Members Trips

stories from Australia


western nsw trip
Mungo NP, Kinchega NP, Silverton, Broken Hill and Mutawintji NP

by Joy Wilkinson

Panorama of the northern end of Mutawintji National Park

   It was our plan to spend the 2 week Easter School Holidays on a touring holiday, but at 11 pm on the night before we were due to leave we doubted we would get away at all. It all began with an unfamiliar metallic noise as we folded up the camper after doing final checks on the poles. Further investigations revealed that one of the bolts anchoring the fold-out tent framework had sheared right through and the camper could not be folded up. Several desperate phone calls later, a call from the manufacturer, and we had the camper folded, and an early morning appointment in Gosford to fix the problem. So began the BBB trip.

Day 1 Friday 10 April 2009 Good Friday

    At 6.15 am David left Sydney for Gosford to have the bolt problem fixed. This took over an hour to do (and an impressive amount of goodwill on the manufacturer’s part), but David was back home quickly and we finally set off from Pennant Hills about 9.30 am. We decided to travel via Bathurst and stay overnight in West Wyalong. The trip was uneventful, with a bit of rain through Cowra. Grenfell looks like an attractive town to explore, but on this trip we didn’t have time. We stayed at West Wyalong Caravan Park in the centre of town. Its sites are generous and several are well grassed.

    One note for the traveller – be very wary of using the very clean but very cold steel toilet seats in the park in Blayney, especially in the winter.

Day 2 Saturday 11 April

    After a little rain overnight we waited for the camper to dry a little before setting off for Hay so we could stock up on fruit and vegetables within the Fruit Fly Exclusion Zone. After lunching at Hay beside a historic Aboriginal canoe tree, we set off for Balranald, watching some distant heavy rain which seemed to be in a direct line between us and our destination, Lake Mungo. Fortunately, someone else received the rain and the roads into Lake Mungo were open. We arrived at about 4 pm and were lucky to gain the last spot in the main campground.

    The campground is well maintained and has BBQs and both drinking and non potable water available. Fireplaces are available for cooking and campfires and wood can be purchased. There are long drop toilets at the campground, but the showers are a short drive away at the Visitor Centre.

Day 3 Sunday 12 April

    During school holidays the Park conducts a number of free guided tours daily. The first tour was a guided Foreshore Walk. Despite the fact that Lake Mungo has been dry for thousands of years there is distinctly different plant life on the foreshore area. The tour was very informative as the guide pointed out different types of native plants, a massive bull ant nest, and several types of bush food. The lake is about 11 km wide and there are excellent views across the lake on this walk.

    Later in the day we walked to the viewing platform which gives excellent sunset colours on the eastern sand dunes, named the Walls of China by early Chinese labourers in the days when Mungo was a sheep station. The white dunes in the east contrast markedly with the red sandy soil of the western side of the lake.

    We had our solar panels set up through the day, topping up the battery very well. But when the sun set, the second B of the trip raised its ugly head. It became apparent that the battery wasn’t holding any charge so the fridge wasn’t working. Thank goodness we had cryovacced the meat.

Day 4 Monday 13 April

    Armed with handouts from the Visitor Centre we set off on the self-guided driving tour around the lake. There are several points of interest on the tour including: the old Mungo Woolshed where half a million sheep were shorn; stockyards disappearing beneath the sand; a tumbledown hut undermined by rabbit warrens and a trap for feral goats. However the most stunning features are the eroded pinnacles and alluvial fans near the southern end of the Walls of China. Further north are the massive sand hills near Vigars Well which used to be a watering point for Cobb and Co coaches. The sand hills just invite climbers, and are much steeper than they appear.

    We also joined a Tag Along tour conducted by NPWS to a different section of the Walls of China. The guides explained many items of cultural significance in this area, and it was far more beneficial than visiting the area without a guide. This area is very fragile and needs better protection to preserve artefacts which are constantly being exposed by wind-blown sand.

    As we left Mungo we were still amazed that early settlers believed they could successfully run sheep in this arid and marginal area. The damage caused by grazing and more recent feral animals will not easily be rectified.



