A day in the Jenolan Caves

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Leaving the Colo river I was straight back onto dirt following the lagoon mountain track to Bilpin then up on the Bells Line Off road up to Katoomba. Having had no breakfast I was picturing a quaint coffee shop with a log fire and red and white chequered table covers with a dottery old lady serving but alas those days are well and truly gone and it wasn’t till the top of the mountain where the temperature had dropped considerably and light rain was starting to look like sleet that I found a suitable place to eat and change into something a lot warmer and appropriate for the new environment. Having satisfied the stomach I headed down the mountain for the Jenolan Caves, I last visited them as a young boy and had only vague I memories of them- mainly how dark and cramped they were. I figured everyone seems to stop to look over the range so I would head for the underground experience.
Leaving all my valuables with the rangers I took the River tour which was really different and an eye opener. For someone who doesn’t deal well with small spaces I marvelled at why anyone would want to head underground in the dark through tight spaces losing all sense of direction. Yes the growths were incredible and I got a real sense of perspective of time as these creations formed over thousands of years just by the dripping of water, however I could not imagine the explorers perspective with just a small candle for illumination. Still, the two and a half hours passed quickly and the hundreds of squats I did negotiating the the low and narrow passages stood me in good stead to apply as Kosac dancer!
Returning to the outside world I was surprised at how sweaty I was which should have raised some alarm bells however it was getting late and I was pushed for time so I fired up and took off. Quickly the warm sweat turned to ice and as the sun lowered for the day, taking any remaining heat with it I threw up the white flag and retreated into a pub at Taringa, around 35km short of Goulburn.
I have long had a kind of snobbery about staying in pubs, with their shared amenities and less than palatial rooms but tonight I was too cold to care and compared to my swag it was luxurious. Besides that the shower was hot and the water ran freely. Leaving my 6 bed room for the calling of dinner I enjoyed plenty of good humoured banter with the jovial patrons all in their Fluro shirts and stubbies before seeking some quiet by the fire in the corner.. It was there that I met Peter. A slightly built man, he was happily reading a book over a glass of red, apparently oblivious to the throng of activity around the bar. Intrigued by my array of maps we began chatting. He had just returned from a stint in Cairo working for the WHO and was researching for a book he wanted to write on the history of the region. Peter was a font of information and as the wines flowed our discussions varied from solving the world problems to debate on the English vs American novelists and the writing styles from Shakespeare to Salmon Rushty.!
Eventually I bid farewell to my new friend and retreated to my room, satisfied with my day, and the warmth and space afforded to me. It really struck me that if I’d driven and stayed in a traditional motel I would have just stayed locked away, yet being on the bike and being encouraged to “shake it up with the locals” my experience had actually been greatly enriched. Not to mention that for $70 I had been given a roof over my head and ample dinner and breakfast!

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