The Pilliga – All the Light We Cannot See

“The brain is locked in total darkness, of course, children, says the voice. It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”
― Anthony DoerrAll the Light We Cannot See

I made a few attempts last year to read Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer prize winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See,  but wasn’t in the right frame of mind. After my visit in autumn to the vast Pilliga Forest of inland New South Wales, I was motivated to complete it in a day. It seemed a fitting conclusion to my first Pilliga experience. Sometimes we spend our lives being terrified of imaginary monsters, while at the same time being blind to real and insidious threats. Sometimes our fears also blind us to the light.

There is something in the Pilliga, that’s what people say.  Accounts of Min-Min lights, the ghost of the Pilliga Princess, flesh-eating Yowies, and other strange happenings abound.   For many years it has evoked fear in the hearts of some travellers and locals, while for others it has been a treasured home or habitat worth fighting to protect.

The Pilliga Forest

Even if all the terrifying tales are true, I suspect the Pilliga has more to fear from the actions of humans than we have to fear from it. In recent years, the forest has been threatened by proposals for over 800 Coal Seam Gas (CSG) wells. However, companies and governments did not anticipate the strong opposition from concerned groups, and so far most of the Pilliga, and the deep artesian water supplies it feeds, remain safe.

Pilliga sandstone outcrop

Before any of you think I was particularly brave or irresponsible to visit the Pilliga on my own, given the frightening stories and warnings, let me try to avert any attempts at hero worship or judgement.  I went to the Pilliga because at that moment the thought  of being swallowed up by whatever dangers lurked there offered respite from my current mindset.

I’d been returning home from a farm-sitting job in western Victoria. It was meant to be a time to unwind and recharge emotionally and physically.  A time to leave responsibilities and dramas aside.  A time to spend  with old friends, and a time for social media black-out.

I achieved some of these goals, but shortly after beginning the solitary 1900 kilometre drive home, I received a distressing call from medical staff about a loved one. The relaxation benefits of my trip seemed undone in a few moments. The anxious jaw clenching and teeth grinding began.

At that point, a brief visit to the  Pilliga on my way  seemed immensely appealing. Disappearing forever into the vast “menacing” scrub offered a blissful escape.  The potential perils of the Pilliga seemed benign in comparison to other concerns.

Besides, if I did see a Yowie, how thrilling to grab photographic proof. I’d be famous and could rescue my rapidly deteriorating spine by purchasing an insanely expensive trekking backpack with the proceeds of lucrative media deals.  And, if the Yowie did fancy my flesh, well, my family could still make a fortune from the media attention and my life insurance policy. It seemed a win-win situation.

So, with a certain amount of reckless abandon, I took a slight detour in search of sanctuary, excitement, or oblivion.

Viewed from the long, lonely straight stretch of Newell Highway, the Pilliga may appear unrelenting, impenetrable and monotonous – not typical tourist fodder, but on closer inspection, it is teeming with life.

Pilliga plants

A haven for around one third of Australia’s bird species, and with detailed bird route maps available, the Pilliga attracts avian enthusiasts from afar.  A National Parks and Wildlife brochure describes it as one of the iconic landscapes of the Australian inland:

“The Pilliga is full of life and richness. The forest changes from cypress pine to ironbark to scribbly gum to box and back again in just a few hundred metres. Expansive heathlands burst into spring colour, massive river red gums line the sandy creeks and more than 350 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and frogs make the forest their home.”

Pilliga Dragonfly

My first visit to the Pilliga Forest began with the medium grade, 1.7 kilometre, Sandstone Caves Circuit, located along a dirt track off the Newell Highway. After  previous acts of vandalism,  the Aboriginal Co-management Committee requested the turn off be unmarked. They do welcome visits by interested and responsible tourists though, and details of its exact location can be obtained by contacting the Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre. To make the most of your visit, it is recommended you book a guided walk with an Aboriginal Discovery Ranger. Time constraints and the need for group bookings meant I didn’t have this option.

Sandstone Caves road

Turning off the Newell Highway onto a red dirt track immediately lifted my spirits. Memories returned of my young children playing in a similar landscape over 20 years ago when we lived on a remote 70 000 hectare property in far western New South Wales. (You can read more about it in The Five Year Adventure.)


It was an extremely challenging period in my life and where I spent some of my darkest days. However,  it was also intermingled with moments of indescribable joy. It’s where my daughter was born.

Jane on outback property

Some places will always be a part of you, or perhaps it is the other way around. I think I left a part of myself there all those years ago. Maybe that’s why I felt a sense of wholeness – a healing – in returning to a similar landscape.

