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  • peter-macinnis 14 Oct 2010 at 12:13
    The mouth of Broken Bay is definitely stated as 18 miles, and "bomaring" is a boomerang"

  • peter-macinnis 15 Oct 2010 at 09:46
    The landing place is named as "Manly Beach", but it is also said to be two miles from the surf, so the landing was probably effected in the calm waters of North Harbour, which then extended to the western side of Condamine Street.
  • peter-macinnis 15 Oct 2010 at 14:45
    The text of this and a number of other letters with similar content appear in 'The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal', part II, 1828, available through Google Books.

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22 corrections, most recently by merrilj - Show corrections

JOURNAL OF AN EXCURSION TO BRIS- BANE WATER.    

Sunday 8 o'clock A. M. started from the King's Wharf in a waterman's boat, for Manly Beach, the head of the North Harbour of Port Jackson, servant carrying , two or three small bundles, containing cold ham and tongue, bread and  

cheese, a couple of bottles of Cognac, with change of linen, &c. landed and began our march, with coats across our arms, for the South Head of Broken Bay through the bush. After rather a difficult path of two miles we found by the roar of the surf that we were near the coast; when the trees getting thinner, all of a sudden we found ourselves on a fine sandy beach, called Cabbage Tree Beach, with a lagoon at the north end of it, running out with great rapidity into the sea. Here we were obliged to take off our shoes and stockings and walk across the water up a little higher than our knees. The head land jutting out too far into the sea, we were compelled to climb over the top, 300 feet high; but the view of Port Jackson and its hundred coves, its bold and fearful heads, with the coast to the north, and all the successive beaches and promontories we had to   pass, amply repaid the trouble of the ascent. We soon got in sight of Long Reef, seven miles, which appeared on inspection, to be a very superior farm; considering its sandy situation, and standing very happily with a com- manding sea view, both north and south. It is the property of a person of the name of Jenkins, whose improvements,     plenty, and hospitality, evinced him a farmer of some sub- stance. It was nearly one o'clock at noon, and rather sin- gular to our Sydney notions to be asked if we would have a cup of tea; we preferred a good English cheese and a   glass of brandy and water, and after resting ourselves, re-   sumed our journey, which lay through the Narroby Lagoon, almost beautiful spot, and more resembling the lakes of Keswick and Ambleside, than any thing we had seen in the Colony. There having been no rain for three months, and a very low tide at the time, there was no occasion to take off more than our shoes and stockings, and we walked a quarter of a mile through the water, not deeper than our   knees, over a fine sand that felt so velvety to our naked feet that we almost regretted it was not broader. Another     head land, as usual, succeeded to this sand, and after as- cending it we turned to our left through the bush and ar-   rived at the head of Pitt Water , and regaled ourselves at   the farm of one Geary. Here, a Sydney boat was at anchor, and very fortunately for us, had no objection to accept 15s,   for putting us across to Brisbane Water. This is not the   usual place for crossing the Bay, but seven miles lower down, at the mouth of Pitt Water, at a projecting rock called Barren Joey; but we preferred the boat and the   smooth placid inlet, at sun-set to the rocky, unpleasant     journey by land. Pitt Water is an old settlement, although having very scanty signs of cultivation. The few spots about it cleared are mostly for the rearing of onions, which,   on account of the rich accumulation of sea shell, the soil is enabled to produce in great perfection. On our arrival   at the fisherman's hut, the usual place for ferrying passen-   gers across Broken Bay, the moon had just risen and threw an agreeable but uncertain light over the broad expanse   of water — the lofty craig of Mount Elliott — the entrance of the River Hawkesbury and the numerous headlands about

