Tagged (None yet)

Add Tags

Comments (None yet)

Add New Comment

11 corrections, most recently by peter-macinnis - Show corrections

"THE WAYFARERS."

The slow-jolting train gave what was left of us to Stanwell Park, where the range runs down in grand sweeping curves to the quarrel of surf about its feet. After joyous stretchings, and the glad sight of the buffers of the guard's van taken by the cutting, we addressed ourselves to the road which clung ribbonwise along the knees of the cliffs; from spots of vantage one could spin a stone into the blue. There were, at the early period of the proceedings, but two of us, but we were to meet the others next day eight miles further on at Thirroul, a little town shadowed at sunset by the topmost trees of the Bulli Pass, 2000ft above. Thence we wore to walk southward, a mere saunter of, say, 16 miles a day, until the sands of the glass had told three full days. To this end our equipment had been out down ruthlessly to some 13lb, our rugs and waterproof sheets with double straps across our shoulders accounted for 10lb, and a small haversack at our waists made up the remainder. With this kit who could not conquer 30 miles from sun up to dusk? So much we said to each other in the first briskly-stepped mile. Why, It was even easier walking than we had reckoned

upon.

Mindful of science, we unshipped our butter- fly nets and chased insects for an hour or so. Indeed, we had ostended this collecting to our pitying friends as a reason, or if not a reason, at least an excuse, for the trip. Besides, one lives in constant hope of new species. To have one's name tacked to a

new field-bug, Pirates Wilkinsii, or a new butterfly, Heteronympha Cholmondeleyi, were payment in measure heaped up and running over for blistered feet and sunburned nose. And, by the way, he who has not collected insects is apt to underrate their undoubted intellectual capacity, for they show a pretty judgment of the reach of a net and of tho exact time to dodge its sweep. The poor postcard collector gets little exercise and little knowledge out of his hobby. He might obtain some artistic vision were it not for the fact that he invariably collects the most inartistic of these nuisances. To the amateur naturalist, however, comes some useful ap- preciation of the world in which he lives. But, each to his taste.

Having filled our cyanide bottles with small unfortunates, we took up our swags again, and soon uncovered Clifton Pier from the southward curtains of sandstone and shale which fall sheer to the sea. Here Clifton Colliery burrows into the coast almost at sea level, and from the drive the trucks run straight out on to the pier, a huge and ob- viously expensive affair of powerful timbers, stayed seaward by cables which pull against the batter of the waves upon the nose of the jetty when the storm holds the coast. To-day the trucks stood, ready loaded with coal for the dirty little collier which journey- ed monotonously from this pier-head to Syd- ney, and will so journey until perhaps some evil night the plates will give to the scend of the wave, and the Pacific will find room for

her.

We walked on into the gathering dusk, and, as we walked the sky had its clear blue stolen by a leaden-grey drift which rode in on the dying south wind from the sea, and piled it- self curdling among the hills to our right. At Clifton township we were informed that we had covered the amazing distance of 3 miles. We were duly impressed, we had thought it about 8, and that Thirroul was over the next hill. On the South Coast, 1760 yards is a vastly different affair to the Blue Mountain mile. They put the milestones too far apart, each has to be counted as some- thing attained by the curse of Adam, while on a down grade in the big hills the stones form a white streak by the side of the road, so do they flash past. But we had meant to camp at Thirroul, and here was the dark creeping upon us, and choking the breath of Auster in our faces. So, hurrying, a few slow drops warm upon our hands, we passed a de- solate garden of sleep, which lies on the flat back of a wind-whipped promontory, and the white of the stones gleamed against the olive green shrub-like shrouds, conquering the grey dank mist which rolled from the sea. The slow drops became quicker; three-quar- ter of a mile beyond this lonely place of the dead we were driven to earth under an old bridge. To the beams of this we tied our hammocks, light affairs of twine; and pre- pared the evening meal, while the storm broke overhead with a bluster of unimpres- sive thunder, and little noises of the myriad feet of the rain in the grass like the swish of a woman's skirt.

