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Reports

Sunday, 10 March 2002
--> Katoomba, Australia Ė cave walk

For you it may be a few paragraphs in this report, but for me this was something I will not forget very easily. Itís something you have to experience yourself; I canít describe the beauty of that, down under there in a few words only.

I woke up around 8 in the morning and had breakfast in the dining room of the Katoomba YHA. As it was Sunday, the thing coming up for today, would start at 10am, so I surfed a while on the web, writing some reports.

The driver of Fantastic Aussie Tours, who would take me along to the Jenolan Caves, 80 kilometres from Katoomba and 175 west of Sydney, picked me up at 10am!

The old man driving the bus kept on talking a lot to the ten-something passengers on the bus, mostly young backpackers. He only didnít seem to notice that nobody could really understand his half-swallowed Australian-English accent.

After a short stop at the Katoomba Falls, where we got to see the Three Sisters this time without clouds surrounding them, we drove all the way to the caves.

In the bus I met up with the Canadian vet-student Melanie, who basically became the driverís favorite as she fell asleep within five minutes, haha. We chatted shortly about her working/studying in Cairns and Sydney as an exchange and that she could only see the country of Australia on her own in the weekends.

The Jenolan Caves are wild, undeveloped caves, with natural unique and fragile ego-systems. These caves are probably the best know limestone caves in Australia. The bus drove through a cave and we arrived at the cave house, dating back to the 19th century, when all the caves in this area were discovered.

After a quick lunch at the bistro (it was already 1.30pm) I joined Melanie and another girl in a short walk around the caves, before our real tour into one of the caves would start.

We walked up the hill on a constructed footpath and we astonished by the beauty of this far-off valley. We saw rosellas up close, smelled the infiltrating eucalyptus around us and walked through small caves. Beautiful! We almost made it too late for the official tour.

The official tour, that I got arranged thanks to Channel 9ís scoop-protection-program, was a tour through the so-called Lucas Cave, riveting people with its magnificence for over 160 years.

A professional guide with a flashlight went ahead of the group of some 75 visitors and took us through all the magic places the Lucas Cave hides.

Inside the cave were nine spectacular show caves available for the public, ranging from easy walking to mildly demanding.

For many people this is was first taste of what a cave is like. I canít remember myself entering a cave, but I also canít remember that I have been to Australia when I was only 5 years old, so letís say it was my first time too.

The guide gave everyone a chance to catch their breath by explaining how caves have formed and the types of formations that are about to be seen on the rest of the tour. In separate rooms of the cave heíd turn on some special lights to highlight the beauty of its formation.

We passed the alleged Cathedral-room, the tallest chamber at Jenolan, measuring just over 54 meters high. Strangely enough a shadow of rocks created a cross on the top wall, a row of milestone columns strangely enough formed the altar and in the back there was space for a choir. Imagine now that humans have found this cave just 150 years ago.

Folklore tells of how early visitors were placed upon sacks and sent sliding down a large passageway, descending by the light of a candle. Fortunately we just took the safe stairs down. At the bottom was the Exhibition Chamber, which is the largest chamber at Jenolan, being about the same area as a small football field. And it is under ground!

And so we walked on from room to room. I had no idea where I was inside the cave, youíd be lost without a guide and youíll have 74 people thinking the same thing.

I saw crystal clear pools of water in the Underground River as we walked over a bridge 20 meters above it and fascinating flowstones on the ceilings.

It was 3.45pm when the tour ended and we all crawled out the cave. It wasnít that I had to get used to bright sunlight, but more to the heat outside.

A few minutes later everybody was back in the bus that took us back to Katoomba. When the driver started talking again I decided to fall asleep too, awaiting the arrival at the YHA.

As it was already dinnertime when the bus had arrived, I joined a table of three Americans who had prepared too much food anyway and invited me to their table. The rest of the evening I spent lounging around, writing reports, reading some books, watching television in the videoroom and contacting some upcoming hosts of mine. Outside it had started to rain and that was fine with me.

Itís pretty cool this way. I someway have a holiday during my travels and my Australian leg has just started. Tomorrow life begins again, as the Wonderbus will take me back to Sydney again and Iíll be staying with people who have invited me through this website.

Good night Katoomba!

Ramon.