Travel: Australia’s Other Colonies

The third city of importance is Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, five hundred miles northwest from Melbourne. The city is not reached directly by navigable water, though Port Adelaide, on St. Vincent Gulf, is only a few miles distant, and is closely connected by railway and good roads. Adelaide is connected with Melbourne by a good line of railway. The only express train covers most of the distance in the night. Leaving Melbourne at five P. m., we pass Geelong and Ballarat, two prosperous cities, before nightfall. After passing through a long stretch of farming and mining country we cross the Ninetymile Desert, and reach the Murray River at breakfast time. From this point the scenery is very fine. In crossing the range of hills that surround Adelaide, no less than seven tunnels are passed through. When we have passed the last one, and are upon the brow of the range, a beautiful panorama, lies before us, embracing Adelaide, with several surrounding towns, and the broad expanse of the gulf.

Adelaide has a population of over one hundred and thirty thousand, and is regarded by many as the most beautiful of all the Australian capitals. Its business portion is compactly and regularly laid out, with wide and straight streets crossing each other at right angles Extending all around this portion of the city is a broad strip of park lands, through which it is necessary to pass in order to reach the suburbs, where most of the dwellings are located. This continuous park is well kept, and embraces both the Zoological and the Botanical gardens. Both these gardens are very justly celebrated for their com pleteness and rare beauty. If the comparative size of the cities be taken into consideration, greater credit for these places of resort must be given to Adelaide than to either Melbourne or Sydney. Surrounding Adelaide is an amphitheater of hills, which furnish a cool retreat in the heated season. The city has the reputation of being very warm, and although I have never experienced its summer heat, I have no difficulty in crediting the report from what we know of its spring climate. But the heat being dry it is quite endurable, the climate, on the whole, is also very beneficial to those affected with weakness of the lungs. At Port Adelaide the incoming European mails are discharged from the steamers, and forwarded to Melbourne and Sydney by train, here the outgoing mails are also taken on board, thus making a saving of several days time.

South Australia stretches away to the north across the whole continent. There are several towns of less importance than Adelaide, and as far in the interior as a white man can live, are found sheep-stations and immense wheat-fields, the products of which are brought to the sea-board by long trains of camels. A circumstance related by a friend as occurring in one of these trains illustrates the vindictive character of the camel, the ship of the desert. One of the drivers had occasion, either justly or unjustly (very likely the latter), to beat one of these laden beasts severely. That night the camel broke his tether, and stealthily approaching his driver’s tent, threw himself upon, and trampled it into the dust, with the evident purpose of killing his persecutor. His plan was frustrated though, for it happened that the man, preferring to sleep under a tree that night, had removed from the tent with his blanket, and thus escaped death.

Queensland and West Australia are as vet but sparsely populated. The forrner is a land of great and varied resources. Its mining interests are great, but secondary in importance to those of grazing. Before the drouth immense flocks and herds grazed on its fertile interior plains, while nearer the seashore tropical fruits and sugar-cane are profitably grown. Its climate is trying to people front the temperate regions, but is highly recommended by most of those who become accustomed to it. Brisbane, its capital, has a population of about fortyeight thousand, and is a beautiful city. Several towns of considerable importance lie along the eastern coast.

In the western part of Australia lies the colony of West Australia. The port of Freemantle is the first point reached by European boats, and the last one left by those outward bound. Perth, the capital city, lies a few miles inland from Freemantle, and had, in 1891, a population of nearly ten thousand. Freemantle had seven thousand. Since that time wonderful gold fields have been developed, and there has been a large influx of floating and permanent inhabitants.

South of the Australian continent lies the little island of Tasmania, named after its discoverer, though forrnerly called VanDieman’s Land, in honor of General Anthony VanDieman, governor of Batavia, by whom Abel Jansz Tasman was commissioned to explore the shores of the great Southern world. Tasmania was sighted by this brave Dutch sailor in November, 1642. The natives were greatly alarmed by the apparition of two such monstrous birds of prey as his ships seemed to be. Later on this same voyage, New Zealand was brought to the notice of the world, but it was over a century before any further attempt was made by white men to cultivate the acquaintance of the new-found islands, and even to the close of the eighteenth century it was not known that Tasmania was not a part of the mainland. In the year 1798 Surgeon Bass discovered some reasons for believing that Tasmania was an island, therefore, sailing in the ship “Norfolk” around to the north, his opinion was confirmed, and the straits which separate the island from the continent received his name.

