To Armidale and Walcha.
BY FRANK LEMON.
COBB'S coaches are a great institution, and serve many useful purposes in the way of carrying mails, breaking in young horses, and such like ; but as passenger conveyances they aro not calculated to inspire a man with very charitablo feelings to wards the world in general, nor towards Messrs. Cobb and Co. in particular. This is especially so in tho case of tho coach travelling from Bende- meer to Armidale. Not that this vehicle is any worse than tho usual run; but the abominable concern starts at half-past ll at night, and arrives in Armidale at 7 in tho morning, just when rea sonable people are enjoying tho most oomfortable part of their night's rest. And as a seven hours' coach journey, even in daylight, is a dread-in- spiring prospect to any individual not built with indiarubber joints, it is, os may easily be ima gined, doubly so at night, when in addition to to the
horrid "rattle-his-bones" motion of the vehicle, one has to struggle against a suppressed somno lence, which renders him quite incapable of keep ing a proper guard against the constant danger to his cranium, consequent upon his frequent, though involuntary, efforts to knock a hole through the roof. Tho trip is rendered a trifle more comfortable sometimes by riding on tho box; but on a winter's night, in New England, one is fain to endure the banging rather than face the bitterly cold night air; and for this reason I chose an inside passage. My friend, Auctioneer Cavanagh, elected to ride outside, but at the end of the first stago he concluded that he had made a mistake, and changed his quarters. We passed through Uralla at 4.30 a.m., and here, while horses were being changed, partook of a very aceptable shilling's worth of refreshment in the shape of a cup of coffee with a slice of bread-and-butter, pro vided by Cobb and Co.'s groom, there stationed.
Punctually at 7, we reached the cathedral city, and the coach being met at the post-office by the waiter from the Wellington Hotol I followed him mechanically to a room, feeling very much like the proverbial "boiled owl." During that day, as might be expected, I was fit for nothing ; but next morning, I lost no timo in preparing for a ride round. After consulting the waiter and acting upon his recommendation, I called upon a chaff cutter by the name of Roberts; and from him, after some haggling, I hired a tremendous grey buggy horso, at a cost per day which would not amount to tho value of the horso in less than a week, and was thereforo considered a reasonable charge. He was a big animal, was this grey horse, so big, in fact, that i had to mount him from the top of a three-rail fonce. But even if I had to carry a portable ladder for this purpose, it would havo been better to do so than be left on the road by an insignificant animal, too small for its work, si I grumbled not. There was one difficulty, how ever. Roberts had no saddle, and as I was not sufficiently pachydermatous to ride barebacked, to say nothing of the indignity of so doing, I was under the necessity of "fossicking around" for one. In this I was presently successful, thanks to my friend the auctioneer, who had ridden the tail off his own horse some days previously, and had the saddle left on his hands; and at 11.30 a.m. I made a start in the direction of Rockvale.
An inquiry or two shortly after starting satisfied me that I was on the right track, and sniffing the fresh New England air with great gusto, I jogged steadily along. In this way I journeyed till about half-past 2, when the sight of a house in the dis tance gladdened my heart, and indeed my stomach, too. For I was beginning to feel peckish. The place proved to be a bush saw mill, and after a short conversation with a man belonging to the establishment, I learnt that I had arrived at Joey's Nob, and must have left the Rockvale-road some hours previously. How ever, I was not more than five miles out of my way, and if I would follow the log track round a mountain spur indicated, for about half a mile then turn to the right across a cleared space, follow the marked trees down the hill, cross the gully at the bottom, then make across a gap in tho moun tains, bearing away a little to the left on tho other side, till I came to a black gully, and run this black gully down for about two miles I would come to Hamilton's woolshed. Here I would find a bridle track leading to Hamilton's house, and at Hamilton's they would further direct me. I felt considerable doubt in my own mind as to whether I should ever reach Hamilton's alive, but I thanked the man for his trouble, pressed him if ever he should go to Sydney to call upon my wife and re member me kindly, and then took my departure along the log track.
It would bo tedious to describe how for the next two hours I wandered about those mountains; how I could find no marked trees, and no black gully; how the only gap I could discover in the range was a stony ridgo almost as steep as the side of a house; how I had to get off my horse and load him up; and how I became so hungry that I would willingly have eaten a steak off one of the numerous kangaroos which abounded on all sides could I have gotten at them. I will therefore merely say that just as I was making up my mind to turn the horse adrift, and meet my fate with appropriate calmness in some soft spot where there were not many stones, and where the birds could come and cover me with leaves, I struck a fence, and running this down presently reached a slip rail, where providentially a man on horseback was just passing through. This proved to be no less than the fence surrounding Hamilton's woolshed, and I was therefore soon put on to the bridle track, and in less than a quarter of an hour was seated before a substantial feed, kindly and promptly pro vided by Mrs. Hamilton. How I enjoyed that feed anyone may judgo who has travelled through the bush, fasting, from breakfast time till half-past 4; and how my horse enjoyed the spell may be gathered from the fact that he lay down and en deavoured to roll with tho saddle on, valise and all, much to my consternation.
From Hamilton's I found a road to Rockvale head station, and passing this I went on about three miles to Tullich where my friend Mr. M'Kay and his hospitable wife fed both me and
my horse, and comfortably camped the pair of
for the night.
