Edward John Eyre - Vol 2 - Ch 2

Reflections Upon Situation — Watch for the Arrival of the Native Boys — Their Probable Fate — Proceed on The Journey — Facility of Obtaining Water — Kill a Horse for Food — Silver-Bark Tea-Tree — Intense Cold — First Hills Seen — Good Grass — Appetite of a Native — Injurious Effects of Unwholesome Diet — Change in the Character of the Country — Granite Forms the Low Water Level — Tree Washed on Shore — Indisposition.

May 17. — This morning I felt rather better, but very weak, and wishing to give the horses an opportunity of drinking, which they would not do very early on a cold morning, I did not break up the camp until late. Upon laying down last night Wylie had left the meat on the ground at some distance from our fire, instead of putting it up on a bush as I had directed him, the consequence was that a wild dog had stolen about fourteen pounds of it whilst we slept, and we were now again reduced to a very limited allowance.

After travelling about five miles we found a great and important change in the basis rock of the country; it was now a coarse imperfect kind of grey granite, and in many places the low-water line was occupied by immense sheets of it. Other symptoms of improvement also gradually developed themselves. Mountain ducks were now, for the first time, seen upon the shore, and the trunk of a very large tree was found washed up on the beach: it was the only one we had met with during the whole course of our journey to the westward, and I hailed it with a pleasure which was only equalled by finding, not far beyond, a few drops of water trickling down a huge graniterock abutting on the sea-shore. This was the only approximation to running water which we had found since leaving Streaky Bay, and though it hardly deserved that name, yet it imparted to me as much hope, and almost as much satisfaction, as if I had found a river. Continuing our course around a small bay for about five miles, we turned into some sand-drifts behind a rocky point of the coast. from which the islands we had seen yesterday bore E. 47 degrees S., Cape Pasley, S. W., Point Malcolm, S. 33 degrees W., and Mount Ragged W. 32 degrees N. Several reefs and breakers were also seen at no great distance from the shore.

Our stage to-day was only twelve miles, yet some of our horses were nearly knocked up, and we ourselves in but little better condition. The incessant walking we were subject to, the low and unwholesome diet we had lived upon, the severe and weakening attacks of illness caused by that diet, having daily, and sometimes twice a day, to dig for water, to carry all our fire-wood from a distance upon our backs, to harness, unharness, water, and attend to the horses, besides other trifling occupations, making up our daily routine, usually so completely exhausted us, that we had neither spirit nor energy left. Added to all other evils, the nature of the country behind the sea-coast was as yet so sandy and scrubby that we were still compelled to follow the beach, frequently travelling on loose heavy sands, that rendered our stages doubly fatiguing: whilst at nights, after the labours of the day were over, and we stood so much in need of repose, the intense cold, and the little protection we had against it, more frequently made it a season of most painful suffering than of rest, and we were glad when the daylight relieved us once more. On our march we felt generally weak and languid — it was an effort to put one foot before the other, and there was an indisposition to exertion that it was often very difficult to overcome. After sitting for a few moments to rest — and we often had to do this — it was always with the greatest unwillingness we ever moved on again. I felt, on such occasions, that I could have sat quietly and contentedly, and let the glass of life glide away to its last sand. There was a dreamy kind of pleasure, which made me forgetful or careless of the circumstances and difficulties by which I was surrounded, and which I was always indisposed to break in upon. Wylie was even worse than myself, I had often much difficulty in getting him to move at all, and not unfrequently was compelled almost forcibly to get him up. Fortunately he was very good tempered, and on the whole had behaved extremely well under all our troubles since we had been travelling together alone.

May 16. — We commenced our journey at daylight, travelling along the beach, which was very heavy for nine miles, and then halting, at a very low part of the coast, to rest the horses. Whilst here, I dug for water, and getting it of very fair quality, though with an effluvia very like Harrowgate water, I decided upon remaining for the day. We were very much fatigued, being weak and languid, and like our horses, scarcely able to put one foot before the other. From our present encampment, some islands were visible at a bearing of S. 18 degrees E. The tops of the hills, also, to the back, were visible above the level bank, which formed the continuation of the singular table land extending round the Bight, but which was now gradually declining in elevation, and appeared as if it would very shortly cease altogether, so that we might hope to have an unobstructed view of the country inland.

A jagged peak, which I named Mount Ragged, bore W. 10 degrees N., and a round topped one W. 30 degrees N. We were now actually beyond those hills; but the level bank, under which we had been travelling, prevented our seeing more of them than the bare outline of their lofty summits. The whole of the intervening country, between the level bank and the hills, consisted of heavy sandy ridges, a good deal covered with scrub; but we now found more grass than we had seen during the whole journey before. In the night I was taken ill again, with violent pains, accompanied by cold clammy sweats; and as the air was cold and raw, and a heavy dew falling, I suffered a great deal.

May 15. — I intended to have proceeded early on our journey this morning, but was so ill again, that for some hours I could not stir. The boy was similarly situated. About ten we got a little better, and packing up our things, moved away, but had scarcely gone more than a couple of miles along the beach, when I discovered that the horse-hobbles had been left behind. It was Wylie’s duty always to take these off, and strap them round the horses necks, whilst I was arranging the saddles, and fixing on them our arms, provisions, etc.; he had forgotten to do this, and had left them lying on the ground. As we could not possibly do without the hobbles, I sent Wylie back for them, telling him I would drive on the horses slowly for a few miles, and then halt to wait for him.

After proceeding eleven miles along the coast, I halted, and Wylie came up a little before dark, bringing the hobbles with him. We were both very hungry; and as we had suffered so much lately from eating the horse flesh, we indulged to-night in a piece of bread, and a spoonful of flour boiled into a paste, an extravagance which I knew we should have to make up for by and bye. I had dug for water, and procured it at a depth of five feet; but it was too brackish either to drink, or give to our horses; we used it, however, in boiling up our flour into paste. The afternoon was exceedingly dark and stormy looking, but only a few light showers fell. The night then set in cold, with a heavy dew.

May 14. — I was again seized with illness, though I had been particularly careful in the quantity of flesh which I had used. For many hours I suffered most excruciating pains; and after the violence of the attack was over, I was left very weak, and incapable of exertion. Wylie was also affected. It was evident that the food we were now living upon, was not wholesome or nutritious. Day after day we felt ourselves getting weaker and more relaxed, whilst the least change of weather, or the slightest degree of cold, was most painfully felt by both of us. What we were to do in the wet weather, which might daily be expected, I knew not, suffering as we did from the frosts and dews only. In the state we now were in, I do not think that we could have survived many days’ exposure to wet.

May 13. — After breakfast, Wylie said he thought he could catch some bandicoots, by firing the scrub near the sand-hills, and went out for an hour or two to try, but came back as he went. During his absence, I was employed in repairing my only two pair of socks now left, which were sadly dilapidated, but of which I was obliged to be very careful, as they were the only security I had against getting lame. In the afternoon I walked down to the beach, to try to spear sting-ray, but the sea was rough, and I saw none. In my ramble, I found plenty of the beautiful white clematis, so common both to the north and south of Sydney.