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.

Conversations as Seniors – Writing v Verbal.

Articulating oneself is not always easy especially as we age.

Recently I heard one of my daughters relay an old conversation of ours onto someone else. The subject matter of which we were referring to was of a very emotional content. What amazed me when I heard her version was the number of times my words were misinterpreted. Hearing it back I can understand this, as my emotions controlled my words and articulation left the building. Interestingly I am aware of this when people talk in person and understand totally how arguments develop, however the exchange of words I am referring to was all in writing.It highlighted to me that behind the words we choose to write, there are a lot of meanings that are not conveyed to the recipient. I have always thought this when verbalising conversations and for that reason had relied on writing as a medium. More extensive words can be used and more time taken to exchange. Sadly I now believe I am mistaken.

One would think the written word would make it easy to remove some of the ambiguity of the English language. I find when I write I start with an idea, or quote or statement and add my thoughts. What happens though once I start rereading,editing, and interpreting, quite often a new angle or a new perspective is reached. I then change things a little and go through the process of editing again. Writing for a blog, a journal or an essay is completely different to having a written personal dialogue with someone. There are so many factors which effect human interractions. Generational differences, environmental influences, experienced behaviour with the subject matter and the actual timing of the exchange.In general communication is often very flawed. This is not news to most of us, especially those of us in our senior years. We have all had many occasions over our lifetime when we have regretted what we have said as it was fuelled by anger or fear and even love. Equally there are many times we wish we had said more or offered more but at the time were guided by different influences.

Articulating what one wants to say is hard and listening to what is being said is a skill few of us have. I have completed several communication and training courses and therefore should be good at relaying and receiving but when it comes to my family or emotional issues I fail miserably in verbalising or writing my thoughts clearly. My emotions are always heightened and my need to keep things calm are always present. The result of this is compound. When you are worried about what to say your mind is occupied and you are not listening as you should. You are constantly thinking how I can convey my thoughts without sounding mean, judgemental or thoughtless. In the process of “being so thoughtful” you may in fact be missing the whole point of the conversation. You are constantly behind the conversation. In personal situations the effect of this for many people may result in less conversation, less understanding and in many cases more arguments and more distance.

These days we no longer wait a week for the letter to arrive and then savour every word written, we no longer use the telephone to talk and listen for hours. Family members and friends are often busy with multiply commitments thats time together is often infrequent and sadly I have noticed in recent times even emailing is becoming redundant outside of business needs. We are texting, using messenger, instagram and facebook to communicate. There are only so many words you can use in a text and as our fingers are not as nimble as those younger than us it is not always an easy task. I will admit face-time and zoom meetups are a quiet blessing if you can master the technological problems that come with them.

I wish I had an answer to this accelerating situation in todays’ modern world but unfortunately it eludes me.

An unexpected gift.

For Christmas this year I received a set of inspirational and questioning journals from my youngest daughter. She knows I like to write and thought this would help with some ideas for my blog.

To be completely honest, I was not sure at the time she was right. It is not something I would ever have considered buying for myself. I am not someone who reads inspirational quotes or positive thoughts for the day, however I do find human behaviour fascinating and I expect looking at ones own behaviour is a good place to start. Trying to keep an open mind I started to explore the journals. I was pleasantly surprised and quite amazed at some of the questions posed. Questions that I had pondered in the past but not spent time investigating. One question that was asked implored me to think and explore my thoughts.

What do you want most in life?

The burning question that keeps the world turning. The question we ask ourselves continuously throughout our lives. The question we at times spend way too long pondering and then other times we push it aside for another day as it is too hard to answer.

Now getting close to 70 I can reflect on this and answer it fairly easily. Not with-standing  world issues, which I would hope applies to most people, to eliminate poverty, eradicate violence, protect all children, accept all beings for who they are and discover amazing things. We want to have a sustainable world in which to live and in an ideal world we would have peace. Who does not want this?

I believe to answer this question as an individual the answer is dependent on time and conditions within our lives. What I want most now differs to what I wanted in years gone by.  I only speak for myself here.

