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Title: The Open Road in Victoria Author: Robert Henderson Croll * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1402821h.html Language: English Date first posted: October 2014 Most recent update: October 2014 This eBook was produced by: Colin Choat Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.
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A advertisement for this book, The Open Road in Victoria, apeared at the end of Croll's subsequent book, Along the Track, which was published in 1930. That advertisement, which included extracts from a number of reviews of The Open Road in Victoria, is included at the end of this ebook.
1. Collins Street
2. The Open Garden
3. The New and the Old
One Day Walks—
1. St. Helena
2. South Morang to Hurstbridge
3. Hurstbridge to Panton Hill and Eltham
4. Box Hill to Doncaster and Heidelberg
5. The Long Paddock
6. The Dandenongs
8. Evelyn to Belgrave
9. Berwick to Belgrave
10. Pakenham and Beaconsfield
11. A Strip of Beach
Two or Three Day Walks—
1. The Rock (Ben Cairn) and Donna Buang
2. Our Beautiful Bay
3. Mount Martha
4. Bushrangers' Bay
5. "Toolangi on the Rise"
6. Whittlesea, Flowerdale, Broadford
1. The Grampians
2. The Acheron Valley and Marysville
3. The Baw Baw Track
4. Phillip Island
5. The Back Country
6. Our National Park
7. Mansfield to Walhalla
8. Omeo and Out Again
9. Wellington and Tarli Karng
10. The Hunchback
11. Over Howitt
12. "Down the Road to Lorne"
13. A Tent on Buffalo
14. Kosciusko, the Top of Australia
15. Bogong the Mighty: A Rhapsody
Some Maps and Plans
Equipment and Objectives
2. Timber Track Near Warburton
3. Point Barker, Bushrangers' Bay
4. Lake Tarli Karng
5. The 32nd Crossing, Wellington River
6. The Crest of Cobbler
7. Packhorses—Loading Up
8. Old Log Hut on Tamboritha
Bed in the bush, with stars to see,
Bread I dip in the river—
There's the life...!
Man took to walking when he became upright. And still he walks, despite the "many inventions" he has found to keep his foot from the good green earth and his body from health. Once he tramped because he must; now he usually does so for pleasure. The devil called Speed possesses him at times, but in his saner moods he confesses a value and a charm in pedestrianism that nothing else yields. The train, the car, the buggy, the bicycle are excellent means of getting from place to place; none of them gives him leisure to note what lies between. That is peculiarly the walker's gain. It is then that he gathers the harvest of the quiet eye, .and he sees not only the widespread landscape, but also the details of Nature's plan. The great mountains raise their heads for others as for him, but for him only does the ground-lark betray her nest and the tiny flower shine in the grass. Alike to him are the high-road and the "little vagrant woodland way, grey-ribboned through the green." He may go where no vehicle may follow, and at night, with twenty clean bush miles behind him, he can know what rest really means as he takes his ease at his inn, or, stretched by his camp fire on a quiet hill-top, seem so removed from the troubled world as to feel that he owns the sunset, and that the whole round earth and its fulness are his.
Never has walking had a greater vogue than it enjoys to-day. A few years ago an epidemic of walking-races raged like a disease, and everyone took off his coat and did ridiculous things in fast time on suburban roads. It was essentially a class craze—stockbroker competed against stockbroker, butcher against butcher. Even telegraph messengers were affected. But all that was a form of what is technically known as track walking, and it has little connection with the walking with which this book is concerned. So distinctive, indeed, is the action of the expert who can do his mile in seven minutes or less that the cognoscenti, feeling it was neither natural walking nor yet running, coined a special name for it. They called it "gaiting." Some interest attaches to the fact that Australia was the first country in the world to supply a reasonably satisfactory definition of walking and make laws for its control as a sport. Possibly few people realise the exact difference between running and walking. The former is a series of leaps from one foot to the other, and the runner is in the air most of the way; in walking there is constant contact with the earth. The back foot must not leave the ground until the front one has made connection.
Mercifully, definitions do not trouble the stroller in woodland ways. He has more attractive stuff to think about. He may walk fast or he may walk slow, as his age or his inclination suggest, or as time and distance dictate. It is a game for all ages and both sexes. Young lads are showing an increasing desire nowadays to test the back-country tracks, and one of the most devoted followers of the footpath way is a citizen of Melbourne who confesses that he has passed his seventieth birthday. He will go alone rather than lose a holiday or a week-end in the bush, and with his sleeping-bag on his shoulder he meets philosophically all that chances, sure at least of his bed for the night and buoyed by the knowledge that every trip means renewed health. Women and girls, too, have taken kindly to the open road, and yearly their excursions grow bolder. At first, one found them exclusively in such places as Lorne and Healesville, with one day as the limit of their outing from hotel or boardinghouse. Gradually the horizon has widened. Now they "dare do all that may become a man." Three feminine walks within the writer's knowledge in recent years were Warrnambool to Queenscliff; Lilydale to Warburton, Wood's Point, Darling-ford, Buxton, Marysville, Healesville and Melbourne; and, more greatly daring, Bright-Harrietville-Feathertop-Omeo-Ensay-Buchan-Cunninghame. On the Wood's Point excursion a caravan conveyed the food and bedding, but they disdained a lift for themselves.
Walking means most, perhaps, to the middle-aged. A man grows definitely old as soon as he gives up exercise, and it is not everyone who plays well enough to be welcome at golf, bowls, tennis, or the other pastimes commonly sought by those who have "come to forty year." But in this most natural of all the sports all are on an equal footing, and an agreeable lone hand may be played in the unlikely contingency of there being no partner available. Several associations exist in Melbourne for the very purpose of providing the walker with company to his liking. One of the oldest established is the well-known Wallaby Club, which attracts largely the professional man, who finds in the week-end stroll and the good fellowship relief from the woes of his clients or his patients. Another, which has reached the respectable age of over 30 years, is the Melbourne Amateur Walking and Touring Club. Its main intention, in the beginning, was the cultivation of speed walking, and for many years it supplied the men who won Victorian and Australasian championships and put up records. Now the tail wags the dog, for touring is the sole activity of the club. Racing is left to a body of younger men, who style themselves the Victorian Walking and Field Games' Club. The Young Men's Christian Association used to encourage a rambler's section before the war, and there are many smaller organisations which are doing good work.
All of these bodies protest their willingness to make available such knowledge as they have recorded, but the means of giving it publicity has been lacking. The problem for the would-be tourist is ever where to go. In this volume that question will be answered to a certain extent. Some of the most attractive of the Victorian walks are here described and the best way to accomplish them made clear, while hints are given regarding equipment, accommodation, camping places, care of the feet, and other matters of moment to the walker.
Melbourne, on her cleansing river,
Offers thanks to God, the Giver,
For frank, wide streets and sunny ways,
For parks with golden blooms ablaze,
And, bending low her folk to greet,
The cool, green trees of Collins Street.
Of all Melbourne's thoroughfares I like Collins Street best. In its measured mile it provides at least as much variety as any of our highways, and a certain quality at one end gives the whole a distinction possessed by no other street that I know.
Time was when, as a wit remarked, this thoroughfare resembled an insolvent's account book—it was Dr. Dr. all the way. It is still the right thing for doctors, especially of medicine, to show a name plate somewhere between Russell Street and Spring Street, but the old exclusive possession has departed.
One by one the shops are stealing into the sacred preserve, and the wrecker is busy on more of the ancient Victorian buildings, destroying to give their fronts the modern touch. Three or four porches have been permitted, but the scandal of a verandah has so far been avoided, and the trees stand as a living monument, so much more beautiful and effective than anything carved by man, to those wise burghers who thought to plant them for a later generation to admire.
The Victorian who is proud of his capital city, and would show it to advantage, should take his visitor at sunset to a point a little east of Russell Street, where he may have the two church towers (particularly Shirlow's "Gothic Spire"—that capital piece of work, both in reality and in the etching), rising high from the crown of the hill and the western sky glowing for a background. Then he should walk to the intersection of Russell Street, and, standing where the Burke and Wills monument once dominated the rise, look down the stretch of Collins Street, which ends with Spencer Street clock tower. He will see much there to please his sense of fitness and beauty. Finally, as the light fades, let him follow Enid Derham's advice ("O city, look the Eastward way!") and turn to see the shadows trooping to their homes in the green trees, and the attractive lamps, which civic authority has recently placed beneath them, opening like flowers to add a new charm to the scene.
Eastward, too, are some of the finest specimens of the city's architecture, notably the cool sandstone front of the Old Treasury, with its numerous windows reflecting the last of the daylight. There is an air of cultured reserve about this building. It suggests a wise old man, quiet, introspective, with thoughtful eyes. Near by broods the bronze figure of Chinese Gordon, one of the better statues of a city with a few good examples (and some pretty bad ones, too), of that medium in art. Immediately behind is the famous Stanford fountain, so much admired for its chaste lines and so romantic in its history. Is it generally known that it was designed and carved by a prisoner in Pentridge? He was a man of quite unusual talent, and the monument may be regarded as the price of his liberty. He was paid nothing for it, but was released from gaol with six years still to serve. The material is bluestone from the Pentridge quarries, and the design took four years to execute. Stanford's death, it is said, was hastened by the work. His lungs became affected by the dust inhaled while he chiselled the stone.
"Why, Melbourne is not flat!" exclaimed a Sydney visitor recently. She was surveying the rapid fall of Collins Street from Russell Street down to Swanston Street. The effect is the greater since the tall buildings have gone up on the south side. But for its width they would make a canyon of this part. Its steep footpaths repel the tide of traffic that surges along "the block" on the level stretch from Swanston Street, the south side so substantially built, the other with such an irregular sky-line. But the tide persists beyond Elizabeth Street, changing in character from that of the idler to that of the busy professional man (and woman), for here is the country of the banker, the insurance clerk, and the lawyer.
Again is a mingling of the old and the new in architecture, good examples of the parvenu Age of Reinforced Concrete in the distinguished company of chaste creations like the Bank of New South Wales. The foot traffic thins out; no one comes shopping down here. That quaint break in the regular formation, Market Street, tops the rise where, just a short block away, the city's founder, John Batman, built his home some ninety years ago.
A measured mile of wealth, with much beauty added, this street should be preserved by civic pride from desecration in any form. What a specially glorious thing it would be, a joy for ever, could the planes and elms of the east end be extended the full length. Never have those trees been more beautiful than in this present spring. Collins Street is a great street and they are its crowning glory.
Art is but Nature to advantage drest:
Look well on Nature—and you'll know the rest.
Our Botanic Gardens have been acclaimed one of the three finest in the world. No Melburnian with an eye for beauty fails to recognise their great charm. But Sir Frank Clarke's book (surely the most delightful thing of its kind published in Australia), has said the last word about this beautiful collection and arrangement of plant life, so I shall pass it by, assuming that all Victorians know and are proud of it.
The Fitzroy Gardens are quite another matter. They seem to be all too little known to the man in the street. Yet they lie in the very bosom of the city, and are lovely both by art and by nature. Traffic roars past in all the nerve-racking tumult of the modern street, and they dream on, undisturbed, an oasis of peace in a desert of noise.
They are a testimonial to Melbourne's good citizenship, these Gardens. Like most of the cultivated reserves, they are now fenceless, their lawns are open and inviting to all, and the freedom is not abused. The result of this removal of restraint suggests that that wise old humorist, Mark Twain, was right when he thought Adam ate the apple solely because it was forbidden. "The obvious mistake," he added, "was in not forbidding him to eat the serpent."
From the city the way is short and agreeable. Only the width of the Treasury Gardens separates the Fitzroy reserve from the top of Collins Street. Enter the Treasury Gardens at the Clarke Memorial and you are at once in the dappled shade of a varied avenue of oaks, elms, palms, pines, Moreton Bay figs, a white poplar, a willow, and others. Below, on the right, is the enclosed lakelet (now bright with water lilies), with its ring of special plants. This is known as the Japanese garden. It is told that a party of Japanese visitors were taken to it. "Garden," said their guide. "Yes," replied the taciturn visitors, after due consideration. "Japanese," added the guide. "No!" came the prompt reply, with emphasis.
The glory of the Fitzroy Gardens is their avenues, and in these they excel their Botanic brother. A tunnel of green coolness is created by the great elm avenue which runs as far east as the central creek, branching off there in several directions. Just now the stem of every tree is decorated with the nymph cases of cicadas, and the air vibrates, each warm day, with their strident song, while birds "wax fat and kick" (like Jeshurun) as they dine sumptuously on the soft green bodies.
There's a bewilderment of choice in the paths. All are good, and all lead to the central core, a choice portion which, mistakenly, I think, actually has a fence. Within its bounds is a minor heaven, if heaven be a place of peace and beauty. Here poetry might be born, here youth dream dreams and old men see visions. The green lawn is hedged about by tall trees, goldfish nose the banks of a papyrus-edged pool, a little fountain splashes coolness, and narrow paths, emerald lanes formed of soft-foliaged bamboos and other evergreens, wind about and lose themselves in the most entrancing fashion. A reminder of ancient days is the butt of a giant gum tree, brought from its native hills in sections and set up here to waken in a new generation thoughts of what our country was like
"When wild in woods the noble savage ran."
One of the unusual avenues is that of Himalayan cedars (the Deodar which gives the title to an early book of Kipling's), shielding the two ribbons of garden that rise towards East Melbourne. Another good double row of trees meets over the plane tree walk, and there are lines of Lombardy poplars (tall, stately chaps with their cloaks held tightly round them), American maples, flowering chestnuts, Queensland silky oaks (covered at present with their honeycomb-like bloom), lindens and araucarias. Individual trees stand out, such as the Queensland Kauri near the south-eastern corner, a paper-bark on a western lawn, some redwoods (the giant tree of California) also on the western side, and a Moreton Bay fig near a noble jacaranda. Finest of all is the slim, graceful lemon-scented gum at the back of the deodars. She is always a delight, and never more so than when, obviously conscious in early summer of her new, close-fitting dress of silver bark.
The population of the Gardens is varied and numerous. Birds abound. The Kookaburra may be seen (and heard) constantly, thrushes, blackbirds, minahs, doves and blue wrens treat the grass plots as their own. Two pairs of the white-shafted fantail built last season in bushes in the main walk, and the sacred Kingfisher nests not far away, for the mother was seen the other day feeding a hungry young one. One morning I noted a land rail at the creek, and a rabbit nibbled at the grass close by. Possums are plentiful, as anyone who strolls through by night can testify.
Reluctantly one leaves these Gardens. Pan, outcast from a war-smitten world overseas, might well be hiding here. The statues, showing in glimpses clown the leafy aisles, encourage the thought.
Memory brings away pictures of sunny lawns, shady groves, peace and beauty.
A stately city—mark her lofty towers,
Her league-long streets with myriad lights agleam;
Here wealth and pride exhibit all their powers—
Is this the "village" of John Batman's dream?
For all its spreading acres how young Melbourne is! A native-born friend could tell me yesterday (and he is hale and hearty and good for many years yet) that his mother used to do the family washing in a tiny creek. That is the creek which runs through the centre of the present Fitzroy Gardens. It was then a pleasant burbling little stream, with its source near where the Presbyterian Ladies' College stands.
There was but small settlement in the neighborhood in those times. Later my friend and some other youngsters discovered a delightful playground which kept them in games for many a day. It was the foundations of the Public Offices, known to their generation as O'Shanassy's Folly. But O'Shanassy builded better than his critics knew; the huge pile is more than fully occupied, and the situation is one of the very best for its purpose—completely in the city, yet cut off from its noises.
Have you ever asked Young Australia what he thinks of a place? He has one superlative: "It's not bad!" Well, the view from the corner of Spring and Finders Streets, just below the Public Offices, is "not bad." That corner might well serve as a starting place for a little "walk-about," with an eye open for things of interest.
The first is certainly the outlook over the sunken railway lines which edge Flinders Street on the south. By the way, the advent of electric trains has pretty well removed the old name of "Cinders Street," which used to be applied to this part. Beyond is the Domain (where sometime, it seems imperative, our National Art Gallery must be), the outstanding point being Federal Government House on the crest of the rise. The slopes can look particularly attractive from here, especially in the Spring, when the long line of trees in Alexandra Avenue is breaking into soft bud. Even the raw redness of the railway structures in the middle distance is not without its value at certain times, as when a winter sun, about to set, catches it "in a noose of light."
The tall radio mast, lifting its head over the hill, has long been noticeable from this point, and now, midway between it and the outstanding bulk of the Victoria Barracks, a new note is struck by the fluttering flag which marks where the Great War memorial is to stand.
The eye travels comfortably along the green line of St. Kilda Road until arrested by the dome of Flinders, Street station. Sundown is the time to see it from here; then you will realise why that keen recorder of Melbourne's picturesque points, John Shirlow, has so frequently etched this dome. Against the background of a brilliant sunset, or outlined on a pile of cumulus, the effect is striking. Well down the street shows the more formal tower of the Fish Market, which recalls the fact that the dome of Flinders Street station covers the site of an older Fish Market still.
It is good to stroll on, noting in passing that St. Paul's spires are assuming definite shape, and that Flinders Street is rapidly being rebuilt. Resist for the present the fascination of the wharves, just a couple of blocks along, but pause long enough to reflect that it was probably about the Queen's Bridge (earlier titled the Falls Bridge) that John Batman, on June 8, 1835, wrote in his diary: "This will be the place for a village."
Then it was unbroken wilderness; to-day there are nearly a million people in the "village." And this has all happened within three generations. Turn up Elizabeth Street and mark the busyness of this thoroughfare—which runs all the way to Sydney. Note the huge buildings, so large that even the Post Office tower is hidden. Yet here was a watercourse a very few years ago. In my own time the digging of the street to lay foundations for the cable trams revealed a stretch of redgum corduroy which our fathers had found it necessary to put down to keep the street from swallowing travellers completely in wet weather.
The land rises on either side of Elizabeth Street as in a veritable stream. Come up to Queen Street, on the ridge, and stroll north a few blocks. The enclosure where Franklin Street crosses is the site of the Old Cemetery. The remains of the pioneers who slept here, and all their memorials, were recently removed to Fawkner to make way for municipal markets. An exception is the monument to John Batman, now re-erected at the corner of the Amateur Sports Ground (the old Friendly Societies' Reserve), in Batman Avenue.
But there is an older cemetery still, for the beautiful little Flagstaff Gardens, within a stone's throw of where we now stand, was once called Burial Hill, because of a few very early graves within it.
Times are changed indeed! This Flagstaff Hill was the centre of the social life of Melbourne in those early years, when Mr. Superintendent Latrobe controlled the destinies of the Port Phillip Settlement, and he might be seen taking the air here of a fine Sunday afternoon. In the memory of veterans like Mr. E. C. O. Howard and the late George Gordon McCrae it was one of the really charming spots of the locality. Its grassy surface was lawn-like and pleasant, and from its base stretched a beautiful blue lake—a real lake, nearly oval, and full of the clearest salt water. "Only man is vile"—the "improvements" of civilisation have not only obliterated the lake, but have supplied its place with a rubbish tip.
Another great attraction for our forefathers was the notice board with the latest shipping news, for the height of the hill (now apparently so much reduced) commanded a view of Hobson's Bay, and here stood the flagstaff which signalled the arrival and departure of the shipping. That was the link, almost the only one, with the world which these pioneers had left so far behind them. Isolated as they were, news was news indeed. It is easy to imagine their interest in this spot.
How much may be packed into '90 years! And in an hour we have walked across that period into an age differing tremendously from our own, for then there were no mechanical aids to work and play, and, as Blamire Young once pictured it:
"Men wore curly hats and funny clobber."
Give me the clear blue sky over my head, and the
green turf beneath my feet, a winding road before me, and a three
hours' march to dinner—and then to thinking!
Here is one of the many little walks, full of interest, which Melbourne folk may enjoy in the compass of a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday. It is essentially a meditative outing, one which may be taken alone without disadvantage. The distance is just right for the time, or, what is equally good, may be made so. The views are excellent, the road as winding as even Hazlitt would have it, and at one point the walker may pass at a stride through the whole period of Victoria's history and find himself contemplating what to us constitutes antiquity.
Whether you go by the afternoon train on Saturday or by one of the Sunday morning trains, alight at Greensborough. The question of lunch on Sunday can best be answered by taking some with you. There are, however, hotels both at Greensborough and Eltham, and the two townships are only three miles apart. The train journey through Ivanhoe and Heidelberg, two of the most picturesque of our suburbs, is an attractive prelude to the run which follows across the open park-like country, in which still stand numbers of fine old redgums. Greensborough is a revelation. You suddenly find that you are looking down into a valley of orchards and gardens, with the Plenty River making long loops and curves at their feet. It must strike most people as odd that this creek is ever and always dignified by the name "river." It rises somewhere about Mount Disappointment, at the back of Whittlesea, and its whole course, down past Tooroorong and the Yan Yean and on to its junction with the Yarra near Templestowe, is but a trifling distance, but neither that nor its insignificant width has succeeded in correcting its original classification. On leaving the Greensborough station, turn back, cross the line and join the Heidelberg road. Follow down to the bridge, below which the Plenty is murmuring peacefully and looking most inviting, cross the bridge, and within a hundred yards or so a three-armed signpost will arrest you at a sharp turn to the right. Pointing back along the road you have come, one arm indicates that Heidelberg is five miles and Melbourne 13 miles away; to the left the indicator gives "Diamond Creek 31M." The right-hand track is yours. It is labelled "St. Helena 2M., Eltham 3M."
You at once begin to climb Boyle's Hill. A cutting at the top has eased the grade, but on a warm day this will be found a pleasant pore-opener. The way is prettily edged with green slopes holding some good timber. As you start the ascent note on your left a little cottage made picturesque by that Dodo of the vehicular world, an omnibus. What a change from the city streets and their roar to this quiet oasis. It has made its last trip, the last customer has paid the final fare, and in its old age it is doubtless glad enough to exchange the turmoil of its early life for the peace of this "bee-loud glade."
The road winds and gives you views and opportunities to vary the going by taking to the paddocks across corners. At one of the bends a road goes off to the right for Eltham; avoid it at present, but note it. A finger-post removes all doubt. You now start the ascent of Lannon's Hill, and at the top is a gate marked St. Helena. It is just past a house and almost opposite another. A thing to ponder over is a startling change in the nature of the soil, which will be noticed as you look across the hill crest to the north-west and west. You have been walking on a whitish ground which looks alluvial; at a line on the St. Helena estate it alters abruptly to the rich black soil of a lava flow. The outlook from here eastwards is fine. Low, wooded hills compose the foreground, the middle distance has for conspicuous landmarks such well-known points as Garden Hill at Kangaroo Ground, and the pine-covered rise to the north of Ringwood station, while the background displays those blue ranges, of which St. Leonard, Monda, Juliet and Donna Buang are the most conspicuous peaks. It was not only the rich belt of soil and the neighbourhood of the river that made the early settler build his home here; it was also an appreciation of beauty.
"The Paths of Glory."
Go across the small reserve, open a second gate, and you will find yourself in a graveyard surrounding a church. The tablet outside tells you it is St. Katherine's, and a place of public worship; but you shall soon gather that it was originally designed for the use of a single family, the private chapel of a patriarchal system. Major Anthony Beale, who had been paymaster to the East India Company's forces, arrived from the island of St. Helena in 1839. The Port Phillip Settlement was then four years old, and Melbourne had escaped the indignity of being named Bearbrass. He records in his diary that he consulted several agents (he refers to them in no complimentary terms), including John Pascoe Fawkner, and eventually decided on this piece of land on the Plenty, then hopelessly out in the bush. He mentions that he became lost on one occasion about where Collingwood has replaced the trees with streets. The original house he built, of imported weatherboards, still stands with its chimneys of narrow, hand-made bricks, the only important change being the recent substitution of iron for the ancient shingle roofing. A feature of the living room is the great fireplace, with a stone seat built in at each end, so that man and wife might face one another across the cheerful blaze. Napoleonic relics hang on the walls. The family was large, and grandson and great grandson live in the old home to-day.
Beside the house is the church, a substantial building with Gothic windows, some of them in stained glass to commemorate departed relatives. The leadlights behind the altar are inscribed with references to the founder and his wife; at the other end are two tablets, one bearing the dedication of the chapel, the other recording the death of Onesiphorus Beale, the eldest son, who was drowned in the Tamar in August, 1839, as the family came through Tasmania on its way to Port Phillip. The churchyard has its portion sacred to the Beale family and its connections. In this plot lies Charles Symons Wingrove, who died in 1905, after 46 years as secretary of the Shire of Eltham. Of the original settlers it is recorded that Anthony Beale was born in 1790 and died in 1865, and that Katherine Rose, his wife, was born in 1795 and died in 1856. Four cypresses and a pine sigh over them and the lines of their descendants.
In the public portion lies the body of Walter Withers, an artist, who loved this picturesque countryside, but no stone bears his name. The monument to Graham Webster, one time Police Magistrate, carries an interesting inscription. He was born in Essex in 1830, and died in Greensborough in 1903. It reads thus: "Here lies Graham Webster, the last of his race, who descended in one unbroken line from father to son for a period of 779 years." It suggests Gray's line, "The paths of glory lead but to the grave."
Stroll quietly back to where you saw the Eltham road turn off. It will take you along some agreeable stretches under good gums, and inside of two miles you will have crossed the Diamond Creek, with its many wattles, and emerged through a cutting into the long and straggly street of Eltham. Down to the right (roughly south) is a good picnic ground, half a mile on your left is the railway station.
Some also have wished that the next way to their
Father's house were here, that they might be troubled no more with
either hills or mountains to go over, but the way is the way, and
there is an end.
When winter is fairly with us, from every hill giving an easterly outlook snow may be seen whitening the mountains from St. Leonard to Monda, and from Juliet to Donna Huang. Such a storm of hail as sometimes comes over from the west is a reminder of the possibilities of even the brightest days of July. So the excursionist will be well advised to see that his boots are stout, and to carry a waterproof, if he prefers his outings in cool weather.
A delightful walk, suitable for a Sunday or holiday, may be had by going to South Morang, about an hour's train journey, and making for Hurstbridge, some ten miles away by the road about to be described. On leaving the station, turn south along the Whittlesea road until you reach the South Morang Hotel on a corner. Then swing to the left and follow a flat way, which runs between ploughed fields with some good redgums still standing. There is nothing to prepare you for the dramatic picture which you are to see at the end of half a mile, and perhaps its unexpectedness gives value to the view.
The rich soil is evidently the product of volcanic action. At a high point on the road a cutting has been made, and between its black, rocky sides you look through to a sudden valley of considerable depth, at the bottom of which the Plenty River twists and winds. The near side, down which the road curves, is overhung with mounds and pillars of rock of basaltic type, the other wall of the valley is alluvial in character. Apparently the stream is following the edge of the lava flow. The whole result is picturesque in the extreme. Near the bridge are many nooks where you may shelter from every wind, and bask in any sunlight that the day affords, and here, if anywhere, is the place for the al fresco lunch.
It is a steady climb to reach again the general level of the land. Gum scrub and saplings cover the hillside, and grevilleas and heathy plants decorate whatever open spaces there are. A twist to the left brings you almost to the summit and presently your track bends to the right to end in a north and south road. This is on its way to Heidelberg from a little village whose name's Doreen. Now you must face north and very soon you will come to the State School of Tanck's Corner—a very pretty corner, too, where a road makes off on the right for Diamond Creek.
Resist its seductions and keep straight on down the hill and up the opposing slope, admiring as you go the prospect of blue ranges ahead and on your right front. Rather more than half a mile from the school there is a junction and you take the road to the right. It is bordered by orchards, decorated with cherry plums and apples. They probably form the attraction for the flocks of rosellas which rise noisily as you pass. Rapidly the cultivated land is left and you walk down aisles of eucalypts with the branches almost meeting overhead. It is a typical country track, and as it hugs the ridge it gives appetising glimpses, through the timber, of long slopes dropping to crop-green flats, varied by patches of bush, and rising finally to form the everlasting hills. Mount Disappointment is there, and the Sugarloaf and the high lands of Kinglake and a generous panorama that takes in most of the northerly and eastern mountains near to Melbourne.
There are nearly three miles of this thoroughfare before you reach the turn-off for Hurst's Bridge. It makes so sharp a set-back on your right that it might easily be overlooked. An orchard marks one corner, and in the same paddock is a house, some 200 yards away on the road you are to go. It is a good road, and downhill for the whole of its two or two and a half miles. At half a mile it branches; take the left fork. All the way there is good green timber, and a profusion of beautiful wattles, whose display of flower-buds in June and July proves, despite the temperature, that "the hounds of Spring are on Winter's traces." At the foot of the descent you meet, and cross, Diamond Creek, and just above it is the railway station.
I leave the lonely city street,
The awful silence of the crowd;
The rhythm of the roads I beat,
My blood leaps up, I shout aloud,
My heart keeps measure with my feet.
