THE FAR NORTH COUNTRY.
[By S. NEWLAND, Chairman of the Transcontinental Railway Commission]
In writing my impressions of the northern county—known to 10 few, understood by scarcely any, and vilified by nearly all—my object is to throw some
light upon a subject neatly affecting the welfare and advancement ?f South Aas tralia, and to give a truer i<?ea of a terri tory embracing so large a portion of the colony. That the practicability of developing this country and Jhe dim to which it can be turned' hare ? most important bearing upon par future growth no one can &4&fr It is, indeed, the question in which aaF interest* are more closely involved tiua* perhaps any other, since if the vast iff" terior, ?f which the country I proposer treating forma no inconsiderable portion, can be made available for profitable occu pation South Australia must pass rapidly from her present state, as the lowest in population and wealth of all the colonies on the continent save one, to a higher rank and possibly a premier position. That there are many difficulties to be encountered is evident, bat most of these are inseparable from the initial stage in forming new settlements. To a large extent, too, these have been already par tjallymet. When tire railway has reached the point authorised by PaxHamenb at Kekwich Springs, a few miles to die treat of the Peake, it will bridge over moat of lhe bad country. The Government weU afobing parties have obtained water at moderate depths at intervals of not more than 30 miles where required, from the Peake to Pharlotte Waters, and in other places on the road to Alice Springs. As a whole these attempts to procure water have been exceedingly successful, 'the failures have been few, and if the supply is notsuffidentin Bomecases^ortheappUances for watering stock not all that can be de sired, the precious fluid is obtainable at stages that can easfly be travailed. While complimenting the Conservator of Water, and those actually engaged in the work, upon the general results of ' their exertions, 1 would point out ' Oat more is required to render the road what it ought to be, p""*?iraM^ "in all seasons. Meanwhile much Ins. been done to solve the question oftfte mpirfypw of wholesome water at comparatively shal low levels. Ihanibaeg.centAiiiaie?.tiui subject of what in my humble opinion ought to be done wifli tioese wbDs will be dealt with. Probably in treating the wide question before me 1 shall tread, upon "many toes, besides finding Chat many opinions do not coincide with my own. But it does some people good to have their iocs trodden upon. Differences of opinion, too, are wholesome, and if, as I* possible, in Otis case they ditect more attention to the enormous extent of country that might be but is not utilised, then may the differences continue. It may be justly urged that I have seen the country in a good season; but this is not altogether so, as in some parts little rain has fallen, and many of the creeks have not run. My observations have been carefully made, and are founded upon the old as well as the new growth. The con clusions, at any rate, are arrived at after a dose and careful personal examination of a large extent of country. The joumeyings said misfortunes of the Transcontinental Railway Commission party as far as the Peake station having already been ably narrated by "One of Them," with description of the country passed through, I will not dwell open that part of the trip at length, simply stating, that the country the road traverses: from the Strangways to the Peake is generally of a wretched kind. poor even for pastoral purposes, and useless for any other productions. Travelling along the road it is, bowerer, impossible to form a derided opinion, and those who have seenthe country on tS&at tide pronounce it of a much better character. It unfortunately appears to be a fact tint where the springs are the country as a role is *wfr???. As we cannot bring the good country to the water we most take the water from the springs to where there is food for the stock. The other mem ben of the party having returned homeward on April 24,1 find myself the sole rqpifpntiHra nf flu onmM^yn J and begin earnestly to ?*msidw how the long journey Is to be prosecuted. TT<migi tfc appears are available, bat a bqggyJs wanting. Mr. Kemp, tte manager of the. - Peake cattle station, kindly comes to tin rescue with the offer of a aerriof able American yjmpjff. With the ex perience of past breakdowns, I tibink it the very thing fora rough road. The main difficulty being overcome all others are trifles. Hones are shod, a supply of "tucker" is laid in, and at midday of the 25th we are ready to start. After lunch we bid good-bye to our hospitable friends, sxd wend our way to Algebockma, the gold diggings on Che Nealst, where we intend ???wr?'