The Jenolan Caves

by Petra Bucheli

Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th May, 2019

Already at the last stage we vised the caves of Jenolan which lay about 130 km west of Sydney. We liked it so much that it was sure that we want to visit them another time.

With the fully packed car we started our drive to Jenolan. At the small artificial Wentworth Falls Lake we had a picnic. The kids enjoyed the two playgrounds and we the nice landscape. After the break we stopped at the waterfall which named the village. It was not that well visible from the viewpoint, but the view to the Blue Mountains was, as expected, bombastic.

But the destination today was not a beautiful view into the distance. Behind the mountains the road got more narrow and windy the more we got closer to Jenolan. Good we know alpine roads in Switzerland. The arrival is unique as we have to pass through the Grand Arch, a natural rock arch. Our accommodation was 5 km further, so we stopped and booked the tours for Saturday afternoon, evening and Sunday morning. After we drove to our accommodation, a cabin with a fireplace.

We got the keys and had a short look at the cabin, but very soon we went back to the caves. The Jenolan Caves are limestone caves which are the oldest in the world with about 340 million years. The European settlers discovered them in 1838, but for the aborigines they were known since ever as therapeutic bath. The first visitors use candles to find the way through the caves. But already 1880, when the tourism started, they used electrical lights in the caves. That was a few years before Sydney got electrified. Eleven caves and three rock arches are open for tourism, but here are more than 300 caves named so far in this giant cave system.

At the late Saturday evening we visited the Imperial Cave which was discovered 1879. Kiara originally did not want to go because she feared the cave. But the prospect of some sweets after changed her opinion. Beside many formations of dripstones we could see petrified sea fossils and the bones of a Tasman devil. The kids, including Kiara, loved the tour.

It was already dark when we went back to the cabin. After dinner Konrad left as he booked a night tour into the caves. I stayed home with the kids. After three hours he came back very exited of what all he had seen. First he met a wallaby on the road. The tour itself took two hours and led over parts of different caves to the spectacular Orient Cave, which is accessible since 1917. And on the way home he met a possum.

Sunday morning we change the roles and I went into the caves. We had a car rented by Konrad's employer and thus only he was allowed to drive. So all had to come down to Jenolan. My tour was into the Temple of Baal Cave which was discovered 1904. It has to chambers and in one of them is a 9 m high dripstone looking like an angel wing.

In the mean time Konrad went with the kids around the Blue Lake and ended up in the Nettle Cave. That is the only one which can be visited without guide. The direct way back to Jenolan is closed, but when you jump over the creek it is not much further. After the lunch together we went all to our last tour to the Chifley Cave. Here they installed colourful light in two chambers.

It was just bombastic and overwhelming to see all this different dripstone structures. Some grow down from the ceiling. For that the drop must wait longer than 6 hours to drip. Else it grows from the bottom. But here are some which grow sideways. How that works is not yet fully understood. Some are in sparkling white, some which are more in the air stream contain the ash of thousands of years of bushfire.

When we got how we saw a small rainbow down at the valley. In the early evening I went walking by myself and saw in the evening ambiance a few wallabies. Jann then also wanted to go and hoped to see a wallaby or a wombat. So Konrad went with him. He came back beaming as they also saw a wallaby.

On Monday morning I awoke so early that I could enjoy the sunrise. With a temperature of 3°C the first beams of sunlight warmed up. When everyone was ready we went to the Kanangra Boyd National Park. You will find in the next blogpost what we experienced there.