Elizabeth Springs

I wished if possible to get on to one or other of the large rivers viz. Ashburton, Robe, or Fortescue, before the worst of the tropical heat came upon us, where I could “spell” the stock until the heavy tropical rains fell when they could be moved on to their destination in safety and without difficulty.

All were astir early on the following morning, as we were all anxious to reach the far famed Elizabeth springs where poor Henry Clarkson and his brother William left his party on that ill-fated journey to explore the country between there and the Gascoyne River, with the object of ascertaining the best route for travelling the stock. That journey, it is unnecessary for me to dilate upon here, as it is now a matter of history to which a very sad story attaches which I will endeavour at a later date to describe viz. how a fine, dashing young fellow in the pride and strength of his manhood who, with a bright future before him, was suddenly cut off perishing at the hands of a horde of cruel and relentless savages.

After seeing all the party started I gave instructions to Mr Robert Heppingstone whom I left in charge of the party to follow upon my tracks, and taking my faithful henchman Nanup with me I pushed ahead towards the Elizabeth springs, upon reaching which I promised either to return myself or send Nanup back to guide him to them.

After travelling a few miles I noticed patches of green grass here and there and I said to Nanup, “I think a thunderstorm must have passed over here not long ago”. He said, “Yes, I think when we get further on we shall find plenty of green grass everywhere”. This proved true for the next ten miles showed that there had been a very heavy rainfall and for miles around the hills and valleys showed out like one vast and beautiful flower garden. What a change from the dry and arid waste over which we had been travelling so wearily for so many days and weeks. Now everything was changed as by the touch of a magician’s wand. The same soil, the same trees and scrub and rocks, the same hills and valleys and plains, but wearing a beautiful smile instead of a frown. Oh! beautiful rain. What magic is there in your tender healing touch which changes the face of stern, harsh nature to such softness and beauty as this.

It is difficult to imagine these wonderful changes in the face of the country in these Northern portions of Western Australia which is subject to the heavy tropical rains or partial heavy thunderstorms which sometimes travel for many miles in one direction, making the country on one side like a beautiful garden and leaving the other like a howling desert such as we had just passed over.

As we proceeded we saw that all the gullies and small creeks had overflowed their banks and for miles had left many pools of clear, fresh water. What a contrast to what we had lately been accustomed to. No use for our water bags now, which hung dry and light from our saddle Ds.

In another hour we suddenly came upon the long looked for Elizabeth springs. They were in the rocky uneven bed of the river and consisted of many holes about four or five feet deep cut in the soft rock. Most of them as before stated having been cut by Clarkson’s party for the purpose of watering the stock while camped here. some of these holes were now overflowing and the water trickling down made many clear little pools in the uneven portions of the river’s rocky bed.

As we had not ridden our horses out of a walk since leaving the party I judged that it could not be more than a few miles back, so sending Nanup to guide them to the springs, I rode across to some low hills a few miles distant from which I got a good view of the surrounding country.

Hobbling my mare and relieving her of saddle and bridle I walked to the top of a rather remarkable conical hill distant about three-quarters of a mile. Upon reaching the summit I found that it was composed entirely of flint and that the natives resorted to these hills for their supply of flint for spear heads, knives, and other weapons which was evidenced by the many little piles of flint chips all around. As I afterwards learnt they break off a large piece of flint and keep on chipping small pieces from it watching all the time for the pieces of the shape and size required as these fly off. They are carefully picked up and placed on one side until a sufficient quantity is obtained and the little heaps of chips are left, this puzzled me until sometime afterwards I learnt the cause of it.

When I first reached the top of this hill I noticed nothing except the magnificent panorama which opened before my eyes, for some moments it held me literally spellbound and I have so often wished that I could describe in some faint measure the beauty of the glorious scene which opened before me. For as far as the eye could reach with the aid of the excellent field glasses with which I had provided myself before leaving Perth, it was one vast expanse of hills and valleys and plains, stretching away in the far distance into the blue ranges beyond and resembled nothing but one vast flower garden.

It must be remembered that I had just passed through a semi-drought stricken country, where I had experienced some difficulty in providing for my animals in the way of feed and water – a passage through which occupied several weeks – to suddenly find myself in a veritable Paradise, a feeling which it would be difficult to describe.

Near me, and as far as I could see with my glasses, was one vast view of hills, and valleys, and plains. One great garden of beauty, with all the colours one could think of.

All the watercourses were marked by long crooked lines of blue gums which grew along their banks – and tired as I was I longed so much for the morrow which would reveal to me what was beyond my present vision.

Taking one last look through my glasses at the beautiful stretch of country which lay before me, fading away into the blue, dim unknown distance which I hoped to become better acquainted with upon the morrow, I returned to where I had left my horse, and saddling up, was soon at the camp at the Elizabeth springs where I found the party already encamped and anxiously awaiting my arrival.

My anxiety was now over with regard to feed and water, so tomorrow I propose, after starting the team and party, to ride on ahead and try to locate the cattle party’s camp.