Next, I was greeted with a welcome sign:

“Yaama! Gamilaraay dwahun-gu gulbiyaay.

Hello! Welcome to Gamilaraay country.

Our people have lived here for thousands of years. We hope you will cherish and respect this special place as much as we do. Enjoy your visit.”

Sandstone Caves Circuit Sign

No sign of  Yowies, Min Min lights, or ghosts just yet. I was being watched by hundreds of eyes, but so far they were only of the small reptilian variety.  Later I was to wonder if something much larger was observing me.

Pilliga skink

The beginning of the track meanders through brown bloodwood, black pine and narrow leaved ironbark. Fires have blackened some areas, however, significant regrowth has occurred and after recent rain it was flushed green. On the morning of my visit it had showered, adding extra vibrancy to the sky, soil and rocks.

Sandstone Caves Circuit

Closer inspection of the forest floor revealed a great diversity of plant species, which change  through the seasons.

Pilliga Flowers

Many of these are used as bush tucker by Aboriginal people.

Pilliga plant

I came to a junction and chose the anti-clockwise direction which took me along a sandstone ridge path.

Sandstone Caves Ridgeline

Eventually, I reached the large sandstone outcrop and the first cave.

Cave carvings and grinding grooves

A series of  cathedral type caves and overhangs have been formed through thousands of years of weathering.

Sandstone Caves

Pilliga Caves

The startling textures, patterns, and colours of the weathered sandstone form a natural gallery and kept me absorbed for hours.

Sandstone patterns

It’s difficult to show with a flat picture but this is the conical ceiling of one of the caves.

Pilliga Sandstone Caves

Some of the caves also contain Aboriginal grinding grooves and rock carvings. These include etchings of emu and kangaroo prints that may be up to 12 000 years old.

Pilliga emu and kangaroo etchings

Stone axes were sharpened on sandstone, leaving deep grooves.

Pilliga Grinding Grooves

As the information board and brochures state, these sites provide a strong link with traditional times and the use of bush tucker and other natural resources remain an important part of the local community.

Sandstone Caves

The Pilliga Forest lies on vast horizontal layers of sandstone, formed by  sediment laid down by a series of ancient lakes. These layers were compressed and cemented into rock, and later shattered by volcanic eruptions.

Sandstone caves

According to the information brochure, the sandstone is up to 300 metres thick and stretches over 400 kilometres.

Sandstone Caves wave

These porous sandstone layers  soak up rain like a sponge and carry it west, deep into the Great Artesian Basin.


One of the many concerns about CSG drilling is that it may contaminate this underground water resource.

Sandstone Cave Sculpture

I contemplated how much time, energy, and activity had occurred  to produce the images taken by my camera that day. The patterns will never look exactly the same again. Even after one day some of the sand particles will be gone.

Sandstone caves

I also pondered the many Aboriginal generations who had gathered in these caves.

Pilliga Caves

It would be difficult to visit the Sandstone Caves and not feel a sense of awe for this ancient land and its custodians.

Curious eyes continued to follow my progress along the ridge.

Pilliga skink

Skinks were an important food source for Gamilaraay people.

Pilliga skink

Pilliga skink

As I rounded the sandstone outcrop, sunshine from the east turned the rocks a dazzling orange-gold.

Sandstone Pilliga

I understand why the Pilliga may feel like a scary place.  I expect darkness would give the scrub a completely different atmosphere and I wouldn’t relish a car malfunction on that long, lonely quiet road in the middle of the night. I am not doubting that it holds dangers, but for me it was like returning home. The Sandstone Caves Circuit was a place of warmth and light. I felt welcome.

Sandstone Caves

Even when an odd experience occurred on the return to my car, I felt no sinister presence. While focusing on plants by the path, my camera detected a face in the scene. Before I had time to consider what this meant, I heard a loud whoosh and the sound of something large moving in the scrub behind me. I spun around but couldn’t spy anything in the open bushland or in the sky.

Pilliga sandstone

Perhaps I should have been afraid, but the incident only left me puzzled.  I was still infused with the warmth and peace of the Pilliga Light.

Pilliga Sandstone Sculpture

Later, I was to read that the Sandstone Caves are only about 5 kilometres from a detailed sighting of a hairy, 7 foot, flesh-eating, human-like creature.  Yowie, ghost, native animal, or human –  whatever it was left me in peace, and I’d survived yet another solo walk.

It’s easier to destroy land we feel is empty, inferior, worthless, ugly, or dangerous – if we turn it into a monster. In the process, we may damage something beautiful and precious because we never really knew it.

