The following Trove article covers HJP’s journey from Coolgardie to Eucla and is labelled No.1. Unfortunately we have not been able to locate any other article covering the remainder of his journey from Eucla to Hergott.

This article gives a wonderful account of “White Hall” and its surroundings in that era.

Trove - National Library of Australia
South Australian Register - Friday 12 June 1896


(By our Special Reporter)

When at Terowie last week I met Mr. Horace Page, whose personality was invested with much interest from the fact that he had travelled with camels from Coolgardie to Hergott and alone.

I asked the browned and bronzed traveller for an interview, but he would rather collect his thoughts, he said before communicating anything, and so asked me to see him on Sunday, which I did.

Mr. Page who is one of those genial good fellows who makes friends wherever he goes has had many experiences. In particular the last is the most interesting and will be the most memorable. He was once Vermin Inspector on the West Coast. Then he was for five years with the Government in connection with the construction of the Railway from Hergott to Oodnadatta and afterwards for two years head clerk on the Blyth and Gladstone line. Subsequently he went to the West, and after knocking about on the goldfields prospecting, &c. and for a couple of years he longed for a holiday.

The five surviving camels used by the Moseley party were in the west. Mr. Page offered to bring them back to this colony, and the South Australian Government accepted his terms. And that’s just how he came to make the trip and escape the tinned-meat and oatmeal fare and innumerable hardships of a prospector’s life in the Golden West. Mr.Page knew the country beyond Hergott, and also that on the west coast from Port Lincoln beyond Eyre's Sandpatch, and he wanted to see the 400 miles from Denial Bay to Hergott.

The Moseley expedition was sent out by a Port Augusta Syndicate and the camels were lent by our Government with the idea of the Musgrave Ranges being prospected. It will be remembered that the party went straight across to Western Australia. Mr. Page found that three of the camels were lame and all of them in poor condition, so mush so that there was no sale for them. The people in Coolgardie laughed at the subject of this interview attempting the trip, but he was not to be dissuaded and succeeded in his undertaking in spite of the many hardships and privations he endured.

He left Coolgardie on February 12, and arrived at Hergott exactly fifteen weeks afterwards, eleven weeks having been devoted to travelling four to spelling. In all Mr. Page reckons he traversed 1,424 miles, out of which he rode only forty-four miles. This doesn't include, either, hunting up the camels and getting them into camp in the morning.

Mr. Page reached his father's quaint old home at Mitcham late on Tuesday night, when it was too dark to see anything. Here I saw him on Sunday morning. The old dwelling is situated on the foot of the Brown Hill, and the view obtainable from the spacious terrace-like verandah on this beautiful Sabbath morning was simply delightful. All around was the overgrown garden of English shrubs, and the early roses on the bushes were laughing everywhere. From a huge aviary came the twittering of canaries, finches, and other birds, and intermingled with the soothing sound of the murmuring creek. On the flat the old-established market garden looked green and flourishing. Then in the distance the plains of Adelaide extended, and far away could be seen the blue gulf, and on its surface a couple of sails shimmering in the sunlight. "When I got up on Wednesday morning," said Mr. Page, "remembering what I had gone through, and looked out on this sight I thought I had been dead for two years."

Just imagine tramping for days and days without seeing a soul, over immense, seemingly interminable plains, with no sound of any kind to break the monotony save when a thunderstorm threatened, the mournful noise of the mopoke, then across miles and miles of sand ridges, and again traversing those vast inland seas, as the dreary wastes of the interior are called, and through bush country which at nights grows creepy with the dismal moaning of wild dogs. Lugging poorly-conditioned camels, dropping down at night and sleeping perhaps under the shelter of a bush or behind the pack, then up in the morning and away for another weary stage. Damper and tea for breakfast, a change to tea and damper for dinner, and for further variety back to damper and tea for the evening meal. But, worst of all, nobody to speak to; the only companion the mute but comforting pipe. Often did Mr. Page ask from the bottom of his heart, "Oh, solitude, where are thy charms?" "I came to the conclusion, "said the returned traveller, "that a man must talk to himself after he has been out some time. His mind rambles, and he can't confine his thoughts to any one subject for a given time, and he stands a very good chance of going mad." Humour? Well, Mr. Page did not find much humour in his long tramp, and he is certainly of opinion that there is not much of this enlivening property in a camel. Preceding a string of them with a gentle zephyr behind, he says the lovely odour that tickles the olfactory nerves is something to be remembered. In the words of the American it may truly be said. "I guess and calculate one wants to experience the sensation to thoroughly appreciate it." Then these ships of the desert grow affectionate after a while, and when adjusting the nose-ropes in the morning they look up at you wistfully and breathe on you. It is not as fresh as mountain dew, and one is forced to remark - Come thou to leeward, for thy balmy presence Savoureth not a whit of mille-fleurescence.

