BOOK 2. - AUSTRALIAN DISCOVERY BY LAND

II. EVANS'S JOURNAL OF HIS JOURNEY TO THE BATHURST PLAINS

[GOVERNOR MACQUARIE despatched Assistant Land Surveyor George W. Evans to follow up the trail across the Blue Mountains, opened by Blaxland and his companions in 1813. Evans's journal*, a copy of which was forwarded as an enclosure in a despatch to the Secretary of State, Lord Bathurst, is printed in the Historical Records of Australia, Vol. VIII.]

[* This journal by Evans is available in full on the Project Gutenberg Australia website at Evans' listing.

Friday, November 19th, 1813—I directed the Provisions and other necessarys to be conveyed across the Nepean to the N.E. Point of Forest Land, commonly called Emu Island, which was done, and by the time every thing was arranged evening approached.

Saturday, 20th.—The Night was most uncomfortable, and the Morning being wet prevented our departing so early as I meant; feeling anxious to proceed, I made up my mind to make the best of our way to the end of the Mountains, and on my return to measure the distance of Messrs. Blaxlands, Wentworths and Lawsons recent excursion; it appeared to me that while the Horses were fresh it was a plan likely to meet with approbation, as I could then refresh them on good grass, and take my time in exploring to the Westward, which I conceived the object of the greatest importance; on returning should I not have sufficient provisions to subsist on to complete measuring the track of the above named Gentlemen, I could send in a Man and Horse to meet me with a small supply.

Monday, 22nd—The Weather bad; determined to proceed we loaded the Horses when one of them turned stubborn having laid down and rolled several times over his load; he at length became steady; our track was through a thick brush; at 9 o'Clock we were on a very high Mountain but could not see any of the low Country; it is now disagreeable travelling; the Brush is so very thick, and the surface of the ridges are covered with pieces of sharp Granite intermixed with Quartz; the Horses seemed to step with caution; we stopped at 1 o'Clock, where there was a spacious Valley covered with grass and Rushes, a stream of water running through it.

Wednesday, 24th.—We all rested, which was a preservation to us, not having done so since our departure, and which we felt the effects of, as nothing could be procured for shelter but green Boughs, that was not sufficient to screen us from rain; we start quite refreshed; at 9 o'Clock came to the end of the Range from which the Prospect is extensive and gives me sanguine hopes; the descent is rugged and steep; I stowed away here a week's provisions in some hollow Cliffs in hopes of it being sufficient for our use back from this place; it was 12 o'Clock when we got into a Valley of good feed and appears a fine part of the Country; I have no doubt but the points of Ridges or Bluffs to the N.W. and S. (the Country seems to open in the form of this Angle) are the termination of what is called the Blue Mountains and that we are now over them; at 1 o'Clock I stopped on the bank of a Riverlett, which is a rapid stream from the N.E., its source springing from very high Mountainous; the two dogs went off after game without success and came to us severely cut.

Friday, 26th.—My Course is along the Stream; the banks are sandy and appear to be overflowed at times by heaps of Timber being lodged at the foot of some of the Trees; when I had proceeded about 2 miles the Forest ground rises and forms a steeper Bank; in places the Water has a great fall over Rocks; the numerous Valleys carry off the Water in rainy seasons into the riverlett; on one of the small ridges is a Rock resembling White Marble with Yellow Veins; we could not break it but from small Crevices I scraped out small pieces much like Crystal (Paper No. 1); at 4 Miles the stream alters its direction to the South, at which place the main Run joins from the West forming a considerable rapid Riverlett; the land here gets better and the Country has a fine appearance; it resembles the hills to the Eastward of the Cori Linn at Port Dalrymple, and put me in mind particularly of that part; the Trees being thin and light, the flats clear of Timber, a few Honeysuckles on the Banks of the Ridges, the Lockett Bird singing, and the seed of the wild Burnett sticking to our legs, neither of the two last are to be seen on the East side of the Mountains; the soil still continues sandy but the feed is good, and better than any I have seen in New South Wales; I stopped this evening near the foot of a very handsome Mount, which I take the liberty to call Mount Blaxland, also two Peaks rather North of it, and which the Riverlett separates Wentworths and Lawsons Sugar Loaves. I am at a loss to describe the pleasant appearance of this place, the Grass being quite green and good makes it look a pleasing scene, this is the termination of the excursion of the above named Gentlemen; be assured it was not without much labour, perseverance and fatigue that enabled them to reach thus far; I am certain that it is at least 50 Miles, and as the present track is, no person in the Colony on the Choicest Horse could reach this and return to the Nepean in four days; you may rely on what I say in this respect; the Mountains being covered with sharp Granite, would be dangerous to put any Horse out of a walk, and impossible so to do through the Brushes; Kangaroos are numerous, we caught one this day altho' the dogs are so much hurt.

