Awesome Adventure at an “Alienesque” landscape on earth
Mungo National Park
Imagine a place on earth ..
- where fossils older than 40,000 years old were discovered that rewrote Australian history
- where you are walking through a Jurassic park from eons ago and see archaeological finds in plain sight as the wind continuously exposes them
- which looks other worldly like Mars
- when every sunset is an amazing “magic hour” with a kaleidoscope of colors
- that has been designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO
Mungo is that place. I visited Mungo in Aug 2007 because I was looking for an adventure off the beaten path and I was not disappointed. I re-discovered these photographs over the holidays and decided to document my experience
How To Get There
Mildura the nearest town is ~120km away from the park. You can take a flight from Sydney with one of the smaller regional airlines. From Mildura, I recommend you rent a 4 wheel drive SUV / Jeep. The drive is on an unpaved road and is like a travel back in time with a rich red landscape and the occasional kangaroos or emus on the side of the road. The road is rough but fun and you get the real outback experience. Fill up on petrol at Mildura since there are no gas stations on the way. Check the weather because the road may be impassable in the rain. Assume you will spend a day getting there (including air and road travel time) if you are traveling from Sydney.
Where To Stay
Recommend Mungo Lodge (03–5029 7297; firstname.lastname@example.org) because it is very conveniently located and has great service
I went with Harry Nanya tours which had indigenous tour guides, but from what I understand they have closed permanently
For photography, I used the equipment below. Some of the equipment is outdated today but was common in 2007
Camera: Nikon D200
Lenses: NIKKOR 12–24mm f/4 & Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 (manual focus)
Filters: UV & Polarizing
Tripod & Cable release
For those seeking an adventure in Mungo, some do’s and don’ts
- Start the trip with a visit to the Mungo Visitor Center
- Visit in the spring and autumn since it is not too hot or cold
- Take anything or damage the park. This land is considered sacred by the aboriginals and taking samples / damaging the park is tantamount to desecration and can also bring bad luck. Many tourists who ventured to take souvenirs experienced bad luck when they went home and returned these souvenirs which you can see at the Mungo Visitor Centre
- Drive around the park at dawn, dusk or at night. Kangaroos come out at night and get blinded by the headlights so it is very easy to hit one especially since the Mungo park area abounds with them
Footprints on the sands of time
The echoes of over 400 centuries of continuous human habitation are very tangible in Lake Mungo, a dry lake that is the site of the oldest archaeological finds. The wind erosion exposes the remains of long extinct species.
In 2003, the Earth’s largest collection of fossilized Pleistocene human footprints was uncovered here. The discovery of Mungo Man and Mungo Lady in 1968 / 1974 respectively rewrote Australian history as explained below
- Universities in Australia estimated that they were 40,000+ years old. This age doubled the length of time of scientifically proven Aboriginal existence in Australia and validated their claim that they have been in Australia since almost the beginning of time and are the oldest continuous culture inhabiting this planet
- Burials of Mungo Man and Mungo Lady were sophisticated and included ochre that came from hundreds of miles away and implements that came from the Australian alps. This denoted that Aboriginals had an advanced culture ages ago
Walls of China
Shimmering white dunes carved by sand and wind are known as the Walls of China. It is rumored that shepherds from China in the Mungo area gave it that name in the 1800s. They resemble tiny mountain ranges and have been carved over centuries by the wind. The saltbush is pervasive and adapts well to this harsh climate since it can withstand dry and salty soils
Many flora have uniquely adapted to to this harsh desert terrain by developing above ground roots that run horizontally above ground in their quest for water.
Magic Hour at Sunset
This was mesmerizing since the sky changed colors very rapidly. It was almost a spiritual and at the same time an eerie alienesque experience watching the landscape at sunset. This was “dreamtime” for a landscape photographer.
The lamb shank at Mungo Lodge was a great way to end every evening. They told me it was saltbush fed lamb which gave it a unique flavor. This is achieved because the lamb get a diet high in protein and natural minerals, which comes from the saltbush.
Red Cliffs Scenic Reserve
I stopped by this scenic reserve on the way back to Mildura so named due to its red 70m cliffs
I hope to go back there again (with my newer camera equipment) so I can experience “magic hour”, walk through this Jurassic park, experience the aboriginal songlines that criss cross this place and of course savor the lamb shank!