Josh and Cam did a big walk around the flats – great views of all the hills and rocks and cliffs but it was a long walk pretty much the main fire trail and it got monotonous towards the end. The estimate of kangaroos here has reached the 5000 mark. Massive mobs surprisingly wary of us walking through considering the visitor numbers this spot gets. Cam ended up getting piggy-backed for some of the way.
We headed up to Siding Spring Observatory which somehow – even though being perched up so high on the ridge – survived the fire. The story goes that the CCTV cameras that monitor the site were commandeered during the fire fighting effort to see what was happening. We tried to join a tour but “prior bookings were essential” we were told (a bit bluntly). So we self-guided ourselves around the grounds and up into the main domed telescope tower that can be seen from many points around the Warrumbungles. The size of the telescope was appreciated while we watched a technician climbing many, many stairs to access up high to clean or fix or tweak something up there. It would be great to see the sliding roof open but it’s a night thing (obviously) when no visitors are allowed.
We headed out to Baradine to the Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre – a great modern visitor centre run by National Parks (and cooled nicely by the air con!). Really well laid out information. Lots of history of Indigenous, forestry, fires, floods – great staff too who were helpful with advice. The boys even found a colouring-in table to amuse themselves. We were keen on the Sandstone Caves which, on the request of the local Aboriginal Elders, is not signposted or promoted too greatly. With a map and some directions we decided to cut through the middle of the Pilliga, rather than take the easy bitumen option – not before driving along Lachlan Street, Baradine. Great little country town !.
We headed across the Northern Break trail (dry, dusty and straight as) to meet up with the Newell Highway and then, after a few kilometres down the highway, turned off to access the road to the Sandstone Caves. Spotted our first emus in a quarry having a drink in a rapidly diminishing puddle. They were quick to do a runner when we stopped to watch them.
The Sandstone Caves were fantastic. One of those typically Australian features that just pops up out of nowhere. Not surprisingly the Aborigines have been using the site as a shelter, lookout, hideout and probably residence for a very very long time. Lots of different caves throughout offering shelter from weather from whatever direction. The boys had a great time climbing and exploring. there were some good grinding grooves that had obviously been well used for centuries or more. No ‘typical’ rock art but some emu and kangaroo footprints carved into the rock are stand-outs here. Another family arrived but it was a hot afternoon so we didn’t hang around long once we’d done the loop walk. Headed back through Coona to Warrumbungles – the steep windy road hadn’t got any easier.