BY "THE VAGABOND.'
EXCURSIONS FROM PORTLAND.
I boldly state that around Portland there is the most picturesque and varied scenery to be met with on the coast of Victoria. By sea one can make excursions to Julia Percy Island and the Lawrence Rocks; by land to Capes Grant, Nelson, and Bridgewater. One can also ride or drive along the shore to the fertile patches under Mount Clay and about Narrawong. It is in the latter direction that I am driven by Ancient Citizen M'Mullen, who is anxious to show me the site of the earliest settlement at the extreme north of the bay. Past Whalers' Point, down the Cliff-road on to the beach, leaving God's Acre and Mr Matheson's charming mansion on the hill to the left, we drive along the firm sands. The town of Portland stands out clear and distinct on the high plateau behind us . Owing to its situation, every "point", so to speak, is made the most of. Seaward, the waves break with a sullen murmur over the reef in the bay, and dash in fury, not all im-
potent, against the peaks of the Lawrence Rocks. In the distance a faint outline against the sky is Julia Percy Island. In- land are paddocks fenced with post and rail and wire. And such wire! It is half an inch thick. The Henty's did everything in a solid, substantial, English manner. The claims of posterity appear to have been considered in all the improvements at and around Port-
land. En route one sees evidences of past days in an occasional bleached and decaying whale rib. But these are common around and in Portland. The parsonage garden, even, is enriched with an arch made of the giant ribs of the first whale caught by the Hentys-tithe to Holy Church. Six miles from town we arrive at what my charioteer says was known as the "old convincing ground." Here there was a woolshed and boiling-down and boat-build- ing establishments. A few posts in the water, a few posts on shore, are now all that remain of what was once-Mr. M' Mullen tells me-a busy settlement. It was from this spot that the whales coming round the reef could first be attacked; it was at this spot that wood was easiest procured for boat building; it was at this spot that thousands of sheep were sheared and boiled down for
"I have seen this place like a fair," says my companion. " Men camped in tents all about whilst the shearing was on. The whales used to be scratching themselves against the reef there, and there was plenty of money made at that game. Now there is nothing but a few decayed sticks to be seen. From Whalers' Point there are no signals that the great cestaceans are sport- ing about the reefs, rubbing off their parasites. A few bones here there on the shore alone show that this was once an important whaling station. But if the whales have gone the land remains, and along the shore to Narra- wong and Belfast one can reach one of "the most fertile and lovely localities in Victoria."
The former district is situated between Mount Clay and the sea and the Surry and Fitzroy Rivers. It was here that Major Mitchell struck the sea, and continuing his course along the shore with the intention of making Cape Bridgewater was astonished to see a brig at anchor, and find a settlement. As early as 1851 this drntnet was already prosperously settled. "Black Thursday"
"did great havoc here, as in all parts of the Western district, one farmer losing house, barn, and stacks to the value of £3,000." The farmers in fertile Narrawong still supply Portland with farm and dairy produce as in 1858 when Mr Bonvvick recorded his visit there. Leaving the shore we strike inland over and through the sand hummocks into a real country lane, with cultivated paddocks here and there. These are well fenced, al-
ways with the same strong wire. This road was made by the Hentys, who did not in those days think of asking for Government assistance. There is very little traffic on it now. The log fences are all covered with ferns and creeping plants. The high bush grass in the lane affords enough feed for a small herd of cattle. The trees, which form in many places an arch overhead, make pic- turesque vistas. The same eucalyptus this, but the luxurance of vegetation makes the bush here of quite a different character to the dry forests of the Riverina. There is such a verdant wealth that I can imagine myself in an English lane in spring. A touch of colour only is wanted to make this perfect. It would be a graceful act on the part of those well-meaning ladies and gentlemen who are devoting themselves to the task of beautify-
ing the back-yards of our cities if they would freely scatter the seeds of the foxglove and violet in such localities as these.
