Who among all our friends and readers is not familiar with that most ubiquitous colonial institution, "Cobb and Co.'s coach," a mode of travelling whose singularities and excellences of tone, form, and color constitute one of the most vividly impressing pictures of Australian travel? Can anything be imagined more fascinating in its way than the resounding approach of this pioneer of civilisation? The light tenor and alto rattle of chain and harness, the creaking and straining of steel-strung timbers, with the beat of equine footfalls for a bass, the accompaniment of the fluttering of waterproof curtains, and the swish and sharp crack of whip, all blend to the sympathetic ear into a natural music — an audible exponent of the poetry of motion. Its rippling discords are bush life set to music; a life as uproarious in its form as it is ceaseless in its exertion, and as often pathetic in its pitiful stories of loss from flood, famine and fire. The very form of the vehicle, its Yankee looseness and sound, and yet strength and power of parts; its brilliant color and bizarre decorations, give it a barbaric pomp peculiarly its own.
The driver himself appears to have merged his identity in the vehicle he presides over, and to consider himself as much an integral part of it as the dashboard or axle. He is, on the box, not a man, but part of a mighty system. The arrival and departure of the coaches from the post office were my excitement of the day during a business probation in Melbourne; and I envied all dwellers in country places, as the townward-borne vehicles, with the dust of bush roads and the sweet odors of ferns and eucalypti, caught on the dewy breath of early morning, still clinging to their wheels and furniture, came dashing round the corner into Bourke-street with a sort of surge or wave of swinging traces, splinter-bars and other equine tackle, and with an abundant noise and rattle infinitely inspiriting, pull up at the post-office. Then the passengers drop down like a flock of hungry pigeons — the lucky digger, the prosperous adventurer, the country storeman, bush hand or what not, part from their companions of the journey usually with a queer air — a trace of regret for the friend of an hour mingling with a half uncertainty as to their future movements of business or pleasures. As for the inside passengers — have not inside passengers been described ad nauseum! The gentleman with rubicund visage, the stout lady with corns, the lady with babies, with parrot cages with umbrellas and numerous parcels feebly tied and fastened— all these varieties are always present, and their alightment is never accomplished without great care, circumspection and labor. The outgoing mails are a nucleus of delightful bustle and confusion, and among their crowd of eager, anticipative, anxious passengers, are many interesting diversities of character. The appearance of yonder wiry fellow at once invests him with a halo of bush experience: his long limbs, broad chest, sun burnt neck and hands bespeak of many a day in the saddle, searching for stray cattle, and of roundings up over many a fair thousand acres. His extreme promptness in motion, and passive quietude in repose, in conjunction with a keen eye and self-concentrated expression, indicates him as one of those self reliant, fearless people who are always in perfect readiness to meet and repel all dangers of whatsoever description, calamities of bush fires and floods being accepted quite in the ordinary course.
That fair-haired dainty damsel may have but just arrived from England, and yet have her heart fluttering at the prospect of taking up her abode with a stalwart family of cousins, parted with perhaps as children years ago, or perhaps never yet seen. The country storeman is returning self important and hopeful. The bush hand is wending his way country wards, probably cleaned out, possibly hocussed. It is to be hoped he has enjoyed his holiday, and will also enjoy his recovery from it. The smart civil service or softgoods clerk starting for his yearly trip is cheek by jowl with a raw young Cornish miner, just out, and bound to join a relative at some outlying diggings. A highly ornate commercial traveller is sitting in close propinquity to a prospector pure and simple, the stains of mother earth still profusely stamped on his clothing, and all these in congruous elements lend their small influences to aid the prestige of the departure. This event, to the only responsible officer in charge of the cargo, the driver, one of the most commonplace and everyday occurrence becomes to the watchful observer an idyll of colonial life; the many small individual worldly ambitions, pleasures, hopes, loves, wants and anticipations are crowded into a focus, and, revolving on four wheels, whirl away into that great unknown sea, "The problem of living."
Many a time have I watched in Melbourne these phases of the locomotive public, and formed many glorious ideas of distant explorations when fate should have relieved me from business shackles. To appreciate the landscape that nature has planted around Melbourne (or rather among which man has placed Melbourne), "The Landscape of the Plains," the observer must be prepared to admire the gaunt, the grey and the dim — nature in fact in an iron-like frame of mind without the charms of the brightness and glory of color, but exulting in a fierce and sturdy opposition to climatic conditions; having foliage that can repel the scorching rays of midsummer; roots that can extract nourishment from a soil burnt hard as stone ; gnarled trunk and knotted boughs that defy lightning, drought and tempest. At last an opportunity arrives, and I am to see the mountain ranges and their mysterious valleys. I am one of the envied, an integral portion of the lading of citizens who take their places on the Marysville coach.
We rattle up Bourke street with the usual rush and clatter, and those abroad turn to look at the rattling cavalcade. There is not the least doubt that it is as necessary to acquire a good coach seat as it is to acquire your sea legs at sea. It is some time before the novice at coach-travelling feels sufficient confidence in the progressive centre of gravity to recline at ease. Instead of allowing, every jolt and bound of the conveyance to expend its energy in a lazy swing of the body, the inclination of the unaccustomed traveller is to hold firmly, and sit rigidly, the result a constant series of sprains, strains and jolts. The most comfortable method of proceeding is to take it perfectly easy, and console yourself (if you like) with the reflection that the company are responsible for all damages. We canter past Parliament Houses and over the Eastern-hill with but one stoppage — to receive an article of cargo that, though mysterious at the time, becomes but too sadly familiar before the end of my wanderings. It is a gigantic parcel, strongly sewn in canvas, is supported by the staggering figures of two sturdy butchers and snugly ensconced in the boot. The long, long business road with its shops and hotels, frequent and companionable churches and spacious schools, busy, populous Collingwood is soon passed, and the close-built streets begin to thin and scatter as the line of demarcation between town and country is approached; and as Johnston-street-bridge is passed we have left the city.
From the road beyond a splendid glimpse of Melbourne is obtained, and it is curious to notice how perfect a feeling of completion is produced by the dome of the Exhibition. Melbourne presents a queerly amalgamated skyline: it is spiky with church spires, bulges into irregular blocks, domes, and knobs, and is a perfect charge of architectural bayonets, of town hall towers, semi-minarets and factory chimneys. The dominating Exhibition dome, though weak and feeble in itself, and strongly reminding one, in consequence of its mean and circumscribed base, of a large metallic bubble blown through a gas pipe, has the effect of binding the less pretentious edifices into one harmonious whole. As seen from Studley Park, the repellent untidinesses and contract builders cheap monstrosities of Melbourne are lost in the glamour of atmosphere and distance. Its general flimsiness, a necessary consequence of its rapidity of growth, is imperceptible, and it presents all the noblenesses of its true character, as a mighty monument of fiercely stimulated industry. The contrast between the feverish activity of the city, and the feeling of utter quietism and old world rest of the winding reaches of the Yarra, with its high banks, dense timber and still, placid waters, is a contrast between two worlds.
Some of our wealthy citizens, who are untouched by the aristocratic claims of Toorak, and ignore the elegances of St. Kilda, have established themselves in this district, and the road is bordered with villas and luxuriant gardens. These give place to flourishing market gardens and orchards, which are again succeeded by long stretches of pastoral lands — a pleasant, picturesque, undulating country. The Doncaster Tower shortly asserts itself as a conspicuous object, a composite piece of architecture partaking equally of the mainmast of a frigate and fire escape run to seed character, but certainly high enough to command a view sufficient to satisfy the most greedy for quantity of distance.
