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Showing posts from January, 2010

Mungo Woolshed

I've shown quite a lot of shearing sheds in this blog over the past year ... here's a chance to look inside one. This one was built in 1869 from locally harvested cypress pine and used until 1978 when Mungo Station was taken over for the National Park. Mungo Station, by the way, was a mere 16,000 hectares (40,000 acres). More below because this was another photgrapher's paridise. And it doesn't stop here!


There are the remains of the old Zanci homestead and wool shed. At the now demolished homestead they had an underground dugout where they used to escape the heat ... I wanted to escape the heat by now. The picture above is of the old tankstand. And the old wool shed below. There is a much more impressive wool shed at Mungo, I'll show you that tomorrow.


Here we go ... just what you would expect Kangaroos, Emus and other birds. There are lizards and snakes too but I didn't see any. And feral animals ... This was once a shepherd's hut, undermined by rabbits (sorry Paula a non-native pest in Australia) and eaten by termites. And what about this, it's a trap to catch feral goats (sorry Martina these are a non-native pest too). They are attracted to the water. Throughout the park there are various waterholes, called tanks, a legacy from the park's pastoral history. Even so, water was hard to find, apparently only 2 wells out of 300-400 sunk were good.

The Round Trip

After the 100km to get there in the first place, there is a 70km round trip through the National Park. There is no food or fuel available so before setting out we had a full tank of fuel, our picnic lunch and emergency supplies of water on hand. It was getting jolly hot by lunch time and those stringy trees don't offer much shade but they do harbour birdlife. Some more park wildlife tomorrow. An update, to show what the leaves on the trees are like close up.

Walls of China

So much potential, so little time and getting very warm out on the dune (called a Lunette because of it's cresent shape) even though at this time it was under 30C. I so wanted to do better than this but this what I got.

Mungo Man and Woman

A crescent-shaped dune, called the Walls of China, stretches along the eastern shore of the dried up lakebed of Lake Mungo. Erosion by wind and water leaves behind a landscape of outcrops and shifting sand revealing ancient fossils and evidence of the aboriginal inhabitants of long ago when the water flowed. In 1969, the remains of a cremated skeleton of a human were found, later to be known as Mungo Woman. Six years later, Mungo Man was found buried. Both skeletons are estimated to be 40,000 years old. It's a photographers paridise and the reason why we drove all this way so there is much more to come over the next week.

Going to Mungo

Cattle grids on the road suggested we were passing through private property where stock were roaming but I don't remember seeing any. Mungo National Park (part of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area) was formed in the late 1970s from two large sheep stations Mungo and Zanci which were settled in the 1800s. As we reach Lake Mungo the remains of an old homestead comes into view. I try to imagine what it is like to live in these dry isolated places with a magnificent but inhospitable view out the window. Amazing enough today but what about 100 years ago when transport was slow and instant communication non-existent. It's hot and dry, and you'll soon discover the "lakes" are a mirage ... they dried up 14,000 years ago!

Wheat harvest

I was so excited I found a place where the wheat had not yet been harvested. I've been wanting to find some, ever since I posted the green wheat a while back. Caught just in the nick of time, here comes the harvester to chop off their heads.

Out to the outback

We're hitting the dirt today going north of Mildura to Mungo National Park. Mildura is the centre of another huge irrigation area. Even more vineyards and orchards than around Griffith. The blub says "The district supplies 80% of Australia's dried fruit, 15% of its citrus fruit, 85 per cent of the state's [Victoria's] winemaking grapes and it possesses the second and third largest packing companies in the world." And the good news is the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline water-saving project nearing completion. The $688 million project has been building almost 9,000 kilometres of reticulated pipeline to replace 17,800 kilometres of inefficient open channels, saving around 100 billion litres of water a year. Beyond the irrigation zone the land is pretty desolate again, but it's actually quite green in a strange arid-country way.

The Murray

We got our first look at the great Murray River at Euston and camped beside it at Mildura ... but as we plan our return trip to be along the Murray I'll save showing you the river proper until then. We've got our trip to Mungo National Park and another river to see first. We start out that way tomorrow.

Slow Down

This ad seems quite funny out there on flat straight roads with hardly another car in sight. They are plastered all over New South Wales at the moment ... certainly noticeable, and hopefully effective because the NSW road toll was up 40% year on year (still way down on the 1970s and 80s though). Tomorrow we see the big river, the Murray.

Big birds

Having crossed the plains and coming into Balranald we spotted emus ... Australia's large flightless birds ... apparently the second largest bird in the world behind the ostrich.

Hay Plains

Did I mention before that the land was flat .... nah that wasn't flat! Did I say the trees were getting shorter ... ooops they've gone! You are looking at a 360 degree view of the Hay Plains ... 90 degree turn with each shot. The blurb says "The Hay Shire has the distinction of being one of the flattest sections of land in the world with a difference in elevation of only 17 metres between the highest and lowest points. Intersected at Hay by the Sturt, Mid-Western and Cobb Highways, the terrain is flat, almost treeless saltbush plain." Here's a closeup of the land. The funny thing is ... sheep apparently like to eat the unpalatable looking plants as Hay is at the centre of one of the best wool growing merino regions of Australia.

