Kangaroos and Caves!

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Saturday, October 1, 2011

On our days off we have started exploring New South Wales a bit more as we have now done a lot of the top things to do in Sydney City. As we are able to borrow a car we've been lucky enough to travel out of the city and into the more rural areas of NSW which is such a beautiful state.

Last week we drove to the Blue Mountains and on to the Jenolan Caves, which are considered the best caves in Australia and they're the certainly best caves I've ever been to. The caves are way off the beaten track, you have to drive for another hour beyond the Blue Mountain town of Katoomba down a narrow, winding mountain road to the middle of nowhere. The road is called the Jenolan Caves road and I don't think there is much else in that area as we didn't see any cars all the way there. The lack of cars made us think the caves would be deserted but when we got there, there was a full car park and lots of people roaming around.

The Jenolan caves is made up of a large series of caves that have daily tours, a couple that are free and also a whole load of caves that haven't even been explored yet. We started with the free tour and wondered around with handsets which explain the history of the caves and how they were discovered. It was funny to see the comparison with the caves we went to in Borneo. In Australia there are safety signs all over the place, proper walkways and the caves are well lit in the main chambers, it's all very safety conscious.... the polar opposite to Borneo where safety is secondary to the adventure. In Borneo we had mining hats and were on the hunt for cave scorpions in the dark which was a little different to the well organised and well lit tour in Australia. We went on the river tour which explored the deeper caves down to where the river still runs through, which was fascinating. You can actually see how the river has carved out the shape of the caves over time. It was also interesting to think of the original explorers who would have been exploring uncharted territory using a candle for lighting, we saw some pictures of them and they were exploring in what looked like business suits. If the candle went out then they would have to wait until help came as it is complete darkness, so dark that your eyes can't adjust. Apparently it's the same as you experience in sensory deprivation so you become completely disorientated which must have been terrifying. We agreed that we would be useless cave explorers and it suits us much better to go on a safe organised tour.

It was great being in the middle of the mountains, off the beaten track as we saw loads of kangaroos on route. We had to play dodge the Kangaroo in the road as they jump into the road with no warning. While we were at the caves we saw a swamp wallaby who was hanging around by our car eating all the plants near the caves. We also saw our first glimpse of wombats, they were lying upside down at the side of the road having been hit by cars.... not as exciting. The Blue Mountains are beautiful so we'll definitely have to head back there before we leave.

This week we headed south to an area called Kangaroo valley, advertised as Australia's most beautiful valley. We were hoping to see some more wildlife along with the beautiful scenery. The name Kangaroo Valley gives you fair hope of seeing at least one Kangaroo. After about 2 hours getting out of Sydney (there are traffic lights every 50 metres and I swear they're always red), we then got onto the highway and could make our way out into the countryside. The area around Kangaroo Valley is stunning and the scenery changes every few kilometers from small towns, to thick forest and then lush green fields like we see in England. It was really beautiful and a lot of fun to drive around. We explored the Fitzroy falls and then drove up to the top of one of the lookout hills and had lunch overlooking the valley. The view was incredible as we could see all the way out to the sea where there is a beach with the whitest sand in Australia - we intend to visit that beach on a nice day. 

We spent the day exploring the area mostly by car and spent a bit of time in a small town called Berry where there was a shop called "The treat factory" selling loads of chocolate, toffee, fudge and even Yorkshire tea! So Katy was pretty excited about that, but we didn't buy any as it was about 3 times the price of Yorkshire tea back home. To be honest it felt a bit like exploring English countryside towns, until you see a kangaroo in the field and are reminded that we're in Australia.

 As we left the town of Berry, Katy spotted a field full of Kangaroos and shouted at me to "STOP." We parked up and ran to the field, cameras at the ready. Katy took a few pictures but I wanted to have a picture with the Kangaroos so started walking slowly over to them. I turned around expecting Katy to be taking the photo and saw her shaking her head at me. I turned around again and all the Kangaroos had left... my bad!

So having scared the Kangaroos away we continued, heading for a picnic and camping spot in an area called Bundeela. We had read that if we wanted to see wildlife this was our best place to go to see some (in particular a good spot for wombats). We wanted to head there just before sunset as that's when we've seen the most animals so far, especially kangaroos and wallabies. As we got to within about 3 miles of the picnic spot, again Katy shouted at me to stop as she had spotted a wombat on the side of the road. We were so excited and took loads of photos of him, we'd seen a couple of wombats but they were dead having been hit by cars so this was a much much better chance to see a wild wombat. Then when we arrived at Bundeela we were spoiled by choice. On the green was a herd of Kangaroos including two that had Joey's in their pouch as well as 3 more wombats eating the grass. It was so exciting and we got some fantastic photos with the wombats, it was an amazing experience!

After seeing the wombats we started making our way back via a lookout called Manning lookout which had even more brilliant views over the valley. On the way we saw a few more fields of kangaroo's and then we saw an Echidna scuttle across the road and again Katy went running over with her camera to be sure we had evidence. After the snake episode where we didn't get a photo we're not taking any chances. It's unbelievable how much wildlife we've seen since we've been in Oz, I guess next on the list has to be a wild koala but not holding out too much hope of that.
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