Monday morning. For most of the crew (read everyone but us!) it was home time. A good feed of pancakes every way you like them had us all ready for the pack up and drive ahead.
Packed up and ready to go we said our goodbyes and confirmed the location from last night for next year. We bid farewell and safe travels before heading off into Coonabarrabran. With Easter we hadn’t been able to get the tire fixed and we weren’t keen on continuing the trip without a spare, so we had decided to sit the night out in Coona and get the wheel fixed first thing tomorrow (Tuesday)
We arrived at the John Oxley Caravan Park just on the edge of the Main Street and the managers were fab, giving us a spot straight away and letting us stay as long we needed tomorrow to get the wheel fixed.
The Sandstone Caves
With the van unhitched and most of the day to burn (Coona is about an hour from Tooraweenah) we headed back to the Pilliga and to the sandstone caves.
Situated around a large sandstone outcrop, the Sandstone Caves are a series of cathedral type caves and overhangs displaying an array of interesting colours and shapes, formed over tens of thousands of years through the weathering of the fragile sandstone. The Sandstone Caves are an Aboriginal site for the local Gamilaraay people. Grinding grooves, rock art and other Aboriginal sites provide a strong link to their history and country.
The track is well maintained and loops around the rock. There are a few sections of steps and there is a toilet near the junction of the loop .
There are two sites secured off to exhibit some of the indigenous history of the caves.
What a shame that signs like this are even needed!
The rock is amazing how it changes colour and shape and the grooves and holes.
The view around the rock is pretty awesome as well.
Sculpture in the Scrub
From the caves we decided to head out to the sculpture in the scrub, so it was back to the Newell Hwy before hitting the dirt again. This section of the Pilliga has been hit hard by bushfires and quite recently in some places.
Deep in the vast Pilliga Forest lies Dandry Gorge and the Sculptures in the Scrub. Once a secret location of the Aboriginal Gamilaroi People it is now an extraordinary place for all to share.
By the time we arrived at the car park we could hear some rumbling in the sky off in the distance so we knew we didn’t have time to lounge about. We headed off on the walk which is slated to take about 2 hours. The track takes you along the top of the ridge where there are 5 different sculptures before looping back down under the cliff along the river bed and then back up again.
There is an awesome picnic area at the carpark area.
It’s a well maintained track and despite going up and down is reasonably easy going. With the thunder getting close and the clouds getting greyer we managed it in about an hour, so two hours is a very comfortable timeframe to allow.
The five unique sculptures reflect and acknowledge the local Gamilaroi people, their culture and the Pilliga Scrub itself. The first four sculptures were created back in 2009 by artists who worked with the local community to create artworks that held true meaning with the Gamilaroi people. These sculptures are called
1) Scrub Spirits.
2) First Lesson
3) Yundu Yundu
5) Respect Mother
The fifth sculpture, called Respect Mother, was unveiled in 2012 and created by and for the Gamilaroi women. Respect Mother consists of five elements that represents the five communities in the Gawambaraay Pilliga Co-Management Committee.
Once you descend down into the valley as walk around the base and look up you can see two of the sculptures.
I decided before heading off home that i would throw the drone up. It’s been a little bit of an adventure with the drone until more recently when i worked out the sequence to get it all to connect, so i was hoping the sequence would work this time, and it did! So much more fun when it only takes a few minutes to get it up in the air compared to the 20-30 minutes i was previously having to endure.
With a quick car park flight under my belt we kept an eye for a spot to pull over on the way out to try and capture the devastation the fires have left behind.
At the moment this whole area is under a fight against coal seam gas, and i cant imagine (and don’t want too) what it would be like if a fire like what went through here already, went through an area with coal seam gas vents, venting.
We found a great location and up went the drone again.
Coona for the night
We arrived back at the park just on sunset. A few kms before the end of the dirt we hit the storm you can see in the drone pics above, and it rained pretty steady off and on all the way back to Coona. Not having planned for rain and only staying one night we had put the quick awning up which means a small space over the side of the van has cover but the rear kitchen does not. So on went the rain coat and dinner and I managed to cook up a pretty decent spaghetti bol even if i do say so myself.