Monday, 29th.—I stopped in very bad Spirits, not being able to get on, being completely entangled among the hills, and our Course being so little Westling; were it not for the Horses the difficulty to ourselves would be nothing; they are sometimes bad to manage, and soon tire among the high Lands; when so they will not move; after travelling 2 Miles we were on a lofty hill, from whence the Country N.W. is all Forest hills as far as I could see, which I suppose about 15 Miles, every other direction was obscured by high Ranges; impossible there can be a better grazing Track of land, and has the same good appearance as far as I have been able to get a sight of it to the Westward; I hope I will be able to do better tomorrow, and that in a few days my account will be more interesting.

Tuesday, 30th.—I have at length reached the Ridge I so much wished to do after walking about 2 Miles, where I had a prospect to the North for a great distance; A Mist arises from a part I suppose to be a River or a large Lagoon about 20 Miles Off; the Country in this direction has a fine appearance, the Trees being thin and the hills covered with Grass; A of Mile farther along the Range, I came to a very high Mount, when I was much pleased with the sight Westward; I think I can see 40 Miles which had the look of an open Country. To the South of me there are large hills much higher than the one I am on, with pasture to their tops; This Range is rather overrun with underwood and larger Timber growing thereon, but the sides are as green as possible; in descending for 2 Miles the verdure is good; the descent then becomes steep for a of a Mile, leading into a fine valley at the end I met a large Riverlett arising from the Southern Hills. We shot Ducks and caught several trout weighing at least 5 or 6 Pounds each.

Wednesday, December 1st, 1813—My Course is down the Riverlett; it appears to lead me North of West; on the North side of it at this place is a remarkable Sugar Loaf Hill having a Stone on the Peak of it, which I have named after myself; I am more pleased with the Country every day; it is a great extent of Grazing land without being divided by barren spaces as on the East side of the Mountains, and well watered by running streams in almost every Valley; I took a walk to the top of a very high Mount where I can see at least 50 Miles West, which gives me great Spirits.

Saturday, 4th.—My Progress is through an exceeding good Track of Country; it is the handsomest I have yet seen with gentle rising hills and dales well watered; the distant hills, which are about 5 Miles South, appear as Grounds laid out divided into fields by edges, there are few Trees on them and the Grass quite green; I still keep the river, and at times I walk a few Miles South or North as seems to me most requisite. The Dogs killed a Kangaroo and the river supplies us with abundance of Fish.

Sunday, 5th.—We remained near the River as it is Sunday. The Horses are getting fat but am Sorry to observe their backs are sore; the Saddles should have been lined; straw stuffing is too hard to render it easy we put our Blankets under them; I walked out this Evening some Miles; I cannot speak too highly of the Country, indeed I am now at a loss what to say as it exceeds my expectations and daily gets better. We are on an Allowance of Bread having lost so much by the bad Weather on the Mountains, we require little pork in this part, a Kangaroo can be procured at any time, there are also Emu's, we killed some Ducks this day.

Monday, 6th.—The river now forms large ponds; at the Space of about a Mile I came on a fine Plain of rich Land, the handsomest Country I ever saw; it surpasseth Port Dalrymple; this place is worth speaking of as good and beautiful; the Track of clear land occupies about a Mile on each side of the River; I have named it after the Lieut. Governor, "O'Connell Plains," on which we saw a number of wild Geese but too shy to let us near them; the Timber around is thinly scattered, I do not suppose there are more than ten Gum Trees on an Acre, their Bark is amazing thick at least 2 Inches; At 3 o'Clock I stopped at the commencement of a Plain still more pleasing and very Extensive; I cannot see the termination of it North of me; the soil is exceeding rich and produces the finest grass intermixed with variety of herbs; the hills have the look of a park and Grounds laid out; I am at a loss for Language to describe the Country; I named this part "Macquarie Plains".