An Aboriginal canoe was cut from this tree at Hay Very large bull ant nest Easterly view across Lake Mungo at sunset Red soils of the western shore of Lake Mungo


Blue bush and native cypress on the foreshore walk Sunset over the camp ground at Lake Mungo Erosion by water of the Walls of China lunettes A Paradise Tank on the loop road. It provides water for native wildlife, and also feral animals.


Steep sand dunes at Vigars Wells View from the top of the sandhills. Cars are parked just in front of the trees. Different eras of soil deposition on the eastern foreshore where numerous artefacts have been uncovered. The road from Lake Mungo to Pooncarie


The Walls of China, named by early Chinese workmen at Mungo Station

Day 5 Tuesday 14 April

    As we left Lake Mungo heading for Kinchega National Park near Menindee we made a minor revision to our plans due to the now dead battery. We stopped at Pooncarie for morning tea and were amazed at the height of the flood markers in the tree opposite the café and the extent of the root systems of the red gums on the opposite bank. Instead of staying at Kinchega NP we decided to stay at Copi Hollow as we needed a powered site. What an oasis! Soft green grass! A great camping area (past all the on-site vans) with excellent facilities owned by the Broken Hill Speed boat Club.

Day 6 Wednesday 15 April

    It was David’s birthday, so I lashed out and generously bought him a T shirt from the very helpful Information Centre in Menindee, before heading out to Kinchega National Park.

    We followed the River Drive past many lovely campsites where we might have stayed (battery wouldn’t even run the lights now). We also found the boiler from the SS Providence which exploded in 1872, killing all the crew. Kinchega also has a historic woolshed as it was part of a pastoral lease from 1870 to 1967, when it became a National Park. The woolshed has an interesting collection of farming and household items. Our tour continued on Lake Drive which took us past Emu, Cawndilla and Menindee Lakes, all of which are dry.

    When we returned to camp we helped a family to set up their camper. Two families with 6 small children between them had stopped in Wilcannia to change the baby’s nappy and had failed to tighten the back of the camper. The baby’s pram and a number of shoes had fallen out somewhere between Wilcannia and Menindee. So the husband uncoupled his trailer and set off back up the way they had come to attempt to find the pram. About an hour away he found the pram, undamaged, but with 2 of its 3 wheels. The other wheel was also found, about 3 km from the pram. They were lucky.
We did our Good Samaritan bit, helping to set up a foreign camper that the wife knew little about as well.

    We dined out that night on a very generous meal at Maitland’s Hotel, in Menindee. It has been recently renovated and has an interesting display of historic photos.



The Darling River at Pooncarie. River height markers in the river and flood markers on the tree Copi Hollow, near Menindee River Red Gum at Menindee Sheep scavenging for fodder opposite Kinchega National Park


Weir 32 on the Darling River, Kinchega National Park The boiler of SS Providence which exploded in 1872 Kinchega woolshed, only half its original size Lake Menindee, last full in 2000. Now empty for several years.


A meander on the Darling River, Kinchega National Park

Day 7 Thursday 16 April

    We left Menindee bound for Broken Hill Caravan and Trailer Repairs to hopefully purchase a new battery. They had only 1 in stock, and it just fitted into our battery box, and they could fit it almost straight away, so luck was with us. Two B’s down. What and when will the 3rd one be?

    While waiting for the battery we had lunch at the Line of Lode restaurant which seems to be precariously located on top of a giant slag heap overlooking the town, and then climbed/struggled onto the Big Seat for an obligatory photo. We replenished our food supplies at the local Woolies and were amazed by the quality and variety of produce available.

    Broken Hill was a pleasant surprise. We were last there, briefly, over 30 years ago, and my only memory is of small houses made of corrugated iron, since timber was scarce. The city today is a pleasant mix of elegant public buildings, pride in its mining history, and lots of respect for its past. It also has a thriving artistic community and strong tourism focus. The corrugated iron houses are still there, but most are now cement rendered across the front, and not so obvious.

