This writer has always been fascinated about the ascent of mankind. As a primary and high school student I followed, via such mediums as National Geographic, stories connected to the work of the Leaky family in East Africa. Years later when I was working and travelling in this region I managed to visit some of the sites outlined and stood in the vicinity of where such ancient ancestors roamed.
Here were the fossilised footprints of most ancient man (3+ million years). Since then later examples have been discovered – from 1.5 million years to up to the 120 plus thousand year bracket, thus more related to modern man. We can read about the march out of Africa of early man and their migration around the world over many thousands of years, through other outlets.
In 2016 I travelled to Lake Mungo National Park, just across the border into New South Wales from Victoria. Here the oldest known preserved footprints – estimated 20,000 years – in Australia also being the largest ice age era footprints ever found – there was no ice age in Australia, this is just a scientific dating period term. In addition, this is the location for the discovery of the remains of Mungo man and Mungo woman, the oldest and most southern such remains ever found – estimated 50,000 years. When I discussed this connection (Africa travels and current Mungo travel), including my personal interest in the subject, with our local Aboriginal guide at Mungo he listened intently and then said, “Our mob walked a long way hey”. I could not have summarised it better myself.
Lake Mungo National Park is one of the most unique areas within easy reach of Melbourne (in Australian terms!). Aside from the significant anthropological link there are stunning desert like dunes along with dry clay and rock walls that offer up a sunset photography masterpiece. There are many flora and fauna experiences along with the remains of early attempts at farming sheep in the area.
Various accommodation options are available. The campground is a typical National Parks site with drop toilets and fire pits. We used this with our campervan. There is also the park headquarters option of the converted shearers quarters, which offer up a comfortable hard top option with shared facilities. Then there is the bush lodge style option. I have, on a second trip, used this latter option. We (a 4×4 group) over nighted here enroute northward via outback NSW. They have private cabins with ensuites, as well as bunkrooms with shared facilities and a camping area. I used the bunkrooms. Their main lounge (open fire in cooler months) and dining area is wonderful and I highly recommend their menu, in particular the kangaroo fillets! They also have an airstrip, a flying club having flown in at the same time as my visit.
Access beyond the obvious barrier fences into the dune, clay wall area and sample footprints, is only possible with a guided walking tour using a local guide.
The original tracks of Mungo man and Mungo woman are not available to visit. Their location is a secret known to only a few, likewise the original human remains that have been returned to site. At the main park office there is a replica display of how the tracks looked. The footprints you actually see on the guided walk are genuine (read VERY old), but not the most significant ones.
There are driving tracks to explore the area including one circular driving route. Many should only be done with a four-wheel drive, but the main circular track is possible with two-wheel drive. We took our motorhome on this track and whilst the vehicle easily coped the general insulation did not like the fine dust! Only do this, with such a vehicle, if you are prepared to clean up the red coloured dust you find in many crevices later on! Four wheel drives and standard cars are better sealed.
Other places nearby: Mildura (wine and fruit area) is the major regional city. You also have easy access to the confluence of the Murray and Darling rivers. Driving routes following the Darling River are also an attraction with Broken Hill being within striking distance. The Victorian National Parks of ; Hattah Kulkyne, Murray Sunset and Wyperfeld (see other posts related to travels to these locations) are all within driving distance if you want to make a more expansive tour.
We drove up from Melbourne via Sea Lake to visit the famous salt lakes (Lake Tyrrell) and their stunning sunset vista. On the return journey we followed a route visiting country towns linked to family history.