Ballarat/The Grampians/Mungo National Park

Ballarat to Mungo National Park 30th March to 6th April 2022

In April 2018 Ken was attending the NACAA (National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers) held bi-annually over Easter. That particular year it was held at Ballarat, NSW from 30th March to 2nd April. I decided to join him, and we extended our trip to encompass The Grampians in Victoria and Mungo National Park in NSW.

We had not been to Ballarat for quite some time. We arrived at the Mecure Hotel at Ballarat the day before the start of the conference. We first went for a drive to a local area called Lal Lal Falls. This town originated in 1885 as a sheep station. It is only 20 mins out of Ballarat with a tiny population of under 500. The waterfall was not flowing but there were a couple of very easy walks close by. It is a very pretty countryside with an abundance of kangaroos leaping through the trees. The conference is a series of talks on varying astronomical subjects and a visit to the local Ballarat Astronomical Society’s clubhouse to meet up with the local astronomers and view their facilities. We met some friendly, interesting people and enjoyed a  light dinner before wandering back to the hotel with an early start the next morning.

We visited the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, one of Australia’s most significant cool climate gardens. The grounds are beautifully kept with many features such as a conservatorium and a hothouse together with many statues including the avenue of prime ministers. Lunch in their café and then off to walk the six kilometres around Lake Wendouree. The lake is an artificial man-made shallow lake opposite the gardens. It has a paved walking track completely around the perimeter which can be taken at your own speed. It is long but easy with many different views to be taken in. The ducks and swans, birds and artifacts surrounding the water are very pleasing. A very relaxing day overall.

The Great Ocean Road is the next leg of the trip. From Torquay to Allansford. The road is over 100 years old and is 243 km of ocean views. We have been on this road many years prior, in fact, I think there may have been 12 apostles the last time we were there (some had collapsed in the intervening years). This time however a lot less. The road is easy, the views are fantastic and it with now improved facilities, tourists are well catered for. This is a good thing for the country but obviously more people and more traffic frequent the area.  We still loved it and highly recommend it. Whether it is sunny, cloudy, or rainy the beauty of the coastline is not diminished. There are many things besides the ocean to see, lighthouses, artifacts, walking tracks and activities are plentiful. On this trip, we were not stopping off too much as we had more to see.

After visiting the highlights along the road, we turned off and head to The Grampians National Park. This park spans an area of 413 thousand acres. It is a series of low angled sandstone ridges. The area has bushwalking, hiking, rock climbing, fishing, canoeing, camping, animals, pubs, café, lookouts and much more. It is peaceful, spacious, and the animals are friendly and plentiful. We were there for the great walks and lookouts. Hopefully, the photos below give you an idea of its beauty and its accessibility.

We spent a couple of beautiful days here and then headed on our way to Mildura and the start of our short stay in Mungo National Park around 115 km from the town centre.

There is approx. 80 km of dirt road into the park and then a further 80 km out the other side to exit.  We had arranged to stay at the lodge in Mungo for two nights. The worry with this entry is that if the road is not accessible then you are stuck at the lodge. It is a bit of a concern but everything we had read indicated it was worth the effort. Go to mungolodge.com.au for information on accommodation and tours. According to Wikipedia, the park is part of the Unesco World Heritage-listed Willandra lakes region. It covers an area of 274,210 acres. The main feature of the park is Lake Mungo, the second largest of the ancient dry lakes. The Park is noted for the archaeological remains discovered in the park.

We grabbed a takeaway coffee and drove out of Mildura with some trepidation about the quality of the road we were about to endure. The long and wide dusty road stretches in front of you with the typical low lying Australian bush lining the sides of the road. Looking ahead the vast blue skies, green foliage, and deep orange of the road project a stunning view into the wilderness. The road was deserted, we passed the odd vehicle heading back to town. About an hour and a half into the drive we come across the Mungo Lodge. What a pleasant sight. The lodge area and the cabins are laid out in a large circle dotted with shady green trees. The lodge itself is clean, bright, and welcoming. Once registered we headed to our cabin. It was just perfect, large, clean, and very comfortable. A beautiful breeze flows from front to back and a quaint veranda out front and a small porch out the back. All the comforts for a relaxing couple of days. We had booked tours so unpacked and headed over to the lodge for more details. The owners and the staff are super friendly and helpful, and we find ourselves on the Walls of China Sunset Tour.

