Bilbarka to Torowoto
Field Notes No. 2
20th to 26th October 1860
Saturday 20 October 1860.
Started from Totoynya October 20th 1860 at ten minutes paßed eight am our main course throughout the day was nearly due north with the Scrope Ranges in sight all the day. reached Kokriega at 3h 10m pm but the camels did not arrive until 3.40.
Our journey throughout the day was acroß open saltbush plains with the exception of a short distance near Kokriega when we paßed over detached sandstone rises. At about seven miles from Totoyna we came to plains covered with pebbles with quartz mixed with pieces of sandstone of every variety the soil a red loam was very rotten and full of holes made by Wallabies and Bandicoots plenty of every kind of saltbush grows between the stones as well as an abundance of spear graßed and several kinds of vetch. The soil is evidently formed from the detritus of a sandstone and quartz conglomerate such as that of which the Scropes Ranges is chiefly comprised.
The spring at Kokriega is permanent and contains at present plenty of water it is slightly brackish but not disagreeably so it is situated a short way up the most conspicuous gully in this part of the south side of the range. On the face of the rock above the well is painted
In a small cave nearly opposite the well there are some good representations of native hands, but the mode of forming them does not shew any extraordinary advancement in the cultivation of the fine arts among the Aborigines who are in the habit of visiting these hills. The hand is placed against the damp wall and some white powder is blown against the portion of the wall which is not covered by it hand and on the latter being removed there remains a representation of a black hand. On the face of the rock on the north side of this cave I have marked
There is at present lots of wild spinach and marsh mallows in the neighbourhood of the well, the latter was rather old but the spinach was very nice and Mr Burke and I both agreed that it was as good if not better than common spinach.
Sunday 21 October 1860.
Took it rather easy this morning and left Kokriega at 9 am struck off in a NE direction between the ranges we had to go [rather around] in order to avoid the more rugged parts of them ranges. Mr Wright kept ahead with two Blacks named Mountain and Dick. passing along the foot of the range on the eastern side we crossed several small sandy watercourses with not a trace of water in any of them although it had [rained] so lately at about five miles we turned to north and passed over some low quartz rises of rather an auriferous character the bed rock for the next three miles was a hard form of schist with some stony pieces of sandstone scattered about. At 12h 45m we reached the top of a gap leading over the range in a direction nearly due west, the Barrier Range at Coonbaralba [Coonbaralba Range named by Sturt -DGP] was visible in the distance and straight ahead of us a prominent peak called by the natives Bunnubool which I presume is the Mt Bourke
of Sturt. At about two miles and a half from the top of the gap we came to a little rocky watercourse where in two small holes between the rocks was some nice clear water. This spot is named by the natives Bilpa the water is not permanent and is only to be found for a few weeks after rain it filters down between the rocks from the hills. Water might perhaps be found by sinking at almost any time but I imagine it would be difficult to hit on the right place and if one did it would be obtained in very small quantities. After watering the horses we found the water to flow in so slowly that we could not give the camels much. The rock here is a close grained yellowish sandstone. by meridian altitudes of Markab and Alpheratz I found the Lat to be 31º 50’ South. On the rock close to the water hole is chiselled
Monday 22 October 1860.
We made a good start from Bilpa this morning at ten minutes to seven. Our course was at first due north 12 miles to a low flat of white clay in which were several shallow depressions that would collect the rain water nicely but they were all dry but one, from there our course was nearly NNW for about three miles to a large hollow of a similar description to last. it is a flat surrounded by sandy rises and is in every way suited for collecting and retaining any rain that might fall. the ground in the flat is of a hard argillaceous nature and appears to be chiefly of limestone and the detritus of limestone rocks. In this flat Mr Wright expected to have found an abundance of water, but it seems as if the heavy rains that have fallen near the river have not extended out here for there was only two small holes containing some muddy liquid one of which the horses emptied at once, the other we retained for our own use and to give the camels a drink from in the evening.
The country between Bilpa and the place Botoga is of pretty much the same character throughout, a brick coloured sandy soil, very agreeable to the camels, bearing several varieties of saltbush as well as a fair quantity of spear graß, in some places it is rather scrubby the shrubs being Acacias Hakeas and others peculiar to this part of the country, some stunted Casuarinas are always to be found and occasionally an Exocarpus. No large trees of any kind are to be found and all the shrubs appear to suffer greatly from the uncertainty of the seasons for rarely one can be seen on which there is no dead branches, and by far the greater portion of the timber we have paßed is dead. Altogether in some places and chiefly where nodules of limestone are visible the graß has a sort of blight and stands in tufts dead and black like the trees. As there is no tree in the neighbourhood of our camp fit for branding I have had Brahe cut in the ground
on the side of the rise about 8 chains east of the waterholes.
Tuesday 23 October 1860.