In the same way, we can make monsters out of people, and of course, this renders them easier to mistreat, as in Anthony Doerr ‘s World War II novel.  What monsters we make of people and places when we need to justify acting like monsters towards them. How easy it is sometimes to lose sight of the light.

Aboriginal Sign

85 thoughts on “The Pilliga – All the Light We Cannot See

    • Thanks, Anna. It’s a very special place and my photos don’t do it justice. I know there is a lot of spectacular rocky scenery in your state. I’m hoping to make it over there for a short visit later in the year. 🙂

    • Hi Gavin. Yeah, it’s certainly easy to drive past. Just give the Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre a call for exact directions. There are many other walks in the Pilliga Forest that are worthwhile too. I had no idea it is such an important bird habitat. The best time to go is probably in the cooler months and after rain so the colours look more vibrant and the heat isn’t as oppressive. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

    • Thank you for those lovely words, Susan. From the highway, the Pilliga Forest may look like a forbidding landscape and after my positive experience, I really wanted to share its special magic with others. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the experience. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know, Jeff. I’m pleased that it helped in some small way to lift your spirits. Knowing this helped put a smile on my own face, so I really do appreciate your comment. Best wishes. 🙂

  1. Wonderful post Jane. I always love driving by the Pilliga, but had no idea it contains those dramatic sandstone formations. Cheers, Paula

    • Thanks, Paula. I quite like the drive along there myself. It’s better than city traffic that’s for sure! The Sandstone Caves are only one of the many treasures of the Pilliga. I’m really hoping to return one day and discover more. The Warrumbungles are high on my list. 🙂

  2. Such a good trip with you ! I enjoyed it all – even the near brush with …… something! I will try that book too….have you read Song lines by Bruce Chatwin. I read it decades ago but remember the power of it. The landscape here tells it’s stories too. Thankyou!

    • Thank you. I’m pleased you enjoyed it. Yes, I think I will forever wonder just what that “something” was! No, I haven’t read Song Lines. Since you’ve recommended it I will definitely look it up though. I’m always on the lookout for powerful novels and non-fiction books that leave an impression. Thanks! 🙂

  3. A wonderful post, Jane. You’ve made the Pillaga sound very romantic rather than scary. I love it there, and plan to stop in the area on my my next trip north. Unfortunately I want to stop everywhere and so if I had my way, it would probably take six months to make the 1,500km trip. I only have a month. 🙂

    I hope you make more trips back there. The Pillaga needs people like you to show it in all its loveliness.

    Kind regards.
    PS. I hope all is well.

    • Thanks very much, Tracey. Like you, I have many places I’d love to visit, but there just isn’t enough time right now. Maybe one day I’ll have the opportunity to make an extended trip. As well as the Pilliga, I also made a short visit to the Grampians and to the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park on my trip south. They’re also very special and very different kinds of landscapes. Yes, the Pilliga has much to offer and I’ll return at some stage. The Warrumbungles look impressive. I hope you have a wonderful time on your 1500 km month trip! All the best and thanks for your concern. 🙂

    • Thanks, Isabel. I’m pleased you enjoyed the photos. The Sandstone Caves are more impressive in person though. I hope more people discover and appreciate how much beauty and life the Pilliga contains. 🙂

    • I hope so too. Concerned groups are remaining vigilant in their fight to protect the area from drilling. When the national parks ranger told me on the phone that the Sandstone Caves were definitely worth a visit, I must admit I was a little skeptical, but she was right. They didn’t disappoint. Thanks for taking the time to comment. 🙂

    • Thank you. It’s only a short walk, but if you are driving along the Newell Highway anyway, you might as well take the short detour to see the caves. The road is dirt but in fairly good condition and my small 2WD car managed it easily. The Pilliga Discovery Centre will have more information about other walks and points of interest also. 🙂

        • I’ve never actually been to Lightning Ridge. I’ve a very old glass medicine bottle full of uncut opals that my grandmother found on a visit there many years ago. They are poor quality ones but I still like to look at them and hope one day to make it there myself. I should have visited the area while I lived out west. It’s a much longer drive now. 🙂

          • I found it a really fascinating place. We did a self-guided tour of an old mine, which was brilliant. I’d never understood the appeal of mining like that, but the visit gave me an appreciation of what motivates people to go there and do it. It’s worth a trip sometime, if you can make it (but yes, it’s a long drive from anywhere!)

  4. This writing was particularly timely for me to read. I’m dealing with a monster, and it’s been so hard to keep from becoming a monster myself in dealing with this person! I’ve also found that when I’m in a situation where my emotions have me feeling on edge, I’m more apt to take risks and tempt fate. But oh how this particular hike of yours was perhaps one of the most beautiful you have presented us with yet! This is a place I would love to visit someday. Your photographs were breathtaking and stunning!

