We managed to get to Oberon without any problems, though rather late so we dined out in one of the local restaurants. Oberon is quite high, 1100-something-metres, and as a result rather cold in winter. We laughed at Australians complaining about the cold winter before, but this time I actually missed my gloves – that’s how cold it was.
Which didn’t stop us from noticing that it is a nice small village; must be really nice in summertime and is close to some beautiful spots. We trundled down to the threadbare local hotel for supper, which was a very home-made T-bone with lots of veggos and curly fries. The toads were too stuffed with bits and bobs to do it justice. The bar next to us was inhabited by genuine lumberjack types with worn denims, ghastly woolly hats and battered brown teeth. The next day we went on to Jenolan Caves, we missed the view from the Kanangra Walls (which kind of goes with the caves) because it was an unsealed road and we weren’t sure whether we could make it after heavy rainfall in our camper van. It is famed as being very spectacular, so we might have tried it if we had plenty of time. But though we do not feel rushed we do want to stay on our schedule, so we decided to skip the visit.
The caves were well worth the visit. It was a good thing that Tim was so much more at ease with driving our monstrosity; we couldn’t have made it down the small winding mountain road if he hadn’t – if only because my heart couldn’t stand the excitement of looking down into a ravine right next to me. The road was bordered by quite the frailest, most rotten wooden posts we have seen in a long time. They gave the impression that even the slightest error would send us and them tumbling into the abyss.
But we managed to get down without incidents and were just in time for the tour through the Lucas Cave. It is one of their biggest cave, and in the largest room they even have concerts (because of the great acoustics) and weddings. It is a limestone cave and in millions of years the water first made a series of chambers when the mountain was under water. The water carved itself ever lower channels , but the constant dripping of lime-saturated water made huge columns, stalagmites and stalactites, fantastical, frilly lace-like decorations and little humps of stone resembling people or animals. They named some of them (the bride, the groom, the bishop) but there were plenty of others to name with something out of your own imagination. The boys were awed and spoke in whispers most of the time. The guide made a good show of it, plunging us into darkness occasionally and then dramatically lighting up the weird and beautiful shapes around us.
We really loved the tour, but it is hard to photograph. If only because you don’t see the enormous scale of the caves. We were told that our tour had almost 900 steps on the stairs between sections, that should be an indication. We could have stayed there for days, but had to leave early in the afternoon for our trip to Bateau Bay. So we drove through the Blue Mountains, went past Sydney and arrived shortly after nightfall.
The next day we woke in a very different climate again. It was a nice and sunny day, the heated pool was accompanied by a heated spa, the beach was still lovely so a good time was had by all. At lunchtime my aunt arrived to have lunch with us and hear all about our adventures in Oz. When she left my uncle came to visit and see all photographs, and was kind enough to offer us another night of hospitality in his house in Sydney. A good thing, since I had just discovered that our flight back wasn’t on the 9th, but on the 10th. We called to see if we could have the campervan for another day, but that would cost us 288 dollars plus camping fees. Oops.
We rumbled on down towards Sydney, slightly downcast by the approaching end of our holiday and the prospect of plunging back into the urban tangle. Fortunately Marjolein found a nice stopoff at Australian Reptile Park, a very nice zoo that succeeded in both hitting the boys buttons with exciting presentations of big snakes and huge animatronic spiders and also providing a beautiful bush-walk with flowering trees and waterfalls. There was a very cool reptile-show with some tremendous lizards and baby alligators (apparently they are Australia’s largest alligator breeders) and the boys got their picture taken with a boa constrictor wrapped round them. Having attempted to feed them to the Dingos on Fraser island and now snakes I expect that we will find child protection services waiting on the doorstep at home.
There was also a Lost World of Reptiles exhibit with talking mummies and lots of turtles and big snakes. Daniel was thrilled by a gigantic sermonizing Egyptian statue with a crocodile head and glowing red eyes. It was of course surrounded by real crocodiles and laid down a solid conservationist message while blowin smoke out of its nostrils…
Another exhibition was about spiders, with a wall full of different tarantulas, a cheerful display about the two really deadly spiders that live here in Australia and what to do it they bite you: in the case of the funnel-web spider you have seventy two minutes to get help before the venom kills you… This was rounded off the previously mentioned fifteen metre wide animatronic red-back that periodically reared up, hissed and snapped its mandibles at us.
We all had a fine time and set off rather later than expected. We were rather dispiritedly heading for a camp-site near Sydney when Marjolein had a brainwave and navigated us towards a camp-site inside Lane Cove River, a small National Park on the edge of the city. Her maps ran out of detail as we closed in on it and entered suburbia, but we got some directions from helpful Aussie cyclists (Aussies are strikingly kind to random tourists and have helped us on our way lots of times) and bought a city map from a service station. We finally got there just as night was falling. The boys were overjoyed (they like National Parks unreservedly since we stayed in Tooloom and Warrumbungle), rushed off into the gloaming and came face-to-face with a possum, that gave them a look in the eye and then took to the trees. They spent some time possum-following and Daniel even got a nip on the finger from one that he was trying to feed leaves to. We took advantage of the surrounding city by ordering in pizza and all was right with the world.