The route between this point and Ringwood is not interesting, save from its most emphatically Australian character — the hard, well made road, the grim contorted trees, the luxuriant, undergrowth of saplings blazing in the yellow and purple of their spring leafage, and the young shoots glittering with crimson, form a foreground whose brilliancy enhances the beauty of the metallic greys of the distant foliage, and renders more charming the misty atmosphere that envelopes the far off ranges in its vapory folds. Some of these much slandered gum trees, viewed when detached by mist or fog from the confusion of outline of their fellows, appear as one of nature's most perfect studies of balance. Bold and erratic as may be the sweep, of stem and branch, or irregular the masses of foliage, yet every accidental abrasion of bark by bird or insect, damage by fire or storm, is so unerringly renewed and compensated from Nature's great storehouse that the result as a whole has an untamed harmony and rugged beauty that dwarfs the pine of Europe to a plaything, and reduces the oak, elm and chestnut to cabbage-headed commonplaces by comparison.
Throughout the long, jolting journey on the interminable bush road — the interest perhaps rather flagging from constant repetition of one type of scene — small incidents acquire a very undue amount of importance. The change of horses is an event which is highly appreciated by most of the passengers; as it gives them an opportunity to test exactly that degree of alteration which occurs in the strength and condition of the liquid refreshment provided for their consumption, as compared with the distance from Melbourne. Strolling a little down the road with a fellow passenger, our curiosity and speculation is aroused by two opossums' tails that lie lovingly entwined together in the centre of the track. The why and the wherefore of their presence in so exposed a position was certainly a mystery. It excited our interest. The matter was argued from various points of view, and the final conclusion arrived at was that the two animals had been comparing notes on things in general, and while so doing had been shorn of their candal appendages by the wheels of some passing vehicle.
As Ringwood is approached the country becomes more undulating, apparently less productive and more essentially a mineral district. The earth seems harder, the air keener, and the foliage more steel like, suggesting the idea that the sympathetic influence of underground treasures had caused nature above to partake of the metallic coldness and glitter of the earth beneath. There are several antimony mined at Ringwood, each perched on its huge mound of debris of the same pale grey tint that distinguishes all else surrounding. There is a good hotel, post office and a little village of miners' huts to form the nucleus of what will perhaps be some day a large township. My ideas on the subject of antimony are not extensive. There certainly appeared to be an occult connection between it and some kind of wine, but from a dim recollection of sundry unpleasant effects, and the consideration of how very unlikely to become a popular beverage was antimonial wine, I was driven to the conclusion, that there must be other uses for it. I find there is one more fatal in its effects, to wit, ' shot ;' and another whose results fly almost as quickly and scatter far further, and with infinitely greater benefit to mankind — 'printing type.' It has, too, all kinds of uses at the hands of the manufacturers of plated ware, and assumes protean forms in the laboratory of the chemist. Beyond Ringwood the journey is, pictorially, more interesting ; and, as the mining country is left behind, land becomes more productive. Farms and clearances are more frequent, and occasional glimpses of the ranges we are approaching, framed in rich foliage, and with the homestead, farm building and cattle always exactly in the right place, form so many exquisite ready-made pictures. The road, too, becomes steeper, and at one heavy pinch the male passengers are invited to stretch their legs by a walk of some 300 yards to relieve the laboring team.
Towards Lilydale a new industry constitutes a striking feature of the scene — from a deep valley on the right of the road dense clouds of white smoke arising indicate that a lime burning establishment is in full operation. Some of the gardens hereabouts are of the most, luxuriant description. A British garden carefully forced under glass might be imagined to present a similar appearance. In the orchard trees are swaying under their load of fruit, the vines positively obtrusive in their wanton growth, and the fences a perfect mass of sweet-scented shrubs and flowers struggling for precedence.
Lilydale at this point is in full sight, and it must be confessed that its long and very broad main street looks peculiarly gaunt, ugly and unsuitable to the glory of its surroundings. A very commonplace and utilitarian little township, embosomed in so great a wealth of vineyard, garden, hill, vale, and mountain range that its sentiment would cease to be Australian and become Rhenish were the taste of its builders to harmonise in the least its architecture with its scenery. The immediate approach to Lilydale is by one of the steepest bits of road on the journey — a rapid curved incline, cut in the hill side, along which the coach grinds with both brakes hard down, then boils up a canter for the beautiful bit of straight road at the foot of the declivity ; rumbles over the Olinda Creek bridge, and draws up with a flourish at the principal hotel for dinner.
The wine-making industry in this district is carried on on a very large scale, there being in the immediate neighborhood six or seven vineyards, in the highest state of cultivation. These are the property of the sons of the persons sent out by Mr. Castella, who are doing very well. There are about 200 acres of land under cultivation for wine-growing purposes, from which is produced about 100,000 gallons of wine annually, exclusive of the St. Hubert's, which yields an immense quantity. The subject of the sketch among our illustrations abuts on the main road, and on the occasion of our visit presented every evidence of the success that is produced by care, thrift and unremitting attention. On my stating the reason of my visit the proprietor kindly conducted me through his cellars, press room, -&c., all his arrangements being the ne plus ultra of neatness; and so carefully had he carried out the traditions of his forefathers of the Rhineland that his press and appliances gave the impression of being a century or two old in fashion. After sampling several varieties with great approval, I strolled through the vines to the rustic summer house on the top of the hill, and from this coign of vantage a fine view of the ranges is obtained, the contrast between the warmth and dust of the village street and the cool freshness of the upper air being delightful. As I repose on the short dry grass, and watch the delicate gradations of tint of the distant hills, the sun glinting on the faint moist vapors rising from among the heavy timber, I am strongly reminded of one glowing afternoon on the Tasmanian coast, when the densely wooded hills seemed steeped in a perpetual rainbow, giving place, as night fell, to huge white foggy spectres that evolved them-selves from among the deep hollows, and crawled and crept mysteriously among the trees as they wound sinuously upwards, coalescing and joining their forces as though for some aerial outbreak after darkness should have set in. The mental image of the scene fades, and (perhaps it was the effect of the sampling aforesaid) I subsided into a blissful oblivion of all earthly things, and on awakening I found the sun just setting.
Strolling through the town ship in the evening (it is Saturday night), I am now more than ever convinced of the excellence of the vintage, for I observe that the Olinda Creek Vineyard Hotel is occupied by a social gathering of Continental vignerons and vine-dressers, whose devotions to the rosy god it was a treat to witness; how they were sucking it down, tumbler after tumbler, these jolly-looking fellows, and yet remaining thoroughly amiable and vivacious. Certainly, those who drink wine think wine. From some of the jovial birds I gather the information that Lilydale was the township chosen as the first place for wine making, Mr. Donald Ryrie, in company with his brother, having as early as 6th August, 1838, imported from Aruprior, N.S.W., vine cuttings and rooted vines of chasselas and black cluster. The first wine was made from the latter early in 1845, and was bottled on the 6th August, 1845. On the 21st of August, 1845, 250 cuttings of Muscat red and 46 cuttings of Pineau gris were planted out. In the year 1850 they left Yering for View-hill, and in October, 1850, they sent to Yering for the first casks of Chateau Yering, and on the 25th of October of the same year they bottled the first Chateau Yering.
Immediately after leaving Lilydale the road is a deep cutting through hard rock, that should be a treat to the amateur geologist, as the markings of fossil fern fronds are distinctly visible on the cleavages. To my unscientific observation the presence of these arboreal fossils in a valley or at a depth beneath the surface would be intelligible enough. They would in the ordinary course of nature be covered by Iandslips or alluvial drifts, subsequently hardened into rock, retaining their carbonaceous impressions. But their appearance on the summit of a hill suggests that they are of sufficient antiquity to have lived and flourished before the volcanic agency that had upheaved the valley to the hill top.
