Overland Journey to the Ovens and Melbourne No 3

10 November 1853 The Sydney Morning Herald

The next morning, Saturday, the 19th of February, we resumed our journey not a little elated from having so successfully got over Razorback.

This circumstance led us to augur favourably as to the practicability of making the journey without purchasing another horse. 

Razorback is generally represented as being among the most difficult pinches along the whole line of road between Sydney and the Ovens, but although it is certainly bad enough it cannot be compared with many other parts over which we had to pass in the course of our journey.

Before we got quite over the mountain we met the Sydney escort, and as I had a few weeks before witnessed their departure in Sydney for the first time, I was anxious to learn what success had attended the expedition.

Upon inquiry I was informed that the quantity of gold brought down on that occasion was 11,000 oz, besides a considerable sum in specie.

This, although a large amount compared with the results of subsequent journeys, was not by any means what I expected when I remembered the extravagant hopes that were entertained by many gentlemen concerned in the enterprise.

It was very obvious   from all we could see and hear that the system   was too good and too costly to work satisfactorily - that unless the most rigid economy were exercised the undertaking would be a failure. 

To a certain extent I believe the company have profited by experience, and should the Ovens Diggings revive they may yet make a handsome time of it.  

The road on leaving Razorback descends into a deep hollow, and for a considerable distance is comparatively level.

On both sides are high ranges of mountains, rather thickly wooded, and presenting every diversity of scenery.

We could see from the varieties of trap rock, and occasional fragments of quartz which were to be found on the slopes of the mountains, that we were rapidly entering on the gold formation, and the country had therefore a degree of interest for us which might not be experienced by travellers generally.

About mid-day we halted opposite a neat little farm house on the road side, where we   procured a drink of pure milk, which to us was a treat of very great value, although we only paid at the rate of sixpence a pint for it. 

We also met with a person here who was just returning from the diggings.

According to his own account he had been at both Adelong and the Ovens, and his experience was such as to make him regret that he was "ever born." 

The latter diggings he represented as being perfectly exhausted, and as for Adelong, all that we had ever heard about it was pure fiction.

In short our only course was to turn our horse's head and go back.

He told us that he had travelled on foot about thirty miles a day, and made a great point of having beaten the escort.

On asking him a question as to the geographical position of the Adelong Creek, he gave us to understand that it was nothing more or less than the Tumut River, which we knew to be untrue, and we did not therefore place much reliance on any of the information he had afforded us.

In a few hours afterwards we reached Picton, where we stopped for a few minutes to purchase supplies.

Picton has no pretensions to be called a town beyond the mere fact of a few houses being grouped together in a very irregular manner.

Even these are anything but attractive - the only buildings worthy of the name being a couple of hotels, which completely throw the others into the shade.

The situation, however, is rather pretty, and as it appears to be the centre of an important agricultural district, I have no doubt it will go ahead.

The place has something of a business-like appearance about it, and when we passed through this was particularly the case in consequence of the increased traffic occasioned by the gold diggings.

Soon after leaving Picton we had a very bad road to contend with , there was no evidence of anything having been done to it in the shape of repairs for years past, and the rains had worked deep into it, which rendered the travelling very unsafe for laden teams.

At nearly all the bad places along the road we noticed the carcase of a bullock or a horse, that had evidently been worked to death, and it very often happened that the first intimation we received of our approaching a pinch was conveyed through the nasal organ.

About this place we fell in with a party of four, who, like ourselves, were bound for the diggings, and during the greater part of the time kept company with us.

It consisted of a man and his son, and a man and his wife, who, it appeared, had been small farmers near Windsor, and had sold out for the purpose of raising sufficient money to fit them out for the diggings.

They were all "old hands," and, like most persons of that class, they were full of anecdotes relating to men and things in the good old days of convictism.

They detailed to us from time to time a great deal of information which if not very useful was certainly very amusing, and tended much to relieve the tedium of the journey.

One of them, who was decidedly the most loquacious of the four, if we except the lady, could give a full and connected history of nearly every prominent man in the colony.

Nor, did he hesitate to give his own history, although, it was not such a one as could bear the strictest scrutiny.

He made no secret of the cause of his being sent to the colony and seemed to speak with a kind of proud satisfaction of the times when he was "in trouble".

There was one point to which   he referred with peculiar pleasure, and I considered it a rather favourable indication of his general character, namely, the great length of time he had served as an assigned servant under one master.

Like ourselves, they had simply a horse and cart, the latter being a tilted one, and although, they had not so great a load as we had, yet it was evident that the horse had quite enough to do to get over some of the pinches.

The lady acted as driver, and I must certainly give her the credit of saying   that she performed her duty most admirably. 

Sometimes the horse would jib, and in that case "Jew," who appeared to be the leader of the party, would step in and inflict severe punishment, accompanied with a volley of oaths.

On remonstrating with him for his cruelty, he invariably replied that it was the horses "roguery," and he was determined to "beat it out of him ".

After travelling with them for some time they gradually got ahead of us, and we lost sight of them until the next day.

We reached Myrtle Creek shortly after mid- day, and as this was the only place where we could get water for some distance, we availed ourselves of the opportunity to take lunch and give the horse a feed.

The creek at that time had the appearance of being almost dry, and the little water it did contain was hardly fit for use.

It had a green sickly hue as repulsive as the taste was nauseous. 

Still, it was the best that could be got, and when used in the shape of tea it was not by any means so unpalatable as it seemed at first. 

As for grass, there was hardly any to be found along the road side, and if it had not been for a fine patch of long green grass that we happened to discover under the bridge, the horse would have fared very poorly indeed.

The banks of the creek are thickly lined with myrtle, from which circumstance I infer it has received its name. In point of soil or scenery there is nothing very remarkable in the appearance of the country about here.

After having spent an hour or so at this creek, we proceeded on our journey, and camped in the evening in an accommodation paddock at Horne's Inn, Bargo.