Jenolan Caves - Adventure Caving

Trip Start Jan 12, 2009
Trip End Mar 07, 2009

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Jenolan Caves are an example of remarkable caverns in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia; 175 kilometres west of Sydney. They are the most celebrated of several similar groups in the limestone of the country being the oldest discovered open caves in the world. They include numerous Silurian marine fossils of great interest and the calcite formations, sometimes pure white, are of extraordinary beauty. Major portions of the caves have been rendered easily accessible to paying visitors and are well lit.

The mini bus picked us up at 9.30am and a couple of other girls from my hostel were also on the bus, I had seen them around but hadnt spoken so we got aquainted quickly. I liked them both but unfortunately they were leaving the hostel that day so no chance of beer later on!!

The driver was called Darrell, nice Aussie guy who told us about the day and the journey and then proceeded up to the top of Katoomba Street to pick up a couple of other people. I was the only one of the bus to do the adventure caving, everyone else was just doing the regular tours. Our journey took about 1 hr and 20mins and on the way Darrell stopped at a beautiful lookout place much further around from the Echo Point. The view was more stunning than before, the cut in the valley more pronounced and the line of trees more even. Darrell told us that a bush fire had ravaged the area 2.5 years ago. You could see the dead branches poking out of the top of the trees but I was amazed at how quickly the forest had regenerated. We continued our journey and Darrell pointed out landmarks and gave us a history tour of the route, it was actually quite interesting.

We arrived in Jenolan village just after 11 and we got given our tickets. Everyone else went off to do their first cave tour and I was given the chance to do a self guided cave tour with audio commentary. I entered the cave through the Grand Arch and lucky for me i was the only person on the tour (everyone else was in the Lucas Cave), it wasnt even busy at the caves and was a lovely hot day. I entered the cave and just sat by myself admiring this utterly gorgeous rock formation. There was nothing except the sound of birds and me, so so quiet and so perfect, I could have sat their all day. The caves were explored just under 200 years ago and to this day there are about 300 odd cave entrances spanning something like 40km of land. There is still a ton unexplored. Rocks have been formed by centuries of water flowing and dripping through caves, the minerals in the water acting like an acid to erode and shape fissures in the stone. After the audio tour i went to the blue lake which runs next to the caves. The water is blue from the rays of sun hitting the limestone underneith, its really stunning. Three Platypus live in this lake and I sat and watched for ages but was out of luck seeing them, even the park ranger joined me for a bit but he said they tend to surface in the shaded areas on such a hot day.

At 1.15 I went off to the guides office and met my two guides for the afternoon, Wendy and Sasha. We had a group of about 8 of us and we were given a good briefing to what our afternoon would involve. We were to descend through what was known as the 'Plug Hole' cave, considered a starting cave for people new to caving. Firstly we would abseil down into the entrance of the cave and from there we would climb, crawl and slide down to the bottom. We were all given blue overalls, hardhats with lights and abseiling harnesses.

We made it to the entrance of plug hole and one by one we abseiled into the entrance. The abseil wasnt massive but still a whole load of fun with some people bombing down and others petrified by the thought of trusting two ropes and a harness. I made it down fine and loved it. We then entered the Plug Hole and spent the next hour or so crawling through the tiniest of spaces, slipping down giant rocks and laughing ALOT! We were shown signature rock, a rock holding signatures going back to 1840 where the first explorers left their mark of discovery. Alot of the crystal rock was broken off of the formations to be bought to the surface, but the rock was so heavy that early explorers would adbandon their treasure when they realised they could not carry it (they didnt have the pleasure of trails, abseiling or steps, the first explorers entered plug hole down a fallen tree). So today we could see piles of dead crystal rock near the entrance, the explorers thought it was alive and would grow back immediately. They were right about one thing, it IS alive, but takes 100 years to grow 1cm and in some cases doesnt grow back at all. Today at the caves, conservation is at the forefront, and the tourist routes have been designed so that no touching is involved at all. Our adventure caving did the opposite and we touched alot, but none of it on the crystal rock.

My caving experience was immense and I loved every part of it. Wendy and Sasha were in their 50's and 40's and they said they even had jobs available for new recruits to work up to be guide and apparently it pays well...hmmmm!!! Its never too late. Thing is, I just love all this outdoors stuff. Given the chance I would do it all, It would be amazing to do more caving. They were running a trip again on Sunday but a half day and to the larger caves, but I couldnt get transport back to be there for 9am and a taxi would cost me a fortune so I had to sadly call it a day for this trip.

We returned to the bus and i was last back on, we stopped on the way back to see some wild Kangaroos at a park and we spent about 20 mins there just watching them basking in the sun. Lovely way to end the day.
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