The trees in the paddocks through vvhich we pass are all rung, and there is excellent feed for stock. But we see no cattle, and this long lane appears to lead to nowhere. Anon, however, we come to some white gates which lead to an old wool washing establish- ment of Mr Edward Henty's. A homestead, my guide tells me, was established here, and a productive orchard still exists but the place has been long abandoned. After a nine miles charming drive from Portland, right under the green slope of Mount Clay,
we come on a collection of buildings which it is strange to find here in the heart of the bush. First, there is an ordinary set of men's huts, then two sides of a square are formed by low and long brick structures. Entrance to this is had by high wooden gates bearing the orthodox legend of city establishments-"No admission except on business." This is the "wool-wash" of Messrs. Schofield Brothers, of Melbourne, an example of energy and enterprise pleasing to meet with. In this remote spot-native name, Boliwarra -it appears they found a plentiful supply of pure water and a shelter from dust and dirt, and so they erected these buildings, and either on their own account or for other brokers yearly scour an increasing quantity of greasy wool, which is brought by sea to Port- land, even from far Oueensland stations, and thence twice carted over the worst of roads to and from Boliwarra. Yet the process pays, and pays well! This is not yet the season for scouring, and it takes a considerable amount o£ " cooeying" to arouse the caretaker, a man who, as is often the case in Australia, appears to be far superior to his position. The yard is covered with green turf. On one side is the long vvoolshed, now empty of aught but the press. The big gate, house, and offices, guard another side. High palings, the hill slope, and the bush com- plete the square. The washing shed is in the rear. One descend into it and finds that it is cut out of the solid rock. A great tank runs along the shed, and a high door is on a level with this. Below, the washing goes on. The process is first to thoroughly cleanse with hot water, supplied by pipes from a large boiler, and then to wash again and again with cold water. The wool is afterwards dried on the floor above, and bleached in the sun m the yard. The result, I am told, is a wonderful change in quality and value. The methods adopted are simple . The wool is placed into huge baskets, and the hot and cold water turned on from pipe or tank, the waste draining away through the open floor over the rocks. There are a dozen valves to the tank, which is always kept full. Through a door at the rear we walk by the flume which fills the tank. It is full of lovely clear water. Underneath the flume and under- neath the footbridge on which I stand, a stream babbles and gurgles over the stones. This is the Surry or First River, historic as being the one which led Major Mitchell to
Picturesque as this is, overhung by many bushes verdant in their spring beauty, and striking one as being a capital place for trout, it is here only an adjunct to the landscape for which, I daresay, practical Messrs. Schofield care little. Thev do not use it for their water supply. On the other side of this creek there is a large lagoon, formed by a dam. Ducks breed in the rushes on its banks, and it appears in every way natural, yet it has been formed by man. Everlasting springs keep this always full. The small floodgate which supplies the pipe being raised, the water rushes into the flume clear and sparkling in the sunlight, with a thou- sand crystalline rays. One realises that
this would cleanse the very greasiest of merino, the greatest pressure brought to bear being a potent factor in the process, which, it is claimed, is far superior to steaming, as the fibre of tho wool is not injured. Last season 1 600 bales were washed here, 30 men being employed. As the advantages of this esta- blishment become known there will be much more wool brought in and more hands at work; and as all this means that tax ond toll will be paid to Portland, the people there speak respectfully of Boliwarra. After an interesting hour passed here we leave the lonely stationkeeper, who has not, so he says been in town for six months, and return to Portland by another road. Here is swamp and ti-tree and thick under- scrub, varied with most beautiful heaths. The loam is sticky in many places and we stroke a veritable glue-pot, but the land, I am told, is good and in the future, when drained and cleared will produce a thousand fold. Nine miles from Portland we strike the main road to Heywood, Branxholme and Hamilton. Merry this in the old coaching days, and with a heavu bullock-team traffic. Here I am shown the site of the old camp, and one of the old posts standing where "the Major" yarded his cattle before making his last day's march through the thick scrub to the sea. Sydney Smith who died two days back in the Benevolent Asylum, was the car- penter of the expedition, and put up this corral. Ancient Citizen M'Mullen wants me to get out and touch the post, and I be- lieve, thinks considerably less of me when I decline. Here there is the first piece of road ever constructed in Victoria, made by the Hentys, over a bad bit of swampy ground draining from the First River. We drive back to Portland passing, two bullock teams belonging to a well-known station; passing, also two or three deserted hotels-one a really fine two-story building, which is now being pulled down, the material to be used else- where. Here as all over Victoria, the rail-
way has ruined the road as far as drinking capabilities are concerned.
