On The Road Again
Trip Start Apr 05, 2011
79Trip End Ongoing
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Whilst we were bound for Broken Hill we had a few little detours planned along the way. Keen to make up ground we travelled along the Calder Highway and through to the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, just south of Mildura, where we set up camp at Lake Hattah for the night. It was a lovely site set just back from the lake surrounded by gorgeous river red gum and ancient buloke trees. In no time we had a fire roaring and as the sun faded behind the red sand hills the first of the stars sprang to life. As twilight eased us into the night we were treated to a pitch black sky, sprinkled with bright twinkling stars, the clarity of which was akin to first grade diamonds. With not a breath of wind the only noise was that of the fire crackling away as the flames danced along the logs
As morning broke we were treated to a deafening choir of birds all squealing and squawking as they perched on the surrounding trees. Who needs an alarm clock out here?!
As we drove into Mildura we were surprised at just how big a town it is. Set atop fertile soil there is an abundance of fresh produce available from road side stalls, handy as this is a fruit fly free area and no fresh fruit is allowed to be carried into the area, just when we had stocked up in Williamstown!
After a fleeting glance around town we continued on, Mildura being too big and commercial for us. We were pleased that we did for not far up the road we found solace at the quaint historical river town of Wentworth.
We set our van up on the banks of the Darling River at a cracker of a park. We had a pontoon at the rear of the van and a steady stream of ducks, swamp hens and even a black swan calling by regularly, ever the optimists eager for a handout.
We sat and watched as riverboats chugged by, joined by the odd paddle steamer. A few hundred metres downstream the two mighty rivers; the Darling and the Murray merge. It was an interesting sight to see for the Darling was the colour of milky tea and the Murray the colour of black tea so there was a distinct line where they merged prior to blending together for their remaining journey weaving their way out to sea.
We left our van in Wentworth and set off out to Mungo National Park. It was a long drive and we were pleased to see some sheep and goats along with a couple of emus closer to the park. We located the rough and rustic camp ground and pitched our tent, hoping that the ants would not infiltrate.
We did the Foreshore Walk from the visitors centre, keeping in mind that all these lakes are in fact now dry lakes so 'foreshore' does not really describe the walk. From the sand hills we got a nice view out over Mungo Lake, a sea of low growing black bluebush. As the trail was drawing to an end, a little joey raised its sleepy head from under one of the bushes and having spotted us quickly hopped over to be protected by its mum.
At the Walls of China, which are the highlight of the park, we found that you can no longer walk near the formations unless on an organized commercial tour. Ranger guided tours are operated only in school holidays and we were a few days early. This being the case we sat and observed them from the boardwalk, it was late afternoon and the combination of pink and white sands changed tones with the changing light of the day making for a splendid sight.
We drove along to Red Top Lookout, the drive taking us along the southern edge of The Walls of China. As we rounded a bend we spotted a family of emus on the edge of the waterhole, they looked so graceful and as a solid family unit were a delight to watch. At the lookout we sat and drank in the views along the lunette and over Lake Mungo.
On our return drive we were treated to yet another family of emus, this time we disturbed them from their bath time. Here they were all sitting in a ditch of water beside the road. It was both funny and endearing to watch as one by one they rose to their feet and shook their tail feathers before prancing across the road in front of us.
Back at our camp we set the fire, sat back and relaxed watching a couple of kangaroos grazing their way across the camp ground
As we ate our now traditional camp breakfast of pancakes and sipped on our expresso coffees (my how camping has changed!), a family of emus meandered past our camp while a couple of kangaroos relaxed next door.
Having packed up camp and returned to the visitors centre we walked through the magnificent old shearing shed. Built in 1869, it is in remarkably good condition having last been active in 1978. We are fascinated by the building methods of the time and this timber structure stands as a great example.
We set off on the ‘scenic loop drive’. This was a 70km drive which looped around The Walls of China. It was a nice drive through Mallee country however it was not until near the end that we could climb up on a sand dune. Whilst it gave a good overview of the land and the station as it was, we were more interested in the Walls of China but just could not get close enough to really appreciate them to their full potential.
Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Wentworth, the journey broken by the occasional herd of goats and some sheep with the odd lamb hugging its mother’s side
We were glad to get back to our park and the tranquil Darling River setting after the harsh arid conditions of Mungo. As we sat and watched the mighty Darling River flow past, the light was gradually fading, flocks of birds flew low along the river course making their way home for the night and as the sun set the colours reflected beautifully off the water making for a splendid sight.
We loved our little spot by the river so much that we decided it deserved another day which would also give us a chance to take in a few of the Wentworth sights we had not yet had a chance to explore.
One of these was the Perry Sand Hills, not far out of town these stunning red sand dunes are just gorgeous. Had we thought about it, we would have visited them early morning or late afternoon, however we were there around midday and so the sand was too hot to walk on without shoes, such a shame as it would have been fun to grab the discarded cardboard and go for a slide down the dunes.
Back at our camp we sat back with our books making the most of our tranquil setting and whilst the ducks, hens and black swan with the gimpy leg waddled around us hoovering up anything they could find we were so pleased that we had extended our journey by six months.
Highlights of Wentworth and Mungo National Park:
- Sitting on the banks of the Darling River watching paddle boats steam past
- Frequent visits from the ducks, hens and our token black swan
- Merging of the Darling and Murray Rivers
- Walls of China at Mungo National Park
- Families of emus hanging out together