?g for the night. lam accompanied by Mr. J. Harding, of Crown Point station (commonly and anec tkmatery known as "Joe"}, and a black}* boy, who when he answers at all answers' to the name of *'Jena," bat the silence of that boy is as the silence of the tomb. It is not too much to say that Mr. Hard ing is known to every inhabitant of the north, from Hergott to Barrow's Creek. To him everything is fit and beaoti fed, and as we jog along he expa tiates upon the virtues of bun, herb, orgrass. Not a soul do we meet boj he is accosted as an old friend, and not a bone is wanted that he will not lend. The road from the Peake to Algebnckina runa at the foot of the range over a generally gravelly soil, crossing the Peake creek aboutanule from Hie station. AVths diggings we cross the Neale* just above a fine waterhole, the river nere forcing its way through the range immediately' above where the gold is found, The country thin far is not a pandiae upon earth, but it is heaven compared with the next few nulea. The determined spirits who dig here certainly deserve all the success that can be theirs. The ap pliances ere rude, but the prospects ap parently co not warrant, op to Che present moment, the expenditure of "Mrrh money. We now ascend a table land, and for twelve mOes the country may be de- . sctibed as atones with some soil stall left in the crevices, the vest pro bably having found its way, like much, of the hills, into Lake Eyre. ?? Gibbers" they axe called in Queensland. They ace cased in some reddish composidon, giving the landscape somewhat the appearance of broken bricks, only the bricks ought to be smooth and shiny. The coating may be scraped off these stones, but within they are too hard to be affected by any wheels drawn by animal power. Tben we pass Little Cadno vie, a spring of good water in some welcome —y?<??flt?_ My companion points out Big Cadnowte tpring, a few miles distant to the south. After three more miles we cross Hann'a Creek, a dry and desolate watercourse* and at the end of three more North Creek, equally dry and iuunvUa?S> "Gibbers" are now left behind, gsaret taking their place. The low hills tarigbA and left are gravel, so are the ratify ?tt& bed of the creek, and the road woosbst surpassed by the best drive, in Ade laide. But little rain can hive fallen here. The gtdea frhigh\g the water course is all but dead, *Jb? cotton bush being but little better, 'jne aspect damp ing the enthusiasm of. my friend iO""rrt 88 much as the "CJibbera." I protest that there is no l^nd at all; it has aQ goneinto lake long ago, leaving nothing but atjjmg and gravel, and 11' would be a if they would follow suit, partfjauarly the former, for the mcmoiy <& the "Gibbers" is contmoajly with \de. We pass from the desolajkum of jdorth Creek to the brightness of CecOia, which is not running, thoughfuU^ of beautiful water. Tub la a favorite camping place, ea it appeals to be tjha
margin between bad and fair country. From it the first Government' well we have seen la distant about three miles. The water is very good, and Mr. Ryan, of the camel waggon party, Is now, under instructions from his chief, engaged hi deepening it to increase the supply. The site la excellent, as the Cecilia Is not permanent. Theza is a great change sow, it being firm mulga country, well bushed generally and fairly grassed, though not thickly enough to bear heavy stocking. Through open country in which ia a belt of good p"niliili? with plenty of hush and grass we reach the "Angle Pole," an absurd name given to a fine waterhole hi the Neales, from a curve 00 --curricg hi the telegraph line. In the sandhills passed. is one of the few failures of the well-sinking party — salt water tavingbeenstruckandthe wellabandoaed. Here the weather-worn gravelly hills approach near the flooded ground of the creek, in some places the soft shale stand- Ing on edge, as it does where the gold is found at Algebuckina. At seven miles through nice level stock country we cross the Swallow, well-known as a camping spot. It is a fair waterhole under a rocky bank where swallow? build their nests ; hence its name. Thence the road ascends some stony country, where we leave the telegraph line to pursue its ?ndless way, via the Alberga and Stevenson, while we diverge to the right, for the Macumba. In a few miles we drop into the valley of Storm Creek. As we descend the somewhat steep declivity of the tableland dividing the tributaries of the Neales and the Mactzmbs, a fine view is afforded of the baela of the latter river, with Mount Alexander in the distance. Storm. Creek is followed by a winding track on Its rocky course to the Macumba for about five miles, to near the Government well of freeh water. This is also well situated about 16 miles distant from the next. The country round is considered fairly bushed and grassed, but I do not covet its posses sion. I prefer a leasehold where I can pitch my camp and rest my weary bones and bruised flesh—weary and bruised by reason of "gibbers"—without being Btill tortured by the compulsion of lying on them, or Timging myself hi a