Into the mountains, maw!

Picture of the Day 41: Dogtooth Spars, Yarrangobilly Caves

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Today we headed into the mountains. Maw did not come with. Instead it was my sister, Robyn, and her two gorgeous kids, good Jordan and evil Abbey.

After a steep and winding hour long drive past Blowering Dam, Talbingo, up Talbingo Mountain and into the high country, we turned onto another steep and winding road to Yarrangobilly. Being a Thursday in the middle of January, I hardly expected the place to be busy, but there were plenty of people about. We got our family ticket at the visitors’ centre and took yet another (sigh) steep and winding road around the mountain to the cave.

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Good Jordan (left) and evil Abbey (right) in front of the Yarrangobilly Valley. Yarrangobilly certainly looks like a mouthful, doesn’t it? It’s said pretty much how it looks, with the stress on the “yarrango”,  which rhymes with mango. The cave systems here are dated at 5 million years old, with the caves at the top of the mountain being the oldest at 5 million years, growing younger as the descending path of the water carves new channels. The cave we toured, the Jersey, is the second oldest in the system at 2.5 million years, and is still very much alive, as you’ll see.

Looking at the mountains, the Yarrangobilly River must have been an easy hundred and fifty or two hundred metres higher before it began carving the mountains. It is now at the foot of a very steep and rugged valley, and it’s wonderful to think what natural structures may be here one day. Bigger mountains, or will they erode? We tend to think of mountains in terms of permanency, but this is not the case. Even the rock is moving, losing parts of itself in places and building in others. One day the mountains at Yarrangobilly will be gone, the caves with them, and something else will be in their place. Maybe high rise buildings?! I think this is why I enjoy exploring and touring so much; what is here now will never be here again.

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Small plants on limestone. Once our tour group was assembled, our tour guide, Grace (who I went to school with ^_^;) opened the narrow door in the limestone wall, and led us into the cave.

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Straws, stalactites and a stalagmite. The sheer magnitude of formations in Yarrangobilly is stunning. I don’t think any of the caves rival the Jenolan Caves in size, but in terms of things to see, Yarrangobilly is simply incredible. Everything is melting, everything is alive, except the bats whose tiny skeletons pepper the formations. The Jersey Cave, considered one of the show-piece caves, reminds you of a diorama of a cave; fantastic amounts of detail in miniature scale.

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Even at a dry time such as mid-summer, there are pools of water, throwing reflections, drops from stalactites forming their counterparts on the paths. The temperature is a constant 10 to 11 degrees. Abbey and Jordan agreed this was far too cold, but after the 38 or so degrees of outside, Robyn and I found it quite pleasant. I guess we could have stayed in the dark in the cave…. hell no!

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Shown here is the old path. Once upon a time the tour continued via these steep metal stairs. The stairs are apparently no longer regulation and cannot be used, even by the tour guides.

After a pleasant hour in the cave, Grace led us back the way we’d come (Jersey only has one exit). The exit is so narrow, it’s amazing anyone ever found the cave at all. Apparently it had to be widened. I don’t doubt it!

Lunch and ice cream at the visitors’ centre later, we grabbed our swimmers and trundled off down the 700 metre downhill slope to the thermal pool. I remember doing this hike with school once, and all I recall is the return sucked. But hey, I’m a mountaineer now, and no slope is gonna scare me. Jordan and I jogged ahead, Jordan calling first glimpse of the blue-green waters of the pool through the trees. Minutes later we were changed and in the water ourselves.

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The pool, said to be a steady 27 degrees, is pumped from a spring at a rate of 100 000 litres a day. From the main pool, it flows into a wading pool, then joins the Yarrangobilly River. The spring’s water is absorbed from the ground and an aquifer, follows small channels several hundred metres into the earth, where it is heated and returned to the surface.

The pool, 2.5 metres deep all round, is lined with algae and grass. It’s cleaned quite often, but the algae grows faster. I suppose it being a natural spring flowing into a river disbars the use of pool chemicals. Around it, you can hear the plop blop sound of the local frogs, and with the surrounding of the tall, thick eucalypts, it’s a beautiful spot.

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Intrepid adventurers Abbey and I made our way down to the Yarrangobilly River, where despite Abbey’s best attempts at photo-bombing, I got this picture.

All that was left after that was the hike back up! Ahahah. Well, I did it easily 😀  but we took plenty of breaks for the kids. Snacks were passed around in the car, and we hooked back onto the Snowy Mountains Highway. On Talbingo Mountain, we stopped at the Black Perry Lookout;

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Black Perry (which is the boulder pictured in the extreme right) contains a skarn deposit, which was formed when molten rock came into contact with limestone, cooking it. There are small caves dotted through the monolith. I’d love to hike out there… another day!

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Black Perry: the lookout at the end of the world.

We had a lovely day at Yarrangobilly. It was rather more robust than I’d expected, with the short hike, the cave tour and the swim. Of course, good Jordan and evil Abbey made it all the more fun!

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About Anneque D. Machelle

Anneque "Dangerpus" Machelle (rhymes with ranger wuss) is a rebel and a rogue from way out west. Strictly banned from interactions with other human beings, she spends her days amongst molluscs, dogs and lizards, whom she counts as her closest friends.
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