The country on either hand is partly cleared pastoral land, mostly laid down with English grasses and dotted with fat cattle. Our view of the Yarra Flats is a type of landscape that is found in Victoria by hundreds of miles. Its grassy flats, rich swampy hollows, and productive gardens and orchards, hemmed in and sheltered by protecting ranges, have been frequently described, illustrated, painted and expatiated on. On the left-hand side of tho road lies the St. Hubert's vineyard, the property of Messrs De Castella and Rowan, which covers an area of 210 acres of the gentle slopes of the Yarra, the wines produced from this vineyard having already earned for it such unsurpassable reputation that it is needless to dilate at any length upon them. The extent of the vineyard, its cleanliness, and the magnitude of the whole undertaking, are the main features of the place. Fifty men and boys are employed on the vineyard throughout the year. At vintage time 20 tons of grapes are crushed daily. When I visited St. Hubert's, Lilydale, I found many old settlers in the neighborhood earning a livelihood for themselves and families whilst their crops were ripening. Thus the vineyard is one of the best friends the farmers have in the district. To show how the prejudice against the wine industry has been removed, I may state that the sales of wine are six times as large as they were two years since, which augurs well for the success of wine growing in this colony in the future. Beyond St. Hubert's a considerable amount of cultivation is carried on, and on either side of the road large occasional tracts are laid down in vines; and as the ranges are approached the travelling becomes a little rougher, in fact it gradually ceases to be a civilised road way, and assumes some of the objectionable features of the bush track. Between St. Hubert's and Coranderrk the coach zigzags up hill and down dale, now swerving to avoid a big stump and anon making a detour to avoid a soft bottom, then toiling up a long pinch that gives hard work to the horses and an occasional hard jerk to the passengers, who begin to plunge about in an undignified manner, and exhibit solicitude for the safety of their hats.
Our illustration at Coranderrk is of an extensive rushy flat liable to inundation. It is, in fact, a backwater of the Yarra, and the road is securely built, faced with stone, and provided with two long culverts for the escape of flood waters. The line of white posts act as a guide to drivers and horsemen when the roadway is submerged, a quite necessary precaution, as before their erection more than one or two poor fellows had been swept over, and had sobbed out their lives in the rushing waters. This extensively reedy flat is bordered by gently rising bush land merging shortly into the uplands at the base of Mount Riddell. The subject of the illustration is drawn after a heavy drizzling forenoon; every quivering leaf on the trees and each pendant reed were heavy with dewdrops, and as the sun peeped through the heavy clouds overhead it lit them up with a glittering brilliancy quite fairy-like, as com-pared with the dark, sullen looking masses of the mountain ranges, across the base of which swept at the moment a filmy vapor. Beyond a good road through heavily timbered paddocks is traversed, and presently the pretty State school, looking as dainty as a wedding cake among the gum trees surrounding it, and anon a brickfield in full operation, betokens that a township is not far off. Presently a few dusky ladies and a tame blackfellow or two, showing plenty of white teeth and rolling eyeballs, discerned idling about the bridge over the Yarra, announce the proximity of the haven of rest of the Yarra Yarra aboriginals.
These unfortunate people have been preached at, written about, and made the pegs for ambitious leader writers to hang attacks on the Government on; have been attempted to be made self-supporting and agricultural; have been shrieked at by political economists, and made the vehicles of political patronage; have been inspected, superintended, catechised and missionaryised, and generally worried about the world, till the wonder is that at some of the deputations or royal receptions at which they have assisted they have not used their nullahs and show boomerangs on the thick skulls of the tormentors, who will allow them neither to live nor to die in their own fashion, and so have ensured their own speedy exit from this vale of tears by the simple process of sus. per coll. Even now there is an unholy notion afloat that these poor fellows should be removed to Gippsland. That means to tear them from their homes — from where their children, what there are of them, were born — drag them away from scenes and people with whom they are familiar, and transport them virtually to another climate: to a certainty they will be soon improved off the face of the earth.
Healesville is a pretty little township, wedged into a corner among the ranges, and is a favorite resort for Melbourne men out for a holiday — there being abundant opportunity for both fishing and shooting in the immediate neighborhood. Although only 400 feet above sea level, its environment by high ranges keeps its atmosphere usually cool, moist, and pleasant. It has one special beauty, and that is its diversity. It merges on the lower side most delightfully from road way to cottage garden, brimming with roses and sweet briar, through clumps of fern and little bits of vivid cultivation to a babbling little stream tufted with bushes and crossed by various make-shift bridges leading to the kilns and hop gardens, thence by gentle transition to dense bush of perpendicular trees and the grand proportions of Mount Riddell. The hop cultivation in this district is tolerably successful, and the plantations, seen either in the green and waving luxuriance of early summer, or when nothing but stacks of bare poles remain to denote the special nature of the cultivation, form a striking contrast to the monotony of the perpetual Eucalypti that have for miles past bordered the road.
Beyond Healesville may be considered the commencement of the Wood's Point-road proper: — an example of road making that is perfectly Titanic in its dimensions, being an almost continuous cutting over steep ranges for a distance of 100 miles, and through the densest bush and most gigantic timber in the world. Mr. McEnvoie, who discovered the original route, was followed by hardy pioneers, who pushed through this repellent wilderness, and whose unparalleled success in gold mining announced the discovery of a new El Dorado at Wood's Point. Their tracks were closely followed by surveyors and an army of laborers whose aim it was to provide an easy route for the immense traffic that might reasonably be expected to result from the opening up of a district where, within a very short time of its discovery, and with a facility heretofore unknown in the annals of gold mining, an almost incalculable amount of the precious metal was obtained. In the construction of the road enormous sums of money were spent, and war with the giants of nature was carried on at all risks day and night. Town ships were surveyed and mapped out, and Melbourne speculators bought town lots at fancy prices on the line of route to the golden land. Hotels were built, and their enterprising proprietors made large profits from the army of miners, packers, carriers and labourers who advanced like a flood towards the wonderful country that was to make a fortune for every body.
Claim-owners and diggers returning to Melbourne spent their money royally, and teamsters and lucky people connected with the carrying interest luxuriated in champagne at a fabulous price per bottle. In fact the immense quantity of gold obtained, and all opinions predicting a lasting continuance, produced so intense a monetary mania that mining machinery, batteries and engines were conveyed over this steep and difficult road at a cost that was calculated to be equivalent to the worth of their own weight in gold. However, the inevitable recoil set in, and the ignorance and inexperience of the directors of some of the enterprises precipitated the reflux of the tide of prosperity. Shares were manipulated under the Verandah, and a great deal of quasi-scoundrelly business was carried on in "wild cat" mines, that all the promoters knew to the contrary might as well have existed in the moon.
The crash came! Wood's Point shares went down to nothing. Public confidence was shaken, and the entire fabric that had promised so much dissolved and disappeared like sea-drift before the gale, carrying with it to ruin and oblivion many an energetic brave-hearted fellow, whose prospects and livelihood had been risked in the venture. Still there is consolation, 'The king is dead! long live the king!' Wood's Point is emerging from its cloud, its old inhabitants are pegging away, and it will rise like a phoenix from its ashes. To the frantic excitement and desperate thirst for gold of the by-gone time, we plodding money-grubbers of Melbourne have to render our thanks for the opening up of a district of unexampled beauty and variety, and we should feel grateful to the strong arms and bold hearts that hewed a way into the wilderness which the overworked victims of modern civilisation may use in comfort; and so draw from its lofty peaks and dewy recesses fresh strength to meet the everlasting demands that the business life of modern cities makes on the brains rather than the thews and sinews of its vassals.
The observant traveller from Healesville to Fernshaw has a splendid opportunity of observing the almost imperceptible transitions of character of Australian scenery produced by differences of altitude. As the road winds its devious course upwards, among the ranges, the timber becomes heavier, the bushy undergrowth more luxuriant, and the valleys more clothed and tangled by the dense vegetation that is born of still air and continuous moisture. As the coach rolls on and on, opening up vista after vista of increasing loveliness, the wealth of natural beauty becomes almost monotonous, and the perceptive faculties, landscape-sated, turn for interest to subjects of more ordinary human interest. As the passengers have nearly all alighted at Healesville, I possess myself of the coveted box-seat, and think I will relieve my oppressed brain by a chat with our charioteer. Alas! I have but slight predilections for horsey matters, and my knowledge of dogs and cattle except how they compose in a picture, is nil, so I have to cast about for a subject of interest to commence the conversation.
