David Noble, Nature photographer
Mungo National Park, located within the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area, features stunning, often stark, landscapes. It is the land of the Ngyiampaa, Mutthi Mutthi and Southern Paakantyi Aboriginal people who have lived here for millennia. In August 2016, NPA member David Noble visited Mungo NP with friend David Hufton and recorded their experiences on his blog.
Mungo NP was the main place we wanted to visit on our road trip. We had continued on our way along the Sturt Highway via Hay to Balranald. There we called into the Discovery Centre – which is not only the local information centre, but also a great cafe with hot showers in the adjoining toilets.
At the Discovery centre, we could obtain the latest information on the road conditions and the status of the national park. Outback roads are often closed when it rains, as the road would soon be wrecked by vehicles in wet conditions. The other alternative was to drive further to Mildura and drive to the park from there.
It was an interesting drive from Balranald to Lake Mungo. On the way we stopped a few times for photos – looking at interesting lizards, birds and the nearby vegetation. Earlier rain had resulted in a great display of wildflowers.
A short nature walk near the campsite was very worthwhile. Signage meant we could learn a few of the plant names – Rosewood and Belah (Casuarina cristata) and lots of native Cypress Pines. Under the trees were many types of Bluebush (saltbush).
The first night was quite cold – the temperature dropping to about 1° C. It was also very still. We got up early – in time for sunrise, but we were in the wrong place. We noticed as the sun got higher that there was an incredible glow in the east. A strange mist was filtering through the trees.
We headed towards it with our cameras and ended up following a trail to the nearby Mungo Lookout. From it we could see the whole of Lake Mungo – it was full of mist. A magnificent site! Lake Mungo is one of the Willandra Lakes – a series of dry lakes that are now a World Heritage Area. Many thousands of years ago, when the climate was much different, these lakes were full of water and would have been a paradise for the aborigines who lived on the shores.
We started the day driving across the dried up lake bed to the large lunette on the far side. All these dried up lakes seem to have lunettes – areas of sand dunes on their eastern sides, formed by the prevailing winds. The one at Lake Mungo is very famous and called the Walls of China. It initially became famous when it was featured in some of Russell Drysdale’s paintings. However, its real significance was discovered later when skeletons were unearthed. Not by digging or excavation – but by natural erosion. They were 40,000 to 50,000 years old. They are the oldest known fully modern human remains discovered outside Africa. One showed the earliest evidence in the world of ritual cremation. There has been continual aboriginal occupation of the area for around 50,000 years. This is why the area is so significant. Late afternoon is the best time of day to photograph the interesting erosion formations.
The Walls of China, various lookouts along the road, Belah Camp and Vigars Wells are all worthwhile stops for scenery, and the opportunity to get close to the sand dunes, wildlife and the mallee. There was also much to see at the old Zanci Station – a lot of history of grazing and European occupation. We headed back to the second lookout – Red Top Lookout – for sunset photography. The golden hour was very good.
David Noble is a bushwalker who enjoys Nature and photography. He encourages people who visit the bush to take their time and stop, look, listen and feel.