I left Coonamble for the Pilliga Forest via Baradine where there is the Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre, well worth a visit with lots of info on the forest, its history and lots of excellent taxidermy of native birds and mammals. The Timmallallie national Park has been reserved in the forest and is a wonderful new national park. I am camping at Top Crossing campground which has only 6 campsites and I got the last one, and that was at 10.30 in the morning, so you have to be lucky.
The campground has sites spaced out with trees and shrubs between each site. There is a nearby picnic area with very new tables, shelters and several gas BBQs with a couple of drop toilets. It is an excellent place.
The Pilliga Forest is the largest forest west of the dividing range and it covers an area of around 6,000 square kilometres, it is massive. The forest is mixed with gumtrees and two types of native Cyprus, which is a durable timber that has many uses. Near the campground is Dandry Gorge with a 3 km loop walk along the top of the gorge and return along the base of the gorge. It is a wonderful walk through beautiful bush with lots of different plants, and some wildflowers just starting to open. I was lucky to spot one orchid, and then a bit further on there was an area of another 20 or so, Margie would have been delighted.
Scattered along the top of the gorge are some sculptures that take the walk to another level, they are placed so the gorge backdrops the sculptures. The sculptures are about 200 metres apart. The first is two men looking out over the gorge with a group of digging sticks nearby.
The next sculpture is an aborigine with a child on his shoulders and holding a spear. It is a bronze casting and when you get to the bottom of the gorge you can see him on the top of the gorge, it looks so real.
Then there are two stone sculptures that represent stone axe heads, they are beautifully polished, one is marble.
After this we get to a rainbow serpent sculpture, which has the serpent around the edge of the rock and on the front stars and an emu with eggs. The aborigine’s can tell when the emus will lay eggs by the position of the milky-way in the sky, this tells them when they can start gathering eggs to eat.
The last sculptures are mosaic shapes representing flora and fauna.
The return along the base of the gorge was again through beautiful bush, it was one of my most enjoyable walks.
On another day I went to the Sandstone Caves, which have been a gathering place for aborigines. The sandstone is very soft and most of the artwork and engravings have disappeared. The surrounding bush has been recently burnt but there is a lot of regrowth and lots of Hardenbergia creeper, which looked great winding around the black sticks of burnt Cyprus.
Unlike many native plants Cyprus does not regrow after being burnt so the bush gets recolonised with other trees. The caves, or rather massive overhangs were in a sandstone outcrop that the path wound around.
It was an easy and enjoyable walk, and the first cave contained a large rock that had been used for grinding stone axes.
Another had engravings of emu feet and kangaroo feet that were 12,000 years old. In this rock toward the centre is an axe-grinding groove (it has a bit of debris in it).
I thoroughly enjoyed may stay in the Pilliga but am off for a few days in the Warrumbungles. I was freezing this morning so the diesel heater got a workout before I was on the road at 7.30. The Warrumbungles are always cold overnight, and during the day at times like today, but fortunately the Warrumbungles have power sites so the electric blanket will be on, plus a fan heater.