The manners and customs of the coachmen of Old England are delightfully described by Dickens: but the rubicund face, bulky body enveloped by many-caped coats, the emphatically English top-boots, and unlimited capacities for brandy hot, are all wanting in the present conductor of our destinies. He is a dry, wiry, elderly-looking man, or rather a supernaturally old-looking young one, tanned and dried by exposure to wind and weather, lean and muscular, lengthy and powerful of limb, and wields the ribbons with a pair of hands so thin and shapely that many a Melbourne lady would be proud of them could she make the exchange. To the social glass he has an objection on principle. I had tried him, and to my cordial invitation to 'take something' he had replied in along drawn out and deliberative tone, ' Well, yes, I thank you, I will take a cigar.'
So at the first opportunity we take another cigar, and I commence to extract some of his experiences. 'Has he ever had a spill ?' 'Well yes he has!' and in a soft, gentle enunciation, interspersed with a resonant, 'Do you understand,' he proceeds to recount, 'how a short time before, doing a little bit of hanky-panky,' do you understand,' he had, deposited his coach and passengers on their broadside promiscuously, whilst doing a fancy bit of circular driving in front of the Lilydale Hotel. With the exception, however, of a broken collar bone among the passengers, promptly repaired by a little ' shinplaster,' no harm was done.' Anything else! Oh yes. The pole had broken when they were nearing Marysville, ' do you understand,' and coach and passengers had gone headlong over the steep siding, 'do you understand.' But he had stuck to the horses, and as he seems to be endowed with that elastic kind of constitution that could be fired from a mortar and adhere tenaciously to whatever object he happened to hit, and the coach had come to an anchor against the trunks of some big trees, which fortunately happened to prevent its journey to the hopeless limits of the depths of the valley, all had passed off comfortably. They had managed to restore the vehicle to the track, repair damages and finish the journey.
Any others? Well yes, plenty; but in the good old times when people took no notice of them — took them as a matter of course. What did he think his most remarkable journey? Well, do you understand once taking up to Woods Point, on a coach built to carry sixteen, forty-five people and their luggage! He can't explain how it was done, but chuckles over it mightily; and, I think, I should have preferred rather to have been a spectator than a passenger. As I observe the splendid state of health of our Jehu, note his clear eye and perfect absence of all superfluous adipose matter, and reflect on his all day long and every day process of jolting, I am reminded of Max Adeler's capital story of Mr. Toombes's Health Lift. Were I a medical man with the usual proportion of patients who suffer from the diversity of evils attributed to the liver, my specific would be a few days' journeying from Melbourne to Marysville and return. There certainly must have been a great charm about the expression in the old-fashioned prescription, 'To be well shaken.' I believe under this regimen ' torpidity ' would arouse like a charm, and 'sluggishness' disappear at racing pace.
Fernshaw bids fair to become one of the most popular sanatoriums of Melbourne. Its elevation, peculiar quality of vegetation and atmosphere give it a favorable speciality apart from all other places on the line of route. It has two hotels of considerable capacity, and visitors may anticipate with certainty all the comforts and many of the Iuxuries of town. The wonderful surroundings of this favored village; the glens, waterfalls and valleys which surround it, and the pure crystalline water of the River Watts, which runs past its doors, are familiar to all readers of Victorian publications. It is verily the region of the wonderful. Many of its fern trees are veritable giants, some of them being 60 feet in height, and 3 or 4 feet in diameter at the base. The scenery obtainable by tracing up the river is interesting and picturesque beyond belief. Myrtle Creek is a succession of cataracts and rapids that would supply an infinite of subjects for the pencil. Morleys track is a grand avenue of fine timber. As for Trasks track, Gold Creek, Contentment Creek, and the scores of other beautiful localities in the district, they are simply indescribable.
Anything more exhilarating than the ride over the Black Spur it would be difficult to imagine. The steep chasm on the lower side of the roadway, embowered in tree ferns, and mingled with that brightest of all Australian foliage, the 'Myrtle,' is so deep and shaded that into its cavernous recesses the sunlight seems to penetrate but fitfully, and with difficulty, and the giant gums, some of which tower upwards to a height of 400 feet, are at their bases in perpetual shadow, and an atmosphere heavy with dew, and earth saturated with moisture. The outlook on the surrounding ranges, Mount Monda towering majestically among them, shows the height to which the road at this point, has risen, and constitutes one of the most strikingly remarkable prospects for grandeur of distance and richness and variety of foreground that can be found in the district, and will always be considered one of the principal beauties of Victoria. While descending the slope of the spur our charioteer, points out an immense tree trunk that had been drawn to the road side, and a land-slip on a small scale close by. He then expatiated on a difficulty that occasionally happens to travellers on this route. A huge tree, the grip of whose roots on the soil had been loosened by time and tempest, had fallen across the track, and the density of bush and steepness of hillside on both ascending and descending sides effectually precluded any possibility of making a detour with the coach in either direction, so the only rapid method of getting over was by forming inclined planes of boughs and sap lings attaching the team (previously led round the obstacle) to the pole by a long chain, and then carefully navigating the vehicle over the barricade. This obstruction happened and the same method was employed to overcome it during the visit of the Bishop and Mrs. Moorhouse to the district some time since. They found their return to their hotel at Fernshaw barred for some hours till assistance arrived to bridge the difficulty.
About the summit of the Black Spur the traveller gets the first intimation of what is dignified by the title of a 'corduroy road.' On the occasion of my journey I happened to be the only passenger, so the vehicle was sadly in want of ballast. There had been heavy rain, and the rushing across the roadway of storm waters had rendered the traverse timbers (split logs with the round side up) most ornamentally irregular. The bumps, plunges and jolts that we indulge in make me fancy my physical organism endowed with centrifugal forces, and endeavoring to fly in every direction at once. After a particularly severe jumble, I hazard an inquiry as to whether there is much more of it, and receive the comforting information, accompanied by a pitying smile, that it is sixteen miles to Marysville, and that it's corduroy pretty near all the way. It is a magnificent evening, and the shadows creeping up the ranges and leaving the valleys wrapped in gloom, while the summits are glowing in the blaze of sunset tints, form a strikingly, impressive spectacle. But I have no interest in it, all my energies of mind and body are taken up by the involuntary saltatory motions that occupy all my attention. To sit is impossible, and to stand up is but little relief, and gives a hazardous impression that the next extra hard jolt will project me into space like a missile from a catapult. Darkness comes on apace, and leaves the victim little to appreciate save the irregular peculiarities of his mode of locomotion. Every now and again a few yards of smooth roadway forms a sort of oasis in a desert of bumps, and allows the dislocated passenger to collect his scattered perceptions, and realise the fact that his anatomy still hangs together somehow, when Bang! Bump! and we are at it again harder than ever. After, according to the activity of my sensations, travelling about a fortnight all over the country 'on corduroy;' a twinkling of lights in the distance through the trees betokens that we are reaching Marysville, and it is with most sincere satisfaction that I find our conveyance rolling like a boat in a chopping sea, down the long road composed of mud and bottomless ruts that calls itself the main street, and feel quite satisfied with my day's work as I descend with great care and circumspection, and proceed to take mine ease in mine inn.