I don't know that the poets always practise exactly what they preach. I have never met one on a country road "shouting aloud," for instance. But the mood, and the necessity for the expression of it, are easily understandable in brisk, hearty weather and on such breezy, high-stepping roads as those which lead to Panton Hill. They make good walking in most seasons, and never better than in winter. They have a way, too, of seeking the ridges which may be purely utilitarian in origin, but serves the excellent secondary purpose of providing the traveller with extensive views. The whole of this countryside is eminently "paintable," and one need not be an artist to see pictures in the wooded slopes, broken by the lighter greens of cultivation or the contrasting tones of newly-ploughed earth, and backed by distant ranges of many shades of blue.
Probably the best approach is by way of the rail to Hurstbridge. A trip on foot from there to embrace much of the best of the scenery need not involve you in more than 12 miles. If you have no other day you can make it on a Sunday between the arrival of the train at Hurstbridge at noon and the departure of one of the evening trains which leave Eltham between 6 and 7.30. Hurstbridge is capable of giving you lunch, if you prefer not to carry it, and so is Panton Hill, while tea is obtainable at Eltham.
The train journey is attractive with its picturesque glimpses of Ivanhoe, Heidelberg and Greensborough. Eltham has long been a home for the painters of the metropolis. From there the valley of the Diamond Creek is followed, the line running close to the creek edge in places, near enough to show the budding promise of spring on the wattles. The little township which derives its name from the creek is prettily placed against a bank west of the railway. There has been debate from time to time as to whether mistletoe in Australia grows on other than eucalypts; here it may be seen in profusion on the silver wattles. When it is blooming you must look closely to distinguish the dull red flowers hanging among the drooping leaves.
Hurstbridge has ever to me a watchful look, half of welcome and half of suspicion. The visitor is esteemed, but there is still the memory of those days, not so far back, when the sleepy village woke to find itself made famous by proclamation as the desirable spot to visit on Wattle Day, and all suburbia, with his wife and children, raided the paddocks.
Turn to the left as you leave the station. Follow the main road through the long-drawn-out township until the houses end. It is pleasant going. The shops and dwellings are all on the right hand; on the left are orchards sloping to the foot of a low range of hills which combines what Stevenson said every river should possess—"continuity and change." In half a mile you pick up a branch to the right. A finger-post advises you that you may reach Panton Hill this way in three miles, and that the other road makes for Queenstown. At once you plunge into a beautiful bit of forest road, specially delightful in its lights and shadows when the sun is out, the trees almost meeting overhead. Evidences of old time alluvial workings are abundant along the bed and slopes of a creek, but as you cross it you lose these and the road rises into more open country. There are many harmonious thrushes in the edge of the timber, and magpies are numerous on the cleared land. The latter sing cheerfully, and the windier the day the more they carol. The thrush in Winter seems to have no more than a single note, very unlike his usual melody. He compares unfavourably then with the English thrush, which is vociferously vocal in city gardens as soon as the first Autumn rains arrive.
Steadily the highway justifies the title by seeking greater heights. You see it curling away to right or left ahead of you, and all the time it is rising. Distant mountains increase in number, orchards alternate with patches of the original bush, and well-placed houses peep out from the timber on the tops of hills. Walking this ridge, and seeing the land fall on either side, gives an impression that there is no flat country at all.
In an easy hour you will come to a junction where a notice-board, with as many arms as a Hindu god, gives you so much information that it almost amounts to literature. You learn, inter alia, that you have come 3¼ miles and have still a quarter of a mile to do before you reach Panton Hill, that Queenstown is three miles down the new, well-made road you have just entered upon, and that if you take the first turning on the left, along Alma Road, you will gain Watson's Creek.
Go on the quarter-mile, and see the village of Panton Hill. It is nicely placed for outlook, and it contains two useful things to a hungry man—an hotel and a tearoom. Presumably the hill was named after the old Police Magistrate, the late Mr. J. A. Panton, who, by the-way, was responsible for the naming of Donna Buang. Retrace your steps as far as the signpost just referred to, and from there head for Kangaroo Ground.
The road is here a siding with a southerly and easterly aspect, which includes a very fine view of the Dandenongs. Further on you get the full line of high hills which runs from Mount St. Leonard, at Toolangi, to Donna Buang and Ben Cairn, overlooking Warburton. Back of them again are some huge bulks which may be Baw Baw and its neighbours. The road rises and falls, and changes direction so frequently that the outlook is constantly varied. A cross-road, near a small store and just at the beginning of a thick belt of forest, leads on the one hand to Diamond Creek, and on the other to Watson's Creek and Yarra Glen.
A striking change of soil heralds Kangaroo Ground. (It would be interesting, by the way, to learn when the last kangaroo was seen here). It is first noticeable where a hill, in Lafcadio Hearn's phrase, "rises softly as a prayer," bearing in its season a vivid green crop, often edged with a black strip where the plough is at work. The change from the grey alluvial-looking soil to this deep-toned volcanic flow is dramatic in its suddenness. The track skirts the flow, crosses it, turns a corner, and almost at once you are passing an hotel on the top of the rise. A long, steep descent follows, on the slopes of which stand the principal buildings of Kangaroo Ground. The pull out of the valley is a stiff one. At a brick building which was once an hotel, you turn sharply to the right, and, as you do so, the Dandenongs, which have been gradually assuming a normal aspect, swing into their old familiar place on the eastern horizon.
A windy siding, with a northerly slope, follows, but
"Better than mortar, brick and putty,
Is God's house on a blowing day."
With more trees there comes shelter from the breeze. The road splits, but it is safe to pursue either the well-used thoroughfare or the telegraph poles. From the old road here branches off a bush track for Warrandyte. On the down slope a belt of pines marks where the aqueduct swings across one hillside and back along the other. It is just above Research, a township whose name suggests mining, but whose appearance is purely horticultural. At the foot of the hill is a tiny creek, which uses the road as a bank to lean against for some distance. The going becomes more level, and where there is a bend to the left the railway line will be observed. Follow it for half a mile, and Eltham station will terminate an outing packed full of good things.
The roads are the great things; they never come to
Sydney folk have a playful habit of referring to Melbourne's cable trams as relics of the stone age, and of implying that their city holds the original patent for electric cars. Most of them are unaware that in this form of traction Brisbane led them by some years, and probably none of them suspects the fact that Melbourne was still earlier in the field than Brisbane. How many Victorians, even, recall the electric tram from Box Hill to Doncaster? "The dead go quickly," says the French proverb, and with its death it went out of remembrance. Walking that quiet country road to-day, and reflecting that thirty years ago (was it as much as that? I have no means of telling) the population of these parts must have been sparse indeed, one marvels that it could have been selected for such an enterprise. But "the boom" made all things seem possible.
Box Hill is still sufficiently a country town to hold a typical country market. There is no mistaking the appointed day: horses are "hung up" in long lines on the fences of the reserves, and one of the divisions of that broad thoroughfare, the White Horse Road, is full of farmers' vehicles, which range these times from hay waggons to motors.
If you would have a pleasant road walk, turn north as you leave the Box Hill station, cross White Horse Road, with its market to the left and its soldiers' memorial in the centre, and follow the plane-lined way called Station Street. It heads for Doncaster, once marked conspicuously by its tower, stow merely the highest ridge of the orchard-covered slopes. This is the route of the ancient tram. No sign of it exists, unless certain weathered poles, which stand idle here and there, and certainly look old enough, are the standards that were used. The outlook north and west becomes good at once. Mount Macedon is a prominent object on the sky line, closing the view across long stretches of undulating country. Beyond the new State school, which is built on the left side of Station Street, the land falls gradually, to rise as gently again to the Mont Albert ridge, on which shows out conspicuously another fine State school. The town straggles with you for a while, but gradually it drops behind, and you find yourself among open fields and orchards.
"Hark, Hark, the Lark!"
Where the road is narrowed down by fences to cross the first branch of the Koonung Koonung Creek, there is a fine plantation of clean, healthy-looking silver wattles. It is evidently appreciated by the birds. Many, including magpies, were calling there when I passed recently. It was there, too, that I observed what I believe is an unusual thing—a skylark singing from the ground. In New Zealand I have seen these birds on a few occasions whistling as they sat on fences, but generally they have fulfilled the poet's description: "Singing still doth soar, and soaring ever singeth." The larks are numerous, and a protracted Autumn, with its sunny skies, provokes them to as much song as if the Spring were at hand.
The creek is not much more than a deep gutter here, but it gives you a rise to climb on the other side. Dropping down from that to the more important branch, you get the orchards ahead of you in mass, yielding often some charming effects. There are broad washes of green, representing grass, superimposed upon which are splashes of the crimson and gold of fruit-tree leaves. Ploughed fields are shown as chocolate smudges. The whole is divided up, and framed as separate panels, by hedges of varied tones. Among the roadside growths a solitary Bursaria of good stature is noticeable. It evidently made a brave display of its white bloom last season, for it now rattles a large number of the little seed-purses from which it derives its name. Immediately opposite is a golden wattle aching to break into blossom.
An impression of the creek in passing is that it contains everything but water. Gum trees there are, and Bursaria and tea-tree and wattles, and even grass, but evidently the true business of a creek is attended to when there is rain, and at no other time. Long is the slope which follows. Here you get the orchards in detail, and may find that the leaves are falling fast, the more hardy specimens fluttering in the wind like the gay ribbons of a Highland regiment. Robins are flashing their scarlet breasts in staccato flights, and every hedge is musical with goldfinches. Half-way up the hill is a right-hand branch to be avoided. Your immediate objective is a two-story store on the corner of Doncaster's main street, known earlier in its career as the Bulleen road. It comes in on the west from Kew, and passes on easterly, to reach Mitcham, Vermont and the Dandenongs after many twists and turns. A few hundred yards up is the hotel where the "Doncaster tower" stood for so many years. The elevation of the ridge is about 350 feet, so the extra height supplied by the tower commanded a wonderful outlook. Even from the ground level the Bay is plainly visible, with the You Yangs indicating its limits on the one side, and Arthur's Seat standing sentry on the other. Macedon, with its Hump, is much in evidence, and the turrets of the Kew Asylum mark the middle distance. Looking back over the short 2L miles you have come from Box Hill, every detail seems under review. Walking on north, as you should, good easterly and northerly views are had of bush country, dipping to the bed of the Yarra, and rising everywhere again to blue ranges. So practically the whole circle of the horizon is completed.
Doncaster lives on fruit. As you resume your walk you are sure to hear the asthmatic cough which all cool stores seem to suffer from. There may be still mushrooms on the road edges where the capeweed, making ready for its early spring change from green to gold, is battling with that other, equally hardy, alien, the onion grass. A local poet has written a sonnet in praise of the onion grass, but I fear her admiration of this weed of much seed and little succulence is not shared by the agriculturist. At half a mile the road splits. Take the left-hand track, labelled Manningham Road. It points straight at Macedon. The other branch, like all the cross ways you are to encounter, leads to Templestowe, and so to Warrandyte. The elevation is still high, and you are opening out much picturesque country to the south as your direction becomes more and more westerly. With the start of the down grade the orchards dwindle and cereal crops give vivid color to the paddocks. A very striking redgum, unusually tall for this kind of tree, has been left in one paddock as a hint of what this country looked like before the white man altered it to suit himself. The newly ploughed soil here is exactly the tone you see in the gills of a well-ripened mushroom—chocolate with a hint of pink.
At the next cross road you must turn to the right, and just as decidedly to the left, all in 100 yards. The drop is now more marked, and ahead are clearly the heights of Heidelberg. A line of timber, largely willows and wattles, marks the course of the Yarra. One kind of willow at present contrives to suggest a soft, but warm, pink; the other is an Irish mixture of yellow and green. The road angles to the right to join still another route to Templestowe. Turn to your left at the first road coming in, and in 200 yards you will find the bridge which gives crossing to the Heidelberg traffic. There is much promise of good wattle bloom about it. Keep on until you reach the old city road, still with a milestone showing Melbourne VIII. miles; go along it as far as the historic Old England Hotel, turn up to the left there, and in half a mile you reach Heidelberg railway station, surely one of the most beautifully placed for views in the whole of Australia. In all you have covered on foot no more than eight miles.
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose!
When the farmer of the back country is threatened with a shortage of grass, he turns his bunch of poddies into what he calls the long paddock, in other words, the road. In its miles of length and its one, two, or three chains of width, broken only by a few wheel-marks, they gain as much of that "fine confused feeding" as the Scotsman discovered in the sheep's head of famous memory. There are delightful pickings on all sides, and the feast is a constant progress. Thus does the "long paddock" appeal to many humans, though the banquet they find in it is the feast of reason.
Of the many attractive bush roads within easy reach of Melbourne there is none more charming than the Canterbury Road. It has charm even when it drops its country ways and becomes a staid suburban street, for the suburbs through which it marches are all picturesque. Properly it may be said to originate in the town. In that case its birthplace is the corner of Burke Road, Camberwell, at which spot it takes over business from Rathmines Road, Auburn. It makes almost due east, to end by merging into a north and south road connecting Bayswater and Ringwood. That gives a length of not more than 11 miles, but the walker may cut the distance up to suit his requirements, for the road runs parallel with a railway line, though well out of sight of it, and there is a fair train service and several stations.
A Canterbury Pilgrimage.
It adds a little to start at Bayswater (most inappropriately named of townships), but not enough to make the walk difficult. Ringwood is the alternative. If no other day is available the Sunday morning train to Ferntree Gully will drop you at Bayswater by 11.30 a.m. Turn back toward town and cross the railway line at the first road. There is a fine grove of native timber on your left and a little winding path through it which cannot be resisted. Otherwise you must follow the road easterly for about 200 yards (it would take you to Sassafras if you gave way to it), and at an old hotel turn sharply to the left, i.e., north, along the Croydon Road. All waters here run to the Dandenong Creek. At once you cross one of its numerous small tributaries, and almost immediately the way is bridged for another. If you have taken the track through the timber you come out on the highway at about this point, after a scramble down and up the pretty banks of the creek. On your right shoulder are the blue spurs of the Dandenongs; ahead is much bush-land; on either side, for a time, are clearings and a few small houses.
Half a mile on, the road becomes three. To go straight ahead would land you at Croydon in about three miles, and to alter your direction to the right (along Norwich Road) would mean Montrose, at the foot of Mount Dandenong, in about five. Paradoxically, the left is the right road; it heads for Ringwood. Good trees, mostly stringybark, shade it; here and there is a spike of heath with the flower-buds strung along the tall shoot like beads, or with the bloom just breaking through sufficiently to catch the eye as a note of white or pink. Wherever a young tree has sprung up, or a stump has put out tender branches, the gum tips are harmonies of many tones. One understands Victor Daley's likening of young gum shoots to "woodland altar flames." Two creeklets hint at lunch, which, it is well to carry on this excursion. Then the track makes upwards until you have risen 400 feet, and you find orchards all around you. Here is the end of Canterbury Road—the beginning of it, so far as you are concerned. It takes off to the left, at the crest of the rise, between two houses deep in fruit trees and directly opposite another dwelling with the name Wombalano on the gate. Here again is a good place to lunch, if you have held out so far, for the views are delightful.
"Go West, Young Man."
Now you are heading for the sunset. You are on a ridge with an altitude of 450 feet, which yields an excellent outlook on every side. At your back is much timber and an orchard or two; on your right side and front are rolling lands, also rich with orchards; long slopes fall away to the left and cease only at the belt of ranges which hide Ferntree Gully. Everywhere is the suggestion of fruit, and in the next few miles you shall be astonished, if you do not know this stretch of country, at the immense acreage under orchard. In the autumn apricot leaves are pure gold, the cherry's are reddening, other species range from green to scarlet—mass them all before a dark background of gums or pines, with the blue of the ranges just showing over their tops, and you have a wonderful picture, but one common enough along this beautiful road. Jonathans still hang like lanterns on many of the trees, and the garden of the Hesperides was not more wonderful, with its golden harvest, than some of the wayside orchards with quinces. The land drops steadily—sloping (like Orion) to the west. At the bottom of the valley is a little creek hidden in a dense growth of the soft foliaged swamp tea tree. This might be between Nowa Nowa and Buchan, so little does it suggest the city. Rising from it is the steep pinch on top of which the church and school and store, which constitute Vermont, are perched. The road surface has been soft to this point, ready to leap into the air at the touch of a motor. Fortunately drivers do not use this highway much, preferring better-metalled ways.
Here let me rest long enough to utter a malediction upon all motor-driven vehicles. The motor should either be forbidden the country roads or forced to consume its own smoke and dust. It is the Beast foretold of Revelations. All undesirable adjuncts are its peculiar property; noise and stench and dirt claim it for their own. It seeks only to arrive, never to know what lies between. The fury of its haste is heard afar off, frightening all innocent things; the odors of the pit accompany it. It takes the road in its hand and flings it in the face of the countryside, turning the sweet, still evening air into a choking fog until the particles settle on hedge and roadside garden to dim the glory of the flowers and oppress the breathing of the gardener. Every briar berry, its scarlet turned to ashen grey, is a silent protest. The motorist is the only person unaffected; he hears no noise, he smells no odor, he leaves his dust behind him. Let him beware, or hereafter he may drive for ever and ever through the Shades, never arriving, his speed indicator showing 80 miles an hour, the asbestos milestone at his wheel never receding, dust enveloping him—red soil, black soil, grey soil, the reek of burning oil constant in his nostrils. And his car shall rattle and be insufferably noisy down the unending aeons of Eternity. Well has the humorist said: "A motor-car is not fit to be out of."
Better and better grow the views. Vermont must be nearly 500 feet high, Its outlook toward the north and west is full of charm. It seems the home of the orchards. They slope from the road to the flat bottom of the valley and rise in a flood up the opposing hillside; they occupy alike the intimate and the distant prospect, and all in their season are rich in colour. A ridge far ahead shows the road laid against it like a ladder; in the evening light it looks vertical. Crossing Vermont is the L.L. road, named after the late Dr. L. L. Smith. It runs on to Mitcham railway station, a mile and a half away. In a little over a mile further along the Canterbury Road you reach Spring Vale Road, and within the next two miles are tracks leading respectively to Blackburn and Box Hill. It is worth while continuing west to see the last of the sun from the ridge at the Surrey Hills reservoir, one, of the highest points within 10 miles of Melbourne, and to glance back over the country through which you have come. Then it is all downhill to Canterbury station.
I sing of the sweetness of gravel, good, sharp
quartz-grit. Many a human gizzard would be cured of half its ills
by a suitable daily allowance of it. It spurs to action. The foot
tastes it and henceforth rests not.
The Dandenongs should be a national park. Melbourne's fairy godmother would have made a million peole a gift of incalculable value had she endowed the city with the freedom of that blue range lying only 20 miles away on the eastern horizon. The portion from Mount Dandenong (known to the old maps as Mount Corhanwarabul) to Ferntree Gully would do, for it embraces the best of the hills and a large proportion of the good gullies and creeks. It is true that Victoria already has a National Park, and one of no mean acreage or attraction. But it is formed of Wilson's Promontory, and might be in another State, so difficult is it of access. Its charming bays with their gently shelving beaches of firm sand up which the breakers race to provide as good surf-bathing as anything on the Sydney side, its lofty hills and bold headlands, the clear creeks in which the tidal processions of the fish may be daily witnessed, its wide moorlands and rocky knobs, its forests where 10,000 native bears are, believably, said to live—these things are unknown to practically all the owners, and may remain so for many a year. The Dandenongs, on the other hand, are at our doors. Settlement has made it much too late to hope that the reservation at the One Tree Hill end shall ever be materially added to; one must draw what consolation he may from the fact that so much of that settlement is designed to bring the city man out of doors and make him at least "week-end" in the healthful bush. With a hut on one of the numerous creeks the walker has an almost unlimited range of fine outings. And, thanks to a fair train service, the townsman with no local habitation can also enjoy this good country and be at home at nightfall, if a single day is his limit.
The Natural Gateway.
He who would see the Dandenongs must avoid Dandenong. That pleasant little township is completely out of the picture. It finds no place on the locality map issued by the Tourist Bureau (an excellent map, by the way, and one that every walker should possess) because it is altogether away from the main range whose name it shares. Mount Dandenong itself is as far removed from the town of Dandenong as it can be and yet remain part of the Dandenongs. The natural gateways are Croydon and Mooroolbark, on the Healesville line, Bayswater and Upper Ferntree Gully on the Ferntree Gully branch. They are all easy enough to enter. Fifty-one years ago James Hingston wrote:—
"Ferntree Gully—but twenty miles from Melbourne, and so little known! All these pretty waterfalls constantly on view and none to admire them. The route can be found by going along the St. Kilda Road to the Junction, then turn to the left and along the Dandenong Road to Oakleigh, and there take the road which branches to the left at the turnpike gate. Nine miles of this track brings you to the foot of the gully."
He added, in a cautionary note, that it would be well to make sure you were on the right track by inquiring at The Cheshire Cheese en route. Like Moliere's doctor, "We have changed all that." Roads and trains between them carry thousands of people every fine Sunday and holiday to the Gully and other picturesque points.
Croydon to Ferntree Gully.
If you desire an outing which will serve to sample these hills and will indubitably whet your appetite for more, devote a day to the road from Croydon to "the Gully." The reverse order is equally good, but you gain daylight, owing to the railway arrangements, by starting at the Croydon end. The 19 miles may be reduced, so far as walking is concerned, by taking the motor (at the cost of about a shilling) over the flat three miles to Montrose. That brings you to the foot of Mount Dandenong, which has beckoned all the way, a lovely sight on a fair day, and now towers right above you. There is a short stretch of level going under the trees, and then the old road starts to zig-zag, aiming at the Devil's Elbow, 1500 feet up. The gradient is not distressing. Variety may be gained by taking one of the short cuts which will be seen going off to the right, but the climb along any of these is much stiffer. If you have stuck to the road follow the curve of the Elbow round to the right, and you are in the Gap. This yields pleasant views, and is worth pausing over, even if you are not breathless. At this point joins in the new (the main motor) road, which, at Montrose, flings its leisurely loops round the northern and eastern curves of the hill. The junction is known as Five Ways; the little settlement has recently changed its name from Mount Dandenong North to Kalorama. Do not take the left hand track near the church, nor yet the next road on the same side, but cling to the vehicle road which steers most to the right. It brings you nearest to the Observatory (2077 feet), by which name the top of Mount Dandenong is popularly known. Keep a close watch, and you will find, a little over a mile from the Gap, at least two signs indicating tracks to the top. That is only a few hundred yards away to the west, and the view should not be missed. Provision in the way of water and a shelter shed has been made, so lunch may be had in comfort while contemplating the distant panorama of the Bay, of Mount Macedon, of all the undulating country in between, and of the bigger ranges about Healesville and Warburton. You have done eight miles from Croydon.
Loveliness at Large.
Even better views of the high peaks from St. Leonard to Donna Buang present themselves from the track as the walk is resumed. Indeed, this is one of the loveliest outlooks that I know. Some old trees indicate what a regiment of giants stood here before settlement. Presently the slope is westward, and very beautiful are the glimpses of cultivated valleys and closely timbered hillsides. Soon a road comes in from the left, and a slight rise brings Olinda (3 miles) into sight. There is an hotel here (or just a little way out) and innumerable boarding-houses. Avoid the deviation that takes off to the east, and make for Sassafras, nearly two miles away, another place where accommodation is easy to get. The going is admirable, altogether too good in one way, for on a fine Sunday every mile has its motor. Petrol does not improve the scents of the bushland. He is hard to please who cannot find keen enjoyment in the valley views as the sidings bring him above Sassafras Creek and later feed his eye with placid pictures of the distant bay. The headland by Frankston, the blunt rise of Mount Martha beyond Mornington, and the still greater mass of Dromana's guardian peak, Arthur's Seat, are clearly outlined and much coastal detail may be picked out. From certain points Westernport is also plainly visible.
Favour still the right-hand ways (unless they take a sharp westerly turn) and you will find yourself presently on the top of One Tree Hill, where there are a couple of refreshment rooms and a rest house. A few hundred yards away is a look-out tower, which must now be ascended. The prospect it commands is magnificent. Tea could be had here or at the township down below for you are now at the head of the famous gully, and not more than two miles from the station. It is idle to attempt a description of the Gully itself. I shall only say that, despite its extreme popularity, it is still worth visiting.
All the way there have been little or big tracks meandering off into the forest or down distracting gullies, each looking over its shoulder at you as it disappears, and tempting you to follow. Every last least one of them is worth following. But don't take my word for it; try it for yourself—as the American said when he quoted "Honesty is the best policy." Whether you trail the tourist track from Sassafras to Paradise, or take the longer road from Olinda through Nathania Springs and Monbulk to Emerald, or explore the Sherbrooke Falls (where with the most ordinary luck you shall hear a lyre-bird) and entrain at Belgrave, or reach Sassafras by way of Bayswater or do any one of the many other trips of this locality you will find it good.
There is a river in the range
I love to think about...
Autumn is often very good to us with a long succession of sunny, windless days, and that absence of rain which makes many walks still possible along paths that winter turns into gutters and creeklets. The consideration that the weather is probably too dry and "summery" for the general good need not stop us from making the best of it.
In autumn particularly, but indeed at most times, it will be found delightful to take such an outing as that from Belgrave to Sherbrooke Falls, and across to One Tree Hill above Ferntree Gully. It can be done quietly, on a Sunday, between the arrival of the train at Belgrave, about half an hour after noon, and the departure of one homeward from "the Gully" at 6.35 p.m. Altogether, the distance need not exceed nine miles, though it may be made as much more as one chooses, for there are many side paths worth exploring.
"The Glory of the Garden."
The Lilliputian train into which you change at the Gully fusses along the sidings through a welter of green timber until it is high above the valley. It chases its tail, "like a cat at play," round numberless curves, to rest at last, "pleased and panting," at a little station to which you must step down, for there is no platform in the ordinary sense. The size of the station is no index of the population, least of all at a week-end. The bush here is full of cottages; they peep out from clearings everywhere, and many of them add to the picturesqueness of the scene. But it is safe to predict that, with land selling at £11 a foot, the dwellings will soon be elbowing each other and the glory gone.
At present the place is a garden and, fortunately, you pass through the best of it. On the hillside above the station Belgrave's extraordinary main street ties itself into knots, its origin possibly suggested in Chesterton's
Before the Roman crossed the Wye or o'er the
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
Follow it round to the north-east and north, and from the bend you will look right over some roofs, tucked away in native greens, down in the busy little Monbulk Creek. Well up the slope across the creek a plantation of deciduous trees makes a brave show, its colours ranging from the palest of pale gold to the most distinctive scarlet.
On your left rises the hill, cut and terraced, and gay with gardens; straight ahead two old-time gums mark the edge of the highway. At a corner there is a wonderful mixture of native and exotic trees. Some fine blackwoods jostle an equally well-grown oak, the vividly-toned berries of a rowan tree, and the even brighter leaves of a sumach, neighbour a fine tree fern and some gully musks, and a blanketwood lifts its Rackham-like branches toward a shapely tulip-tree. Handsome houses perch here and there on the slopes. While convention has dictated most of the names, it is refreshing to notice, "Kookaburra" on one gate.
Monbulk Creek supplies the falls you are on your way to visit. You cross it in the valley, and almost at once shake off the township, for you are now on the edge of a State forest. The road winds, there are thick banks of undergrowth on each side, and towering gums help to make the kind of picture many of our artists are fond of. There is one stretch which strongly suggests John Ford Paterson. At a mile from the station take a left-hand track, marked "Sherbrooke Falls, two miles," and you are in a new world immediately. Gone are the metalled road and the open sky; your going is now the soft earth in which the landcrabs love to burrow; overhead is a roof of wattle and hazel, mintbush and musk.
The ubiquitous creek welcomes a tributary at this point, and you cross it. Within a hundred yards is a prepared picnic ground, with rustic tables and seats. I have heard lyre-birds calling near here many times. The track moves upward between green walls, made firm in places by tough wire grass. If you think, misled by the stillness, that there are no birds awake, keep still for five minutes. A few big trees stand sentinel by the way or give vistas along their stems as they lie dead in the scrub. A melodious little spring is crossed, its voice, like the blue wren's, out of all proportion to its size. Just beyond is a notice-board inviting you to visit the Fern Bower, but there will be time enough for that when lunch is over. That may soon be had, for fireplaces and other conveniences are close at hand. It has been an easy hour's walk to this spot, at the head of the falls. Around and above you, as you sit, are tall gums and wattles; a lyrebird is, almost certain to be singing, smaller birds will play Lazarus to your Dives, and the running water will furnish its soft accompaniment—"the beauty born of murmuring sound."
Contemporary of Noah.
The falls are near the crest of the hill, some 1600 feet above sea level. They are not wonderful in themselves, but their setting is beautiful, and well-kept paths afford opportunity to see everything. The tree ferns are particularly lovely, and many other handsome growths flourish luxuriantly in this place of continual moisture. An interesting snail, presumably a native, may be met with. Never was a more highly polished ebony shell, and the creature itself is a striking object, its back being a deep black and its edges and underside a gay pink. Much time may be spent here, but presently you must depart. Still with the ripple of the water at your side, make for what is known as the Giant Tree. A finger post will set you right. After about a mile of varied and interesting tracks, the tree will be found lying, as it has lain since when the memory of man (in the legal phrase) runneth not to the contrary. It is indeed a huge specimen, worthy to stand even among those famous Sequoias of which California is so proud. I have heard no calculation of its age. A layman, awed by its bulk, suggested that it possibly sprang from a seed left by Noah's flood. Standing on the tree, you can hear the motors purring on a main thoroughfare, and, following a shaded track, you soon come out on the Sassafras Road, near Ferny Creek.
