My journey back to Potato Point – an otherwise crazy-looking route into the central west of NSW – is determined by a desire to visit Sculptures in the Scrub near Baradine. As it happens, that doesn’t happen. It rains and I’m advised not to take the Yaris along the 30 kilometres of dirt. An extraordinarily helpful woman at the Pilliga Discovery Centre tells me about an alternative, and assures me I won’t be disappointed. It means a detour of 70 kilometres, but who’s counting kilometres on this particular adventure?
So I head up the Newell Highway, something I usually avoid like poison, and take a turnoff along a sandy track. The local Aboriginal community doesn’t advertise these special caves by a highway sign, but I have a brochure with directions.
I walk along well-marked and easy path, through burnt out bush where wildflowers are beginning to flower and young leaves are backed by black stumps.
The path slopes gently upwards until I have a view across the Pilliga Scrub. And then the rocks appear. For about a kilometre I’m walking around a massive outcrop of sandstone, lost for words in the face of the beauty of pattern and variety, as I was in the immensity of Wadi Rum, and at Wasp Head near home.
There are signs of the Ancestors, caged behind steel bars to protect them from vandals, who have already damaged a grinding rock by trying to mimic the action, and carted away a piece of rock with peckings. The horizontal gap in the cage is a doorway for bats.
The white rock shows grinding grooves where Gamilaraay people shaped and sharpened stone axes and other tools against the sandstone.
The second cage encloses pecked etchings of emu and kangaroo footprints that may be 12 000 years old, and more grinding grooves.
I sit for a moment on a convenient bench and look out over the Pilliga, as the Ancestors must have done for thousands of years without the intrusion of farmland …
… and then return to intent perusal of unremitting beauty.