September 18.—Upon taking a view of the country, this morning, previous to starting, it appeared so low and level, and held out so little prospect of our finding water, that I was induced to deviate from the course I had laid down, and steering S. 20 degrees E. made for some hills before us. After travelling four miles upon this course, I observed a native fire upon the hills at a bearing of S. 40 degrees E. and immediately turned towards it, fully hoping that it was at a native camp and in the immediate vicinity of water.
At eight miles we were close under the hills, but found the dray could not cross the front ridges; I therefore left Mr. Scott to keep a course parallel with the range, whilst I and the native boy rode across to where we had seen the fire. Upon arriving at the spot I was greatly disappointed to find, instead of a native camp, only a few burning bushes, which had either been lit as a signal by the natives, after noticing us in the plains, or was one of those casual fires so frequently left by them on their line of march. I found the hills scrubby, barren, and rocky, with much prickly grass growing upon their slopes. There were no watercourses upon the west side of the range at all, nor could I by tracing up some short rocky valleys coming from steep gorges in the face of the hill find any water. The rock was principally of ironstone formation. Upon ascending to the summit of the hill, I had an extensive but unsatisfactory view, a vast level field of scrub stretching every where around me, interspersed here and there with the beds of small dried up lakes, but with no signs of water any where. At S. W. by S. I saw the smoke of a native fire rising in the plains. Hurrying down from the range, I followed the dray, and as soon as I overtook it, halted for the night in the midst of a thick scrub of large tea–trees and minor shrubs. There was a little grass scattered among the trees, on which, by giving our horses two buckets of water each, they were able to feed tolerably well. During the day we had travelled over a very heavy sandy country and through dense brush, and our horses were much jaded. Occasionally we had passed small dried up salt lakes and the beds of salt water channels; but even these did not appear to have had any water in them for a long time.
Upon halting the party, I sent Mr. Scott to explore the range further south than I had been, whilst I myself went to search among the salt lakes to the southwest. We, however, both returned equally unsuccessful, and I now found that I should be compelled to send the dray back for a supply of water from Baxter’s range. The country was so scrubby and difficult to get a dray through that our progress was necessarily slow; and in the level waste before us I had no hope of finding water for some distance further. I thought, therefore, that if the dray could bring a supply to last us for two days after leaving our present encampment, we should then be enabled to make a fresh push through a considerable extent of bad country, and might have a better chance of finding water as we advanced to the south–west.