Secrets of the Basin Track (West Head)

Aboriginal engraving sites, a trig station and some great views over Pittwater in an off-track exploration of the Basin and Euro Trails at West Head. 

The Basin Track, in my humble opinion, is the least appealing of all the West Head trails. Servicing the Basin Campground, it’s partly sealed (to allow NPWS vehicles to access the camping area) and generally a pretty dreary walk. However, like a few other West Head trails, it has a few surprises if you know where to look!

Near the start of the track is the sign-posted Basin Aboriginal Art Site, which has some well preserved engravings with interpretative signage.

The 53 figures are clustered in three groups, with the main subjects being fish, kangaroos and wallabies, and groups with people.

One of the interpretations of this site is that it represents fishing and hunting expeditions.

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Continuing down the Basin Track, and hidden in deep scrub not far off the trail, is a quite deeply cut skate (or stingray).

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After about a kilometre, I veer off the Basin Track, towards the Euro Trig Station. It’s relatively easy going with the scrub much less thick than the horribly painful route up to the Bairne Trig! There’s some nice views over West Head and some large sandstone overhangs.

The Trig Station (TS2005 EURO) is spotted from some distance away, with its metal vane still intact a and rising above the low surrounding vegetation.

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What’s even more impressive are the sweeping views from the trig point, and from some rock outcrops just beyond the trig. An unusual surprise, as most other trig stations at West Head are hidden in dense bush. Below the trig you can see the Euro Track, and beyond that Pittwater and the Barrenjoey Peninsula.

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To the east and almost below us is The Basin and the small settlement of Coasters Retreat. To the north east you can see the Barrenjoey Lighthouse and Broken Bay where the Hawkesbury River meets the Pacific Highway.

There’s a few more engraving sites: a shield, and a set of what may be footprints (mundoes) – or may be natural erosion in the sandstone.

One of these sites is quite complex, and was described and documented by W.D. Campbell in 1899: “The principal figure is a whale twenty-three feet long, with a narrow double line at the base of the large fin; within and across the posterior portion of this whale are cut a large seal-like figure, three large shields, and a large fish. Near the head of the whale is another fish, and a wallaby, and a small circle, and what appears to he several unfinished figures.”

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It was described as “lightly cut” and “much weathered” over a hundred years ago, and it’s hard to make out all of the engraving. The most prominent carving is the seal-like figure which is within the larger whale.

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From the trig station, I descend directly down to the Euro Track below. There’s a long cliff line below the trig, but it’s not too hard to find a viable route down.

At the end of the Euro Track is the Basin Dam, which provides  water supply to the campground below.

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Heading back along the Euro Track, another off-track detour across a broad rock platform to the south ends at a cliff above The Basin. Perched almost directly above the camping area, there’s a great view of the enclosed inlet. Looking slightly out of place in the middle of the grassy area is a row of Norfolk Pine trees; these were planted in the 1930s: “Further improvement and beautification is also being planned at the Basin on Pittwater; an extensive planting of pines and palms suitable for the seaside is being made.

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I return along the Euro and Basin tracks, with the occasional glimpses of Pittwater from the Basin Track.

A last detour back to the trig station provides a last vista over Pittwater and Broken Bay…

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…and then it’s back along the service trail, completing an interesting afternoon discovering some of the off-track secrets of the Basin Track!

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Location Starts near the end of West Head Road, on the right
Distance 6-8km return
Grade Hard. 120m total elevation gain. Mostly off-track.
Season/s All year (gates locked 6pm/8:30pm – 6am)
Map/s 9130-4S Hornsby (1:25K)  Buy / Download
Resources

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