"Liam and Madeline are coming to stay with us for the holidays; it's going to be so boring." Andrew, my brother informs us.
It's been months since Sonya, Andrew and I have been to stay with our cousins on the Houseboat on Lake Eildon. Mum and Dad say, "No, you can't go to Mansfield this holiday, it's time Madeline and Liam had a holiday with us."
"They'll be really bored at our house." Andrew predicts gloomily.
"It won't be that bad," says Dad. "We have a surprise for all of you."
"We're going to take you somewhere very special," says Mum mysteriously.
"Somewhere special? Where?" We all want to know.
Mum and Dad just smile and say, "You're just going to have to wait and see!"
When Liam and Madeline arrive at the weekend, they are full of news about the Houseboat and the Resort.
"It's so dry everywhere," says Madeline. "The drought has really dried up all the water in the lake. The Houseboat is sitting on the dried lake bed again."
"This time it's due to the drought, not you know who," says Liam. We all know who he means, but we don't worry about Mr Powers anymore. He's stuck back in 1960 and never likely to return.
Dad announces the surprise after dinner.
"On Saturday, we are all going to Lake Mungo!" he tells us.
"Lake Mungo? Where's that?" I ask him.
"Never heard of Lake Mungo," says Sonya.
"Me neither," says Liam.
"Lake Mungo is where they found the Mungo man and Mungo woman. They are Australia's oldest human remains. Apparently, they are estimated to be about 60,000 years old." says Madeline.
"I'm impressed," says Mum.
But we're not. We're used to Madeline being a walking encyclopaedia.
"It's about 100k out of Mildura," Dad explains, "so we will be away for the weekend."
"We are going to have an Aboriginal archaeologist tell us all about it," says Mum.
We all agree that it's not as exciting as the Time Machine, but for now it seems interesting enough. We get picked up by an Aboriginal guide on a tour bus in Mildura. It's really hot as we make our way to Lake Mungo. Andrew is a real pain in the bus and keeps asking how long it will be before we get to the lake.
"It's hot – I need a swim!" he says.
People on the bus are giving him a strange look.
"He thinks he's going to see water." Sonya whispers to me.
"Yeah, I know. Should we tell him?"
"No, he'll find out soon enough," she laughs.
We finally arrive in a totally devastated place. Facing us in this dry wilderness are enormous cliffs of clay and sand which we learn are called The Great Walls of China. These cliffs surround part of the ancient dried up Lake Mungo.
"Where's the lake?" Andrew wants to know.
"There!" Dad points ahead. Seeing Andrew's puzzled face, the Aboriginal guide explains that approximately 45,000 years ago Lake Mungo was a huge water and food supply for humans, animals and plant life. After that, drought conditions caused the expansion of the desert and sand dunes. 25,000 years ago, the lake dried up. Plants and animals died and sand dunes just spread over the plains.
"You mean there's no water here?" says Andrew.
"Gee you're thick Andrew," I tell him and we all laugh. Andrew starts to argue with us, and then Mum tells us to be quiet. She wants to hear what the Aboriginal guide is saying.
"The lake was filled with shellfish, Golden perch, yabbies and Murray cod," he explains. "Also," he tells us mysteriously. "According to Aboriginal lore, they believe that other world races originated from Australia. Perhaps in the future, technology will prove that we are right!" As we stroll around the site, we are shown where the skeletons of Mungo Man and Mungo Woman were found.
"We have unearthed a giant kangaroo too," the guide tells us. Then he makes some marks in the sand and explains to us that approximately every 25,000 years the earth tilts ever so slightly on its axis, causing true North and Magnetic North to change. This results in upheavals and changes. He shows us signs in the rock strata which show remains of floods and dry periods.
"The earth is always renewing itself," he explains. "It's just that now humans are causing it to happen sooner than it should because of population growth and fossil fuel burning. As well as the fact that we are turning into a non-reusable society, we are increasing our technology at an enormous rate. All of these things are affecting global warming." He goes on to tell us about impending wild weather, earthquakes and tidal waves. "Eventually, the Equator will become the ice caps and the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps will melt away!"
"Wow," says Andrew. "We could find remains of other civilizations when the ice melts under the ice caps!"
"Highly likely," replies the guide.
Later, we all drive back to the Lake Mungo Resort for lunch and cold drinks. We're sitting outside in the shade of the veranda, not saying much, just thinking, when an old Aboriginal man comes up to us.
"Why the long faces?" he wants to know.
"Well..." begins Liam, "We are just thinking about what the guide told us about global warming and all the Earth changes. We come from Mansfield and over the last few years it just seems to be getting drier and drier in the area. We hardly ever see water in the lake now."
"Yes, we'd hate the area to end up like Lake Mungo," says Sonya.
The old man gives us a strange look. "Don't forget that we are all grand creators," he says. "We can create anything we want. The future that the guide spoke about is only a probable future. But futures can be changed. Which future do you want to live in?" he asks mysteriously. Before we can answer, he simply walks away.
"Weird, very weird!" says Liam. We all agree.
The rest of our holiday is uneventful. We know we will have to wait until the next holidays before we can return to Mansfield and the Time Machine.
"Where will we go in the Time Machine next time?" Sonya asks.
"Well, we could go back and have a look at what Lake Mungo used to look like," suggests Madeline.
"Boring," says Andrew.
"Why don't we go and have a look at Mansfield in a hundred years' time?" I suggest. "Then we can see if all this global warming is just a fantasy."
We all agree on this one, but for now, we just have to wait.