Day Four - Moree to Narrabri to Pilliga Pottery
2 hours 47 minutes, 212 km
Hacky sack count: 5 - Getting less better
Overall Grade: A
Woke up early and joined the morning rush at the pools before heading into town to compare the local thermal baths against those of the Carapark. It's a renovated complex that sits on the site of one of the original bores which still bubbles away out the front. There are a number of pools to swim in and a colourful kids area that also operates a huge water slide on weekends and school holidays. It’s strange to see old folks walking about the caravan park with swimmers during the freezing cold night, but in Morree it’s just another chilly night comfortably passed in 39 degree thermal pools. A great place to hang out, start the day, or just sit, relax and take it all in. Entry is $8 per adult of $25 for the family.
In town, the Yaama gallery is also definitely worth a stop in. Toby (of Will and Toby fame for Sydney Siders) has relocated to his childhood town of Moree and opened a community-focused Aboriginal Art gallery that sources work from remote communities across Australia, while training and employing local aboriginal teenagers in its adjoining café – which is well worth a in stop for a good coffee.
From here we travelled south through several one-petrol-station towns and out to Mount Kaputar National Park to see Sawn Rocks, located 30km off the Newell Highway on well-sealed roads. It's an easy 20 minute walk to an amazing cliff face of 40-metre-high basalt organ pipes - a reminder of Mt Kaputar's volcanic past.
Lunched in Narrabri at the local bakery – Watson’s Kitchen, where I almost convinced Jenny to buy their award winning damper dip (for only $8) on the premise we could cook it in the fire. We then jumped back in the car and enjoyed an afternoon’s stop at the sandstone caves in the Pilliga Nature Reserve which went as follows:
As the sun lowers on the horizon we rush past two retirees having their afternoon tea and cake in the car park to catch the last of the afternoon sun. We’re here to see (silhouetted against the sun to the west) the sandstone outcrop once home to the Gamilaroi Aboriginals sitting atop a hill overlooking the Pilliga Nature reserve. The site showcases signs of Aboriginal habitation in the form of tool markings and rock art that date back tens of thousands of years.
It's all scraggly bush and scrub, and then suddenly there stands a massive sandstone cliff looming above, weathered smooth by years of erosion. There are intricate patterns, arches, overhangs, and cavities leading through to other areas; a veritable playground forged by wind and water over countless years.
As we round the first half of the outcrop we're greeted with the sun low on the horizon, splashing ochre hues across the rock outcrop, and I can understand why the Gamilaroi chose this as their home. It's deeply regrettable that some of the artwork is screened off due to vandals in the early nineties, but it's still amazing to see emu and kangaroo prints from 10,000 odd years ago clearly chiselled into the rock.
Blink and you'll miss the signs, but if you're 75-80 km North of Coonabarabran of an afternoon then I definitely recommend you make the time. Look out for a small white Yaminbah Trail sign.
We spent the night at Pilliga Pottery (open 7 Days, (02)6842 2239, pet friendly) where we were looked after by the lovely Maria. Enjoyed traditional wood fired pizza in their kitchen, and a lovely fire in the guest house - previously an artists residence - before a cosy night tucked up in bed. It definitely had a friendly kinda-bohemian vibe. There is an extensive studio workshop, gallery and cafe surrounded by the Pilliga forest, a key inspiration to their work. The pottery is handmade onsite, which is also where the clay is sourced.
‘The Pillage Pottery Experience’ (as I like to call it) goes as follows; "Yeah come and stay," says Maria over the phone as we do our now regular impromptu enquiry the morning before we’re set to arrive. No Questions asked… I tell her we'll be there early afternoon. So, a little later than scheduled (think the sun has set and it’s basically dark) we pull up and are shown to a lovely room - The Studio - christened after its previous life as an artist’s studio.
There's thick log furniture, immovable chairs that appear as if they've been hewn from a single tree, two spacious bedrooms with multiple beds, and an old 40 gallon drum converted into a fireplace in the middle of it all. It's a lovely little house that one can imagine inspired many a lively discussion between passionate artists and creators.
Couple all this with the farmstay option – where we’re rustled from sleep at 7:30am to assist milking the cows, or to work the forest with the volunteer WOOFAs (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) - and it makes for a memorable stay. I can certainly understand why it's come up a number of times as a must do in the area.
Depending on what you're after it’s possible to try your hand at pottery classes, get involved with the routine farm activities or stay longer and help out as one of a numerous transient WOOFAs that pass through the property.
Pilliga Pottery is defiantly worth the stop and tell Maria that we sent you… you never know you might get special treatment.
Average per night stay ranges from $15 per couple per night for camping- $8 for a single (absolute steel) to $140 per night per couples in the Eagle Valley Cottage – which includes a fireplace, kitchen and all the creature comforts. There’s also a few other VANtastic options. Check them out at BARKALA FARM STAY