1838 to 1966
THE YARRANGOBILLY CAVES,
The following are some extracts from an interesting report by Mr. Anderson, geologías surveyor, who was sent by Mr. Wilkinson to Yarrangobilly Caves, which were referred to in our telegraphic column some weeks ago, to inspect and report upon them :-" The caves are situated on the Yarrangobilly Creek, a tributary of the Tumnt River, in the county of Baccleugh, about 40 miles to the south of the Tumut and 12 miles to the north of Kiandra.
There are two principal routes the caves one by Gundagai and Tumut, and the other by Queanbeyan, Cooma, and Kiandra. By the former route the coach runs as far as Tumnt, and from this point to the foot of Mount Talbingo the distance is about 20 mile and there is a fairly good buggy - road, although some parts of it are a little rough, it is extremely difficult to take a buggy up Mount Talbingo, the ascent being 20S0 feet within a distance of three miles, and the present track, up is very bad: but this difficult; having been surmounted there is a passable bush track to Mr. Gibbs' station, within eight miles of the caves. This last eight miles can only be performed on horseback or on foot and in wet weather many of the sidlings are very dangerous.
This route from Tumut passes through very mountainous and picturesque country, and some of the views obtained from points of vantage such as the top of Mount Talbingo are very fine, while it (triking Yarrangobilly Creek a splendid view is obtained of the limestone cliffs, and the great arch which forms the entrance to the two principal caves.
The second route is by Queanbeyan, Cooma, and Kiandra, all of which are connected by coach. For eight miles from Kiandra there is a buggy road across Kiandra plains, but from here a bridle track has to be followed which goes to a selection within half-a-mile of the caves.
At various points of this route glimpses can be obtained of the Snowy River, which, even within a fortnight of midsummer, were dotted over with patches of snow. By the formel route visitors could drive to the foot of Mount Talbingo, within 20 miles of the caves, while by the latter route they could drive to within four or five miles.
The entrance to what are called the 'Glory Hole' caves is lofty, and of considerable width. It is cleared, and visitors usually camp there, and remain over night at the caves. In regard to the left, hand caves, he save- From the roof hang pink and green tuged stalactites exhibiting very irregular forms, and in the inequalities of which nestle tufts of maiden-hair ferns, which produce a very pretty effect. For about 40 yards in from the mouth of the cave the passage is nearly 40 feet high by 30 feet wide. At this point it widens out into a large chamber, the sides of which are thickly coated masseB of carbonate of lime, which assume very varied forms, while from the roof hang numberless yellow-tinged stalactites. On the floor are three large masses, which have no doubt fallen from the roof, and become coated over with stalagmite growth from the water dripping upon them. At the far end of this chamber there ere remains of mosses of stalac- tites which must at one time have had the appearance of a frozen waterfall. It can be seen coming from the bill near the roof, and its lower end roust have hung there probably in a series of points, but now it has been partly destroyed by being broken across, and the lower part carried away. This chamber is about 60 yards in length, and when it begins to narrow it forms a gradually contracting gallery, in the centre of which stands an isolated pillar of stalagmite, 8 feet in height, which, however, is mach disfigured by the pencilling of names on its surface.
To the right of the pillar stands a large group of stalagmites, which at the floor form a single mass. As they rise each one gradually tapers up out of the moss until only a single central stalagmite reaches the roof. The aides of the chamber are thickly coated with stalactite, wbich in many places form pillars which stand ont a little distance from the wall.
The roof is a dense mass of large and long stalactites. Passing to the end of this chamber there is nattung but a forest of pillars, formed by the union of stalactites and stalagmites, with a few dark holes between them. On getting into one of these holes a passage ie entered which is flanked on every side by rows of pillars, between the bases of which are stalag- mite basins full of water. This avenue of pillars extends for about 25 yards, when the cave again widens out into a large and beautiful chamber called the 'Queen's Chamber,' i which is about 50 yards long by 35 yards wide. From every part of the roof hang a perfect forest of stalactites, many of which are over four feet in diameter at the base, while between these hang smaller sod more delicate stalactites.
The floor ls principally of large stalagmites standing up from it, and among these lie many stalactites, which have fallen from the roof. It is also in many places strewn with well-rounded and water-worn boulders and pebble, the présenos of which shows that at one time a stream of water had flowed through the cavern." Referring to the right-hatm cavern. Mr. Anderson says, "Thepassage into tbis, cave opens out into a large chamber, which, ia one of the finest in the caves. When seen from the entrance it presents a mass of stalagmites, some stand in e alone and others in large groups, which bring to mind the spires and turrets of some great cathedral. Afterpassingthrough asmall entrance, called the Blow Hole, the largest chamber yet discovered iu these caves _ is entered. This is an enormous carero, which apparently has a small opening high up nu the hillside. It is very probable that there are other caves in connection with this one whose entrances are not yet known.
Apart from the scientific interret of these caves, as preservers of the remains of some of our extinct fauna, they have a'so a public interest in that they will repay the visitor both by their own natural beauty, and by the magnificent mountain scenery which is to be seen by cither route." Mr. Wilkinson, head of the Geological Department, upon receiving Mr, Anderson's report, made the following suggestions:- That a keeper be appointed at a salary of £50 per annum, and that a slab hut be built for him at a cost of about £50, and that a paddock of about fifteen acres be fenced in for the horses of visitors. Matters in tbe caves, and house for the accommodation of visitors, might remain in abeyance until we have definite information from the keeper as to what is actually required. - (Ref- Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954) Monday 21 February 1887).
