I’ve never seen anything so flat… I wasn’t even aware that the human eye could see as far as it can. As far as I’ve seen. I watched remote and distant clouds shuffle across a crisp horizon that I swear was thousands of miles away. As if, if it were not for the fact that the earth is round and eventually curves down and away in its grand curvature, I could have seen on forever. Perhaps so far that I’d see the back of my own head, standing there on the plains. I’d see myself again in the distance as space-time seems to make no sense in the nothingness that is the Australian Outback.
Distance becomes impossible to judge. Without any visual cues or reference points to assist your brain with depth perception, distance suddenly becomes very subjective. You learn to judge distance by the sky and the clouds, not by the land as it’s the sky that has more distinguishing features and cues compared with the barren indistinguishable land below. At night it’s even worse… Driving in the dark, I would become curious at a faint light on the horizon. A planet or a star? But it became bigger and seemed to slide about the landscape ever so slowly getting brighter. My curiosity was fed as I realised it was an oncoming cars headlights when we were passed by a vehicle going the other way 30 or 40 minutes later.
We drove from Hay Town to Mungo National Park. I had my GoPro camera set up on the dashboard of the car, however not even its market-leading wide-angle capabilities could do justice to the giant expanse of blue that surrounded us. We kept pulling over on the side of the bright red dusty trail, trying our best to absorb our surroundings. The silence is incredible. I would stand on the flat plains and just listen for something, anything, but the only sound was the ringing in my ears, the pounding of my own heartbeat and the sporadic ticking of the Jeeps engine as it began to cool down. Never have I heard such silence, or rather, not heard anything at all.
After hours of driving, seeing no other cars or people – only kangaroos, emus, sheep and goats that would pounce on to the road without warning – we met the trail signed to ‘Mungo National Park’. We turned on to the trail and headed towards the parks boundary. Finally we arrived at the small visitors centre which had an exhibition on the history of Mungo, and the ‘Mungo Man’ – a 45000 year old human skeleton found in the now dried ‘Lake Mungo’.
After a short break we set off for ‘Belah Camp’ – a camp ground halfway around the 70km one way dirt track that orbits Lake Mungo in an anti-clockwise direction, bending and dipping over small rises and around lake remains and desert shrubs. Belah Camp was empty – once again no sign of other humans, just more animals so we set up camp under the shade of a cluster of stunted trees that whisped in the mungo breeze whispering ancient stories of the land that you could almost sense yourself.
As night fell, our remoteness became even more evident. There’s a permanent fire-ban in Mungo National Park, so we relied on torches and an old hurricane lamp. The moon was half full and bright to the point you could make out the shadows of the trees on the red dirt. We sat and gazed at the sky. The longer we stared the more our eyes adjusted and the clearer the stars became… As if, at first, the sky was shy and startled by our presence. However the longer we sat still, quiet and looked up, the more stars seemed to come out from hiding and show themselves. I’ve never seen clearer stars in my life. The Milky Way so clear, like a white mist rolling across the sky. Shooting stars so frequent, they fell like rain until I couldn’t think of anything to wish for anymore. As always, I grabbed my camera and snapped some long exposure pics of the night sky.
The air grew colder and crisper and began licking at any exposed skin so we decided to head for our tents and get in our thermal sleeping bags to defend ourselves from the expanse of damp cold crisp sky that hung above us as the moon watched us sleep. Tomorrow, the big adventure.
For More Info on National Park & Camp Belah – See Below Gallery
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Info on Camp Belah:
Facilities: There is water – not for drinking – washing only, even the water at the visitor centre had ‘not for drinking’ signs, so bring plenty of drinking water. There is a toilet at camp Belah.
Pros: Great camp under the shade of some trees, lots of open camp spots – can’t imaging it ever getting crowded… Or having people for that matter! Easy access to water for washing – remote enough that you really feel like you’re away from everything!
Cons: The camp is halfway around the 70km track which is one-way only! (Anti-clockwise – very narrow track), this means that once you leave the campsite, you have to do the full 70km circle to get back. Just plan your day, what you want to see and make a day going around the track. There’s gas BBQs at the visitor centre so we took some steak and stopped there for lunch on a day around the track.
Other Info: Camping fees and park fees need to be paid at the visitor centre. At the time of writing it costs:
Camping: $5 per adult per night
Vehicle: $7 per day
Fees are paid via a self deposit kiosk (un-manned) at the visitor centre. Make sure you have correct change! Fill in your details on the envelop which is carbon copy – one for the deposit box and one for the tags for your car and tent.
Check weather info prior to arrival – the roads to and throughout Mungo are closed and impassible in wet weather. There’s a big sign about 5kms out of Balranald (130kms before Mungo) that tells you which roads are open and closed. More info: NSW National Parks Website or Visit Mungo Website