The unmerciful heat from the noonday sun dried salty sweat on three explorers George Blaxland, Lieutant William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth. Their four native guides seem to cope better but the four laden pack-horses struggled to inhale the hot, dry air. The five dogs accompanying them were unusually quiet; they too suffered from the high temperatures.
Changing direction to avoid another huge rock formation, a cooling breeze greeted them. Faint bird calls echoed through the rocky terrain. It had been a long, slow, rugged mile since leaving the overnight camping place at dawn. Blaxland found the constant arguing between Buriagala and the younger natives frustrating, but said nothing. Buriagala was losing respect from the younger natives.
Bungaree, the only English speaking native, spoke quietly to Blaxland. “Daruk men angry. They hungry. No food here. This dead land belong to Wiradjuri tribes, protected by bad spirits.”
Blaxland studied the dark face of the worried native. “Tell them, God will protect us.”
The sun was dipping toward the western horizon. Tomorrow would be Sunday, a day of rest for the exhausted group. Blaxland would read a passage from the Holy Bible as usual, after a large Sunday breakfast ... he hoped. Bungaree would interpret the words to the rest of the natives; how acuate they were he wasn’t sure, if the interrupted bursts of laughter were an indication. Still, Blaxland had noticed the change in Bungaree, who often asked questions regarding the Sunday text.
Coming to an abrupt stop, the men peered down what must have been a sheer drop of approximately four hundred feet. Eyes scanned the view beyond the cliff edge. Rivers and creeks flowed through the wilderness below but the surroundings looked dry and bare. Tiny shrubs and crumbling rock covered where they stood, causing the horses to slip and slide. Disappointment reflected on the faces of each traveller. They had come to a dead end.
Lawson spoke harshly to Bungaree. “We need to find a place to camp before dark.”
Calmly Blaxland replied for Bungaree. “We’ll use the compass and sexton; we’ll have to back-track awhile.”
Leading the pack-horses away from the precipice, Bungaree grinned at Blaxland.
A gun-shot sounded putting a flock of squawking birds to flight, which caused the horses to rear up. Wentworth had shot a second snake. Less than an hour before, a snake had bitten Baia-me, Buriagala’s dog. Their treatments could not save Baia-me, but the anger between the natives eased, relieving the tension.
Later that afternoon they set up camp by a swamp, which was almost entirely covered with a harsh grassy weed. Thirsty horses and dogs drank their fill. The air was cooler but the ground was hard and dry with tufts of Mungo grass, creating hard work of pitching tents. Clouds formed overheard. Rain had threatened many times over the past week, nevertheless none came.
Blaxland retrieved a quill pen, a bottle of ink and paper from his saddle bag. Sitting on one of many huge boulders scattered over a large area, he began to record the day’s events. It had become a ritual from day one, Tuesday, May 11, 1813, nineteen days before.
Today, he too, was displeased by the little ground they had covered. Lawson was rightly angry and Wentworth had muttered something about going around in circles. Blaxland recorded a vow that he wouldn’t take a native again on any long distant expedition as a guide. It was obvious once out of their own tribal district; they were as lost as the group they were to lead. Bungaree had become more of a travelling companion, willing to learn about the new terrain as well as the Scriptures.
Sounds of a usual victorious chanting increased as the natives entered the clearing. A large kangaroo swung between two of the dark skinned aborigines. Buriagala carried what looked like wild yams and onions. They were laughing and nattering away in their native tongue.
“Mister Blaxland” Bungaree called. “Buriagala, he choose good place to hunt, yes.”
“Yes, Bungaree, Buriagala chose good. We will eat well. Tell him, thank you."
The day following the day of rest, twenty-one days after their departure, the pioneers stepped onto the grassland below. Glass bottles strapped to saddles tinkled as the horses trotted the last few yards where the soil was rich for farming, changing the future of the colony. It was the beginning of greater discoveries in a land which lay beyond the Blue Mountains, New South Wales—Australia.
Note: Information regarding dates and landscape etc. was researched from the following websites.
The Aborigine tribes Daruk and Wiradjuri tribes are geographically still in existance today.
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