    The paragraph describing a photographic encounter with a Yowie had me laughing hysterically! I can’t tell you the times I have thought the same about an encounter with a North American “Sasquatch”. Like you, I gather a lot of information about a place with sensory – it’s about tapping into the inner gut and feeling what the environment offers.

    I feel I might need to read this novel by Anthony Doerr. Like you, I’ve started a few books and put them away until a time where I find they really speak to me. I can’t tell you the number of times you have published a blog post, which arrived just when I needed encouragement. Thank you, Jane.

    • Dear Lori, I’m so sorry that you are having to deal with a monster at the moment and like you, I’ve found myself struggling not to turn into one in order to cope with the situation. Prolonged exposure to high levels of stress can certainly push us to our limits. We’re not robots. I hate conflict but sometimes it can’t be avoided with certain people. I find that exhausting though, because it’s “not me” to raise my voice or to lay down the rules in an authoritarian manner. I like to keep the peace. Or perhaps that is something we have been trained to do? There is nothing wrong with being assertive and confident about your need to receive fair and kind treatment though, so make sure you don’t admonish yourself for simply dealing with this person. I hope the situation improves soon, Lori, and am sending you virtual hugs. Yes, it seems we are much alike when it comes to taking more risks when a situation has us on edge. Sometimes that can have positive outcomes such as the Pilliga experience. I wonder if being on edge can sometimes give us the motivation and courage we are sometimes lacking to conquer a task. There have been times when I have thrown myself into a major house or garden project that I have been putting off for a long time because emotional turmoil has given me the energy to finally do it.
      Haha…I’m pleased the Yowie paragraph made you laugh. I was smiling as I wrote down my ridiculous thoughts. I’m glad at least one person understands my odd sense of humour. I always have a slight hope of seeing something like that while on my walks. Imagine finally capturing it on film! I’m glad you also have fantasies about the Sasquatch. You did make me laugh. I wonder how excited I would actually be to come face to face with such a creature though. I recently had an experience with one of Australia’s cute and cuddly iconic animals on a summit that had me suddenly screaming. Not my finest moment, I can tell you! All will be revealed in a future post. 🙂
      It took me many attempts to “get into” the Anthony Doerr novel. I’m not sure why. At first I was blaming his writing style, but in the end I realised it was just my state of mind. It has now shot up to be in my top ten favourite books of all time. Novels are so subjective though. People really vary in their personal responses. Given we are very similar in other respects, I suspect you would like the novel, but like me you may need to be in the right mood for it.
      Thanks very much once again, Lori, for your encouragement and for your openness. It is always lovely to read your supportive thoughts. Forgive me for taking a while to compose a reply though. I like to take my time to reflect. Once again, I wish you all the best in dealing with your current situation, my friend. x

      • Your replies are always refreshing! I laughed again about this Yowie comment. I look forward to this post you’re speaking of about something making you scream. I suppose it’s that weird sense of humor of mine! I just know you’ll give me a good laugh! Recently, we’ve seen damage from wild hogs on our property. I find myself half scared when I venture out to the west end of our property. I’m always looking for a tree nearby with a low-crotch so I could climb if I needed to seek safety. But I admit, the photographer in me would love to get photographs of the wild hogs, and the risk is one I would take.

        • Hi again, Lori. I’ve had plenty of experience with wild feral pigs here in Australia. Some boars can grow to huge sizes and the sows can be quite ferocious when protecting their piglets. I used to worry that my children might encounter one on their wanders. During lambing season, they would sometimes eat the freshly born ones, especially if the ewe was having twins and the first born is left unprotected while she’s giving birth to the second. Even though they are quite ferocious and strong looking, I still marvel at their “wildness.” I never got any good photos of them except for when they were caught in trap pens though. Farmers would sell them to companies that make sausages for the European market. Apparently, they prefer the leaner, stronger flavoured meat of wild pigs to farmed pigs. I am pretty sure I’d also be looking for a tree to escape to as well if I knew I was in their regular haunts! We usually saw them while driving the ute (tray back) around the property but they were too far away for good photos. I’d love to go out there now with my much better zoom! 🙂

    • Hi. Yes, it is interesting how much our responses to a book may be affected by location, time, and state of mind. Some books take me many attempts to finally read for that reason. It makes me wonder about book reviews and how subjective they are. Say, for instance, a person hates a particular book. Perhaps it just wasn’t “right” for them at that particular time or place in life. Perhaps if they’d read it at another time, they would have got more out of it. I find it difficult to recommend novels to people for that very reason, unless I know the person extremely well. Sometimes, when I reread a novel or watch a movie for the second time, I glean more from it. Like when dealing with people, I think we sometimes need to give books “second chances.” Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  5. I am sorry for your trouble and your deteriorating back but very glad that you stopped off to recover and gave your readers such a magnificent treat. You surpassed yourself with your pictures and as your standard is so high, that took some doing. If distant good wishes and sympathy are any use to you, please have as much of both from me as you want.

