Edward John Eyre - Vol 2 - Ch 5

Large Watercourse — Lake of Fresh Water — Heavy Rains — Reach Mount Barren — Salt Lakes and Streams — Barren Scrubby Country — Ranges Behind King George’s Sound Are Seen — Brackish Ponds — Pass Cape Riche — A Large Salt River — Chains of Ponds — Good Land — Heavily Timbered Country — Cold Weather — Fresh Lake — The Candiup River — King’s River — Excessive Rains — Arrival at King George’s Sound and Termination of the Expedition — Reception of Wylie by the Natives.

July 4. — Our horses having been a good deal fagged yesterday, I did not disturb them early, and it was nearly noon when we moved away from our encampment, crossing the main watercourse, of which the ponds we were upon last night were only a branch. In the larger channel, there were many fine pools of water, connected by a strongly running stream in a deep narrow bed, and which wound at a course of E. 25 degrees S. through a valley of soft, spongy, peaty formation, and over which we had much trouble in getting our horses, one having sunk very deep, and being with difficulty extricated. After travelling two miles and a half, we obtained a view of Bald Island, bearing S. 15 degrees W.; and in two miles and a half more, we crossed a fine chain of ponds, taking its course through narrow valleys between hills of granite; these valleys and the slopes of the hills were heavily timbered; the soil was very rich, either a reddish loam, or a light black mixed with sand, and the grass interspersed among the trees was abundant and luxuriant. After ascending the range, we passed principally over stony hills, and valleys heavily timbered, and with brush or underwood, filling up the interstices of the trees.

Ten miles from our last night’s camp we crossed the tracks of horses, apparently of no very old date, this being the first symptom we had yet observed of our approach towards the haunts of civilised man. The day was cold with heavy squalls of rain, and as the night appeared likely to be worse, I halted early, after a stage of thirteen miles. After dark the rain ceased, and the night cleared up, but was very cold.

July 3. — Upon commencing our journey to-day I found our route was much intersected by deep ravines and gorges, all trending to the larger valley below, and where I had no doubt a large chain of ponds, and probably much good land, would have been found. After proceeding four miles and a half, we were stopped by a large salt-water river, which seemed to be very deep below where we struck it, and trended towards a bight of the coast where it appeared to form a junction with the sea.

Many oyster and cockle shells were on its shore. This was the largest river we had yet come to, and it gave us much trouble to cross it, for, wherever it appeared fordable, the bed was so soft and muddy, that we dared not venture to take our horses into it. By tracing it upwards for eight miles, we at last found a rocky shelf extending across, by which we were enabled to get to the other side. At the point where we crossed, it had become only a narrow rocky channel; but there was a strong stream running, and I have no doubt, higher up, the water might probably have been quite fresh. Its waters flowed from a direction nearly of west-north-west, and appeared to emanate from the high rugged ranges behind King George’s Sound. The country about the lower or broad part of this river, as far as I traced it, was rocky and bad; but higher up, there was a good deal of grass, and the land appeared improving. In the distance, the hills seemed less rocky and more grassy, and might probably afford fair runs for sheep. Upon the banks of the river were a few casuarinae and more of the tea-tree, and bastard gum, than we had seen before upon any other watercourse.

Upon crossing the river, we found the country getting more wooded, with a stunted-looking tree, apparently of the same species as the stringy bark, with bastard gums, and large banksias, the intervals being filled up with grass-trees and brush, or shrubs, common at King George’s Sound. At dark we could find no water, and I therefore pushed on by moonlight, making Wylie lead one of the horses whilst I drove the rest after him. At nine o’clock, we came to a deep valley with plenty of water and grass in it, and here we halted for the night, after a stage of full thirty miles. The early part of the morning had been very wet, and it continued to rain partially for the greatest part of the day, rendering us very cold and uncomfortable. At night it was a severe frost.

July 2. — Our route to-day lay through a country much covered with gum-scrub, banksias, and other shrubs, besides occasionally a few patches of stunted gum-trees growing in clumps in small hollows, where water appeared to lodge after rains. At two miles we crossed a small watercourse, and at fifteen further, came to a deep valley with fine fresh-water pools in it, and tolerable feed around; here we halted for the night. The valley we were upon (and one or two others near) led to a much larger one below, through which appeared to take its course the channel of a considerable watercourse trending towards a bight in the coast at S. 17 degrees W.

Some high land, seen to the southward and westward of us, I took to be Cape Riche, a point I should like greatly to have visited, but did not think it prudent to go so far out of my direct course, in the circumstances I was travelling under.

July 1. — After travelling three miles we came to a chain of large ponds of brackish water, but with excellent grass around them, and as the horses had nothing to eat or drink last night we halted for three hours. The water was bad, but they drank it, and we were obliged to do so too, after an ineffectual search for better. At noon we again moved on, and after proceeding about five miles, came to a large watercourse where the water was excellent, and the feed abundant. Here we halted for the night, to make our horses amends for the bad fare and hard work of yesterday. From the hill above our camp West Mount Barren bore E. 8 degrees N., Middle Mount Barren E. 21 degrees N., and Rugged Mountains behind the Sound, W. 4 degrees S. The watercourse we were upon, like all those we had lately crossed, had perpendicular cliffs abutting upon it, either on one side or the other, and the channel through which it wound looked almost like a cut made through the level country above it. A few casuarinae were observed in parts of the valley, being the first met with since those seen near Cape Arid.

June 30. — For the first ten miles to-day we had a very bad road, over steep stony ridges and valleys, covered for the most part with dense gum scrub. The surface was strewed over with rough pebbles or ironstone grit, and was broken a good deal into steep-faced ridges and deep hollows, as if formed so by the action of water. The formation of these precipitous banks appeared to be an ochre of various colours — red and yellow, and of a soft friable description. At ten miles we crossed a watercourse with many pools of brackish water in it, trending to a lake visible under the coast ridge. There was good grass near this, and many kangaroos were seen, but as no fresh water could be obtained, we passed on, and at three miles further came to a hole of rain-water in a rocky gorge, but here there was not a blade of grass. Hoping to meet with more success further on, we still advanced for twelve miles, until night compelled us at last to encamp without either grass or water, both ourselves and our horses being greatly fatigued.

In the evening we obtained a view of some high rugged and distant ranges, which I at once recognised as being the mountains immediately behind King George’s Sound. At last we could almost say we were in sight of the termination of our long, harassing, and disastrous journey. Early in the morning I had told Wylie that I thought we should see the King George’s Sound hills before night, but he at the time appeared rather sceptical; when, however, they did break upon our view, in picturesque though distant outline, his joy knew no bounds. For the first time on our journey he believed we should really reach the Sound at last. The cheering and not-to-be-mistaken view before him had dissipated all his doubts. Once more he gazed upon objects that were familiar to him; the home of his childhood was before him, and already almost in fancy he was there, and amongst his friends; he could think, or talk of nothing else, and actually complimented me upon the successful way in which I had conducted him to the end of his journey. From our camp the distant ranges bore W. 5 degrees S., and West Mount Barren E. 5 degrees S.