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Getting there

Many of the early claims that were worked by individuals or small teams, folded before very long. Access to the area remained extremely difficult. The first newspaper reports from the new diggings indicated that "the country between the (Thomson) River and the rush is ... of a most fearfully precipitous character, many of the falls being over fifty feet (15.2m), and utterly impassable for horse traffic." The first person to drive packhorses  in to the diggings on behalf of district storekeepers was a young Mrs Agnes Buntine, who died in Traralgon in January, 1915 aged 69, and was buried at Rosedale.

When there was no longer alluvial or surface gold to be stumbled over, it became necessary to dig for the veins of quartz to crush which would yield further riches. Small companies rarely had the resources to fund the machinery that would be needed. Bigger enterprises were called for, and it was soon realized that their need for heavy crushing equipment would in turn require a decent roadway and bridges to provide easier access into the diggings.
 

Diggings to township

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On 4th Feb 1864, the first bullock dray was driven into the new township, followed the very next day by a team carrying the first battery of stampers to crush the quartz for the Alpine Company's mine, "the wagons being eased down the spur by block and tackle." But the trip had been so demanding that the contractor, whose team had been the first across the lower Thomson River on the very day that a newly-built bridge was opened for traffic, "vowed never again to undertake another contract involving machinery".

In later years, a bullock driver familiar with the route explained that their teams relied on brute strength to take them "up and over" the mountain ranges, rather than around them. He recalled that in the earliest days of carting equipment into the diggings at Stringer's Creek, "you could always tell where the bullock teams had been, as they left trails of blood from the bullocks which were cut on the jagged rocks and huge tree stumps in the gullies, and up the steep grades of the mountains."

Freight and equipment would be shipped from Port Phillip (Melbourne) to Port Albert, then carted overland along the coast to Sale; then on to Rosedale and via Toongabbie over the mountains and into Walhalla from the east. Tracks were very primitive, and passage was still very difficult, as shown by the early photograph below of a 17-horse team en route to Walhalla.

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The difficulties faced by the teamsters can only be imagined from the report of the English novelist, Anthony Trollope, who rode into Walhalla on horseback in 1872, several years after the first bullock teams, and wrote of his trip:

"Our journey was one of about forty miles (64km), for the latter half of it continuously through forests, and as continuously up and down mountains. These were so steep that it was often impossible to sit on horseback … Going down to the Thompson River, and again down to Walhalla, we found it to be impossible to ride, and yet we knew that immense masses of machinery had been taken down by bullocks for the use of the miners."

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Diggings to township
 
 
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2003 Walhalla Heritage & Development League Inc.


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