On leaving Botoja we took a north course again along the side of some sandy rises which fall to the eastward into a clay pan splendidly adapted for retaining water but rather shallow and at present quite dry it is situated about a mile to the northward of where we camped last night and is bounded by sandy rises of from thirty to forty feet high. the sand ridge on the east side of the basin is covered with pines, a feature which makes it easily distinguishable from some considerable distance. Both this flat and the one above will offer great facilities for the outstanding of tanks and collection of rainwater. The hills that surround them although sandy at the surface, I imagine to be composed of a [retentive?] clay or rocks from the manner in which they are all cut up into little gullies by the action of the water. From the sand hill opposite the N end of Botoja Flats, the east end of Tunganoo? Or Mount
Daubeny Range bears NNE. A hill to the eastward, probably Mt Murchison, bears ENE and the NE end of the Scrope Range bears SEbyS. At twelve miles from Botoja we croßed a sand ridge crowned with pines; up to this point the country had presented pretty much the same appearances as that between Bilpa and Botoja, but that we found several trees and shrubs quite new to us. one tree particularly drew my attention, for at a distance it had so much the appearance of a Poplar that, until I came close to it I scarcely divest myself of the impression that it was one. the country to the north of the sandridge we found to be superior to any we have seen on this side of the Darling. The dead trees although numerous do not have such a large proportion to the live ones and the latter look much more healthy, grasses are abundant and of various kinds including Spear G. Kangaroo G. and the common wild graß. The Salsolaceous plants are not so numerous but what there are are healthy the most common is the cotton bush. We camped at the mouth of a gully called by the blacks Langawirra where the graß is up to the horses knees and there is plenty of water.
Wednesday 24 October 1860.
From Langawirra we proceeded by an easy journey to Bengora Camp No. XL passing in our way Mutwongee Creek where there is a romantic gorge in which the creek takes its rise at the head of the gorge, at least as far as we could go, there is a large deep waterhole the whole breadth between the rocks which are perpendicular all around, beyond this there is a narrow chasm just broad enough for a man to pass through. This chasm can only be approached by swimming across the waterhole an exploit which I am sorry to say we could not spare time. The water in this hole I feel satisfied, permanent and I have no doubt but that there are plenty of gullies in these ranges where permanent water will be found. there is lots of graß and saltbush in every valley we have seen as well as on the ranges themselves. the hill are lightly timbered with Conifers Casuarinas Acacias and various flowering shrubs.
At Bengora Creek also there is plenty of feed and water. in the afternoon I went with Mr Burke to the top of Mt Bengora which I found to be about 300 feet above the Camp by this hill is not the highest in the range but there are two or three to the eastward which appear to be higher, one of which is probably the one marked on Sturts map as Mt Daubeny. the rocks are generally ferruginous red sandstone with a quartz conglomerate I could find no fossils the strike is a little west of north and the dip about 30° to west. As in the Grampians, Victoria, Black, and other ranges of the same formation in Victoria so the have much the appearance of large plough furrows running N + S the Eastern side being abrupt and precipitous and and the Western sloping gradually off. At the Eastern foot of one of the hills near Langawirra traces of alteration were visible apparently by contact with rocks of schist formations.
Thursday 25 October 1860.
At 7h 10m am we left our delightful camping place at Bengora Creek and proceeded in a NWbyN (326º 15’ DGP) direction to a low gap in the ranges. the distance from our camp to this gap is about four miles and the valley throughout that distance averages about half a mile in width. It is beautifully graßed and lightly timbered. The kangaroo graß is in some places as high as the shoulder and so thick that it is hard work to walk through it. From Mt Bengora towards the gap the ranges decrease in height and become leß abrupt. there is good feed on these hills, chiefly spear graß and they are lightly timbered with Conifers Casuarina and a variety of flowering shrubs.
After passing through the gap we took a NW course for about a mile and a half in order to clear some low ranges ahead of us we here croßed two creeks running towards south, the first had a broad stony bed in and about which grows a great number of small water gums the last had a rather sandy bed there was no water in either at the points where we croßed them but I have no doubt but what there is plenty higher up, and I think that water might be obtained in the stony one by sinking.
In the gap above mentioned, Dost Mahommed killed a young snake about eighteen inches long, it had a fawn coloured back and a straw coloured belly five black bars the first acroß the base of the skull the others at nearly equal
distances down the back and a black tip to its tail, the scales were largest in the middle of the back and decreased in size towards each end. The head was smashed so that I was unable to examine its teeth Dick the blackfellow told me that when full grown it would be seven or eight feet long and very poisonous for my own part I should have imagined from its general appearance and activity that it was not poisonous. (juvenile Eastern brown snakes are often banded, Psuedonaja textilis, DGP) At 9h 30m we changed our course to NNW (337º 30’, DGP) passing along a valley of an average width of 30 chains, (600m DGP) this valley we found to be well graßed but nearly all the timber, is a sort of wattle, dead as well in it as on the range to the west of us. As soon as we had cleared the low ranges by the side of which we had been travelling we came in sight of Mt Yerralany bearing EbyN (78º 45’ DGP) a bare looking hill cleared of timber but I am told by Mr Wright well graßed. At about 20 miles from Bengora we changed our course to N¼W (357º DGP) and at three miles further we came to some sand hills abreast of Mt Nandtherungee when we turned to WNW (292º DGP) as there was no water in the creek at the point towards which we were approaching we camped about three and a half miles further on at some shallow water holes in the scrubby bed of the creek. Nandtherungee Creek is an important feature in this part of the country, its appearance at the point where we croßed it is very peculiar and I might almost say unnatural. it has a straight even canal looking bed about 50 feet broad and six or eight feet deep the bottom is a coarse sand and the…