Wanting an early start to what I knew would be an interesting journey I left Mildura around 5am.
I’d been warned when booking myself into the shearers quarters accommodation via the phone 2 days earlier, to fill up on petrol and supplies before leaving town as there were no facilities at the park itself.
Approximately 20 km along the road leading to the national park the surfaced road texture gave way to the read earth for the next 88kms. There’s something quite exhilarating about 4WD experiences. It requires you to stay completely in the moment. Without constant thought and correction your car takes on a life of its own that can lead you up a gully or down a ditch with scant regard to your welfare.
So with eyes trained on the road in front of me and fear of bounding kangaroos and emus in my path I managed to keep my speed between 60 – 80kph with nothing but the early morning skies and my headlights to guide me.
Dawn was approaching rapidly so I knew I only had to make it through the next hour before morning light would wake the landscape and I would see my surroundings.
In truth, I met no living soul, fauna or human, in that intervening time but the night sky was vast as a million stars watched and guided me.
As night lifted and light began to fill the air I excitedly swiveled my head from side to side, much like the emus I sought, bouncing back and forth taking in as much of the landscape that I could. At that point I slowed to a more moderate pace to enjoy the visual feast.
I could see acres of wheat, golden against the dark horizon. Low shrubs and spindly grasses interspersed by the occasional tree that looked as if it had been dropped there for unusual effect. Cows and sheep alternated along the roadside taking a lazy interest in the passing traffic.
Looking through my rear vision mirror dust plumed behind me and I pitied any driver following if he was close to me.
The unsealed road is safe for 2WD vehicles and I even found some tourists who arrived by motor cross bikes. Motor cross bikes are definitely suited to this terrain, and make easy work of getting around the park. However the road in and out of the national park is best done via 4WD if you can. If you plan on taking any of the self guided driving tours make sure you bring extra petrol for emergencies. The nearest place to fill your car is approx 110kms away in Mildura!
Make sure you arrive in time for a Tag-Along tour with one of the Aboriginal Discovery Rangers based at the Mungo Visitor Centre. My guide, Robert, shared with us his growing knowledge of the park. Being indigenous gave him a unique connection to the land. You can find the details for tour times at http://www.visitmungo.com.au/aboriginal-discovery-tours.
Your own transport is required for Tag-Along Tours to the Walls of China. Drinks, sturdy footwear, cameras, binoculars, sunscreen and hats are strongly recommended.
Mungo National Park covers an ancient dry lakebed. During the last ice age, Lake Mungo was one of a chain of freshwater lakes strung along the Willandra Creek.
Mungo National Park is at the heart of NSW’s Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area.
This extraordinary place is of great significance to the Ngyiampaa, Mutthi Mutthi and Southern Paakantyi people, whose connection with the land reaches back more than 40,000 years.
Staying overnight is a must and allows you to take in a glorious sunrise and sunset but make arrangements for accommodation before you arrive.
There are only 4 rooms at the shearers quarters to choose from or plan a stay at the camping grounds within the park. Payment is via an honor system and all necessary information can be found at the visitors center.
There is almost no shade in the national park. Vegetation consists of low shrubs with the occasional tree.
This fully formed “tree” shown is about 12cm in height.
As always if your car breaks down stay with the vehicle, it will give you shade and help in tracking you when help arrives.
The best time to visit Mungo NP is April to October when the days are not so hot.
Information about getting there and what to do at the park can be found at http://www.visitmungo.com.au .