Down I sank, my white sand-shoed feet disappearing deep into the mud. I let out a shriek, more from the squelch and surprise and the feeling that I was going under. Thoughts of quicksand and being dragged under flashed through my mind. Then I yanked my feet out, and bolted, off the precarious shore and to safety.
We’re in the Pink Lakes in the Murray Sunset National Park, the third leg of our recent outback adventure and I hadn’t counted on getting quite so dirty.
Let me backtrack to when we left Mungo.
The Road from Mungo
Arumpo Road from Mungo to Mildura was a slow and bumpy one. We were in no hurry, especially with the temperature forecast to hit the high 30s Celsius. Our car was air conditioned and we were comfy.
Then we hit the dust storm. Visibility dropped to zero and it seemed as good a time as any to pull over. Photo time, click! Rig check, tick. All was well and eventually the red eerie swirling dust dissipated.
From Mildura to Murray Sunset
We hit civilisation around midday and treated ourselves to an Italian lunch in Mildura. For once this little Italian cookie wasn’t doing the cooking! Later, barely an hour off the bitumen past Ouyen, we were off the grid again. Entering Murray Sunset National Park is like Victoria’s own outback. It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.
Here the sunsets really live up to their name but it’s the landscape that truly steals the show.
A sunset set up
It was close to dusk when we pitched camp. Like at Mungo we were the only ones here, except for the many birds. No roos to welcome us this time, just pure isolation and wide open spaces in a wild untouched landscape.
The salt lakes on the horizon beckoned to be explored but they would wait till after dinner.
The sunset was soft and subdued but the hues and the white of the salt lake floor were mesmerising. There was no water, not an inch, just pure hard glistening salt.
As the night drew on the wind picked up. It buffeted the tents so we lowered our “dining dome tent” for the night.
As we slept soundly inside our new van, outside the wind blew ferociously. There’s nothing quite like having sturdy walls around you and a comfy mattress underneath you when Mother Nature’s being a bit temperamental.
We wondered how the boys tents would survive the buffeting but we needn’t have worried. Their tents proved stronger than we could ever have imagined.
A Pink Plateau
We woke the next day, on my sisters birthday, to sunshine and a bit of a breeze. Yes, it was still blowing but calmer and the tents were intact. I brought my sis a cuppa, in her swag! How’s that for room service in the outback?
By mid morning the breeze had picked up again and given our intrepid boys some ideas. A new sport perhaps, pirouetted by the helping wind. So, armed with one of their twelve dollar tents from Kmart, a skateboard and loads of enthusiasm they took to the salt lake winds like seasoned pros.
While we walked from one side of the lake to the other, the boys twisted and skated their way across the lake floor whilst being pirouetted by the tent and wind. It was hilarious to watch them, and a bit surreal too.
It was so windy I wondered what would happen if they lost control of the tent. Sure as the thought crossed my mind, that’s exactly what happened. We watched helplessly from across the lake as it flew, caught by the wind, further and further away from them, as they chased it across the lake floor.
A tree eventually stopped the tent, snagging it just enough to grip it and allow them to rescue it! It didn’t deter them and they continued, taking their intrepid windsurfing skills and ingenuity to a new level.
If anyone is interested I have a video of them in action on my Instagram page.
Amazingly, the tent survived for another night of its intended purpose.
A Therapeutic Foot Spa
It was late morning when I had my (unplanned) salt foot plunge. Yep, that’s when I took a precarious step into a dark patch at nearby Lake Hardy. I found out firsthand that the dark patches were mud, deep, black mud.
My sister thought it was funnier to take photos than to help. And my other half wouldn’t let me back inside his car with my muddy feet. I had to ride back to camp on the back of his tailgate!
What a crazy ride. I don’t know what got into the other half who decided to put the foot to the metal causing me to hold on for dear life. I was relieved to get back to camp, jump off and find a tap. After I washed the sludge off my feet they felt silky smooth and wonderfully clean. There’s nothing quite like having a salt infused mud foot bath!
Aside from the few seconds of pure panic when I thought I was going under, it was the ultimate outback foot spa.
Foot beautification complete, the day passed peacefully.
We drove the circuit trip around Pioneer Drive, an interesting 9km loop highlighting some of the salt lake mining ruins and heritage of the park. Along the way we saw a Stumpy Tail Lizard and a long brown snake slithering into its hole.
The National Park is massive and a mecca for off roading and bush walking. You can walk for 45 minutes to a three day hike of 66km along the Sunset Remote Walking Track. Deep inside this park it’s true wilderness.
Not us! We played it sedate, preferring to spend our time doing short nature trails and relaxing at camp.
The last time we were here (over nine years ago) there was water in these lakes and the pinks were much brighter. The colour comes from the red algae carotene found in the water. This time with no water the salt floor was dazzling. Lake Crosbie and the other three salt lakes in the area, Lake Hardy, Lake Kenyon and Lake Becking, are all equally stunning.
Later that night we enjoyed a delicious barbecue dinner at sunset. What a way to end our outback trip with a plethora of mini birthday desserts that I’d picked up at Mildura, together with coffee and red wine amidst a gorgeous vista.
When the sun finally kissed the horizon goodnight we relaxed into our personal outback cinema, stargazing and watching for shooting stars in a cloudless sky. The wind died down to perfect stillness and the blackness covered the previously pink landscape. I reflected in wonder at how much change a landscape and the weather undergoes, just in one day.
Everything changes, nature, the seasons, us … as each day ends it’s a chance to reflect on whether we’ve lived the best version we can in that day. Just like Mother Nature, sunset echos the end of a day but sunrise always brings new hope and the promise of a bright and sun filled new one.
“Every sunset is different, because every day sun is different, clouds are different, space is different, reflections are different, mountains are different, fogs are different, and above all, we are different!”― Mehmet Murat ildan
This was the last night of our outback trip, a trip designed primarily for my sister who always wanted to experience the outback camping.
So many things had to line up in a short period of time. Though we had the odd hiccup, everything worked out beautifully, proving that where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’m so glad we made it happen.
Life’s too short not to spend it doing what you love.
So take that trip, eat that cake, tell that person how you feel about them and don’t ever be afraid to try something new. Go and fulfil your dreams. Tomorrow is never guaranteed so make the most of today.
Sending you all light and love as we continue the journey in this wild, wonderful world.
“Sunset dreams, a salt lake floor and a glass of red … bliss. Cheers to the next adventure.”