Loch Luna

This peaceful place is sometimes filled with the sounds of gun shot and barking dogs. How lucky we were to arrive on a weekend when Loch Luna  was as it should be, a sanctuary for for birds and wildlife.

A place of winding channels and billabongs, connected to the Murray River, the richly irrigated and productive farms of the Riverland were not far away. Yet we were in a lonely place where we could watch the endless processions of birds, flying above the billabongs and backwaters.DSC08494

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For 3 days, we saw no one as we walked and watched. After the arid Mungo National Park it was lovely to be beside still water, beautifully reflecting the changing light and striking forms of trees  at the waters’ edges. The string of interconnected pools were like a highway for the birds,  flying above and paddling through the water.DSC08430

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The weather changed from warm, sunny and still to stormy, chilled and grey while we were there, as winter came closer. The birds were fast flying and elusive. They weren’t to be captured in my lens, so we happily observed their endless movements, in flocks and alone, existing peacefully, for that weekend anyway. It was sad knowing that at times their home is so invaded for the sport of hunting.DSC08099

Beware beside the edge of these pools. Slippery grey clay can take you away unexpectedly! In this case it led to a chilly half hour of careful feeling along the bottom of the pool, and luckily, lost spectacles were retrieved.

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Rich and harmonious colours were everywhere, a feast for our eyes.

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The immense age of the river red gums has led to incredible shapes and textures, in endless variation.

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 Farewell Loch Luna.This is one more place  to which we must return.

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We All Do Fade as a Leaf

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On a long holiday, and especially in those first few weeks, when you’ve had just enough time to forget about everyday routines and responsibilities, there’s time to look around with fresh eyes, and take a new interest in the world.

That’s what happened for us after we spent a night camped by the junction of the Darling and Murray Rivers at Wentworth, NSW. We found ourselves drawn to spend some time in the cemetery there, observing and mulling over the stories and images conjured by the old headstones.

We had just visited Mungo National Park, where we were awed by the story  of Aboriginal occupation of the land, for the last 42,000 years! Mungo Man and Mungo Lady are some of the oldest human remains in the world, and Mungo Lady is the oldest known cremation in the world!

So the Wentworth Cemetery seems positively mundane against that context but the stories of the people buried there still captured our imaginations.

In the warm dry winter sun, we had time to wander about, enjoying the quiet, still world and the glimpses of the early European experience here.

The epitaphs were touching, sometimes poetic, direct or evocative. Some epitaphs expressed the raw emotions of those left behind, while others were dry and matter of fact. Also interesting were the changes in style of ornamentation on the headstones. We captured but a few.

In this dry, flat arid environment, I found the simple words about David Dixon Crichton, “Native of Scotland”, especially sad. I wondered, had he longed for the damp and cold of his homeland, or had he, like my own grandfather who had been a Scottish migrant, revelled in the conditions and freedoms of the new land.DSC07574

When at a cemetery it’s always the plight of small children that is most touching and the gravestone of little Daffodil was one that moved me. The contrast between the image her name evokes and her early passing, recorded on that old stone is striking!

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DSC07582For many, comfort is found in biblical quotations and I enjoyed “O Grave, where is thy victory”.  Following Google’s path, to find out more about the origin of these words led me to Handel’s Messiah and John Donne’s poem ” A Valediction, Forbidding Mourning”, a lovely step back into my high school English studies.DSC07575

Accidental death is as common now perhaps, as then, but I was glad that we don’t hear of death from Hydatid these days, while I wondered what became of Harry Wright’s loving wife and five children.

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Daniel Byrnes and his wife Ellen both lived until they were in their nineties, and I liked that idea that their family celebrated their long life with some lovely, ornate carvings.

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And I imagined Isobel Jean Summerton, who died in 1970, might have been a strong, austere woman, with a practical family, who planned a memorial that would not fade quickly.DSC07584

Some stories are lost to time, but hints remained, inviting reflection on those who lived here before.7200ppiDSC07617

We wandered away after finding much to enjoy in this old cemetery by the banks of the Murray River.DSC07571

Mungo National Park

In 2010 we had  spent some time visiting Broken Hill, Menindee Lakes and Mutawintji National Park. It was  a season of flooding across NSW and we left the soggy east coast looking forward to sun and dry feet.  Along the way,  the rain had paused and in some rivers, floodwaters were receding, leaving debris across roads and paddocks, while in others water still rose higher. Bird life was abundant.

We had looked forward to being back in the outback since then, although we knew that the seasons were changing and the drought since had been unrelenting. So in May this year we set off and after visiting the Goulburn River National Park, our next destination was Lake Mungo.

We were enticed by what we had read of Mungo National Park, part of the Willandra Lakes World heritage Area, with its deep Aboriginal history.

Approaching from Balranald   and the Murrumbidgee River the red earth was intense and mallee trees shimmered in the sunlight. From here, and throughout the rest of our journey, the colours of earth, rock, vegetation and sky were entrancing.

Sometimes muted earth tones predominated, or warm pastel hues or vibrant reds and greens, each environment held its own magic.

Disastrous drought is pervasive across NSW, yet we were  sheltered from the shock of its severity, as some rain had recently fallen around Mungo.   In places there were puddles of water by the roadside and soft green shoots were  sprouting.IMG_6175DSC07319DSC06948

The soft sunset of our first evening at Main Camp.

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Early morning walks.

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Slow erosion of the dunes surrounding the bed of the ancient lake is revealing much evidence of the ancient connections the The Paakantji, Ngyiampaa and Mutthi Mutthi people people have to the land. Days can be spent wandering and observing this amazing landscape in all its details. Warm winter days are perfect.

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A full moon rose on the evening I joined an Aboriginal Discovery Tour, allowing a closer look at “The Walls of China”, an unforgettable experience.

There is also a rich layer of European history to consider in this ancient lake bed.

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Such a dry , open landscape leaves many visible signs of the  harsh realities of life here. It’s hard to believe that the terrible sight of animals that had died of starvation and thirst would be repeated, thousands of times, as we travelled.

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After a few days, we left Mungo behind, but to return is essential, as there is much more to explore and learn in this remote and beautiful landscape.

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