Thursday, 9th.—I have called the Main Stream "Macquarie River". At 2 Miles commences a most extensive Plain, the hills around are fine indeed; it requires a clever person to describe this Country properly, I never saw any thing equal to it; the soil is good; I think the lower parts of the Plains are overflowed at times, but do not see marks to any height; the small Trees on the lower banks of the River stand straight, not laying down as you see them on the banks of the river and Creeks at Hawkesbury. The grass here might be mowed it is so thick and long, particularly on the flat lands.

Friday, 10th.—Yesterdays trace led me much North of West; today it is South of it. The extent of the Plain following the River is 11 Miles and about 2 wide on each side, the whole excellent good land, and the best Grass I have seen in any part of New South Wales; the hills are also covered with fine pasture, the Trees being so far apart must be an acquisition to its Growth; it is in general the sweetest in an open Country. At the termination of the Plain is a very handsome Mount; I named it "Mount Pleasant" from the Prospect it commands to the N.E. The River now winds itself round the Points of Forest hills nearly the same as described some days since.

Emues are numerous; the Dogs will not give chase; I imagine they are bad ones; we have not been able to get a shot at any of the Geese, altho' plentiful, they are so shy; but frequently shoot Ducks. Nothing astonished me more than the amazing large Fish that are caught; one is now brought me that weighs at least 15 lb., they are all the same species. I call the Plains last passed over "Bathurst Plains".

Saturday, 18th.—We departed for our journey homewards, keeping as far from the River as we conveniently could, and find the feed for Stock exceeding good; the farther back among these hills the better it is; the Valleys are beautiful, as also the intervening ridges that divide them, being thickly covered with herbage; Grazers may keep stock here to great advantage, particularly sheep, as they like dry healthy parts.

Tuesday, 21st.—Fine weather very warm; halted at the commencement of Bathurst Plains early, as I was desirous to examine this part; I ascended Mount Pleasant, the West end led me on a Ridge of Beautiful hills, along which I travelled 3 Miles, a small stream of Water forming ponds run at their foot; I was gratified with a pleasing sight of an open Country to the S.W. of them; at the space of 7 or 8 Miles I could discern the Course of a River winding to the West; I saw three or four large Plains; the first of them I was on, the Chain of Ponds before mentioned running through it; I feel much regret I am not able to Travel a week or more in that direction; I imagine the flat open Country extends 30 or 40 Miles; at the termination I can only discern one Mountain quite Pale with three Peaks; I suspected an open Country lay about the S.W. point, as I passed, the Range of hills then obscured it from me, nor had I time to examine it; I cannot speak too much of the Country, the increase of Stock for some 100 Years cannot overrun it; the Grass is so good and intermixed with variety of herbs. Emu's and Geese are numerous, but cannot get any; we counted 41 Emu's this day; our dogs will not follow them. Returning we saw smoke on the North side of the River, at Sun sett as we were fishing I saw some Natives coming down the Plain; they did not see us untill we surprized them; there was only two Women and four Children, the poor Creatures trembled and fell down with fright; I think they were coming for Water; I gave them what Fish we had, some Fish Hooks, Twine and a Tomahawk, they appeared glad to get from us; two Boys ran away; the other small Children cried much at first; a little while after I played with them they began to be good humoured and laugh, both of the Women were blind of their Right Eye.

Thursday, 23rd.—About 9 o'clock crossed Campbell's River; the Water has fallen so much that it was fordable in many places, which saved us a journey of 6 Miles round to our Bridge; Macquaries River is likewise fordable between the large sheets of Water; these rivers resemble the Esks in Van Diemans Land, being fine streams running over hard gravel Bottoms, I kept some distance back from the River and find the Country as usual, fine pasture and distant hill North and South are Forest lands thinly wooded; we stopped at the West end of O'Connell Plains.

Saturday, 25th.—Being Christmas day we remained for a day's rest; yet we walked about as much as a day's journey looking around us, and ascending Hills to see the Country, which is excellent pasture, the soil is light, but exceeds the Forest Lands in general on the East side of the Mountains. The day is so hott the Fish will not bite; it is the only time they have missed; therefore I opened my tin case of Roasted Beef.