The people of Portland are very kind to me. I am received by the Guardian, third in age of Victorian journals, in a manner I shall ever remember. The younger light in contemporaneous literature-the Mirror-is not behind in courtesy: and the banks and the Jubilee secretary, Mr. James R. Woods, escort me to Capes Nelson and Bridgewater. The W.S.N. Company, as represented by Captain Thompson and Manager Osborne, also accompany me on the former excursion. Over the bridge, leaving the beautiful home- stead, Burswood, where Mr. Edward Henty lived for so many years, to the left, other charming residences peeping through the trees on the right, past the cemetery, we are on a sandy upland. Our four horses have a hard afternoon's pull of it. A local en- thusiast writes- "A botanist will here find an almost boundless field to operate on. The heath lands that lie between the southern side of the town and the capes just men- tioned are in summer time one gorgeous mass of many-coloured flowers, hundreds of acres of brilliant, heathy clusters, one single spray of which would be a treasure in an English hothouse." Here one finds epacris, correa, Banksia, xanthorrea. Small tarns are met with now and then, and patches of cultiva- tion are here and there to be seen. We soon strike the shores of Nelson bay, which is surrounded by cliffs 150 to 200 feet high. The formation is of limestone and basalt, worn into many fantastic shapes, but clothed to the edge with vegetation whose verdure con- trasts strongly with the white slopes. Below the wives circle one after another-placid and quiet in the outer rings, increasing in
speed and fury till they dash in a foaming surf on the rocks and sands at the base of the cliffs. We drive perilously near some- times, as it seems, to the edge. I think of Edgar's saying, "How fearful and dizzy 'tis to cast ones eyes below." But we have a first class charioteer, and there is no danger. There is a wildness of primeval nature in these rocks and waves. There are no "sam- phire gatherers," no fishers, nothing to tell of man's dominion but the wire fence which protects a paddock whose principal produc- tion is a crop of the quaint grass- tree. As one of our party says, " it will perhaps keep a bandicoot to the acre." A dangerous lee shore this in Nel
son Bay. The spot ia pointed out to me where the German vessel Maria was vvrecked m 1852, en voyage from Adelaide to Sydney, and all hands lost. At another spot a schooner was run ashore on to a ledge of rock, on to which the crew leaped and escaped. But all mariners now give this as wide a berth as possible.
The coast scenery is grand and impressive, but we have come out specially to see Port- lands latest "lion," the lighthouse at Cape Nelson which has only been opened since last July. This stands on a bold, bleak, basalt headland, the most southerly point of our colony the navigator from Europe will strike except Cape Otway. It is 106ft. from the ground to the light, and about 270ft. above sea level. There are three good blue- stone residences for the lighthouse keeper, his two assistants, and their families. High walls surround these, and the patches of rock and sand which time and industry may convert into gardens. No expense has been spared, as there is even a shelter-wall, under which the hardy beacon-bearers can crawl in rough weather from their homes, 200 yards off, to the lighthouse door. Perhaps, however, this is necessary, as without it in a boisterous gale it would be very easy to walk over the cliff. Mr. Fisher, the head keeper, 30 years in the service, and for a long time at Gabo Island, escorts us up the tower and gives me every information. There are 115 steps and four landing places. As we trudge upwards, I see that this is a well built, solid concern- as it needs to be. All the ironwork, pillars,
and steps came from J. H. Jennings and Son. of Melbourne, but the reflectors, glasswork, and fixings, of the light, &c., are from Chance's well-known works, near Birmingham. The light is a fixed one, paraffin oil being used, the arrangements for feeding the lamp and the draught-pipe, which always keeps the flame at full blaze, being very interesting. The light is so bright and vivid that I am glad to utilise one of the pair of blue glasses which Messrs. Chance thoughtfully sent out for the use of visitors and lighthouse-keepers. Cape Nelson light can be seen 22 miles off from seaward. Landward and along the coast there is a view from here of many miles. We step out on the little iron balcony. Right below us the "will and wasteful ocean" swills the base of the o'erhanging and jutting rocks. What an awful waste of power there seems in this! Far out at sea there is an Orient steamer bound for Melbourne, nearer a coasting packet for Adelaide. A magni-
ficent grand view of sea and land now, but in winter and storm time it is awful. Then when the wind howls and roars the sea is lashed into such fury that the spray is dashed over the lighthouse, and as Mr. Fisher tells me, a gigantic wave will sometimes be hurled against the rocks with such apparent over-
whelming force that men will turn and flee from the very sight of it. many weird tales of storms a lighthouse-keeper can tell-verily,
a strange life they and their families lead. But I do not find the little lass who sits on my knee, and generally takes charge of me whilst we imbibe the refreshing and non- inebriating cup kindly set before us by Mrs. Fisher, at all so spoony and shy as Swin- burne's lighthose girl of the "Casquettes." All happiness to you little one!
