Visiting Mungo National Park was one of the big things on my wish list when I started planning this trip. In fact, it was during the early stages of working out where I would go that I discovered it. I had never heard of it before but wow! It looked spectacular and maybe the closest thing to Northern Territory we have in NSW.
The Walls of China (the most spectacular part of the National Park) is a 2 hours drive (on mostly unsealed road) north of Balranald so I didn’t want to drive that. Instead I joined a day tour which began at 10am. But first I had to drive across the Hay Plain for 1.5 hours to get to Balranald.
I left Hay at 7:30am and really enjoyed the drive. There is something really special about the feeling of openness and remoteness… it’s hard to put into words, but I loved even minute crossing the Hay Plain.
It was a bit surreal being able to see so far ahead especially seeing the trucks like boxes on the horizon. When I started the drive there were five trucks (big B-doubles) ahead of me which I overtook one by one. Lots of trucks (and a number of road-trains) coming the other way as well and a few cars.
As mentioned above, we had a 2 hour drive from Balranald to get to Mungo National Park and most of the way it was similar landscape. Apart from one pub 20 minutes north of the small town of Balranald, we didn’t pass any town or houses but at two spots on the road there were emergency water tanks. This is truly remote and it is called the Outback.
This photo shows lots of old man saltbush which sheep can eat. We did pass some sheep belonging to Bidura Station which is 24,550 hectares in size (which I think is 60,000 acres).
The next stop was Belah Woodland with Casuarinas (I recognised them) and blue bush ground cover. It was great to have a guide explain what we were looking at and it made me think of my sister and all the bushwalks (hikes) we did years ago.
I quickly walked about the exhibit (all about the oldest human remains found in Australia) so that I could do a sketch of the woolshed before lunch. It was hard to see what I was doing in the bright midday sun.
This is an aerial photo showing the extent of the sand dunes – called lunettes – around the edge of Lake Mungo (a totally dry lake). It’s only a narrow band of sand and as you will see shortly much smaller than you would think from all the marketing photos! But it was still very impressive!
Okay, time to start thinking about my sketching. I’m a little surprised that I didn’t prepare myself for the tour of the Walls and think about how I was going to sketch it. I had a very specific strategy when I visited the Wellington Caves a few weeks ago, but I just didn’t think about it until this moment!
The guide said that I was free to do my own thing but I decided to stick with the group so I got the commentary and saw everything. But involved going ahead sometimes and then lagging behind at other times so that I could maximise time for sketching.
This sketching was really hard… I was wearing sunglasses (which I normally don’t wear when sketching) but the sun was still very bright. The shadows looked really dark and my palette was dirty (if I had thought about it beforehand I would have cleaned my palette) and my water was dirty too!
But even though it was challenging it was super special to be able to sketch the Walls of China as it made me feel really connected to it – more so than if I had just taken photos.
It was hard to know what to sketch and whether I was wasting time sketching something that wasn’t as dramatic as something that might be just around the corner. This is one of the fun challenges when sketching during a guided tour. (BTW you can not go onto the Walls of China without a guide!)
I’m using my Stablo with an additional clip to secure my paint tin. My water container with blu-tac came out when I needed it and was put away when I was going up and down the ravines.
I should also mention that as well as the bright sun, it was quite windy at times. So this was truly one of the most challenging but rewarding sketching sessions I have had.
And to pass the time I tried an idea of Richard Briggs trying to gently draw a horizontal line across my page and recording the bumpiness of the road! I was laughing out loud at times.
See one of Richard’s ‘Movement Lines’ pages here.
And here are the finished spreads in full.
The next morning before leaving Balranald I stopped at a nearby historic woolshed. It is over 100m long and I recorded some crazy stats about the property it was on – 90,000-100,000 sheep, 1,000 cattle and 150 horses.
I had such a fantastic time in Balranald and I’m so happy that I was able to visit Mungo. I’m not sure when I will be able to return to this part of NSW but it’s definitely something I would like to do.