the bay, which caused Capt. Cook to give it its name of Broken. It was well we were provided with a boat, for the fisherman had none, which much excited our surprise ; and in a passage of so much importance — so much danger in bad weather — and such increasing traffic as Broken Bay, the government, we hope, will not be long in establishing a competent and safe conveyance across this stormy estuary. From the South Head to the North is 18 miles, almost as wide as the entrance of the Mediterranean, between Gib- raltar and Ceuta, and yet travellers are left to find their way across in little cockle shells of boats, when the fisher- men think proper, and at a rate of more than one shilling per mile each passenger. The inconveniencies in winter must sometimes be serious, for instead of finding a decent or convenient ferry-house, it is; hardly credible that human beings can exist in such perpetual filth and darkness, as in the fisherman's hut at Broken Bay. Those who have crossed the Pentland Frith, and had the happy luck of being weather bound a week or ten days, at the Ferry house at Honna, wight be able to make a comparison ; but the house at Honna, is a Shropshire dairy. by the side of this beastly abode. Cockroaches in thousands, were marching and countermarching on the rushy sides of the dwelling, and our persons in a few minutes were, literally covered with them. Fleas, bugs, and mosquitoes were only less annoying because they were less numerous. In   vain did we wish for the flood tide to enable us to cross the bay, we were obliged to light cigar after cigar and walk about outside the hut, and at last wrap ourselves up in a dirty, old sail, and try to go to sleep under the thwarts of our boat as she lay at anchor near the shore— but it was nearly impossible — the mosquitoes followed us, and some of the other vermin accompanied us, and what with their buzzing and biting, and the hardness, dirt, and wetness of our bed, it was merely closing our eyes and nothing else. At last the tide turned and the moon waned, it was 2 o'clock in the morn-   ing there was a fresh chilliness in the air— we lit another cigar; pulled up the stone and rowed away from this abomin- able hole. The old fisherman had just lost his black gin, who it appeared, had been his housekeeper for many months and had completely left her black associates for his compa- ny and hut. I blushed to think that any man, bearing the name of Englishman, should form a cool, deliberate con- nexion with a female savage, who must have been unlike her race, if she had ever washed herself, if she was not eaten up with vermin, legs ulcerated, and blotches on her head, and in manners and habits every thing that is base and disgraceful. Oh Mrs. Fry, I exclaimed, this would not have been the case but for your system of recommend- ing female convicts to be kept at Millbank, instead of send- ing them to New South Wales. But for your unnatural     folly, this old man would have been most likely a happy,   cleanly and creditable husband, with every thing around him comfortable and tidy, and half a dozen chubby chil- dren to make this stage in the journey pleasant and inter- esting. As it was, no doubt the black woman was getting more civilized, but the white man was approaching the savage state of indolence and filth. But enough— there was a great swell across the bay, much more than I liked, for our little boat, though the two men pulling, agreed that they had never seen the bay so smooth — this was annoying, but never mind. Mount Elliot seemed to recede from us   the more we pulled— so, large an object, it was seen through the obscure starlight as if close to the boat, and yet we were pulling more than an hour before it was abreast of us. The tide now favoured us, and, the rapid rush near the sand rollers of Brisbane Water became louder and louder, and passing Lobster Beach, we regretted the indistinct twilight did not allow us to make out more than the beauti- ful outline of its surrounding hills. The morning of Mon- day here broke upon us, and the first sight and impression made by this enchanting spot will never, be forgotten. God has done every thing for you, oh, beautiful Lake Brisbane! Man nothing! Nature here still assumes her sway; and if we may judge from the stupendous size of her innumera- ble trees, years will revolve before she can be much dis- turbed. Twenty clearing gangs, in twenty years, might   make some difference, but the forest appearing at present   as everlasting as the hills, they almost mock the individual, whose feeble axe on their giant sides is like the tickling of a lady's fan. The day no doubt must come, when wealth and luxury shall have converted this elegant sheet of water into another Geneva or Maggiore, but who of this generation can hope to live to see it.

