Chris and I sleepily forced ourselves awake this morning for our agreed upon 7:30 A.M. nature walk to scout out any platypus in the area. We spotted 2 in a little stream. Mom took an amazing video of one leisurely scratching himself. The platypus was unaware of her presence–they are very shy and spook easily, disappearing into their hideouts. She’s been emphasizing what a rare and special experience this was for us to get such a good look at two platypus in their natural environment-we lucked out. Another time, she and Bruce got up at 4 A.M. hoping to see a platypus and only Mom saw it, but the water wasn’t crystal clear as it was here at the Jenolan Caves, so it was nothing to write home about that time.
We went for a self guided tour of the Nettle Cave which was fairly self explanatory with numbered posts and an audio narration of the cave’s history and properties. Then we lined up inside the cave tunnel, the same one we drove through yesterday, to await our guided tour of the Lucas Cave. While climbing up the many stairs, it was disheartening to see kids, from a distance throwing rocks where we had seen the platypus, despite the sign two feet away from them stating not to. It’s sad that a couple people’s thoughtless and mean spirited actions can taint an otherwise fabulous experience.
The Lucas Cave was named after a guy that used to break off the crystals in the cave and decorate his home with them. He later redeemed himself after a house fire destroyed his entire home including all his crystals-he realized the need to protect the cave’s natural resources or there wouldn’t be any left. John Lucas was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Hartley who pressed the Minister of Lands to turn the Jenolan Caves into a reserve. Come October, the Jenolan Caves and surrounding areas will have been a protected reserve for the last 143 years.
The Lucas Cave is one of only several caves we could have toured, but we were intrigued by it as it has the highest chambers-the “Cathedral” Chamber measures 54 metres high. We listened to an impressive automated musical acoustics demonstration within the Cathedral Chamber of the Lucas Cave. Real concerts are periodically performed in this great hall. The length of the Lucas is 860 metres and there are a whopping 910 steps. It is also famous for it’s “Broken Column,” Jenolan’s most frequently photographed formation. Our guide pointed out another broken column, historic graffiti, and an old wishing well that is now green from the copper coins that used to be thrown in it, among other things.
A guided tour is a good way to get the cave experience. There were a few moments of mild panic as all the lights went out while our group was climbing the stairs up and down a narrow corridor and we found ourselves in total darkness. It must have been a trip to explore the caves with only torches back in the day. There were strategically placed lightbulbs all along our tour, but it was our guide who held the power of the remote to turn them on and off at will and occasionally by accident. It was fun.
It’s a cloudy rainy day and we’re now back on the road on our way back to Sydney. We’re taking a different way back-a scenic southern route past fields full of sheep and also fields full of wild kangaroos-20 or more/field, but I lost count. I guess they’re pretty common here-like deer in the US. Deer are not indigenous to Australia and we have not seen any. We did, however, see a couple rabbits and one fox, which also are not indigenous.
Mom and Bruce, who live in Alaska, have been listening to an Australian news radio show. There is quite a bit of interest in Alaska, since Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, was announced the Republican nominee for Vice President. Mom has not met Sarah Palin personally, though she did see her in an airport restroom once. Anyway, they were both amused to hear what the listeners who called in had to say about Alaska. One caller made it sound like Alaskans all ate grizzly bears..or that there are hardly any grocery stores…or the woman all dress up in costumes at the saloons. She said it sounds like the callers had only been to the tourist traps.
Then, on the radio, they began discussing lawyers and whether or not we should feel a little bit sorry for them since they make $$$ but don’t have time to enjoy it. Another caller said a former employer had once said to a group of aspiring bankers, “you have to think of life as a stovetop with only 4 burners-one for family, one for friends, another for work, and one for health. You can’t have it all. If you want to be good at something, you’ll have to turn off one-And if you want to be great at something, you’ll have to turn off two…”