    • You are very kind, Thom. Thank you for your good wishes and sympathy. They are welcome and much appreciated. It always helps to know that people care, and distance does not diminish the sentiments. I am also very glad I stopped off at the Pilliga. Sometimes spontaneous trips lead to unexpected delights. I must say that my expectations regarding the Pilliga were not high to begin with. That made the discovery of the Sandstone Cave treasures an even greater gift. It was a pleasure to share this special experience with you. Best wishes. 🙂

    • Thank you, MaryLou. It gives me pleasure to be able to share such a beautiful and special place with you. I hope to return and make more discoveries one day. The Pilliga contains many hidden treasures. 🙂

    • Yes, I was also a little disappointed not to make my fortune from a Yowie encounter! Maybe next time? Haha. I’m always thankful to be able to share interesting and beautiful parts of Australia I visit. The Pilliga has much to offer and I hope to return one day. Thank you. 🙂

  6. Jane, I have missed you. Thank you for sharing your latest adventure with us. What a stunning place to visit! I do hope that whatever troubles you are facing they will diminish quickly. ~ L

    • Thank you for those kind words, Lynda. The Pilliga really did lift my spirits and I arrived home feeling refreshed and positive again. I’m very thankful I have opportunities for such adventures. Many people don’t have the means or the physical capabilities . I will keep walking for as long as I am able. The natural world is healing for me. Best wishes. 🙂

  7. The bit I enjoyed the most, of this out-of-this-world place, is the cave where ancient Aboriginals sharpened their stone tools. I’m so used to hear/see the monumental aspect of pre-historic archaeological finds (think Stonehenge, the Lascaux caves, petroglyphs in the Sahara and so on) that it was refreshing to see that the cave actually had a practical purpose! It’s obvious that these guys had to have a place where to make tools and to sharpen them, but it made them feel much more ‘real’.

    • I really would have liked to have gone on a guided walk with an Aboriginal Discovery Ranger so I could have appreciated the area more. The local Gamilaraay people still maintain a strong connection to the Pilliga landscape. Plants and animals are still used as food -“bush tucker” and knowledge is still passed on to younger generations. I recently watched a documentary about Aboriginal rock “art.” Symbols and handprints were often used in caves as signs to give directions towards such areas as waterholes, food sources, or sacred sites, and also to indicate who is allowed to go there. Some areas for example, were only for women’s or men’s business. So when you see rock “art” in a cave that shows some simple shapes, handprints or animal prints, it may well have very practical reasons for being there. The Pilliga Forest is a region which can have extremely hot summer temperatures. I assume the caves would have given much needed relief from the fierce sun. The outcrop also gives great views of the surrounding countryside. Yes, I agree that being in a place where you can see evidence of such ordinary practical activities such as tool sharpening makes the history feel less “distanced” from reality. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts about the blog posts. I am always very interested to know what appeals to different people. Best wishes. 🙂

  8. Thank you for sharing a thought provoking, smile inducing, story of nature and life big and small – and for the as always awesome photos, which make you want to go there.
    Best wishes for better back health and better news.

    • Thank you very much, Marina. I’m always surprised that people still read my posts when I disappear from the blogging world so often these days. I often think I won’t have anything to write about and then I do a walk that is special or see unique wildlife and I feel like sharing the experience with others. Nowadays, my readers feel like old friends really and it’s lovely to hear from them. I appreciate all the support and encouragement people like you give me. Best wishes. 🙂

  9. Your images of the rocks and landscape are superb (as usual), Jane.

    Those rock colours are amazing. Such beautiful shades of yellow, ochre, pinks, browns and creams. The watercolour artist in me was almost wishing I hadn’t given away all my sable brushes and tubes of paint.

    The rock patterns and erosion are almost like abstract art and I’m so pleased you were able to explore the area and share the experience with us. Looks like good weather for hiking too.

