Mungo National Park

Sunday, Jun 03, 2012 at 06:24

Member-Heather MG NSW

We arrived in Wentworth yesterday after spending three interesting and enjoyable nights at Main Campground, situated on a large flat area about two kilometres from the Visitors Centre in Mungo National Park.

This park in Western NSW covers much of an ancient lake bed, long since dry. It was (during the ice ages) one in a chain of freshwater lakes, strung along Willandra Creek...then the main channel of the Lachlan River. Today this are is area is a valuable place, preserving one of the longest continual records of Aboriginal life in Australia, dating from around 40,000 years ago to the present day.

The access roads are all dirt and close quickly after rain as we found out last year when our plans to visit had to be changed. This year we drove in on the sealed Ivanhoe Road from Balranald...a friendly town where Kathy at the visitors centre was full of helpful advice. The road from the turn off is dirt and in variable condition although was being graded at the time. We experienced some patches of corrugations, sandy sections and hard rocky bits but overall it was pretty much what we had expected. As soon as we became complacent and accelerated, a corrugated spot loomed and we were reminded not to try to hurry! Also there were a lot of emus who are as unpredictable in their reaction to traffic as sheep!
At the turn off we stopped to drop the tyre pressure of both vehicles and to cover the Pajeros rear window with cardboard to prevent deflected rocks shattering it. I also covered the fridge and exhaust vents on the van to prevent dust and John attached his latest stone guard made of shadecloth to the front of the van. It all seemed to work well
There was plenty of firewood alongside the road not far north of Balranald so we stopped and threw some in the back of the car for our campfire meals.

Camping fees are $5 per person a night as well Vehicle fee of $7 per day and the Main campground has two clean long drop toilets each for men and women, and emergency tank water and undercover area with gas BBQ's in the central area. Around the perimeter there are roomy flat sites each with a cooking fireplace and most also have a big drum for fires. The area is surrounded by Wilga, Casuarina (Belah) and other quite tall trees, and smaller shrubs and these also partially screen sites for privacy.
There is prolific bird life despite feral cats prowling the area looking to steal campers food as the sun beware!

We did the drive to the Famous Walls of China on the first afternoon...9 kms out across the dry lake bed. There is a boardwalk and viewing platfroms but its a little far away to get good photographs and the only access is by taking a guided Discovery tour with the local Aboriginal people which we did on our last afternoon there. It is a very fragile environment, already being eroded by weathering, and tourists visiting in the past have taken many items which have been exposed. The patterns and shapes are intricate and interesting...mostly very light coloured although there are some areas with the lower deep red and ochre sands visible. Sunset would be a good time to see it and take photographs but we didn't get back there unfortunately.
We were bemused to see an amber beer stubby protruding from one of the ssandy walls and a wry member of our tour group commented that it looked to be at the '25,000 year level'!
It was good to have young local aboriginal guides employed to tell us something of their culture and obviously feeling proud of their heritage.
At this time of the year the Discovery tours only run a few times a week so it pays to check up before you get out there if you are keen to do one. The cost is $10 per person.

We also had a walk around the Visitor centre which is full of interesting historical, geographical, aboriginal and other displays...and the adjacent Woolshed built around the 1860's. It is in good condition, a testament to the longevity and robustness of the local cypress pine timber used extensively.

On the following day we packed lunch and did the 70 km one way drive around the park, stopping at most of the 39 numbered points mentioned on the touring notes (which we picked up from the Visitor Centre). These included man made tanks or dams, a lookout and boardwalk which meanders over some of the sculptural sand landforms, Vigars Well a 'soak' or permanent water supply at the base of some big pale dunes, which used to be a watering hole on the coach route. We climbed the tallest dune around for great views and were amazed at the perfect footprints left by mnay animals small and large. I also paused to consider the poor animals who hauled loads across here back in the 1800's.
Towards the end of the drive we lunched at the ruins of the Zanci Homestead and the woolshed built around 1940's when land was taken up in a Soldiers settlement grant after World War 2. Then it was back to the campground to prepare a fire and meal of slow cooked lamb shanks topped by damper.

We spent the morning of our last day doing the short walk from the to the Lookout of Lake Mungo and tried to visualise it with 6 to 8 metres of water spread over 120 square kilometres and occupied by tribes of aboriginal people. Now it is covered with low hardy stunted shrubs and emus and roos. We also strolled the 1 km loop walk which meanders trough the flat landscape from the campground where some trees are identified on small signs, and then feeling energetic walked the two kms to the Visitor centre and return for a bit of exercise.

Yesterday morning we packed up the camp site and drove out some 60 kms along the sometimes rough Top Hut Road towards Pooncarie, then turned south onto bitumen and Wentworth..another 88kms. We had planned to go to Kinchega from there but the Pooncarie Menindee road is closed due to water damage and will be for some months we were told.
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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