Wednesday, September 12, 2012
We decided to follow the road less travelled for our journey between Parkes and Dubbo and take the more eastern road stopping off at Wellington.
Whilst not as well known as the more famous area of Jenolan, Wellington is also home to caves.
It was also a bustling hive of activity, filled with Mega Fauna some 20 000 – 30 000 years ago, which means that today it is a fabulous place to find bones and fossils.
The Diprotodon (meaning two forward teeth), was one such creature that roamed the area. In fact it is often referred to as the ‘giant wombat’ and is the largest known marsupial to have ever lived.
Inside the small visitors centre, they have dedicated the space to the archaeological finds from the area.
Fairy Princess is blown away by the size of the skull from the ‘giant wombat’.
There are many other fossil finds showcased within the visitor centre.
Megalania, referred to as the ‘giant lizard’ was in fact a very large goanna or monitor lizard.
Just before the caves entrance is this large, striking, life like creature that unexpectedly greets you as you walk up the hill.
An artists rendition of what the area may have looked liked during the Pleistocene Period (16 000 – 50 000 years ago).
Fossils of Mega Fauna such as, giant wombats, giant kangaroos, giant tassie devils, giant lizards, giant marsupial lions and giant bandicoots, have all been found in caves in the Wellington area.
Quite sad really to think that these animals once walked with humans, but are now extinct. The debate is still on surrounding their extinction, but many do feel that humans were the ultimate cause of extinction, probably from hunting and over burning of the landscape.
CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope is a 64 metre diameter parabolic dish used for radio astronomy.
Australia’s famous Dish, that played a role during ‘Man’s Walk On The Moon’ expedition is very well known to us down under and even has a movie made about it.
In all honesty though, I felt that we could possibly be driving hundreds of miles to see this thing and simply wind up very disappointed.
The drive from Jenolan to Parkes was quite spectacular though, with bright yellow canola farms as far as the eye can see, certainly makes for some pretty colourful scenery.
Can you see where we are headed? This thing really appears to be in the middle of no where.
There it is! Yay! And there is a Visitors Discovery Centre attached, even better.
Out front are two largish white dishes facing each other a couple of hundred metres apart.
Whispering Dishes, so much fun. Simply turn and face the dish, speak into it quietly and your friend standing at the other dish can hear you perfectly. The kids could’ve played here for hours. This experience alone was nearly worth the drive to Parkes, it blew their minds!
Inside the visitor’s centre we are instantly met with large scale informational boards and their souvenir store, which sells all manner of ‘sciencey’ things.
Detailed information about the role The Dish played in the Apollo 11 Mission gives Lego Lover a better understanding.
Little Surfer Dude loved this interactive dish model, that he could turn as much as he wished.
The visitor’s centre is chocked full of information, all of which is very well presented. Scattered throughout the room are also a few smaller interactive activities to keep younger children entertained.
Entry to the visitors centre is free. They do offer a 30 minute 3D documentary which we found interesting.($20 family) It showed Mars exploration and gave us a much closer look at the ‘little things’ in outer space – comets and asteroids.
The documentary did not hold the interest of our younger two, though Lego Lover (10) thoroughly enjoyed it.
Outside we spent a considerable amount of time just watching the dish being maneuvered in all myriad of directions.
One of the guides informed us that this treat simply doesn’t happy every day.
So we were pretty lucky to be able to take photographs of the dish from many different angles.
The Dish Cafe, situated just outside from the visitors centre prepared us a lovely lunch too.
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Today we took the treacherous drive from Oberon down to the Jenolan Caves. It was definitely one of the scariest drives I’ve ever taken, especially given the fact we where in a motor home.
After getting to the bottom and speaking to staff they informed us that buses and larger vehicles can’t get down that way. It is the steepest decent in New South Wales!!
It’s definitely a quicker route but going in through Lithgow is a much easier drive.
The children spend time playing in the small creek while we wait out front for our tour to begin.
Having never experienced caves before this was truly one magical day for us. The first part of the experience is entering the Grand Archway, either on foot or via car, depending on what direction you enter the cave area from.