Heading now for Ferntree Gully, the old road, higher up the hill, will be found even more attractive than the new one, and you have the advantage of losing the motor dust. When it has passed the Ferny Creek post-office, it dips and joins the up-to-date road for a few hundred yards. Rounding a curve, you will notice a red-clay cart track making up a slope to the right. It brings you to the top of the ridge, and keeps you there till the summit of One Tree Hill appears before you, and there is only the length of the famous gully, still well worth seeing, between you and the railway station.
Mountains are the beginning and the end of all
Whether you agree or not with Ruskin's characteristically dogmatic assertion, there is no denying the charm of mountain scenery. Never can it be monotonous, for it holds always the element of surprise. No range of hills was ever what it seemed from a distance; to pluck out the heart of its mystery you must become intimate, a friend or a lover. As you approach the seemingly solid mass, it usually resolves itself into a series of separate ranges, with foothills leading up to them. "Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise," as Pope has it. And when you essay to put them underfoot you find a confusion of gullies and spurs and saddles and peaks that keeps your mind alert and tests thoroughly your physical condition.
To the tourist, using the track surveyed and beaten for him, the crossing naturally presents no especial difficulties, and consequently suggests none. But let him attempt a direct passage which scorns all existing paths, and he will speak with respect for evermore of the men who made the earliest highway in the hills and with absolute reverence for those first men of all—the pioneers.
East and South-East.
You shall look in vain now for the name Evelyn in the railway guide. Contrary to all railway practice, the title has been enlarged, and the pretty little station is now labelled Mount Evelyn. Presumably this is because of its 738 feet of elevation above the sea level, an elevation which seems more important than it is because most of it is gained in the last few miles. What constitutes a hill and what a mountain is as debatable as the vexed question (a recurring decimal in library circles) of where a pamphlet ends and a book begins. If Evelyn is entitled to "Mount," what should be prefaced to the name of Glen Innes railway station, in New South Wales, which takes the air at 3500 feet? It is all purely relative. Just as among the blind the one-eyed is king, so in flat country an ant-hill may pass for a pyramid.
There are many good walks with Evelyn as a "jumping-off place." One which yields great variety is that to Belgrave by way of Olinda Falls and the Lookout Rock. In it you may sample main roads, bush roads and tourist tracks and indulge the eye with views as wide as the horizon or as circumscribed as the narrow limits of a fern gully. Should the weather prove wet you may keep altogether to the high road and still arrive.
As you leave Mount Evelyn station keep along the road past the store, cross the line, and turn to your right. You are aiming at South Wandin, otherwise known as Silvan. The road is broad and well made. Within half a mile it forks into two. The left branch makes for Wandin, Seville, and eventually Warburton; it is the right hand you must follow. Almost at once you pass the State school. The fall of the land is to the north and north-east, and as your general direction is, for a time, south-easterly, you get good views of the ranges that divide the valley of the Watts from that of the Yarra. Although there is no natural indication of the fact, you are walking parallel with the course of Olinda Creek, but you are travelling up-stream. A notice-board at one point bears the alluring sign: "To Honeymoon Island."
A Sharp Turn.
At a little over three miles, and just after passing Queen's road (which takes off on the left for Wandin), you leave the main road by a buggy track doubling back sharply to the right. If you have any doubt, inquire at the Silvan post-office, which stands near the corner. It is good forest country and a downhill grade as you start upon this westerly track. Stony Ford bridge spans a branch of the Olinda, where there is a junction of two tributaries, and the site is such a delightful one that, if the hour prove suitable, here is the very spot for lunch. Possibly you will find that rich bottom a trifle muddy at certain times of the year. Stout boots are advised, with a pair of socks in the knapsack, to put on when Belgrave is reached.
There is often a patch of autumn colouring in a deserted garden near here that shows in the green of the bush like a burst of sunlight. Several small watercourses feeding the main creek are crossed, and there are a good many small tracks coming in. Keep to the obvious way until two bridges break the road in quick succession, and, just past the second one, look for a narrow path going up the creek side.
Fern and Musk.
At once there is a hint of that gully scent which is so subtle and so characteristic. It would make an Australian who knows his bush lift a questing nose anywhere.
Scents are stronger than sounds or sights
To make your heart-strings crack,
sang Rudyard Kipling of our wattle, and the odour of the gullies strikes me as even more peculiarly our especial property. It seems compounded mainly of musk and Christmas bush, and about July that lovely winter bloomer, the sassafras, will add its wealth of sweetness to the general stock. When, in the short days, you get a stronger scent than usual in the shades of the creek bed, search first for creamy bells on the ground, then look up to where they hang under the leaves of the sassafras, hiding so carefully that few people seem to know that this handsome tree flowers at all. By this token you shall know, too, that the lyre-bird is nesting, for our great singer, and mocker of other birds, considers the season of short days and cold wet nights a suitable time to commence housekeeping.
The track, never very wide and occasionally rather slippery, winds with the stream under ferns and blackwood and other growths, through which tower huge eucalypts. It is a well-kept path with seats placed at points of vantage. A mile of this and the unimposing but attractive Olinda Falls may be viewed. A westerly track from here would take you to Mount Dandenong in a couple of miles; another, making south, climbs a ridge, dips into a couple of gullies, and by a ferny siding brings you to the foot of the Lookout Rock. This commands the Yarra Valley and the great bulk of Donna Buang, and all her attendant peaks and spurs. The outlook would be better were there fewer trees in the immediate foreground.
From the Rock it is only a few hundred yards to the Mernda Road and the heart of Olinda. Turn to your left as you strike the main thoroughfare, and keep to the ridge. A track branches off very soon, still further to the left, but it is no affair of yours to-day. At slightly over a mile you will be rewarded for any exertion you have put into this outing by a view which I have no hesitation in pronouncing the most charming within 50 miles of Melbourne. You stand on the edge of a descent which faces north and east. Below you are the tiny squares of many colours marking out the farm lands of The Patch and Monbulk. Belts of timber and green fields succeed each other until blue masses of mountain, in infinite variety, close the prospect. Wonderful at any hour, this scene is perhaps best in late afternoon, when the level light from the west shines full upon the mountain slopes. Tear yourself away and watch now for a steep cart-track going off to the right. It is little better than a horse pad, but is about half a chain wide. Turn to the left when it touches a similar track near a creek, and you will find yourself at Begley's Bridge, three miles by a good road from Belgrave station. At the outside, your distance for the day has been 15 miles.
Hark in the city, street on street,
A roaring reach of death and life,
Of vortices that clash and fleet
And ruin in appointed strife.
Hark to it calling, calling clear,
Calling until you cannot stay
From dearer things than your own most dear
Over the hills and far away.
Travelling on railway lines, and on railway lines only, breeds some strange geographical ideas if the traveller has no local knowledge and fails to study the map. Take a ticket to Berwick, and you find yourself breaking free from the other systems at Caulfield and launched on "the Gippsland line." You have your day and return, and it is almost a certainty that there has not once been a hint of the existence of such places as Ferntree Gully and the stations along the line to Gembrook. When, later, you run out to one of those popular resorts, there is nothing to remind you of your other trip. It is a fair chance that, as you regard the two in retrospect, they seem no more connected than, say, Whittlesea and Mordialloc. The fact that you took' a different train to each is quite enough to separate them.
So the proposal to walk across from one line to the other in the short limits of a Sunday afternoon generally has in it a dash of surprise. The usual question "How far?" conceals some apprehension if the inquirer knows his friends to be of that bustling type which scorns distance and adopts as its motto "We'll get through somehow." The answer may increase the surprise, for the distance is really very short. If one could go as the black swan flies he would find it no more than 10 miles. Even following the crooked ways of man one can get from Berwick to Aura or Paradise in something approximating that distance, to Belgrave in about a dozen miles, and to Ferntree Gully in a very little more.
Train Times Uncertain.
To quote the railway time-table is risky. Get the latest information the day before. To give a general idea of how the time cuts out it may be mentioned that the Sunday train for Berwick leaves the city about 11, arriving an hour and a half later, and that the homeward trains run on the Fern-tree Gully line up to, roughly, 8 o'clock. While the times given are approximate only, there is one thing definite: at least seven hours are available for the walk. Taken on the long days they are seven hours of daylight. If you carry a small billy, skilfully camouflaged with brown paper to avoid hurting the feelings of such Sabbatarians as you may encounter, lunch may very agreeably be had out of doors, or, if that is too much trouble to prepare, a good meal may be obtained at a local hotel before the road is taken from Berwick. About the same amount of time will go to either.
A Lovely Lane.
It will probably be 2 o'clock when you leave the dining-room, if you have lunched indoors. Let us assume (as the schoolmaster says) that Belgrave is your objective. The road leads out due north; keep it until at, roughly, three miles another goes off westerly. This takes you, in rather better than a mile, to a house called "Tyrone," at Old Narre Warren. Some very fine bluegums distinguish the road here. Make a northerly turn (that is, to the right) along a lane with high hawthorn hedges, which present a magnificent sight in the spring, for they are veritable banks of bloom, and they grow without restraint. At the foot of the lane is a creek rich in wattles and the soft-foliaged swamp tea-tree, and in their season orchids and other wild flowers are plentiful. Altogether a choice corner, and particularly so in September and October. The land has been undulating all the way, some of the hills, though all of the lesser degree, yielding pleasant and fairly extensive views.
Leave the Road.
Now there is a pull-up bearing north-westerly towards a house. It is as well to leave the road here and go north across the paddocks for a mile, then up a private road that runs by a house on the hill. Go down the hill and over a flat, on which grow rushes and tea-tree, and climb still another hill on which there are some large granite boulders, as well as a house. At the back is a road leading north to a junction with another road. Pursuing the more elusive "pad," go through the slip panels at this point and aim northeasterly through the scrub at a house set about, as so many are in this district, with pine trees. This place is three miles from Belgrave station. Continue past the house, and by a foot-track north-easterly to the main road, which follow. Presently a good running stream (probably the Monbulk Creek, which helps to supply the Dandenong reservoir) is crossed, and naturally suggests a camp for tea.
In To Belgrave.
Past the bridge Mount Morton is seen to the left, and the reservoir just referred to is on your right. By half-past six or thereabouts, supposing that you did not stay at the creek for tea, you will have finished a pleasant little pilgrimage, accomplished without haste. You will probably have an hour in which to get a meal before the train appears.
The highway marches sturdily to market town and
But I would find a little road that loiters up a hill,—
A little vagrant woodland road, gray-ribboned through the green,
Where berry brambles bar the way and orchard elders lean.
—Margaret Lee Ashley.
The Sunday train to Pakenham gives glimpses of several interesting places in its two hours' journey from the city. It leaves Flinders Street at 11.5 a.m. (again let me stress the importance of checking all train times quoted) and drops you at Pakenham at a nice hour for lunch. As Caulfield is passed through, the racecourse takes the eye to revive memories, more or less pleasant, of Cups and cross-country championships, to say nothing of the skylarks which sing overhead there on the crisp spring days. Building has changed this countryside vastly in the last few years, and cne looks in vain now for any trace of the old sugar works which used to stand out prominently to the east. The name of the founder was rightly applied to the settlement, and the railway station was also known as Rosstown, but a new generation arose which knew not Joseph, and the place has become Carnegie.
There is still plenty of open land a little further on, always with a patch of the glorious yellow of the gorse showing, regardless of season. "When the gorse is not in bloom, kissing is out of fashion," says an old proverb. Directly Oakleigh is passed, the train plunges into the bush, the solid market township of Dandenong is passed through in a few miles, and at one o'clock you are in Pakenham, which is capable of providing a meal if you have not brought it with you.
You have, at the outside, 15 miles to go, and you have six and a half hours in which to do them. Keep on the north side of the railway line and walk through the township in, roughly, a westerly direction, along the Gippsland Road. It is of the generous width our forefathers loved to give main roads in the early days. A metalled highway in the centre provides a good surface for vehicles; the rest is soft earth or grass, in which the succulent mushroom shines in its season. The flats all about are rich in mushrooms at their appointed time, and a taste for the vagabond life may be made profitable by camping out and gathering them. Walking through this district in March, I found a comfortable camp on a little creek, a horse munching his feed near by, and the two owners engaged in grading mushrooms to send to Melbourne by the next "up" train. They had a covered cart, in which they moved up and down the roads, and which served them as bedroom on rough nights.
About a mile out of Pakenham a road goes off to the right to Gembrook. Just beyond it is Bourke's hotel on the corner of the Toomuc Valley Road, also branching off at a sharp angle to the north. The creek is pleasant here, and there is a grassy flat and some trees. If you have materials for an al fresco lunch, this is the place to have it.
It must be an excellent valley, if only (like the curate's egg) in parts. Onions and potatoes were plentiful in certain cleared portions earlier in the autumn, and one puzzling crop proved to be millet. Bushland, on the whole, predominates. Occasionally a road goes off, some of them well-used, but your way is that of the obvious main road. Presently you will be aware of a clear metallic "tink" from the bushes, and then another and another, until by and by there is a full orchestra going, and you will realise that you are listening to the bell-bird. He is an olive-green little fellow, about the size of a sparrow, and so much in harmony with his surroundings that he is difficult to see. When once you pick him out you will find, most likely, that he is busy eating scale off the gum leaves. A substantial orchard on your left is full of ooloured leaves at present, but it is possible there is young fruit also in this "Indian summer," when the blackberries at the wayside are showing at once fresh flower, matured fruit, and the stained leaves of autumn, and a hedge has a nice crop of baby cherry-plums.
More bush and scrub, and then the Toomuc Valley Orchard comes into view. It is rather a wonderful place, and when the apples are on the trees the sight is very beautiful. It is well to inquire here for a track which passes through the orchard, and for permission to use it.
The Vagrant Woodland Way.
If it is autumn there cannot be much fruit on the trees under which you pass, and you will be reminded of Shelley's
And the leaves, brown, yellow and gray and
And white with the whiteness of what is dead,
Like troops of ghosts on the dry wind passed.
The orderly line of trees follow you up a hill, from which you get extensive views. At the top is a house with pines about it. Keep it on the left, go through a fence, and pursue a narrow path up a further slope. The tendency is to bear round to the left, and this persists for a considerable distance, the track being rather poorly defined in places, and often splitting up. Toomuc Valley Orchard is some five miles from Pakenham, and Upper Beaconsfield, at which you are now aiming, is by this route about 4½ miles from the Orchard. This part is famous for its heath, coming to the fulness of its bloom about May. The characteristic summits of the Beaconsfield district now show their gardens and tufts of pines. Some of the latter have recently fallen victim to the demand for timber, and it is no uncommon sight to see a row of stumps, like ugly teeth, marking the spot where formerly stood a line of graceful trees. Your westering track comes out on a broad thoroughfare opposite the site of an old house where the pines have been so treated.
A Downhill Finish.
Turn to the left, and after some rising and falling the road will take you past the Split Rock and up a final pinch into Upper Beaconsfield. It is a reposeful village, made picturesque by position and the judicious planting of timber trees. Pass along its principal street until the post-office is seen. Near it a good road turns off to the left, making down hill to the flat whereon the train runs. The gradient is excellent, and if you come to a split in the way there is no need to worry, for the division is healed later on. Probably the least interesting portion of the walk is from the foot of the descent to the Beaconsfield Station, for you are now on the level, and it seems flat, in a double sense, after so much hill work. The train for the city leaves about half-past seven, and reaches Melbourne about 9 p.m.
Blue water, ruffled by the breeze,
And merging towards an azure sky,
Flanked by red cliffs, dark draped with trees,
That darker spots of shade supply.
If you have a liking for wide views from the level, the kind of view that you get on the great Riverina plains, but with the difference that this field is mainly water, a mirror on a day of perfect stillness, an everchanging picture when a wind is abroad, then find time for a stroll from Carrum to Beaumaris. Standing at the mouth of Carrum Creek and looking northerly, you gain the impression of being on the shore of a bay within the Bay, so pronounced is the inward curve of the sandy beach and so marked the swing round to Rickett's Point. The latter stands right across the view, hiding Hobson's Bay completely, and making, with its line of dark, tree-covered cliffs, a sharp contrast with the flat stretches of snowy sand which lead towards it. It is a short walk, for Carrum station is about eight miles from the Beaumaris Hotel, but it yields fair variety and has the advantage of being possible in any weather. Should more be desired, an additional two and a half miles of pleasant cliff walking will take you to the electric tram terminus at Black Rock.
There are many trains to Carrum. The 1.10 p.m. from the city on Saturday, arriving at 2.18, leaves ample daylight, even on the shortening days, to get through, but none to linger on. The Sunday 10.40 a.m. yields a more generous allowance. Without certain knowledge, I am of the opinion that fires are now forbidden on the beach, so a thermos flask filled with tea may be found a useful adjunct to the knapsack lunch. There are many tea-rooms, however, in the first five miles. It is only necessary to walk a few yards off the beach to reach one.
Of the country passed through in the train, the general impression, after Glen Huntly, is that of vegetable gardens. Orderly acres of onions, blue-green in the mass, the deep-red tones of beet, and innumerable cabbages and cauliflowers showing just now the tender green of the young leaf, make an agreeable blend. Here and there is a patch of the original scrub and tea-tree, as near Highett; and just beyond Cheltenham there is a delightful paddock of low-spreading eucalypts on the east of the line. All along this flat country good views of the Dandenongs may be obtained.
The sea is close at hand after Mentone, only a narrow belt of coastal timber dividing it from the railway. At Mordialloc it comes boldly into the picture, a flash of sky-blue water and white sand as the bridge is crossed. The outstanding need of our beaches is shade, and the astounding growth of settlement between Mordialloc and Carrum threatens seriously the fine tea-tree tract that edges this perfect beach. Carrum comes with another sudden glimpse seaward at the creek mouth, and you may begin your walk.
A Perfect Path.
Turn back along the main street, for you must re-cross the creek before seeking the sea edge. As with most of our southern streams, the water is dammed back by a sand-bar and forms a placid little lake of some length, but no great breadth. It serves to shelter a few boats. You may observe here the original of the Shirlow etching known as Carrum Bridge. Keep the waterside to the beach and, given a bright day, you will assuredly be pleased by the prospect. On your left the creek "runs somewhere safe to sea" over the far edge of the sandbank; from it the eye is carried on by long miles of shelving sand, bounded on one side by pale-green shallows, and on the other by a dark line of timber, until the rising lands of Frankston, their outlines made wonderful by the autumn haze, curve round to Schnapper Point, with the more distant elevations of Arthur's Seat standing above it.
Look out to sea. The shallows hold many beautiful tones, the deeper water provides at once a beauty of its own and a contrast in its dark purple blues. Anglers are out after flathead, and their boats dot the horizon. Swing round to your right and you will be facing the way you are to go. Whistler would have painted the scene at your back and called it by some such title as A Symphony or Mother of Pearl. The glamor is not so great ahead, but it is attractive enough, and the going on the fine well-packed sand is very good. The low sandhills on your right, and the growths on them, keep the houses from being intrusive.
Ruskin has remarked somewhere—"By the wisdom of Nature it has been appointed that more pleasure may be taken in small things than in great." This beach is not rich in flotsam or jetsam, but there are "small things" in plenty to take the eye and arouse speculation. One larger than most is the remains of an old vessel almost buried in the sand. I remember it years ago as a prominent object; now some rusty bolts hold together a few stout timbers just above the general level. Large oyster shells occur fairly frequently, recalling the little-known fact that these bivalves were once plentiful in the Bay, so plentiful that portions of the St. Kilda foreshore, it is said, were granted as oyster leases in the early days. It is likely that beds of the mud oyster still exist and only await dredging.
Two kinds of jelly fish are common among the stranded objects. A small variety, sausage-shaped, but suggesting, in its clear beauty, the rare confection of some cunning cook, is not as numerous as the big umbrella-shaped creatures with the fringe of snaky-looking tentacles recalling the locks of the Gorgon Medusa. Their green and blue circles shine from the sand everywhere. A notice warning you not to destroy the marram grass, which has been planted here, "gives you furiously to think" for a few minutes: one does not expect to find himself within the boundaries of the Shire of Dandenong. A few shells have come ashore, a piece of a gleaming scarlet substance like coral in appearance, but soft as sponge, one or two sharks' eggs, their spirals looking like coarse seaweed, and numberless specimens of those smooth, sandy structures which resemble the half of a bottomless cup are present. A bee is lying on his back in the damp, waving feeble legs in the air; small winged things, of the type of the house fly, rise ahead of you, await your next step, and repeat the process endlessly.
All the time the cliffs are coming nearer. You pass at the rear of Chelsea and Aspendale, where the scrub is so full of houses that the general effect is that of a maze; but the only sign of their presence from the sea is the long row of bathing boxes and boat houses. The sand here is much cut up and disturbed, mainly by the idle industry of children. Immediately ahead is Mordialloc pier, and as the creek flows in beside that structure you go up some two or three hundred yards to the bridge on the main road. The name Mordialloc is said to be a union of two native words, Mordi and Yallock, meaning short creek, but Saxton, in his "Victorian Place Names," gives the significance as "near the little sea." Once past it, turn to the left and you will find the sandy beach is giving out, to be replaced gradually by shingle. The walking there is consequently not so good, but the going will be found excellent in the narrow reserve, where, by the way, the Council or local residents should certainly plant some tea-tree, sheoaks and honeysuckle for shade purposes.
Cliffs are now forming, and as they increase in height the growths improve. Our most beautiful coastal shrub, the tea-tree, is seen to advantage, and under it are grassy spaces with small mauve daisies and patches of red-tipped pigface.
Fifty feet below, the beach is sandy again, a broad clean sweep that gives a very gradual approach into the water. A mud island or two, of the same composition as the cliff, suggest that these soft walls are receding before the action of wind and tide. This portion of the walk is particularly delightful, both for the charm of the tracks which wind through the scrub, and the attractive outlook. The height increases, you dip down past the entrance to a pier and up again, and you find you are in the angle from which springs the headland where Beaumaris stands and which has Rickett's Point as its apex. The view back embraces the line of red and gold cliffs, a white pier breaking the two blues of the ocean, the long fringe of clean sand stretching on to Frankston, and the hazy hills beyond.
A marked change occurs here in the character of the cliffs. They seem of sterner stuff and the sea washes their stony bases, leaving no room for beaches. Rickett's Point is a mass of ironstone, and the geologists tell us that that is why it stands to-day where it does, while the softer coast on either side has been fretted away.
From the Beaumaris Hotel corner a conveyance will carry you to Sandringham or Cheltenham, or you may catch the electric tram at Black Rock at the end of another short stage.
My heart turns to high places...
The first generation of our native-born not only "learnt from their wistful mothers to call old England 'Home,'" but many of them gathered from over-patriotic fathers the conviction that everything was immeasurably greater or finer in the British Isles than anything Nature could produce here. The mavis and the lark sang across the years songs that were sweeter by far than those which the magpie and the harmonious thrush were pouring forth so liberally, the scent of the violet was richer, at least in remembrance, than that of the wattle or boronia. Particularly were the prominent features of the landscape slighted: there was no creek to compare with the English brooks and the Scottish burns, while the hills which had towered so high to their childish eyes seemed in retrospect to overtop with ease the mountains of this new land.
A Brother of Ben Nevis.
Thus many a young Australian realises with surprise that there is at least one peak within fifty miles of Melbourne which is higher than anything in the United Kingdom, with the solitary exception of Ben Nevis. Donna Buang is 4080 feet, so the Scottish mountain can give it but 400 feet at the outside. The late Mr. J. A. Panton is said to have discovered it in 1865, and he is held responsible for the name. It stands very little higher than the huge huddle of hills of which it forms a part, and it has no striking features to mark it out on the skyline. But it gives a magnificent outlook. About five miles away to the west is Ben Cairn (better known as The Rock), also a place of noble views, and these two high points form a natural pair for the walker to visit who has a week-end at his disposal.
There are several ways of attacking them, the one thing common to all being a long pull up. On most of these the walker will be the happier if he has had sprigs or nails put in his bootsoles to give him grip, and he should not neglect his leggings. The conventional mode of reaching the top of Donna Buang is to drive from Warburton to the horseshoe bend on Cement Creek, and walk along the well-graded track which ends on the summit, in all about 12 miles. As a winter trip, with snow on the ground, this is fairly severe, but the long days and dry tracks of summer make it easy enough. A more direct route is up the timber tracks from Warburton. They may be readily found by local inquiry. They cut the distance down to five or six miles, but they can be recommended to the young and sturdy only. The walk could continue across to Ben Cairn (five or six miles), down to Millgrove (four miles), and "so home," as Mr. Pepys used to say.
That would make a very full day, but the excellent tourist road which now connects the two peaks provides quite good going.
Swag and Sleeping Bag.
In reverse order the trip just outlined could be comfortably accomplished if one cared to carry a swag or sleeping bag. Sleeping bags were difficult to obtain during the period of the war, but now that things are back to normal the shopkeepers will no doubt stock them again. With a swag of some kind and tucker enough for three meals, Ben Cairn may be climbed from Millgrove on a Saturday afternoon, a camp made just at the back of the big rocky outcrop which distinguishes this peak, and on Sunday Donna Buang may be crossed and Warburton reached in time for the evening train. Night on the top of the Rock, in good weather, is an experience worth all the trouble of reaching there. Above are the stars, very bright at this altitude of over 3000 feet, and beneath is another heavenfull, for the great basin of the Yarra, walled on both sides by mountains, is directly below, and is sprinkled with little townships, each township holding a handful of lamps, many of them electrically lighted.
Coming from Launching Place the Don Valley road gives good approach to a well-cut track that goes off easterly at Panton's Gap and ends at the Rock. But better still, in the writer's opinion, is the walk from Healesville which takes in portion of this route. It provides two pleasant strolls, and there is no need to camp out. The afternoon train on Saturday is early enough to permit of leaving the township by 3 o'clock. The Don Road, which must be followed, is not uninteresting at any point, and as it dips to the Badger Creek it is beautiful. Some very fine samples of Christmas bush mark the rise on the far side, and, about a mile on, there is a short cut which is worth taking. It turns to the left near a house. Its steepness is modified by the outlook it gives, and it saves some very long bends in the coach road. A little further on a finger post directs to Malleson's Look-out, commanding a prospect of much charm, and soon the guest house of this hillside (really Mount Tooleybewong) comes into view. It is known as "Nyora," and is about nine miles from Healesville.
The Paddock Track.
Next morning there are more views to admire before the paddock track is sought. This should be inquired for. It meanders along hillsides, until it drops suddenly to the Launching Place Road near a large signboard bearing directions regarding Ben Cairn and Donna Buang. This is Panton's Gap, with Panton's old house still standing in a grove of walnut and chestnut trees. Long sidings over the Badger Valley succeed until the crossing of a saddle changes the slope to a southerly one. Excellent valley peeps are obtained. At a convenient time the Don races under the track in a corner where there is a sharpish turn. Later this bustling stream may be seen again by going a few hundred yards off the beaten way. Some Aberdeenshire man was evidently in this part of the country when names were being given, for the three main streams of the locality are the Dee, the Don and the Ythan. The growths are more striking as the way ascends, and in the proper season may be seen, in all their native beauty, the fine blooms of the Eriostemon and the mintbush, both now well-established garden favorites. Little runnels make a pleasant coolness, and at the last of these the billy should be filled, for there is no spring on the summit. There is water, however, within ten minutes, in a line directly behind the Rock.
Timber Slide and Tram Track.
To continue on to Millgrove from the top of Ben Cairn, one must follow the Donna Buang pad northwards to where it first divides. The branch to the right, turning sharply back and running under the Rock, is the correct one. When I was last there it was badly overgrown, and probably it still needs clearing. Its general inclination is to the right, until it slips down a short timber slide on to an old tram track by a creek. The tram track makes fair walking, and it may be kept as far as the aqueduct. By turning to the left along the bank of this channel excellent going will be found. It joins a road which crosses the Yarra at its junction with the Dee, close to Millgrove, which has a railway station. An alternative is to continue along the Donna Buang Road till, just past a beech grove, a saw mill winch is visible. To follow the mill tracks down is to go direct to Millgrove.
Still another pleasant way from Healesville calls for the use of a swag, and for the strength to do a strenuous day on foot. Make the Badger Creek on Saturday afternoon, camp the night there, and, just above the bridge, pick up the boundary track of the Metropolitan Board's reserve. It is small and may not be well-defined, but after it has reached the top of the divide by a breathless zig-zag there are no severe pinches. When it reaches Donna Buang the final stage may be completed on the main road from Warburton. En route Ben Cairn could be visited. To do this trip one must keep going. It would be more pleasant on a week-end, with a Monday holiday. A night could then be spent on the Badger, and another on the Rock, and there would be ample time to admire the scenery and listen to the lyre-birds, for which these particular mountain-tops are famous.
Give me a long, white road, and the grey, wide
path of the sea,
And the wind' will, and the bird's will.
