Day 28 - Buronga to Lake Mungo

Trip Start Apr 17, 2012
Trip End May 27, 2012

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Where I stayed
Lake Mungo Camping Area
What I did
Lake Mungo, Walls of China, Mungo Woolshed

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Monday, May 14, 2012

After an awesome night's sleep, then spending some time just enjoying the view from our campsite while eating breakfast we hot-footed it out of Buronga Riverside Park and into Mildura for a quick coffee before going for an exploratory drive around Mildura and Buronga. We had to drop into a supermarket to grab a few food items as we would be "bush"ing it for the next 2 nights. Another nearby suburb - Gol Gol, was reported to have a nice pub on the river with an awesome menu so we made our way over there. When we got there it was 1:45pm and they said lunch was finished. Not too swayed by this, we enjoyed walking around the grounds of the pub which has a lot of riverbank on it's land, as well as heaps of space for houseboats to pull in and camp for the night.

After "The Goli", we were off to Orange World which is a working citrus farm, plus a whole lot of other citrus-related stuff. They offered tractor tours of the property and various orange products. Included in the ticket price was a bottle of orange juice which we treasured - ie: as soon as we got it we kept it refrigerated. We also bought some nifty stuff - like Orange lollies (that's all I eat), orange cleaning products and a locally designed orange peeler. Mario the proprietor was also our tour leader and was an absolute legend - so friendly and so willing to answer our sometimes dumb questions. On the tour he showed us all of his various citrusses - limes, lemons, cumquads etc and how he 'converted' some Orange trees into Mandarin trees......impossible? No, very easy apparently!! Unfortunately, due to some big supermarkets selling imported product, there is some struggling business in the Mildura area. Remember - buy Aussie - sometimes it's hard to imagine the harm caused by purchasing imported produce, but there is always going to be an Australian loser if we send our dollars overseas. 

After the tour, Mario let us climb up the observation tower above his shop to get a bird's eye view of the property. Next thing we knew, it was after 3pm and we still had to do 60km of rough dirt road to do in order to get us to Lake Mungo which was our destination for the night. We were still hungry from missing lunch so we headed to the Buronga Bakery for some food and went to the servo for some fuel. We then started heading out to Mungo on Arumpo Rd. We figured it must be called Arumpo because that's the noise your vehicle makes on the corrugations. It was slow going at times, it felt like we were being shaken to bits. After the lush, irrigated farms began to thin out, the landscape started to show it's harshness. Dry red dirt and rocks galore. Even though we were averaging about 30km/h it was quite a memorable drive. The sun was setting to the west of us, the stereo was up loud and the scenery was incredible with the range of colours in the sky. Occasionally we'd see groups of emus and kangaroos as well as the odd group of ovine/bovine livestock. At times we would have to drop the speed to below 20km/h due to road surface issues, but then other times we would be able to cruise at 70km/h which is much better for fuel economy because 70km/h is the point where 5th gear becomes useable.

Soon enough, the red in the sky started to darken and before we knew it, darkness was falling. The last few kilometres into the National Park after passing Lake Arumpo were completed with high-beam on. Just before you enter the National Park is the lodge, it looked quite comfortable but we weren't after that kind of experience on this trip. As we drove in to the park, we passed the camping area to the right of us and saw the odd campfire and LED headtorch through the scrub. As we wanted to pay our fees (and possibly have our showers) prior to setting up, we headed to the visitors centre about 2km from the campground. The road passes over a slight rise before descending down into the corner of the lake where the visitors centre, woolshed and old homestead are located. It was quite a surreal sight after driving for over 2 hours into nothingness to see a cluster of illuminated buildings on the edge of a vast dry lake bed. We had to stop for a few minutes just to take it all in before disengaging the handbrake and coasting down the hill into the carpark. We were trying to fill out our self-service camping registration form when we could hear the booming bass-heavy voiceover from a multimedia presentation inside the visitor's centre.

We pushed on the glass door and walked in, the place was decked out with museum exhibits, TV screens, video loops with interviews with elders about the aboriginal history and significance of the place, information and pictures of the days when the area was a sheep station and there were scale models of megafauna which once roamed the area. It was such a thrill to arrive somewhere that felt so isolated yet provided such a warm welcome to visitors even though it was after dark on a freezing night in autumn. We agreed to come back and look at the exhibits in more detail during the day and grabbed our towels from the van so we could use the showers. There were only two showers/cubicles so we grabbed one each, both cubicles shared a single window so we could talk through the gap. Due to the limited water available in the area, the pressure was quite low so we struggled to maintain an adequate cover of hot water on ourselves making it a bit cold. When Julie turned off her shower, I got her extra water pressure (hehe) and suddenly my cubicle was warm and steamy so I absorbed the heat before turning off. After showers it was a 2 minute drive to the camping area.

We did a few laps in the dark before deciding on a spot that was a good distance from other campers - yet would catch the morning sun (very important when it's 5 degrees outside overnight and you are trying to get out of bed at 7:30am). 

For the first time on our entire trip, we had no internet, no tv and no mobile reception. Not that it was a bad thing, I just love technology in nature and remoteness so therefore it's a fun activity for me to muck about with antennas to see if I can pick up any signals whenever we set up camp. Once I had checked, it was getting bloody cold so we locked ourselves indoors after that. We cooked ourselves dinner and got some food into us and we were just heating water for tea and washing up when we ran out of gas - 2nd time this trip. This wasn't a problem as we had already finished cooking. The Waeco freezer runs off battery but the campervan's fridge runs on gas when off the grid. Since it was a 5 degree night the fridge would stay cold (and can be beefed up with frozen items from the freezer), but we had wanted to stay a 2nd night at Mungo so we could do the big drive around the lake. Unfortunately this was no longer possible, so we modified our plans to include all the main attractions the following day prior to our departure. Flexibility is a wonderful thing when you are on the road.

As we no longer had any form of heating, we had to retire early (about 10pm). It was probably a bit too early as I took ages to fall asleep.

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