Visit the Relatives
I needed to visit the relatives. It’s a bit of a drive from Adelaide South Australia, a bit over 600km, but the opportunity to get away from the chill of autumn was not to be resisted. We had a long hot summer of kayaking with even the first month of autumn having heat of 35 degrees C some days and we were keen to “head north” to warmer places even if for only a few weeks.
Fat bikes loaded and we were away. Destination the Darling River area more precisely Lake Mungo. The Lake is part of the Willandra series of lakes and Mungo National Park covers an area of 1,100 sq km. Location; SW New South Wales Australia. Another kayaking trip you ask ? Well not really as the lake has been dry since the last ice age.
The relatives ? Well I’m not actually going to meet them in person, more like walk in their footsteps and visit places where they lived. They were here a while ago, probably somewhere around the 40,000 to 60,000 years ago mark. Not that I can definitely trace my linage back that far and not that I call them Auntie or Uncle but they were my distant relatives.
Mungo Man and Mungo women were aboriginals who lived along the shores of the lake system but they wouldn’t have known each other as they lived about 20,000 years apart. They were maybe leaders in their group as there is evidence of ritual burials. Their remains were uncovered by the shifting sands in 1969 and 1974 by an archaeological team. They have now been returned to their country.
There is a 70km loop track around the Lake area and the best way to travel the loop is by bike, which has been called one of the great outback bike tours. Travelling by bike puts you in the landscape. You hear the wind in the trees, see the kangaroos and emus grazing, ride along paths used by the marsupials at night. You see the eagles soaring and the small birds darting through the mallee trees. You feel and smell the landscape as well as feel the rough sandy track through the seat of your pants.
We saw and greeted the animal inhabitants as my relatives would have but didn’t make the acquaintance of the Western Brown Snake who calls this place home. At the 2nd most deadly snake in Australia it’s better to just spot his tracks rather than get up close and personal.
The recent history was one of white settlement and stock grazing and this is much in evidence as you ride the track.
The shores of the lake have been eroded over time and form lunettes that make spectacular shapes in the landscape. Many people visit this area and a boardwalk has been installed to protect the site.
We traveled the track along the flat landscape. It was a lake bed after all but the sandy track made up for the lack of elevation with concentration required to keep on course and upright.
We poked around many of the old ruins of outstations and other decayed buildings and visited the wells and soaks that my relatives would have camped at.
Robyn was torn between concentrating on the track and identifying the animal tracks in the sand and the birds soaring above. We climbed sand dunes around Vigars Well and saw lots of animal tracks both big and small.
Robyn was away with her nose to the ground tracking down the owner of these prints and found them digging in the sand at the collapsed well site.
The landscape changed from Mallee tree forests to salt bush and blue bush as we crossed the lake bed.
Time passes unnoticed on the bike and you are more concerned about the next sandy section or that emu that just darted across the road in front of you and of course the next chocolate stop.
You stop to admire an ancient pine tree and are jolted back to reality when a jet trail streaks into view. Qantas or Virgin Airlines you wonder momentarily and then get back to that straight track across the Lake Mungo.
Visiting the relatives gave us a great time in an ancient landscape and there are still many trails we didn’t walk and places to explore and there not enough space here to show more than a brief glimpse of the landscape.
We’ll be back…..