Over the last three weeks there has been an historic re-enactment of the Crossing of the Blue Mountains for the bicentenary that was discovered by Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth in 1813.
I don’t think many Australians and particularly new Australians are aware of what a precarious position the colony was in around two hundred years ago. With more and more boatloads of British convicts arriving and free settlers also taking the voyage, the colony was expanding at levels beyond its ability to cope. If a way across the Blue Mountains wasn’t discovered, the colony would simply starve to death or a decision would have been made to pack up and head back to the mother country.
There had been many unsuccessful attempts to find a way across this patch of mountains with its sheer cliffs and deep valleys and all previous attempts had tried to find a way through by following the valleys. In 1813 Blaxland led a small party made up of himself, Lawson and Wentworth, some convicts, horses, and a few dogs. Some have reported that their party also had Aboriginal guides however that is not the case as Blaxland, who had taken Aborigines with him in previous attempts, had declared them ‘of little use’. Ahhh, not very politically correct but he was referring to the fact that there were around 750 different Aboriginal tribes, each with its own language and these tribes rarely moved outside of a 30km radius. For this reason they were unable to assist with the Crossing.
As my husband is a direct descendant of Gregory Blaxland he has been a tad busy with this re-enactment that first saw him attending events in the Mountains back in December. Since then we’ve been to a fundraising dinner at Penrith Panthers, he’s spoken at an event at Lilianfels, he took Alfie to the Blue Mountains last weekend for more events and this week, Alfie was over-joyed to have some time off school to walk the final 14kms of the pass on the final day of the re-enactment.
I was reading on Seana’s blog of her best-laid plans to head to the Mountains for a one-night getaway going awry and it was no different in our family. It started with Alfie climbing trees on his way home from school and ended with a deeply buried splinter (more like chunk of wood) just above his left knee.
We were unable to remove it so the first stop on the way to the Blue Mountains was to the Medical Centre. The doctor couldn’t remove the splinter without sticking a very deep probe into the wound and so local anesthetic had to be injected by a needle that was poked into his leg in a multitude of different directions and angles. Alfie was very brave. When his leg had been ‘put to sleep’ the doctor had a good dig around and removed the massive splinter.
I phoned Alfie later to ask how he was and he said, ‘Really good. I’ve never had a numb leg before’. And he hasn’t mentioned his knee since.
Very early the next morning they began the walk. They had to dress in period costume and it is probably no surprise but we don’t actually have anything in our wardrobe dating back to 1813. So Carl cut a collar off one of his shirts and he wore leather boots rather than hiking shoes and I found a waistcoat for Alfie that was 10 sizes too small but I didn’t tell him.
The weather was kind and warmer than it usually is in the mountains at this time of year. They walked the last stage of the historic journey that back then took three weeks and the highlight for Alfie was finding a snake’s skin. Another ‘must-have’ for that shelf in his bedroom of ‘treasures’.
At around noon they reached the base of Mount Blaxland which was the historic end to the journey. Carl’s great-great-great grandfather climbed to the top of the Mount, looked west and saw ‘enough grass to support the stock of the colony for thirty years’.
And so the colony survived.