A small group of people, an excellent guide and a perfect night resulted in a very awe-inspiring evening followed by dinner and drinks. I am hoping the photos say enough as words do little to describe the beauty of the area. The changing colours of the landscape minute by minute were awesome to see. 

The following day after a quiet relaxing evening was very interesting. We did a small drive and a walk to the surrounding area. The landscape is lunar-like, featuring dried up lake beds and sand dunes for miles. Scrub and berries, small trees, and desolate areas where you think nothing could live. Keeping our eyes alert, we found a small kangaroo and her baby, lizards, and other crawling beings. 

After morning tea another organised tour began. The Mungo Woolshed and Visitors centre, the Zanci Station Homestead. Once again, our guide was very knowledgeable, easy to listen to and had many stories to tell. The land is harsh and from the stories told, the people that lived on it were warm, resourceful, and very resilient. We were told The Mungo Lady story, of bones that were discovered in 1968 by a geologist named Jim Bowler. They are said to be about 40,000 years old and show clear signs of intentional cremation and a ritual burial. A further search in 1974 disclosed the bones of a man, buried on his back with hands crossed in his lap and red ochre sprinkled on his body. The details of this ritual showed signs of an advanced culture.

To finish the day a walk around the grounds of the lodge had some interesting moments. Emus, birdlife, lizards, and kangaroos. Dinner and some wine under the stars saw us heading to bed, happy and content with our visit.

An early breakfast before packing and heading the opposite way out of Mungo along another dirt road toward Balranald approx. 2 hrs away.  From here we headed to Orange to meet up with some friends for dinner and an overnight stay. 

That ends our extended trip and we head home to normality once again. I encourage you all to travel around this beautiful country of ours. There is so much to see. I look forward to reading your comments below. Have you been to any of these places and what did you like or dislike about them?

Thank you for reading.

Complacency-Boredom

As a retired person I have more available time, as an older person living during the pandemic I have more idle hours to fill. Following I have written my thoughts on this situation. No expertise, no qualifications just what is in my head. 🤔

I refer back to an early blog “What will I do when I retire?” I wrote that blog with my own actions in mind and focused mainly on activities that I related to at the time. Covid has made me think more earnestly about what we do on a daily basis and how easily boredom can slip into our life and have a detrimental affect on some people. It is easy to become bored, it is easy to become complacent about your daily activities. Dictionary.com’s meaning of complacency is “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition etc.” I think this explains it very clearly but breaking it down a little and putting it into terms of actual life activities helped me to clarify.🤓

The first part is easy for me to identify, particularly during covid restrictions. Doing a jigsaw puzzle, doing my heritage investigations, reading a book or simply going for a walk.These activities were pleasureable and gave me the security of knowing I was safe in my own home.They quickly became my norm and were only broken by the necessity of housework or shopping on line. 🙂

The second part of the dictionary meaning is a little unnerving at first. I questioned what potential danger could these activities evoke. The answer came with endured lengths of time of repetitively doing the same activities every day. The danger lies in the complacency of ones own thoughts and actions. When you are in a pattern without too much change it becomes easy to be habitual. Our life becomes boring. We could easily become disinterested in our surroundings which leads to more debilitating effects to our well being. As you become more bored your life becomes less active and your brain less stimulated. You talk less, you laugh less and more and more creativity and interests die. It becomes easy to not make an effort, to not make plans, to not look forward. If we do not change our routines, explore new avenues, take risks and try new things our brains become less stimulated and more vulnerable to negative thoughts. Of course there is nothing wrong with boredom, it is a normal emotion and it is not harmful unless of course it becomes excessive and interferes with ones normal daily life and this where the danger lives. 😦