Marysville is a very Rip Van Winkle of townships. It had its share of rapid money making and delirious excitement during the great Wood's Point rush, and, judging from drawings and illustrations published at that period, all the appearances of a bustling, active place, that would some day be of consequence. After the first brief flush of prosperity it sunk into a drowsy torpor, from which it has never since emerged. The buildings that had sheltered the surplus population were absorbed by the survivors of the exodus or gradually crumbled to pieces, and the township is now a mere skeleton one. It consists at present of three hotels, one of which, Keppel's, is quite an extensive establishment; and another, Kirwan's Temperance, a most homelike and comfortable abode; each has attached the inevitable store, comprising in its multifarious stock-in-trade a complete register of miscellaneous items, extending from guns and boots through all the provisionary phases for man and beast, and terminating in an upper floating deposit of drapery, stationery, medicines and light literature. The police station is the notable public building; it is a pretty little cottage standing in a well-kept garden surrounded by fine willows, and the solitary trooper inhabiting it is the only representative of officialism. A few cottages, some uninhabited, and a blacksmith's shop comprise the remainder of the town ship.
However, the reputation of the place as a sanatorium, and the beauty of the surrounding scenery, are becoming so well known and highly appreciated by all visitors that it bids fair to become one of the most popular holiday resorts in Victoria. Our illustration is taken from the rising ground on the Wood's Point side, facing Mount Bismarck, 'the' mountain of the neighbourhood, and the bridge, a heavy and substantial timber structure, spans the Acheron River, a rapid stream of water of remarkable purity and transparency.
From the township a clear well made track has been cut round the skirt of Mount Bismarck to the Steavenson Falls, a distance of about two miles, and I think that in all my devious wanderings about Victoria. I never had previously found so much beauty and variety of scene crowded into so short a distance, or terminating in so magnificent a coup d'oeil. Considered apart from its moist air and cool temperature, all the characteristics of dense tropical vegetation are here presented. The fronds of the tree-ferns attain enormous proportions. The myrtle with its emerald foliage and moss grown trunks, lights up the landscape with a glittering radiance, and extends aloft its graceful branches and masses of leafage in wild luxuriance. Delicate and rare creeping plants droop their festoons from branch to branch, and cover much calcined trunk in their sheltering folds. The undergrowth of ferns, strange grasses and wild flowers are massed together breast high, and are a wonderful exemplar of the rich and bountiful reproduction of Nature in this damp and sheltered valley. The track, which is as easy and unmistakable, and almost as well-kept, as a metropolitan pavement, at last with a sharp turn debouches at the Steavenson Falls. This wonderful bit of nature's jewellery is certainly not as well known as its singularity and beauty deserve. From the upper ridge of the range the river falls in three distinct leaps, each separated by a level plateau, to the head of the valley beneath. Each fall possesses a distinctive character, and nature has so artistically blended rock, foliage and foaming water, that each is as perfectly arranged a composition, as to form, angle and balance, as the most exacting artistic critic could desire. The subject of our illustration is the lower most fall. The torrent at this point is divided by perpendicular rocks into two portions, the larger of which presents an unbroken front of white foaming water, falling from a height of about 70 feet into a rocky basin encumbered with trunks of trees and fallen debris. On the further side a multiplicity of smaller rapids are churned among masses of rock and great tufts of clinging vegetation, and join the parent stream through the gorge below. The broken spray and small streams of water that are forced by the violence of the current over the face of the bare basaltic rocks have a special beauty to the close observer. The normal color of the rock, flaked with mosses of bright green and orange, is a dull ashy grey, flashing into a beautiful lavender where caught by a ray of sunshine, and black where the surface is wetted, so every little streamlet relieves like molten silver. The floating particles of moisture receive their prismatic tints from the sun shine, veil the asperities of outline, enhance the beauty and contrast of color, and cause the entire scene to assume a still more fairy-like aspect. In order to attain a good position to get a drawing of the fall, the crossing of the stream on fallen logs is a necessity, and as they are overgrown with moss, fine as hair, and slippery as glass, it requires a little skillful balancing, a la Blondin, to reach the opposite side of the river.
I had passed the uncomfortable bridge safely, and yet found the worst part of the proceeding was to come, the bank being as steep as the roof of a church, and densely overgrown with dogwood, whose perpendicular and close set stems formed a sort of natural chevaux de frise against all intruders; at last by breaking them down remorselessly I secure an opening sufficiently large to command a view, and plant myself on a thick bed of black mud to take further proceedings towards perpetuating the scene. The foothold is about as secure as a position on an inclined plane of greasy soap would be, but I succeed at last. My next proceeding is to find a means of ascent to the upper falls. I climb, turn and twist among this perpendicular moss of close set undergrowth, fight away through, and emerge upon a plateau of bare rock at the foot of the upper falls. Here the gorge through which the stream passes is enlarged to a natural amphitheatre, with rocky and in some places almost perpendicular walls, against whose dark and sombre shadows the lofty fern trees and semi-tropical vegetation relieve in brilliant contrast. Far up the mountain side the stream can be distinguished foaming between the rocky sides of the chasm, and there is abundant interest and plentiful opportunity of displaying perseverance and activity for the visitor who may desire to explore their upper mysteries — among them the oasis in a desert of dense timber, Paradise Plains, of which I hear some singular accounts at a later stage of my journey.
The view of the Steavenson River is taken from a point a short distance below the falls, and the stream here glides through shadowy dells and dense thickets, whose cavernous, hollows the sun scarcely pierces, under terraces of waving fern fronds, through mysterious glens and hollows, always with a dash and volume, and a musical rippling sound that is infinitely refreshing.
The ascent of Mount Bismarck from Marysville does not present any special difficulties, the track at one point only being inconveniently steep; and encumbered with loose stones. The summit is comparatively free of timber, and a magnificent view of the valley of the Acheron is here obtained; on this side the bed rock of the mountain is exposed, and descends in almost perpendicular escarpments to the plain beneath. The entire country below lies at the feet like a map, the immense valley clothed in a monotonous infinitude of timber swells into a billowy sea of ranges, paling away in the extreme distance far as the eye can reach. The course of the river can be faintly traced by the slightly fresher line of the vegetation, and here and there among its sinuous windings by a faint sparkle. The conical range that is conspicuous in the illustration is Mount Alexandra, or as it is sometimes called the Cathedral Range, then comes the chain of hills termed by the inhabitants 'The Divide,' and in the far distance Mount Baw Baw, Mount Useful, and ranges in Gippsland. The entire scene exactly fulfils the requirements of what is popularly designated as a 'fine view.' The eye roves over a hundred miles of country, and can trace an infinitude of hills and valleys, but the vastness of the scope of view shortly becomes exhausting and monotonous.
The road beyond Marysville ascends rapidly, and in a series of curves, each turn revealing new beauties. Some of the glimpses through these natural arcades present combinations of color that would drive the school of painters who style their works 'nocturnes' and 'symphonies' to despair. Musk, myrtle and sassafras flash in the brightest of buff color, silver and emerald. The transmitted light through the fern trees illumines them with the softest and tenderest of yellowish green, and when reflected from their glittering surface flashes with a steely lustre. The living tree trunks are the brightest variation of pale greys draped with strips of bark of orange and primrose, and many a defunct arboreal giant with surface burnt to charcoal heightens the surrounding brilliancy by its ebon blackness. All these different tints and effects, sometimes enhanced by a background of distant mountain, faint and ghostly with mist and rain, or dark purple with cloud shadows, constitute a picture overpowering in its brilliancy of contrast. On the summit of the first range the character of scene slightly varies, it is more exposed and stony, the trees become comparatively stunted and wiry, as though in the struggle for life their share in the 'survival of the fittest' had been rather a starved one, but as the road dips the landscape gradually recovers its wealth of beauty, and at Cumberland Creek, about eight miles from Marysville, all the characteristics of the district may be considered to be accumulated, compressed and intensified. Here flourish the most gigantic trees in a district famed for the enormous scale, of its timber. The ferns and undergrowth are remarkable for their variety and tangled luxuriance, and the eye roves over an extent of downward perspective sufficient to suggest the idea that the mountain gorge has an almost limitless depth; steep spurs rise precipitately from both sides of the valley, and in the distance the vista is closed by the grand form of Mount Arnold. The creek, over which the roadway is carried by a substantial bridge, rushes down the centre of the valley, having on its course some fine falls one of which has a reputed height of 200 feet.