A little curried leadbeater cockatoo was one of the luxuries of Mr. Pages trip, but he failed to enjoy a wombat-steak, although he tried hard to have this as one of the items of his menu in certain districts. Falling to sleep at dark, he used to wake instinctively during the night to listen for the tinkling of the camel-bells so as to know where to look for the animals in the morning. In the north he found it perishingly cold, and encased in his waterproof great coat, and blankets, and then enveloped above and below in a big waterproof covering, he used to woo Morpheus with a shudder and an oo!!

The people on the stations used to ask,. 'Well, who have you with you?" and when  replied "Nobody" they used to ejaculate in astonished tones, "Great God!" "where are you bound for?" was another question. "Hergott was the answer, and the enquirer retorted, "I wouldn't do it for £1,000." But Mr. Page got safely through, and during the few days he has spent in Adelaide he has been going about with his mouth open. Such changes as Beehive Corner and the busy life of the "Corner," where he once was, surprised him as he astonished the people of Coward Springs and Hergott when he arrived at those respective places. But let me repeat the tale he told me over a pipe and a flowing glass in his antique home on Sunday:—  

"I started on February 12, and went out a few miles and adjusted the packs, the heat being something terrible at the time. The next morning I found one of the camels already suffering from the poisoned bush. Faiz Mahomet, the head of afghans, told me that I could not get 100 miles out, and that I could not travel more than 10 miles a day. The second day out I pulled on twenty-five miles, and the succeeding day pushed on nineteen miles to Wedgemolla.

I met a friend there who owned a mining shaft containing stock water, which he immediately offered me the free use of. So I spelled a day there. The camels had been receiving condensed water, and the sudden change to salt stock water did not agree with them. So I decided to make one stage to Binrinya, where a very large supply of fresh water is obtainable from the soaks at the foot of the rock. The camels now travelled very slowly, and after twenty hours of continuous walking and pulling the camels by the noseline I had only made thirty-one miles.

There are immense granite boulders here, with a camel 'pad' through, and owing to the darkness rendered more intense by a threatened thunderstorm, it was impossible for me to pick my way through the rock, so I lit my pipe and awaited the dawn. I knew I was close to a rock hole that might contain water, and was glad to find when the daylight came that I was within a hundred yards of it, of it, and that it contained sufficient for me to give the poisoned camel, now slowly recovering, a drink of some 28 galls. of nauseous compound of fluid, birds' feathers, & c. this he relished and apparently derived a great amount of nourishment as he improved immediately. I was then enabled to push on the other five miles by 7 o'clock in the morning. There I found two old friends from the north of South Australia, who at once came from their camp, helped me off with the packs, and drew water for the camels. I was glad of that assistance, as l had been twenty-four hours on the track.

I was obliged to spell the camels, and so I stayed on the hospitality - I say hospitality because I was only carrying stores from point to point - of those two friends for two days and a half. This place I speak of is Binrinya Rock, some six acres in extent, and is decidedly the best place for water and feed within a hundred miles of Coolgardie. There is every kind of camel bush here, as well as  good grass. When I was here I met two prospectors who had gone from Mount Shenton to Warrina, and returned via Eucla, and also another who had crossed from Mt Shenton to Alice Springs. They reckoned they had travelled 3,000 miles without seeing a colour. They reported that they had left no water on the track from Eyre's Sandpatch to Ponton Station, a distance of 180 miles.

