Bushrangers appeared to have a knack for hiding in striking places. Perhaps they figured sheer beauty would throw off their trackers. More distractions – colours, wild undulations, the play of light and shadow in glades and fissures and cascades hidden amongst volcanic landscapes. This appears to be true in Thunderbolts Way in NSW and at Bushrangers Cave in Numinbah, QLD – an outrageously beautiful spot. Or perhaps they’re just good hiding places.
I’d heard about the Bushrangers Cave walk, although I wasn’t sure how to get there, so I visited the Two Pines Café in Springbrook just past the Natural Bridge. Judy Diamond, who co-owns the place, was more than friendly and showed me the track on an old National Parks map. She then pointed me towards Marion’s place – near where the track runs – and I soon found myself chatting with her about the old trail.
Since the demolition of the Department of Primary Industries office on the QLD/NSW border, the trail has fallen into disrepair, but I was eager to breathe life into it once again. Before I set off Marion regaled tales of the time her past neighbour would stretch through the barbed wire fence to pass her baked goodies. The plastic covering the fence (near the start of the walk) still remains.
Heartened by such friendly locals, I took off, following the barbed wire fence the whole way. The walk starts in NSW but criss-crosses into QLD at various points, where time jumps ahead an hour before you lose it again in NSW. The track is barely visible in parts and I recommend you wear long pants. I didn’t and had to navigate through profuse patches of the invasive lantana weed and stinging nettle.
Ascending the hill, I found myself tramping amongst thick grass, wondering if I would run into either a black or tiger snake Marion occasionally spots in these parts. After travelling in this way for an hour or so, I arrived at Bushrangers Cave and found a geocache in the sheltered gloom. Inside the vessel was a plastic lion and a notepad recording various experiences. My favourite read “a very special day for three little boys – Eden, Flinn & Dylan.”
A pretty hideout
The caves looked more like towering waves, frozen in darkness than caves and the surrounding forest quickly became lush, wet and green. There were lots of marvellous things to look at, like moss covering logs in wonderful patterns and strange-looking holes in trees. The further along I walked, the more interesting things became.
Pretty soon I had stumbled beneath an archway into a lively crevice, which was just magical. A tree clinging tenaciously to life had sent its roots down a 20-foot cliff, sprawling across the wall in a woodland web. There were blankets of iridescent moss and clefts bathed in shadow and light which led higher up to the tip of Mount Wagawn. Further along, the overhangs became much larger and a gentle cascade saturated lush foliage.
The area beneath the rhyolite overhangs is capacious and I could see how this would have been a stellar place to hide. Bushrangers Cave is also an old aboriginal campground allegedly dating back 6,000 years. The place has likely witnessed many stories – dancing and singing in varied forms, fires and anxiety-filled nights under the shelter of the mountain.
I spent a couple of hours up there and would have liked more time, but I wasn’t camping the night and returned down the unkempt path. On my way back a bull gave me a death-like stare although there were two barbed wire fences separating us, so I stared back. I then continued through the tunnels of lantana and across thick grass, stopping to take in Numinbah Valley, which looked wonderful beneath a mottled grey sky.
Facts and tips
- The Bushrangers Cave walk is accessible from the NSW/QLD border on Nerang-Murwillumbah Road in between Numinbah and Springbrook, in Lamington National Park.
- Walk on the strip of land between the dirt road and Hayter Street and follow the barbed wire fence all the way to the caves.
- I took about one hour to reach the caves from the border. The going is fairly rough (a bit of bush-bashing). Allocate half a day to explore the site in all.
- The border access point is about one-and-a-half hours’ drive from Byron Bay and an equal distance from Brisbane.
- You can keep going from the caves to the top of Mount Wagawn (which I plan to do shortly). Both Judy and Marion walked from the caves all the way to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, which took them roughly ten hours.