At this point I observed, for the first time, a curious phenomenon. The morning had been fine, with occasional showers; they had passed over, and the sun was shining brilliantly; a short distance ahead a shadow fell, like rapidly approaching twilight, a dark mist of a decided purple color became visible. It had no perceptible origin; it did not rise from the earth, or sweep with the wind; it was evolved, simply became tangible. Its color was so intense that it steeped in purple every tint in the landscape, and was yet so transparent that I could discern through it the white mists on the distant hills, wreathing their gauzy veils upward, and observe them break, fade and disappear. As I pass on into this chromatic film, and observe it closely, its component particles of water are distinctly visible — an infinite mass of moist atoms in unceasing vibration.
Just beyond this point stands the first of the accommodation houses, as the bush hotels are styled. They are all substantial wooden buildings, so discriminatingly situated on the road as to be just a fair day's walk apart from each other, so the traveller on Shanks's mare may if he pleases take advantage of their shelter every night, and be sure of meeting with a hearty welcome, abundant refreshment, and a comfortable bed. The proprietors all carry on some other pursuit — splitting, prospecting or stock-raising, as the traffic on the road is far too limited to enable them to gain a livelihood by hotel business pure and simple.
Frank's Falls is but one hour's scramble from one of the hotels, yclept 'Jones's,' and had only a short time before my visit been discovered by the proprietor. His son, a bright little lad, officiated as my guide, and before our exploration had concluded I had ample cause to envy both his activity and lightness. The fall itself has a perpendicular drop of about 150 feet. The sides of the ravine are almost perpendicular. Unlike the falls I had previously visited, it was virgin soil; no visitors had beaten an easy track nor had the sacrilegious tomahawk been at work to clear away vegetation that interfered with the view — all was nature absolutely untouched. The descent was comparatively easy, as the peaty soil was so light and crumbly that the foot sank deeply into it but the ascent was quite a different matter. My young guide was ambitious, and, not satisfied with showing the lion, wished to climb on his back — in other words, reach the top of the fall. He induced me, by sundry mythical hints of wonders above, to follow him. He is as active as a monkey, and not much bigger, so scrambles upwards without much difficulty. My impedimenta and heavy weight make my progress a very different matter. The ravine is so sheltered from all wind that the fern trees which canopy its sides have no more hold to the soil than mushrooms; every one on which I depend the least for an upward lift gives way, and goes crashing down the declivity; and several whose bases appear thick enough to support any weight start from their moorings under the pressure of my foot, and disappear with a small avalanche of earth after their fellows. The worst bit is just under the brow of the ravine; here we are met by a perpendicular bank, ragged and looped with roots of trees growing above; the soil on which I am standing gives way, and starts on its downward journey with a crash, and leaves me suspended in the air; fortunately the roots to which I am clinging hold fast, and at the expense of sundry abrasions of hands and knees I reach the summit. A disappointment is in store; after all the trouble and exertion only a dense bushy thicket meets the eye. The channel of the stream, which is deep but not broad, is the only open space, and across it lies a confusion of moss-grown logs. My youthful conductor crosses and re-crosses on these till my suspicions are excited, and I discover on examination that he has visited the place but once before, and then in company with his father, and by a totally different route, so the subjects of his glorious recollections remain an undiscoverable mystery. I extract some more disquieting information presently, to the effect that he has not the least idea on which side of the creek we have emerged, rendering the homeward direction an 'uncertain' quantity.' Evening is rapidly approaching, and as we have an absolutely unexplored, country on the one side, and our destination the one solitary habitation that a distance of sixteen miles in one direction and nine in the other separates from any human soul, to discover and return to, the situation becomes interesting. My little guide shortly begins to appreciate this idea. The approach of supper time may have something to do with it. He halts, and for a few moments stands with wide-opened eyes and dilated nostrils till the bush instincts which he has inherited exert their occult effect. He strikes a bee-line, and we scramble through bush and over stones and heaps of fallen timber, through gullies and up steep ascents, till the little hotel with its ruddy light from windows and suggestive volumes of smoke from a tall chimney in the rear, holding out promise of all kinds of good things, is reached. That night we had a pie for our evening meal, and, ye gods! such a pie; a greater triumph of culinary chemistry was surely never before elaborated even by the fertile brain of a Soyer — its osseous anatomy was certainly strange and startling— all kinds of unusual lengths of limbs were discovered on investigating its inner processes. To our inquiries as to the component parts, the answer is returned, satin bird, young parrot and bacon — to my, idea, it might have contained juvenile wombat, unfledged wallaby, combined with early paddy-melon and forced bandicoot, but the luscious richness of combined flavors and aerial delicacy of enveloping crust — all blend harmoniously, and constitute a result unparalleled in my experience of colonial cookery. I was detained at this hotel several days by stress of weather. It rained in torrents, and at night the fogs were so dense that out of doors might be described, as perfect obliteration. Even the mailboy and his horse had missed their way in the bewildering vapor, and had only regained the track with infinite difficulty.
At last the weather broke, and I again started, although the road was like a watercourse; and all the surrounding forest so saturated that a diver's dress and helmet would have been the most appropriate costume for a traveller. My journey to the outlying mining settlement of Walsh's and Donovan's Creeks was accomplished in this wise. My halting place for the night had been arranged for at a German settler's, named Koechler, a solitary hotel about sixteen miles from every where, and on one of the most bumpy roads I ever travelled. The road leads over the top of the 'divide,' and is really the ridge of the great range ; the track had been carried with relentless perseverance over the serrated edge in as nearly a straight line as possible, so, although the prospect on either side was limit less and interesting, the innumerable ups and downs were horribly monotonous and toilsome. At last, when I am thoroughly exhausted, and beginning to think of the advisability of spending the night in the open air, I reach this house in the wilderness. My clamorous demands for admittance are energetically responded to by the loud outcries of a dog chained in the verandah, which after a time produce the appearance of a microscopic girl, who don't think she can receive me, as her father is away from home. Not being a very ferocious-looking individual, I am admitted on sufferance, and introduced into the ordinary living room. A fireplace, 10 foot in width, contains two or three huge logs, and its warmth in these upper regions, although it is still early autumn, is genial and pleasant. As I glance around, the homemade nature of all the surroundings is strongly apparent. The table is of straight, solid planks, the legs are substantial saplings, the chairs are the hollowed butts of perhaps the same trees; and for back and seat a simple piece of strong canvas is stretched over the excavated centre. The couches of which there are several about the room, are composed of the same humble materials. The only visible part of the establishment that has not been roughly hewn out of the surrounding timber is the bar, and there the pine planks, remains of gaudy papering, faded gilding, and an array of dusty empty bottles on shelves tell an eloquent tale of disuse and human disappointment.
Shortly after the master of the house appears. He is a grey, weather-beaten man whose welcome by the little child — she can't be more than 10 years old, and small for her age— is demonstratively and most touchingly affectionate. I learn presently that she is his daughter, and the only relative he has in the world to his knowledge — his sole companion, friend and housekeeper. And as she is motherless, and his only restraining power, guide and adviser, their affection and communion is based on far higher grounds than those selfish considerations and desires for things of the earth, earthy, that are so commonly met with even among equally close relations. The little lady, bustles about him, and prepares the evening meal, clears up afterwards, and arranges with such deft and eager hands that she looks like some little fairy, or one of the embodied superstitions of his old northern land revived at the antipodes. After supper, as we discuss a grog that he produces in a mysterious manner, and during the consumption of which she hangs about his neck with the most caressing fondness, he announces that, to-morrow being Sunday, he intends to take a holiday and pack some stores down to the diggings at Walch's and Donovan's Creek.