    • Thanks very much, Vicki. I loved the beautiful shades and patterns of the rocks out there and know how you feel about it bringing the artist out in you. I used to paint and sketch a lot in my younger days, but gave it up when I had a family. I find myself wanting to start it up again whenever I see beautiful abstracts in nature. I was actually thinking about using my images from the Pilliga to paint some pieces. Perhaps one day.
      The colours of the outback are often very rich and really appeal to me. The red sandy country is probably my favourite, especially when contrasted against a brilliant blue sky. It can be a lonely place out there, but also strangely comforting in other ways.
      Yes, it was a perfect day for walking. Rain in the morning gave the landscape a fresh appearance and cooled the temperature. It should have been about 35C that day, but it was only around 30C. All the best. 🙂

    • Thanks, Johnny. I must admit that I didn’t know it was officially Earth Day! That’s a nice co-incidence. I’m a bit out of the loop since I am not online much at the moment. Thanks for letting me know, and yes, every day is really Earth Day. 🙂

  10. Hi Jane. Great to see another quality Mildly Extreme offering. This was a very interesting post, I’ve driven through The Pilliga close to a hundred times over the years and I’ve always tried to avoid stopping there for a sleep, the place seriously freaks me out at night:) Your post and wonderful photos have opened my eyes a little, I had no idea what I was missing, I’ll definitely be heading in to check it out the next time I get a chance. (I need to get myself a ‘lock the gate’ t-shirt first! F*#king CSG). Cheers Kevin

    • Thanks, Kevin. I wish I could churn out hiking blog posts as prolifically as you. I think it’s 3 months since my last one. Very slack of me. I can certainly see why you’d drive past the Pilliga without stopping, especially at night. It doesn’t look very friendly and interesting from the highway and besides, you probably have limited time and are keen to get to the next destination. I was delighted to discover the beauty and peaceful surroundings of the Sandstone Caves and am glad you enjoyed the pictures. I hope you do get a chance to see more of the Pilliga. I purchased a huge map of the area which gives a good guide and I can send you some info. Thanks also for the wonderful (and adrenaline pumping) introduction to the Grampians while I was in Victoria. It was great to catch up with old friends. It’s a shame it’s such a long drive down there. I’d love to explore more places when I have time and money, especially the spectacular coastline. One day. All the best. 🙂

  11. Those sandstone colors and patterns are almost mesmerizing. Next time I hope you will be able to go with an Aboriginal Ranger, I imagine that would really be eye-opening. Drilling in such a place is a scary thought. But we humans seem to think that all the wonders of the planet are simply there for us to consume.
    I have tried to read several Doerr books and never get very far. I find his writing style off-putting, for some reason, so I am not sure that I will ever find the right time or mood for him. Take care of yourself and continue to search out solace in wild places.

    • Thanks, Brenda. Yes, it would have been a much richer experience to have been guided by an Aboriginal Ranger. I’ll have to see if a few friends or family are interested though as I think it has to be a group booking. Keeping the Pilliga free of CSG wells is important for many reasons including protecting an important species habitat, protecting the artesian water systems, and preserving/increasing the rights of Aboriginal communites. I do hope groups are able to keep the area safe from CSG wells.
      I know what you mean about Doerr’s writing style. I was on the point of giving up on “All the Light We Cannot See.” I made quite a few attempts. For some reason, after my social media black out for 2 weeks and the Pilliga Trip, I felt motivated to finish. After being frustrated at the beginning by it, it turned out to be one of my top ten books (in terms of impact.) I think that it is the sort of book that has to be read without breaks as it can be hard to “get into it” with interruptions. In the end, I enjoyed how all the pieces came together. It certainly wasn’t a page turner from the start though and I am not sure I would have got as much out of it if I didn’t have some German ancestry. Some of my relatives fought for the Germans while at the same time branches of my family tree were exterminated in concentration camps. So there was a personal element to the development of the character of Werner. I appreciated how the author took us into his world and helped give us an insight into his actions. It’s always lovely to hear your perspective and read your encouragement, Brenda. Thank you. All the best. 🙂

    • Thanks, Brian. I was wondering if you’ve spent time out there as I know you’ve done quite a bit of travelling in NSW. The next day I made another slight detour to Woollomombi Falls in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. It was about 40km from Armidale so not far out of my way. You’ve probably been there. It’s a beautiful spot full of waterfalls, ravines and alpine type trees. A total contrast to the Pilliga. It’s hard to believe the spots are only a few hours apart! Next time I travel south I hope to check out Gibralter-Washpool near you like I planned to do on the Red Rock trip with my daughter. Yeah, so sorry to disappoint about the Yowie pictures. Some mornings I look like a Yowie when I get out of bed before I have coffee. I could have just included a shot of me! I’m not 7 foot tall though, I guess. 🙂

