Notes of a Gold Digger, and Gold Diggers' Guide
Notes of a Gold Digger, and Gold Diggers’ Guide
Minor errors, attributable to the printer, have been corrected.
Routes to the Victoria Diggings
THE ROAD TO THE DIGGINGS.
Gold Fields have a most bewitching influenceupon fallen humanity. The very name begets aspasmodic affection of the limbs, which want to beoff. Then man, as a mere lover of beauty, cannothelp wishing to look upon the pretty mineral in itsvirgin home of seclusion, and his acquisitivenesspants for possession of the loveliest darlings everrocked in a cradle. But the Australian Gold Fieldsput to the blush the very fairy tales of old. TheGenii of the “Arabian Nights” would have stared,had they winged their flight over the ocean,and taken a quiet evening’s stroll under ourranges and gullies. Need we wonder that the dulleyes of the sons of earth twinkle with delight at thechamber of treasure.
“They come—they come.” Well, let them come;and I for one will be glad to see them as lucky astheir hearts can wish. In order to give the embryodigger a little insight into the wonders of thiswonderful region, I have noted down a few facts, theresult of my own experience as a Gold Digger.
Some simple hints before you start, my friend. Donot encumber yourself with too much luggage. Thedrays will not carry it for “thank ye.” There isno necessity for laying in a stock of everything, asstorekeepers at the mines do not now desire a thousandper cent upon every article. This may arisefrom a principle of benevolence, or, as some ill-naturedpeople say, from competition. If you lay ina stock in town you are likely to buy too much, asyou are surrounded by good things, and the difficultiesof the journey are unknown to you. Shouldyou reserve the purchase of most of your requirements,till you arrive at the ground, you will haveno trouble in carriage, you will know what you reallywant, and, from the high price, you will only buywhat you want. By all means, however, provideyourself with good stout clothes and boots, a coatand trousers of oil-skin cloth, a roll of canvass foryour future home, not forgetting a decent shootingjacket for Sundays, when you ought to appearcivilized. Tools are dearer up than in town. A cradlemay be carried in parts without much trouble.
Take up a few choice books, (not on Metaphysicsor Mathematics,) because you should be prepared insome degree to keep up your intellectual position.A packhorse will ease the toil of a party, or a bundlemight rest on the top of a passing dray. Unlesspositively obliged, spare yourself the anxiety ofhaving your own conveyance. Otherwise a solemnwarning—beware of a gibber, as that genus is not anuncommon one on the road. There are few thingsin life more undesirable than pushing behind a cartat every foot of rising ground, extricating a loadfrom a chasm, or watching a vehicle approaching aprecipice, impelled by an animal that will persist ingoing crabwise.
Now, I will suppose you are fairly started. Youare rather nervous, yet sanguine. Sundry bravestories keep up your spirits. By one you are toldof a fellow benighted in the bush, who could not sleepby reason of the hardness of his bed, but who ascertainedby morning-light that he chanced to throwhimself down upon a nest of big golden nuggets.Another tells you of a bullock driver in want of astick, who pulled up a young wattle, and foundhanging at the root, a whole family of nuggets likea brotherhood of potatoes; but that he was in toogreat a hurry to stop to pick them up. On the wayyou are passed by lots of returning diggers, some ofwhom carry down bags of treasure, and a few arecarrying aches and pains to the hospital. There issome difference between your smooth chin, and theirrough beards—your prim appearance and their soiledgarb. You may possibly reach the Deep Creek,twenty miles from Melbourne, on the first day. Ofcourse you camp. A fire is lighted, the meal istaken, and the romance of your first night out isenjoyed. You are wrapped in a 'possum rug orblanket beside your fire, or, if you are wise, beneatha canvass thrown over the shafts of a cart. Neverstart without a good breakfast. The dreary, crab-hole,five-mile plains are to be crossed. I had thesatisfaction, when coming down, to be lost in thisquarter, wandering about hungry and tired nearly allnight, because my geological curiosity allowed thecart and my mates to get some hours a-head of me.It is to be hoped that you have a dry season in whichto pass over Jackson’s Creek. On the other side anexcellent dinner may be provided for you by Mr.Rainy at the Coffee House. The hills now rise oneach side of you, and through one of the loveliestcountries in the world you gain the Bush Inn atGisborne, thirty-six miles from town. There aretwo inns there. Charges are no object to the successfuldigger, but usually a consideration to the up-going.A baker’s shop and store will there supplyyou with necessaries. I paid 2s 6d for a good loaf,2s 6d for a pound of butter, and 7d for a pound ofsugar. Prices vary according to the state of theroads. Near the Bush in winter you have to wadethrough a “slough of despond.” Going some mileshence, round the foot of Mount Macedon, a prettywatering place is obtained. You may, however,pass at once into the mysterious Black Forest, fourteenmiles in extent. Being no alarmist, I shallgive you no legend of powder and ball pertaining tothose realms.
In the Black Forest are many rises, no surfacestone, a great number of stringy bark trees, somefine cherry trees, and the modest cup of the beautifulepacris. At Five Mile Creek, at which are twoinns, you pass over a wooden bridge. Soon after youcome to sweet Carlshrue. Here are a Police station,a blacksmith, and houses of accommodation. Onmy way to town, early one morning, I beheld an icyforest on the plains. The arborescent icicles wereabout half-an-inch high and a twelfth diameter. Eachtop gently curved over. A vast number of thesebeautiful crystals standing together reminded one ofa miniature giants’ causeway, or stalagmites fromsome sparry cave. Going up, our party spent apleasant Sunday near a water-hole at Carlshrue.
