Day 2 of our trip to the Blue Mountains involved a trip to the Jenolan Caves. The caves are billed as the oldest in the world and the largest, most spectacular caves in Australia. As we have Kents Cavern nearby to us in Devon – would the Jenolan Caves be better? We thought they would be worth a look so we could judge for ourselves.
They don’t do online booking and only sell tours as and when people either rock up (‘scuse the pun) or call to book; this is a bit tricky as the Caves are about 1.5 hours away from most of the other sights in the Blue Mountains, so its a bit of a risk just to arrive and hope for the best. So we called to book. However the guy on the phone was a bit vague about whether they were busy that day, whether there may still be spaces available later on (when we planned to arrive), and whether he could actually let me book a tour over the phone. The cave we wanted to see may, or may not, be opened for booked tours later that day. It all seemed to depend on demand… Anyway, we eventually managed to book places to see a different cave and duly drove the distance, arriving via a field of wallaby’s (with baby Joeys peeking out of pouches!) and a long, winding, beautiful mountain road.
As we arrived slightly early, we Brooks’ decided to do what we do best – go and explore the area and see what we can find. There were signs everywhere pointing to various sight-seeing points. Rosie and I found a lovely winding staircase which went up, up, up and had the most beautiful view at its peak – looking out over the Cave’s lake and woods. Soon the boys joined us and then went off exploring some other staircases, that appeared to lead into the caves – what a treat – a private self-guided tour! There didn’t seem to be any other tourists around to join us in our exploring fun, which was a shame, as this area seemed to be a nice find! That was, until a door we hadn’t noticed, opened, and one of the Official Cave Tour Guides appeared, along with 100 tourists behind her. She didn’t look too pleased to see us, so at this point, I deftly ascended the (steep) stairs as quickly as possible, leaving Aaron and the children to get a proper telling-off: for breaching private property, ignoring ‘No Exit’ signs and blocking an organised, paid-for tour. My family were curtly told to ‘stand aside’, whilst the official tour group passed through.
Despite trying to hide at the top of the stairs in the narrow passage-way overlooking the lake, I was obviously naughtily giggling a bit too loudly, and then I too then was accosted, and got the very same telling off. I had to endure the shame of the 100 tourist’s pitying faces, as I stood, trying to explain that I could follow instructions and that I was certain there weren’t any ‘No Exit’ signs to be seen at the bottom of the stairs we had climbed (wasn’t actually 100% sure about this as my eyesight isn’t the best), and yes, it was my family further down the other stairway, and yes, I would wait patiently whilst the 100 tourists walked by.
All this and trying as hard as I could not to laugh. Sure enough, as the 100th person eventually climbed the last, single-file step, Aaron and the kids appeared at the end of the group. At this point, we all just cracked up laughing. We then had a dilemma of whether we should try and join the end of the party (would the guide notice us at the back of 100+ people?!), or whether we should cut our losses and head shamed-faced back to whence we came. We decided on the latter, hoping that the guide for our paid tour (not the Brooksy Special we’d just done) would not be the same angry woman…The official tour was pretty good. We saw massive crystal formations and learnt the difference between Staligmites and Stalacitites (Mites crawl up, Tites fall down!). At one point, Rosie was asked to lead our group to the next section of the cave, which she loved; and we had the experience of the lights being turned off in one especially deep part, which was phenomenally dark!
As we were driving home, we joked to the kids how lucky it was that we didn’t get left behind in the caves earlier that day- no one realising that we were doing our private tour- and then the place getting locked up for the Christmas period! What would we have done if we’d had to live in the caves for several days and nights, with only a pair of flip-flops to keep us all warm?!