For a while now we’ve been planning a trip to the Victorian High Country, part of Australia’s alpine area steeped in legend of wild brumbies and mountain cattlemen. To get there we chose a a loop to pick up a few places on our to-do list, heading south west into the depths of outback NSW and finishing at Mungo National Park where some of the oldest remains of homo sapiens in Australia and the world have been found.
Our first day’s driving skirted the southern Darling Downs, heading firstly to Warwick and then cutting westward. The country we drove through looked magnificent thanks to the recent rains, with waist deep grass across much of the grazing pastures and water still flowing in many of the creeks. We soon came to Yelarbon’s beautifully painted grain silos and paused for a look; first of many siloart projects we’d stop to admire during the trip.
From there we continued to Goondiwindi for lunch, and on the way into town we stopped to check out the Once Upon A Time sculpture display, a private art initiative on the outskirts of town.
Our first day ended at the famed (and infamous) Nindigully Pub, Queensland’s oldest continuously licenced hotel on banks of the Moonie River. The river bank is a well presented free camping site and we were pleasantly surprised to find very few other campers set up, allowing us to select a great spot backing onto the river under shade of some coolibahs. To finish off a hot day’s travel we enjoyed a few cold bevies before smashing down a great pub dinner.
After a peaceful night by the river we were up and on the road, with a quick stop over at another silo art project at Thallon then crossing the border into NSW at Mungindie.
Our intended short cut toward Walgett was short lived when we came across a road closed sign a few kilometres in, presuambly road damage from the recent wet weather. The dead end wasn’t wasted however because we got to watch a dare devil crop duster pilot diving and soaring across a nearby cotton crop.
Next stop on our to-do list is one especially chosen for Suzzanne who is a devoted David Bowie fan. Bowie aficionados will know that he filmed part of the Let’s Dance film clip in the Carinda Hotel, a site chosen to highlight racial discrimination still entrenched in regional Australia in the 1980’s. Carinda’s better days are well behind it and the pub is not in great shape either, but thankfully it has retained its authenticity and the tiled wall against which Bowie was filmed is still there. There is even an annual David Bowie tribute festival for those wanting to get right into the action.
We had our sights set on a free camp just east of Cobar, deep in the NSW copper belt and start of the true outback. With lots of water laying about we elected to stay on black top roads rather than a gravel short cut and drove firstly to Nyngan then westward on the Barrier Highway to the Glenhope free camp. We again got a nice surprise to find that the free camping area was empty, giving us freedom to pick a great spot behind some gum trees. With camp soon set up we got dinner underway and sat back to watch a spectacular technicolour sunset.
A sleepy start to our third day of wheeling saw me drive away from camp without picking up the levelling ramp from under the trailer wheel, so hopefully it proves to be a useful find for the next camper to come through Glenhope.
Cobar gave us a chance to get some fresh supplies and find a bakery breakfast, but only after checking out the Fort Bourke lookout and getting a picture at the iconic town entrance sign.
Our adventure was really gaining rhythm now, with the routine of camper pack up getting more polished and cadence of the road making the kilometres melt away. Road trips give us a great opportunity to catch up on podcasts, both to help pass driving time but also to increase awareness of issues we wouldn’t otherwise learn about. Richard Fidler’s Conversations is a favourite but we also mix things up with true crime stories and other podcast choices.
Our adventure was really starting now, with a run down the rough gravel Wool Track cutting a straight line through the arid western NSW plains to Ivanhoe. We started to see big packs of a feral goats along the roadside, and some of the bigger billy goats even tried staring us down before galloping into cover of the roadside bush.
As we crossed the Mungo National Park boundary it was time for a roadside lunch stop, and thankfully the TVAN’s Skyward opening rear hatch provided some shade from the sun on this 38 degree afternoon. The hot lunch was courtesy of last night’s bbq left overs reheated in the Road Chef 12V oven, one of our favourite meals when travelling and much better than dry sandwiches or stale roadhouse food.
This leg of our trip ended at Mungo National Park, a world heritage listed treasure trove of evidence that details earliest human settlement of Australia. The world’s oldest human remains and tools outside of Africa have been found in this area, including the famed Mungo Man and Mungo Lady, rewriting the book on early migration of homo sapiens and their colonisation of the world much earlier than first believed.
When driving across the dry salt lakes and desert scenery of Mungo its difficult to imagine this was once a wet swamp land alive with lush plants and mega fauna. The unique combination of sand, clay and salt has preserved a variety of artefacts; from human foot prints and skeletons to fossilised aquatic fauna and even bones of Tasmanian devils that are now extinct from the mainland.
As well as ancient human history the area offers some great examples of European pioneer settlement. Before being acquired and gazzetted as a National Park Mungo was a sheep station taken up as part of the WW1 returning soldiers’ resettlement program, as was nearby Zanci station which is now part of the National Park. The old wool sheds and homestead ruins offers great insight into the rigours of life in this harsh environment.
After exploring the park we settled at the main campground and were soon joined by a small mob of eastern grey kangaroos jostling for a turn at the water tank’s tap.
The main campground at Mungo NP is well set out and has good amenities for such a remote location. With clear weather the day’s heat soon dissipated and became pleasantly cool while the big dark skies of the outback provided another spectacular light show as we settled in for the night.
Tomorrow is a transit day across the border into Victoria to Warrnambool and start of our trip’s next leg – along the Great Ocean Road. Join us on the next blog for beautiful views as the Southern Ocean meets the cliffs of the Victorian coastline. 😉