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Shoalhaven Bushwalkers Inc.

PO Box 403
Nowra NSW 2541

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Caving is an activity that interests a number of members as it takes groups into some challenging and remote parts of our area such as Bungonia Gorge, Bendethra, Wee Jasper and the Wyanbene Caves.

The first recorded account of caving is from the Nowra News, March 1987. "On the weekend of March 14 and 15, the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers went to Wyanbene Caves for a look at the stalactites, stalagmites and helictites in this limestone system south of Braidwood. We set up camp on the banks of Wyanbene Creek, had lunch and went up to the caves in the afternoon. Although the main chamber, highest on the mainland (356ft.) has been closed to prevent vandalism, we were able to explore the tourist section which is extensive and follows an underground river for a fair distance. We had water to our knees in places and had to crawl through some narrow openings, the roof was so low. Discovered over 100 years ago, the caves were a popular tourist attraction in the early days of this century, parties being brought from Braidwood by sulky."

Richard Smidt describes caving at Bungonia in 1988. "Wide panoramic views, rugged forest country, spectacular limestone scenic gorges, freshwater streams and waterfalls and deep dark mysterious underground caves. If you were one of the dozen bushwalkers who attended the Bungonia weekend on 28/29th November then you would have experienced all these natural marvels. "Bungonia State Recreation Area covers a strip of the Southern Tablelands from the spectacular limestone gorge of Bungonia Creek south along the steep west bank of the Shoalhaven River. The hilly ridges offer many attractions for the bushwalker, the deep limestone caverns offer adventure for the speleologist, the canyons a challenge for the climber and the river offers thrills for the canoeist.

"After lunch on the first day the 'green' walk was democratically selected, being of an easy grade and 2-3 hours duration. The walk produced some spectacular scenery of the Bungonia Gorge, rock formations and waterfalls. The view from Bungonia Lookdown was unfortunately marred by a large limestone quarry.

"On Sunday, after another short walk in the morning, came the climax of the weekend: a descent into the black depths of the Grill Cave. With our experienced guide Graham (the resident ranger) in the lead and armed with torches, overalls and hard hats we entered the cave and made our way gingerly down a series of steel ladders and through narrow, slippery passageways. We finally emerged into a large cathedral-like chamber where, with torches extinguished, we stood in silence to appreciate the total absence of light.

"The only sound was that of droplets falling from the ceiling, slowly forming exquisite stalactites and stalagmites. Soon after, we stared with disbelief as our guide disappeared into a rock crevice no more than 18 inches high and 2 feet wide. It was either follow or perish, so with blind faith we inched along the narrow tunnel, trying not to think about the millions of tons of rock above and below us.

"At a depth of 150 feet Graham told us that if we went further we would strike bad air, so we made our way, by a slightly different route, back to the surface. We all emerged from the cave a little the worse for wear, bleary eyed and smeared with mud but enthusiastic about our new experience."

Here is a more recent report of a weekend camping on the banks of the Goodradigbee River at Billy Grace Reserve, Wee Jasper by Sandra Kelley in April 2000. "Eight couples and two children attended this weekend at Wee Jasper, not far from Canberra. Once set up, we went for a short walk along the Micalong River to view the many falls.

"Following lunch it was time for some to investigate the 'Dig Cave', while others fished or had a little snooze. The cave had been used as a local tip and a large amount of broken glass is still evident in the entrance. The floor of the cave was very muddy and slippery and after turning off our head lights to adjust our eyes, we ventured further into the cave. We reached the 'Daylight' part of Section 2 then Ian led us through some narrow passages just to get a feel for what we were in for the next day.

"Ian left early the next morning with John and Col to set up the steel swinging ladders needed to climb the 20 foot wall to the 'Rathole'. The rest of us followed and once harnessed began the tricky ascent. Most made it to the top with a few expletives being uttered on the way. Then it was a crawl through the 'Rathole' into Section 3 (large hips are definitely not an advantage). The floor of this section is very uneven with a lot of scrambling and climbing necessary. At the far end, after a little searching for the hole, it was time to descend down a vertical shaft, so another ladder was secured and down we went. Then it was hard hats off and crawl your way inch by inch through the 'Wormhole' (approx. 18" x 2') and the final challenge - the 'Birth Canal' (20' x 2'). These last two names are not the actual names of the tunnels but apt descriptions of them. We entered a large cavern with some amazing formations - shawls, stalactites and stalagmites and cathedral shapes and all felt in awe as only a few people are privileged to see these. The only way out was to return the same way we had come in. During our exploration we were accompanied by bats and a couple of wayward blowflies.

"Meanwhile the remaining members of our group, spent a pleasant morning following the Micalong River to where it joined the Goodradigbee. Thank you to Russ and Dawn for organizing the weekend and a big thanks to Ian (Russ and Dawn's son in-law) for his expert guidance, patience and the loan of the equipment. This certainly was an adventure to remember."

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