Hidden Cave Camping
Pindar Cave is an overhanging rock formation located in Brisbane Water National Park, between Sydney and the Central Coast, NSW. The cave is only accessible by foot from Wondabyne, and Wondabyne is only accessible by train or boat.
After nights of organisation and food prep, we set off bright and early on a Saturday morning with high spirits and heavy packs, fuelled by lattes and bacon and egg rolls.
In less than an hour we had swapped the familiar concrete jungle for the Hawkesbury River and surrounding bushland. The sun sparkled over the water like a glowing illustration of the weather for the day ahead.
Once we arrived at Wondabyne Station, the hike began right away with a steep incline of stairs which spiraled around the side of the mountain and provided breathtaking views. After about half an hour the trail then flattens out into what feels like a wide fire trail framed by a rainbow of wildflowers.
It is worth noting that there is little to no phone reception in the area, and the track can be quite difficult to follow in parts. We used the OsmAnd Maps app to make sure we were on the right route, and it was definitely worth the download.
After perhaps 40 minutes, the wide open track led us into dense winding mini trails where we found ourselves battling through spiderwebs and thick scrub, scrambling up and over boulders, and stopping every so often to check if the sound of the overhanging branches against our packs had torn through yet.
About an hour further into this enchanted bushland the scrub cleared out to a stunning lookout. The perfect excuse for a water and snack break, and of course the obligatory photo op.
Another half hour and finally, we arrived at Pindar cave. The overhanging rock can be seen from over 100m away, demanding attention in amongst the surrounding gum trees. My tired legs sprung back to life as I quickened my steps in excitement. I had been Googling and reading about this cave for weeks, and couldn't believe we'd finally made it. Insta-spam incoming, I thought to myself.
Well, to put it simply, standing inside the cave was breathtaking. The cave itself was far bigger than I had imagined, and I started to feel a little silly for making the boys start hiking at the crack of dawn to guarantee that we could secure a camp site. The cave has space for about sixty walkers to camp overnight under its shelter away from wet weather. I looked up at the awe inspiring gold tones of the rock as trickles of yesterdays rainfall drizzled over the edge forming little pools at the entrance of the cave.
Since we were so early (and totally alone) we decided to take our pick of the cave sites, set up camp and then continue the rest of the walk to the waterfall. As well as all having matching Osprey packs, it became apparent that we all shared the same love of Vango's hiking tents as well. I must say here, although the Vango Omega350 seems excessive (and it is), and yes, it takes up way more space than is ideal, but, if you've ever hiked overnight and become stuck in a storm, a porch area and a bucket floor to hang out and cook are pure luxury and absolutely priceless.
The walk to the waterfall is less than 10 minutes further from the cave. Hauling only chicken salad wraps, home made zucchini slices and water now, I was excited for a bit of a splash to cool down. Unfortunately, the waterfall was less of a fall, and more of a leak... Nonetheless, a very serene spot to dip your feet in the water and pack in some calories.
By the time we headed back to camp, the cave had become a lot more popular. A group of about 20 guys arrived, and the hikers kept coming into the evening. By nightfall hotel Pindar was at capacity and a couple of hikers were left to set up camp outside on the path. At least it didn't rain.
Despite being so busy, the cave didn't seem to echo the noise too much, and the evening remained pretty quiet but for the crackling of fires dotted along the dirt, and the clanging of rehydrated dinners disappearing from enamel bowls. We sipped our whisky and red wine from our picnic rug and laughed at ourselves for not packing any hiking chairs.
After a well deserved sleep in, we emerged from the Vango suites to find ourselves utterly alone once more. Every other hiker had headed out early, and I guess we missed checkout. Luckily for us it meant we didn't have to share the tiny overgrown return path with our fellow hikers.
The hike back was far more frantic than the leisurely hike in, as by the time we casually packed up and hit the track, we realised we needed to time our arrival at Wondabyne station with a train heading south. There were two options, hike like madmen to make the next train, or hike normally and wait over an hour. We got this. I told myself the cold beer will taste that much better (and arrive on my lips sooner) if we made the first train.
We made it in under 2 hours. We were covered in sweat and scratches by the time we saw the windy stairs which were once a uphill climb but now felt like a school yard slippery dip. We ran down, and made it to the platform with just enough time to collect the coffee cup we left the day before (there are no bins at the station) and take a selfie.
I was right. The beer was heavenly.