Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published June 3rd 2019
Wander a Lunar Landscape on Earth
Our tour to Mungo National Park was the highlight of our Mildura stay. Travelling on a Murraytrek 4WD Adventures day tour we passed fields of young green wheat so vast they often extended to the horizon. Then it was on to the corrugated road – we certainly would not have done this trip in our 2WD car – and on to station country. We first sighted cattle and then sheep, slowing a couple of times for cattle on or near the road. The cattle though, seemed lethargic; they simply stood and stared like children waiting to wave at a train. The sheep on the other had fled from the verge like the devil himself was in pursuit.
The lunar like landscape of Mungo National Park – Photo by Gayle Beveridge
Wildlife too was abundant. We waited once for a kangaroo to leave the road and we all held our breath as an emu ran across in front of the our minibus. It was a close call but our tour guide, Trevor, had rightly predicted it would run from the left of the road to the rest of the flock on the right. We heard that "Kangaroos and emus are incapable of walking backwards. They face each other on the Australian Coat of Arms and so symbolise Australia moving forward."
A landscape of shapes and colours– Photo by Gayle Beveridge
Paddy melons, green fruit perhaps twice the size of an oranges were scattered about the roadside and some on the road. Paddy melons were introduced to Australia by the Afghan cameleers and are now widespread. Apparently Major Mitchell cockatoos roll the fruit onto the road to be split open by wheels of cars; it is how they harvest the seeds.
Fossils at the Discovery Centre – Photo by Gayle Beveridge
Mungo National Park is a dried up ancient lake. The oldest aboriginal remains ever discovered were found here. Mungo Man and Mungo woman are believed to have lived 40,000 years ago.
On arrival we visited the Discovery Centre where we viewed both outdoor and indoor information boards about the history and geography of the area. Set out like a small museum the centre also houses aboriginal artefacts and fossils.
Some of these natural structures so seem to resemble walls– Photo by Gayle Beveridge
Nearby we wander through the Mungo woolshed, an impressive structure made of white cypress pine in 1869. It typifies outback shearing sheds of times past. Inside we view the shearing floor, the sheep stands and races, and a row of bright red pulley wheels.
These historic gems are an interesting prelude to the star of the trip – The Walls of China. Dunes as hard as rock are worn into grooves and pinnacles by wind and water; their patterns are a sight to behold. Trevor led us on a casual and easy 2km walk onto the Walls of China. Public access to this area is restricted other than by authorised tours.
Trevor talked about the history of the area and pointed out ancient Aboriginal fireplaces, fossil remains and shell middens. We came upon sea shells brought to the surface by years of erosion and were told these are 15,000 years old. We saw the bones of wombats extinct for hundreds of years, lying still where they had fallen.
A tour group dwarfed by their surrounds in this ancient lake – Photo by Gayle Beveridge
Beyond the almost unworldly shapes of the Walls of China we stood on soft sand dunes and were treated to a magnificent vista for miles on every side. The sand dunes which are slowly moving eastward were a magnet to the children in the group who immediately starting sliding done the sides.
On top of the sand dunes beyond the Walls of China – Photo by Gayle Beveridge
We enjoyed a picnic lunch in an old shearing shed where martin swallows were flitting in and out of a water tank. An underground pantry remains here and we walked down a short flight of stairs where the air was noticeably cooler. A brick fireplace and chimney stand alone, the building they served long gone. There is also a traditional Aussie outhouse, and some overgrown sheep yards.
Looking over the old yards of the Zanci homestead from the shade of the shearing shed – Photo by Gayle Beveridge
It is hard to imagine the lunar-like landscape of Mungo is so close to Mildura. The trip to Mungo National Park from Mildura is around an hour and a half. Requested stops for photos are accommodated. In addition to the day tour which commences at 8am and returns between 3pm and 4pm. Murraytrek 4WD Adventures also runs sunset tours which commence at 3pm and finish later in the evening. They can be contacted via their website www.murraytrek.com.au/ or by ringing on 1800 797 530. These are small group tours in air conditioned vehicles. The tour price includes catering. Pricing at June 2019 is $145 per person for the day tour and $175 per person for the sunset tour.