It is the fashion to be bored by Port Phillip, but no one who really knows our Bay, and particularly its eastern shore, will deny it a rare beauty at certain times and seasons. In the early morning, with light mists thinly veiling it, you shall have a mirror wholly composed of mother-of-pearl; at nightfall it may become an opal, shot with changing lights that know every tone of grey and blue and gold and scarlet. From the heights of Arthur's Seat and Mount Martha, and once from Rickett's Point, I have seen the wide expanse lose its flatness on a calm day, and lie as a huge shield of burnished silver, so plainly raised to a centre that one looked for the point that would be on a buckler. The inevitable challenge from Sydney really means nothing. Port Jackson is one of the very beautiful things of the world, with its rocky walls, its deep water right up to the land, and its perpetual surprises in little winding bays; Port Phillip has its own sufficient charm, denied to Port Jackson, of long, deep beaches of firm sand, of the loveliest of pale green shallows, of miles of tea-tree and banksia groves.
Three the Golden Number.
If I held with Stevenson that, to be properly enjoyed, a walking tour should be undertaken alone, I should recommend the coast from Point Nepean to (say) Point Ormond, as the very place for an individual ramble. But I do not agree with the cheerful R. L. S. in this matter. Congenial company (though the emphasis may be upon congenial), is a thing to say grace for in any circumstances; it generally doubles the pleasure of an outing. It is then that the meal lacks nothing, that the views are at their best, and more than ever has the camp-fire charm. Moreover, in solitary Walking there is a definite menace which it would be as foolish to ignore as to over-stress. The author of "Travels with a Donkey" was not so likely to know it in his well-ordered Europe as is the pedestrian who leaves the beaten track here to explore a lonely bush pad. His is the form of travel least liable to chance of accident, but as a man may sprain his ankle in his own backyard or know a sunstroke in Collins Street, so he is not immune from trouble on the country ways, and he might lie a long time on some of them before being picked up. The ideal party is three. That is not too many to walk abreast on the highway or keep in touch on the narrow bridle track, it permits of sufficient variety of disposition to make monotony impossible, and it is ample to give that friction of intellect which is the basis of all good conversation. Three, too, is the minimum number to cope adequately with accident, for one can stay with the injured person and one go for assistance.
However, there are short walks on which a crowd is not too many, and everyone knows occasions when solitude is the best thing in the universe. The eastern side of the Bay is designed for the large party, the small party, and the walker who feels that he must go alone. The former need not fear shortage of food or accommodation (always the bush risk with a big number), and the other can have solitude and to spare without losing complete touch with his fellows.
Sorrento to Rye.
Sorrento makes a good jumping-off place for a week-end walk, because most of the Bay boats call there. It is not uninteresting to recall that Lieutenant-Colonel Collins did his best to establish a convict settlement near there in 1803. He failed after a three months' trial. Buckley, the wild white man, was one of the prisoners. He escaped, and it must stir a walker's imagination to reflect that, when he was found again, he was at Indented Head, on the far side of the bay. A good walk—but he had had 32 years in which to do it! One wonders where and how he crossed the Yarra.
The Saturday afternoon boat arrives about 5 o'clock. By turning to the left on leaving the pier, the Melbourne road is joined at once. Nearly three miles behind, towards Point Nepean, is Portsea, beyond which nothing exists at present for the tourist, owing to quarantine and military restrictions. Ahead are several villages, at one of which accommodation must be found for the night unless the swag is carried. It is not possible to miss the way; there is no major turn-off until, at 81 miles, the Flinders and Cape Schanck Road opens out to the right. Before that, at 5½ miles, is the little village of Rye, which boasts a hotel and a boarding-house. The beach has been very close all the time, and offers a choice of going. Preferably the road should be kept to here, and, if the walker has had enough for a day which began so late, he could stop now for the night. Let him not miss being at the water's edge as the light begins to fail. If he has chosen his weather well, and the sea is calm, any doubts he may have had about the beauty of our bay will depart forever.
Rye to Mornington.
Morning repeats the miracle. The traveller should be early up and swimming in that lake of light, then he may choose whether he will take the beach or the road. The road is certainly easier to walk, but the other is worth while for the young morning effects on the shallows. The belt of timber in between also repays sampling. There was once a very unusual settlement here. A small colony of Maoris established itself for a time in the sixties, but gradually died out. One of the women, who was said to hold high native rank, was taken back to New Zealand by a deputation sent expressly for her. Rosebud, with its South Channel lighthouse standing well inshore, nestles pleasantly at the foot of a range which forms part of the backbone of Arthur's Seat. It has stores and several boardinghouses. As it is not more than twelve miles from Sorrento, an active walker could have put in the night here. Three miles further on is Dromana, and in between comes a spur of the mountain which almost pushes the road into the sea. Arthur's Seat was named by Murray in 1802 from its likeness to the Edinburgh Hill. A couple of hours would take one to the top of its 1000 feet and back again, but that can be so readily done from Dromana that it may wait another occasion. It is well now to complete the nine miles (from Rye) into Dromana, get some lunch there, or fill up a billy of water for use later. The beach is to be taken from here. There is something like 11 miles to be walked by this route before the evening train leaves Mornington. Mount Martha is straight ahead. There is plenty of driftwood at the foot if lunch is desired al fresco. The creek is easily crossed. The hill is climbable, and near its seafront will be found a made road which gives most satisfactory views. It leads past Mount Martha Hotel and right into Mornington, where, usually, there is boat as well as train.
Do not think that that has skimmed all the cream off the coastal outings. Beautiful and varied are the 10 miles of curving sandy bays and well-wooded rocky points between Mornington and Frankston, making a delightful Sunday trip. The walker can leave town by the 10 to 11 train, lunch in Mornington at 1 o'clock, and have six hours in which to "loaf and invite his soul" before he catches the 8.5 home from Frankston. Numberless are these shorter walks. Especially good is the foreshore, with its fine masses of tea-tree, between Sandringham and Mentone, and so are those wonderful sandy beaches (somewhat spoiled by popularity) connecting Mordialloc, Aspendale, Chelsea, and Carrum. These may be done on a Saturday afternoon.
I shall return to this coast and the Mornington Peninsula in another article.
The high hills are haughty,
They stand against the blue
And count themselves a cut above
The likes of me and you.
But the little hills lean down to us
And pass the time o' day,
And tell the gossip of the tracks,
And give their views away.
Anyone who desires a week-end outing without fatigue will be pleasantly suited by Mount Martha. And, if a day or two extra be available, as at Easter, there is much to engage him there for the extra time. He can gain most from the excursion by taking a swag and settling down in a quiet nook, but accommodation is available on the early slopes of the mount, should the more conventional life be preferred. For a week-end he should catch the afternoon train on Saturday, arriving at Mornington two hours later. Opportunity will probably present itself to have the swag sent out to the post-office, four miles ahead, leaving the walker free to enjoy thoroughly the pleasant way along the cliff road to Balcombe's Creek. Just beyond this is the post-office.
An Upland Camp.
Two miles further on are numbers of attractive stopping places where that desirable thing, a daylight camp, may be had. Although the sea is close by, it is necessary to keep to the uplands to camp, for Mount Martha's shores are rocky, with never a sandy beach between Balcombe's Creek and the Kangerong Flat on the Dromana side. Thick clumps of tea-tree still survive and make a good green shelter. Thanks to the constant sea breezes and full exposure to the sun, the western slopes are warm and dry, and the surface is not too hard to prevent the digging of the camper's comfort—a good hip hole. It is fine to wake in this place before the sun takes up the fresh humidity of the night, and while the shadow of the mount is still far out on the bay, now coming to its blueness. Lie in the warmth of the sleeping bag for a while, and hear the day come in. What is the first bird call? Once it was certain to be a sleepy twitter from that superb warbler, the blue wren, or the more forceful note of the "yah-hoo" or catbird. Now probably it will be a blackbird's scolding outburst, or his more melodious fluting. This English bird is spreading fast through the bush, and, though his song is wonderful, one may be forgiven a feeling of regret that our native favourites are being pushed to the background.
"In Pleasant Places."
The camper may cast his lines in pleasant places if he has brought along the necessary material for fishing, and a little squid for bait. In the evening, or the very early morning, by throwing far out, he may hook a schnapper. In the pools at his feet there are parrot fish and leather-jackets. Mussels may be gathered by wading in where it is shallowest. Whether there is "anything doing" or not, so far as catching is concerned, there is great pleasure to be obtained from pottering about at the water's edge with the wavelets slapping up against the rocks. At the south-west corner a creek comes in, and here is an excellent bathing place. Flat rocks give comfortable access to the water, and a swim may be had in the dock-like mouth and the deeper sea beyond, but not too far, for fear of sharks. The fish which has been boiling or grilling for breakfast will now be thoroughly enjoyed.
Beating the Bounds.
Assuming that this is a week-end trip, and all that is to be seen must be seen to-day, "plant" the swag and set out on the track towards Dromana. It would be possible to go to that village and to Arthur's Seat, at its back, but the time can be more profitably spent in climbing about the mount. The "trig" station on the summit is 600 feet above sea-level and it yields some charming views, rivalling even the panorama from the top of the one thousand feet of Arthur's Seat. From the fall toward Dromana a pleasant picture is obtained of blue sea edged by white beach and the little township nestling at the foot of dark green wooded slopes. A still more brilliant piece of colouring will be seen later on as the return is being made to Mornington. Through the roadside trees, past the north-west corner, is visible a long reach of shoaling water in varied tints of blue and green. Under an afternoon sun shines a great stretch of white sand at the foot of cliffs whose bright pigments are deeply set in foliage. That view is worth a trip in itself.
While still on the top it may be interesting to recall that Governor La Trobe had 130 acres reserved here for a marine residence for the Governors of Victoria. That was a considerable time past, seeing that La Trobe retired in 1854. The project of building came to nothing. About 50 years ago, the Mount Martha Estate, some 4000 acres, was known as Hearne's Paddock (a fair-sized paddock!) and Hearne's Bridge still exists. But Professor Hearne built his house on the slope of Arthur's Seat. It is now the country home of Mr. Justice Higgins. The firm of Stout and Isaacs next endeavoured to establish a wood-cutting business on Mount Martha, even building a jetty for the craft to lie at when loading wood for Melbourne. They erected a store for the benefit of their employees, who numbered over 50. The enterprise was not a success. Years afterwards the Mount passed to Mr. Robert Watson, a retired cloth manufacturer from Glasgow, who built a fine granite house, with two stone lodges, and for a long time these were the only houses on the hill. The scrub grew wild and dense, and amongst it shone, as it shines to-day, some exceptionally fine epacris. At a later period considerable planting was done about the northern top, but rabbits and fire have been destructive. Some good trees remain, however, notably a few fine palms which were planted by the well-known journalist, Mr. Joseph Harris, who still resides in Mornington. Originally it was difficult work to force a way through the thick masses of native shrubs on the sea face, but now a good track has been cut and has developed into a motor road.
"And So Home."
Any heat and dust acquired on the return walk to Mornington may be got rid of at Fisherman's Beach, close to the township, where there are dressing sheds. So a bathing suit forms a useful part of the outfit. The train on Sunday leaves for Melbourne about 6 o'clock. Alternatively, the return could be made by way of Dromana, where a boat is sometimes available or a motor could be caught. The trip is best made in November or at Easter, for the rains will then have set the springs running. Otherwise water may have to be carried for a couple of miles.
I like my landscape, as I like my whisky, with a
dash of water in it.
Far more people know Bushrangers' Bay than know it by that title. I cannot say that the name was ever on the map, but it persists in tradition to record the feat of certain convicts who are said to have landed there many years ago after having escaped from Van Diemen's Land. It is an unlikely place for any one, save desperate men, to attempt to beach a boat. The sea smashes fiercely on the rocky headland which forms the outer side of the bay, and the high cliffs on the right look down on a ceaseless series of breakers. The sandy delta of Main Creek offers the only chance of making the shore, and the risks (to a landsman, anyway) look tremendous. Most of that piece of coast which takes the rollers of Bass Strait from Flinders to Cape Schanck has the combination of qualities so commonly found together—it is stern, forbidding, and picturesque.
This is a walk for a week-end with a Monday holiday attached to it. It could suitably be done in the week in January in which Foundation Day falls, or to include Eight Hours Day. A sleeping bag, or swag of some sort, must be taken; there is no accommodation to be had. And tucker for two days must be carried.
The Sorrento Road.
The Bay is about seven miles towards Cape Schanck from Flinders, it is fifteen miles from Dromana, and eighteen or nineteen from Sorrento by the main road. I prefer the Dromana approach, because cars run conveniently to Dromana on Saturday afternoons. In short, it is more readily accessible than Flinders, and not so far as Sorrento. Two hours' walk will bring you to the most suitable place to camp, which is near the junction of this highway with the road to Cape Schanck. And here a word of general advice: If you want comfort, always camp before dark. The flanks of Arthur's Seat are skirted where they almost push the road into the sea, and at 3¼ miles comes the little village of Rosebud. There is no mistaking the way; push on towards the sunset and admire the fine bank of honeysuckle, tea-tree and other growths that runs all the way along on the right between you and the tide. At 5½ miles from Dromana (2¼ from Rosebud), the Schanck road will be seen branching off sharply to the left. There is a signpost on the corner if the Cockney sportsmen who delight in disfiguring useful things have refrained from shooting it down. The lettering had a couple of charges of shot in it when last I passed.
A tiny track winds through the scrub to the beach at this point. Take your swag down it and pick a camp on the sand under one of the fine banksias. In a small clearing nearby is a spring, but it is advisable to go to the house which stands a few hundred yards up the Schanck Road and get a couple of billies full of water there. Then make your fire, put the water on to boil and have a dip. If the weather is good, and particularly if the evening be still, that will be one of the most memorable happenings of the trip, for the sea will be full of reflected light and colour. It will be like bathing in a rainbow. A meal round the fire, and you do not deserve your luck if you are not well content. Look up to see a wonderful sight. The banksia leaves are white on the underside and the firelight has changed the whole tree to a mass of silver. Not so much later, you crawl into your sleeping bag. On a quiet night there may come to you the noise of a steamer inward or outward bound along the South Channel. She passes out of hearing and out of mind, but long afterwards there comes a message from her in the shape of a wave, and then another, which suddenly break the silence by racing up the shingle and lap-lapping there.
Ten Miles to Go.
An early start is invariably a good thing. Make it on this occasion to secure a reasonable amount of time at Bushrangers' Bay. Leave the Sorrento Road and head for Cape Schanck. The route is obvious and the going good. Hereabouts is the old "Tootgarook" (I believe that is still the parish name) to which the young bloods of Melbourne used to ride in the sixties and seventies to hunt the kangaroo. Eight miles of road, all on the up grade, and you are at Blacks' Camp, where there was formerly a kitchen midden with the remains of countless shellfish, no doubt carried by the gins from the shore to feast their sable lords "when wild in woods the noble savage ran." The elevation shows the peninsula lying below you like a relief map. Here goes off a sandy road to the right, ending at the Schanck lighthouse in 21 miles. Avoid it and follow the Flinders Road (running easterly) until you cross a shallow creek. Then take to the paddocks and make for the ocean, lying due south. In less than two miles you are on the wooded edge of a cliff overlooking your objective, and you will note with approval the good water-course (Main Creek), the pleasant stretch of sheltered sandy beach, and the bold and picturesque headlands.
Bushrangers' Bay is more often referred to as "The Burro-bang," for a beautiful little creek, rejoicing in that name, comes dancing in on the north side to supply the camper with fresh water. Main Creek, which is responsible for the good beach, is a far more important stream, but it is brackish for some distance. The Burrobang can never be affected by the tides, owing to the fact that its approach to the salt water is a series of cascades. Main Creek runs between the Burrobang and the sandy beach, and has to be crossed whenever fresh water is wanted. There is no difficulty in crossing. Good camping can be had on the sand under and alongside a patch of low-growing shrubs. To the sleeper on the ground a thick low bush is often a greater comfort than overhead shelter. It keeps the wind off. Hang up your food, for the scrub is alive with bush rats. An afternoon can be spent very happily clambering over the headlands, fishing in the deep rock pools or the surf or the creek, and bathing.
Cape Schanck is good for an article in itself, with its bold wedge splitting the southern rollers and its delightful plateau on which the lighthouse stands. But it must be taken on this occasion as a mere incident of the trip. If you left camp early yesterday morning for convenience sake, leave it early to-day, because you must if you are to get home. Climb the cliff where the Burrobang has cut it into terraces for you, and follow the edge until you reach the lighthouse grounds in about two miles. It is not smooth going, but it may easily be done before breakfast. See what you may of the light, the lookout, and the great telescope, bearing in mind that you have about 16 miles of rather tough walking to do before the steamer leaves Sorrento at 4 o'clock. (Check all times when leaving town.) Ignore the road (it leads out to the north), and continue along the top of the cliff. There is a track of a kind. Presently some springs, guarded from animal pollution by a fence, will be noticed on and over the cliff edge. Fill up the billies here; a dry stretch is ahead.
"As I Came Through the Desert."
The high cliff walls begin to fall away to sand hummocks, which are at first well clothed with scrub (a kangaroo hopped out of it in front of me one day), and later as bare as the sea itself. It is easy to drop down to the water's edge. If your luck is in, the tide is out. If the tide is in, your luck is out. It is difficult to estimate the distance across the stretch of sand, known as "the desert," that is now ahead of you, but, whatever it is, it seems longer. At a guess it may be eight or nine miles before you again reach a rocky point and a firm footing. The belt stretches inland for some distance, and it is really an interesting experience, if you are in good form, to move along its sea margin. Always there are majestic waves rolling in at your left, often with wild hair streaming back from a land breeze, then there is the strip of moist sand on which you walk, firm enough at low tide, and from it slope up the seemingly unending ridges of the desert. The surface is a crisp, thin cover of hardened sand, through which the foot breaks. In many places a dwarf forest of lime-encrusted objects produces an extraordinary landscape. Along the high-water line wreckage of the most varied kind suggests romance and treasure trove. A party of walkers found a well-secured case labelled Dry Gin. It was full of missionary hymn-books.
Somewhere at the back of Rye the cliffs recommence, and some four miles out of Sorrento tracks will be found winding through the tea-tree and styphelia scrub to houses where water may be obtained, and eventually to the township. The going is very heavy, for the surface is of the softest, and the pace is slowed accordingly. On a hot day, too, these sheltered cuts in the green vegetation can be very oppressive. It is well to keep such facts in mind, seeing that your time is limited. Given enough, you may enjoy a refreshing dip in the front beach baths—the final thing required to make the homeward journey on the steamer thoroughly enjoyable.
So he journeyed to Toolangi, where the mountain
ash yearns skyward,
And the messmate and the blue-gum grow to quite abnormal size.
—C. J. Dennis.
Toolangi is "on the rise," in a slang, as well as a literal sense just now, for the Main Roads Board has lent a merciful ear to its well-sustained wails, and has given the secluded little mountain settlement a fine new road. It originates in Healesville, which is certainly Toolangi's natural outlet, despite the fact that the coach and the mails so long travelled to and from Yarra Glen. Toolangi will soon be easily accessible all the year, and tourists may look forward to extended trips, embracing much beautiful country.
It is the home of tall timber, a land of rich soil and abundant water. Spring is its season if you would explore its beech bowers, share its wealth of wattle gold, look up in wonderment to where the giant peppermints send out their first branches, or know the scented shade of its musk gullies. Winter is not the time for them, but it is in the crisp, fresh weather that a pedestrian, with a Saturday afternoon and Sunday at his disposal, a pair of stout boots on his feet, and a mackintosh and a change of socks in his knapsack, may find real enjoyment in the walk to Toolangi, and back again. With due regard to short days, he should select one of the easier routes. Let him abandon any thought of starting from Yarra Glen until a season of greater daylight, for that way means 14 miles. He can alternatively be in Healesville by 3 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon, and will then have only 10 miles to walk if he choose the Chum track, and 11 miles if he prefer the Meyer's Creek road. There is a marked difference between these two routes, a difference all in favour of the latter, but, if he share the common prejudice against coming back the way he went, the traveller may take the Chum track going, when he has least time to spare, and the Meyer as he returns.
The Chum Road.
Leaving the Healesville station, turn back along the line to the first crossing. On the north side follow the road until, just after it bends west, there is a sharp turn to the right. That is your way, and though, at times, rather muddy, the going is generally fair. It is fenced on either hand, and there is an occasional house with a bit of orchard; otherwise the seemingly untouched bush has control. A steady rise is the father of a sharp descent, across the side of which is cut the aqueduct that carries the Maroondah waters to our ever-thirsty city. There is no straight monotony about this road at any point, and least of all here, for it twists and curves, incidentally yielding some agreeable views of wooded ridges with St. Leonard looking over them. Just before the Chum Creek becomes a visible presence on your right, a likely-looking road will try to lure you up the hill to the left. Ignore it or you will find yourself at a dead end in less than a mile. Variety may be had by following a timber-track (a tram line), which crosses the road. It winds along green lanes cut through thick undergrowth under spreading wattles, and across many a little watercourse and one or two creeks, the bridging of which compels admiration of the skill of the bush worker. If you keep to the tramway you will come to the sawmill, perched above a creek, its machinery-shed and the men's hut hiding well in the timber. Make sure here of your track, and keep going so that you may get clear of the bush before nightfall. There are short cuts ahead, but it is impossible to indicate them on paper, for lack of recognisable landmarks. You will be well advised to keep to the obvious way. Then you will eventually come out into what may be called Toolangi's main street, between the post office, to your left, and the hotel, to your right. There are several boarding houses offering a choice of accommodation for the night.
Here let me sound a note of warning. I have walked many hundreds of miles through the Victorian bush, but I know of no place where the tracks are so confusing to a stranger as are Toolangi's. Obviously, they were in the mind of the author of "The Glugs of Gosh" (whose home is in Toolangi) when he wrote:
Follow the river and cross the ford,
Follow again to the wobbly bridge,
Turn to the left at the notice board,
Climbing the cow-track over the ridge...
It is to be observed that he refers to "the" notice-board; he could not use the plural in that connection. The moral is: Do not omit any opportunity of inquiring your way, particularly toward the end of the journey. One of the advantages of the Meyer track is that it is single-minded in its endeavour to reach Toolangi, and, unlike the Chum, it does not flirt with half a dozen cross trails before leading you to a place where you may lodge. The newly constructed Chum Creek Road, however, makes it now impossible to deviate from its well-graded way. The caution suggested is needed only about the township itself or if "short cuts" are attempted.
Next morning you may gain appetite for lunch by visiting the nearer of the local lions. If there has been no rain the Yea River, locally (and libellously) known as "the Muddy," may be viewed by following it along the tourist track which has been cut. Leave by 2 o'clock and you will have five hours in which to do your 11 miles. That gives nice time for looking about and may reasonably include afternoon tea, which is obtainable on the way. Almost at once the forest closes in, topped by a number of great trees which have escaped the sawmiller, and brightened in one spot by clumps of tree ferns. You lose all sight of settlement, all touch, apparently, with "the crowded, slippery, coach-loving world."
The going is, in the main, uphill for about two miles. At the crest of the rise you are close to Mount St. Leonard, whose 3000 feet can look imposing in some lights and do look beautiful under most conditions. The head-waters of Meyer's Creek are at your right side; now the way is wholly downhill, for it follows the course of the stream. From here into Healesville is the pick of the walk. A portion of the road near Kay's, which may be muddy after rain, may be avoided by taking for a few hundred yards a tram track on the hillside above it.
A tributary coming into Meyer's is crossed, and shortly afterward a mill will be seen across the creek. About it, and particularly on the roadside, is a great natural garden of mint-bush and Christmas-bush. No one who has not seen this place in the spring can realise what a wonder of purple bloom it is. It is dazzling to look at the flower masses with the sun on them. An interesting exotic near by is sweet lavender, a great quantity of which is growing wild in a certain corner, giving off its characteristic scent strongly in the flowering season. Continuing along the road, you may cross from the east to the west bank and at the bridge, which is about five miles from Healesville, refreshments may be had.
The track is now a siding well above the water, but not so far that you cannot view Meyer's Falls as you pass. Once at the foot of the hill the creek becomes an intimate thing again and you see much of it, and something of others, before you turn in to the Congdon's Gully Road, a long straight stretch which eventually joins the Fernshaw Road. There you turn to the right through the township until you see the railway station ahead with your train dreaming and enjoying a smoke before starting out for the city.
By the kindness of my friend, Mr. C. J. Dennis, I am able to print here the following verses, which have not hitherto been published:—
To linger in Toolangi when the winds o' Winter
Is to get an aftertaste of what old Noah used to know,
And to loiter in Toolangi when the suns o' Summer bake
Is to suffer from a plethora of bullock whip and snake;
But your heart is full of gladness, and it makes your spirit sing
Just to linger in Toolangi, in Toolangi in the Spring.
Then the whipbirds wake the gullies where the wattles tell their gold,
And trilling thrushes sing again, as poets sang of old,
Of the glory of the bushland and the glamour of the scrub,
While the early-rising robin scoffs the festive homing grub.
Loud laugh the Jacks, while wombats strive to sing in divers keys:
(Even wombats want to warble when the bloom is on the trees)—
Then if you'd know the joy o' life that Austral poets sing
O come ye to Toolangi, to Toolangi in the Spring.
It is good to be out on the road and going one
knows not where—
Going through meadow and village, one knows not whither nor why;
Through the grey light drift of the dust, in the thin cool rush of the air,
Under the flying white clouds and the broad blue lift of the sky.
It will be easier to agree with the poet if the year has not too rapidly advanced into the autumn, making it rather desirable to know where one is going and that there is a roof to cover him at the day's end. A fine two-day trip, in which a Monday holiday may be utilised, is that from Whittle-sea, by way of Tommy's Hut and Flowerdale, to Broadford. Its one disadvantage is that the Sunday train is too late in starting and too slow to be of any use, so it is necessary to go to Whittlesea by Saturday evening's "express" (it takes over an hour and a half to do 26 miles), and stay the night there. There is abundant accommodation. Your compensation is the pleasantly early start that is possible next morning.
A good metal road leads east past the Coffee Palace, and so out of Whittlesea. It is flat going, but ahead is an attractive scheme of hills that look worth climbing, and which you will later find yourself attacking. You cross the Plenty River almost at once. It is in so many divisions that one seems to get a clue to the origin of its name. The show-ground on the left is the next local lion, and, coming in from the same side, the aqueduct crosses the road on its way to the Yan Yean. Its source is the picturesque little Tooroorong Reservoir, lying among the wooded ranges like an old-world tarn, and fed in its turn by the waters of Jack's Creek. Some other day you may take a stroll that far, having duly obtained permission from the Metropolitan Board of Works, and perhaps visit the cascades and reach the Wallaby Creek weir. Meanwhile you are nearing a junction where you shall have a choice of roads, and incidentally enjoying the songs of the innumerable magpies which favour this open, park-like country. The excellent metal ends at about two and a half miles, but the road remains satisfactory for walking. Just beyond is the junction at a house (on the right) with pines. A finger-post, standing like the parson who "pointed, but did not go, the way," directs you to the right-hand road if you wish to go to Scrubby Creek. You do, so you take it, crossing a north and south road immediately.
"Over the Range."
Some orchards and vineyards show in the paddocks to the right, ahead is a State school on a small rise. As it is Sunday, you will hear no hum of scholars as you pass below the enclosure. A house or two on the left and a genial little stream, bridged for the road, call your attention to the fact that you have reached Scrubby Creek. Immediately the track begins to lift. Back at the junction you have left the old road, which is now somewhere in the hills to your left. This is a new deviation (known to the country folk, or some of them, as the "derivation") improving the grade considerably but adding a good bit to the mileage as it curves and bends about the spurs. So little in a hurry is it to get over the range that it gives the impression of strolling about with its hands in its pockets. The views are often delightful, one at a clearing about six miles from Whittlesea being particularly comprehensive. At 7½ miles it is possible to get a cup of tea at the Horse Shoe Chalet, tucked away in a bend of the road. There is no other refreshment room until Flowerdale is reached, and that is fifteen miles away, so make the most of the opportunity if you have not carried lunch and a billy with you. Your altitude here is 1100 feet, and you rise a little more in the two miles to Tommy's Hut (Kinglake West). There is a store at this point and the road branches. Take that going to the left; the other leads to Kinglake East.
It is now downhill, a delightful woodland way through a forest of messmate, which has lately known a bush fire. That should have ruined its beauty, but has only enhanced it. The trunks are a rich black, and the tops have gained new tones, while the road is spread with leaves more thickly than any autumn glade in Vallombrosa. The King Parrot Creek begins to murmur on your left and will keep you company for the rest of to-day and part of to-morrow. It is a substantial stream and good both to look upon and to drink. A sawmill, pretty well hidden in the undergrowth, a couple of bridges, and you come out to a broader portion of the valley. Steep, bare hills define it and every now and then you find the river has wandered across as if to see how you are getting on. At 22 miles the hotel at Flowerdale will come into the picture and you will be in the condition to appreciate a night's rest.