This bridge had obviously once borne the  

traffic of the South Coast road, but the road had swerved to the right, and a newer and stronger rival having taken its Atlas burden, it had fallen into decay. Such gaping disor- der that had it rained all night we would have been soaked. But though the stars were hidden till the cold time before the dawn, no more rain fell, and we slept dry. Neverthe- less, it was a sufficiently melancholy camp- ing place. A very filthy and malodorous stream from a dairy stagnated into decay beneath our hammocks; and in and about the mud divers frogs of all sizes and varied voice sang all night, "quark," and "blip," and "quee-ee-ee," basso, tenor, and soprano. Also, what time the jewelled sky hung its lamps, without any veiling cloud, a large and disgustful rat stole forth and rattled the sardine-tin which we had cast aside, until the faintest flush of lemon and amethyst held the east, where the stars began to faint be- fore their lord, the sun. And, still in the dark, the wind got up again, blowing under the little bridge, chill as the wind which rustles the pall, and gutters the candles of a death-chamber. And so, with the first light we were right glad to rise, and as the red disc of the sun, monstrously deformed, rose out of the sea, we boiled coffee, and with this, and hard ship's biscuit, broke our fast.

Once upon the road again, we walked the remaining three miles into Thirroul well with- in the hour, meeting, en route, dozens of miners in dilapidated sulkies and astride of ancient bicycles, the daily food of the great black pits beneath the hills. In some parts of New South Wales, the greeting of the way- farer is a religious duty, but here we had to

wring a good-day from men whose inclination  

seemed to hostility and churlish silence. For one who so greeted us, five passed, sullenly This would never do. The next one we fixed with expectant eyes He saw no escape, and surrendered "G'day," he said. One we passed who would not be forced to courtesy, so we passed him in volley, loudly, and he turned as one who meditates assault. But there were two of us, unshaven of face, creased as to garments in which we had slept -and we carried large sticks. He swallowed our courteous rudeness, and faded round the curve of the road glumly. We took to making bets in beguilement of the way, as to whether these people would recognise us, bets which neither intended or was expected to pay. I chose the bookmaker's part, and betted against   them and my friend owes me some £150,000

which I do not expect to recover.

Thirroul, a village principally of boarding- houses and little "furnished" cottages, has a fine beach and the record of the day is but one of swimming and eating, and waiting for the rest of the party. As to further walking, our spirit found weakness in the flesh, and, though we started manfully for the Bulli Pass, we got but one poor mile or so, and returned to the shore. There we found one of our friends, like Keats's knight, "palely loitering" having   missed his tram, and therefore us at the sta- tion. The others turned up at evening, to

schedule time, and clad in a way which caused speculation among the inhabitants. They wore puttees, than which is no better garment for walking, acting as support to the muscles of the leg, and if rough, scrubby country lies in the day's march, keeping bull-ants out of one's trousers, and warding off snakebite. To all who go walking these bandages are hereby   recommended. Then, on the beach, we dined sumptuously on tinned beef and rubbing eu- calyptus oil on our hands and faces we defied the mosquitos, and slept.

A deal of the savage yet remains in man. Else how explain the delight which one finds if sleeping under the stars, in eating food which at home we would reject with disdain, in "waltzing matilda" on a hot day amid the persistent flies, in running clad as was Adam into the breakers, and rolling upon the warm sand. It seems as though such lapses from civilisation are necessary to all men, preserv- ing their reason and putting fresh heart into them. The fable of the hero who wrestling. found fresh strength each time he fell upon the breast of his mother, the earth still ap-   plies. We have done our brst to stifle natur« in us, but we revert at times, and ah, the joy of reverting. In the heel of night two of us nwoko, and watched The Lion, whose eye is Regius, chased by the Scorpion from the sky. Then another sleeper gurgled into semi-wak- ing, tuined, and fell out of his hammock with a groan of horror. Two slept below They slept no longer. One remained with Mor- pheus, and was brought from dreamland by moans of a just-emerged cicada on his face.

Then, after a swim, breakfast, or the first half of that meal, which we proposed to complete

at the Inn at Bulli.

An hour's slow march through charming country saw us like Omar s-dlsciples, before! the tavern The door was open and we ar- ranged for breakfast. We explored Bulli Beach, and swam thereon till 8 o clock It was no beach for bathing Coal in fine sus- pension made the water dark-brown, and in   larger lumps pounded our bodies as the wave threw it shoreward Here the party separ- ated again for a space, two of them wishing to see the Pass. They started off, and, hav- ing humped their swags to the topmost pin- nacle, met an ancient inhabitant who gap- ing at their putties, asked them whether they were jockeys One of them was a South Af- rican veteran of 20 years having bugled the first "assemble" at Durban to his company, what time De Wet, the elusive, decided to come   in and be good, thus putting period to the war These two descended again to the plain, embittered by that bitterest pain on earth, the sorrow of the utterly misunder-

stood.

