(Continuing with the story of the Hawkins family as they journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822. See the entry of 16/2/2011 and onwards.)
After arriving at Springwood on Sunday 14 April and spending the night in less than ideal accommodation, the Hawkins family took four days to get from there to Mount York, arriving (according to Elizabeth Hawkins’ letter) on 18 April (a Thursday). It seems that they took four or five more days to get to Bathurst, apparently reaching their destination late on Monday 22 or Tuesday 23 April. Elizabeth calculated that they were 18 days on the road since their departure on Easter Saturday. Her figures could be a little awry; it is clear that she erroneously dated Good Friday, the eve of their departure, to 4 instead of 5 April; and her description of the days between Springwood and Mount York telescopes the days to some extent. They had a couple of breaks before the Mountains, resting at Rooty Hill on Easter Sunday and spending several days at Emu Island, which they left on Friday 12 April; otherwise they travelled every day, including Sundays, despite government orders to the contrary. From Emu Island to Bathurst took about ten days.
In describing their progress between Springwood and Mount York, Elizabeth emphasises the way in which the road constantly takes detours because of the difficult terrain:
You must understand that the whole of the road, from the beginning to the end of the mountains, is cut entirely through a forest; nor can you go in a direct line to Bathurst from one mountain to another but you are obliged to wind round the edges of them, and at times you look down such precipices as would make you shudder.
The difficulties of the road were exaggerated by the fact that the bullocks were unco-operative. On leaving Springwood they attached three instead of two bullocks to the cart for extra pull, but this only made things worse. One or another bullock would lie down every now and again and the dogs would bark and bite the bullocks’ noses to get them up.
The barking of the dogs, the bellowing of the bullocks, and the swearing of the men made our heads ache, and kept us in continual terror. This was exactly the case every morning of the journey.
Rising and dipping and winding this way and that, the road took them ever upwards towards the heights of the Mountains, between Blackheath and Mount York. The steady rise to Blackheath can be seen graphically portrayed in a recent diagram based on heights above sea level of the modern railway stations along the way. The heights of the landforms are somewhat different, but the general effect is clear. At Mount Victoria the railway line diverges from the old and new roads, going north to Bell and then west to Lithgow.
‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, II’, Sydney Morning Herald 7/9/1929, p. 13.