A trip to Cape Bridgewater is the crowning joy which awaits the holiday-maker at Port- land. I find this to be one of the plea- santest excursions I have had in the colo- nies. There will be no overdrafts granted at the Portland banks to-day, for I have all the managers with me; the correspondence respecting the Jubilee Exhibition will wait until to-morrow, for the honorary secretary is in charge of the luncheon basket; the college boys will, doubtless, rejoice at the absence of their principal, and the club papers will remain till evening untouched by the Ancient Squatter, who, however, looks younger, and is haler and heartier than many far his juniors. We drive eastwards along a good road leading through the forest which surrounds Portland. The traveller can follow this to the Glenelg River and Mount Gambier The scenery around the mouth of the Glenelg called forth most enthusiastic praise from the explorer of Australia Felix, Major Mitchell. "Its fine current, its island homes, its deep caverns, its grotesque and lofty
walls, 200ft. high, covered with creepers and flowers, and its broad basin alive with wild- fowl," delighted the major. I give this extract from Mr. Bonwick for the benefit of any tourist who may be tempted to take horse or "pad the hoof" to Glenelg, but I am not prepared to admit that the scenery there can be as picturesque as at Cape Bridgewater. Soon we turn away from the western road and strike towards the south through a bush track bordered with spring flowers. People who sneer at the flora of Australia should be here in this and the few following months. They will be sur- prised and delighted, as I am, with the variety to be found. On this heath there is, how- ever, a lack of fauna. ln England this would be the home of thousands of larks and ground linnets. Here the birds prefer the gum forests, and there is no trace of animal life except a stray kangaroo, which hops along by the track and then sits up on its hind legs and curiously watches the waggonette as we drive within a few yards of it. But at one time, ages and ages ago, life swarmed here. But it was the life of the Eocene period. This, then, was the bed of old ocean, and that small ridge of hills to the right was an ancient cliff boundary of
'"The Bats' Ridges," as these are called, contain the "Bats' Caves"-wonders of the Western district of Victoria and of Aus- tralia. The geologist, especially, will find a very great charm in visiting these. There are seven or eight caves, some running into each other, and there are several entrances from the hillside. But there is a good deal of crawling, serpent-wise, from cave to cave, and there are dark, gloomy, damp hollows never yet thoroughly explored, and in which it would be easy to get lost. There are no guides to this place, and tourists visiting it should bring their own candles, and a supply of magnesium wire. Without the latter they will miss a great many ot the beauties of the vast number, the variety, and the pictur- esque forms of the pendant stalactites and the rising stalagmites. Without proper lights, and the precaution of tracking one's path by a string, one might spend a very damp and uncomfortable two hours in the Bats' Caves, as one of my friends did some time back. I read- "The most wonderful cave has a gaping mouth like that of a monster dragon, to whose teeth the rows of stalactites would bear no ill resemblance. The front is 70ft. high by 60ft., expanding into an irregular arch. The roof is so fretted us to look like some gorgeously sculp- tured roof of a cathedral. While resting upon a projection from the rear, with the pinnacles over my head, I could readily recall the bishop's throne at Exeter. The grass and lightwood rise to the floor, while on the rock above, delicate, tender plants linger about fantastic tracings, and entwine around stranger forms than their own." All sorts of wonderful fossils have been found in these caves-flints with impressions of leaves, and plants, and seaweed, coral, shells, teeth of sharks, and bones of seals. Thousands of years ago these caves, after first emerging from the waters, became the home and breed- ing-place of the amphibious mammals, even as the rocky recesses of Julia Percy Island me now. The blackfellows had some faint traditions in connexion with the Bats' Caves. "A spirit, Pumyil, resided in one, and was accustomed to descend there- from and walk the shore." Pumyil would be an interesting spirit to interview. I con- sider that he is an added attraction to these caves. It is quite an event to find any haunted place in Australia. The tourist who fails to visit the Bats' Ridges will regret it,
as I do.
