On our way back to the river region we passed through Orrorroo, a small town with some interesting features including a Giant Red River Gum tree estimated at over 500 years old and Magnetic Hill, which was a weird experience as we let the brakes off and started to roll back uphill! As we approached Burra, Carolyne spotted the ‘Midnight Oil House’ which wasn’t sign posted but was obviously the house made famous on one of the band’s album covers.
We knew the weather was going to be pretty unbearable for the coming week, with temperatures of above 40c expected, so we crossed on the free car ferry at Lyrup and were lucky to get the last powered spot at the SS Ellen Park right on the river. We spent a fun week here, taking the kayaks out on the Murray and made some new friends and drank more than we should probably!
Leaving South Australia, we drove into Victoria for a couple of hundred kilometres before heading north into NSW, staying at a campsite right on the Murray River near Wentworth in NSW. Wentworth is where the great Darling River system joins with the Murray River to flow into South Australia. From here we took the van up to Pooncarie and used this as a base to visit the Mungo National Park.
Mungo is a fascinating National Park, we had an early start and as we drove into the park headquarters we stopped in wonder as flocks of emus and a big mob of large and small black faced kangaroos all crossed the road in front of us – it was like something out of a movie (and what I guess many visitors to the country expect to see every day!).
Mungo Lake is in the area of the Willandra Lakes which were once home to a large indigenous community for at least 30,000 years. The lake area was once a lush, semi-tropical wetlands region until the lakes eventually dried out completely around 15,000 years ago.
Scientists have found stone tools and of course the famous skeletons of Mungo Man and Mungo Woman from 42,000 years ago. The Track Ways foot steps have been recovered to protect them for the future. These occurred when around 20,000 years ago a group of men ran across the wet claypan, probably hunting, then shortly afterwards women and children also ran across. Once it dried out their tracks were baked hard and are the largest collection of ice age human footprints found when they were discovered in 2003.
The Walls of China are different coloured layers of eroded pinnacles which were laid down over long periods of time when the lakes were filling and then later drying out. The nearby Vigars Wells area was fascinating as animals such as kangaroos, emus and dingoes dig down into the sand until they reach the underground water which is only a few inches below the surface. We climbed the moving sand dunes to a ridge and looked out over the division between Lake Mungo and Lake Leaghur.