Leaving Binrinya I went out on the track to Fraser's Range, and picked up an old horse "pad" round the north end of Lake Cowan. I made through some beautifully timbered and bluebush country, arriving at Sinclair's Soak after a journey of one and a half days. There was not sufficient water here to be of any use, so I left it for any passing horsemen that might drop in. Light, cold, drizzling rains set in here, and I made slow traveling through thick scrub, with no feed, reaching Fraser's Range on Friday, February 21. Here water was very scarce, and they charged me a shilling a head for a drink for the camels. They had no store here for sale at the time, and I was only able to obtain two sticks of tobacco as a favour. I moved on the same day to the outside paddock for a feed, still very cold weather with light rains prevailing. I left the ranges, and passed through some four miles of spinifex and sand, then a short distance through good feed; and after that the country became very bad, the bush being perfectly withered up. The quondong, which is usually bright green, and which stands drought well, presented a dead dark-brown appearance. I reached Newman's Rock that night after dark. This is another immense rock with two shallow wells sunk at the foot of it, but the water is somewhat brackish. Water could be obtained in shallow pools on the top of the rock, but owing to the cold nature of it the camels would not drink.

On Sunday I started for Ponton's station, a distance of fifty miles. A strange thing happened as I went along I was thinking about Horace Melville, an old friend and associate in business, and imagine my surprise and astonishment when I saw him coming round a bend in the bush ahead with two light teams. "Hulloa, Horace!"    broke out from both of us, and we had a chat and the usual bush smoke. Melville told me of the ghastly experience he had had in finding the battered body of a man on his last trip from Israelite Bay to Kurnalpi. He informed me that the victim of the tragedy, evidently aware that the natives were on him, had taken a few handfuls of flour in the billycan, leaving the camp for the blacks to plunder. By this means he had evidently hoped to get away, but the aboriginals had tracked him up and murdered him. Advising each other to look after himself we parted, wondering where we should meet again and under what circumstances.

I shortly then came on a patch of feed, and so turned the camels out until they had had satisfied their hunger, then I pushed on till long after sundown to make up for the spell.

The following day I arrived at a large rock within thirteen miles of Ponton's, and found an afghan's grave in the old camp I had made when I went over from Streaky Bay. I did not feel inclined to camp there that night so went on another mile. On the succeeding day I reached Ponton's, and the country there was dried out, there being no feed, and but a very little water remained at the bottom of the tank. Although I had anticipated spelling here a week I had scarcely the courage to ask for one drink for the camels. Mr. Ponton kindly suggested that I should have one day's spell and a drink for the camels and then start. There was no meat of any description obtainable here, all the stock having gone to the coast. At this time, as far as stores were concerned, I was reduced to flour, tea, sugar, a tin of honey, and also of butter, and 11 gallons of water to face what those on the station believed to be 180 miles to the next stage where water was obtainable. With the best wishes of all hands and a remark that I "should have a mighty hard scratch for it" I disappeared over the limestone hill and was then on good plain county.

I noticed numerous flights of small brown plover overhead going east, and knowing that it is characteristic of these birds that they are found on plains and tablelands after rain. I was put in good heart for the 180 miles. Shortly afterwards I came on numerous tracks of dingoes, emus, and kangaroos, so I felt thoroughly satisfied I was all right. But being uncertain as to how far distant the rain had fallen, I pushed on late that night, one camel going down twice. I took the animal by a short nose-line, and encouraged him on, which was no easy task. At daylight next morning I found that I was on the edge of the rain, and by dinnertime, having done forty miles in the   day and a half. I came to a shed, erected by the Government, with two 400-gallon tanks. These contained about 200 gallons of water, and as the feed about was pretty good, I at once turned out, and remained a day.