Overall – Late teen years I wanted freedom, independence, and excitement – personal level – I wanted  love and laughter in my life.

Overall – In my 20’s I wanted stability after a childhood of instability. Regular income, loving family  and good friends- personal level– I wanted my marriage to be strong and I wanted children.

Overall – In my 30’s I wanted to purchase our own home and I wanted safety, stability and a good future for my children – personal level – I wanted to be a good, honest, and approachable mother.  I wanted to improve my education and improve my ability to earn a higher income.

Overall – In my 40’s I wanted financial security and more time for fun and relaxation. Time  and money for Travel. Success for my children both in education and career – personal level – I wanted to be liked and valued by my family.

Overall – In my 50’s I wished for improved health services. I  wanted  longevity in our business – personal level. I wanted to fix my children and husband who were all struggling with ill health.

Overall – In my 60’s  I wanted Good Health, financial security, more foreseeable possibility of retirement – personal level . I wanted our life to slow down and to be easier.

Overall – Now approaching my 70’th year- I want people to learn from the experience of a pandemic. I want people to stop blaming the government for every shortcoming in their life and to take responsibility for their own actions. ( a sweeping statement, I know, a discussion for another blog). On a very personal level I just want to live long enough to be able to enjoy my retirement with my husband, I want good health for myself and my family members and my friends.  I want laughter, excitement, I want to be able to try new things, travel to new places and experience life in general.  

On Reflection

On an introspective level, I would like to stop bitching and complaining about people and situations at hand. I have noticed as I grow older, I have less tolerance and I am more bitter and less compassionate in my thoughts. I am guessing this is just a tiredness we get after a lifetime of pushing our own agenda’s, trying  always to be right or knowledgeable or simply trying to be noticed.  It is not a good look and not a productive way to live.  It is something I need to work on.

“If everything went the way we wanted, soon we would no longer have anything to write about, nothing to quide our daily thoughts.”

Paulo Coelho’s Blog

What do you give a senior person as a gift.

It seems simple when we, being older people, say we don’t want gifts, we have everything we need. You may have read in a previous blog about my feelings about celebratory days. Therefore you would know I do not rate them as a priority in my life. Having said that I like to be spoiled the same as most people. To feel loved and pampered is so uplifting. It is a motivation to keep living, especially for those who are ill or those whose lives are sad and lonely.

The type of gift is what is important here. In todays world, particularly in our lucky country many of us own our home, have money to buy what we need and as we age we need a lot less. I only speak for myself in this post but I do think that if you give the following it will be appreciated.

Time is what we want, whether it be time spent with those who makes us happy or time spent doing the activities or the hobbies we enjoy. Time to be heard and time to reminisce. What we need is to feel respected and loved. By this I personally mean we like to think we are of value and our experiences and insights gained over the years have not been wasted.

I am sure a lot of us remember back when we were teenagers or young adults and thought of our parents as old, unwise, out of touch and intolerant. I can recall these feelings on some occassions.

I am now old enough to realise how thoughtless and even cruel that was. I did not value the time I had with the people who knew the most about me. I did not respect the experiences and the knowledge they gained through the multitude of changes they went through over there existence. I had not experienced the hardships of war and the depression. I had not lived through several pandemics I had not experienced death and destruction. I often think about the confusion of migration and the introduction of new cultures and traditions. In addition to this I wish I knew more about their lives as children, what toys they had, what they did with their friends. We will never ever really know what the world was like before we entered it, if we rely only on books or google to enlighten us. Talking to an older person will give you so much more colour, depth and yes maybe a little license will be taken with the story but it will be worth it. Life was so different in generations before us. It has only been in recent times that I have taken the time to think about this. What I do know is I now regret by own lack of insight.

Next time you are thinking what can I give grandma or the elderly neighbour or anyone for that matter, buy the chocolates, the flowers or the new appliance they may need but pair that offer with a visit, a phone call or an invite for coffee. The exchange will be more than worth it for you and I assure you the person receiving will value that time above everything else.