The following morning at grey daylight we prepare to take our departure. The horse is loaded with an enormous bulk of miscellaneous articles, carefully tied in bags, an operation which takes some time, as the goods to be transported are peculiarly incongruous in shape and quality. During the final tightening up of straps and girths we are joined by a fine muscular fellow, with a handsome face and heavy moustache and though clad only in worn moleskin trousers and tattered red shirt, the air and manner of a captain of dragoons. We make a start and plunge into a muddy track, overgrown with dripping ferns that lead down to the side of the range. The old man is silent, but my new acquaintance is voluble in his conversation. He discourses on science, art and politics, and has some queer and original views on each subject; by and bye he merges into the religious questions of the day, and then becomes fierce and emphatic in his denunciations of some tenets of a very shadowy and unsubstantial nature. I wonder a little at his excitability, and hasten to change the subject. His forehead I had previously noticed was seamed by a deep and scarcely healed scar. To my old friend's inquiries respecting it he returned a very evasive answer, so I conclude that he is possessed of convictions unfortunately stronger than his self-control.
Our downward track is through many a charming vista, of saturated foliage — arboreal grottoes of strange plants and mossy stems, whose dark recesses teem with beautiful vegetable parasites that flourish in the damp and stillness of their gloomy shades. The living timber was not particularly large, but some of the fallen trees were real forest giants. After a toilsome journey of some three hours we reach the nearest mining settlement. The first intimation we have of its propinquity is blundering on a little compact hut, about 10 feet square, built with heavy logs and roofed with bark, on which a large black cat of most comfortable and well fed appearance sits watching our approach. The creature turns and twists and tries to rub her back on all kinds of impossible places against the chimney in delighted recognition of the old packer, but of human occupation there is no evidence. A floundering and splashing in the creek below is soon followed by the appearance of a grey, sinewy man in his nether garments only, still employed in polishing his stony-looking skull and tanned shoulders with a rough towel. He has been taking his Sunday swim, a process he informs me he has never missed for five and fifty years. He is the oldest inhabitant and most prosperous miner on the diggings; and his abode, although not big enough to give his favorite cat the traditional swing, is well furnished with all materials necessary to the comfort of both the inner and outer man. His weather-beaten face glows with geniality as he offers me the miner's compliment, tea and salt beef but a yet more glittering twinkle beams in his eye when the old packer, producing a bottle of brandy with the observation that 'tis his little daughter's birth day, asks us to drink her health all round. This sacrificial rite completed, and sundry stores delivered, we resume our journey to the next habitation. This was occupied by two young fellows, new arrivals at the creek, but evidently experienced bushmen. Their hut, built of split logs and with tent roof, is large and comfortable ; its bunks, table, door and fastenings, shelves and sundry little interior fittings, all wrought by the ready axe in most workmanlike style. The before mentioned compliments are exchanged, our entertainers supplementing the inevitable tea and beef by producing a cake, a real masculine cake, with plenty of plums and currants and toothsome flavorings in it, and completely filling the large camp oven in which it had been cooked, so rejoicing in a diameter of two feet and a depth of one.
Two or three more huts, with their solitary inhabitants, are visited, their wants supplied, and we then start over the Big Hill for the other mining settlement. It has been well named, it is a hill. I had thought myself in good condition, but a hundred yards of this travelling makes one blow like a broken winded horse. My elderly companion gets on better: he has nothing superfluous to carry, and is used to climbing, still is glad to avail himself of the assistance of his horse's tail, to which he hangs on tenaciously. I consider the possibility of there being room for two on that appendage, but on reflection dismiss the idea, as I conclude that the animal might have some striking objections to make to so great a liberty being taken by an utter stranger.
At length we reach the summit, and rest for a few moments to recover our breath. This hill top is a centre, environed by an amphitheatre of ranges; those on the one hand being the head waters of the Yarra; on the other the sources of the Goulburn. We do not spend much time in admiring the prospect, but commence the descent towards Walch's Creek. Any anticipations that it lies at the foot of the hill are blighted. I find there are more big hills to surmount, exactly like the original in all but name, it is a toilsome, scrambling journey, but at last we reach the bank of the creek. We cross by one of those most detestable of natural bridges, a fallen tree, and the horse fords the river. But on the other side progression is decidedly uncomfortable, a freshet in the creek having flooded the swamp, over which we have to pass for a considerable distance. My conductor generously hoisted me on the pack-horse, but the novel sensation of being mounted on two camp ovens, an iron kettle and a miscellaneous lot of hard ware, with sharp corners, was too much. I resigned the dignified elevation to himself, and passed through on foot. It was a cool refreshing process, but the long grass was swarming with leeches, and I found on my return that some half-dozen of the little wretches had insinuated themselves through my defences, and had a nip.
This settlement is an old established one, some of the miners having strongly fenced and productive gardens, and those little refinements and luxuries about their huts that only appear after years of occupation. They are lavish of their hospitality, tea and salt beef being the standard refreshment. I notice at this time that our companion, the good looking fellow who had accompanied us since morning, had disappeared, and our mining friends exchange queer glances, with many shakes of the head and much shrugging of shoulders. I find he has a claim and hut close by, and, though a very good follow heretofore, has lately developed highly unpleasant peculiarities, such as destroying his neighbors' property during their absence. Some time after my return to Melbourne I observed an account in a metropolitan journal, transcribed from a local paper, of a man in this district who had, after committing great destruction of property, taken to the bush heavily armed, had been hunted down after three days pursuit by three or four troopers and several of the inhabitants, captured with great difficulty, and conveyed to the lunatic asylum. So I had evidently had for a companion a remarkable man, who afterwards distinguished himself and furnished a paragraph for the press.
I am informed these diggings are essentially a poor man's. Everyone who works hard may make a certainty of a livelihood, but none need anticipate making a pile. Judging from the conversation of these dwellers in the wilderness, their lives are on the whole pleasant ones. Solitude they are accustomed to. Their wants are simple and few, and the feeling of liberty and independence smooths away everything disagreeable. Their working costume is usually a very primitive one — as few articles of clothing as the exigencies of the climate will admit of, and boots with abundant facilities for thorough circulation of air and water. As my host of the moment observed; "What was the use of wearing clothes when he was always at work in the water, and as for his boots, they would have no value if that which ran in at the top could not run out at the bottom." We pass on from hut to hut, and at last reach the oldest inhabitants, father and son. The quantity of work these two men had done was astonishing. The flumes and races for supplying water to their sluicing apparatus alone must have required the expenditure of a large amount of labor and perseverance. I could only hope the return would be sufficient to remunerate them for their energy and outlay. After following the creek still further down, and crossing another abominable 'natural bridge,' we arrive at the furthest outlying miners' dwelling. They were two mates, and their habitation was older by some centuries than any other on the settlement. It was a huge Eucalyptus amygdalina, and there was sufficient room in its hollow base for their two bunks — one on either side an intermediate table. A supplementary erection of bark secured against the opening in the trunk performed the double duty of door and chimney. To enter the house it was absolutely necessary first to stand on its hearth. In spite of their limited quarters they seemed thoroughly comfortable, and regarded the increasing of their accommodation as only a possible contingency.