You have 20 miles to go and a full day to do it in, so there's no hurry. Carry some lunch unless you start late enough to arrive at Strath Creek at the conventional time for it. The hotel there is the only place of accommodation between Flowerdale and Broadford. Leaving Flowerdale you find a fingerpost at a quarter of a mile. It beckons to tempt you to Break-o-Day, but turn your shoulder on that alluring track and make for Strath Creek, once more following the King Parrot. Birds are numerous along this stretch, and your luck will be out if you do not see a fine eagle or two (Audax the bold) soaring above you. Flowerdale sheep station presents an attractive picture at five miles, its red roofs shining through masses of green, "like a good deed in a naughty world." Opposite is a hill of voices. With no breeze blowing on the slope, the trees of this hill are often full of murmurings. Less interesting country follows; you pass through Strath Creek township, and in a little over two miles begin the ascent of Murchison Hill. It should be Murchison's Hill, for it was named after a Murchison who had Kerrisdale station in the early days. Then the road went across it much as the bird flies, and teamsters found it wise to travel in pairs and use both teams for each waggon in negotiating this stiff pinch. Coming down the east side, it was the custom to attach trees behind the waggons to steady them, and a pretty collection of timber had to be removed from the foot when the present well-graded road was begun. The view is one in a thousand. Strange, conical peaks, such as you expect to find contain volcanic craters, rise smoothly in admired disorder from the King Parrot Valley, and the course of that stream is visible for many miles. Distant mountains close the prospect with a blue frieze. The old road will be found a short cut, if a somewhat rough one.
The Last Lap.
If you made an early start you will be ready for lunch by the time you reach Tyaak (14 miles), where there are several houses and a State school, one of which will supply a billy of water. It was a pretty compliment to the children (and the teacher) that when lunching outside the school ground there lately a family of nine white-winged choughs and a harmonious thrush gathered round and accepted without fear the crumbs thrown to them. Reedy Creek, the banks still scarred from old mining days, is crossed immediately, and a fair pull up follows. Three miles on, the way crosses the brow of Sheoak Hill, giving a fine panorama westward. The Tallarook Ranges are on the right, in front is low country, with Broadford, your objective, showing plainly in the middle distance, and Mount Piper (the Sugarloaf) standing like a monument at the rear of the town. An hour later you can be in Broadford. The evening train will bring you back to the city.
Have you ever been down to my countree
Where the trees are green and tall?
—John Shaw Neilson.
The accepted way to the Grampians is via Stawell. As early as 1868 a writer (Henry Waterfield) advised excursionists to coach the 170 miles from Melbourne to Stawell if they wished to see "one of the most varied and beautiful landscapes in the world." His reference was to the distant view of the Grampians from the goldfields town. That was in a remarkably well-produced little volume called "Outs: An Excursionist's Handbook," to which the late Sir John Madden, J. L. Purves, James Hingston, and several others destined to become very well known in Victoria, contributed the articles. Stawell was then in transition from where the crowded alluvial "rushes" had been on Pleasant Creek, and the population had almost wholly moved to the Quartz Reefs, a little over a mile to the east. "We can see plenty of inland townships through the colony, but there is only one place par excellence, and it is called the Quartz Reefs." So Waterfield judged. The Reefs have long since taken the name of Stawell, and from there still sets out the main highway to the blue hills which close the western outlook.
These hills form a beautiful range, whether viewed from a distance, as from the Big Hill in Stawell, or more intimately when rambling over them. I have seen much of picturesque Victoria: to stand on the Big Hill on a fresh spring morning, with a golden tide of wattle breaking high up on three sides, the town lying just below, beyond it the sober greens of the bush leading up to the living azure of the mountains—this challenges almost any view I know. The morning light, level and clear, outlines the contours till all the seeming flatness of distance disappears and the whole long line, from Mount William to Mount Zero, is seen in relief.
Hall's Gap is the main objective of the tourist. It is about 16 miles from Stawell's railway station, about an hour's motor run along a road which will soon be classed among the good roads of the State. The pleasant little creek known as the Mokepilly is crossed en route. As the mountains come closer the wonder is how they are to be crossed or entered, for they present a seemingly unbroken wall. But a natural gateway opens, and through a bower of shrubs, including much heath and the popular Thryptomene, the road curves in to a long valley at the rear of the first line of ramparts. This is the famous Hall's Gap. Fyan's Creek, which has helped to carve it out, and which is now an important part of an extensive water scheme for the Mallee, is passed over on a bridge which has been rebuilt many times within my recollection. Look back, and it is hard to see how the valley has been penetrated. Almost directly above the traveller hangs the second, and more imposing, range, and, as the road runs on towards the Borough Huts, the great sandstone crags become striking indeed. The valley is a long basin with high mountains for walls.
This countryside is my "native heath." Here as a boy I formed my first camp in the bush, and I may perhaps be forgiven for holding a special brief for the Grampians as a pleasure resort. The place is a paradise for walkers. There is unending variety in its scenery, its botany, its zoology, its geology, and access is made very easy in these days of motors.
It is little use attempting to set out the various walks on paper. The tracks are excellent, and are, in the main, carried on gradients possible to every pedestrian. They are well marked. With the Tourist Bureau map in his possession, no one need be at a loss as to what outing to choose, and once his feet are set on the way, the direction signs will do the rest. There are many houses of accommodation in the Gap and good camping places are numerous, for it is a well-watered region.
Some day, perhaps, a great artist in words will do justice to the glory of this natural garden, a garden which produces its own peculiar flowers, for the Grampians are notable in having a flora of their own. It should be possible, too, to picture such physical features as Wonderland and the Silent Street, and other remarkable rock formations, so that the attention of Australians generally might be drawn to a spot which combines in a remarkable degree beauty with mystery.
I am a good horse to travel, but not by choice a
Why this jolly mountain creek should have suggested to anyone the melancholy stream of the underworld from which it derives its name is a mystery. Perhaps the explanation if that each is a place of shades. The upper reaches of our Acheron are certainly shady enough, but the shades are those of gracious timbers, and the sunlight is not wholly barred. It is only the upper reaches which concern us on this trip, an ideal outing for the five holidays of a fine Easter. The portion is from Narbethong up to practically the river's source in the hills which divide the Goulburn waters from those of the Yarra. In such a rich and well-watered country the tracks are soon obliterated if not looked after. Neglect has spoilt altogether what is known as the Edgar track, which runs from the hairpin bend at Cement Creek, near Warburton, over the mountains to Marysville. As portion of this track must be followed on the present excursion, none but the sturdy should attempt it.
Jump Off at Healesville.
Carry a sleeping bag and a couple of days' food to the Healesville train on Thursday evening, the Thursday before Good Friday. It may be 8 or 9 o'clock when you reach Healesville, not too late to drive the 14 miles to Narbethong if you wish to conserve time. A specially chartered conveyance will not cost much individually if there is a party. Alternatively spend the night in Healesville (there are plenty of good camps and plenty of other accommodation), or leave town on Good Friday morning. I shall assume that you start your walk from Healesville on the Friday morning. First arrange for your swags to go on the coach to Narbethong, keeping out a billy and enough food for the mid-day meal. You have 14 miles of picturesque road to cover before you turn from the broad highway and court the shyer and more seductive bushland track. En route you can lunch where the Watts crosses the road, and a fine linden and some other deciduous trees mark the site of the old-time Fernshaw, seven miles from Healesville. Immediately you find the famous Blacks' Spur rising before you. It is worth a trip in itself. Were the hill twice as long, and the grade twice as bad, you must still admire. And along the top and going down the other side are equally good. There is an hotel at Narbethong, so you have the choice of sleeping indoors or of making a camp under the shelter of the trees near the little creek.
Up the Acheron.
As you face towards Marysville a paling splitter's track goes off to the right at a cutting not far past the hotel. Take it for half a mile, then follow a turnoff again to the right, keeping the top of the ridge for about three miles. The track drops abruptly there, and is merged in a dray road, to which you must keep for the whole length of the valley. It will introduce you to many beautiful things. Very dense is the bush through which it winds, and it crosses the Acheron charmingly several times. Despite the timber-getters whose road you are using, many noble trees remain. One big fellow, standing on three buttresses, has a girth of 50 feet. If, as is likely, these gums are in flower, their waving branches will be alive with wattle-birds and other honey-eaters, chasing one another and shouting and calling. You cannot miss the way, the only tracks coming in being little pads made by the "small deer" of the bush on their way to the water. All the while you have been rising gently. At 12 miles you strike a very steep timber slide, up which you must climb to about half way to get to the splitters' hut, where your day ends. The hut is off to the right some 200 yards. A small flat there makes a handy camp; the water is just below in a bed of tangled fern, musk, mintbush, hazel, and dogwood. From the slope above rise numberless clean-stemmed giants with never a branch for 100 feet or more. Presently their tops will be full' of stars, and you will lie and watch the eternal procession until sleep blots out all material things.
The Edgar Track.
There is a longer journey before you to-day (Sunday), so make an early start. It is not that the mileage is so great (it is probably 20 miles into Marysville), but the way is more difficult. You have a choice of routes in the beginning. One is to go back on your tracks for a mile, where you turn to your left and follow up the Warburton pad (about south) until it strikes another going east or north-east at a junction where are several signposts. That is the Edgar track making for Marysville. The alternative is to follow up the creek, which has been singing all night below your camp (it is slow going with the tangle of scrub and the decaying logs which break beneath your feet) until in a long mile you find the Splitters' Falls busy in a sort of green twilight. They are pleasant, but do not call for much notice. Work east, by compass, up the slope above them, and you will soon cut the Edgar track. The chances are that you will find it in a very bad state of neglect, almost completely blocked in places. Turn along it to the left. The height gives you good views down the Acheron Valley, full of green timber, and presently you will observe that you have got amongst the Woollybutts (Eucalyptus Delegatensis), a sure sign of elevation, for they mark the last stage before the snow-gum. You cross an attractive saddle, rounding the end of the Poley Range (4250 feet) as you do so. Now your outlook is east to some distant ranges, and the heads of numerous small creeks are passed, each making for the O'Shannassy River and so to the Yarra. The way becomes closely walled with bush, and if you go quietly you may see one of the lyrebirds that are calling from it. You skirt Mount Strickland's 4000 feet, and just before reaching Mount Bismarck the track divides. That to the right heads for Paradise Plains; take the left-hand way, ascend to Keppell's Lookout when you come to the notice board, and by steady dropping you will be in Marysville by nightfall. There are camping places in abundance, as well as boarding houses and an hotel. Stores may be renewed here.
Monday morning could be devoted to visiting the Steavenson Falls and returning in time to make the eight miles of road to Narbethong, where the night could be spent, leaving an easy stroll over the Spur for Tuesday. Or a full day could be put in along the Taggerty River, up through the Forest of Arden to the Meeting of the Waters and Keppeli's Falls, a seven-mile walk, and the night passed in Marysville. In that case the swags could he left for the Tuesday's coach, and flying light, the 23 miles to Healesville would not be difficult. I cannot, at this stage, dwell upon the attractions of Maryville, a beautiful little township at any time, but especially so in the autumn, when the old-world trees in the street are changing colour. It may be possible later to give details of some of the best of the outings.
O nurse of many happy streams,
And mother of our infant Yarra.
This is the track on which so many novices metaphorically lay their bones. For some reason it has caught the popular fancy, with the result that the budding walker, in all the discomfort of improper equipment, frequently makes it his first, and last, essay with the swag. He brings back a tale of trying tracks, of steep gradients, and bleak uplands, often in curious contrast with the accounts of more seasoned trampers. The truth is that few of the 50 miles between Walsh's Creek (McVeigh's) on the Upper Yarra and the railhead at Walhalla—the 50 miles which constitute the so-called "Baw Baw Track"—are easy miles, but they are well within the compass of any pedestrian who is capable of carrying a 30-pound pack up a fairly graded hill, or has the means to hire a packhorse to do it for him. In other words, the way is open to all who are young, and to any whose maturity has really benefited by experience of such outings. It is time, indeed, that someone spoke plainly regarding the nonsense so commonly printed that the swag is a destroyer of all pleasure on a country tour. I bear fardels as unwillingly as the next man, and I recognise the obvious fact that it is easier and more enjoyable to walk free than loaded, but I protest that the pains of carrying one's bed and board are a very small charge (in this world where everything has its price) for the perfect liberty so gained, and that no one need divorce himself from pleasure in doing so.
The Baw Baw track is so named because at its most picturesque stage it traverses the Baw Baw plateau and gives easy access, by a side walk of about a mile and a quarter, to the 5130 feet summit of Mount Baw Baw itself. Three natural divisions mark the route, the first being the stage up the Yarra Valley—a long, slow rise, the next the irregular, but relatively level going of the uplands, the third the rapid descent into Walhalla. With the commencement of the bridle track at McVeigh's the way is truly the walker's. For nearly 16 miles it is a sidling pad winding just above and always within sight, or at least sound, of the Yarra, here a babbling stream running at the foot of a steadily deepening valley. Higher and higher grow the hills, well clothed, particularly on the right bank, with tall timber and luxuriant shrubs. The slopes above the river look primeval and un-trodden. But the trail is an old one, as old as the early mining rushes, and doubtless those resolute pioneers, the diggers, left little even of this hilly country unexplored in their search for gold. A reminder of the period is the unusual blaze on the timber—a T, to signify the Tanjil track. Just before the 15-mile post, shown in red on a tree, two huts come into the picture. Each is of iron, and each is well constructed to meet the needs of tourists, it being understood that these bring their own food and bedding. The newer structure has a cement chimney and cement floor, a couple of large windows, a table, a form, and some boxes for seats, half a dozen billies, a frying-pan, a bucket, an axe, a broom, four stretchers, with spring mattresses (and there are as many more in the neighbouring hut) and about a dozen mugs and plates. There are two rooms available for visitors, the space over all being about 50 feet by 15 feet. The old hut is much smaller, but is weatherproof, and at least a shelter in rough weather.
On Falls Creek, which joins the main stream at this point, six picturesque waterfalls occur within a mile and a half of the camping ground. They are readily accessible, the track to the main fall (the first) being in good order and of an easy grade. The other five take a little more climbing to see. The second stage of the onward journey opens badly with a determined zig-zag, which joins on to the lower end of a mile-long spur. As you climb, the Yarra Valley recedes on your left flank; below, on the right, are glimpses of the Falls Creek. The timber is large, mountain ash in the main, mingled with fine samples of silvertop, and later, woollybutt. In the season long lanes of Christmas bush are flowering here. Some groves of beech through which the track winds, suggest a stage setting of Fairyland in their still beauty. The variety is endless, now a group of giant gums, now beech or wattle groves, now a young forest, here a marshy spot, there a sparkling stream with its sands aglitter with "new chum gold," always and ever something to attract and hold the attention. Fourteen miles of this, including the first crossing of the Thomson River, and the hut on Mount White-law is in sight. The usual supplies of billies, mugs, plates and stretchers are here. On a cold and threatening evening this situation repels, for the outlook is over stunted snowbush, mostly dead, and is limited by a ring of undistinguished hills. Water is handy, and this hut marks a definite stage on the journey.
The fact that the next hut, that on the Talbot Peak of Mount Erica, is only eight miles away should be appreciated for two reasons. The negative one is that there is much morass to cross, which means slow progress; the positive and important one is that there is so much to see. A day is all too short in which to do justice to this section and the surroundings of Mount Erica. Some three miles from White-law a notice-board points out the diversion to the crest of Baw Baw, and time off could well be taken for this side excursion. Over St. Phillack's 5140 feet the pad winds, through snowgums or across moorlands with baby lakes reflecting the sky, now up, now down, high hills such as Baw Baw, Mueller, and Tyers rising on the one hand, and on the other St. Gwinear and Kernot. Unlucky is the tourist who now walks into cloud or mist, for the views soon become horizon-wide. The charm of interesting detail gives place to the appeal of great mountains spread as far as sight will carry. That is what one gains from the windows of Talbot Hut, for this last and smallest of all the shelter houses is perched on the edge of a great declivity which drops swiftly some four thousand feet. Across the gulf rise endless mountain chains, their scoring valleys clearly indicated in the evening light. Hours may be spent picking out Feathertop and Wellington, Ben Cruachan, and other giants, and speculating over those more difficult of identification, while all the time there sinks into the consciousness the wonderful blues of the high places, the play of light and shadow over unending miles of broken country, the grandeur of lofty peaks and the amazing deeps below them. Speaking as one who has looked from many of the high hills of the State, I find this view very difficult to excel.
Now comes the drop to lower levels. The famous descent to Avernus is not swifter than the first three miles when the track begins to dip, which it does directly the point of Erica is passed. In that one league there is a fall of 3500 feet, and in wet weather that can be a true and continuous test of balance. Remarkable rocks are seen, a mill is heard screaming in the forest at the foot of the slide, and a bush track leads one by pleasant ways over the 111 miles into Walhalla, a place well worth visiting in itself, and apparently soon to be numbered with the departed townships. Unless the present ventures revive the gold mining, Walhalla in five years may be no more than a blackberry wilderness. Throughout there is no difficulty in following the tracks. They are clearly marked and kept wonderfully free of fallen timber. The department in whose charge they are certainly does its work well.
Then longen folk to gon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken strange strandes.
Numbers of people are free from the Thursday night to the Wednesday morning of Easter, and others "take occasion by the hand" to secure a spell that embraces the remainder of the week. To both these classes Phillip Island can be recommended. Particularly must it appeal to the holidaymaker who is a walker with a leaning towards natural history. Wild life is abundant, and those interesting creatures, the penguins and the mutton birds, are on exhibition in their dug-outs in countless thousands. The baby mutton-bird, by the way, may turn up as a grill, and, properly browned, he is not to be despised. But he is far more delightful alive and well and protesting lustily as he is hauled out of his burrow for examination. He would make a good advertisement for Somebody's Patent Food—never was a fatter infant. The coastline of the island varies in character from the smoothest of tree-edged sandy beaches on the north to the rocky cliffs of the southern edge and the fine uplift of that noble headland, Cape Wollamai. Inland a couple of unusual industries may intrigue the curious. Phillip Island grows chicory, a blue-flowered plant with a root like a parsnip, and prepares it for the market; while mustard, whose yellow flower forms a striking colour scheme in the season, is another product of the "Isle of Wight of Victoria."
Easter weather is generally very bad or very good. On it turns the question of sleeping in or sleeping out. The swag is much the best for the island, but a note of caution must be struck, for there is little fun in camping out if "the rain it raineth every day," as was the case two Easters ago. On the other hand, residence in Cowes makes a couple of the best walks a bit difficult for a single day, Wollamai being 14 miles away, and Point Grant, the nearest approach to the Nobbies, some 11 miles. There is so much advantage in a swag that I should say risk it if the forecast is at all reasonable. But, to be on the safe side, carry a waterproof sheet big enough to use as a ground-sheet and a cover, too.
Alternatively it can be turned into a low tent by hanging it over a cord tied to a couple of trees so that the edges just reach the ground. A log or a few stones will keep them in place.
If the usual practice is not departed from, the s.s. Genista will run a special trip to Cowes on the Thursday night before Good Friday, leaving after the arrival at Stony Point of the 5.8 p.m. train from Melbourne. On stepping ashore, fill up a billy and turn along the beach a little way to the left for a camp. There is plenty of tea tree and other shelter. It would save you trouble if you have written to one of the local storekeepers ordering the tucker you will need and stating that you will call for it on the Friday morning. If you follow the route about to be suggested, you will need two days' provisions with you, and a supply for another two days, ready to be picked up somewhere on the road. Ask the storekeeper to send the latter lot on Saturday to the care of Forrests, about seven miles out on the Newhaven Road. You can call for it there on the Saturday night. There is a good road to The Nobbies, likewise an excellent beach, which is a bit longer than the road, but more interesting. It takes in McHaffie's Reef and Cat Bay. Near the latter is Swan Lake, and a little beyond the lake is a house (Phelan's), where drinking water may be had. You have come about a dozen miles, so there is ample time to choose a suitable camp and to see what one may of The Nobbies and the Seal Rocks, lying further out, before night falls.
Among the Mutton Birds.
You may have another easy day on Saturday, say 12 miles, to the hospitable house of Forrest, where it should be reasonably certain that your second supply of stores is waiting. You have turned back along the outer beach, where the rollers of Bass Strait have carved out some striking rock scenery, and you are heading towards Cape Wollamai. The going is good enough, sometimes on the sea edge, and sometimes on the cliff. Kitty Miller's is a pleasant little bay that calls for attention, and, a couple of miles further on, Pyramid Rock (familiar to all observers of the photographs in suburban trains) is readily identifiable. The rolling downs at the back of the cliffs are about 100 feet high and the outlook is attractive all the time. There is a water hole on the smaller cape of which the Pyramid once formed a portion, and after another three miles a couple of swampy places, inland from Sutherland's Bluff, generally have running water enough for the cooking purposes of the mid-day meal. Some striking sand hummocks, topped with tea-tree, come in, and from these it will be seen that the island has suddenly narrowed to less than a mile wide, and that Forrest's house is nearby. At the foot of the hummocks, on the land side, is a spring, which has formed some decent pools. A close-growing creeper, of the mesembryanthemum type, gives good cover, and the bags may be spread in anticipation of a comfortable sleep on the soft sand. The hillside is honeycombed with mutton-bird burrows and a weird effect is produced by the noises that come from them in the stillness of the night. It is then that papa and mamma mutton-bird return with food, and apparently the gossip of the seven seas, for their expectant offspring. You are lying looking at the starry night, when a piece of the darkness becomes detached and resolves itself into a bird, which dives at the nearest hole in the sand and disappears. Then, beneath you, begins a quaint duet as the parent regurgitates food and news and the infant complains of the youngster next door. That's what it sounds like. Coming from the bowels of the earth as they do, the voices are strange and wonderful, and no one unacquainted with it would ever guess their origin.
Wollamai the Sea Horse.
Bass named this great granite cape Wollamai because its shape suggested that of the "Wollamai" or seahorse of Port Jackson. Swags could be left at the Saturday night's camp, and the billies and tucker taken for a day's excursion to the headland. There is running water, a tiny stream which takes a little finding, on the cliff edge at the east side of the head of the cape. Your camp is only four miles away. There is a fair approach along the west beach until the sand ends. On top of the ridge the soil is pitted with mutton-bird and penguin hollows, and it gradually slopes up till you are 300 feet above the sea level. San Remo can be seen across the narrows, and the roofs of Wonthaggi show plainly further east. Beautiful pinnacles of coloured rock, fretted by wind and tide into fantastic forms, guard the cape on one side. On the other, near its neck, is the quarry of magnificent stone, of which so much of the Equitable Building in Collins Street was built. Altogether, Wollamai is worthy of a longer visit, and it offers many temptations to the walker to stay at least one night. Here and there are some barbed-wire fences, and it is pathetic to see the number of mutton-birds which have struck them in the darkness and been killed. It seems a pity that a form of fencing so destructive of life should be permitted. In leaving Wollamai keep on the backbone of the land for some interesting experience of sand-hills before the Newhaven Road is joined. If you have carried the swags along you could put in the night at Newhaven; if not, return to your yesterday's lodging.
A Choice of Routes.
For your final day on the island, if you are of the many who resume work on Wednesday, you may go back over part of yesterday's ground and reach Newhaven in slightly over four miles, or a coastal road may be taken to Rhyll, which is nearer Cowes, or both places may be visited if you are feeling in good fettle. The last-named excursion would mean 18 or 19 miles for the day. Newhaven, on the island, is less than half a mile from San Remo on the mainland, and it is there that the telegraph cable connects the two. Formerly the wire stood on enormously high poles above the water; now it is on the bottom. The tide that races through this narrow channel is like a great river in spate, so swift and turbulent is it. Rhyll, further back in Westernport, claims to be the first place in Victoria where a settlement was made by white people. A flagpole, which stood until a very few years ago on a rise in view of the beach, was said to mark the earliest cultivation. The shoreline on this side is inclined to be muddy, and is not good going. Variety may be had by taking one of the inland roads. A camp just outside Cowes on Monday night will place the party in a good strategic position to catch the homeward boat at 10 o'clock on Tuesday morning. Finally, what should have been said in the beginning, there is an excellent map issued by the Defence Department, and obtainable from most booksellers at a cost of one shilling, which shows clearly every detail of the island. It is called the Military Survey Map of Westernport.
The Devil never yet asked his victims to take a
walk with him.
Much earlier in the year has the house-father arranged for the family's Christmas vacation, that is, if he is wise, for never has there been greater demand than at present upon the hotel and boarding-house accommodation of the seaside and mountain resorts. Now the time is ripe for the more adventurous, the younger fry, to look to their equipment for walk or camp, and to inquire what routes are open and which will yield the best return. "Many are called, but few are chosen"—as usual a relatively small number of well-known spots will be crowded, and the others, mainly for want of knowledge, will be rejected. It is to supply that want that these sketches are offered.
There is almost unlimited variety to choose from. I am concerned altogether with the walker, as distinguished from the camper, who settles in one spot for the period of his holiday; and I must assume that he is a pedestrian who is willing to carry a swag. Only by that means can he penetrate the real "back country," unless, of course, he takes a pack horse to bear the burden. In any case he must be willing to sleep out and to prepare his own food. A party of active people may do much in the ten days following Christmas Day. They could cross Bogong, the highest peak in Victoria; they could explore the Bogong High Plains (a distinct trip, and one of the best in the State); they could see the wild country of Mount Howitt and the Wonnangatta, and traverse the Dargo High Plains; they could visit Cobbler the Hunchback, climb the hindquarters of the Buffalo, and return by way of Porepunkah or Bright; they could know the sharp ridges of Feathertop, and go by way of Omeo to Buchan and Bairnsdale; they could stand on the edge of that little lake which our Gippsland Mount Wellington so jealously hides; they could fish and bathe, and enjoy the beauties of bold headland and sandy beach, as they come along the well-watered coast from the Otway to Split Point; they could concentrate the wonders of many miles of seashore and mountain range by visiting Wilson's Promontory. Any one of those outings is possible within the time stated, and there are many more, equally worthy.
Bogong High Plains.
The Plains themselves form only a portion of the outing, which starts at Bright and ends at Tallangatta. Mount Bogong's 6508 feet of craggy sides and bare, rounded summit, are not impinged upon by this route. It swings you almost completely round the mighty mountain, yielding as it does some glorious views down the deep ravines which isolate his majesty.
As a preliminary it would be well to write the hotelkeeper at Tawonga to have stores and a packhorse ready for you. That is because you must necessarily be several days out of touch with means of renewing your food supplies. Preferably a man should go along to bring the packhorse back when you start your descent into Glen Wills. Tawonga is made in 15 miles from Bright, the road turning up German Creek to the head of Tawonga Gap. From there the outlook is extensive, across the Kiewa Valley to the high mountains beyond. The river, to be harnessed some day in a hydroelectric scheme, is a typical mountain stream, generally in a hurry, but often knowing "the comfort of a pool." The track goes up stream past Tawonga for three miles, crosses on a log bridge, makes a hurried ascent of some foothills and becomes a siding over another branch of the Kiewa. Directly opposite, and towering high above you, is the tremendous bulk of Bogong.
Mount Fainter (6160 feet) is the immediate objective. It is only 15 miles from Tawonga, but so steep is the climb, and so trying the track, that you may be glad to camp for the night at a soak known as "The Springs," a bare 10 miles for the day. The spell must be either here or on Fainter; otherwise you may be without water. Two miles further on, a natural clearing yields a fascinating picture of the whole length of the Buffalo Range, with the Chalet showing like a swallow's nest near the skyline. Mounts Buller, Cobbler, Howitt and many other giants stand up boldly to the west and south-west. If no other evidence were available, the vegetation would prove that you are still rising. The mess-mates and their like have long given way to the woollybutts, to be in their turn superseded by the gnarled and twisted snowgums. These now vanish except in sheltered hollows, and short, heathy plants, mingled with white and mauve daisies, and a beautiful variety of Christmas bush, take their place. The final slope to Fainter's twin peaks is a gentle gradient. Faint and far on the skyline you may see Kosciusko; immediately across the gulf is Feathertop. A good spring rises near a little grove of snowgums.
The High Plains.
Well are they distinguished by the word "high." Their general level must be well over 5000 feet. They are entered on directly after leaving Fainter, and they extend for a good many miles. A well-watered country, the pastures of snow-grass form a fine summer feeding ground for the valley cattle. Tawonga hut, built by the cattle-men, is 12 miles from "the Springs," and makes a good point to camp at, for a creek is handy. From its door the plains roll away in soft undulations, green and full of charm. Two miles further is the edge of Pretty Valley, a placid, well-grassed basin of enormous extent, watered by the sources of the Kiewa. At six miles Mount Cope will be observed as a gentle rise on the right. It is really 6015 feet above sea level. A cairn stands on the crest. A hut, known as Wallace's, is 9½ miles from Tawonga hut, and six miles further is Fitzgerald's hut. Superb views are visible all the way, the strangest being down into Rocky Valley, with its quaint outcrops.
At Fitzgerald's hut the plains may be said to end. A cattle pad here enters the timber on a downward grade, and drops you rapidly through the changing growths to the Big River (the head waters of the Mitta). Following along the river, the little settlement of Glen Valley is first reached—roughly, 10 miles from Fitzgerald's hut—and four miles more will land you in the fast-decaying township of Glen Wills. Above it, and on your way, is Sunnyside, clinging desperately to a mountain ridge at an altitude of 3900 feet. It is well to note that the water at Christmas Creek, four miles further on, is the last for eight miles.