gidea tree, for any other place without them there is none. I diligently sought such a spot when returning, But found it not. Lower down the stones are in moderation, and disappear where we strike across a nine-mile plain of chocolate soil, but of Indifferent description, so far as feed hi concerned, for the Alberga. The salt and cotton bush is far apart, the grass only growing in the "gugys." Then comes a change to gladden the squatter—excellent ?MHMinfll country, with welLgnoed note between, to the Alberga River. Tni? we cross, and in a mile the Stevenson also. Both creeks are running dowry over a portion of their wide and shallow sandy beds, having been In heavy flood a few days previously. A couple of ?nilg? below is their junction, forming the Macumbs, in an arm of which is the well-known Ross's* hole, considered the finest water within many miles. It is not permanent, though without stocking it is eaid to last 18 months. Toe tableland to the east of the Macumba is reported to be firat-das?, and what I have seen bears out that character. After crossing the Stephenson the Macumba station, now occupied by Messrs. Chambers & Polhill as a store, is but a short distance. Here we are most hospitably welcomed by the kind proprietors. Mr. Polhill is also the contactor for running the mail between the Peake and Alice Springs, but on the subject of mails I shall have something to say in due coarse. For some miles, except the sandhills where mulga and smaller bushes are to be found, the country is timbered with box and gum, indicating that it is subject to big floods. This is so in fact, as the old Macumba station was abandoned in consequence of frequent floods. Its site is still pointed out to the curious traveller. Near it I am also shown an object of considerable interest, since it was the involuntary abode of a deservedly popular and promi nent membe rof the Legislature and two other esteemed colonists for same 50 hours. T can bear testimony to the judgment of the hon. member in his selection of that temporary residence as it undoubtedly is the best tree to roost upon in that locality. The rela tion recalls to recollection an incident in my own life, with the difference that I had cheese instead of sardines to subsist upon, and no tree to perch in. While here an opportunity is afforded of seeing a horse affected by the poison plant. One had died a few days previously. This poor brute appeared paralysed in the loins. Efforts were made to save him by my energetic friend in his capacity of "gene rally useful," but without avaiL lam supplied with specimens of tie supposed cause of.des£h, which for the satisfaction of the leeidenta shall be analysed. Ap pareatiy only horses hungry from a- journey suffer; those running upon the country are not affected. Excellent water is here obtainable on **"> bank of the stream at shallow depths, but the lessees of the run were not successful In tbeir attempts when ?tnlrin?r |q baekcoontay. After a night's stay, with a freah stock of provisions we start on our track np the Stevenson. For a while the road la over some heavy sand, but Jmpovea as we progress. For about 50 miles the valley of the creek is followed, occasionally a spur of tableland having to be crossed. Then the telegraph-line is met once more, and we strike off to the north-for Blood's Creek. In the stretch of country from the Macumba station to Ike's Well, where the telegraph line crosses the Stevenson, there are three Government wells, each of good water. As all are in the valley of the creek it may be argued that they are 00 index as to whether freeh water can be obtained on the higher land, but aa to their value hi opening up the road In any season there can be no tiro opinions. The tablelands appear a'J atony, but there b much good stock food upon them, though the timber, or indeed nearly everything above the size of a ealtbush, is confined to the lower lands adjacent to the creeks. The astual beds of all the large streams are pure white sand, and the Stevenson, so lar as I have eeen it, is no exception. At Eringa, the station of Messrs. Duncan & Treloar, some miles above the telegraph crossing, there is a splendid -waterhole never known to bs dry, but it appears to be the only one. It is ia hQly countey and said to be favored by a better yafafpfl rtum other places in this dry region. As we leave the Stevenson this station is to our left, Dalhousie Springs, the " wonder of tile north," being some SO miles on our right. These springs are indeed a marvel. Almost sur rounded by hills a few miles distant they are themselves on a considerable elevation, about ten miles long. Several of the most extraordinary were shown, tmong the rest the famed hot spring, the vater flowing from which would be called a river in the settlements. The supply is evidently inexhaustible, and while quite appreciating then- present importance it muet strike the observer as a pity they are centred in so