geology

weekend walks: inside jenolan caves

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Weekend walk took us indoors this week, inside caves! Actually, the initial plan was to do the Jenolan River Walk and see the Blue Lake in the Greater Blue Mountains region (which is a UNESCO Heritage Site). So after driving 2.5 hours, we arrive to find that the walk is closed for maintenance. The most of the Blue Lake we got to see was up above from the road.

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Luckily, Plan B was not a bad plan at all. Plan B was to visit Jenolan Caves themselves. The tours of the caves last about 1.5 hours and range in levels of fitness/difficulty. We elected to join the Orient Cave tour which is considered one of the top 10 most beautiful caves in the world! There was no way, we were missing that one. Not that we have seen the other top 10 contenders, but we certainly rate this one incredible!

Inside the caves, there are crystals: millions and millions of crystals. There were stalactites (those formed from the ceiling down), there was stalagmites (those formed from the ground up) and there were helictites (those that changed directions as they form). It was a crash course for us in basic geology and cave formation.

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An extremely fascinating (and almost unfathomable) fact was that sometimes 1 cubic centrimetre of these formations can take up to 300 years to form, so…. given “that” and after some calculations, the Jenolan Caves are about 340 million years old, making them the world’s oldest caves!  (Well, actually, we didn’t do the maths, it was already done).

As we pass through the caves, the water overhead drips, we can hear it and see it. Crystal is forming as we walk! From the photos, the surfaces looks almost waxy. We also managed to see a flowing stone as we entered.

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The Orient Caves contained a Persian Chamber, an Egyptian Chamber and an Indian Chamber. Looking around, it felt like we were in another dimension or on another world. It is so utterly unusual and intriguing. Some of the formations are given names or descriptions for orientation.

(1) Example of “shawls” – these are two alongside one another. The one on the right is what crystal looks likes after water over times flows over the limestone: it is white, translucent white. The one on the left is crystal formed from dirty/contaminated water.

In general, the brown streaks through the formations are from iron in the water.

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(2) Pillar of Hercules – found in the Persian Chamber, stands at about 8 metres tall.

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(3) The Dome – found in the Persian Chamber, approximately 40 metres high

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(4) The pilgrims – found in the Persian Chamber, “walking” up a hill

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(5) Little crystals formed in water

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(6) Egyptian Blanket and curtains – found in the Egyptian Chambers

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(7) The Frozen Nile  – also found in the Egyptian Chambers. The white dots on the far right of the picture are the sparkles of the light hitting the crystals.

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(8) Elephant Headress, found in the Indian Chamber.

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(9) Medusa, looking down with a headful of snakes.

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Jenolan Caves are such a delight to visit. We are curious and keen to go back – more so as with each ticketed tour purchased, the visitor receives a ticket which entitles them to get 50% off any other cave tours that they do with the year (BONUS 🙂 )

We really do take our hats off for those explorers who were so brave in venturing into such unknown territories (with only candles and naked flame as their source of light) to discover such beauty and even more so to those in 1867, who gazetted the area as a reserve! Thank you to those people with such foresight to protect such beauty so we can enjoy it today!

Greater Blue Mountains were UNESCO Heritage listed in 2000. To see the other UNESCO sites we have visited, visit our unofficial bucket list

 NB: This was not a sponsored post – we visited on our own accord. 

 

the giant’s causeway: a natural unesco

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Before we actually travelled, we would pseudo-travel: after work, as we channel surfed, we would always end up  watching travel shows. And it was on one of those shows when we first saw and heard about the Giant’s Causeway. So when we were in Europe back in 2006, we added Northern Ireland to our list of countries to visit – and we didn’t regret it one bit.

There are 6 km of this unusual geological formation; polygon-shaped rocks piled on top of one another into columns. Formed following volcanic activity many million years ago, there are similar formations as well on the coast of Scotland – just across the body of water.

As the myths and legends go, Finn McCool, the giant had something to do with this hence the name. 😉

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Admission gives you access to the visitor’s centre and pedestrian access to the Causeway. There are regular shuttles down to the Causeway but there is a small additional charge. There was the option to see the rocks from “bird’s eye” view by walking along the cliff track up above. Beware on windy days!!

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The Giant’s Causeway is about an hour’s drive out of Belfast. And not far from it is Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The day we went it was so crazy windy, that we were not allowed to cross the bridge.

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Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast were UNESCO Heritage listed in 1986.

To see the other UNESCO sites we have visited, visit our unofficial bucket list