After leaving this stage I came to the bones of two camels that died of poison on my overland journey. This called to my mind our experience when several parties, including myself, had been obliged to throw everything aside and go in bare to Ponton's for water. One fellow on this occasion harnessed a pair of camels in front of a buggy and pair— it was called the shandy gaff team — and in this way dragged the equines, which were done up, into the station. After passing a few small rockholes brimming full with water I had fifteen miles of miserable scrub to pass through, and come on to the part of that telegraph line known as the Ninety-mile. Since I was here before the Government had erected a large cement tank. This
only had about 4 in. of water in it, and as there was a large rockhole within a short distance I preferred going on.

Then commenced the worst hundred miles of the Journey. The country had been burnt out by fire, and there had been no rain except that which had just fallen for two years. There was no feed of any description except sticks, consequently I had to push on as hard as possible. The country is of an undulating limestone character, and so I could only make twenty-five miles a day. This state of things exited for seventy miles, and then I had to traverse thirty miles of white drift-sand. In the latter stage I had my first ride of ten miles. I thought I was close in to Eyre's Sandpatch, but as three camels laid down I decided to camp. I took the packs off, spread my blankets, and had tea prior to hoppling out. The late moon rose shortly afterwards, and then I espied an old masthead, which served to tell me that I was within a hundred yards of the well I was making for. Not to be beaten I packed up again and went to it. I drew water for the camels and had a drink out of the bucket myself. I thought the water was a bit thick, and in the morning I found the trough a mass of swallows' skeletons and feathers, and the well was in the same state."

"So you had been luxuriating on swallow soup?"
"That's exactly what it was; the cold weather had driven these birds of passage in for shelter, and resting in the woodwork they had grown benumbed and tumbled into the water. Mr. Graham, an old South Australian telegraph employee - he used to be telegraph master in the Wallaroo district — is at the station, and insisted on my remaining three days and accepting his cheer. Both Mr. and Mrs. Graham were exceptionally kind to me. My stores were out, and I was able in replenish them from Mr. Graham, jun.'s store. I met the telegraph survey party, who were surveying the new line from Eucla to Coolgardie via Dundas. From Eucla to Eyre's Patch the cliffs run along about thirty miles back from the sea for about 200 miles. The fogs, which are one of the worst things the telegraph people have to contend with, settle under these cliffs, and the Government were strongly advised to run the line along the plain back from the cliffs. Instead of doing this they have constructed it right under the cliffs. I was making for the next place of interest, an old deserted station— Madura—when a tremendous fall of rain caught me, and the whole country was deluged in a few minutes; indeed it was up to the top of my leggings in no time. The camels were unable to travel, and I was  obliged to camp for two days within sight of the station. When I arrived at Madura  another downpour was descending, and I just escaped a thorough drenching in getting my packs under cover. The spouting at the back door was disconnected, and the water was pouring into and flooding the untenanted house.

This station was originally taken up by two partners, who kept a few sheep, and had one well. They subsequently sold out to a Syndicate. This Syndicate spend several thousands of pounds in building a fine homestead with the necessary outbuildings and fencing a greater portion of the country. They sank deeper on the same well and came to salt water; the stock all perished, and the place was then deserted. It seemed a thousand pities that things should be as they are, because from the top of the cliffs as far as the eye can reach extends an immense plain, well grassed and bushed, while there is a track grubbed down to the coast, where the Syndicate erected a store. I stayed here six days, and used to walk up and down the front varandah smoking my pipe and watching the camels in the distance. Right under the front door is buried an unfortunate traveller who was found dead in the kitchen, a rude cross surmounting the grave.

One afternoon I was thinking about this poor chap's lot, taking long puffs from my pipe, when I suddenly looked round and came face to face with a nigger who had crept in barefooted. I never got such a scare in my life. First of all I thought it was the dead traveller's ghost, and then something struck me that it might he the Devil, and for two pins I could have annihilated that swarthy biped.

The ground was too wet for the camels under the cliff, so I made out back on the plains, which were now showing the effects of the heavy rains that had evidently passed over them some two months before. The grass, about 18 in. high, was waving like a cornfield as far as one could see, the rock holes were full to the brim, and it was now plain sailing for Eucla.