Blue Mountains Jenolan Caves
At one point, just before reaching the Caves House Hotel, the road circled round a mountain and then plunged into the Grand Arch, a natural cavern in limestone which traverses the heart of a blue giant. Jenolan Caves is only 3 hours from Sydney and Canberra, is a unique getaway in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Regarded as Australia’s most outstanding cave system, Jenolan Caves is the oldest cave system in the world, the dweller above ground can have but little idea of the extraordinary rock formations existing in the earth below until he has visited these amazing caverns. I went from cave to cave by broad galleries illuminated by electric light. Each chamber seemed to be more marvellous than the one before. Suddenly a mysterious river appeared from out of the gloom of this underworld upon which the sun has never shone.
There are miles of subterranean wonders, and for a whole day the untiring guide showed me cathedral naves in scintillating rock, organs of stone, stalactites and stalagmites made by the trickling waters through countless eons of time depositing the material held in solution, and so building these yard-long stone icicles at the rate of less than a foot in a thousand years.
In the “Casket of Jewels” I saw by the flash light a million diamonds reflect tiny pin-points of prismatic fire. The “Crystal Palace” blazed with mysterious light and dazzling reflections. The Madonna and Child are life-like images carved out of the limestone by the hand of Nature in the eternal darkness of these deep recesses of the earth. A figure is pointed out as “Lot’s Wife” and stands out in startling white against the dim background, for the guide throws a beam of torch light on to the object it is desired that one should see. The “Tapestries” hang in graceful folds, which probably occupied a mere ten thousand years in the making; and some stone columns are just the stalactites of past centuries that now resemble the pillars of a vast cathedral.
Coming out of this realm of darkness gave me the impression of returning to the living world after a visit to some planet where all is still and lifeless. On the following day I returned to this underground wonderland, which fascinated me in a way that no other caverns have ever done. I saw a frozen sea, with the waves stilled as they were about to curl over, the ”Devil’s Coach-House” and a bridal veil of lustrous pearls. Eventually a feeling of remoteness from all earthly things stole over me and I shivered. Perhaps it was the outlines of the bones of a great prehistoric animal which had been trapped in this cave and sealed up for hundreds of centuries which caused this uncanny sensation, and I was glad when the time came to return to the warm sunlight and the land of the living. The Jenolan Caves are more than one of the great sights of the world, they provide a human experience, such as flying above the clouds and diving beneath the sea. The memory lives for ever.