    We decided to camp at Penrose Park at Silverton, 25 km west of Broken Hill, past 39 dips in the road. It was a very pleasant place to camp, with shade, fireplaces, grass, water and excellent showers.

Day 8 Friday 17 April

    Today we did an underground tour of the old Daydream Mine, and then checked out what Silverton had to offer. Silver mining began around Silverton before the rich Broken Hill lode was discovered. The mine tour gave a real appreciation of the hardships faced by the Cornish miners who lived and worked in very cramped and deprived conditions. They must have been tough and resilient as many of them had walked from Burra in South Australia to Silverton to improve their fortunes.

    Silverton itself is now a small village which relies almost totally on tourism. As we were looking for some artwork as a souvenir of our trip, we spent quite a bit of time in galleries here and later, in Broken Hill. Silverton Hotel has been used in several movies and advertising campaigns, and the Mad Max car lives permanently out the front. The old School House has been set up as a museum and, quite disturbingly, I found items there that I used in my first year of teaching. The Old Gaol also has a comprehensive local history collection and would be a real treasure trove for someone tracing their family history.

    West of Silverton is a magnificent panoramic view over Mundi Mundi Plains – flat as far as you can see. Hidden just a short distance from there is another unexpected oasis - Umberumberka Reservoir - which provides some of Broken Hill’s water supply.



Our camp at Penrose Park, Silverton Smelter at Daydream Mine David and Joy “glamming” it up for a trip down Daydream Mine Life as a miner wasn’t for the faint-hearted or the tall


River red gum near Silverton Silverton School Silverton Hotel and the Mad Max car Umberumberka Reservoir west of Silverton


Looking west over Mundi Mundi Plains, west of Silverton

Day 9 Saturday 18 April

    One of the Broken Hill attractions is the Silver City Mint and Museum, which is an easy place to spend money, but is notable for two things, namely the Chocolate Factory Shop and the Big Picture. The Big Picture is an enormous panoramic artwork painted in the round by Peter Anderson, claiming to be the largest canvas artwork in the world, and is worth paying to see.

    I’m sure I don’t have to explain the Chocolate Factory Shop – but it does have a lot of choice, and it did warrant a second visit the next day…..couldn’t let the first lot melt could we…?

    Both Jack Absalom and the late Pro Hart have excellent galleries in Broken Hill which are worth visiting, since they were pioneers of the “Brushmen of the Bush.” Jack has also published a camp cooking book and came out to chat while we were there.

Day 10 Sunday 19 April

    This was our last day in Broken Hill, and we could felt as if we had only touched on what it has to offer. The city promotes its historic heritage very well so we did the heritage walk through the city centre. There are several notable buildings, such as the very grand Post Office with town clock and verandah and balcony; the ornate Trades Hall Building where the Labour Party was formed, and the Palace Hotel with its magnificent, heritage listed, cast iron balconies.

    We also visited the Broken Hill Sculptures situated in Living Desert Reserve, west of the city. They were sculpted where they now stand from sandstone transported from Wilcannia. It’s a stunning hilltop location, surrounded by arid countryside, and with views of Broken Hill.



View of Broken hill from the Living Desert sculpture gallery Broken Hill Post Office The Palace Hotel has the longest cast iron balcony in NSW, classified by the National Trust Silverton Tramway Museum


Joy, on the Big Seat, overlooking Broken Hill Torpy’s Art Deco-style building The Trades Hall building – impressively ornate The horse’s head sculpture by Jumber Jikiya, Living Desert Reserve


"Bajo el Sol Jaguar" by Antonio Nava Tirado, Mexico The Line of Lode restaurant, overlooking Broken Hill The Line of Lode Miners Memorial Busts of the founders of mining in Broken Hill – Charles Rasp and 6 others

Day 11 Monday 20 April

    We left Silverton for Broken Hill to collect the painting we purchased and headed for Mutawintji National Park, about 130km north of Broken Hill, replenishing our firewood supply from beside the road and where we could find it. The countryside along the way was initially better vegetated than around Broken Hill, but further on seemed more barren. This was possibly due in part to over-grazing, as we saw numerous sheep and cattle around ground tanks.

