Overland Journey to the Ovens and Melbourne No. XII
26 April 1854 The Sydney Morning Herald
Having spent a week in visiting Adelong Creek, we determined to proceed to the Ovens with as much despatch as possible.
Accordingly, on the 18th March, 1853, we resumed our journey on the main road, and travelled along the course of the Murrumbidgee until the evening, when we camped for the last time on its banks.
The country over which we passed along in the course of the day is, in many parts, the most beautiful and picturesque I ever beheld.
The broad level banks of the Murrumbidgee, covered with a rich green sward, which ever and anon meet the eye, appear more like tastefully laid out parks and lawns, in some magnificent estate, than the wild unreclaimed lands, such as the traveller might reasonably expect to find in the interior of this country.
The river itself is lined on each side with swamp oak trees whose tall straight trunks and dark green foliage bending gracefully over the channel, and sheltering its waters from the burning rays of the sun, have a splendid effect in the general view of the landscape.
The stream on the whole is broad and deep, and to all appearances could be easily made navigable for small steamers.
The bars which are occasionally met with, and the large trees which have fallen into the river in the course of time, might render the navigation difficult, if not impracticable in the outset; but it appears to me that these are difficulties which might be removed without much labour or expense.
At some of the angles, the beach, (if we may so call it) is covered with pebbles of every variety of shape, texture, and colour, all bearing the traces of long and powerful water action.
The immense quantity of slate and quartz fragments, to be found in some of the long bars, induced us to believe that the river in many places contained gold, but want of time precluded us from giving it more than a superficial trial.
After we had dined, about twelve o'clock one of our party swam across the river and back again for a wager. The task was more than he was well able to perform, and in consequence he was ill nearly all the afternoon.
We camped at a place called Mundarlo, where there is a tolerably neat verandah cottage which we were told was to be opened as an inn.
The situation is a good one, and as public-house accommodation, is very much required along this part of the road, I have no doubt the venture will prove a profitable one.
Within a few yards of our camp was a, small enclosure, which, upon enquiry, I found to be the grave of a woman who had died from the effects of injuries received from the bolting of a horse and cart.
When the accident occurred, she was taken into the house referred to (then occupied by Mr. Mitchell, the proprietor), where she received every attention which it was in the power of that gentleman to bestow.
Unfortunately, however, no medical practitioner could be induced to attend in consequence of the great distance of the locality from any place where a medical man could be found, and, she, therefore, lingered in intense agony for four or five weeks, when she died.
After tea we had a long chat with a very old hand, who had been with Hovell and Hume, when those gentlemen first explored the country over which we were travelling.
His account of the difficulties and dangers to which they were subjected was highly interesting, and not a little so from the fact, that it was given in a very quaint and homely manner.
His description of the country, as it appeared, when he first saw it, at once convinced us that there had been no material alteration in its general features; saving an occasional squatting station, or an isolated farm there is nothing in the whole of this part of the interior to remind one of civilization, or to indicate that its primeval wildness had ever been intruded on by the footstep of the white men.
In the morning I saw the proprietor of the station, who told me that gold had recently been found at a place called Ellis's Creek, about four or five miles distant.
He admitted that as yet nothing very wonderful had been done, but he was very sanguine that the place was rich in the precious metal, and that it only required population and enterprise to develop it.
I have no doubt that this statement was perfectly true, for we afterwards learned that there were several parties at work at the new diggings, all of whom had fair prospects of doing well.
We had to cross the creek in an hour afterwards, and could not help noticing the auriferous character which it presented.
Still, as we had passed many other creeks and gullies quite as favourable in appearance, and as we had already made one unsuccessful adventure in our trip to the Adelong diggings, we did not think it would be prudent to make a second attempt, more especially as the winter was approaching, and our only hope of being able to do anything at the wet diggings on Reed's Creek depended on our being able to get there in the summer time.
The road from where we camped to Tarcutta is exceedingly mountainous, and in a shocking bad state of repair.
Fortunately the weather was dry when we travelled it, otherwise I do not think it would have been possible for us to have got the vehicle over many of the ravines and mountain ridges which intersected our course.
What seems remarkable is that all the creeks and watercourses have to be waded, or scrambled across just as nature may direct.
There is hardly the sign of a bridge, cutting, or an embankment throughout the whole line of road for nearly two hundred miles.
When once you leave Goulburn, you bid good bye to all bridges and all works of art in the way of road improvement.
The township of old Tarcutta, which is about 330 miles from Sydney, consists of three or four houses, and a few sheds.
The principal house is an inn, though it has no pretensions whatever to architectural beauty.
The accommodation however is tolerably good, and the host and attendants are inclined to be obliging.
The situation of the township is on the banks of a large creek, with very steep sides.
The scenery is very beautiful, and the place altogether well adapted to the purposes of an inland town. After camping in the evening, we amused ourselves fishing in Tarcutta Creek, but one cod was all the sport which we secured.
The post-office is kept by Mr. Mates, at New Tarcutta, a place about five or six miles further on. As regards the buildings and the amount of business transacted, the new township of Tarcutta far exceeds the old one, though I cannot say that there are more than half a dozen decent houses in it.