I do suspect if you have an interesting hobby you possibly will not have this problem, but if you find yourself increasingly idle try something new. If you do not have any specific interest maybe look back at what you liked doing as a young person and see how that fits into your retired lifestyle. This would not have worked for me as I worked from a very young age and did not really develop any specific hobbies other than being involved in some sports. As I age those particular sports are not appropriate. I do however like long easy walks and on line music exercise classes so I am trying to become more consistent with that. I have listing here some suggestions(not mind boggling) just simple actions to minimise boredom or complacency and things that activate our brains. 😀

  • Cooking-reinvent the way you cook, try new foods. If you have no one at home to cook for bake a cake or make some cookies for your neighbour or elderly friend and invite them over for a cuppa. (covid permitted) Make some fun cookies for the neighbourhood children.
  • Craft-Learn a new skill or two. There are many tutorials on line. knitting, crocheting, origami, macrame, scrapbooking, sculpting, ceramics, painting etc the list is endless.
  • Sorting– photos, memorabilia, kitchen cupboards, clothing, garage, sheds, music collections We all need to declutter and sort. Do it slowly so it is enjoyable not a chore.
  • Photographing– I became bored while taking my daily walk, so I decided to photograph specific things. I chose a colour and with my trusty smart phone I walked and searched for that colour. You would be amazed at what you see. Each day I changed the colour or the theme and my walks became interesting again. I posted my photo’s on facebook which resulted in interaction with friends. Use your smart phone or camera and photograph whatever you like, your home, the streets surrounding you, fungi, trees, flowers, pictures, food, shapes use your imagination.
  • Writing-this is what I chose and the subjects are endless. I chose to put my thoughts on line but you do not have to. Start a journal, each day write down what you are thinking. It is habit forming however not boring as the subject matter changes everyday when you are forced to think of something to put down on paper. Nobody is reading it unless you want them to so write whatever crap comes to mind. Reading it back is often fun and thought provoking.
  • Planning-even though covid has momentarily changed our freedom we can still plan for the future. go online and plan the trip of a lifetime, you may never do it but it does not hurt to dream and its fun to map it out, and at the same time you are finding lots of information about other countries.
  • Games-mind games, computer games, board games, card games or do puzzles. There are many both on line and probably some gathering dust in your cupboards. They keep your mind active and if you have someone to play with all the better. If not challenge yourself to better your skills or beat your own score.
  • Meet new people-Join a book club, a walking group, a community centre or simply say hi to your neighbours or local shopkeepers. Go to a bingo group or a dance class or join a bowls club. A few words to a stranger can make your day. Some of these things are difficult during covid restrictions however if you are reading this you have access to on line so be brave start a social media page and finds some new friends. There are many senior groups filled with people just like yourself. It could be just 5 minutes a day and it could change your life.
  • Pampering-this is something we forget to do, whether male or female we all deserve to spoil ourselves. The obvious is a long luxurious bath, a hot chocolate and a good book, a home facial, a cup of tea while sitting on the verandah listening to your favourite music, relax with a heat-pack on those aching bones, watch a movie or better still watch a comedy routine, paint your nails, watch the footy.
  • Mens/Womens sheds– of course we are talking post covid but definitely something for those who have worked hard all of their lives and not had time to develop a hobby. From what I have heard and read they give people a purpose and are a great way to meet new friends. Research on line as they are popping up in many places.
  • Yoga,Meditation,Pilates,Exercise.- Whether male or female there a on line classes for everyone. No effort as you are in your own home, nobody to see you, no cost just simple movement which is the most important thing our ageing bodies need.
  • Hydo-Water activities– another post coved activity. Local pools have lots of classes for seniors with special classes or simply do some easy stretches and leisurely swimming
  • Language Course-learn a new language on line. I have friends who have done just this and are really enjoying the process.
  • Pets– If you don’t have one and you live alone consider adopting a pet. The reasons are obvious, companionship, responsibility, fun and caring. No negatives here and no time to be bored or complacent. They wont let it happen.

I hope you have fun finding your new or renewed interest. If you have a story to tell of how you fill the hours let me know in the comments. 🌻😃