The Mitta Valley.
You rise almost over the crest of Mount Wills at this stage. The well-graded road begins then to drop, for a long distance through a wonderful forest of woollybutt, until at 20 miles from Sunnyside it reaches the hospitable Austral Alps Hotel, at Lightning Creek, just where it joins the Snowy. Trout are plentiful in both streams. Snowy Creek township (otherwise Granite Flat) brings you once more into touch with civilisation, for a coach runs here from Tallangatta. The hotel at Snowy Creek is nine miles from Lightning Creek. Another six miles, and you are in sleepy little Mitta Mitta, and so you proceed by way of Eskdale, Tallandoon, and Noorongong along the river to Tallangatta. The whole distance does not exceed 160 miles, and for varied interest the trip can hardly be surpassed in Victoria.
Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures
Whilst the landscape round it measures.
It may seem a strange thing to liken Wilson's Promontory to Venice. The one is an untamed wilderness, practically uninhabited, the other an ancient city, proud of its civilisation. But if Venice, in approach, is the dream city the poets and the artists would have us believe, the thing of faery and glamour they sing and paint, then our Promontory may claim kinship. Each rises from the ocean, and I have seen Wilson's Promontory on a blue morning, when the mists of Corner Inlet only intensified the colour of sea and sky, seemingly afloat on the surface of the quiet water, too beautiful to be real. That view was from the deck of a boat travelling from South-West Corner to Port Franklin, and the month was January. There are 75,000 acres in this national park of Victoria, including several mountains over 2000 feet high, many lovely bays and a number of good streams, so, when I recommend the place for an Easter holiday, it is implied that it is even better for a longer spell than the usual Easter vacation affords.
How to Go.
There are three or four approved ways of reaching "the Prom.," as it is familiarly called. A little steamer may call at the lighthouse on her trips to the Gippsland Lakes, and provide an easy and inexpensive method of arriving in the very heart of the good scenery. No better means could be desired for a party with only the five holidays (Good Friday to Easter Tuesday) at their disposal, provided, of course, that the boat sails on the Thursday night or Good Friday morning. The Promontory is 140 miles from Melbourne by sea. Assume that you land at the lighthouse by Friday evening; you could take a leisurely walk on Saturday to Oberon Bay (10 miles), and camp the night there; come next day to the Darby River, another 10 miles; cross the neck on Monday to South-West Corner, about seven miles; and, having arranged with a fisherman at Port Franklin to take you off early next morning, you could catch the afternoon train at Bennison, and be in Melbournee Tuesday night.
Another way is to drive from Fish Creek (28 miles) or Foster (30 miles) to the Darby River, but coming and going by that route occupy too much time if the holiday is a short one. A third choice is open to the same objection, but it is varied and interesting. It is to make the journey by traitotc Bennison, by fishing boat to South-West Corner, and on foot to the lighthouse, returning either by the same course or, if the matter can be so arranged, by the little steamer. The place is so full of attractions that a couple of clays at least should be added to the vacation, should that be possible, if only to permit of going twice over the ground between South-West Corner and the Lighthouse.
The east coast may also be approached by fishing boat from Port Welshpool or Port Albert, and landing made at Sealers' Cove (from which a track goes out to the Lighthouse and the Darby) or Refuge Cove (lonely and secluded) or at Waterloo Bay.
Bear in Mind.
There are several things to be kept in mind. The whole place is a reserve, and it is necessary to have a permit to camp there. That may be obtained from Mr. Kershaw, of the National Museum, Russell Street, Melbourne. It is also a sanctuary for wild life, and no shooting is allowed. Fishing is, I believe, sanctioned under certain conditions. There are two good rest-houses, each with water handy, and each provided with a fireplace, a table, and four bunks. One of these is at South-West Corner, the other at the Darby. Near the latter the caretaker resides, and he might be able to provide a packhorse if it is needed. Everything required in the way of food and bedding must be taken with you. In the event of a long stay, the stores could be packed to the house at the Darby, which would make a comfortable headquarters, and excursions, flying light, could be taken from there. A house of accommodation, providing good board and residence, is now established at the Darby. It is known as the Chalet.
Port Franklin to Darby River.
It is idle to attempt a full description of the Promontory within the limits of one article. The most generally travelled route will serve to suggest some of the attractions. A train which leaves the city at 6.30 a.m. reaches Bennison at 1 o'olock, and a diminutive fish-tram completes the journey to Port Franklin. Tides have often to be waited for, but, with ordinary luck, the motor boat you have ordered from the fishermen will soon have you down the river and well out on the picturesque waters of Corner Inlet. Swans fly before the boat like a fairy escort, their long necks outstretched and the white feathers of their wings flashing. Ahead rise the mountains of your objective, purple and deep blue in the proper light, astonishingly exalted by their nearness to the sea. Doughboy Island is passed, and before dark you should be cooking a meal in the resthouse at South-West Corner. There is another side to the picture, of course. One such trip was marked by a violent storm, and the landing had to be made in a darkness like that of the chaos of Hans Sachs, which was so black, it may be remembered, that even the cats ran against each other. We crawled into an invisible "flattie," pulled invisible oars, and presently ran on to an invisible something which held us firmly. It was a mangrove, and our boat was in the top branches!
With daylight it will be seen that the view of the Inlet from the house is very fine, and that at the back is a truly magnificent forest of banksias. The great vermin-proof fence that cuts the promontory off from the mainland begins here, and is followed for a time on the way to the Darby. Gum-forest, moorland, and rolling downs succeed one another, with the higher hills of the Vereker Range always to the left, until the open ocean shows, and you drop down to the dark waters of the Darby, cross the bridge, and find the second rest-house in a secluded hollow behind the hummocks.
The Darby to Oberon Bay.
The ranger will prevent you from trying the beach, which looks the obvious track to the lighthouse. Instead, you rise some two to three hundred feet out of the Darby Valley to a ridge from which you get delightful views of bold headlands separated by curving sandy bays, while out in the ocean lie the islands which look like stepping stones to Tasmania. Follow the track to the beach at Leonard Bay; the sand makes good going and gives out a musical note at each footstep. Climb over Pillar Point and down to where the pleasant little Tidal River acts as a highway for the fish. They come and go in the clear water all day long, an unending procession. That is in the near corner of Norman Bay. From its far corner you start on what is known as "the bad saddle." It thoroughly deserves its name. For 900 feet the gradient is very severe. It is really a portion of Mount Oberon, and once across it you drop down first to Whiskey Creek, then to Growler's Creek, and finally to a good camping ground on Oberon Bay. Splendid sandy beaches mark this fine bay, and it is a wonderful place for wreckage and the odds and ends that fall overboard from ships and get washed ashore. Fraser's Creek on the further side should provide water.
A Bear Garden.
Whether you are usually interested or not in the wild life of the bush, you cannot fail to observe the native bears in the trees at the back of Oberon Bay. You leave your camp by a track along the Fraser. It is not well defined, but it keeps on the north bank and easterly for 21 miles to the telephone line. Most of that is through a gum forest, beautiful in itself, but made doubly attractive by its colony of bears. Every tree had its bear when last I went that way; some had as many as four. Often they were as high as they could get; sometimes they were low enough to handle (with discretion). Numbers had babies clinging tightly to their backs, either nuzzling nose-in close to their mother's fur or glancing down with comical gravity at the party. The trustees estimated in those days that the bear population of the park was about 10,000. It may be that bush fires have since thinned it out. At intervals the quaint little creatures are seen from here on right through to the lighthouse. Even there they were in evidence; one was found in possession of the barometer box. (I regret to say that, since the foregoing was written, the forest has been largely destroyed, and the bears have vanished with the timber.)
From Fraser's Creek the track climbs Martin's Hill and winds across a high plain covered with grass-tree and button-grass scrub. Mount Boulder's 1700 feet show conspicuously. It is appropriately named. On the plain are three big rocks, known as Adam and Eve and Mother Seigel. Three fine rushing mountain streams (Roaring Meg, Picnic Creek and Fern Creek) intersect the track. At a clearing you find yourself well above the lighthouse, which surmounts a bare, rocky hill, pushed well out from the coast. Many islands are visible, and in calm weather the shipping comes in between them and the mainland, along "Little Bourke Street," so near that all the sounds of shipboard rise up clearly to the tower above. The welcome at the lighthouse may be taken for granted; "the most hospitable people in existence," is a fair summary of lightkeepers and their families.
There is an inn in the town of Piacenza into which
I once walked while I was still full of immortality.
The old mining townships hold much of the romance of Australia. They link up the present generation, to which the special significance of such a word as "rush" is quite unknown, with a time when any reference to gold was a magic strong enough to empty a city or drive men round the world. Many, very many, of the once-bustling towns of the goldfields have vanished altogether and Nature is busy on their sites at her customary work of repairing damages. Grant, still figuring on the maps as in existence on the edge of the Dargo High Plains, is a typical example. In its prime it supported 26 officially-recognised hotels; to-day the wallaby and wombat keep the courts where diggers gloried and drank deep. There is now only one building standing, and not one inhabitant remains.
To walk from Mansfield to Walhalla is to travel through country rich in everything that pertains to the digging days, except the gold that created them. Apart from the pleasures of good scenery, the walk holds a liberal education for the curious in such matters, and it is a stimulus to imagination. The age-old occupation may still be seen in being alongside evidences of a past prosperity pathetic in its decline. A much decayed township on the route is Woods' Point, and the terminus of the journey, Walhalla, bids fair to be soon as silent as the place of shades its name recalls. Fortunately the hotels remain along the track, or enough of them to ensure accommodation at comfortable stages. The walker has therefore to carry no more than the changes of clothing he requires; he need not take a sleeping bag. With a light knapsack and a waterproof cape he may stride along even in the autumn days without troubling about the weather, secure that every night shall bring its inn and that there will be what some may consider the best part of the tour—a cheery fire, a satisfying meal, eaten with the sauce of appetite, and a soft bed to charm away all physical weariness. Incidentally much may be learnt of what constitutes the quiet life, and what the "roaring days" meant to these present backwaters of existence.
The trip is becoming increasingly popular. It has been set out in close detail by some members of the Melbourne Walking Club, to whose former honorary secretary, Mr. P. D. Flower, I am indebted for the following circumstantial account. It is an outing particularly suitable for Easter if that holiday can be extended to embrace the remainder of the week.
Out of Mansfield.
The main coach road from Mansfield is fairly flat for eight miles to Devil's River; good place for lunch and a swim (carry lunch from Mansfield). After the river the route is over hilly ground. Morgan's Gap (Blue Range), and down to hotel on Howqua River, 15 miles. Two miles after leaving Howqua is the junction of the road coming from Alexandra and Darlingford and in another three miles the Goulburn River is reached. Continue up the river for half a mile to deserted house on right side of the road. Another two and a half miles on is Jamieson. Lunch at hotel. In the afternoon the walk to Ten Mile is good. It follows the Goulburn River through Kevington. Stick to the main road, which is the prettiest track. At Ten Mile there is good hotel accommodation. 17 miles.
Over the Flourbag.
About three miles beyond Ten Mile the old road (which telephone wire follows) turns up to the right. Go uphill over the Flourbag, which is interesting, and shorter than along the river. It is about 10 miles from Ten Mile to the hotel at Knockwood, a good place for lunch, leaving an easy stroll into Gaffney's Creek. Good hotel accommodation at Gaffney's Creek. 15 miles.
About three miles beyond Gaffney's is the Al mine, and about two miles farther on is Raspberry Creek, which is the last water for some distance. Fill billy for lunch, and carry on. The road is fairly steep up French's Hill for three miles. Camp for lunch on saddle. Carry lunch from Gaffney's Creek. A little below the saddle and on the present coach road is a sawmill. The coach road runs directly down into Woods' Point, but follow the old coach road, which opens up some splendid views of the ranges. Therefore, at the saddle take the left-hand road running up along the top of the hill; the telephone wire follows it. Branch off to the left occasionally, and have a look over the ranges to the north and east. It is pretty rugged going down part of the way towards Woods' Point, but stick to the old road. Good accommodation at hotel. 14 miles. (If you should have half a day to spare follow Goulburn River down past the hospital, and out to the old deserted settlement of Graball—Gooley's Creek—or get an order if possible, and see the Star of the East mine.)
Jericho on the Jordan.
There is a main road (41 miles) up to Jericho, but you can follow up the west branch of the Goulburn past the Star of the East mine, and to the old battery of the All Nations mine (deserted) at the head of the creek; and from there pull straight up the hill southerly to Matlock. Lunch there. From Matlock do not follow the coach road to Jericho, but the road going down the B.B. Creek past the Loch Fyne Mine. Just as the road is turning round to the battery of the mine is a small horsepad keeping on down the creek. Follow this pad, and have a pleasant afternoon walk down to Jericho (Jordan). There is an hotel at Jericho. Dip in the Jordan (seven times). 12 miles.
Two miles from Jericho is the old Red Jacket Hotel. It is closed now; and about three miles on from Red Jacket you pass a hut on the left, and later on another hut in an enclosure, then watch carefully for a turn down to the left to the Thompson River, near the ruins of an old house and remains of an orchard, and cross river on a substantial bridge. Lunch here. Bring lunch from Jericho. The track follows a bit round to the left on the east side of the river, and then comes a long climb but good grade, which brings you to the hotel at Aberfeldy. 15 miles.
Aberfeldy people go to Walhalla by road past Sam Beardmore's old hotel (closed for a long time, but now reopened), it being the half-way house. Variety may be had, if you are prepared to camp out one night, by walking via Toombon to Donnelly's Creek one day, and the next day from Donnelly's Creek into Walhalla. The road is well defined. At Toombon have a look at the old hotel, hall, etc., which are quite deserted. About three miles after Toombon the road dips to Donnelly's Creek. The bridge is broken. Lunch here, bringing lunch from Aberfeldy. The track then follows upstream—a pleasant walk. Small grassy flats, with white gum trees. There was an hotel at Donnelly's Creek (20 miles), but it is now closed.
Leave Donnelly's Creek early on track up the hill opposite the hotel—a stiff 'un. (But we never know what pleasure is until we've tasted woe!) Then follow to the left a well-defined track, which, after four or five miles, drops quickly down into Fulton's Creek. Lunch there, bringing lunch from Donnelly's Creek. A long zig-zag track leads up to top of range again; eventually it merges into waggon track, and finally follows down Stringer's Creek into Walhalla, 22 miles. If any spare time walk down to Thomson Bridge and catch the train there, or on into Moe.
As I came over Livingstone
The day was like a flame,
But suddenly I saw below,
Far and far and far below,
The shining roofs of Omeo,
And said its singing name.
How many Victorians know snow as other than a distant whiteness, a milk stain on the blue side of a mountain? How many, in their native State, have enjoyed the delicious freshness of a snowbank on a summer day? Yet it quite commonly happens at Christmas time, when most people have opportunity to make a trip, that the citizen who leaves Melbourne early one morning may lunch next day at the edge of a dazzling drift some acres in extent, and within sight of numberless others. Put in another way, Harrietville may be reached in 12 hours, and the crest of Feathertop in four more.
But it is not merely the novelty of summer snow that such an excursion offers. You are in the Victorian Alps, and the scenery is on a magnificent scale—
Alps on Alps in clusters swelling,
Mighty, and pure, and fit to make
The ramparts of a Godhead's dwelling.
Charm of detail is also present. Insect and bird and flower, creek and river and winding road, something of interest is never wanting.
You have reached Bright by train. To save a valuable day for even better material, arrange to be driven to Harrietville, 16 miles up the Ovens Valley. It is a delightful valley, but how long it will stay delightful is problematical, for the dredges are rumbling and roaring along the creek, and in their hunger for gold they are eating up the fertile soil as a caterpillar strips a succulent leaf. Ahead, you will suddenly see a distinctive peak, beckoning like a giant finger, and the driver will say "Feathertop." Truly it is a beautiful mountain; I know of no other whose aspect is so alluring. There is ample accommodation in Harrietville, or, if the open is preferred, a camp may be made by a little stream which hurries down alongside the track from the summit. Arrangements could readily be made locally to have the swags and tucker taken up to the Bungalow (5050 feet).
It is not a particularly stiff climb to the crest of Feather-top's 6306 feet, for the track is fairly graded. From the ultimate ridge the outlook is wonderful. Everywhere are mountains, cut into deeply by gorges which shelter invisible rivers. Across the immediate gulf rises Fainter, and you know that far below runs a branch of the Kiewa. Beyond Fainter's double peak stands the mighty bulk of Bogong, Victoria's highest hill. Mount Cobbler and the Buffalo, Mount Cope, Mount Wills, and most of the outstanding features of the Bogong High Plains are readily identified. It is worth spending the night here to observe the sunset and sunrise.
Retreat is best made next morning by way of the well-named Razorback, a ridge about eight miles long, at times a mere knife-edge of outcrop, at others a succession of rounded tops with snowgum in the sheltered spots. Snow may be in evidence; flowers will certainly be. Asters and violets, grevilleas, boronias, buttercups, and many another beautiful bloom brighten every patch of soil. The Diamantina Springs, on the slope of Mount Hotham, provide a good lunching place.
It is literally a highroad which you now join. It is a oontinuation of the road from Bright which you left at Harrietville. Instead of crossing Feathertop you could have followed its curvings for 14 miles up St. Bernard, and spent a night at, or near, the famous hospice. In any case you will arrive at the point where you now stand, and find yourself presently looking down on the world from an elevation of 6100 feet—the highest altitude attained by a coach road in Victoria. Vehicular traffic ceases in the winter, owing to the snow. The gradient is now easy, water may be had at intervals, and sometimes the way forgets that it is an important artery of commerce, and masquerades as a country lane winding through groves of mottled gums and sweet with the scent of flowering clover. At 22 miles from Feathertop stands Rundell's accommodation house, empty for a long time but now with hospitable doors for the traveller. Between the Hospice and it stands a hut (at the head of the Diamantina Springs) and the Hotham Heights House, both owned by the Country Roads Board.
Omeo is 25 miles away. A downward grade makes the first ten miles easy going, and the pleasant sight of a good stream (the Victoria River) running briskly below a bridge, and marked by a rest-house, at which accommodation may be obtained, comes opportunely into the picture about lunch time. This is Cobungra.
In undulations the road rises and falls until it meets the slope of Mount Livingstone. I cheerfully concede that engineers know their own business best, but there seems some mystery as to why the highway must climb the tallest peak in the countryside. Long curves, picturesque, and ever making for the valley, mark the far side, and Omeo shows from time to time, at first very remote indeed, a Lilliputian village set out on a clearing, later growing to a scattered township with some notable public buildings. Mining gave it birth, and on every hand are signs of old workings, many of them dating back to that
When half the world, with hearts aglow,
Came seeking gold at Omeo.
Several possibilities now present themselves. You may turn towards Glen Wills and pass by way of Sunnyside and Lightning Creek into the Mitta Valley, and so to Tallangatta; you may make Bairnsdale through Cassilis and Bulumwaal, or over the Tongio Gap, and through Bruthen; all worth doing. A pleasant variant is to take in the Buchan Caves, and so to Lakes Entrance, more particularly as that route provides some unusual bush walking. Leaving Omeo for Tongio Gap, the milestone gives it as 74 miles to Bairns-dale. From the Gap the prospect is of the Tambo Valley, with some tall peaks gracing the background. A new and well-graded road is hardly to be recommended; its long curves must add miles to the distance. Bindi, "where the fragrant pastures are," is seen in the distance as the route turns down the river to Swift's Creek. This last would make a suitable camp, and stores may be renewed here next day. Four miles further on is Doctor's Flat, where you cross the Tambo and make for Ensay.
Ensay also has a store. Beyond is Reedy Flat, where inquiry should be made for the track, and careful note made of the result, for, although it is well blazed, it is difficult to follow. It crosses many ridges and saddles in wild unsettled country, fords the Timbarra River, winds about in a forest of much charm, where bell-birds are always singing, and finally descends into Buchan, "where the caves come from." A day here is well spent. Under the great willows on the river is a beautiful camping ground, there are stores from which to draw supplies, and, best of all, there are the caves to visit.
Buchan to Nowa Nowa is a good forest road 18 miles long, with Canni Creek breaking it at 10 miles. A launch will carry you down picturesque Lake Tyers to within six miles of Lakes Entrance (Cunninghame), or you may catch the homeward train at Nowa Nowa. Should you go on to the Entrance, boat can be taken to Sale or Bairnsdale. The whole trip can be done in 10 days, but would be much more comfortable in twelve. It includes 159 miles on foot, 324 by rail and coach, 83 by steamer.
Where forlorn sunsets flare and fade,
On desolate sea and lonely sand,
Out of the silence and the shade
What is the voice of strange command
Calling you still, as friend calls friend,
With love that cannot brook delay,
To rise and follow the ways that wend
Over the hills and far away?
Mystery is the very heart of romance, the spur to action, the incentive to probe and search. Man cannot rest content in face of the unknown, though to rend the veil may only be to make him unhappy. Sometimes his reward is worthy of his efforts, as when he traced the black man's rumor of a "big fellow waterhole" on our Victorian Mount Wellington and found the placid waters of Lake Tarli Karng sparkling at the bottom of a basin 2000 feet deep. To do so he had forced his way up the scrub-covered river valleys or along the stony beds of the water-courses, had climbed the razorback of many a long ridge, and had risen well over 5000 feet. That was a good many years ago, but the way is still difficult, and the number of people who have visited the summit of Wellington and seen the lake is still but small.
Up the Avon.
The way is difficult, but it is possible, and with a little care and attention to local direction, or, still better, local guidance, no one should be at fault. A pack-horse is advisable, for you must be out of touch with civilisation, if you would do the thing well, for about a week. Mr. Henry Miller, of Upper Maffra West, is an authority, and an enthusiast, upon the subject of Wellington and its tarn, and he has been good enough on several occasions to lead parties to view them. In the beginning the way, commencing at Upper Maffra West, is a country road, which later loses its width and becomes a cattle pad of the most meandering type. Roughly, it keeps a course up the Avon River, takes the imposing bulk of Ben Cruachan in its stride, and provides a length of mixed climbing, which finishes on the top of the Gable End, the most southerly point of the range, 43 miles from your starting place.
The summit of Wellington (or Nap-Nap-Marra) provides a surprise. It is a huge, uneven plateau with a good deal of forest, some stony outcrops, and in the open spaces an abundance of snowgrass on which the cattle from the valleys fatten in the summer. From the Gable End to the highest point, where there stands a trigonometrical cairn, is not less than five miles. On a clear day the outlook is superb. Southward, on the plains that stretch until they merge into the skyline, you may see the blue of the Gippsland Lakes; nearer rise the ranges with Cruachan for sentinel. In the opposite direction the Buffalo lifts its hump and horn, and Feathertop's wedge is a conspicuous object; Howitt, Buller and many another of the giants of our Alps break the skyline at about an even distance; and for immediate neighbors are the Snowy Bluff, Kent, and the blunt mass of Tamboritha.
A cattleman's hut stands in a sheltered spot, and makes a good camping place. It is some 2000 feet above the surface of Tarli Karng. From only one or two points, by the way, is the lake visible; the top of the mountain might be crossed a hundred times without revealing the secret. Legend has it that a native hunting a wombat down the gully was the first to discover the banked-up waters. It cannot be said that there is now a track to their edge, but there are a couple of accepted routes, along sidings, over fallen timber, and through fairly dense bush, which serve the purpose. By following the creek which rushes past the hut you would also succeed, but that (I have not tried it) looks a precipitous and tangled path. The water is in sight as the final descent is commenced, a steep slope of loose shingle where it is not thickly covered with scrub. You slip and slide and pull up all standing in some nice green shrubs which you thank your stars are not prickly, and the process is repeated ad lib until you finally land on the stones which pass for a beach. The tiny delta of sand brought down by a small creek on the north side is worth looking for. Level ground is scarce, and there you may pitch a camp. Do not leave without spending a night in this solitude; the experience is remarkable. And on no account miss a swim in this wonderful basin.
The surface area is about 23 acres. Soundings made by some scientists a few years ago gave a then depth of 150 feet. Those same scientists, three in number, disagreed sadly about its origin. One put forward the theory that the barrier of rocks which dams the water back had been dropped by a glacier in those long-departed ages when Victoria produced huge crops of useless ice. Another held that a landslip of appalling magnitude was responsible; while the third could not find sufficient evidence to concur with either of his colleagues. Certain it is that the valley is choked at its narrowest by immense boulders which form a barrier there, and extend clown the gorge in scattered masses. Through the chinks of the embankment escapes enough water to form a branch of the Wellington River, later joining the Macallister, and finally reaching Lake Wellington. Into the eastern end of Tarli Karng pours a lively creek; probably the lake washes over its natural retaining wall in times of heavy intake. The waters swarm with a miniature trout, which is said to be found nowhere else. It is inadvisable to rely upon these fish as food; their average length appeared to be about an inch. Bird life is abundant, and nowhere have I seen so many snakes to the acre as on the sloping sides of this lake.
Up and Down.
You climbed 5363 feet to reach the summit, and dropped a couple of thousand to the water. You have now to rise nearly two thousand again to emerge from the basin, and to descend about five thousand to arrive at that ground floor on which most of us live. A long ridge gives fairly open going, with a dip most of the way to the Wellington River. Rather poor blazing marks the track, but as it adheres to the course of the stream, when once that is joined, it is not difficult to find. For a party in a hurry this route, coming by way of Heyfield and Glenmaggie, would probably be the better. Anyone who takes it must be prepared for wet feet. Between the foot of the range and the settlement of Licola, where a main road takes up the white man's burden, the river must be crossed at least 45 times, and there is never a bridge. Generally it means no more than wading to the knees, but occasionally one's coat-tails are in danger. It is a beautiful valley, with its bold bluffs, on which the rock wallabies may be seen leaping, and its green flats, where the water lizards feed and play. A striking gorge is cut at one point through a barrier of hills; it is worth a special trip in itself. Soon afterwards, the Wellington becomes obsorbed into the Macallister, and you join an excellent road, quite fit for motoring, which leads you past Glen Falloch station and Glenmaggie to the railway at Heyfield. The whole distance of the tour described amounts to about 120 miles. Ten days are ample to see everything in comfort. Provisions for the whole period must be taken to the top; none is obtainable until Glenmaggie is reached. From the summit the pack-horses could be sent back, provided you are willing to be your own beast of burden for the final three days.
Another approach to Wellington is by way of the Dargo Road, as far as the turn-off to Talbotville, over the range from that tiny township to the Wongungarra River, across the next ridge to the Wonnangatta, and up that river to where the Moroka comes in as a tributary from Wellington itself. The old Tamboritha mining track is followed up the Moroka to a spot where a very obscure turn-off takes you, if you are lucky enough to find it, across Knock Up and Pretty Boy, and so to the Long Plain, just beyond the far end of which is Miller's Hut, a convenient centre from which to visit the lake or from which to start for home, clown either the Avon track (over the Gable End) or the ridge which leads to the Macallister River and Licola.
Give me a road that winds among the hills,
Some mountain myrtles in a cloudy sky,
And be not niggardly with mountain rills,
And cool retreats for all things moist and shy,
And let me hear the lyre-bird's luscious notes,
Thieving the ballads from his neighbors' throats.
—R. H. Long.
Cobbler is not the greatest peak of our Alpine system, but it is one of the most remarkable and probably the most easily identified. A range like the Serra, in the Western District, with its saw-edge fretting the evening sky; the aggressive thrust of Feathertop's great wedge into the blue; hump and horn of the Buffalo from whichever point you view that plateau of wonders; the hunchback of Cobbler—these are natural features which make for remembrance. In Cobbler's case the distinctive note is struck by a massive projection, like the horn of a rhinoceros, which is almost cut off from the main hill and towers well above it. It breaks the orderly outline of the mount, as seen from below, and gives it character. There can be no confusing it with any other peak, so it serves a useful purpose when you are surveying that rugged landscape and "placing" the points of interest. From it, or near it, spring the waters of three pleasant rivers, the Buffalo, the Rose, and that last, whose name is like "the mellow lin-lan-lone of evening bells"—the Dandongadale. All three may be included in a Christmas trip to Cobbler.
Go to Wangaratta one evening by train, and next morning take the narrow gauge to Whitfield. If you have written to Mr. Victor Tiernan, of Typo, you will be met by a conveyance which will carry you and your swags and provisions over Gentle Annie and the 20 miles of hill country which lie between Whitfield and his hospitable homestead. He will also supply you with pack-horses. They are necessary if you would stay long enough to do it justice. Seven miles of good, open forest country lead you past Mount Typo, a sequence of bare rocky knobs, and in its shadow you will find the Rose River. There is a well-defined track across Button's Flat and up the river till, as the reward for a stiffish climb, you reach a saddle known as Wild Horse Gap, and find the Dandongadale Valley below you and Cobbler breaking the skyline in the distance. At 12 miles from Tiernan's the Dandongadale is crossed where a rocky ford shallows the current below a pool which is obviously designed for bathing.
A Dry Stretch.
