circumstances I could hardly expect that we should be more fortunate than others.

The first thing that suggested itself was to purchase another horse, but then we were told horses were very scarce along the road, and about three times the price they were in Sydney.

This was chiefly owing to the great demand for them by diggers both going to and coming from the Ovens, who were continually knocking up their horses, or finding like ourselves that they had started with too great a load.

We therefore determined to go on as long as we could, intending, if a good bargain offered, to avail ourselves of it.

Passing through Narrellan, we crossed the Nepean River and entered the beautiful village of Camden, about one o'clock.

The sight was certainly one of the most gratifying I ever beheld.

Never either before or since did I witness an inland town to equal this either in point of picturesqueness or in the regularity and neatness with which it is laid out.

It is situated in the centre of a gently undulating country capable of producing in perfection nearly all kinds of agricultural products, and is surrounded by neat little farms and extensive cultivated fields.

In the back ground you occasionally behold a large estate very tastefully laid out, in the middle of which is a large and well built mansion with extensive parks, gardens, and orchards.

On the one side is the river just mentioned, remarkable for its flat verdant banks, and clumps of drooping willow which serve to veil its waters from the sun's rays.

On the other side, at some distance off, is the range of high mountains of which Razor-back is one.

They seem like a mass of hills piled one upon top of another, and reach as far as the eye can see both southward and north-ward.

They are the source of a large supply of water which in its numerous courses to the Nepean seems as it were by a gentle process to irrigate the whole of the adjacent land.

Altogether the country about Camden is the most lovely and picturesque I ever saw.

In the township every species of business was brisk, and the hotels were crowded with return diggers, who were parting with their money as if they never knew the value of it.

None of the buildings are particularly large, but they are generally well built and neatly arranged, whilst the regularity and width of the streets give point and effect to their appearance altogether,

Having lunched at one of the hotels, and written to our wives and friends, in accordance with our usual custom at every post town, we proceeded onward, determining if possible to get over Razorback before camping.

The road now began to assume a very ominous appearance, from the number of water courses and deep ruts by which it was intersected, and our apprehensions as to the ability of the horse to execute the journey increased accordingly.

To make the matter worse, one of our party became so ill that he was obliged to ride on the cart, a thing which we had agreed not to do, unless in such cases.

In about two hours we reached the base of the mountain, and soon saw what we had to contend with from the large number of heavy saplings and logs which were strewn about on both sides of the road.

These I found had been used as drags to the teams coming down, in order to prevent a too rapid motion and to ease the burden on the shaft horses.

The road is very narrow, and being a sideling it takes a half circuitous half zig-zag course, and is about two miles in length.

Large fragments of trap rock crop out at short intervals throughout the whole length from the top to the bottom, causing a sharp rattling sound as the dray or cart passes over them.

Sometimes the team is abruptly brought to a stand still from the inability of the horses to pull it over one of these large stones, and the consequence is that the driver has either partially to unload the dray, or to punish his horses to such an extent that they get over the difficulty by an effort of desperation which endangers the safety of the whole concern.

After having well weighed the pros and cons of the matter, we commenced the ascent, two of us pushing behind the cart, and myself driving.

To our great astonishment the horse never once jibbed, but lest he should do so, we made it a point to let him rest at the worst parts once every two or three minutes.

By this means we managed in about two hours' time to reach the top of the mountain, and I need not say that both ourselves and the horse were pretty well sewed up for the day.

The shades of evening had already begun to settle, and as we had travelled since morning about eighteen miles, we determined to camp at the first most convenient place that appeared. 

This was in a paddock on the summit of the mountain belonging to Mr. Botton, the keeper of the Razor back Hotel.

The place is very wild and rugged, and what, seemed rather singular to me was, a somewhat large and luxuriant crop of grain growing on the very pinnacle of the mountain.

The sides of the mountain are exceedingly steep, and are thickly covered with trees and brushwood, and large masses of very hard rock.

The view presented of the surrounding country is exceedingly grand in consequence of the vastness, diversity, and beauty of the scenery which are thus brought at one turn within the scope of vision.

On the one side you have a most interesting view of the town of Camden, with its extensive fertile and cultivated fields, and its numerous small but neatly built habitations.

On the other side you are struck with what appears to be an infinite succession of mountain ranges with occasionally an open space, which from experience you can detect to be either plains or thinly timbered tableland, such as is frequently found along the line of road between Sydney and Melbourne.

As it was a beautiful moonlight evening we amused ourselves until nine o'clock trying to shoot an opossum with a pistol, but after many ineffectual attempt, we were obliged to let him go with his life.

The place literally swarmed with these animals, and the noise which they kept up during the greater part of the night was anything but harmonious or agreeable.

The air was rather cool and bracing, owing no doubt to the great elevation of the land, and to this circumstance I think, combined with the fatigue and heat of the day, I owe one of the best night's rest I ever enjoyed.

Gold Seeker.

(To be continued.)