DAY 8 (Friday April 12th)
The next morning, Friday, the 12th, we re-loaded. Sir John came to see us off, and presented us with a quarter of mutton, a couple of fowls, and some butter. I had now before me this tremendous journey. I was told I deserved to be immortalised for the attempt, and that Govt. could not do too much for us for taking such a family to a settlement where none had ever gone before— I mean no family of free settlers, and very few others. Everything that could be done for us was done by the officers to make it as comfortable as possible. In addition to our luggage, we had to take corn for the cattle, as in the mountains there is not sufficient grass for them, and we also had provisions for ourselves and the nine men that accompanied us. In consequence of this we were obliged to leave many things behind. We now commenced with two drays, with five bullocks each ; one dray with four horses, and our own cart with two ; they had no more carts to give us. Amidst the good wishes of all, not excepting a party of natives who had come to bid us welcome, we commenced our journey. We had not proceeded more than a quarter of a mile before we came to a small stream of water, with a sandy bottom and banks; here the second dray with the bullocks sank. The storekeeper, superintendent, and overseer from Emu, witnessing our stoppage, came to our assistance; the two latter did not quit us until night. It employed us an hour to extricate the dray, and it was not accomplished without the horses of the other being added to it.
We now slowly proceeded about a quarter of a mile further and now, my dear, imagine me at the foot of a tremendous mountain, the difficulty of passing which is, I suppose, as great or greater than any known road in the world, not for the road being bad, as it has been made, and is hard all the way, but the difficulty lies in the extreme steepness of the ascent and descent, the hollow places, and the large rugged pieces of -rock. You will, perhaps, imagine, as I had done, that the mountains are perfectly barren. For forty miles they are barren of herbage for cattle, but as far as the eye can reach, even from the summit of the highest, every hill and dale is covered with wood, lofty trees, and small shrubs, many of them blooming with the most delicate flowers, the colours so beautiful that the highest circles in England would prize them. These mountains appear solid rocks, hardly any earth on the surface; this land seems as if it were never intended for human beings to inhabit. There are no roots or substitutes for bread ; no fruits or vegetables on which men could subsist, but almost everything will grow which is brought to it.
We now began our ascent up the first Lapstone Hill, so called from all the stones being like a cobbler's lapstone. The horses got on very well, but the bullocks could not, so we were obliged to unload, have a cart from Emu and send back some of our luggage. Even then the horses were obliged, when they reached the top, to return and assist them. We only performed the distance of one mile and a half that day. Our tent was for the first time pitched. The fatigue to mother and myself was very great every night after the journey in preparing beds and giving the children their food. The little ones were generally tired and cross; little Edward in particular.
It was a lovely moonlight night, and all was novelty and delight to the elder children. Immense fires were made in all directions. We gave them their supper, and after putting the younger ones to bed, I came from the tent, in front of which was a large fire, our drays and carts close in view. The men—nine in number—were busily employed in cooking in one place, our own man roasting a couple of fowls for our next day's journey; at another the men (convicts), not the most prepossessing in their appearance, with the glare of the fires and the reflection of the moon shining on them, in the midst of a forest, formed altogether such a scene as I cannot describe. It resembled more a party of banditti, such as I have read of, than anything else. I turned from the view, took the arm of Hawkins, who was seated at the table with the storekeeper, and went to the back of the tent. Here we saw Tom and the three eldest girls trying who could make the best fire, as happy as it was possible for young hearts to be. Then I seemed to pause. It was a moment I shall never forget. For the first time for many a long month 1 seemed capable of enjoying and feeling the present moment without a dread for the future. 'Tis true we had in a manner bade adieu to the world, to our country and our friends, but in our country we could no longer provide for our children, and the world from that cause had lost all its charm. You, Bowling, and all my friends and acquaintances, I thought of with regret, but the dawn of independence was opening on us. Hawkins was again an officer under Government, a home to receive us, and the certainty under any circumstances of never wanting the common necessaries of life. You, my dear Ann, must have suffered in mind what we had long suffered, to form an idea of what we then felt. After a little while we returned to the table. These were moments of such inward rest that Hawkins took up a flute be-longing to one of the party, and, calling Eliza to us, she danced in a place where perhaps no one of her age had ever trod before.