A trip to Tasmania may be very comfortably made from Melbourne, provided the weather be kind, which is not always the case, The distance to Launceston, the northern metropo lis of Tasmania, is about one hundred and fifty miles. The first forty are in the smooth waters of Port Phillip, and the last twenty on the placid and picturesque river Tamar. The intervening ninety miles may be called a “swell country.” The tides and the currents which prevail, and the winds which frequently blow between the bodies of land, keep the waters agitated the most of the time. So when the Melbournite becomes bilious, or generally out of sorts with himself and the world at large, he may get rid of the past and start anew with his stomach in a good thorough way by a night’s ride across the straits. But when he is across, he is haunted by the idea that on his way homeward he must repeat the performance, which he is apt to regard as more than his stomach really requires. However, one night’s sickness is not dangerous, and like the little boy of our own memories, he “takes his medicine like a man.” But a moderate amount of gastric gymnastics is unquestionably good for a torpid digestion, and if the exercise be not too prolonged, one feels better after having gone through the disagreeable performance. Sometimes this therapeutic programme is omitted on account of the extraordinary stillness of the night, in which case the passenger wakes in the morning after a refreshing sleep, walks out on deck to view with delight the headlands of Tasmania, and thanks his luck that he has been let off so easily, notwithstanding the needed renovation of his stomach.

The most beautiful and interesting of all sights at sea is land, and particularly so if it be the land of destination. We enter the broad mouth of the Tamar through a long line of buoys and sailing signals, for the channel is devious and changeable, and has caused many a captain to mistake his bearings to his sorrow. A boat containing customs officers is soon put out from the little village near the light-house at the Heads, and the next thing in order is to have the luggage ” passed.” While this is being done, we are sailing up the Tamar River, the banks of which have now come nearer together, while the valley has widened out. At a distance of three or four miles we can see Launceston, situated upon the slopes of the valley, and presenting a fine view. It is a town of seventeen thousand, nicely located and containing some fine buildings. Its distance from the ocean and the dependence of deep-sea vessels upon the tide render it very difficult of access. But it has fine farming lands in its vicinity, and enjoys a desirable climate.

Tasmania contains about twenty-six thousand square miles of territory, and is one hundred and fifty miles long from north to south. Its inhabitants number one hundred and forty-six thousand in round figures. Hobart, the principal and oldest city, is situated in the southern part, on a fine harbor which forms the mouth of the river Derwent. A narrow-guage railway connects the two principal cities, and in its express-train the trip may be comfortably and quickly made. Two or three ranges of hills are crossed in the journey, revealing some scenery of rare beauty. Tasmania is the Switzerland of Australia. Its scenery, with its beautiful summer climate, makes it a favorite resort during the hot season.

Upon one occasion an old lady entered the car (or carriage, to speak after the British style) as the train was about to leave Launceston for Hobart. She seemed rather bewildered, scarcely knowing where to take her seat. In these narrow cars the seats run around the sides and the ends of the compartment, so, seeing her dilemma,, a passenger offered her a place, which she accepted with thanks, and remarked, as she looked about, that this was the first time that she was ever on a train. She was apparently seventy-five years of age, and to the query where she lived, she replied that she lived right there in Launceston. When we reached the little station of Leonardsville, about three miles out, she further remarked that she now saw that place for the first time, though she had often heard of it. She then said that she came from England when eight years of age, but had never been out of the town since she landed, nearly threescore and ten years before. When the train was under full motion, her astonishment at the rapidity with which she was traveling was amusing. It was strange to find a Mrs. Rip Van Winkle who had overslept the old gentleman by forty years, with her eyes wide open, and in the midst of a city at that.

Hobart is a quaint town of twenty-five thousand, quiet and conservative in its ways, and more English than any of the other capitals of these colonies. For situation it is the joy of the country. In its front lies the placid harbor, with deep clear waters, where the largest ships can float. In its rear stands Mount Wellington, three thousand feet in height, a beautiful cone, topped in winter with a cap of snow. From Hobart as a center many delightful trips may be made. One of them is by steamer up the Derwent, where very picturesque scenery abounds. Another is by steamer down the harbor to

Port Arthur. Others are by carriage to the Huon River and various places of attractive beauty. Tasmanian fruit and climate are the principal attractions of the colony, and they are of very fine quality. Mining of gold and of tin is carried on extensively, particularly of the latter metal. Wool is also exported.

The early settlement of Tasmania is associated with the convict colonies, which by order of the British government were taken there as overflows from Port Jackson and Sydney. 11 few criminals were sent there in 1802, as a vanguard of a, mul titude that was to follow. They first settled at a point now called Risdon, four miles above Hobart. The settling of free people upon the island was also encouraged, but these endured many hardships from time to time through struggles with the fierce criminal element, as well as with the black aboriginals. In time the practice of transporting criminals ceased, and the poor natives disappeared. In 1835, the remnant of the latter were gathered and put on Flinders Islands, everything possible was done for their comfort, but in vain, and in 1876 Truganini, a woman, the last of her race, passed away. She outlived by a few years ” King Billy.” Good portraits of both have been preserved. For six years, beginning in 1837, the colony had the honor of having for its governor Sir John Franklin, the celebrated Arctic explorer.

No one who visits Tasmania will ever forget the many pleasant impressions which he is sure to receive. The grand scenery, genial climate, but above all, the cordial kindness of its people are not soon forgotten. Tasmanians seem to have obtained the idea that there are better motives for living than selfishness. My friends in that country never tired in their endeavors to minister to the comfort and pleasure of their very grateful visitor.