This in itself is awe inspiring and we haven’t even entered a cave as yet.
Photo’s never really do any place justice, it’s simply not the same as seeing it yourself and Jenolan Caves is definitely one such place.
The blue tinged river out the front of the Grand Archway is stunning.
We chose the Imperial Cave tour, perfect for families and first time cave explorers.
At every turn your mouth is agape in wonder at the enormity of the formations inside. Stalactites, millions of years old, grow in the most amazing fashion.
It’s simply inconceivable to wonder about how long it takes for formations like these to grow. Striving to make that join, to become one.
Some areas of the pathway meander through overhanging rock and limestone. Fairy Princess is standing full height, so us big people definitely needed to bend to get through here.
They call this the crystal city, our guide likens it to the Great Wall of China. These are created when water evaporates and leaves a track of crystals over hundreds of thousands years.
A stunning example of stalagmites and stalactites joining to become one. Such an amazingly slow process, water droplet by water droplet over hundreds of thousands and even millions of years, drip drip dripping adding to the crystal growth with each drop.
Here, approximately 40 metres underground, we are met with the gorgeous blue tinged river.
Lighting is positioned in targeted places for maximum impact.
At each turn along the path we are oohing and aahing along with the other 20 people that had joined us on the tour.
It’s not hard to see why this amazing formation is fenced off. We are advised at the commencement of the tour that even the slightest touch can affect the crystals.
Outside we stop for a brief snack, here Little Surfer Dude, found himself a friend. Well actually a little thief that was more interested in stealing his chips than being his friend!
Today was definitely the day for special treats for us. We were privileged to get a rare glimpse of this female Lyrebird, bathing in the creek that the kids played in earlier. Very special indeed!!
Looking back at Jenolan Caves House, the historical home and dining hall with various accommodation options.
Truly a magical day.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Yay the Blue Mountains! This is one place I have wanted to visit for a long time. Scenic World has got to be one the best ways to see the fabulous sights of the Blue Mountains.
First stop, the Skyway. With it’s glass bottom to either take in the sights of the gorge below or maybe scare yourself half to death, this cable way spans right across the gorge.
At 270 metres it is the highest skyway in Australia.
It certainly offers stunning views of the famous Three Sisters.
The Katoomba Falls
and of course the greater Blue Mountains area.
The Blue Mountains are 10 times older than the Grand Canyon and the mountain in the centre, Mount Solitary, is the same size as Uluru.
Looking back at Echo Point Lookout from the Skyway. This is definitely one of the highest lookouts I have ever had the opportunity to visit.
A perfect example of erosion, a large portion of the cliff has simply collapsed, leaving this piece sitting precariously on the edge.
The Scenic Railway, don’t worry about Lego Lover, he isn’t about to have a panic attack, he simply didn’t hear me say me ‘photo’.
The original railway car, The Mountain Devil, was built by the Katoomba Coal Mine to replace the coal skip that had been used to transport passengers on weekends.
At 52 degrees this is the steepest railway in the world and let me tell you, it’s a pretty eerie feeling heading deep into the dark forest at such a steep decent!
Once at the bottom the Scenic Walkway is available to explore. At 2.4 kilometres it is the longest boardwalk in the southern hemisphere.
There is no need to walk the entire length though if you do not wish. There are several options of walk times available, depending on how energetic you are feeling.
The early stages of the boardwalk meander past replicas from Katoomba’s coal mining era. Fairy Princess, our little horse lover, was quick to jump up on top.
Including a glimpse inside the coal mine itself.
To get back up to the top we needed to jump on the cableway. This is massive, holding 84 people it is the largest cableway in Australia.
The Blue Mountains is a gorgeous part of Australia and well worth a much longer visit than what we were able to do this time around.
Fee: $70 for a family pass
Time to allow: 1.5 – 2hours, dependent on lengths of walks, could spend 4+ hours here
Parking: We left the motorhome at the front of the caravan park and walked a short 5 minute, but very pretty bush walk
at 5:30 PM