You now approach the important township ofKyneton, fifty-six miles from town. Here are inns,stores, cottages, a wooden church, a pretty stoneparsonage, and a neighbourhood of the finest alluvialblack soil. Passing the Campaspie you gain thebridge of the Coliban: that is, if the awful quagmirepermits your passage. A thriving township is justformed here called Malmsbury. This is abouttwenty miles from the Forest Creek. Attemptingto get a short cut to the Loddon, my party werethree days stumbling with a gibbing horse amongthe slate ranges. We had, too, the excitement of atwenty-four hours fast on that occasion. But youare less aspiring, and, following the beaten track, youcome at last upon the scene of scenes. It is quite abeehive. Men are flitting about in strange disguise.Heads are popping up and down in various holesaround you. The population are digging, wheeling,carrying or washing. But I have to conduct youthrough the diggings, so we must hasten forward.The old Post Office Square, the entrance toAdelaide Gully, the Montgomery Hill, the WhiteHill, the Private Escort station, the Little Bendigo,have to be passed in succession before reaching thejunction of Forest, Barker, and Campbell creeks;at which place is the Chief Commissioner’s Quarters.This is a walk of four or five miles to the west.Desirous of seeing other digging regions, you mustreturn to the neighbourhood of the Square, enterAdelaide Gully, and keep alongside the Adelaidecreek till you come to the dividing range. Onceover that, you approach the head waters of Friar’screek, and you may follow down that stream to thesouth till it unites with the Loddon. The Goldencreek flows southward into Friar’s creek; it has theinteresting neighbourhood of Golden Gully, RedHill and Windlas Hill. Turning once more to the eastyou reach the junction of the Campbell Creek andLoddon River. Pursuing thence a northernly coursealong the banks of the former, you again behold theCommissioner’s Tent. What with genuine soldiers,pensioners, and police, there is a force of about 200men. There you will see the depository of Gold,awaiting the Escorts to carry it to town, and there isthe place where for thirty shillings you may procurethe talisman of a license.
But perhaps you want to go further. You haveheard of Bendigo, and you would like to try yourluck there. Then on we go to Bendigo. The directroad from Melbourne to Bendigo Creek is about 100miles, but from Forest Creek about 30. You keepthe side of Barker’s Creek on your progress to thenorthward. Now and then you pass some encampmentin the wilderness. The presence of bottles ofvarious character, innocent and suspicious, is alwayson the trail of the civilized man. On your rightyou have the long range of Mount Alexander. Upona lovely evening my senses were feasted by adelicious scene. All the forest trees before mewere in darkness, but beyond them and throughthem were caught glimpses of the granitic walls ofAlexander, brilliantly shining in the last red rays ofthe setting sun. It was as though I was approachingby night some illuminated enchanted castle. ThePorcupine Inn is nearly half-way from Forest Creekto Bendigo. It is often the place of tumultuousrevelries among lucky diggers. Some people thinkit wise to camp beyond that locality. The countrybeyond Gibson’s station is finely timbered. Thepasturage greatly improves as you progress, and fewdistricts present such softness and gentleness ofbeauty in the landscape. Bendigo has a nobleornament in the fluted, Doric-column like trunks ofits magnificent iron bark eucalypti. There ismajesty, there is even sublimity in the solitude of aniron bark forest. Then, in the day a variety ofpretty songsters awaken the air with pleasure, andthe evening is closed in with the wild and ringingchuckle of the laughing jackass.
Bendigo is the Carthage of the Tyre of ForestCreek. The diggings there extend nearly twentymiles in length. The ransacked gullies are many;as, Golden, Spring, Jim Crow, Dusty, Poorman’s,Blackman’s, Iron Bark, Picanniny, Long, American,Californian, Eagle Hawk, Peg Leg, and Sailor.Though most of these may be wrought out, a goodliving may be got in either by the new comer,in a little tin-dish fossicking in deserted holes. Onceupon the spot you are ready to go with the rush toany newly discovered gully of wonders.
THE DIGGER AT WORK.
Arriving on the golden ground the first impulseis to secure a good spot for future operations. Uponenquiry you resolve upon some lucky gully. Theother day, you are told, a fellow nuggetted ten ortwenty pounds weight, and, of course, you see noreason why half a hundred weight might not belying snugly ensconced awaiting the revelations ofyour pick. You walk to the place, strike in your claimas near the centre of the gully as possible, markyour boundaries, determine upon the size and characterof your hole, and at once to vigorous exerciseof muscle. Your mate spells you with the use ofhis spade or shovel. The top soil is off, the sandsand clays are entered, and all goes on pretty smoothlyuntil the pick comes into contact with somethingthat soon drives it back again, with the loss perhapsof its steel point. At it again with good heart. Aharder thrust is made. Again the tool rebounds.Never despair. Blows thick and fast descend until anentrance is gained, and some insignificant pieces areknocked off. You pause to gather breath andstrength. “Why