There may be water somewhere in the next 15 miles, but, if so, it is so skilfully hidden as to be unfindable. So carry enough to wet your mouth occasionally. The track must be carefully watched for. Generally it is on the backbone of a long ridge, and sometimes there are blazes to help you, but these latter are frequently missing at the difficult spots, as, for example, when your ridge ends and you must choose which saddle is to carry you on. The spurs are well wooded, but open enough to yield fair going and some good downward views. Lang before you put foot on the actual body of Cobbler, you will see him just across the valley to the right, and get tantalising glimpses of one of the finest waterfalls in Victoria. It plunges over the centre of an ampitheatre of rock which it has apparently been the principal agent in forming, and the first of its successive leaps is many hundreds of feet in sheer descent. Above that fall is your camping ground. The track rises and dips and rises again, becomes a siding through bracken, and ends on a flat by a swamp which mothers a cheery little stream. Unload the packs and select your beds; you will find no better place than this on the mountain—or, perhaps, anywhere else. Big trees shade it, there is good snowgrass to lie on, water is handy, and you have but to move a hundred yards to realise you are 5000 feet above the common level of earth.
All about you is a fine confusion of attractions, sufficient to keep you interested for many days. You may follow the small stream over the edge and work cautiously down and down, opening out strange views until the great fall is immediately above you, and you find it wise to return. Even better is it to cross the upland to where the main stream has carved out a marvellous valley from the conglomerate. Here are pools so deep that they shine like green jade. Over the smooth warm rocks they spill their cool waters, sometimes down long narrow gutters into holes man-deep and but little wider, sometimes across ledges which turn the rush into falls and rapids, always between high banks crowned with timber.
This is the infant Dandongadale, soon to seek its better-known bed many thousands of feet below, by the heroic method of leaping from the cliff top. Three miles further, and you may ascend a gentle slope to the extreme crest of Cobbler, 5349 feet. Very extensive is the outlook over mountain ranges, intersected by deep river valleys. Given a fine day, this alone would justify the trip. Beyond the sheer edge rises the curious second peak. It is connected with the principal mass by a strip of rock such as one reads of in the romances of Rider Haggard. But it is not hard to scramble over and climb the semi-detached monarch. Many other excursions are possible, for the summit of Cobbler is a huge place.
Down the Rose.
Returning by the same route you must come again to Typo. The 27 miles from the summit make a very full day indeed, and it may be found well to split the journey into two. From Tiernan's turn clown the Rose River, a beautiful track which follows the stream's windings among the lesser hills, now across a flat, again by way of a siding, until at nine miles the Dandongadale is crossed for the last time, and at about 11 miles the junction of the Rose and the Buffalo is reached. You are carrying tucker all the while, having renewed supplies from the stock originally taken to Tiernan's. The Buffalo Range towers above you, the Horn the nearest of the prominent objects. The road is a main one, heading for Myrtleford. It hangs pretty closely to the course of the Buffalo River, which is a considerable stream since it absorbed the Rose and Dandongadale. Half a day's tramp ahead is Macaulay's, where it is advisable to make certain of the warrigal of a track you must take if you would climb the Buffalo from this side. No royal road lifts you by easy gradients here; the ordinary tourist would not recognise his popular resort.
"Over the Top."
You are on one of the numerous spurs which the range pushes out into the valley, and you must stick to it, always mounting, for a whole day. As is usual on these ridges, water is wanting. There are a few places, however, where it occurs, and by leaving the track and working down the slope below, where Mount Signal lifts his handsome head, you may reach a good stream, one of the numberless Sandy Creeks of Victoria. If you must camp before the summit, this is the spot. The mountain-side is well clothed, and fields of wild hops are not uncommon, most difficult stuff to follow a trail through. As you near the top some baby snow-plains are met with, each possessing its tiny creek, often running crystal clear over granite sands. You eventually find the level of the main plateau near Mount Dunn, roughly halfway between the Horn and the Chalet. The natural order of things is to work back to the Horn, then forward to the Gorge, taking in most of the noteworthy sights en route. It is idle to attempt a description of this much-described wonderland. It is, indeed, a beautiful place, worthy of all the praise which has been lavished upon it.
The railway at Porepunkah or Bright is a day's march away. You have choice of the great, well-graded road or several rougher, but shorter, bridle tracks to reach the flats. Whichever you take you will find it full of charm.
But gladder than them all am I,
Who, being man, may gather up
The joy of all beneath the shy,
And add their treasure to my cup.
And travel every shining way,
And laugh with God in God's delight,
Create a world for every day,
And store a dream for every night.
A walk is not over when it is finished. The leisurely progress of the pedestrian makes for remembrance, and the man who has once tasted the "glorious feast" of liberty which the swag and the billy ensure will often find himself travelling over the ground again at the bidding of a sight, a scent, or a sound, and that without moving from his desk or his suburban garden. He may even enjoy the outing in retrospect more than he did in reality, for the hardships, if any, are softened in the passing of the years, and serve only to brighten the rest by force of contrast.
And how good the rest is! The memory could not hold in detail all the fine things that may be gathered in a week in our back country, or, indeed, almost any part of our bush, but every mind will select the items which most appeal to it and hang them, like proofs signed by Nature, in its galleries. A shining river bend, seen from a height, looking
"...as if Diana in her dreams
Had dropped her silver bow
Upon the landscape low;"
a craggy hillside of fantastic shape; the scarlet of a tiny fungus at a tree root; a wattle in flower above a still pool; night and the camp fire, a mopoke calling, and vivid stars tangled in the tops of tall green trees; a lyre-bird surprised at his dancing mound; groups of half-wild cattle, all agaze, on the open spaces of the snow plains; a track vanishing over a rise; clouds beneath your feet, more seeming-solid than mother earth, a world which blots out a world; the incredible bulk of a huge mountain, and on its terrifying crest the bathos and the pathos of a small bird's nest—these are what stay with you.
No Better River.
A judicious blend of river and mountain, of lonely out-station, and little mining township, of the unknown track and the tourist highway, may be had by going from Mansfield across Mount Howitt's 5715 feet to the Wonnangatta River, then to Talbotville and the deserted township of Grant, and by way of the Dargo High Plains to Mount St. Bernard, Harrietville, and Bright. Much of it is cattle country; some depends, or used to depend, on mining; all of it is full of interest. The fly in the ointment is the need for carrying tucker, but this may be obviated by using a pack-horse. There is no store between Merrijig and Talbotville, say, a five days' journey on foot. A flying start could be achieved by driving, with your supplies, over the 12 miles from Mansfield to the Howqua Hills, where the really picturesque country begins. Soon after you start to walk you reach the Howqua River, and pass the shell which was once the Howqua Hills Hotel. A water-wheel marks a long-abandoned enterprise.
The stream is now your guide. Surely none more attractive ever existed. To paraphrase the saying of the Bishop with regard to the strawberry: Doubtless God could have made a better river, but doubtless He never did. The water is tonic in its freshness, and there is that cheeriness about it which ever distinguishes the mountain creek. It will rush and ripple over shallows, to swirl in deep basins whose banks are draped with native plants and flowers, and whose depths shelter trout with jewelled sides. A well-defined cattle-pad affords very fair going until it takes to crossing the river bed, which means wet feet every few miles. There are about thirty crossings, and never a bridge.
A zig-zag path, rather poorly blazed just here, leaves the river for the ascent of Mount Howitt, glimpses of which you have had occasionally coming up the valley. A woollybutt forest indicates that you have risen considerably, and you will begin to notice the Alpine flowers coming in, including three varieties of violet, and daisies (or asters) of white and heliotrope and purple. An outstanding bluff, with snow-gums, at the west end of the mountain, overhangs you and gives an illusive promise of being the top; you must pass on and upward for a long way yet. As the outlook expands, the scenery grows grander, until, from the summit, you find yourself surveying a wonderful panorama of great peaks, and valleys whose deeps are down among the shadows. Mount Magdala is a conspicuous figure across the gulf to the south.
The head of Howitt is a plain, used, as all the high plains are, by the cattleman for summer feed for his stock. Cattle and horses stop feeding to regard you curiously, or they pack about you, at once bold and shy, in the hope of salt. A line of snow poles indicates the way you must go. They cross the width of the mount. Water is not exactly plentiful, so you must keep a lookout for a spring (really the headwaters of a branch of the Macallister River), whose source is a narrow ledge on the route. This makes a fair camping place.
The name Wonnangatta is now associated with a murder committed a few years ago, the perpetrators of which are still at large. It was really a double murder, for the body of the station cook was found shortly after the manager was shot. One of the district theories is that the crime was committed by cattle duffers. It illustrates the real remoteness of this belt of hill country from civilisation, a remoteness not to be measured by distance, for it is, after all, only 150 miles in a direct line from Melbourne. As you leave Mount Howitt's crest, not long after passing a basaltic outcrop, the descent is very steep. You join Basalt Creek, and eventually come into a green pasture land, where the view is like a welcoming smile. You are now in the Wonnangatta Valley, and a couple of miles ahead of you is the station, once owned and occupied by the hospitable family of Bryce. Never was a surer welcome than in this lonely homestead—a self-contained community with but little contact with the outside world. No wheeled vehicle has yet come into that valley, for there is no bridge across the rivers, and the only tracks are cattle-pads winding and twisting around the steep hillsides, and splashing through the fords. Cattle are the be-all and the end-all of this life, and the packhorse the means by which all commodities are brought in.
Twenty miles away, down stream, is the nearest neighbour, a solitary settler, who has led a bachelor existence here for many years. You have passed en route the spot where the Moroka pours its waters from Mount Wellington into the Wonnangatta, and presently you wade the latter river for the last time and climb a long ridge to reach the valley of the Wongungarra. Here you shall behold a bridge again. Still another stiff pull and you are above the course of the Crooked River, with Talbotville seen far below you like a toy village. A gradually ascending seven miles from there brings you to the plateau where stand the remains of the ancient mining township of Grant. There are still buildings to suggest the days when 26 hotels were not too many to supply the needs of the thousands who gathered here to dig gold, but not a. single inhabitant remains.
You are near the edge of the Dargo High Plains, and to gain them you must turn east along a cart track until you reach "the springs" (an old notice board stood here, marked "To Bousteads"), then north across the shoulder of Mount Ewen. Despite the fact that the map names Twelve Mile Creek and Eighteen Mile Creek as crossing the track, the water is uncertain in the hot weather. Gow's old hotel, one time the Dargo High Plains post office, is merely a collection of empty buildings, but there are two good wells here. Treasure's Homestead is next seen, and you pass up Lankey's Pinch to the plain. An astonishingly good road is eventually picked up. This leads out over Freezeout to the Hospice on Mount St. Bernard. A long but easy drop follows to Harrietville, and you are then only 16 miles from the railway at Bright. The distance in all is about 160 miles. For variety and interest the trip can hardly be excelled in Victoria, and it provides a liberal education in the life of the people who have pioneered our bush.
West away from Melbourne dust, holidays
They that mock at Paradise woo at Cora Lynn—
Through the great South Otway gums sings the great South Main,
Take the flower and turn the hour and kiss your love again!
A completely satisfactory definition of beauty is still to seek. Like so many other things, it can be more easily illustrated than explained, but even then one cannot expect complete agreement. There are some who, quite honestly, cannot comprehend the charm of the Laughing Rembrandt; there are many who are left cold by the loveliness of our Bush. Few, however, could take the track which follows the coast line from Cape Otway to Lorne without admiring that country of constant streams and tall timber, of bold capes and rounded headlands, of cosy bays whose sands slip smoothly into deep-blue seas or shake beneath the tumult of the surf. I know no stretch of the Victorian coast which is more attractive than that connecting Apollo Bay and Lorne, and perhaps the cream is the cliff portion between Apollo Bay and Cape Patten. That ideal combination, continuity and change, is afforded throughout the whole trip. The Christmas vacation is an excellent time to make it, for (with reasonable care) there is excellent bathing, and the nights are mild enough to enjoy the sleeping out. There are sufficient townships to solve the prosaic problem of tucker, and rockfish and crayfish may be had from the sea, and mullet from the river mouths, to vary the menu.
There are many ways of approaching the Otway. Rail to Beech Forest will give an attractive jumping-off place, which then offers a choice of two routes. The more strenuous is begun by crossing the Aire River, and making, by tracks which require local guidance, almost straight for the lighthouse. It is a picturesque way, but has many disadvantages. It is not easy to follow, and I have seen it, even in summer, with long stretches of knee-deep mud. A famous tree on this route is known as Cape Horn, mainly, I believe, because of the stormy passage the track yields just there. The food supply, too, is a burden. Sufficient must be carried from Beech Forest for at least three days, for, although lighthouse people are the most hospitable of folk, it cannot be assumed that they are always in a position, so far from towns, to supply your wants.
Better is it to spend the first day travelling the 17 miles of vehicular track into Apollo Bay, in itself a delightful walk, which illustrates well the great Otway Forest. There you may sleep for the night on a sandy beach, so long, so wide, and so firm that it serves occasionally as a racecourse—one of the few courses in the world, I should imagine, with a mile straight.
Alternatively, Apollo Bay could be reached by walking from Forrest railway station over Mount Sabine, across Koorangie (Mount Anna) and by way of Skene's Creek. The view from Sabine is extensive indeed. Peaks as far away as Mount Rouse (near Hamilton), Mount Cole (near Ararat), Mounts Buninyong and Warrenheip (near Ballarat), Mount Elephant, Mount Leura, the Warrion Hills, and others, stand out like sentinels above the plains, and the great sheets of Lake Colac, Lake Corangamite, and similar waters flash back the sun.
It is fifteen miles from Apollo Bay to Cape Otway, so you must carry food for two days. With time to spare, a few days could be profitably spent at Blanket Bay, where the "Lady Loch" lands the lighthouse stores, five miles this side of the Cape. A local storekeeper would pack supplies to the spot. As you leave Apollo Bay the Barham River is crossed near its mouth, and an upward gradient gives an outlook worth turning to see. The Elliott River marks the forest proper. It is not advisable here to attempt "short cuts," seductive as some of the timber tracks look. A charming little stream, the Cleary, will be found at this season gay with the profuse blooms of the Christmas Bush, shining in a tangle of blackwood, leatherwood, and wild mulberry, above which tower huge gums. It is a veritable paradise for small birds, which "maken melodie" on every hand. The track is not bad for walkers. Just past Jack's Hut Creek are the so-called Grass-tree Plains, and the turn-down to Blanket Bay succeeds them. As the lighthouse is neared, the country becomes more open. The tower, with its cluster of dwellings, tops a cliff of some height, but much less imposing than many another headland on the saine coast. In returning, Blanket Bay could be visited. Leaving there, little pad at the back of the boat-shed will be found a genuine short cut, saving a couple of miles.
Refill the tucker bags in Apollo Bay for a two days' march, about 27 miles, to Lorne. You have been on the cliff-tops up to the present, now it is possible to get some beach walking. When the sand gives out, a road lifts you naturally until it becomes a siding which commands the coast line for many miles. Now it dips to a bridge, now curves round a height, and all the while beneath it the ocean's blue is edged with a changing fringe of white foam, and always there beats upon the ear the murmur of the surf. Ahead, the view is closed by the great bulk of Cape Patten, with the sea breaking at its base. It is nine miles from "the Bay." By making a detour of a mile here the Carisbrooke Falls may be seen. The Cape is a smooth, grassy spur that curves so swiftly that it is a grisly business crossing its face. Much better to climb over the top. Speaking from memory, the height is about 800 feet. Caves penetrate this seemingly solid headland, and may easily be reached by ascending from the water's edge. But they have not been developed, and do not repay the trouble of a visit.
Again you descend to the beach. The going is sometimes rock, sometimes sand. Fresh water streams are plentiful. The Kennett and the Wye Rivers are succeeded, at nine miles from Patten, by the Jamieson—a good camping ground. Forward are some big headlands, and you know that behind one of them is Lorne.
"Where the Erskine Leaps."
Lorne dominates this trip as it dominates the whole coast from the Otway to the Barwon Heads. It is the real Mecca of the pilgrimage, even though it be not the terminating point. Wonderfully sheltered by its backbone of wooded hills, fortunate in the easterly aspect of its bay, it deserves its popularity. It has been well said that while other places may have a better beach, better rivers, better hills, better bush walks, none has such a wonderful combination of these as Lorne. To reach heaven it is held by many that purgatory must be passed through. You get your purgatory on some two miles of broken rock between the Wye and the Cumberland Rivers. From the rocky gorge that marks the Cumberland mouth a five-mile track winds picturesquely above the sea into Lorne, crossing the St. George en route. On the other side of the township you will find the best known of the rivers, the Erskine, with the road bridging its mouth.
A lyre-bird generally opened the morning for us. Of course, the kookaburras and the magpies had been at it long before, but they became like the sunrise and many another fine thing—too much a matter of course to be specially noted. It took the lyre-bird to chase sleep away definitely. There was something fresh and compelling in his call, as though Pan blew his pipes on a mad day of spring. Youth and the spirit of the untamed bush were in the vibrant notes; the pulse quickened, and instincts stirred which were a part of man when the morning stars sang together for joy at the creation. Visions were born; we saw blue dawns with the smoke rising straight through the frosty air, and stern nights full of the rush of stormy winds. We heard the melody of mountain creeks, the still, small voice of those tiny streams that thread the snow plains, the songs of other birds, the multitudinous harmonies of the wild. More wakeful, we were less impressionable, but then the music stopped. The tent stood across a little gully which sloped to the north. From its doorway we had a glimpse of Lake Catani, no more than a hundred yards away, sparkling through the trees, and behind it the dark wooded wall that carries the Monolith on its shoulder. The lyre-bird's call came invariably from across the water, apparently out of the edge of that interesting flat known as the Long Plain. He seemed solitary, and, indeed, we found occasion to wonder that he should stay on the plateau at all. After the fat hillsides of the Dandenongs, and those richly soiled ranges between Healesville and Warburton, which we usually associate with this species, the granite sands of the Buffalo slopes and creek bottoms look barren places from which to scratch a living. We heard a couple more of the birds later on, one on Lyrebird Hill (he was whistling, by the way, after the dark had fallen, an unusual happening in my experience), and still another was seen near the Chalet. That was the total for ten days. The evidence may be altogether too slight, but I should say that lyre-birds are neither numerous nor prosperous in this popular holiday resort.
And how do they live, they and the other ground-scratching animals, when the snow comes? It lies deep some winters. Do they move "downstairs," in a restricted migration that lasts but a few months, or do they endure, more or less philosophically, what must be, at times, a hard fight with starvation?
The rabbit, numerous as he is in the Buckland and the Ovens Valleys, has not yet climbed the hillsides, and it is said that the fox is a rare visitor. Dingoes there were, and probably still are; it was almost certainly one that we saw on the bank of the new reservoir this Christmas time. He did not wait to be identified—just a glimpse and a movement in the scrub, and he had vanished. The rocky caves and shelters should appeal to the wild dogs in the mating season. They would, presumably, come to these heights, as the blacks did, on special occasions, and leave when the rigours of winter made living there uncomfortable. At the foot of the Horn I found a cutting-stone, a stone altogether different from the rocks of the locality, sharpened for use by some patient aboriginal artificer, and dropped there (how long ago?) on a tribal visit, possibly to feast on the Bogong moth.
A Place of Wonders.
The Horn is a place of wonders, and not the least of them is the series of crannies which hide the Bogong moths from the glare of day. Pause in one of these semi-caves, and you will be aware, first of all, of a heavy, dusty odour, and then that you are standing on something which crushes softly beneath your feet. Narrowing your eyes in the gloom, you find the rock walls are covered thickly with a dark scale, a scabrous-looking excrescence which might be a coarse lichen bred of the want of sunlight. Pass a stick over it, and the mass pours down to your feet, a living cataract of moths. Only an odd one attempts to fly; the others seem asleep. The floor is already covered with wings and desiccated bodies; they form the carpet you have been treading on. Probe with your stick farther into the recesses, and the amazing volume of falling insects increases until the cave is full of the dry rustle of their descent, a thin, obscene dust rises and chokes your breathing, and you are glad to step again into the clean outside air. Look back and you will see the earth as a yeasty ferment of dark-grey matter, twisting and tormented, as the creatures, hardly discernible as individuals, crawl over and between the living and dead bodies of their fellows. From this, one by one, they begin to climb slowly up the rock again to the more shadowed crevices. More and more and more join this slow race, until the wall is seemingly alive, for its whole surface is moving. As evening falls they stream out to fly to and fro in the apparently aimless questing of their tribe. I have seen these moths in millions on the summit of Mount Bogong itself, and on several other big peaks of our Alps. When one remembers that they are the "cutworm" or "take-all-grub" in its winged form, one wonders, not that the farmer is sometimes eaten out of house and home by these creatures, but that he ever reaps a crop at all! It is said that the natives used to collect them in great numbers, singe off their wings, and pound the bodies into a (more or less) savoury paste for food purposes. Doubtless birds, too, would take heavy toll of them. But the blacks are gone, and the nocturnal habits of the moth must protect it from numerous enemies.
Birds may be found in greater numbers in many places, but surely nowhere are they tamer than they showed themselves on the Buffalo. Every morning before we were astir, a pair of bell magpies brought a hoarse-voiced youngster to help clean up the camp of food scraps we had deliberately left out for them and any other feathered visitors who cared to call. From boyhood memories we dug up many names for these handsome birds. "Peter Kling" was one ancient combination based on the clear call that is their commonest note. "Grey magpie" was another, and "grey jay" a third. "Strepera" was the contribution of a more learned member of the party. Big, sedate, quiet birds these two were, and their solitary child, though young enough to still demand feeding, was little short of them in stature and plumage. They would stalk unconcernedly within a few feet of the open door of the tent, pause to gaze fearlessly back at their observers, and continue their stroll. As either father or mother discovered a piece of bread or other camp refuse, the ever-hungry youngster would hasten towards them, drooping his wings and uttering his appeal in a voice like that of a young magpie with a bad cold. So helpless did he profess to be that if a portion of the food fell from his beak he waited for the parent to retrieve it and offer it again. We were to see his discomfiture, however; really, his start in life as an independent bird. One morning he hobbled across (he affected a queer, stiff-legged run when acting the part of a helpless baby) to where his father stood, not more than five feet from me, with a newly-found morsel in his beak. With open mouth he paused before his parent, quite certain that the scrap was his. But dad had other views; it was time Johnnie did something for himself. In one movement he had swallowed the food and thrown himself on his offspring, who squawked with terror as he was hustled off the premises. Then father resumed his stately march, and Johnnie, after a few petulant squeaks, began to forage for himself. More aggressive were two fine magpies, also with one child, who likewise acted as camp-clearers. They made short work of the others when in the mood for battle, and in the absence of the adults the youthful magpie would often attack his much bigger cousin. There would be a rush of wings, a snap of beaks, a sound of helpless flopping amongst the branches, and then the utter rout of grey by black and white. The cake of soap in its tin dish on the stump sorely tempted both these families. I watched father Grey examining it closely one morning while the infant waited the verdict. Father's energetic beak shake said vulgarly and emphatically, "Nothing doing."
A red-wattle bird sat on its nest close by the camp, and two well-grown young ones foraged at our feet one day, working the low scrub for insects so close to us that every detail of their plumage could be noted, and it was quite possible to touch them. Blackcaps, too, those charming honey-eaters, were feeding their infants everywhere, and paid no regard whatever to our presence in their dining-room. Mother and father were kept busy in some seeding growths near the lake, the little voices ever calling, the yellow mouths always open for more. The singing honey-eater and the spinebill were also much in evidence, and gave plenty of proof that they do not restrict themselves to a diet of honey. I saw one of the singers take a dragon-fly (heard him, too, for he took it at my very ear) and carry it off to where I suspect he had a nest full of babies.
This is no attempt to catalogue the Buffalo birds. Three more, however, must be named. As we lunched at the foot of the Horn a sudden scurry of crows filled the air. One moment there was no sign of a crow, the next they were coming from everywhere. The rocks and snow-gums gave them up, more and more, till there was a noisy flock of some hundreds, cawing and twisting about in the air in a state of the wildest excitement. It was not easy at first to account for this volcanic outburst. Then, high above them, we saw Audax the Bold, the great wedge-tailed eagle, sailing his wide circles with calm wings. His presence was probably the cause of the disorder, but he gave no sign. Not the least notice did he take of the noisy mob, which gradually melted away as its members returned to cover. At least one brood of young ducks made long ripples on the waters of the new weir, and there were always a few adult specimens on Lake Catani. It blew a gale one night as I went for a bucket of water. A rock made a good dipping place. On its lee side rose a tuft of rushes, and nestled in the shelter they gave was a sleeping duck. Had I been a fox it was mine. The wind drowned the noise of my approach, and I was actually leaning over the biotheren we discovered each ether. He squawked with terror as he dived, and I'm not sure that I didn't squawk, too. It seemed, for a moment, that a piece of the solid rock had come to life.
Daily the picturesque cavaattendanthe coach and its attend-apt donkeys passed us ooccasion-ollythe Horn, and occasionally a visitor from the Chalet came along on foot. Otherwise, we had all the solitude anyone could desire. The whole of this upland world seemed ours, and it was all good. Wild flowers shone everywhere—gold and white everlastings, violets nodding on long stems above the softest of beds, mint Lushes with blooms ranging in tone through white and heliotrope and emerald, that gay scarlet Grevillea which Von Mueller named after Queen Victoria (the last of its bright petals were just falling), orchids of several kinds, daisies, and asters, and how many more. Fish jumped in the lake, the air was tonic, and just to be alive and well up there was "very heaven." What did it matter that every weather known to science, including a snowstorm, made us wonder at the "summer"? It only served to add a further charm of variety to the attractions of the place.
The highest portion of Australia, as seen in the summer, is a conical hill, grey-green on its steep slopes, where the young snow-grass is just pushing through the dead remains of last year's crop, mottled all over with granite boulders, splashed here and there with snowfields, and crowned with a final outcrop of bare rock. A well-built trigonometrical cairn completes the picture. This is Mt. Kosciusko, 7328 feet high, and two miles north stands another giant, Mt. Townsend, 7260 feet, while all around are elevations dwarfing most of the peaks we are accustomed to in Victoria. Everything is on a huge scale, and for a time it is hard to estimate size and distance.
Kosciusko is in New South Wales, but a bare 16 miles from the Victorian border. A motor road leads to its summit on the Sydney side, but there is no easy route for those who would conquer it from the south. One year a party from the Melbourne Walking Club did the trip by way of Corryong, returning via Bunroy; the following Christmas saw another party from the Club start out with much the same objective. The trip lasted from the afternoon of Saturday, December 24, to the night of Wednesday, January 4. In all, 125 miles were walked.
A Tumbling Torrent.
Train was taken to Tallangatta, and Cunningham Bros. motored the party first to Corryong, where the stores were picked up, and then to Bringenbrong Bridge, on the border, where the Murray River is formed by the junction of the Swampy Plains River and the Indi. Here seven local boys joined the camp, so the cavalcade which set out next morning (Monday, December 26) was a large one, consisting of thirteen horses (five of them with packs), and eighteen men and boys. Mr. Charles M. Findlay, of Corryong, had charge of the horses, and acted as guide, and no more capable or obliging guide could be desired.
The rich flats of Bringenbrong and Khancoban took all the morning to cross, then a bush pad was followed up long slopes to the top of a sheer ridge known as the Gehi Wall, down the far side of which it fell 825 feet in 350 yards. A tumbling, rushing torrent, the Gehi River, had then to be crossed four times, the horses having to be used for the purpose. Camp on the Gehi was pitched almost on top of a five foot black snake. Rain fell, but did no harm. Eighteen miles for the day. Magnificent views of Kosciusko closed the outlook next morning as the track was taken up the Gehi. Scrubby Creek (seven miles), reached through a tunnel of Christmas bush in flower, made a delightful lunching place, and Tom Groggin's Crossing, on the Murray, supplied the night's camp. Sixteen miles for the day. Groggin's is the spot where Riley, "the man from Snowy River," of Banjo Paterson's poem, lived and died. A grove of Kentish cherry trees, laden with fruit, proved very inviting, and the well-grassed river flat provided such a comfortable resting place that no move was made on the Wednesday till after lunch.
There were only seven miles to go to Leatherbarrel Creek, where the night was spent, but they were all uphill until the creek was reached, and it proved a strenuous afternoon. To reach the Leatherbarrel water there is a very steep drop from the ridge of some hundreds of feet. Looking up from the camp fireside at the high walls of the hills rising on every side, it seemed that there could be no way out. It proved a very comfortable, secluded camp, but the pull-out next day (Thursday) was a test of both wind and limb. Up and up went the track, rising by way of the Monaro Gap (6000 feet) some 4000 feet in nine miles. With the crest well in sight, lunch was had just above Lake Cootapatamba. By 3 o'clock all were assembled at the cairn and enjoying the wonderful prospect of high hills and deep valleys (both of Victoria and New South Wales), which lay clearly defined in the bright sunshine. Alongside the cairn is the site of the hut once occupied by Mr. Wragge, the meteorologist, but a fire had destroyea the building utterly. Winding round the snow-splashed hillsides came the road from the Hotel Kosciusko, some 17 miles away, and the party saw the first motor of the season shovel a way through the snow and reach the summit. Being well above the timber line, the party had to retreat to a sheltered valley, some two miles away, where wood could be had for the camp fire. There a pleasant night was spent. Eleven miles for the day.
