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HOME > Short Stories > Five Years in New Zealand 1859 to 1864 > CHAPTER XI.
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    Our Eventful Journey to the Lindis Gold Diggings.

The Lindis was one hundred and twenty miles inland from Dunedin. There was no road, and but for a portion of the way up the valley of the Waitaki only a rough bullock dray track leading to some isolated sheep and cattle stations, beyond which there was literally no track at all. The country was mountainous, and early winter having set in, it was supposed that much of the higher latitudes would be covered with snow, but beyond the fact that numbers of pedestrians had during the past fortnight proceeded towards the Lindis, and that a ship-load of diggers had arrived from Victoria and were hourly leaving the town, we had nothing reliable to guide us. We heard that the few sheep-farmers on the route were much opposed to the influx of diggers, and had publicly notified that they would not encourage or give them any accommodation on their stations. This was alarming for the time, but fortunately the information proved correct in only one instance. It led us, however, to make such preparation for our journey as would render us to a great extent independent of assistance on the way.

We purchased a strong one-horse dray which we loaded with about 10 cwt. of provisions, in the form of flour, tea, sugar, salt, ship biscuits, a small quantity of spirits for medicinal use and tobacco. Also two small calico tents, some cooking utensils and blankets, with bush tools, spades, picks, and axes.

Legge\'s horse had been broken to harness, and mine was an excellent draught horse. I omitted to mention that at Timaru I had exchanged my mare for a strong gelding which had previously run in the mail cart, getting £10 boot. The swap proved a fortunate one for us, as neither Smith\'s nor Fowler\'s animals had ever been in harness, and "Jack the Devil" was out of the question. Legge\'s horse and mine therefore were destined for the dray, tandem fashion, and upon trial they pulled splendidly.

When the dray was loaded and covered over with a large waterproof tarpaulin, and our two fine horses yoked thereto, it looked a very business-like turn-out. Two of us took it in turn to walk beside the horses and conduct the team, while the other two rode, accompanied by "Jack," his pack-saddle laden with our needs for the day and night halts.[Pg 59]

One fine morning in June, 1861, we started from Dunedin, with our handsome team, the first of its kind that ever travelled the road we were going, and we started from the smiling little town amidst the cheers and good wishes of those we left behind.

For the first few days all was fairly smooth sailing. We travelled about twenty miles each day, camping or resting independently of stations, and the track so far being formed by wool drays, was on the whole feasible, although we had occasionally to make good the crossings over creeks and rivers.

On the evening of the third day we arrived at a small cattle station belonging to a Mr. Davis, where were a number of diggers resting for the night. Mr. Davis was one of those hospitably inclined to the diggers, but as he could not be expected to feed such numbers for nothing, he notified that meals would be charged for at one shilling per head. This was eagerly and gratefully responded to, and upwards of two hundred men were assembled at the station the evening we arrived.

The kitchen and dining hut being unable to accommodate more than twelve or fifteen at once, a multitude had to remain outside while each gang went in, in turn, to be fed.

Inside the scene was curious. An enormous fire of logs blazed on the hearth, which occupied one entire end of the hut, over which were suspended two huge pots filled with joints of mutton, beef, and doughboys, boiling indiscriminately together. They were frequently being removed to the table and others substituted in their place. The pots were flanked by large kettles of water, into which, when on the boil, a handful or two of tea would be thrown. After a few minutes the decoction would be poured into an iron bucket, some milk and sugar added, and placed upon the table, where each man helped himself by dipping his pannikin therein.

Fortunately the hungry seekers after gold were not particular about their meat being a shade over or under cooked; they were glad to accept what they got, and indeed right wholesome food it was. The doughboys were simply large lumps of dough, made of flour and water, used as a substitute for bread, of which a sufficient quantity could not be prepared for the immense demand.

We obtained our turn in due time, and after a hearty meal retired to the quarters we had pitched upon for the night—viz., a straw shed where we rolled our blanket around us and slept soundly.[Pg 60]

The following evening, after a severe day\'s journey, we arrived wet and fagged at the next station, Miller and Gooche\'s. Here a similar scene was being enacted, and here, in common with many other diggers, we were obliged to remain for several days owing to severe weather setting in.

Miller and Gooche\'s station was situated at the junction of a tributary stream with the Waitaki, at the entrance of a rugged and mountainous gorge. From this point our real difficulties were to begin, as we would diverge from the main valley we had hitherto followed, and work our way over a rough tract of hilly country, up ravines and spurs to the great pass, then pretty certain to be covered with snow.

For the four days during which we were detained at this station it rained, sleeted, and snowed alternately and unceasingly. There were upwards of one hundred and fifty men there, and the station running short of flour, a supply had to be procured from Davis\'s, where luckily a large store had been collected.

Most diggers possessed nothing beyond the clothes they wore, with a blanket and a kettle, and many had no money wherewith to pay for food, so the squatters were obliged to make a virtue of necessity and give free where there was no chance of payment, and this they did right willingly. As for the diggers, I must say so much for them that, rough fellows as they were, they paid freely and gratefully all they could, and I did not hear of a single instance of robbery or outrage save one, and we were the victims of that. It was merely the abstraction, emptying, and replacing on our dray of a case of "Old Tom," all the spirits we possessed, and we did not discover the loss until too late for any chance of detecting the delinquents.

At Miller and Gooche\'s we passed four very miserable days. The two small huts and the sheep shed were filled to overflowing, and we lay on the floor of the latter at night, cold, stiff, dirty, and packed into our places like sardines. The rain and sleet, slop, cold, and offensive odour combined would need to be experienced to be appreciated; it was indescribable and the greatest and most disagreeable of anything I experienced before or since of such a mixture.

At length the weather cleared, and in company with another dray just arrived from Dunedin, and got up in imitation of ours, we started for the pass, not without grave misgivings of what might be before us.[Pg 61]

The first day we made five miles. Our route lay along the co............
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