Oz 4

Well, I slept as snug as a bug in a rug until Jamie clambered down from his heavenly roost at 8am. We have decided to swap alternately the sleeping arrangements. I smugly noted Jamie’s complaints on how he had passed a freezing and cramped night. There was frost on the ground this morning, but yet again the sky was blue and the sun warming.
After coffee and muesli I had a shower while Jamie stowed everything away for our journey today. You can’t forget about electricity cables connected to outside mains, water buckets under the sink down pipe by the front wheel, all drawers secured as well as the fridge door plus a dozen other things that you will undoubtedly hear as you first move off, if you haven’t attended to.

Pretty soon we had the SatNav programmed to the Jenola Cave System with Jamie in the driver’s seat. We hit the M4 again further into the Blue Mountains. We are already at a pretty high elevation, but we were to go higher. After around 20 miles or so we turned off the main road and took a very scenic minor road towards the caves. The first part reminded me of driving through Wyoming, or on a much smaller scale the Lincolnshire Wolds. Very undulating green and grassy, though here we have stands of Eucalyptus dotted across the panorama to give it that Aussie feel. Nearing our destination we began to rise even more steeply and the scene changed to forestry and dramatic cliffs with wooded valley way below. The road narrowed and in many parts was only just as wide as our vehicle. Luckily we met very few cars. We played a game of spot the kangaroo/wallaby. Annoyingly to Jamie, as passenger I saw the live ones in the forest and fields, he only saw the dead ones at the side of the road, and there was a lot of those!

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Arriving at the Caves through a spectacular entry via part of the cave system itself, we needed to put on the lights and wide enough for one vehicle only meant you watched carefully. It is a long weekend here so the place was already busy and though we were early there wasn’t a single parking space left, so we made one. We had six systems to choose from, so we picked what w thought would be the best and paid for our tickets at the office.
We had around 3/4 of an hour to waste before our conducted tour began, so we wlked down to the blue pool, apparently there are platypus there, but we only saw tourists and ducks. At the appropriate time we followed our guide into the system with quite a large following. The Aussies certainly do their ‘Health and Safety’ well, all steps, walkways. hand rails and lighting were in tiptop condition, despite  the very difficult route that we took. We saw the usual straws, stalactite, stalagmite and shawl features you would expect, plus quite a few I had never seen before and had them explained well. Well worth the visit.

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The tour lasted just over an hour and afterwards we took ourselves through a system that was free and unguided. It was still quite worth the visit. Next we followed a trail through a mountain valley high above the caves. We met very few people doing the same and after a mile or so we were on our own. The sound of the forest was a quite strange, the birds here do like to announce that they are around, particularly the kookaburra. We saw several bower birds rooting in the undergrowth and we surprised a couple of kangaroos/wallabies passing across our path. We have no idea how to tell them apart, we know one is bigger, but heh, we have seen brown, light brown, dark brown, and grey and the ones in the valley looked nearly black and different sizes! If I have to refer to them again I shall call them Kangawallies until I know better.

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We retraced our steps back to the caves and then back to ‘Shiela’.  We sat in the van for a while, Jamie had cold three day old bolognese out of the fridge and I had a packet of crisps before setting off on our return journey.
On the way back we stopped at the historic settlement of Hartington. There wasn’t much there; a court house a church, the Inn and a few houses, plus a blacksmith’s that sold ornaments on a Celtic theme. We had a drink of cider in an Aborigine art gallery before continuing on.

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We stopped again at the Edge Cinema to buy tickets for tonight’s film and to use their free WiFi. Back at the camp site , Jamie had a shower and started this blog. As it was the ‘log weekend’  the site was full and vehicles were still coming in as we hooked the van up to the utilities.
We dined out for our evening meal at a Chinese restaurant on the outskirts of the town. The restaurant was quite full, but they managed to find us a table. The food was good, but according to Jamie, “Too pretentious.” Though he had to agree it was tasty.
Afterwards we drove to the cinema to watch the film ‘San Andreas’. While we waited for the film to start we once again took advantage of the free WiFi. This is Saturday night on a holiday and apart from the staff we appear to be the only people here. I do hope everyone else is in their seats inside the Theatres or else they know something we don’t. The plan is for bed straight after as Jamie is hoping for a 6am start as we begin a 9.5 hour drive up to Byron Bay. We shall see.

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