Sunday, May 13, 2007

Caves to be seen

This weekend I took the 8 year old and the 6 year old to the Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. I can't believe I have never been there myself. It is simply wonderful and these days not given its due on 'must see' sites in Australia.

The caves are spectacular but very accessible (well apart from last 8kms of road which was a bit stressful -- but not seemingly dangerous -- with small cars being preferable). Formed out of limestone, as our guide said, "with theories plenty but no real scientific fact on their origins" there are many chambers; so much so that there are 10 tours you can take. The tours seemed pricey at $57 a family but where worth every cent. The tours were there, however, not so much for information -- although that was useful -- but for policing. Put simply, there are easy pathways through the caves and to let everyone just go would surely lead to ruin. So they are policed under the guise of a tour.

We went on the Chifley tour which took as through seven or eight chambers and after an hour we had traversed more than 400 stairs. Each chamber was more spectacular than the next.

The guide aspect is OK for children but the acoustics mean that no comment goes unnoticed. My 6 year old son let out the biggest yawn at the end of the very first lecture prompting some good humour from all, including the guide. Then at the end of the tour as we were guided to the final gate he let out a "Finally!" which went through at least three chambers. But despite these comments, this was a big hit of an activity.

We also learned some fun facts. For instance, one cave possessed an electric light that was installed one year after Edison invented the light globe. Getting it there was not an inconsiderable feat in the nineteenth century. But it just goes to show how speedy technology adoption can be if we really want it too.

We immediately moved on to the Nettle Cave. This was a 'self-guided' tour of one hour that you could take with an electronic audio guide. The children were having none of that. It was a more robust cave both outside and in and we traversed it and its 600 steps in a mere 25 minutes. Then again the 8 year old did whole The Louvre in Paris in 45 minutes when she was just 1. We like our sightseeing at a blur!

Anyhow, if you are one of our visitors to Australia -- especially those invited by me in the past -- and are wondering, why didn't you tell us about this before? Well, I didn't know. You will just have to come back.