SUMMER 23/24

MOONEY MOONEY MEGA CAVE
If we did not get your attention by the name alone, this short walk takes in one of the oldest art galleries on the Central Coast, a waterfall, rare native plants and a massive cave large enough for your whole mob to stay in.

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This is a great little punchy walk that covers 6.5 km, following access trails, rock cairns and little pieces of coloured ribbon. It’s a good cardio workout and could also be done as a short overnight hike with the cave a great spot to roll out a groundsheet and jump straight into a sleeping bag, no tent required!

The start of this hike is hard to locate, which adds to its uniqueness. It is not signposted and is found along an unnamed road. 

To locate it, follow the Old Pacific Highway approximately 1 km south of the Australian Reptile Park entrance. On the right there is a trail, turn here and park on the side of the track. To the left is a small locked gated that signifies the start of today’s hike. 

The first impressions are a little urban, you can hear the M1 motorway, there are powerlines crisscrossing the trail, and you’ll pass over the Newcastle gas line and its infrastructure. But on the flipside, it is close, short, challenging and can be done with little ones, if they are adventurous and reasonably fit. 

Walk around the gate, follow the trail beneath the small power lines until it intersects with the more established powerline trail. Turn left and follow for another 200 metres. At this point we are taking a little detour.

This is where the walk starts becoming worthy of leaving the café early this morning. Take the trail to the left. Again it is not signposted, but if you follow along for about 50 metres, you’ll stumble across an abandoned sandstone quarry. Some of the quarried stone pools look like ancient Roman baths and you can see evidence of where and how large sandstone blocks were extracted using drill holes and dynamite.

 If you like Indigenous petroglyphs (rock engravings), follow the trail for a further 50 metres to a site signposted as ‘Mooney Mooney Aboriginal Area’. It has 45 registered rock engravings spread over a wide area and is reputed to be ‘one of the most extensive art galleries in the Sydney–Hawkesbury district’. The site includes engravings of intriguing bulbous-headed anthropomorphic figures (one of only four recorded in the Sydney area). The quality I like best in these figures is that they are holding hands. Other petroglyphs include fish, bandicoots, eels and a huntsman equipped with a boomerang.
It is great to imagine the gatherings held here, the coming together of the locals, the First Nations peoples, perhaps to sing and dance, pass on traditions and history, perhaps to teach or trade goods.

I love sharing these moments with my kids. Spots like these are our history, to be respected, protected and most importantly recognised for what they are. We have mixed feelings about the fact that they are not well signposted, not overly visited, but perhaps this is why they are still here.
Backtrack to the last intersection and turn left again to resume the walk. You will soon arrive at another junction marked by a gas line sign. Turn left again, follow this trail down the hill, passing beneath the small power poles.
Along this section of trail there are many fascinating native plants, including a small endemic pink flowering spider grevillea, from which either the National Parks & Wildlife or the Royal Botanic Gardens are currently collecting seed. There are great little terrestrial orchids, native heaths and groundcovers, so be careful where you step. A little hanging swamp off to the left hides a natural spring.

Soon you will descend down past a gas monitoring station, and just past this on the right our little adventure gets a little more challenging. Marking the start of The Mega cave Trail is a small rock cairn. From here on in the track gets harder to follow, and some navigational skills are required.
Every five metres or so you will see a ribbon marker tied in the trees, these are now our friends and help us navigate our way along the overgrown and seldomly used trail. It is good for the leader to sight the next ribbon before moving along the track, this will save the backtracking if you lose the trail.
My son was using the All-trails App, it has waypoints and directions for those that are savvy with devices or a little unsure of using a map and compass.


It does not take long to come across the first of the caves, we called this one the mini mega cave. It is a fairly long but not very deep overhang. It’s a little hard to scramble in and out of, but well worth the look, we were there early in the morning, and the little trails left by bandicoots, reptiles and the easily recognised ‘S’ shape trail of a snake were still visible in the sand floor of the cave.
Another 50 metres along the trail, you’ll finally arrive at the Mega Cave. It is more of a giant overhang but is regarded as one of the best on the Central Coast. If you are looking for a short overnight stay in the wilderness this would be my pick. We passed no one or saw any evidence of walkers, so it’s relatively private and an amazing place to roll out a groundsheet and sleep in the open air.
We are light impact walkers: we travel light and adhere to the carry-in-carry-out philosophy. A small gas stove ensures a warm hearty meal and a cup of tea without leaving any trace of a campfire or the risk of starting a bushfire. The cave is highlighted by a small waterfall, large enough to stand under on the hotter days and cool off.
To complete the walk, continue past the cave, putting your trust in the small ribbons again. After a fairly arduous, but short uphill trek you will emerge on another powerline trail. Turn right and ascend a short spur. Taking a break on a little sandstone outcrop, you can catch your breath and view the huge Mooney Mooney M1 Bridge and the river below.
From here it’s an easier stroll back along the service trail, passing the gas line trail, and the turnoff to the rock engravings along the way.
This walk, like many others in the area is a great way to explore and appreciate our rich and diverse history. Please tread lightly, leave no trace and help to preserve our heritage and environments for future generations. This walk took us just over three hours with plenty of rests along the way, and an elevation gain of 156 metres.
GRADE: difficult. LENGTH: 6.5km. TIME: 3 hours
LOCATION: Brisbane Water National Park, Old Pacific Highway Somersby. Darkinjung Land.

WORDS JAMES LUTWYCHE

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