Mungo National Park

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Mungo National Park
From: John Gamblin <>
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2001 16:54:28 -0800 (PST)
Sid and Sharon Genaux <> wrote:

Hi everybody,

We took a sunset tour to Mungo National Park in New
South Wales about 175 kilometers from Mildura with a
tour company called Harry Nyanda Tours which is owned
and operated by the local Aboriginal community. They
picked us up at our caravan park at 2:45 p.m. and we
didn't get back until after midnight. It was a great
trip. The guides were better then terrific. They told
us about the ecology of the land and animals we saw as
well as explaining the aboriginal culture of the area.

We left Mildura and went to Wentworth where the
Darling River joins the Murray. There are lovely, big
river red gums along the banks. Unfortunately, they
are very dangerous at this time of year. In hot
weather the red gums draw water up through their roots
and trunks into
their branches. This makes the branches heavier, and
they can break off and fall without warning. People
who camp under the red gums have been killed when the
branches fell on them. Once we got away from the
river, the land began to dry out and we were in the
mallee.  The mallee country is named for the
predominant vegetation, the mallee tree, a rather
short, spreading tree. The aboriginals call it the
tree with many trunks because it grows out of the
ground in a group of "trunks" instead of a single
central trunk. In fact, the trunk of the mallee grows
underground and what shows above ground is the
branches. This is an adaptation to bushfires. A
bushfire will destroy the wood and leaves of a mallee
that is above ground, but the tree is still alive and
will regrow the above ground part after the fire. Our
guides pointed out another adaptation to the hot, dry
climate here.  Termites in the mallee do not build the
mounds that the northern termites do. They live
underground. Their nests are as big as those in the
north and are made up of hardened earth like the
mounds, but they build down instead of up. The main
attraction at Mungo National Park is of Lake Mungo,
the bed of a lake that dried up 1,500 years ago. On
the eastern shore is a lunette, a semi-circular
formation of sand dunes and clay. It is in three
layers and imbedded in the soil are many animal
remains and aboriginal artifacts. As the sand and clay
erodes away, more bones, tools, fireplaces, and
middens are revealed. We saw two almost complete
skeletons of thylacines or Tasmanian tigers which have
become visible in the last few years. Our guides told
us that they know several sites where human remains
lay as well. They have covered those over with brush
so their ancestors are not disturbed by the tourists.
Some aboriginal remains which were found here have
become famous world-wide. Archeologists found the
charred remains of a woman here which were the oldest
cremation in the world. Mungo Woman, as she is called,
was cremated about 26,000 years ago according to
carbon-dating. Nearby they found Mungo Man. He had
been buried with pieces of ocher, a type of earth used
for paint which does not occur near here. That
indicates that there was a form of ritual associated
with the burial. Mungo Man was originally dated to
about 30,000 years ago but they are now suspecting
that he may have been buried over 45,000 year ago. In
contrast to that, the oldest sites for Native
Americans have been dated at around 14,000 years old.

In the midst of the sand dunes are sections of earth
which were made up of hardened clay. When the sand and
softer clay eroded away, these sections were left as a
series of pinnacles and folded earthern ramparts.

Chinese workers on a station nearby thought that these
looked like the Wall of China when viewed from a
distance so the formation has acquired the name, China
Wall. It is not very high, probably twenty or thirty
feet at the highest point; but it is impressive.  At
sunset, the colors are reflected by the Wall and
change from moment to moment. We drank champagne and
watched the sun go down from the China Wall.

The drive back to Mildura was an adventure in itself. 
We have been careful to be at camp before dark each
night because we have been warned that the kangaroos
are a real hazard on the road. We found out that we
were not being unduly cautious on the bus ride back
from Mungo. Our driver spent most of the trip dodging
the 'roos in the road. He actually hit several of
Luckily the bus was equipped with a heavy "roo bar" so
there was no damage to the bus. We stopped once on the
way home just to look at the sky. The full moon was
just up over the horizon, huge and golden-yellow and
their were thousands of stars spread across the black
dome of night sky. There were no human-made lights
visible anywhere; the Alfred astronomers would love
the Australian outback.

The encounter with the vastness of the time and space
represented by the ancient burials and the night sky
made us feel rather small, but very lucky to have been
at Mungo National Park.

Please, keep sending us your e-mail messages. 

We really appreciate hearing from you.

Sid and Sharon

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