Blog 1 – Our Journey Begins – July 2007

Sunset on Ridge Walk, Mutawintji Ntl Pk, NSWOur first bush campsite in our Adventure Camper Trailer, at Cocoparra National Park NSW.

We’ve been on the road now for 5 weeks and felt it about time to give everyone some news about our adventures.  After a pressing time to get away from Canberra, packing and storing the house contents, re-housing our cats, finishing work, etc, etc we finally got on the road.  We were overwhelmed by the level of support we received from our family and friends before our trip and have appreciated your emails and SMS’s on our travels.  It is always great to hear from home.

As many of you know, our first stop was West Wyalong, where Peter conducted a homoeopathic first aid course and held consultations over the following few days.  We even got to run a combined yoga and Tai Chi class.  We were made very welcome in West Wyalong and loved our stay in the town.  The people were extremely friendly (people smile at you as you pass them on the street) and the town itself is picturesque, with its interesting winding main street, which we learnt was once a bullock dray route, with shops built along that route forming the basis of the township.  After recent rains the region is lovely and green and there is a feeling of hope in the air.  Peter has been happy to learn that the students on the course have been using the first aid remedies with enthusiasm and are getting good results.

Our next stop was Cocoparra National Park, just north of Griffith.  This park was a wonderful surprise for us, with many scenic gorges carved into deep red cliffs, abundant bird life and thriving bushland after recent rains.  We camped there for 4 nights at Woolshed Flat camping ground and virtually had the park to ourselves.  We had access to rainwater tanks and clean toilets, and most of the walks were a short drive away.  The nights were cool (with a couple of frosts) but yielded spectacularly clear night skies; we have never had better views of the Milky Way.  We both started to wind down and relax while we stayed here, with Nirbeeja enjoying her morning yoga practice with beautiful bush meditation sessions, and Peter his Tai Chi.  He even re-taught himself the Tai Chi sabre form.

Peter stands part-way up the natural amphitheatre at Store Creek, Cocoparra Ntl PkCamping in style at Cocoparra Ntl PkRelaxing at last, at Cocoparra Ntl Pk

From Cocoparra, we travelled to Mungo National Park via Griffith, Hay and Balranald.  We loved our time at Mungo.  Peter had his first ‘emus-in-the-wild’ sighting here, and we were treated to playful kangaroos at the main campsite each morning, where we spent the first two nights.  The famous ancient Mungo Lake and Walls of China were fascinating, and the subtle variations in light, flora and terrain made an extended stay well worthwhile.  Nirbeeja was fascinated by the birdlife, spotting our first Pink cockatoos of the trip.  We also spent 2 nights at the Belah campsite, which we had to ourselves.  Here we were entertained by a family of inquisitive, gregarious Apostle Birds, who seemed to find us as interesting as we found them.  We watched them collect mud and grass and then apply it to their nest being built near our campsite.  At other times they simply played and squabbled amongst themselves giving us plenty of laughs.

Mungo is a very well managed park, with an obvious effort to engage visitors in learning about the Aboriginal heritage, the environment and conservation issues facing the park.  It is well worth a visit.

Mungo National Park - outback NSW.  Nature's sand sculptures.Mungo National Park - outback NSW.  Nature's sand sculptures.Mungo National Park - outback NSW.  Nature's sand sculptures.

The shifting sands of Mungo National Park.Belah campsite, Mungo National Park.
From Lake Mungo we travelled to Pooncarie, where we camped beside the Darling River surrounded by River Red Gums, and had our first camp fire.  Next came Kinchega National Park, near Menindee.  The park contains a series of fresh water lakes, although the drought has severely affected the area and only one small body of water remained.  We found the signs forbidding the use of power boats on the lakes somewhat ironic.  Nonetheless, the area is beautiful, wild flowers were blooming and the birds were abundant and in fine voice.  We camped again beside the Darling River while in the park and did get to see some more water!  The river is flowing and charmed us both with its beauty and history, though definitely not at its full potential.  Let’s hope the efforts to save it and the Murray prove successful.After Kinchega National Park, we made a tentative return to civilization, in the form of Broken Hill.  On route, just before Broken Hill we were thrilled to see our first Sturt Desert Peas in full, radiant flower beside the highway.  They are a stunning sight and their colours so vibrant they almost seem out of place in their desert surroundings.  We found Broken Hill very interesting, full of history and charming old buildings and explored the tourist trail in town until we were ‘museumed-out’.  We also made a very welcome return to nature at The Living Desert – a flora and fauna reserve near the town.  This reserve is proof positive as to how we can protect and restore the environment to its naturally beautiful state.   The following day had us making an interesting side-trip to Silverton and its famous pub (where Peter had a beer in the interests of research), both of us having a few chin-wags with some colourful local characters as we wandered the town.Mutawintji National Park, around 130km northeast of Broken Hill, was next on the agenda.  This area is sacred to its traditional owners and we can see why.  Rising out of the red desert plains is the dramatic range that encompasses the national park.  Many of the dramatic gorges in the park were used for sacred ceremonies and contain well preserved and ancient rock art, including petroglyphs – some of which has been dated to greater than 30,000 years.  We were fortunate to have a tour of some of the art sites with Mark, the chairman of the Mutawintji Indigenous council.  His passion for and knowledge of the lands of his ancestors made for an unforgettable experience.  We were impressed by the way he was able to impart an understanding of the meaning of the art.

Our first sight of the Darling River, at Pooncarie, NSW.  The river looked a bit sick, with River Red Gums also in poor condition.Nirbeeja sits at the base of Old-Man River Red Gum, Kinchega Ntl PkDarling River, Kinchega Ntl Pk, NSW

Late afternoon, Kinchega Ntl Pk'Jacky Lizard' Kinchega Ntl Pk Historic building, Broken Hill NSW

Historic building, Broken Hill NSWPeter attempts to hijack the Mad Max Car outside Silverton Hotel, outback NSWSturt's Desert Peas, Broken Hill NSW

We spent several days in the park exploring the various gorges, enjoying the abundant bird life and admiring the colourful display of wildflowers.  It was difficult to leave such a beautiful place and we hope to return soon. We eventually dragged ourselves away from Mutawintji, travelling north through White Cliffs, then east through Wilcannia and Cobar (a town which we both liked), and further still through Ninghan and Warren to the Newell highway, which took us across the border at Goondawindi and onto Toowoomba on our way to Brisbane and the Sunshine coast.

Wattle, Broken Hill NSW"Hurry up, this boulder's heavy!".  Nirbeeja on Homestead Cree walk, Mutawintji Ntl Pk, NSWWaterhole on Homestead Creek, Mutawintji Ntl Pk

Yes – we did make it in time for the wedding of Lisa, Nirbeeja’s niece, to Mark, on the 1st of September.  The wedding ceremony and reception were very happy occasions held in beautiful settings.  We also took the opportunity to catch up with Nirbeeja’s youngest brother Russell and his family in Maroochydore, and then to Brisbane to visit her sister Bev and her family.

We made it to the wedding!  We relax with the newlyweds, Nirbeeja's niece Lisa and her husband Mark.
Stay tuned for further instalments as our adventure unfolds.

Peter & Nirbeeja
4 September 2007