Summit Again Scaled.
At 8.30 next morning (Friday) the summit was again scaled, and some of the more adventurous moved on to Mt. Townsend, a still bolder peak and much more difficult on account of its final rocky outcrop. Then the Blue Lake (seven miles from Kosciusko) was sought in an all-enveloping fog, which kindly lifted to give views of the most beautiful sheet cf water any of the party had ever seen. It is 40 acres in extent, is 75 feet deep, and is set in a basin of sheer cliffs, draped in snow, from which come shouting waterfalls. It is 6150 feet above sea level. Lunch was had on its margin. In leaving, the Crummer Range was climbed and, steering by compass, a course was laid along huge ridges and by sidings over tremendous valleys to find Dicky Cooper's camp. Night came on, the clouds lowered, rain fell, and at last camp had to be pitched and the elements fought till morning. The experience may best be summed up in the title given to that spot—"Camp Misery." Twenty-one miles for the day.
Where New Year's Eve Was Spent.
No one was any the worse on Saturday. The sun came out, and, after much beawasul scenery Dicky Cooper's was reached in time for lunch (six miles). Ahead was the New South Wales Mount Bogong, and in a windy hollow known as the Bogong Plain the party put in the last night of 1921. Thirteen miles for the day. On January 1 Pretty Plain was crossed, and many fine streams (the most notable characteristic of the whole of this country was the water supply) were waded, the Toolong Range was topped, revealing distant glimpses of the Murray, and a sharp descent brought the party to Khancoban Creek, at one of the fords of which the night was spent. Fourteen miles. Monday brought civilisation into the picture again, and at the end of a comfortable walk of 12 miles the old camp at Bringenbrong Bridge was again occupied. By motor next day the railhead at Cudgewa was reached, and Wednesday, January 4, was devoted to travelling back to the city by train.
One word of warning: Take a guide. The track from Tom Groggin's to Leatherbarrel Creek is very difficult to find.
"...Lifts blue in air,
As though man's passionate mind had never suffered there."
He is the great and wise one, solitary and remote, sitting serenely above the clouds, unmoved by the screaming winds of the high places as by dogma or creed, or the other vain breaths of man. A symbol of the hopes and fears of humanity, his roots explore the darkness of the nether world; about his knees are the habitable slopes clothed in gracious vegetation, and giving birth to the living waters; his crest is with the stars. Endlessly he broods upon matter and spirit—protean matter, that is yet indestructible, the spirit that informs alike the atom and the angel. Most of all does he consider the ultimate purpose of the God of whom all things are but manifestations.
From his height he looks across the mountain billows, rolling wave upon wave, to where Kosciusko, greatest of all, has established his place. He watches the unceasing procession of the seasons as they colour the valleys, strive with the barren ridges, and pass away over the heights, ever moving from the warm north, mother of all, to lose themselves in the eternal winters of the south.
Spring has danced down the waterways, and decorated the plains with the finest of her favours; she has poured the "wattle river" full spate along the courses of the Murray, and the Goulburn, and the Yarra; and it is flowing even in distant Tasmania long before she dare put a timid hand upon Bogong's snow-crowned head. Slowly she has mounted the steep slopes, winning her way with soft rains and bursts of quickening sun. She has lingered where the forests are, and, as she passes, the streams roar louder behind their banks of fern and hazel, flowers unfold, the gum-tips take a lovelier iris, the birds mate and sing. Tangled undergrowth at the foot of tall, clean-stemmed eucalypts gives place to the rarer shrubs that love the shelter of the woolly-butts; they in turn are left behind, and through a vista of the smooth, mottled-green trunks of the alpine gums appear the ultimate heights. At her smile, the snows run sparkling in joyous cascades, and the brown earth shows again, save where a sheltered hollow guards jealously a lapful of white.
With alternate shower and shine, the spring goes on her gusty way, and summer lazily woos the land. To win her favour, the snow-grass puts forth a tender green from the dead remnants of its last year's abundance, dwarf prostantheras and a few hardy plants stretch themselves doubtfully to the stature permitted by the tyrant winds, and all hasten to have done with the perilous business of flowering and perpetuating their species. Giant daisies—white and pink and heliotrope—and buttercups of the yellowest shine, like many-coloured stars in an inverted heaven of emerald. Overhead floats the eagle on unfaltering wings; from the edge of the girdle of snow-gum rise the grating call of the gang-gang and the note of the flame-breasted robin; a ground-lark runs and halts, runs and halts, in the open spaces; and, on the skyline, there is a constant traffic and calling of crows.
But even hot-hearted summer holds no absolute sovereignty here. Her fires may come on the wings of the northerly, and strip the snow-gum of its sparse foliage, leaving the toughened branches to weather to the dazzling whiteness of a sun-bleached bone; the emu feasting on the cranberries, the wallaby crashing through the scrub, the lyre-bird whistling in the gullies, may fall victim to the smoke and fury; but night on the summit is ever the pledge that winter will return. Even at its stillest, a wandering breath of thin air creeps stealthily along the ground, so slight as scarcely to merit the name of movement, so keen and insidious that nothing excludes its searching fingers.
The mountain is coming to his own again with autumn in the land. The sterner seasons are his; he welcomes the frost and the snow, the gale and the tempest, and they may stay with him through much of the changing year. When the lowlands begin to send up the smokes of autumn, and, along the windings of the Kiewa and the Mitta and their numberless feeding streams, all of them children of the heights, rise soft vapours morning and evening; when the days are still, and a mellowness as of a universal ripening is over the land; then does the winter rime gather on Bogong's huge crown, to defy the sun more stoutly each shortening day. The plants have ripened and cast their seed; the birds seek safe coverts in the lowest gullies; the giant worms, the great and incredibly active spiders, and all that lesser life that hunted in the jungles of the snow-grass now bury themselves, each after his kind; the million millions of the Bogong moth, noiseless messengers sent forth each summer night to flicker ghost-like through space, and collect the news of other worlds—that wonderful multitude vanishes, for a time at least, as surely as have vanished the native tribes so long wont to gather to the delicious feast of singed wings and crushed brown bodies.
Up the toilsome gradients of the three great buttresses that alone give approach to the summit come a few horsemen, no more than inch-high in the scale, to gather the handful of cattle that feed here for the brief period of the warm days. From the highest point, they look down and along an undulating plain that stretches north-easterly for a mile, and easterly and southerly for some four miles in a gradual curve, and on every side falls sharply away into profound abysses, for they stand on the crest of Victoria, and Bogong, in his majesty, brooks no intimate neighbours. He throws out no ridge of welcome to other peaks; the never-resting waters, at once his creator and his offspring, have cut deep the ravines that compass him about, and their streams foam unceasingly between him and the nearest ranges. Closely the horsemen watch for the menace of cloud and wind, and soon they, too, withdraw, and the dreamer is left to his stars.
Still is autumn the lord of all the lower lands; still does he bask in the noontide warmth of sunny days which have slowly emerged from misty dawns, and which will end in crisp and wholesome nights; still do the apples shine like lanterns on the trees when winter strides with certain foot to his ancient throne on the pinnacles. Frost first; then, in the sigh of gathering winds, masses of cloud veil the majestic face of the mountain, and envelop him in a mystery from which he reappears, "clothed in white samite," transformed and wonderful.
The drenching storms that blot out the valleys and flood the waterways but add to his covering of purity. The gales of winter come shouting from their caves, and roar with the thunder as it rolls from peak to lofty peak. Monstrous winds flap their violent wings across the high places, and smaller vagrant airs, their venturesome spawn, riot down the steep inclines, and lose their way, and die sobbing in the tangles of the gullies. Deeper and deeper grows the snow, and the brooding monarch is well content. In the night-watches, his mighty brother Feathertop, keeping guard to the south, speaks to him with the voice of silence that is as "The hawk's wide circle in the blue—the very ghost of sound!" and Fainter, hardly less great, and Baldy and Hotham, and Cope, and Cobbler the Hunchback, and Howitt, and Kent, and the distant Buffalo lean to hear the wisdom of the ancients, or thrill to the marching song of the spheres, age-old when the morning stars sang together for joy at the creation.
In his mantle of ermine, the Bogong is king and judge. "Brother, what of man, the builder and destroyer, by whose might the rocks are blasted, and the forests made desolate, who kills and spares not, who digs his pits in our groaning sides, whose roads scar the heights, whose self-applauding monuments disfigure the land, who claims sole kinship with the great Author of all?" And the deep voice answers: "So many forms of life...and but one life! Man builds but as the bird, his burrowings are the wombat's, his killings those of the dingo, the roads he cuts are but as the paths of the ants, he clears the forest as the lyre-bird scratches clean a dancing space, his towers and pyramids endure no more than the mounds of the termites, his soul is a fragment of the universal soul that lives in the stones and the grass and all created things. He passes, even as they pass, even as we in turn shall pass."
Vast as the clouded landscape of a dream, aloof and inscrutable as the mind of a god, Bogong to-day lifts his ice-crowned head in unapproachable grandeur. But the spring shall come again and the snowdrifts race to the ocean, and, on that awe-inspiring height, the pipit, humblest of birds, shall run and halt, run and halt, and make herself a nesting place.
I am told there are people who do not care for
maps, and I find it hard to believe.
—Robert Louis Stevenson.
Consciously or unconsciously, the walker is ever a map-maker. When first he hears of new country, probably long before he sets out to visit it, he pictures it in his mind with its mountains, its rivers, and its sea coast. And later, when reality has painted out the original vision, and he is back again at his ordinary vocation, his clay dreams are largely engaged with the reconstruction, piece by piece, of the actual landscape. It is at such a time that he thinks in terms of the ancient jingle:—
If I could be where I would be,
Then would I be where I am not,
and he goes home to pull out one or other of his old maps and ponder over the details of the land which he feels he owns because he has tramped across it. Then, when he has feasted full of reminiscence, he turns to the still unconquered spaces, and the process begins all over again.
An Ancient Art.
Map-making was an early practice of mankind. Egypt tried its prentice hand some 1300 years before the birth of Christ, and the ancient Chinese were also more or less expert cartographers. The Greeks and others made creditable attempts in this direction at a very early period. Anaximander (600 B.C.) is credited with having designed the first map of the world.
Some maps, produced when Europe knew little of this round Earth, are very quaint records of the state of learning and the popular beliefs of the day. It was the custom to fill up the blanks with representations of the natural, and unnatural, features which imagination suggested should be there. Swift said:—
Geographers, in Afric maps,
With savage pictures fill their gaps,
And o'er unhabitable downs
Place elephants for want of towns.
There is no doubt that the extension of knowledge has robbed the map of some of its charm. No longer may we expect to meet "the Anthropophagi and men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders." But we have gained something in that we can actually find our way by modern maps and plans. Cook's charts of the eastern portion of the Australian coast line are said to be remarkably accurate, and since his day the gaps have been filled.
When you are travelling in the back country, and desire a direction, it is a million to a gooseberry that the information, if it cannot be simply given, will take the form of a plan. I have many recollections of stooping with a serious-faced bushman while he traced such a plan on the ground with a stick. That is the kind of map which is about as easy to take along with you as a Babylonian romance written on bricks. The safest way is to copy it on paper; then you will have no difficulty. Word of mouth directions to carry you over a distance are prone to error either in statement or in memory, even if they are not as delightfully vague as Stevenson's instructions to J. M. Barrie, when the latter was invited to come from Scotland to Samoa: "You take the boat to San Francisco, and then my place is the second to the left."
It is a very small thing indeed at times which mars the full usefulness of a map. "The little more, and how much it is; the little less, and what worlds away." That really excellent series issued by our local Tourist Bureau suffers badly from the omission of a scale. Certainly each map bears an inscription: "One mile to an inch," "Two miles to an inch," or whatever it may be; but there is nothing on it by which you can measure an inch. Every map should be self-contained in this matter. You should not have to carry a foot-rule as part of your travelling equipment. With a printed line, marked in inches, the difficulty vanishes: a stick, a piece of string, a scrap of paper—anything at all, will give you your distances. In this connection it may be of interest to note that a half-penny is exactly an inch across.
We are well supplied in Victoria with useful maps, and if the Defence Department persists with the military survey of Australia the whole of our continent will one day be set out in almost microscopic detail. Already portions of Sydney and Adelaide have been dealt with, while this State is represented so far by nine maps. They are remarkable publications for two reasons—the amount of information they display and the fact that in these days of high prices they can be had for 1/- each. They omit nothing. No walkers through the localities they deal with can afford to be without them.
The first thing probably to strike the pedestrian who has done much back-country travelling is that all water is marked, whether it be a creek, a swamp, a marsh or merely a water-hole, while the ever-running creek is distinguished from the non-perennial. Roads and railway lines one expects to find figured, and not only are they there, but each bridge, culvert, crossing, embankment and telegraph line is shown, and it is made clear whether a road is metalled, formed without metal, or unformed. Tracks appear, and so do telephone routes, with P.O. to mark each post office and a T. to notify the traveller where a telegram may be sent from. The very sign-posts are indicated, and so are all the schools, hotels, blacksmith shops, churches, mills, factories, windmills, cemeteries, and even the dwelling houses, except in very much congested areas. Timber has its own peculiar symbol, and so has scrub, while a triangle and a set of figures are used for each trig. station and its altitude. Not the least valuable and interesting of the many fine features are the contour lines. At first blush these appear confusing, but five minutes' study will reveal an orderly scheme of a very helpful kind. They record the general outline of the group of hills, and each inner circle proclaims a rise of 50 feet until the summit is reached. Where the lines are close together the hillside is at its steepest, where they widen out, the slope is gradual.
I have said that nine military survey maps have so far been published relating to Victoria. The week-end walker who resides anywhere near Melbourne should get the Ringwood map to begin with. Its western, edge is a line running through Northcote, Burnley, Prahran, Caulfield and the Bay beyond Beaumaris; easterly it extends to Seville, Macclesfield and Cockatoo; on the north it includes Heidelberg, Templestowe, Lilydale and Killara; and down south it takes in Mentone, Dandenong, Harkaway and the hill country about Beaconsfield. The other eight maps connect up with this one. They are known as Cranbourne, Western Port and Woolamai, Sorrento, Portarlington, Geelong, Anglesea, Corangamite, and Ballan, the last-named embracing the famous Werribee Gorge.
(Most regretfully must I announce that the Defence Department has now withdrawn these useful maps from sale.)
Broadbent's road maps are reliable and kept as much up to date as such printed records can be. For it must be borne in mind that the country is always changing. New roads are opened, and old ones are obliterated by Nature, who is ever busy at that kind of work. Houses of accommodation close, as on the Bright-Omeo track, where Rundell's and Cobungra both ceased for a time, though again open, and whole townships vanish with the disappearance of the gold which supported them. No outback journey on foot should be undertaken, if it involves departure from the beaten way, until all available information is obtained. The county plans of the Lands Department are sometimes of great use in extended tours, and there is at least one production of the Mines Department which should not be overlooked. It is a map of the eastern portion of Victoria showing the mining tracks cut by the Department. Apart from its utility, it is full of romance. The red lines climb the wild hills or wind along their wooded sides, dipping to cross a river with never a bridge in a hundred miles, or ascending to where the sole guide is a line of snowpoles on the upland plains. These tracks present the only routes through some of the back country, and many of them are kept open by the passage of cattle and stockmen. Others again are overgrown, their usefulness having departed. No one should commit himself to any of them without preliminary inquiry.
Maps serve a pleasant purpose on the high peaks. Find the north with your compass, and you may identify every mountain and river in sight. From the top of Mount Cope on the Bogong High Plains, or Bogong itself, or Cobbler the Hunchback, or Fainter, or Feathertop, or any of our Alpine giants, all of them yielding wide outlooks, the interest of the view is added to enormously when each natural feature can with certainty be named. Then you may, as Pope put it of quite another matter:—
Expatiate free o'er all this scene of man;
A mighty maze! but not without a plan.
Walking is the most natural of all exercises, yet it is one of the hardest of sports in which to become really proficient. A champion of champions told me once that it took him five years of solid training to get into the first flight, and the strain was cruel in the beginning. But his reward has been great. It is years since he was last on the track, and he knows more about motors now than walking shoes, but he still has an upright carriage and a springy step, earned in those strenuous days, which compel admiration. His strings of medals and his record certificates count for little compared with the greater prize, health and strength, which he won at the game. Why proficiency is so difficult to attain is largely because the gait which carries a man over a mile in anything under seven minutes is not the gait in general use, but a highly specialised action directed solely at speed. So it demands special training. No one who has tackled this systematically will forget the peculiar and agonising ache that grips him along the shinbone and will not let go until he stops. Milton is responsible for the statement that Satan found Hell bearable after a while—"his torments became his elements"; so let the tyro at walking console himself with the thought that if he sticks to it long enough he will be quite at home on the track. In time he will not only conquer the shin-ache, but he will pluck out the heart of those mysteries—the way to swing the arms so that they become an important aid to pace, the trick of overcoming the natural tendency to lean forward when hurrying, and, most important of all, how to pick up each foot with lightning speed yet never have both feet off the ground at once.
An Electric Tell-tale.
Constant contact with the track is the essence of the walking laws of the Amateur Athletic Union of Australasia. But the human eye is not quick enough to record definitely whether a pair of feet which are taking over 100 strides a minute are hitting the ground correctly every time, so judging is necessarily anything but an exact science. Mr. A. O. Barrett, formerly Australasian champion and record-holder, worked long at a tell-tale to be carried by the walker, but it was never perfected. The appliance contained an electric battery which was to ring a bell whenever the bearer lost contact with the earth. A good principle, undoubtedly, and it may some day be practically applied. It would place speed walking among the competitions which any official may judge.
The Knapsack Way.
Youth makes the pace, and, later, wonders how he did it. It is about then that he dons the knapsack and takes to "the old road, the bold road, the road that leads from town." He has been sampling this saner recreation from time to time between racing and training. Now he definitely commits himself to it, never afterwards to look back. He buys a knapsack; and even in these days of impossible prices a handy one may be got for 12/6. The shape varies from a square bag, opening with a buckled flap and carried straight across the shoulders, to a deeper sack, which settles well along the line of the backbone. This form usually closes with a cord run through eyelets. Straps to go over both shoulders are common to all the types. This is a comfortable way of carrying the necessaries for a road trip. It leaves the hands free to hold stick or billy, and it is capable of containing all that may be required on any outing, whether of one day or ten, on which sleeping accommodation is available each night. Possibly the waterproof cape will not go in; it can be strapped outside. For a week-end tour—say, the walk from Healesville to Toolangi on a Saturday afternoon, returning Sunday—the equipment varies in degree, but not in kind, from what must be taken on such a tramp as Mansfield to Walhalla, which occupies eight days. On both of these it is possible to sleep indoors.
Assume that you are off for a week-end. A typical equipment would be:—Stout boots, comfortable socks, oldish clothes, a soft shirt with soft collar, a hat with a reasonable brim, and a fly veil. Leggings or putties should be worn—the only disadvantage of the latter being their tendency to pick up grass seeds—and in the knapsack should be at least one change of socks, some handkerchiefs, another soft collar, pyjamas, small towel, soap, toothbrush, hairbrush, and shaving tackle. Don't forget a snake-bite outfit, some string, a knife and matches (above all, matches). The lot can go in your pockets. Strap a waterproof cape to the pack if the weather justifies it, and take along a little billy, with some tea, sugar, a pannikin, a spoon, and a sandwich in it if you want al fresco refreshment. A comforting addition to the load, if you can get it in, is a pair of light slippers for evening use. For the longer knapsack walk, multiply the number of handkerchiefs, collars and socks to suit. I have named the bare essentials; there are many more things which cry out to be taken. Space is the dictator. It is a full knapsack that will not hold a book of some kind.
There is only one way of getting off the beaten track—take a swag. Victoria is full of possibilities for the walker willing to "waltz Matilda." The western coast line is specially seductive, and the far east must not be thought lacking in attraction because of its long stretches of sand. Inland our Alpine system calls constantly, offering endless variety, even to snowdrifts in summer, and there is an abundance of tours handy to Melbourne which amply justify the use of the swag. Only one objection can be seriously urged against "Matilda"; she has to be carried. To lift to one's shoulder a load of from fifteen to thirty pounds and walk with it all day long is a proposition that has made many a would-be swaggie pause. It is really the price of liberty, and a small price, too, for such "a glorious feast." Up to the limit of your capacity to carry bed and food, say, for three days, you may revert to the primitive and know a world that Nature can still claim as her own. I say three days, because, on a long trip, that means a swag of thirty pounds (twenty pounds of bed and clothing and ten pounds of tucker), and experience has proved that to be quite sufficient weight to shoulder. More means real discomfort. At the end of the three days you should be in a place where supplies can be renewed—itself probably lonely enough—and the process is repeated.
What makes the best swag? Emphatically the sleeping bag. It is a canvas sack, lined with light blanketing, and should weigh not more than six or seven pounds. From the feet to the waist it is completely closed, a flap with buttons opens from the waist to the neck, and a hood, supported on springy wires, protects the head, yet leaves the face open to the air. The hood can be pulled right over the face if necessary. It is no spring mattress, and the ground is pretty hard to lie on with only one thickness of blanket between, so the novice may be grateful for the following hints: Keep your head high, for that eases your shoulder from the earth (a stone or log padded with some spare clothing makes a good pillow); dig a hole for your hip; wherever possible make a bed of bracken or leaves. Another point: don't sleep under a tree with dead limbs on it.
The Vanishing Swaggie.
Is the swagman disappearing? Occasionally he is seen in the suburbs, but on well over a thousand miles of back country roads I have only encountered one in recent years. The swag is best carried in the fashion of the profession. Make up in a neat roll about three feet long (rather less than more), strap it round the middle and at each extremity, and carry it by slipping your right arm through a piece of girthing which is secured to the two end straps. Bring the loose end of the top strap over your left shoulder, and buckle it on to a "nose-bag," in which you will carry your food. There you have an outfit which will not slip off, which leaves both hands free, and which can be carried with the minimum of effort.
Useful adjuncts are an "American leather" bag, say, 2 feet 6 inches by 18 inches, which is easily made, and can be used at night for one's spare clothes and as a pillow; and a waterproof sheet, about 7 feet by 5 feet, to go on the ground and completely cover the sleeping bag in wet weather. It may alternatively be rigged up as a tent. It must be light.
Get the requisite amount of balloon silk (so called because it has nothing to do with a balloon and it is not silk) from a tent-maker, and purchase half a pound of paraffin wax at an ironmonger's; fold the sheet a couple of times, slice the wax on to the sheet, and work it in with a hot flat-iron. This will make the sheet waterproof. Cut a hole in the centre just big enough to let your head through, have some press-studs sewn on, and your ground sheet is also a poncho, which will cover you and your swag as you walk. A small, one-man tent, light and easy to carry, is now popular with the Melbourne Walking Club. It is familiarly known as a "pup." It can be highly recommended.
It is only when the way is long and there is no chance of refilling the nose-bags for some days, that the pack-horse need be hired. He can be an uncomfortable beast if he likes or until you get to know his mannerisms. He will tread on your heels as you lead him, or rub you against a hillside or a tree when you forget you've got him in tow and pause to admire the view. I recall, too, a bare mountain top, falling away to deep gullies, and, in between, the air full of swags and billies, as a bolting pack-horse kicked his heels for the far horizon. But mostly he is a good sort, whose only vice is a desire to assure you at night that he is still with you. He does this by ringing his neck-bell it your ear as he browses. He is a great convenience, and he will go up practically any track you can follow yourself, steering skilfully round rocks and trees and stepping over logs as delicately as Agag. It is in mountainous country that he is most serviceable. See that he gets a drink, and, as a rule, he will attend to his tucker for himself.
Mind Your Feet.
A walker's Achilles' heel is his whole foot. Hurt him there and he is done. He cannot pay too much attention to his feet and what covers them. For all touring solid, stout-soled boots are strongly advised. They save the feet from bruising on a rough track and from scorching on a hot, dusty road. The additional weight is very little, and a few days in the garden with them will accustom one to it. For long bush walks, especially those involving mountain climbing, I find it good to buy a pair of military boots (they cost from fifteen shillings to a guinea) and break them in by occasional use. Before the original sole is broken, the bootmaker puts on a clump sole and adorns it with about a dozen headless nails which project slightly. A rubber heel is also useful. After polishing, the boots are treated thoroughly with dubbin, sole and upper, and particularly where the two join. Socks are next in importance. Personally I get the best results from those known as lamb's wool. They are soft and fairly thick. But no general law can be laid down in this matter. As a runner will discard socks altogether, even in cross-country work, while another must have his feet comfortably padded, so walkers vary in their preferences. Some like thick socks and some thin. Whichever you may adopt, see that you are supplied with changes enough, for a change of socks is both restful on the journey and a valuable safeguard of health when you step into the train for the homeward trip.
Much has been written about chafing and blisters and their prevention and cure. Soaping the socks is advocated by some, the use of various powders by others. Soaping is undoubtedly a relief, and some of the powders are soothing, but their effect is temporary at the best and the blisters come in the end. Most effective is a good rubber sticking plaster, tins of which, an inch wide, may be had for nine-pence. As soon as a chafe is felt, put on a piece of the plaster and it will take the friction and save the foot. If the blister has formed, prick it and cover well with plaster, and you will have little more trouble.
Equipment and Food.
The golden rule of the walker in regard to equipment is that which Mark Twain applied to the adjective: When in doubt, leave out!
It is surprising the number of things you do not need. Every ounce counts when you have to carry it, and there are limits, even to the capacity of a pack-horse. The requirements of a short trip have been particularised. These items embrace the actual essentials for an out-back excursion: Sleeping bag (or blanket and rug) and its straps and girthing, waterproof sheeting, American-leather bag (optional, but advised), changes of socks, handkerchiefs and light underclothing, woollen sweater, spare shirt (remember, washing can be done en route), a towel and soap, shaving kit, shoes (optional), knife, fork, spoon, mug, tin plate, tin-opener-cum-corkscrew, candle, matches, string, needle and thread, comb or brush, tooth-brush, fly-veil, mosquito net, leggings, a few fish-hooks and a line, a snakebite outfit, a small flask of brandy, a bandage, a locality map, and what an old-time physician, who was also a walker, called peristaltic persuaders, e.g., Epsom salts. A small axe could be carried, but is generally not worth the trouble. For cooking purposes place your faith in the billies, of which there should be at least three, fitting into each other. A bit of fencing wire makes a good grid; use the clean coals if no wire is handy.
The military ration of food is 3 lbs. per man per day, made up of bread 1 lb., biscuits 4 ozs., fresh meat 1 lb., butter 4 oz., jam 2 oz., sugar 2 oz., tea 2 oz., coffee 2 oz., pepper one-eighth of an ounce, salt one-sixteenth of an ounce. Variations suggested by walking experience are 1½ lbs. of bread, 3 ozs. of rice in place of the biscuits, the reduction of the quantity of meat to ¾lb., and the substitution of oatmeal or some other farinaceous food, an increase of one ounce on the sugar allowance and a cutting down of the amount of tea—one ounce will make enough tea for half a dozen men. Bacon or ham (cut into thin rashers), dried fruits and dried or condensed milk could be included with advantage. Cheese, German sausage and tinned stuff, both meat and fish, carry well. With a pack-horse the list can be enlarged to include potatoes, onions, flour and baking powder, curry powder, soup powders and other tasty things.
What Profits It?
The return is health and strength and a gallery of mental pictures painted by the greatest of all artists. A trip is not done with when it is over. The whole system is toned, the body is stronger, the mind enriched. Every day brings its diversion, and at night there is the camp fire and the quiet stars. You smoke your pipe,
"And it's then good-night and to bed, and if heels or heart ache, Well, it's sound sleep and long sleep..."
—but not too deep to wake.
In a final word let me emphasise what has been implied throughout the whole of this series of articles—that there is no need to go out of Victoria, or, indeed, far from Melbourne, for natural beauty of a high order. We are citizens of no mean city, yet within its suburban radius, as defined by the railway guide, there is bush into which you may plunge and lose all sense of a near-by civilisation, so virgin does it seem; creeks as limpid as when new-created, their banks clothed with ferns and native shrubs; mountains on whose sides stand giant gums which saw, still as huge trees, the coming of the white man, and whose gullies ring with the voice of that marvellous mimic, the lyre-bird. And further afield, for the more adventurous, are our Alpine peaks, yielding the novelty of summer snow and revealing a wonderland of high plains to the climber who gains their tops. Or, should "the long wash of Australasian seas" have more attraction, there is an unending variety of beach to choose from. No one who has walked the heathy summit of Moonlight Head, or come by way of Apollo Bay and Lorne from Cape Otway to Airey's Inlet, is likely to forget the creeks and headlands of that beautiful countryside. And even the long and arid stretches of sand, broken by bar-bound rivers, their waters salt as the sea, that reaches from Cape Everard to Cunninghame and beyond, draws again the walker who has once known its strange fascination. Truly, it may be said of our country, to quote the words of a well-known enthusiast, "It is all good when you're out in it!"
Advertisement for The Open Road in Victoria, which apeared at the end of Croll's subsequent book, Along the Track, which was published in 1930.
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