  12. Those sandstone caves are absolutely beautiful! The colours are so vibrant and the strange shapes and patterns of the eroded sandstone are amazing. No human artist could achieve such wonders. Your photographs are excellent as ever.
    I am glad the short visit to the Pilliga soothed your soul. I am so sorry you have had troubles and heart-ache recently; may nature continue to provide a balm.
    I have missed your entertaining posts but I also understand the need for a rest from social media. Not only that, but blogs take time to write and we don’t always have the time to spare.
    Best wishes from me to you, Jane. xxxx

    • It’s always so lovely to hear from you, Clare. Thank you very much for your kind and supportive comments. The White Rock walk near my home that I do regularly has interesting sandstone shapes and patterns and I was expecting something similar, but I was blown away by the natural gallery at the Pilliga Sandstone Caves. I also had the place to myself (apart from Yowies and ghosts) which is rare these days on my White Rock walk. I hesitated about sharing the photos of this walk initially as I don’t want it spoiled by vandalism, but at the same time I want people to know how special the Pilliga is so that they would understand why it needs protection from CSG wells. People often understand the need to protect rainforests, but the Pilliga is a vital habitat too and very important to the Aboriginal communities in the area. I would have liked to stay there all day, but I needed to keep driving to my next camping spot before dark, a place in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. It is a complete contrast with deep ravines, waterfalls and some alpine-type vegetation. It always surprises me how much the Australian landscape changes so quickly on my trips. I hope you are well, Clare, and I wish you the very best also. I hope you are getting some time to relax in between life’s demands. Thank you. xx

      • Thank you, Jane. Life has been a little fraught since the New Year and there hasn’t been much time for relaxation. However, I am sure things will calm down soon and then we will be back to our walks and gardening.
        In the UK our current dilemma involves fracking. Our current gas supplies from the North Sea will eventually run out and we have no wish to have to buy gas from other countries eg Russia. There are apparently plentiful supplies of shale gas and oil but to extract it by fracking could cause terrible damage to some of our most beautiful landscapes. This is a problem that won’t go away and I suspect that the oil and gas companies will eventually get their own way.
        The Oxley Wild Rivers National Park sounds like another beautiful area. I enjoy reading your posts very much as you introduce me to so many wonderful places I never knew existed and probably will never get to see.
        Take care, dear Jane xx

  13. It took me more than a week to get through this, but it was well worth making the time. (I seem to hit one of those spells where life is just a bit too busy.) What an intriguing place. The colors and patterns were mesmerizing. I imagine even more so in real life. I do admire your attitude in approaching and ‘accepting’ the tales of strange happenings. I share your apprehension about bringing unwanted attention to such places. It’s pretty sickening to see some of the most amazing places being desecrated through vandalism.That’s something I will never understand.

    • Thanks very much, Gunta. It had been about 3 months since I’d written a blog post. I certainly understand how busy life can get. For some reason I thought it might slow down now that I’m in my second half of a century! The whole Pilliga region is a rather intriguing place. I watched a few videos and read many interesting tales about strange lights, beasts, ghosts and other happenings before I went there so I was wondering what I would find. It’s sad and frustrating to know such sites have been vandalised. I was hesitant to share its wonders, but while groups are still fighting to protect the area from mining, I thought it might be useful to share how special the area is. I must admit I was totally ignorant of their struggles and how important it is to preserve the area. I’ve always loved the colours of sandstone and of course, one of my favourite walks that I’ve written about three times is White Rock Conservation Estate which has a large sandstone monolith. The colours, textures, and patterns of the Pilliga Sandstone Caves are the most impressive I’ve seen to date. Thanks very much for taking the time to read and comment, Gunta. I hope life is treating you well. All the best. 🙂

  14. These series of photos leave with awe. Those layers of sandstone caught my attention and I was just amazed by its overflowing colours. Pilliga is indeed unique and beautiful.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, Alexa. The Sandstone Caves at the Pilliga are really special. I did not expect to see such patterns, textures and colours and enjoying a few hours doing what is only a very short walk. I would have stayed longer but I needed to get to another destination by sunset. Best wishes. 🙂

  15. Beautifully articulated…I’m currently reading the book. Your story and the pictures will surely remain at the back of my mind whilst reading the novel.

    • Thank you for the lovely comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the introduction to what the Pilliga has to offer. It took me quite a few attempts before I was able to really immerse myself in the novel as it’s written in a style I am not used to. However, by the conclusion I felt I’d gained a great deal from it. I hope you find it a worthwhile read as well. Kind wishes. 🙂

  16. What great rock patterns the ever-stalwart Jane has shown us. You’ve made me wish I could teleport there to see them in person right now. I’m sorry to hear about your travails but glad they gave you an incentive to visit Pilliga—and return to tell the tale.