comparatively small an area. In the no distant future I venture to predict thai a large portion of these waters will be carried very many miles away in pipes from the source. Spring Creek offers a fall down which the pipes can be laid to good countiy. thus caving stock the long tramp that killfl to water. Immediately round the springs a kind of acacia bush, rushes, and reeds, with several kinds of grasses, among the rest a couch-grass, ace growing freely, but as the water descends en to the level ground vegetation dis appears, indicating that when the water tisea it ii comparatively free from the properties deleterious to vegetable life. This view is jxtrne out by the fact (hat tie creek from the hot spring flows in ? wall-defined channel lined with fences fftr Srom two to three miles, and tfcenajaeads 00$ into a cwamp covered
with reeds such as grow hi the swamps of the Murray. Below that it becomes im pregnated with saline matter, and the ground presents the same white barren aspect characteristic of the springs from the Hergott to the Peake. On ike whole, however, the countiy round the Dalhousie Springs is much better, and the number of cattle it has supported in many droughts is a proof of this. The road to Blood's Creek crosses a plain broken by sand rises and claypans very similar to much of the back country of the Darling. There is another Govern ment well at Blood's Creek near the junction of the Dalhousie-road. The water is good, and I understand the supply also. A house of accommodation foe travellers and astore has just been opened, which will be a great convenience, aa that is a general camping place. A few miles further we ascend the tableland dividing the watersheds of the Steven?on and the Finke. Here our old trouble, the "gibbers," confronts üb. They close upon us on each Bids and seem en dowed with life, as they are ever before each wheeL Our strong trap recoils from apparently a score at once. We try "deviations," a term travellers by rail between Hergott and Strangwaya will understand, but the result Is not satisfac tory. Without danger to the "unruly member" you cannot even mutter curses, and connected conversation is Impossible. My companion emulates the taciturnity of the silent Jem and Is heard no more until we descend into the valley of the Adminga, and breathe freely again. Here stones still prevail, but the road ia better. There is little limber in this tributary of the Finke, and the countiy is but sparsely bushed or grassed. It is hard and hQly, and should be a good water-shed, causing the creek to flood with light rains. From hereto Charlotte Waters telegraph-station is 16 miles. Bullocky Creek lies between, where the welhdnkers tried boring, but abandoned the effort in consequence of some breakage in the tube. For some miles before arrival at the telegraph station the road traverses quite open gravel and stony country, with low hills to the left and the Charlotte Creek on the right, beyond which can be seen the depression of the Finke. The site of the telegraph-station is an unfor tunate one. It is dry, bare, and desolate, with the hot stony land all round. Pro bably it was chosen as offering no cover to ??"'? l^a**fr^ ( but no such consideration can have weight now, and before any im provements are made the desirability of removing to a place where permanent water can be obtained, and vegetables grown, should receive the atten tion of the authorities. The pre sent site is spoken of as the hottest of hot localities, which can well be, for there is not a tree ex bush within half a mile. To the south and west the nearly bare stony comrbry extends for miles, to look upon which in hot weather must be almost to wither jou. We are now just over the 26 parallel of latitude, and may well pause to consider the different aspect presented by the country aa it lies before us. South Australia proper is behind; the Northern Territory in front. The line almost defines the difference in vegetation. Looking over the Charlotte Creek to the north trees, bushes, and grass are growing in profusion; in some places the timber appears almost dense. To the south stretches a wide expanse of country where the eye in vain searches for tree or bush. The interminable atones, of which we have seen so much, are left behind. Truly, they are scattered over the higher lands of the great Finke water shed before us, but they do not cover ft to the exclusion of vegetation as we have eeen in the past. Apart, too, from the marked dissimilarity ia the country we are some 200 miles on our journey, at the only -telegraph-ststion between the Peake and Alice Springs. The officials are kindness itself, welcoming us with all the hospitality of old friends, so that we feel no hesitation in lingering a few days to lcok around and prepare for the second part of our trip. Charlotte Waters telegraph-station "?"k? the conclusion of the first part of our journey, and here msy fittingly close this article.