Gloucester Caves

Party (15):
Garry Smith & Katerina Fulton
Phil Maynard
Penny Sze
Murray Dalton
Gordon Vincent & Ryan Smith

Rod Smith
Constantine Dongas
Jai White
Rod Obrien & Cathi Humphrey-Hood
Felix Ossig-Bonanno
Megan & Alan Pryke

Underlined were in my group. Ppl in italics I met, the others I didn’t really get to meet.

With COVID partially to blame, I hadn’t been caving since a lava cave in Nicaragua; so I was pretty keen to get underground. I missed the trip to Mt Fairy, but then heard of a trip to Gloucester Caves being organised by NHVSS. I signed up and over the week rejoined SUSS so that I was entered into the ASS database and would be allowed to attend.

I didn’t really want to drive the 5hrs up by myself so eventually organised for Garry to pick me up in Newcastle (Phil, Alan and Megan headed up on Firday – no-one else answered except Gordon!). The train left Lithgow just after 10pm on Sat. After a trackwork bus, I got to Central at about 1am… and missed Cardiff station and had to catch the next train back. Finally there at 5:15am! Still pretty tired I headed up to the road where I met Penny. We chatted for a bit whilst waiting for Garry, giving time for the mozzies to have a bit of a feed.

123km gave us a bit of time to talk on the way up to Glouster where we met at a small café. It was then a small drive to Merilyn and Bruce’s farm where the caves are located. Garry had a small talk to Merilyn before followed the others through a couple of gates and parked right above an obvious depression with a small stream disappearing into the earth.

After paying our dues ($3 club fee + $10 fuel – prob a little steep seeing as there were 4 in our car), we split into two groups. There were two main caves (though apparently they link beyond the sumps). Each group would visit one, and we would then swap after lunch. The group I was in also had: Murray Dalton, Gordon Vincent & Ryan Smith, Rod Obrien & Cathi Humphrey-Hood, Felix Ossig-Bonanno, and Megan & Alan Pryke

Glowworm Cave:

We were soon off to a second vanishing stream. The entrance was a little higher up from the sink. Alan made his way in first. I followed. Turning to the left, we followed the northern branch of the cave. The passage was fairly tight, mostly negotiating boulders. It was quite muddy and there wasn’t really any direction. Alan, and I were quickly through a Z-turn that many found a little too narrow, though it wasn’t all that bad in my eyes. The passage got bigger and muddier on the other side. A slope of muddy flowstone dropped down to the murky sump. On the way back we met Megan at the Z-squeeze. I passed her the two tortoise that we had found, and she relayed them to the others.

Heading back out, I had another tortoise turn taking them out to the surface. Gordon soon joined me. Ryan had gone off to get a bag to transport them in. I would have been lazier and dropped them in the nearby pool, but they probably would have washed back in at some point. Before Ryan returned, I headed back in, this time taking the southern passage which quickly met up with the streamway. I happy to see some of the glowworms lit up here. I think this is the first limestone cave in NSW in which I have seen them!
Rod and Cathi were doing some photography in a section with various columns that reminded me a little of Thunder Cave in NZ. I helped them out for a bit before returning to the surface to see if Ryan had returned. The two of us then headed back into the cave catching up with Alan and Murray at the start of the ‘water crawls’, Megan was just returning from the sump meaning the water was now pretty brown. At first trying to avoid the water, I was quickly wet… soon up to my neck. It wasn’t neck neep, but the ceiling came so low that your head only just fit through sideways. The water was really warm, and it was actually pleasant considering how hot and muggy the cave was. After returning I actually sat in the water for a time. (Rod later told us that he free dived down a few metres, the passage continued sloping downwards.)

Heading out of the cave, we joined the other group who had already emerged from the shorter cave. We ate and talked. Eventually Garry roused everyone and we split into our groups once more to visit the other cave.

Cascade Cave:

This cave was much shorter, but overall more pleasant, more decorated and easier to negotiate. Despite there being fewer glowworms, it was probably the more enjoyable cave.

Phil returned from Glowworm cave earlier so we could head back to Sydney a little earlier. This was my second time in his Tesla. We stopped for 15mins on the way back to charge it. Alan and I played an interesting game involving sliding blocks with numbers 2^x. Taking the old highway just before the Hawksberry we avoided a traffic jam. Taking the train from North Sydney. I then caught a train to Mt. Vic, and waited an hour for another to Lithgow. I was home at 12:15am.

Thanks for a fun trip. Thanks to Garry for organising.

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