Mungo National Park
The Mungo National Park has been described as one of Australia’s most soulful places and the most accessible slice of the true outback. It was the place I was most looking forward to on our outback adventure since I wrote about it just before we set off (read that post here). That was posted back on New Year’s Day – and here I am six months later still writing about it!!
The park covers 1,110km² and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Willandra Lakes Region, an area of 2,400 square kilometres That includes seventeen dry lakes of which Lake Mungo is one. It is not an easy place to access. There are no sealed roads to get to the visitor’s centre (basically the heart of the park). That said, the unsealed roads are passable in dry conditions. It was dry. But on the way there the wind whipped up and by the time we were inside the park area we were driving through a sandstorm. Visibility was extremely poor. The views and setting I had looked forward to seeing appeared to be in serious jeopardy.
There was still time for the sandstorm to pass and we had something to eat at the visitors centre before looking around the small museum and old woolshed. Sure enough the storm eased and by then it was the perfect time to see the most famous part of the park at its best – just before sunset.
Regular readers will know this already as a previous post showed just photos of the place – see that one here if you missed it.
Mungo Man, Mungo Lady
The park is famous for the ancient human remains known as Mungo Lady and Mungo Man. (I know what some of you are thinking – I wonder if his name was Jerry? – Sorry, had to get that in. Definitely an old dad joke that one!)
Their bodies were found resting just meters apart and it is thought that they were buried more than 42,000 years ago on Lake Mungo’s shore. This is thought to be the planet’s oldest ritual burials; Mungo Lady was cremated while Mungo Man was decorated with ochre.
If you are wondering where the photo of Mungo (Jerry) and his wife are, we don’t have any. Their remains are in the national museum in Canberra. But we did take this one…
There was plenty of wildlife around. Emus, kangaroos and rabbits. Oddly, we hadn’t seen many rabbits on our travels. That pesky little animal brought over by Europeans in 1859. The rabbit was introduced into the Australian wild so that they could be hunted. A bloke called Thomas Austin, a wealthy settler in Victoria, had 13 European wild rabbits sent to him from across the world, which he let roam free on his estate. From this one area, in only 50 years, these non-native creatures had spread across the entire continent. It became known as the Australian rabbit plague.
We even saw our first red kangaroos – but they weren’t hanging around to be photographed. The red kangaroo is more common in the outback and in particular the ‘red centre’ of the country.
From a Woolshed to ‘The Walls of China’
At the visitors centre side of the long since dry lake is another example of an early woolshed. before this was a national park there was a huge sheep station here. This one was built by Chinese workers and explains where the name of the park’s main attraction – ‘The Walls of China’ – came from. Looking east across the huge dried up lake you can just make out the formations in the distance which reminded the Chinese shed builders of home.
The name stuck and the natural wonder that is ‘The Walls of China’ is the main reason we came here. You need to book to be able to walk around it – which makes perfect sense as it keeps the numbers of tourists (and hence damage) down to a minimum. But it is possible to get close up without walking around the spectacular scenery and just stop at a viewing platform. But we wanted to get amongst it, so off we hiked, bare foot.
The ‘Walls of China’ lie on the eastern side of Lake Mungo and stretch for some 30 kilometres around the eastern ‘shore’ of Lake Mungo. When you enter ‘The Walls of China’ we were required to remove your shoes which Dani thought was great. You are then basically walking on shifting sand dunes with walls of twisted and weathered clay pinnacles, some bush and small trees plus the odd fossilised remains of a tree. The famous clay towers have stood stubbornly for so long, while the ground around them has been continuously eroded by wind and rain.
The video below gives you some idea of the scale of the area. But only some. Like everywhere in this part of the world it is so vast. We hardly covered any of the national park. It is easy to imagine that you have landed on another planet. Or even Earth in another time altogether – that first (Charlton Heston) Planet of the Apes movie springs to mind.
Desolate yet incredibly beautiful and highly photogenic. This place was definitely worth the effort and worth the wait.
Some of the camera work is a little shaky. Thanks in part to the amount of flies continually annoying anyone trying to take a photo or video. Lots of the bloody things. Still with the right music it seems out of this world…
At ‘The Walls of China’, Mungo National Park