With the upward march of the sun, the road grew hotter, our ten-pound burdens grew heavier until we turned aside for a space into the corner of some magnate's garden and   wallowed luxuriously in the cool green grass which grew rank and lush in the shade of ths sighing pines We were not in view of the house, but we made no motion to abate our voices, and why ejection did not follow re- mains a pleasing mystery At noon we rose refreshed, and passing by Bellambi to the left, for here the road swerves from the shore, we made Corrimal from whence, after vain at- tempts to get dinner at the hotel (for the day was Sunday, and the publican no sinner and timid) we struck for the beach, which we were told, was but a quartet of a mile away. It was a good mile, and took us twenty mi- nutes to cover At the southern end we came to an "indifferent" fair park, as Boccaccio would say, and the name of this place spell- ing by sound, is Towroger a quaint conceit of nomenclature. Here came to picnic the bur- ghers of Wollongong, and lads and lasses wandered hand in hand. In the shade of the banksias while the "floury bakers ' sang praises to the sun Slow and sure is the way of Wollongong, It would appear that for 30 or 40, or 400 years, the citizens had sporadic- ally agitated and written letters to the papers urging that the spot should be dedicated to the public, and now, lo the council has awakened and the voico of the people is stilled!

in content.

And as we tarried at this place eating and drinking happened an admirable adventure   as showing that woman is woman wherever her lot be cast, self-conlident, certain, while man varies in conceit with his locality. For a party of youths and maidens came down to the water's edge, and, while the girls ran and disported themselves upon the sands their male friends, obviously ill at ease, stood   afar off, leaning against divers trees in a little forlorn group, and watching the girls moodily. The girls themselves were "showing off" for the better attraction of these Strephons, but they hung back The city youth has no similar shyness, he knows how to entertain the fair, and he knows what to do with his hands, nor does he chew grass stems and meditate when a picnic is toward.

We found a camping place on the north end of the beach, where, from the hill, we could see Bellambi pier a mile northward, and to the south a mile the pier of Wollongong, These South Coast piers are very characteristic of the place. It seems strange to see great structures like these jutting into the open sea Below our camp was a lagoon, made warm by a weeks heat, and here we swam. Many small and savage boys swam also further down. And after the evening meal we lit a great fire, around which we sat till late into the night, deciding rebelliously that many of the joyous and vital things of life can never br sung or printed, such as the folly of man, who, thrusting warm nature out of doors, has developed a sick, pale virtue which he calls "good form" At last we turned in under blankets clammy with the dew, and lay damply until the growing light showed the little pools of water which had formed in the creases of   our waterproof sheets.

This day it was unanimously carried that   we should walk no further We went for our Christmas dinner to the "pub ," where, finding the publican in a more reasonable mood than yesterday, we ate turkoy and plum-pudding as the season demands. The wife and daughters of our host sat opposite. We noted that they took beer with their meal:   the big girls had big glasses the medium sized girls had medium-sized glasses, and the baby had a tiny glass which held about a tablespoonful of the mocker It reminded! one of the story of the three benrs After this dinner we went back to camp and slept it off A southerly came up that night, and but for the weight of plum-pudding we carried would have blown us out of our hammocks into the lagoon.

The last day was one of the many glad adventures. We broke three penknives open- ing a tin of meat; one was grievously stung by a bull-ant, and another, in pursuit of a mail-clad and fast-flying wasp, was bitten by a dog, who, in common with the inhabi- tants, distrusted the green net. The out- raged Linnaeus, whose net stick was loaded with eight good ounces of lead, took just revenge on the beast, making him sorry he had spoken. It Is not common to meet a dog who sneaks behind the stranger and bites without barking, and be sure when you do find him that his master is a mean-spirited fellow of bilious habit, and no gentleman or sports- man. Such a dog by all means kill when it lies in your power. Had we a gun in camp, we would have shot this one as it stood by the master's door, whither it ran howling for protection after the battle went against it. The wounded hero was consoled by the title of the Dog-Slayer, and we returned to pack up. At 7.30 our train crawled in to Corrimal, and, beguiling the time with Gilbert and Sullivan and stories from Shakespeare (for we had a compartment to ourselves), we reached Sydney at 11 o'clock. The South Coast trains aroe the slowest, I imagine, in Australia. Fifty miles in 3½ hours is by no means reckless speed. As we crawled under Eveleigh Bridge the youngest of the party made a rapid calculation. "Fourteen miles an hour," he said. But, after all, it ill became us to talk of speed, for we had walked but 16 miles in four days. We reminded him of this, and crushed him as he gloated. There are slower things than South Coast trains. And, five minutes later, upon the Sydney platform, six of the most disreputable looking villains who ever came undor the eye of the police said good-bye, and departed each

unto his several lodging.

H. A.  

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

Zoom

plus
thumb
minus
left
thumb
right
up
thumb
down