Day 164 – Mungo National Park

Mungo – Home of Mungo Man & Mungo Lady

I spent a night in Mildura, deciding to splurge on a pizza. As usual I found myself disappointed with the large chain stores attempt at creating a gourmet pizza. Even the chocolate pudding for desert was tasteless. I appreciate more the simple foods I’ve been eating to save money, recently rediscovering how great beef noodles can be with the addition of mince and dehydrated peas. Incredible flavour and filling.

Heading north I cross the Victorian border back into NSW destination Mungo National Park. A couple hours and a long dusty dirt road later I arrive at the Mungo Visitor Centre. Mungo is special for two reasons. Firstly the cremated remains of an ancient aboriginal women now known as Mungo Lady was discovered here in 1968. Dating put the remains at 40-42000 years old. The oldest known creation in earth’s history. The second is the discovery in 1974 of another body. This time a perfectly preserved skeleton of a male now known as Mungo Man. The skeleton was also dated around the 40000 year old mark. Very significant for the history of the human race and for the First Nations peoples of this country proving continuous occupation.

The visitor centre is filled with aboriginal artefacts, stories, along with various remains of now extinct megafauna and other species that once existed here before and after the last ice age ended. Mungo was once a true lake abundant with wildlife. After the ice age ended, the waters ceased to flow into the lakes in the region, the forests disappeared and the area dried out becoming an arid landscape with little water.

A walk out in the courtyard reveals a replica of ancient aboriginal footprints that were also discovered at Mungo in a dried mud plain. These are also potentially the oldest recorded human footprints in existence. They reveal a story of male hunters out on hunt and another group of women with a young child passing by the same area within a few days. The footprints dried in the mud and wind blew sand over them, covering them until the present day when they were uncovered again, perfectly preserved.

The nearby shearing shed is a remnant of the former sheep grazing that took place throughout the Mungo region. Perfectly preserved and now over 100 years old it reveals how the early pioneers of the land lived and worked. Despite the shed not shearing any sheep since the 1970’s it has a strong sheep odour from the decades of sheep urine and poo accumulated underneath and absorbed into the timber. Plenty of wool can be seen wedged between the cracks in the floorboards. An old steam engine exists from the early days of mechanisation when hand shears where replaced with powered shears.

I spent 2 nights at Main campgrounds which have pit toilets, water tanks, shelters, gas BBQ’s and fire pits. Camping is $5 per night.

I took the tourist drive towards the lunettes where all the discoveries have been found. These are a mix of layers of sand and clay built up over 50000 years or so. Public access is no longer allowed without a guide to walk on the lunettes, but a boardwalk took me down to the edge with still wonderful views and photo opportunities. The constant dry winds were one downside of Mungo, blowing all day long. These winds and rain are responsible for eroding the layers of sand revealing bones and ancient aboriginal fireplaces with discarded fish bones and clams shells.

The road continues around with the chance to stop and read information boards along the way or use the self guided tour map from the visitor centre. Another area allows closer inspection of the eroding lunette.

I camped 2 more nights at Belah camp which has toilets and tables. At night I watched the satellites streak across the sky and the significance of this place sunk in. For the last 40000 years other humans looked up to the same sky from Mungo that I was now watching. Probably considering the same thoughts as I.. how am I going to survive in this changing world.

Completing the tourist drive with plenty of emus running alongside, I visited the Zanci homestead ruins and shearers shed. Another one of the former sheep properties which is now part of the national park.

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