Visiting the alien shores of an outback lake bed was a deeply peaceful, personal experience for me. I was longing for a change of location and scenery and found just that and more when I went on a solo road trip to experience and photograph Mungo National Park in New South Wales, Australia.
I live near Melbourne in the Dandenong Ranges and I consider myself blessed with temperate rain forests and natural wonders on my very doorstep, so to speak. Whilst I do appreciate this, sometimes the trees, the ferns and the green gets TOO MUCH! I needed desert, I needed sand! With this in mind, I went on a little road trip to Mungo National Park, just over the state border in South-West New South Wales.
I had read about it in the holiday’s section of a local auto magazine and was determined to photograph it. I was going through an ‘instant photography’ stage then and took a variety of cameras, including a Polaroid Spectra and a 600 SE. The shots I share here were taken with colour and B&W medium format film and peel-apart Polaroid film as well as a very expired Spectra integral film.
I had a few days off work, kissed my wife and children good-bye and set off. It is a six to seven hour road trip and I enjoyed the peace and quiet of solo driving. The last 20 kilometres or so heading into the park are unsealed, so my little convertible rattled & bounced along the corrugations of the outback road. People in the 4-wheel drive vehicles passing me must have wondered what I was thinking!
The information centre at Mungo is full of local information both about the geology and the anthropological & cultural significance of this ancient aboriginal site. The centre stands near an old shearing shed, but a couple of kilometres out into the desert was the ‘Walls of China’, which is what I really wanted to see.
Mungo National Park is a part of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area, a chain of dried-out lakes that were once strung between Willandra Creek and the main channel of the Lachlan River in Outback NSW.
Lake Mungo dried up around 14,000 years ago, and today, a great crescent-shaped dune, called the Walls of China, stretches along the eastern shore of the lakebed.
To describe the dried out shores of Lake Mungo and the associated dune formations as otherworldly is not an exaggeration, it is truly like an alien landscape. Gnarled root formations and stunted trees grow out of bizarre sand formations, eroded in ridges by the infrequent rains that visit these parts.
It was quiet and a gentle breeze blew. Not many people where at the park and for quite a while I was the only one walking about this strange landscape, it was wonderful! I had a bag of cameras and lots of film so I was happy (in between taking photographs I DID stop and take in the wonders around me!) I felt so at peace and energised by the solitude and incredible alien scenery. Two days later I headed home, but the spirit of that place still stays with me.
One thing to note if you do decide to visit this incredible location is to go in the cooler seasons, not the height of summer as it gets very hot out there. Take plenty of water and film! There is a camping ground nearby as well as a holiday resort with restaurant and en suite cabins if you prefer. You will not regret visiting this location, it is truly magical!