We refreshed at Anderson's, both outwardly and inwardly,   and tried to forget our want of sleep by a walk through his green corn and fertile beds of onions ; and at sun-rise the boat left us, in Cockle Creek, and we made the best of our way over a thickly wooded country to a farm on the sea coast, called Culce.-       This was not effected, however, without some tremendous hills;   and we were glad to get a peep of the white sea through the trees to assure us there was an end to this endless bush. A bit of damper and a pannikin of water were very refreshing; and we would fain have stopped and fished at Tudibarring Lagoon, but want of time and a long journey before us, compelled us to go on. In this and all the other lagoons on this coast, the fish   are so abundant, that a black fellow with a seine, can load a bul- lock cart, at one or two hauls, and it forms a constant food for the farmers and their pigs— the fish are mostly bream & mullet; the first are excellent eating, but the last are thought too fat and rich-we did not taste them. The sea is delightful after emerg-   ing from these black, forests; — its eternal surf on the dazzling   beach commands your attention; and the breezy coolness at mid-day, even in the height of summer, with the variety, of sea shells and medusae washing ashore, and the white skiff with cedar or lime bound to Port Jackson, make the sea coast much pre- ferable to the bush. Before getting to Terrigal we were com-   pelled to cross the head land of Tudibarring, a precipice five   hundred feet high, with the path not the breadth of your sofa at   the very edge of the abyss. It was quite nervous — as the rock rather overhangs, and we could just see the foamy lather of the   dashing spray. The blacksmith's shop at Sydney Lighthouse is   curious and worth seeing ; but a jump down Tudibarring would immortalize any Australian Sappho, more than any Lover's Leap I ever saw. The hill was almost clear of trees, except a spe-   cies of stunted eucalyptus, which were growing horizontally from           the ground, by reason of the constant action of the sea winds. Lower down we trod upon the elegant fringed violet, they   were so numerous, at every step ; and by the time we got to the bottom, we saw there was a very convenient safe harbour in Ter- rigal Bay, for large boats or craft not drawing more than six feet water. This beach is very rich in shells. The heads of Lake   Macquarie, or the name it is better known by, Reid's Mistake,     were in full view as we came down the hill, and a boat was fish-   ing off Bungaree's Nora, as the head land is called. A very   successful establishment for catching and drying the snapper is formed, though on a small scale, at Terrigal, and a little spot has been enclosed by the industry of the fishermen, which grows ex- cellent potatoes and onions. We now bade adieu to the coast, and turned again into the bush, for the head Erina Creek, the hospitable retreat of the magistrate of the district. And a   bush indeed it turned put to be. It was the thickest Brush   either of us had ever seen. Not a gleam of sunshine ever reaches to the bottom of Terrigal Brush. Not Vallom brosa, with its deep- est shades, can surpass the rich gloom of this impervious wood. Trees unknown near Sydney, and other open parts of the coun- try; here flourish in all their tropical luxuriance — the cabbage tree, with its towering stem and tufted top — the elegant palm, which makes you fancy you are in the West Indies, with its um-   brageous and lofty foliage, explaining at once the compliment and honor intended by that description of Christ's entry into Jerusalem, which says, " they took branches of palm trees, and     went forth to meet him. The splendid fern tree, and the gigan-     tic lily here, also seek the shade in the deep solitudes of the thickest brush ; vines, and a hundred other beautiful and strange   shrubs keep them company in such abundance, as in five mi   nutes might fill the herbals of all the lovers of botany in the Colony; here particularly,      

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen; And waste its fragrance on the desert air! We lost our path, and became a little alarmed, till it was found. Evening was approaching, our provisions were gone— the servant had been despatched to announce us and prepare for dinner, and the struggling through the rich luxuriant vege- tation had wearied us more than all the open country, we were nearly exhausted; the freshest of our party was despatched in   the right direction, according to the sun, while we rested our-   selves anxiously waiting the concerted signal of "coo-ey," as   soon as the path was found. Fortunately it was soon discovered, and we met again in the beaten track, and reclined by the side     of a gurgling brook, at the entrance of the brush, laughing at our   past troubles. We would not own to be tired, 'till we reached     home, when the excellent fare and long cork soon made us forget Terrigal Bush. A neighbour come in after dinner, and

