Saturday, February 18, 2012

Jenolan Caves and the Blue Mountains

We headed towards Jenolan from Abercrombie National Park - cutting across through pine forests and logging tracks, then heading down, down, down a massively steep and winding road to reveal the Jenolan Caves precinct. We were expecting to find a blip on the map type locality, perhaps a few caves to poke around in, somewhat like the Buchan Caves back home in Gippsland. How wrong we were...

There was a massive hotel and function centre for weddings and conferences, a tourism centre and the whole thing seemed to be fairly privately run - with cave tours going on the hour for up to $45 per person. The cave system was also a big surprise, they aren't just a few holes in a mountain, they were a series of caves through what millions of years ago was a great sea, now the coral and sand had become limestone. The caves have over 360 entry points, that they know of (some are still being discovered).

We walked through the Grand Arch which was impressive, with a road going through the mountain. We walked up into the Devils Coach House cave and then did a short walk around the Blue Lake. 

After umming and aahing over whether we would do a cave tour or not, if it was worth it, we decided to lash out and do the Lucas Cave tour. And we are so glad we did! It was fantastic, very impressive. We climbed up and up concrete stairways and through tunnels to reach a series of open spaces and a huge 'cathedral' complete with lighting and sound effects.

Matt couldn't get over the infrastructure inside the caves, perfect concrete walkways, steps and bridges throughout and stainless steel handrails the whole way. Not to mention the lighting, there were lights everywhere highlighting special areas of interest and lighting your way. Matt was pretty busy checking out all the conduit rather than the stalagmites!

From Jenolan we headed to Blackheath - but after how long we took at the caves, which we hadn't intended on, the day was getting away. We pulled into a visitor centre to enquire about some camping spots, having roughly decided where we would stay we went to Govett's Leap lookout. Wow!

Right at this point my camera decided to have a melt down (and thus me have a melt down) - still not sure what is wrong with it, something to do with my wide angle lens. Anyway, we walked down to Bridal Veil Falls which was stunning yet scary! The cliff edges had me wanting to hightail it out of there, but the views were amazing.

We made our way back to Blackheath and down along the Megalong Valley, through pretty gullies and  found a great campsite by a creek, nobody else around, no rain and we had a fire. And we had mobile reception! With a plentiful supply of water we had hot showers in the morning as well as a cooked breakfast before heading down to Katoomba. A thick fog and misty rain rolled in. Bloody Blue Mountains. There was no hope of seeing the Three Sisters in the fog!!! After a quick trip to the supermarket, Kmart and a treat for me - a coffee in a cafe! Oh la la. We waited for the fog to lift and it finally did at about lunchtime (when we wanted to be leaving Katoomba). We headed down to Echo Point again, along with every other tourist it seemed. We could see the Three Sisters and the valley below now...

We walked down to the base of the first sister, very steep stairs. The full walk down further was closed due to a landslide. We headed back towards Blackheath and went to check out Pulpit Rock. I was feeling quite ill with a strange stomach cramp/ache, not very well at all. No matter, did the short walk down to Pulpit Rock and so glad I did! Best view yet with amazing platforms out on the edge of the cliffs. Can't imagine how they built them there, made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!

Back on the road and getting late again (3.30pm) so weren't sure how far we would get. We were hoping to get to Scone today but fog delayed us. Drove through Lithgow and headed towards Mudgee - decided we could stay at Goulburn River National Park but it would be a bit of a drive. Finally pulled up at fairly isolated campsite just before dark. 

Today we have a big day of driving as we are headed for Lismore to see a friend who Matt went to uni with, Gus, and his girlfriend Hayley. We were up at 5.45 and on the road by dawn. Currently driving along the New England highway, almost at Tamworth. We have 650km to do today, our most yet but not much to see through here other than farmland and nice old towns. Matt has been getting pretty excited about good cattle country, giant wool sheds and enormous centre pivots so far - I thought about driving up a few of these driveways to see if they needed a manager!! The Bylong Valley and Liverpools Plains are beyond amazing for farm-heads like us - you can almost see the food jumping out of the ground, the ground looks so productive. It was also a bit sobering and saddening through driving through this absolute wonderland for farming and knowing that it is at such risk from coal seam gas mining.

So, in Lismore tonight with Gus and Hayley before heading west to Goondiwindi where I might be taking some photos for a few families which would be fun!

P.S. This was actually written a few days ago now - I've only just got to hit publish as we have reception! I will hopefully update again soon :)


  1. wicked couple of days, Em. Great country, eh!? x

  2. Looks like you are having an awesome trip!

  3. awesome pictures of the blue mountains!! :)