Today I was to head off to Mungo National Park but the Prungle Mail Road from Balranald was of uncertain condition after rain on Friday. So I had to head across to Euston and Wentworth and then north to Pooncarie and Menindee. So I missed out on seeing Mungo National Park again and missed passing a number of VEE camps, plus travelled an extra 100-150 Km. Even so my journey was much easier than the VEE enjoyed. They had lots if issues with the six wagons and often had to uncouple one team of horses and join it to a team on another wagon to get through a soft patch, They also had to cut down lots of Mallee trees in their way and had to do this without chain saws. Progress was slow.
At Mungo the main group headed north west to Pooncarie and the wagons headed due west to avoid sandhills. The Darling at Pooncarie is typical of the Darling, high banks and low water level.
Everyone eventually caught up at Pooncarie, even then a small settlement. For the first time for a while the whole expedition was together. Burke had been frustrated by the slow progress of the wagons so they abandoned them at Pooncarie Camp 29 and loaded all the supplies onto the horses and camels and a paddle steamer and headed for Menindee. Burke was criticised by some of the members of the VEE for not bringing all the supplies to Menindee by steamer from Adelaide. Had he done that the camels and horses would have been in good condition rather than badly knocked up. Burke was also having an ongoing dispute with the cameleer Landells and eventually it came to a head and Landells resigned.
You can see from the photos of Camp 29 (left) and Camp 30 how barren the country is, and remember they are carrying no water, but relied on billabongs and rivers for water and the water was of poor quality. They still had lots of sandhills to cross 20-30 feet high and soft under foot, energy sapping.
At Menindee they crossed the Darling at Camp 34A just below Menindee and then moved to Camp 34 right behind the Menindee Hotel; Burke and Wills and some other senior members of the expedition stayed in the hotel. “Luxury”, better than a soap box in the middle of the road!! It is interesting to note that in general when they set up camp they just crawled under bushes and went to sleep, which happened quickly because they were so tired. At Menindee there is a park named after Burke and Wills and a memorial plaque.
There is also a grave of Dost Mahmet who was one of four Indians employed to look after camels. A Bull camel attacked him and he lost an arm but recovered and stayed in Menindee and used to pray each day at the place he was buried. At the moment there is a lot of water flowing down the Darling and this is being directed into Menindee lake which is a massive water storage dam which now has water in it after some years of being dry.
In travelling from Wentworth to Menindee I have now completed the Darling Run, a journey to follow along the entire length of the Darling from where the Darling meets the Murray at Wentworth to the start of the Darling River between Bourke and Walgett. The Darling starts where the Culgoa River meets the Barwon River to become the Darling River at a location between Bourke and Walgett. We stayed on a sheep station on the Barwon once with a friend of my brothers.
I also had a drive through Kinchega National Park which is the site of a former sheep station. At its peak it was 800,000 hectares. There are lots of good campsites along the Darling each with a BBQ, picnic table and rubbish bin but the park is extremely dry at the moment and not very inviting. There was only one occupied camp out of 40. Tomorrow I will visit the VEE depot camp from which Burke set off for Coopers Creek and the Gulf.