    • Thanks very much, Steve. As I was looking at the patterns and textures, I was thinking how much you’d enjoy photographing them (and that you’d do a much better job. than me.) I’m sorry I haven’t been following along with your travels. I know you had some ideas/plans to visit some spectacular regions of Western Australia. I hope you made it over here or will manage to do so in the future. I could spend days marvelling over the geological formations in places like the Pilliga. Thanks again for your continued interest. I do appreciate your comments. Kind wishes. 🙂

      • No, we haven’t yet made plans for Australia. We did, however, recently go back to Canada, this time not to the Rocky Mountains but to the eastern maritime provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, along with the American state of Maine.

        By the way, it was great to see that long-ago picture of you and your baby, which shows the good side of way back then.

        • Ah, Nova Scotia, is the home of my daughter’s long time penpal and one day she hopes to visit her. It was interesting to read her letters and see photos of the region over many years. The extreme winter cold did not seem to stop the children playing outside! Stories of bear encounters were fascinating to us.

          Yes, while that period in my life was very challenging, the pictures certainly do show the joys we also experienced. The red road to the Sandstone Caves certainly brought back memories for me. 🙂

  17. Hello! I happened to stumble upon your blog after visiting these caves a couple of weeks ago with my family. I also had a strange experience in the carpark which later prompted me to research about the area (I had no idea about the stories) and this post came up. After completing the circuit, we went back to the car and my children were clipping in their seatbelts and my husband and Mum were getting ready to leave and putting things into the back of the car. I turned around in the passenger seat talking to them and said “Oh look, someone else is here”. I saw a young boy run excitedly/quickly across the carpark towards the welcome sign, disappearing behind the ute parked behind us. My Mum and husband looked confused and I said, “The boy, behind the ute… ” My husband looked around and Mum immediately went around the back of the ute but no one was there. There was also no car that had arrived (as I thought perhaps another family may have pulled up) and as you know that car park is very remote and initially when we got there the car park was empty. There were two other vehicles parked when we got back, both groups of people we saw on the walk as we went the wrong way around the circuit. Two elderly couples, they would have been about one quarter of the way around when we saw them. It was very strange and I certainly can’t explain it. I didn’t get a lot of detail apart from that I believe he was wearing a black long sleeve top and beige coloured bottoms. He moved quickly and it was a bit of a blur. No one else saw him… I’m not the kind of person to believe this sort of thing, but I feel a little bit less crazy that someone else had a strange experience there too.

    • Hi Jacinta,
      Thanks for sharing your own strange experience there! People have told me that the “thing” through my camera and then the rushing sound behind me was probably a wallaby, but I’ve seen and heard plenty of wallabies before and this was a very different experience. I had a distinct feeling of being watched, but didn’t feel in danger at all. I’ve never knowingly seen a ghost or such things before and tend to be a little sceptical. My experience near the Pilliga car park certainly left me wondering though. Your experience was more detailed than mine so I can imagine how much more puzzled you felt! As you say, it’s a remote place…there are no shops or other buildings. Perhaps one day you should revisit the area and see what happens? Another visit may stimulate your memory of his other features. I would like to return one day. There is certainly an atmosphere about the area. I didn’t feel like I was alone even though I walked by myself and it is a remote area. It wasn’t a bad feeling though. Thanks again for sharing your encounter! Best wishes. 🙂

  18. hi Jane, We will be visiting the caves in a little over a week’s time. How wonderful it is to have happened on this page – I have bookmarked as a must-read for my wife before we leave. Feeling moved by your writing and the effect it’s had on others. Hope it doesn’t dissipate too quickly – thank you so much! Will have to investigate that book also.

    • Hi Shane, Thanks very much for your kind comments. I’m pleased you enjoyed reading my Pilliga Caves experience and I hope you and your wife enjoy your visit as much as I did. I was lucky in that it had just rained that morning which really brightened the colours of the rocks and red soil. If the area is very dry on your trip they may not be as vibrant so I hope you won’t be disappointed. The scenery also reminded me of special places I lived in western NSW, so there was a very personal element for me also. Whenever I look back on the photos from that day, I remember the warmth and peace I felt. I should probably revisit the album more frequently. Safe and happy travels! Jane.

    • Hi Shaurilee. It’s lovely to hear from you. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I used to live out in western NSW and miss the red country. Visiting the Pilliga really lifted my spirits. It sounds like you miss Baradine so I do hope you’ll be able to move back soon. Thanks again for dropping into my blog. Best wishes. 🙂

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