Mr. M'Kay is one of a small colony of Scotch settlers who have made homes for themselves selecting on the Rockvale and Wollamumi runs, and whoso natural thrift, aided by a genial climate, is likely soon to place thom in position of independence. There aro the Finlaysons and the M'Kays, and the M'Lennans and M'Donalds, and the M'Raes and the Camerons ; and altogether they form a most valuable bunch of colonists. Mr. M'Kay has recently improved his place of residence by building a new one, and he is now comfortably domiciled as any rational individual could wish to be. He has his snug house with its surrounding orchard, and in close proximity his cultivation patches where he grows sufficient hay to feed his horses ; and in the evening, when his sheep are camped on the adjacent ridges, he can stand upon his verandah and consider himseld lord of all he surveys. What more does a man want? Nothing, except a drop of
"whiskey," and M'Kay keeps a stock of that the cupboard. And, by the way, M'Kay and I punished the Glenlivet that night ! But this
by the way.
Next morning, which was Friday, I wished to make a friendly call upon several other Scotch acquaintances I had in tho neighbourhood, but having booked for a passage by the coach to leave Armidale for Walcha at 4. a.m. on Saturday, and being now over 20 miles from town, I was obliged to confine my visiting to a call upon Mr. Roderick M'Lennan, tho " Laird o' Kilcoy," and a passing word or two with a few others whose places I encountered in riding back to Armidale. Mr M'Lennan couldn't allow me to go without taking some refreshment,, and as a similar feeling pre vailed at the several other houses at which I touched, I was obliged to eat my way back into town, like a popular politician on the stump. But I am very accommodating in this respect as a rule, and on this occasion I complied manfully with every demand; enjoying, the while, the contrast between this journey and my trip out on the previous day.
As I approached Armidale from the Glen Innes side that afternoon I was much struck with the splendid view of tho city obtainable from the the of tho hill which overlooks it. Armidale is a city by virtue of cathedrals, and although in point of size it would hardly command the title, in view of the substantial nature of its dark brick build ings, and the cleanly order and neatness of its streets, it is well deserving of any distinction which it thus enjoys. The city is built on the side of a gently sloping hill, at the foot of which flows a small stream called the Dumaresq Creek. The streets are broad, and laid out at right angles and the footpaths and roadways are well kept. In fact, it is the boast of tho inhabitants that Armidale is the cleanest town in tho colony, and Mr. Auctioneer Cavanagh assured me that a per son might walk through tho streets five minutes after a heavy shower without soiling his boots. This may be owing more to the gravelly nature of the formation stuff, than to any extraordinary
activity on the part of the municipal authority but it is at all events a healthy sign when the townspeople consider general cleanliness as some thing to '-blow" about. Too often country bur gers never give it a thought.
I resumed my quarters at the Wellington at about 5 p.m., and, after tea, pledged Mr. Mandel son's most obliging waiter to supply me in the morning with a cup of coffee and a few sand wiches, and call me at 4 o'clock. I then retired at a sufficiently early hour to ensure my regulation eight hours sleep. The waiter was punctual with his " Now then, sir, tumble out please ! " next morning, and by 5 o'clock I was under way for
The mail coach from Armidale to Walcha is not run by Cobb and Co., but the vehicle used is built upon the same principles as Cobb's are, and is quite as much a terror to passengers, and this trip it was rendered considerably more obnoxious from the fact of a box of strong smelling fish forming part of the cargo on the rack. And when I add that in crossing Salisbury Plain, between Uralla and Walcha, we got into a boghole-or "bawg," as the coachman termed it-from which the horses were powerless to extricate us (not withstanding tho driver's assurances that he would "straighten" them), until the team from a passing dray hooked on and pulled us out, it will bo unnecessary to remark that we had a most unpleasant journey.
At Walcha I put up at Johnson's Commercial - not the bank, but the hotel, and I don't think I could have done better, for they are " good sorts are those Johnsons, and the servants are " good sorts," and the visitors were "good sorts" too, whilo I was there, and being,-of course, a "good sort" myself, there was quite a collection of us.
Walcha is decidedly a pretty town; not very compact, not very large, but most undeniably picturesque. It is a very muddy place in wet weather, but with the excoption of tbat model city, Armidale, what country town is not ? Walcha possesses a post and telegraph office, court-house, local lands office, a bank, four stores, two mills, four hotels, a school of arts, several churches, an " oldest inhabitant," and a local correspondent to that ubiquitous journal the TOWN AND COUNTRY, SO that it has little to desire in the shape of public blessings. And when I say that it is situated on the Apsley River, and in the midst of a considerable fraternity of squatters whoso business or inclination draws them fre quently into town, it would bo superfluous to add that Walcha is a prosperous place, and its inhabi tants proud of their little city. It is very cold though, about this neighbourhood in winter time and returning from a visit to a neighbouring station one day, I encountered a storm of rain and sleet which wetted me through, and almost froze me to death. But I like Walcha, for all that and that Armidale native who was staying a Johnson's, and who has never been out of the district, has contracted a liking for it too by this
time, no doubt.
There was a performance by a trio of travelling professionals in the School of Arts during my stay, but I would rather hear Charley Perry descant upon " Jonah and the Whale " any day. The Armidale native wouldn't, perhaps ; but then
I am not a country youth, and that makes all the
difference. . .
Three days here, and having obtained a general knowledge of the neighbourhood of Walcha, I hire a nag (a bob-tailed nag, by the way), and enter upon a 32-mile ride back to Bendemeer, of which more presently. _