Today’s off-track adventure is a search for two Aboriginal rock art sites. The first site has a description from the last visit in 1993 of an engraving thought to be a koala, and access notes that suggest: “Boat, wade or swim to the western end of the Basin”. As I don’t own a boat and it’s a bit chilly for a swim, the only remaining option is an off-track overland approach! It’s slow but steady progress through the thick and low scrub, as we head north off the Bairne Track towards The Basin. A few rock platforms are interpersed through what is otherwise a large expanse of the typical dry heath vegetation common to the shallow sandy soils of West Head.
I’m not complaining though… it’s much easier going than my trip through the denser and higher scrub encountered when visiting the Bairne Trig almost exactly a year ago. It’s also reminder of how much the bushland has changed. An old National Parks brochure from the 1970s describes the Bairne Track as being “An easy walk with excellent views from Bairne Trig”. Now, as you emerge scratched and battered at the old Bairne trig station, you’re lucky to see about five metres in any direction.
We finally reach the Basin Koala engraving site, which has a large fish… and a second fish, which was mistaken for a koala in the original site recording.
From here we continue east until we reach some enormous cliffs. It’s a reminder of another lesson learnt from off-track bushwalking: the topographic maps are not always accurate. Although these cliffs must be close to 50m high with an almost vertical rock face, there’s no cliff marked on the map: the contour lines merely show a steep slope.
At the base of the cliffs is an impressively long rock shelter, many metres high and equally deep. A thick layer of sand suggests thousands of years of gradual erosion of the sandstone. Referred to as the Granite Cave, the long shelter contains a number of Aboriginal charcoal drawings.
This is our second and (almost) last stop for today’s expedition, as we scramble back up around the cliffs. As we make our way up to the Bairne Track, we head for a small outcrop. It’s the highest point in the area, and perhaps the site of some more Aboriginal engravings. No sign of any more rock art is found – but some nice views over Pittwater, towards Barrenjoey Head, make for a nice end to our bushwalk.
More information on Bairne Track
- Bairne Trig Station bushwalk – another off-track route
- Bairne to Basin Circuit – a challenging loop connecting Bairne Track and Basin Track
Guide to West Head