Saturday, 18 October 2008

Broken Hill, Menindee, Kinchega NP and Mungo NP/Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area

Drove from Mount Remarkable along the boring Barrier Highway to Broken Hill past many derelict towns that once thrived along the railway.  Broken Hill stopped for fuel and tourist info centre for maps of the next two NPs we were heading into.  Broken Hill is a mining town, but looks like a reasonably "nice" one.  It is the town that the founder of Broken Hill Proprietary Ltd (BHP - at one time the largest Australian company in Australia) - a Charles Rasp - found silver in during the 1860s and went on to build a powerful multinational company from. 

Menindee Lakes is where Burke & Wills established a supply depot/campsite and then left their main party there before heading North in a smaller party, never to return.  One of the trees in a free campsite near the Darling River has one of their marks cut into it, but we couldnt see it.  Camped at Kinchega NP next to the river.  The author of the Dig Tree described the Darling River colour as "coffee with plenty of milk" which was spot on.  Very hot (35 degrees) and lots of flies.  God knows how the explorers coped without gazebos, air con'd 4wds and insect repellant!  As you will empathise with we made a quick pack up in the morning and a quick exit.


Next stop was Mungo NP.  This is a World Heritage area also known as Willandra Lakes.  This is where Mungo Man and Mungo Woman were unearthed from the sand dunes of a dried up lake.  These two characters are 1) the oldest recorded human cremation in the world and 2) more importantly, especially to Aboriginals who were originally thought to have "only" been in Australia for 20000 years, found to be 30,000 and 26,000 years old respectively.  And were recognised as Homo Sapiens, making them alongside the oldest evidence of modern humans outside of Africa.  Pretty impressive for a hot, dusty, dried up old lake in Outback NSW I reckon!   We spent a good day there exploring and driving around.  A great visitor centre with superb displays and a local Aboriginal ranger who played (sang?) an awesome didgeridoo, when he screamed down it I jumped along with a crowd of tourists watching!).

After a hard drive out of the dried up lakes area down some crappy corrugated roads (I will be glad to see the back of these roads)...we could see the water tower of Mildura (a town in the NW of Victoria that I always thought was a dust bowl, but in fact it is one of the most agriculturally productive areas in all of Australia, red soil = grapes, avocados, oranges - the smell is everywhere and delicious, it reminded us of Greece or Turkey - asparagus, other citrus, etc etc.) in the distance.  We had to drive over a bridge over the Murray River to get into town and it was a welcome sight to see all that beautiful fresh looking water.  And when we saw the signs for Victoria we were quite elated as it felt like we were home, everyone even has the same style number plates as us again!  Hooray!  Sad isn't it, but we felt really chuffed to be back in our adopted state again.  We celebrated with a pizza sat down by the river watching the houseboats and paddle steamers cruise by on a hot (it hit 38 today at Mungo NP!) Saturday evening.


Camping that night we strangely decided to cross back into NSW and set up on that side of the Murray River, albeit a really nice picnic site with a fantastic view - a few houseboats were also moored there for the evening along with some hoons playing techno, but they disappeared around 9pm luckily.  It was Saturday night I guess, and we cant always have everywhere to ourselves (although we have been quite lucky for most places!).


I've been practising my night sky photos too, so might publish some of pics of the stars we get to see at night - if they are any good.

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