Murrumbidgee River

At Hay we see the Murrumbidgee River for the first time. The one feeding the irrigation area we have been driving through. The rivers are bordered by broad river flood plains. The Explorers of Australia and their Life-work (1908) by historian Ernest Favenc has some interesting insights into the discovery and naming of the river. "Here we may remark on the tenacity with which the Murrumbidgee River long eluded the eye of the white man. It is scarcely probable that Meehan and Hume, who on this occasion were within comparatively easy reach of the head waters, could have seen a new inland river at that time without mentioning the fact, but there is no record traceable anywhere as to the date of its discovery, or the name of its finder. When in 1823 Captain Currie and Major Ovens were led along its bank on to the beautiful Maneroo country by Joseph Wild, the stream was then familiar to the early settlers and called the Morumbidgee. Even in 1821, when Hume found the Yass Plains, almost

At the edge

We have passed the irrigation zone and are moving further west. The trees are getting shorter and the earth is becoming bare.


One for my hay series. There are lost of freshly made hay bales in the fields at this time of year. They are mostly round these days so I was nice to see the old shape for a change. We are on our way to the town of Hay, which I don't think has anything to do with fodder type hay ... was probably named after a pioneer ... I just checked it was named after Sir John Hay a local pastoralist and member of parliament.


It's Day 3 and we are rolling by seemingly limitless vineyards and orchards. There are other crops too ... we saw corn, pumpkins and rice ... yes rice out here in this big dry sunny country ... the miracle of the irrigation scheme. Here's some rice facts from the rice growers website. 1. Up to 40 million people eat Australian rice around the world each day. 2. Australian rice growers have improved their water use efficiency by 44% in the past 10 years. 3. Australian rice growers surpassed overseas average production of 3.97 tonnes per hectare 60 years ago. In 2006, the average rice yield was 10 tonnes per hectare and Australia is the only country to achieve this. 4. Overseas rice growers can use up to 5 times more water to grow a kilo of rice compared to our Australian rice growers. So what is the right balance between water usage and this abundance? How much water should be left for the people downstream? What about the river and wetland health?

The dry land flourishes

John Oxley the first white explorer in the area saw land that was "uninhabitable and useless to civilized man". However, wherever the water touches rich crops grow ... grapes, grapes and more grapes. I've never seen so many vineyards. And citrus orchards by the mile. We are at Griffith. Here's the blurb "Griffith was established in 1916 as part of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area project, designed to irrigate the dry lands of the Riverina and make them suitable for farming. Approximately 60% of Griffith’s population claim Italian background – the first wave of Italian immigrants came to Australia during the Depression while the second wave arrived in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Griffith is associated with good food and wine, which can be attributed equally to excellent growing conditions and Italian know-how. The Riverina is responsible for 60% of the grapes grown in New South Wales. "


Have you noticed that I have been referring to this trip as the River Run? That's because we are going into the area of Australia's great inland rivers. Well this isn't a river but is an irrigation channel fed from the Murrumbidgee River. We are entering country where channels like this criss-cross the land. Australia's water systems are in trouble because of the extended drought so I am sure there is going to be some discussion on water usage over the next few days ... like why is the water in ditches where apparently up to 80% of the water volume is lost through evaporation and water seepage? But first let's see what a difference a little water can make. I will show you that tomorrow.

War birds

At my husband's request we diverted to Temora where there is an aviation museum with many working wartime aircraft beautifully presented. The museum guide was pleased to see us, "The last lot I took through weren't interested in the planes at all," he complained as he began sprouting a myriad of facts and figures. As my eyes glazed over I finally muttered, "I don't really care about aeroplanes, my passion is photography" and left my husband to listen to the details while I snapped away.

Abandoned Church

I just had to stop a take a photo of this little church which like so many country churches appeared out in the middle of nowhere. This is the area where the Santas were at the farm gates . And also note how "thin" the grass is getting though there are still tall trees.


Is that a Coolibah tree beside the abandoned house? Every Australian knows about Coolibah trees because the bush ballad Waltzing Matilda is nigh on our unoffical national anthem but most of us live nowhere near the inland where they grow. Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong, Under the shade of a Coolibah tree, And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled, You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me. Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda, You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me, And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Shire of Bland

We are going to go south of the main route today, but we've gotta go through more wheat and sheep country first. It's wide, getting flatter and monotonous ... aptly named I think.

Happy, Happy

Happy, happy Day 2. The overnight rain has cooled us off. It's now a chilly 15C with mist gathering over the mountains. I call this blue and gold country.


Here's the publicity blurb "Grenfell the birthplace of Henry Lawson, haunt of notorious bushranger, Ben Hall, and home to some of the finest examples of heritage architecture in rural Australia, is a must see destination for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of city living. Originally known as Emu Creek, Grenfell nestled in a picturesque valley at the foot of the Weddin Mountains, is a town steeped in history and the pioneering spirit of our colonial forefathers. Grenfell offers visitors the chance to soak up the atmosphere of days gone by and to relive the nostalgia of a time when life moved at a more leisurely pace." The most exciting thing for us was the not so leisurely rain that blew through just after we set up camp ... relief from the horrid heat at last.

End of day 1

We are beginning to leave the hills behind and enter the broad wheat and sheep country. By the end of trip we had seen dozens of wheat silos standing sentinal beside railway sidings like the one below. The temperature was still sky high but the clouds were gathering nicely as we rolled into Grenfell to set up camp for the night.