While I am admiring this primitive dwelling, one of those sudden storms arose, that so frequently occur in these wooded altitudes. Regarded simply as rain it was superb; but, as its torrents were so furious as to buffet, half suffocate and thoroughly exhaust me, I considered it too much of a good thing and took refuge in the hut. There was abundant room for all of us, and we quaffed a cup or two of water, with something in it, to the success of all under our venerable roof. This was our turning point; and the storm having ceased as quickly as it had arisen, we start on our return journey, and reach the hotel without mischance soon after dark. In traversing this district we had happened on one melancholy spectacle — a deserted claim, its valuable machinery at the mercy of the spoiler, rusting and destroyed. The saying that packing to Wood's Point had cost its weight in gold was certainly true in some instances. The cost of transporting by horses the massive engines and batteries, over hills and valleys so steep that they fatigue a strong man to traverse them on foot must have been appalling. The loss on the ventures, whose remains still stand mournful monuments in the solitude of the bush (and they are many), must have been enormous and irrecoverable.
Continuing my journey towards Wood's Point, I halt for the night at an hotel about 25 miles from my destination. It is a translated Germanism; the landlord and landlady belong to that favored nation, the latter still wearing her peasant costume. The house is well kept and comfortable, but has an undeniably foreign sentiment about it. The garden is large and productive; the stabling quite extensive. The landlord makes his own wine, not from grapes — which refuse to grow here — but from red and white currants, with a decidedly successful result. The evening meal with its accompaniments of bread, strongly flavored with coriander seed, and veritable 'sauerkraut,' is certainly a novelty. The entire establishment has an appearance of rude prosperity, and evidently has been far more favored than its compeers, whose ruinous remains, surrounded by traces of neglected gardens, I had passed on the road. The country beyond this point is thickly timbered and monotonous, but approaching 'The Springs' changes in character, becoming more open and comparatively poorly wooded. The terrible force of some long past tempest has here left striking evidence of its mighty power, a large tract of country being almost entirely cleared of timber; the trunks, all pointing in one direction, that encumber the ground apparently having all been felled by the same tremendous sweep. At The Springs the road passes over an almost bare hillside, and from the summit a fine view is obtained of the Black River Range and Matlock, the latter being the highest inhabited part of Victoria. This point may be considered the commencement of a distinct order of natural beauty from any variety hitherto passed through, the cutting round the steep slopes of the Jordan valley affording some of the grandest views of mountain scenery imaginable.
The drawing of the Valley of the Jordan was taken from almost the highest point on the road, and the atmospheric effects at the time were startling. The valley was like a sea of mist, through which many of the lower ranges rose like capes and islands; those of greater altitude rose tier on tier, and above all Mount Baw Baw towering in far off majesty. To the holiday rambler it is an interesting road, but in one particular it is a vexatious one; it circuits round the spurs in immense horseshoe shaped curves, and the traveller can see a mile across the valley a point he must travel five or six miles to reach. Each curve attains a greater elevation, and some of the spurs are so abrupt in their descent that the eye looks almost perpendicularly into the forest trees and ferns beneath. From these tremendous precipices and far off ranges with their oppressive bigness, I turn with relief to the pretty little waterfall, dignified, I think, by the title of 'The Spout,' that crosses the road about midway through the valley is a sparkling, innocent little stream, and all its surroundings are bright and cheerful. The castle-like rock that stands beside it crystalline and glistening, flaunting with ferns , and colored grasses, and the tree ferns that adorn its banks, are more than usually verdant. The road is bridged over its course, and the fall plunges underneath and disappears down the declivity with a busy little rush, and without a pretence at grandeur. A long hollow tree is so arranged, on the roadside that it catches a portion, and is always full of the cold glittering water, and all passing travellers, animal and human, partake heartily and should also thank heartily. The never-ending series of long ascents at last appear to have a possible termination. A few huts and a State school meet my gratified vision, but my anticipations of rest and feeding are quickly dispelled. I find it is only a suburb of Matlock and that I am still some miles from my destination; there is the left hand branch of the Goulburn yet to be compassed. At the junction of the roads to Mat lock, Melbourne and Wood's Point, a magnificent view of the Black River Range is obtained. At the time of my arrival it was evening and the sun just setting behind the mountain, reducing all its irregularities to one perfectly flat tint of delicate grey, against which a few trees in the foreground were relieved by intense light and shadow.
The All Nations claim, which is one that may be looked on as the pioneer of returning prosperity to Wood's Point, is situated at the foot of this range, on the bank of the Goulburn. The road from this point resumes its character of savage grandeur, some of the views Iooking towards Mount Useful having all the overpowering vastness of the Jordan Valley. On my way towards the township I observe a packer's train— one of the animals, I suppose, selected for his especial intelligence — bearing two panniers constructed of strong cane, and each containing a pretty little lass. On mentioning this at the hotel at Wood's Point, I am informed that it has been a common method, more especially on the Jamieson side, of transporting servant maids and other young ladies whose equestrian abilities were not of a high order. Poor things! Some of them must have suffered untold agonies, for the panniers have a sickening swing with them, and the horses have the unpleasant peculiarity of walking as near as they can get to the edge of the pathway.
The township of Wood's Point is highly picturesque, its position on the mountain valley, and the rapid stream which bisects it giving it at first sight a somewhat Swiss appearance. It has an excellent hospital, partaking partly of the nature of a benevolent institution, pretty church, and good hotels; and, although its isolated and distant position attracts few visitors to it, its storekeepers seem to do tolerably well. That it has passed through severe vicissitudes and still retains so many enthusiastic miners among its population speaks well for its future prosperity. To walk through the township and contrast the general quietude and the number of miners not working with the picture suggested by reading the accounts of the old doings is certainly a little depressing. I read in a newspaper, dated February, 1864, That the attention of miners and speculators was almost exclusively directed to this district, as its reefs were yielding such magnificent returns, one crushing from Messrs. McDermot, Cases and Co.'s claim, on the Morning Star Reef, consisting of thirty-six tons of stone, yielding 1581oz. 2 dwt. of retorted gold, or nearly 44 oz. to the ton.
Although this kind of thing can never again be expected, it is to be hoped that Fortune will bestow some of her bountiful smiles on the energetic inhabitants of the little township, and the premonitory symptoms of improvement manifested by individual success continue and spread over the district the long deserved prosperity. The continuation of the road beyond Wood's Point is a cutting at a very considerable height above the Goulburn River, and gives an opportunity to observe the immense operation that have been carried on here in times past. The stream has been diverted in hundreds of places, and the hills scarped and terraced in all directions. Maor Creek is about two mile's from Wood's Point, and is a deep ravine, across which the road has been carried. It is so heavily timbered that the course of the creek can be traced by the ear, but is perfectly invisible to the eye, save at its uppermost point. It is a favorite walk of the Wood's Point ladies in the summer, as its trees are draped with profusely flowering creepers, which appear to make this their only habitat in the neighborhood. Leaving the Goulburn on the left the route is through Gaffney's Creek, like the former auriferous stream, and which has its full share of disused batteries and deserted claims.
The next halting place on the route is Stander's Hotel, a capital place of entertainment, kept by a retired reefer. It is a favorite place of resort for invalids from the Jamieson and Mansfield districts. It is situated at the foot of the Flour Bag, a formidable mountain range, having a steep ascent without break of six miles in length. On inquiry as to the reason of its singular name I am informed that before the road over it was cut, its steepness was so excessive that packing stores to the miners on horses was impossible, everything having to be carried across on men's shoulders. The frequency of the transit of flour sacks by this laborious method accounts for its patronymic. I was tempted to form a different opinion as the deep valley fills itself with rolling vapor. The same white film floats over the mountain tops and resolves itself into torrents of rain.
The universal whiteness and total obliteration of landscape struck me as being equally suggestive of its name. Loyola is situated on the outer skirt of this range, being the centre of a mining and pastoral district. It has an hotel, post office, store, &c.
Revington is a similar little social centre on a bend of the Goulburn. The further route to Jamieson being a cutting in the bank of the steep gorge through which the river flows is highly picturesque and of sufficient variety to retain the constant admiration and attention of the traveller.
Link to original article and further sketches as all were not included here.