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Mungo National Park and Balranald

Tuesday, 23 November 2021 6:45 am

We are in a small town called Balranald, the very place where famous Australian explorers Burke and Wills crossed the Murrumbidgee River, where Charles Kingsford Smith once took people for joy rides in his “Southern Cross” plane and which is also the town of the green, endangered Southern Bell Frog. Lucky for us, the toilet blocks in the caravan park are kept firmly shut and we haven’t had any nasty little surprises of the slippery leapers so far.

This town is a starting point for Mungo National Park, and with the wet weather having worsened the long, approximately 100km long dirt road, we chose to stay in town. We are camped right next to the beautiful Murrumbidgee River and could enjoy the evening concert of the birds and the golden sunset.

We were very excited to finally make it to world heritage listed Mungo National Park, the 42,000 year old burial site of Mungo Man and Mungo Lady and a landscape which puzzled scientists for decades. The unsuspecting traveller would look in vain for large bodies of water, the maps call "Willandra Lakes". The lakes have been and gone a long, long time ago and left large arid basins. These were once ideal grazing areas for sheep and cattle farmering, but not anymore. 

Already from afar a 32km long wall of sand dunes appears like a mirage in this unsuitable landscape. It is known as "The Wall of China”. Getting closer to the “Lunette”, so called due to the half-moon shape, one could be mistaken to have landed on the moon.  

After doing some exploring ourselves but limited to the roads and look-outs, we later tagged along a sunset tour group which gave us access to walk amidst the moonscape and watch the changing colours as the sun went down. The ancient sands have been blown by wind and rain into fantastical sandcastles and columned palaces and the surfaces are rippled into diverse patterns.There were even some exposed shells sticking out of the ground and the guide pointed out some small otoliths (ear bones of fish). Who knows what else you could have found before the area was used as grazing land and, what was removed? Now, of course, the Mungo National Park is protected and not even grains of sand can be taken away.

The bones of the Mungo Man and Lady have been handed back to the local clan and nobody but them knows where they are located now.

Close to one of the look-out locations stands a touching tribute for an aboriginal guide who died fairly young from a heart attack. It happened apparently during a sunset tour. The rock which was used has a natural white stain mirroring the shape of Mungo Lake and the rim has been made to look like the lunette. On the bottom left is the setting sun.

We weren’t disappointed with Mungo National Park and if we had more time we would have liked to go back. But again our plans have changed and we are not going into South Australia anymore. Due to an earlier date to get my cataracts fixed, we are now heading slowly back to Sydney. You might have realised the change on the attached trip map.

Anyhow, I can’t believe it’s only four and a half weeks to Christmas!