Overland Journey to the Ovens and Melbourne No. VI

31 December 1853 The Sydney Morning Herald

The country about Wingello is rather picturesque, and the land well adapted to the purposes of cultivation.

It struck me that the geological appearances here were more indicative of the presence of gold than at any other place along the road we had passed.

They are such as I had frequently noted at Spring Creek and many other parts of the Victoria gold fields Long sloping hills, literally whitened with fragments of quartz, and large granite ridges present themselves in very tempting array to the gold seeker.

Like all other gold seekers, however, we were too intent upon our ultimate destination to lose any time in giving the place a trial.

The far-famed wonders of Reid's Creek had only just then been revealed, and I believe that even if we had struck upon a moderately profitable gold field here or elsewhere along the road, we should not have been deterred from prosecuting our journey to the Ovens so great was the attraction in that quarter.

At the same time I do not think that this was by any means a wise policy, as from my experience I am satisfied that there are hundreds of places along the country over which we travelled, where gold is to be found probably in as great abundance as at any of the gold fields yet discovered.

But until parties can be induced to prospect and thoroughly explore these regions, it is not likely that anything will be done in the way of actual discovery.

At the usual hour in the morning we resumed our journey.

The road for the first three or four miles was particularly good - a fact which we did not fail to notice after the wretched travelling of the previous day. 

The next township on the road is Marulan, a miserable looking place with only about half a dozen houses to denote its existence.

Were it not for one or two public-houses, which have a rather imposing effect, it would be difficult to trace any reason for calling it a town at all. At the time we passed, however, it had every appearance of doing a thriving business.

The stores and public-houses especially were thronged with customers.

The road on leaving Marulan passes over a very hilly country, a good deal of which is remarkable for beautiful and diversified scenery. 

This is particularly the case at Towrang, where the road passes over a high mountain, and descends through a deep cut into a finely grassed and comparatively level country.

On the one side is a series of high mountains, thickly wooded, with numerous creeks and watercourses, whence the beautiful stream of the Wollondilly receives its supply.

On the other side is a fine open park-like country, with numerous neat little farms and homesteads, bespeaking an air of comfort and prosperity which we seldom saw equalled during the previous part of our journey.

Although you could occasionally meet with a deserted habitation, bearing all the signs of premature decay, yet there was not that general, that lonely and desolate appearance of desertion, which in many other instances we found to be the only characteristic of what were once well tilled and profitable farms.

Even at the time I speak of there was a considerable quantity of land under cultivation on both sides of the Wollondilly.

The green luxuriant aspect of the land had a very pleasing effect, contrasted with the pure limpid appearance of the stream.

The place where we camped was on the banks of a deep blind creek, which intersects the road at the base of the mountain.

It is passable by means of a large wooden bridge, tolerably well-built when compared with the generality of bridges in the interior.

Although dry at the time when we crossed it, the channel of the creek has every appearance of being the receptacle of a large volume of water in times of wet weather.

Schistose rocks and fragments of quartz are to be found in considerable quantity in the bed and sides, as also on the slopes of the mountain.

On a broad woody flat, a few hundred yards lower down, nestled as it were in the very bosom of nature, is a neat little enclosure which upon examination I found to be the last resting place of the older settlers and inhabitants of the district.

The sight of a grave yard is at all times a subject of melancholy interest to the contemplative mind, but when met with in the wilds of a comparatively uninhabited country - where "all nature dies and lives again," unattended by any of the arts of civilization, the scene is one which awakes the sweetest and most elevated affections.

The next morning (February 24th) we again proceeded on our journey, and in a few hours the beautiful little town of Goulburn burst upon our view.

We could see its red brick buildings and the broad plains with which it is surrounded long before we had the pleasure of entering its streets.

The road for several miles before reaching Goulburn is nothing but one continuous descent, so that the township at the first glance has the appearance of being situated in a very low flat country, wholly different from anything that precedes it.

Goulburn is admitted on all hands to be the largest and prettiest inland town in the colony, and so far as my humble opinion goes, it well deserves the reputation.

The streets, are straight, broad, level, well laid out, and the houses for the most part are neatly and substantially built, some of them are even beautiful in point of architectural arrangement and design.

The whole place has an air of business activity which at once indicates the extent and importance of the traffic of which it is the chief centre.

It is, in fact, the great centre point of supply for the whole of the agricultural and pastoral districts or the southern division of the colony.

As we knew there was no other town along the road nearer than Yass (which is distant from Goulburn about sixty miles), where we could make sure of getting supplies, we determined to remain during the remainder of the day in order to make the necessary purchases. 

We found the stores generally well supplied with all kinds of stock, with the exception of maize and fodder for horses.

The former was not to be had at any price, and the latter was so exorbitantly dear as to be almost beyond the reach of persons with limited means.

There was no alternative, however, but to purchase, as we were told - what we afterwards found to be perfectly correct - that nearly the whole country for hundreds of miles along the line of road had been completely denuded of pasturage by the bush fires, which we had already seen raging with fearful violence in different parts of the country between Camden and Goulburn.

Having camped at Goulburn all night we resumed our journey in the morning as soon as we could get our things packed.

The road from Goulburn in the direction of Yass passes over a fine open level country, highly adapted to every kind of agriculture.

The trees, which are chiefly box, are proportionately very few in number and generally very large, whilst the pasturage is abundant and of the best description.

There is generally a good supply of water, although at the time I speak of many of the holes were dry, or the water in them was so impure as to be hardly fit for use.

In the evening we camped at a large pond, close to the junction of the Maneroo and Yass roads. The grass about here was not very good, as is generally the case in the vicinity of water holes where sheep are in the habit of being depastured

But as the shades of evening were rapidly setting in, and as we did not know where to find water further on, we thought it wiser to remain here than risk the chance of being compelled to camp without water.

Our only course was to give the horse a double feed of oats to make up for the deficiency of herbage.