In the literature, both in books and online, a lot has been written on the many passes of Narrow Neck. I was wondering how many know about the caves found on the Plateau? Narrow Neck is a peninsula shaped plateau jutting south from Katoomba that separates the Jamison and Megalong Valleys. For many years it has been a natural avenue for bushwalkers who want to venture south into the Wild Dog Mountains and Coxs River country. It is called Narrow Neck because it has a narrow isthmus near the start that connects it to the main Katoomba Plateau and another thin section about half way along – the so called “Second Neck”.
The history of Narrow Neck is rich. I have not heard of any aboriginal artefacts, art sites or sharpening grooves along it – but would be surprised if there are none. Probably the first Europeans to visit it were miners. There are quite a few old miners passes amongst those visited by bushwalkers today. Bushwalkers started visiting Narrow Neck as soon as the sport started and passes were pushed off Clear Hill and Carlons Head. A bushwalkers track formed. Campsites were established at Coral Swamp and Glen Raphael Swamp.
Narrow Neck changed for the worse in the early 1960′s when a fire road was bulldozed out to Clear Hill, the furthest point south. What was a nice bush walk became a road bash. One walker, Roger Lembit commented “Narrow Neck is good for the soul, but not for the soles”. Nevertheless, bushwalkers still walk Narrow Neck. Frequently on a Friday night or back on a Sunday afternoon. Indeed, some bushwalkers don’t regard someone as being an “experienced bushwalker” unless they had have completed at least 30 Neck bashes.
So what about the caves of Narrow Neck? A good way to check them out is via mountain bike, which is what Albert and myself recently did.
The first cave I know of is the renowned “Psyn Cave”. This name of unusual origin is pronounced “sin”. It is also referred to by some as the “Upper Psyn Cave” or the “SUBW Overhang”. It can be found on the western side, not far past the Climbers carpark (that leads to the old Waterboard Ladders). About 100m past the carpark, after a saddle (in fact the lowest point in the early part of the road), the road rises again and there is a short section of fence on the right (as you go south). At the end of this fence, look out for faint tracks heading west through thick scrub. Follow the best lead you can, over a rocky area and then down to a small cliff. This is about 60m from the road. Find a faint gully going through the cliff line and look for the track. At the bottom, head back left (south) and the cave can be found 20m or so around. It is level, can sleep about 10 people and has a waterfall at the far end. The cave is in quite a sheltered little nook. Now the name. In SUBW (Sydney University Bush Walkers) folklore, certain past members of the club would entertain young fresherettes in the cave, on a Friday night, on walks to Mt Solitary or the Wild Dog Mountains. And it wouldn’t do to have “Sin Cave” on the club walks program, especially if it was looked at by concerned mothers.
At Coral Swamp, can be found the next cave. Coral Swamp is an old campsite used when the track went along the Neck. For those who couldn’t be bothered putting up their tents there was a convenient cave nearby. It is only small, sleeping about 4 people, but is very sheltered. It is on the eastern side – opposite the Coral Swamp turn off. It is very close to the road, perhaps 30m or so, again down a slope, but through a lot of fallen bark and branches with no track now. Head down and look for a small bluff on the right, the first one you come to. The cave is in that bluff.
Th other two caves I know of that are close to the road, are the one at the Second Neck. It is an overhang under on of the large boulders reached as you climb up from the lowest part of the Second Neck. It is not much of a cave, but does offer some shelter from wind and rain. Next is the cave at the end of the Neck, close to Clear Hill. It lies on the descent route to Tarros Ladders. It can be found about 20m past the steel ladder that goes down a defile at the start of the route. The cave is fairly small, can sleep about 4 or 5 and is exposed to the westerly wind.