we agreed to breakfast with him the following morning, and after one more cigar and a glass of grog, not being able to keep our eyes any longer open, we finished the second day. Tuesday. — The beds, are not so good in the bush as to induce my indulgence in them beyond day-light ; therefore we were   shaving at sun-rise, and went over the farm ; saw the fires of some black natives, and went to chat to them. They had all been more or less afflicted by the late sickness, "murri budgel"     was the plaintive answer of one of them to our inquiries how he was, Murri budgel, very sick could not apply to the rest of the sable group, for they were young and hearty, and plump enough to make one wonder how they keep themselves in such good condition. We arrived at our neighbour's farm just as the steamer or stewed fowls was taking off the fire ; it was deli- cious; and would not have disgraced Beauvilliers a Veri— this, with eggs, bacon, and excellent tea, eked out a breakfast for us, that would have done for a king. The boat had been in rea- diness all breakfast time, and it was no sooner finished than we jumped in, and rowed down the interesting creek, than which perhaps, there is hardly any thing in New South Wales prettier. Arrived at the broad water, the farms of one or two friends un- derwent our scrutiny, but the "murri cobon waddie" was the   universal character of them all. Twenty Point Pipers seemed to offer their green hillocks for Italian villas, and certainly there never was a lake that presented so many eligible sites for building on. But, the day I am afraid is hardly yet arrived,   though, to an industrious hard working man, one would think fifty acres of rich vegetable mould, within six hours' water car- riage of Sydney, would be preferable to five hundred any where else, not having this advantage. Onions, 'pumpkins, melons, and potatoes grow in the greatest profusion, and the in- exhaustible body of sea shells, offer a valuable manure for ge- nerations to come. It is difficult to believe the common opinion that these shells have been deposited by former natives, because it implies a populousness which the present state of .the blacks would hardly warrant. We added to the heap, by pre- vailing on our blacks, Charlewal and Dick, to dive for mud oysters, and when roasted at the bush fire, they were excellent. Mr. H. has got a house and offices that would be complete if he resided there, but absenteeism is the crying evil of this Colony, as it is of Ireland. After resting ourselves at Nerrara, we made the best of our way home to dinner; but the best of our way was very bad, as we crossed the lofty Bulga of Razor Back, a ridge eight hundred feet high between the two creeks now and then getting a glimpse of water, but generally immersed in the   forest, and nothing to be seen but rocks above, and tops of trees below. A great deal of fallen timber of the largest dimensions impeded our progress home; but when there, we enjoyed our rest and excellent dinner, quite as much as the day before. The news of our arrival had, by this time spread far and wide, and several blacks from neighbouring, tribes had collected; about the house; fine athletic fellows, asking for bacco. Some of them had came from Wollembi, and others further, 15 or 20. miles, just for a walk, and had brought their black gins with them ; it seems they are very constant with their gins; the marriage ceremony is however, very primitive and simple, the lover seldom going farther than the nearest family, approaches their circle, while at meals, and sitting down next " the lady of his love," asks her, if she will sleep with him that night ; she, nothing loth, generally answers yes, and the thing is finished ; they being as indissoluble fixed in holy matrimony, as though they had received the bene- diction of mother, church. Infanticide is too common among the black women, they will not be troubled with the rearing of children, and mostly take them up by the heels and knock out their brains against a stone. We were amused after dinner by the throwing of the Bomaring or crooked stick. There seems a sort of magic in it, by the certainty of their making it come back to where they stand, however forcibly they may throw it from them. But what surprised us most was a black fellow going up a tall tree to the height of sixty feet by means of his feet and bands and a tomahawk. The tree must have been twelve feet girth, and therefore, the performance resembled more the going up a dead wall, than any notions which we are ac- customed to of climbing trees. I never saw any thing so clever. Nothing but hunger could have taught it. It was done by one of the Bush blacks, who are much cleverer, honester, and       thinner, than the Coast blacks, who live on fish. Catching the kangaroo, grubs, snakes, guanas, wild-honey, fern roots, and bunion seem the employment of the first; while oysters, and snappers are the things needful for the last. This finished our third day.

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