The heath gets more barren, grass-trees and small fresh-water tarns dot the land- scape, mighty sand hummocks line the coast For a time we are far below the level ot these, but when at last we scale the brow of a hill, and Bridgewater Bay bursts on our view in all its beauty, I think this the most charm- ing bit of coast scenery I know of in Aus- tralia. Bold and rugged Cape Nelson is to the east, to the west Cape Bridgewater is covered with verdure, and dotted with clumps of timber. Cultivatedpaddocks, stone farm- houses and barns are to be seen here and there, recalling to mind the fact that this district was settled and cultivation com- menced soon after the arrival of the Hentys. The township, if such it is, is very scattered, the farms being on the patches of good land far apart. l am told that there are several places of worship at Bridgewater, and of course there is a State School, which here still bears the old legend, "Common School." But we have not come out to-day to look at farms, churches, or schools, but to commune with and worship Nature. Below us the shallow waters of the bay vary in colour from ultramarine to malachite and emerald, as the long waves circling fiom cape to cape sweep slowly and lazily in, dying out in a fringe of white foam on the shore. Far away under the heights of Cape Bridgewater are the boats of some fishermen, for it is here that the famous haddock is caught, a finny delicacy now getting all too scarce. In the green side of the hill a pleasant little homestead and garden are nestled, some huts are at the landing place below. But we have not time yet to tarry at Mrs. M'Kinlay's, we must on across the Peninsula to the " blow holes." So down between a ravine formed by the old cliffs and the new sand hummocks, the home of thousands of rabbits , up the hill- side, by fertile farm and field, through a wooded paddock which for all the world re- minds me of the slopes of Mount Major above pleasant Dookie, until, some 17 miles from Portland, we emerge on the western side of Cape Bridgewater, the long bight known as Discovery Bay before us, Cape Northumberland afar off on the horizon, at our feet the Southern Ocean, roaring, and tossing, and hurling against the rocks in a never ceasing fury-the pitiless, blind fury of the irresistible forces of Nature.
The Ancient Squatter, traveller over many lands, stands by my side as we silently take m the sublimity before us, and says, "It is a grander sight, this, than Niagara." I am half inclined to agree with him . The waters dash against the rocks, and hurl the spray 100 feet high ; wave after wave shatters into foam. From all quarters old ocean gathers its forces. The swift currents meet, as it seems, in a very hell broth, and unite in the work of destruction. The enormous volume of water dashing over the rocks on such a comparatively calm day as this has a terrific effect. Sometimes an immense wave will leap up from the centre of the whirlpool, and hurl itself against the basalt as if endowed with sentient though. This is so extraor- dinary that I cannot help thinking subter- ranean action is still at work, for traces of earthquakes and volcanoes are all about. The basalt and lime and sandstone rocks are mingled with conglomerate. Great blocks of scoria are scattered around. Smaller pieces of ashes are on the surface, or in the sand on
the top of the cliffs. The action of water visible on these shows that there has been a submarine explosion. Have these forces en- tirely subsided? Looking at the seething, roaring mass of waters beneath, one cannot help thinking that these are still at work in this riotous whulpoo!. Or it may be that the strange disturbances are caused by the overflow from some subterranean sea. Whatever agencies put the ocean into force, destruction here goes on. From the summit of "a cliff whose high and bend- ing head looks fearfully on the confined deep," we mark how the hard rocks have been frayed, and jagged, and rent into ravines and gullies by the perpetual contest with the waves. Enormous piles of stone have been undermined, and have fallen into the sea below. Up the ravines the waves rush with a roar, retreating with a growling, sullen boom, savage, as it seems, that their powers of destruction have not immediate effect. Quaint and picturesque outlines are formed by the continual battle of water and rock. Fifty feet below the top of the cliffs, and again below those, are ledges and plat- forms of rock, over which the spray now dashes, and which, sometimes, the seas sweep in their full force, where many quiet pools form lovely aquaria. The tenacity ot anemones and ocean vegetation is extraordinary. On the rocks below seaweed is growing in the midst of the howling billows which in time wear away the granite. The "blowholes" are formed by the water rushing into some narrow hole in the rocks, whence it is spouted out in columns of spray with a noise varying from a cannon's roar to the shrill blast of a cornet. Strange vagaries, indeed, does old ocean play on this coast.