    We arrived at Mutawintji in time for lunch and set up camp. The camp ground is near Homestead Creek and has quite a number of good sized trees for shade. There are BBQs, drinkable bore water, hot showers and flushing toilets.

    The apostle birds were everywhere on this trip, but they were particularly friendly (or savvy) at Mutawintji, lining up just outside our kitchen.

    We did the short walk to Wrights Cave with its Aboriginal artwork as time was short. There are quite a few walks that can be done throughout the park, for all levels of fitness.

Day 12 Tuesday 21 April

    We set off mid morning to do the Mutawintji Gorge Walk. It is supposed to take 3 hours – rated easy. The first hour was easy walking, fairly flat, with some stony areas and lots of bright green and blue lichen on the rocks. After the first waterhole there was quite a bit of rock scrambling, but the gorge at the end was worth it. The pool was a bit murky to swim in – but I guess we weren’t hot enough.

    After lunch we drove along the Old Coach Road to the northern end of the park. Some great views and lots more trees than the rest of the park. On the way we passed the ruins of the old Rockholes Hotel and cellar, built in 1916, on what used to be the old Broken Hill - White Cliffs Road.

Day 13 Wednesday 22 April

    An independent operator conducts tours of Mutawintji Historic Site on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Site is important for Aboriginal art and heritage. The Historic Site, which can only be accessed with a guide, has both petroglyphs, or rock carvings, and stencilled art. The stencilled art was located in a massive sandstone gallery which was comprised of a series of caverns. The petroglyphs are quite extensive as well and contain a great diversity of images.

    One of the most unusual things we saw at the Historic Site was the fossilised remains of a giant scorpion, which was over a metre long. The tour was well worth it as the guide was both knowledgeable and informative.

    This was the last day of our planned tour as tomorrow we set off for home. We could easily have spent much more time at Mutawintji.



Campground, Mutawintji National Park The Gorge Walk, Mutawintji National Park Waterholes on the Gorge Walk Waterhole at the end of the Gorge


Flies…flies…flies Apostle birds making themselves at home outside our camper Wright’s Cave with Aboriginal stencilled art Kangaroo engraving, Mutawintji Historic Site


Emu engraving, Mutawintji Historic Site Natural rockholes provided water, with an added retaining wall, Mutawintji Historic Site Green and blue lichen Galleries containing Aboriginal stencilled artwork

Day 14 Thursday 23 April

    We departed Mutawintji and hoped to reach Nyngan that night. The back road from Mutawintji to the Barrier Highway is a good dirt road which traverses a number of properties. Most have grids, but there are at least 10 gates to open and close. We arrived in Wilcannia for an early lunch, and filled up with the most expensive fuel of the trip - $1.45 a litre. We arrived in Cobar mid afternoon for coffee, and this is when the 3rd B struck.

    We owe the citizens of Cobar a great deal for averting a certain disaster. A concerned driver pulled up near us and said, “You know your back wheel on the trailer is stuffed, mate!” Yes, we had done a bearing on the trailer, and were totally unaware of it.
Another local told us where the 4WD workshop was, a Country Energy truck followed us to tell us we had a problem, and the mechanic fitted us in straight away. We were lucky!

    What could we do but support the local community by visiting the Gold Mine and the Mining Museum, staying at the Caravan Park (excellent facilities) and having dinner at the club.

Day 15 Friday 24 April

    We left Cobar headed for Branxton in the Hunter Valley for a night with our son and daughter-in-law, before a leisurely trip home on Saturday. We did a quick drive-through of Riverside Caravan Park at Nyngan to check it out before the National Meet in September – very nice, at a quick glance.

    The further we went, the greener it became and we were soon missing the rawness of the west and wishing we had had more time there – but perhaps with a bit less dust.



The old centre lift bridge crossing the Darling at Wilcannia Open cut gold mine at Cobar Sunrise over Cobar on the last day of the trip.
Total km: 3265km
Fuel cost: $791.50

may 2009