Jenolan Caves NSW
Recently I flew down to Sydney NSW, leaving Sherry and our Daughter Maya to have some girl time and headed off to see my Brother-in-Law for a much needed catch up.
Being unfamiliar with the area we headed to the Blue Mountains and the Jenolan Caves for some exploring. Never one to miss an opportunity for some caving in new lands we grabbed our boots and back packs and off we went!
The word Jenolan is believed to be an Indigenous word meaning “high place”, derived from the Tharawal word, Genowlan, for a “high place shaped like a foot”.
The caves are about 3 hrs West of Sydney, located within the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve. The journey there was magnificent and had stunning country views to keep you company along the way. Certainly a biker riders paradise and one to add on the bucket list!
Having reached our destination, we were presented with a huge rock face by a small crystal clear blue river with an entrance which feels like your entering another world. It literally felt like another world too because you go from beautiful Australian countryside and not seeing a soul, to being greeted with what can only be described as a small ‘Alpine’ like village buzzing with activity from roaming tourists and eager to help staff.
The caves themselves (formally known as ‘Fish River Caves’) are limestone based in formation and are the most ancient discovered open caves in the world. They comprise of more than 40km of multi-level passages and have over 300 entrances. They include numerous Silurian marine fossils and calcite formations and believed to be approximately 340 million years old, thereby making the cave complex the world’s oldest known and dated open cave system.
The actual discovery date of the caves is not exactly understood due to records detailing Charles Whalan as the discoverer in the 1840’s. However it has also been suggested that his brother, James Whalan, actually discovered the caves in 1838 after tracking a known criminal named McKeown to the area. It is known that both brothers explored the caves using only candle light, which is extraordinary, and having been on a tour and experienced the ‘Lucas’ cave in pitch black I can say from first hand that must have been extremely daunting.
In 1867 Jeremiah Wilson was appointed the first ‘Keeper of the Caves’ who not only explored the Elder and Lucas caves but also discovered the Imperial, Chifley, Jersey and Jubilee caves which are all available to see with guided tours. We missed out on several caves due to not booking online, so if you’re interested; book ahead.
The Jenolan area has for thousands of years held great significance to the local Indigenous people of Gundungurra and Wiradjuri. They knew it as Binomil or Bin-oo-mur with the Gundungurra people having a Dreamtime creation story which describes how the countryside came in to being. It’s said it involved a struggle between two ancient creator spirits, one a giant eel like creature, Gurangatch, and the other, Mirrigan, a large native cat or quoll. It’s also known the Gundungurra people carried their sick as far as the subterranean waters as they believed it had curative powers.
It’s clearly easy to see why this place is held sacred to the local Indigenous people as it is truly beautiful. Many people come to visit the caves and walk the scenic bush land however I assure you that you will find peace and tranquillity around every corner. A magnificent World Heritage site that you must go see!