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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pillbara Sandstone Caves

Don’t you just love it when something unexpected happens and it is really, really good?

Phil and I were on our way from Mudgee in New South Wales to Queensland and decided to check out a small spot between Coonabarabran and Narrabri in the Pilliga Nature Reserve. I have driven along this road several times but had not previously noticed the small sign saying there was a walk here.

This time we decided to stop.

There was a dirt track leading to an unremarkable looking walking trail. It said there were caves but I wasn’t expecting much.

Quite quickly the track approached a large rocky outcrop that had been invisible from the road. The rock was layered and etched into beautiful patterns of scoops and stripes. The old rock was grey but the exposed parts were so clean they looked like they had been scraped away just yesterday.

Sandstone Cave, Pillbara


We walked around the rock and marvelled at the many impressions and caves around the structure, from narrow ledges to full blown caves.

This area used to be the gathering point for certain Aboriginal tribes, and I could easily imagine groups in each cave. Here a gaggle of teenagers might have gathered to compare stories about the day. There the mothers might have gathered where the rock was lower with a sunken pit where the children could safely play.

Others might have lain in solitude or in tight pairs on the smaller ledges. Perhaps they looked out over the valley carpeted with treetops and considered their place in the world in the same way I did.


View from Sandstone Caves, Pillbara


They camped, and slept, and played, and cooked here.

In one sealed off cave there was even a large rock with several grooves, apparently made when the locals sharpened their knives here.


Cave of the knife sharpening Stone, Pillbara

One cave was the most awe inspiring of all. It was somewhat palatial with several levels and views through to other caves. I could imagine the elders meeting here to discuss important tribal matters.


There was a sense of the spiritual there. A solemn stillness as if the area was still new and unspoiled. I could imagine it untouched through the years, even as I left my own footprints among the myriads of others on the sandy floors.

I was grateful that it was quiet, remote, and not well sign posted.

I appreciated that someone had gone to the trouble of making steps and paths, but I was happy that no one had made it into a commercial enterprise. It wouldn’t be the same surrounded by coca cola signs and ice cream stands. Finding a place like this in a remote spot is one of life’s simple pleasures.

There are many of these hidden gems of geological architecture around Australia and all you can do is research the area before you go, or just be open to exploring anything that looks interesting like we did.

Or you can read blogs like this one and enjoy them vicariously.

I would like to thank those of you who inspire me with your own stories of travelling this wonderful planet. Thanks guys.