Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mungo National Park

An ear piercing screech woke me from my sleep.  More annoyed than worried--I had come to anticipate the predawn wake up call of the cockatoo--I slowly opened my eyes.  Through the netting I could see that the early morning sky still resembled a dark drop cloth splattered with millions of tiny white paint drops.  Soon the celestial sphere would turn grey, and then pink and orange as the first sun rays peeked over the horizon.
Mark, stirred next to me.  After a good morning peck on the forehead, I could feel him searching for his frocs (faux croc shoes).  I knew that there was no time to dawdle, that the race against the heat of the day was on.  The flies had beaten us up, and as we took down our camp the insistent little pest tried to crawl into our eyes, ears, mouth and nose.  It wasn't long before we gave in and pulled out the fly nets.  In the cooler morning air the head coverings proved to be less of a bother than the pesky insects.  We wouldn't be heating up billy this morning; we weren't sure if the Total Fire Ban was still in place, so instead we threw on our Camelbaks and hit the trail to the scenic overlook.
Within 30 minutes we stood on the edge of an ancient dry lake bed.  As we looked across the arid land it was hard to believe that 14,000 years ago the area was a series of lakes strung between Willandra Creek and the Lachlan River.  In the far distance we could see a huge crescent-shaped dune.  Due to a lack of time we decided it would be best to return to the car and drive to the other side of the lake where we would b able to explore the lunette.
The drive across the now extinct lake bottom took us past the Gol Gol Sheep Station, established in the 1950s when squatters moved into the area.  The original Woolshed, which was constructed in 1869 is still standing.  Perhaps it's durability can be attributed to the fact that it was made of locally hand cut Cypress Pine, a termite resistant timber.  Other relics of the era can be seen and include part of a rabbit proof fence and stock yards.

As we approached the far edge of the saltbush landscape we could see what is known as the Great Wall of China raise from the lake bed in front of us.  The "walls", which are almost 35 kilometers long and reach 30 meters high in parts, have been formed over thousands of years by sediments deposited by the winds as the lake dried.  They are composed of three distinct layers of sands and soil.  The bottom layer which is reddish in color was formed between 100,000 and 120,000 years ago.  This is covered by a greyish middle layer, which was deposited between 50,000 and 25,00 years ago.  The top layer, pale brown in color was laid down between 15,000 and 25,000 years ago.  Over time the elements have worn away at the land, leaving bright multi-colored pinnacles and alluvial fans.
As we exited the car we were greeted by a light breeze.  This would not only help keep the heat at bay, but it would provide relief from the pesky flies.  The start of the walk consisted of a board walk that leads from the car park to the sculptured walls.  From a distance the spires and landforms seemed dwarfed by the surrounding hills, but as we drew closer they became more and more majestic.  Not because of their size, but because of the way that the wind and rain has methodically carved and chiseled away at the land to make perfectly formed sculptures.    As we walked through the sculpture garden we couldn't help but be awestruck by the combinations of colors and textures.  A truly spectacular way to start the day.

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