FROM GUNDAGAI TO THE YARRANGOBILLY CAVES.
I HAD only been out from England about two months, when I had the extreme good fortune to receive an invitation to accompany a party on a trip from Gundagai to Cooma. The opportunity of studying bush life under such favourable conditions was not to be thrown away, and I accordingly became one of the party.
The object of the trip was primarily for pleasure, and, at the same time, we wished to see if the route could not be opened up for tourists, from Gundagai to Cooma, via Tumut, Yarrangobilly, and Kiandra, stopping to explore the Yarrangobilly Caves en route.
The principal difficulties in the way were the lack of vehicles for the conveyance of tourists between the different towns en route, and the bad state of the roads between Talbingo and Kiandra. The former difficulty, has already been successfully grappled with, as arrangements have been made by Messrs. Cook and Sons for conveyances at fixed rates throughout the entire journey.
The latter is rapidly being overcome, new roads being already in course of construction over the rough portions of the journey.
A representative from Messrs. Cook and Sons, our photographic artist, and myself left Sydney by the 9 o'clock mail train for Gundagai, which was reached about 10 o'clock the next morning. A rather steep ascent from the station of about a quarter of a mile brought us to the town, which apparently consists of one main street, with a few houses here and there picturesquely dotted about.
After a hearty breakfast, and a stroll through the town, which does not occupy very much time, the buggy is brought round, and we commence our road journey. On leaving the town we turn to the right over Gundagai Bridge. This is a wooden structure, about eleven hundred yards long, and is the longest The Murrumbidgee River, from the Brungle Road bridge in Australia. Our illustration gives a view of the bridge from the Brungle Hoad. After crossing the bridge we cerumen ce a rocky .ascent some three railes long. Quartz abounds in this district, and we came across two mining claima íümost by the roadside, both of which were in active and- successful working operation.
The summit of, the hill brings to view a long stretch of undulating, grassy country, fairly well timbered, along which, we passed. It was whilst driving along the Brungle Road that our photographic artist took the second of our illustrations. The cow in the foreground obligingly stood still while the photograph was being taken. After crossing Brungle bridge, which, by the way, is a delightfully pretty spot, as will be seen by the açcom Gundagai Bridge, from the Brungle Road. pan ying'illustration, we follow the river round to the right, and soon after crossing a creek find ourselves at Brungle.
Here a halt is called, and we go and inspect the aboriginal camp. The natives have their own customs; laws, marriage rites, etc., and are overseered by a government inspector, who, I believe, is responsible for their good behaviour. Some, from their curly hair, are not unlike the African negro in appearance, whilst others have evidently a strain of European blood in their veins. Our arrival caused a consideranie amount of excitement.
A troop of sorry looking dogs congregated round us from all parts of the camp, yelping and barking; and we could see several of the natives, who were evidently of a somewhat shy disposition, gratifying their curiosity by a peep round the corner of their dilapidated wooden huts. Presently the head man of the village appeared, and greeted us with a bow, expressing a welcome ; and a flourish of his hat, suggestive of his own importance, in no small degree.
On enquiry from him we learnt that there are about one hundred of them, altogether, and that their chief occupations consist of felling timber, minding sheep, and other pastoral pursuits. The marriage laws seem to be somewhat lax here, as. it is not an un- common occurrence for a husband to find, on his return from a journey, which has: perhaps occupied a few weeks, tbat his wife has transferred her affections to another man, whom she now recognises as her only lord and master. Mr. Carruthers, the Minister of Education, who was paying a visit of inspection to the camp, with a view to seeing how the native school was conducted, now appeared on the scene. The natives dispersed to their various occupations; the children ran off to the native school; and we took our leave.
On resuming our journey we met a bullock-waggon carrying a heavy load of wood, a novel sight to a ' new chum ; ' and a short distance further on I received my first introduction to Australian snakes, two of which were lying dead on the ground.
The country through which we were now passing was most diversified in character. Here quinces growing in profusion by the road-side, and gaily-plumed 'birds Hying overhead; now toiling slowly up the winding path of a steep hill, with a gorgeous panorama bathed in the afternoon sunlight, stretching away in the valley beneath; then through a timbered district with a profusipn . of Scotch thistles scattered about, bringing back memories of the old country.
The last mile or two before reaching Tumut is comparatively flat and uninteresting, but the entrance to the town is one of the. prettiest bits of scenery, one could wish to see. Just before crossing the bridge over the river, the road lies through a magnificent avenue of elms and weeping willows (see illustration), which vividly recalled to my mind a similar bit of scenery between Windsor and Reading at home.
Tumut is a thriving little town, containing several fine public buildings, and, at least, one good hotel. At this plane we were joined by Mr. E. G. Brown, a well known and extremely popular resident of the town, and two of his friends. A fresh start was made by the six of us, in two buggies, early next morning, Mr. Brown, with his team of four horses, taking the lead. Passing out of the town we caught a glimpse of Tumut racecourse and the cricket-ground, and soon after crossing the bridge over the river, found ourselves in the Tumut Valley.
For miles, as we travelled along, the scenery is simply charming; picturesque gems abound here in whatever direction we look.Both our illustrations of the Tumut Valley are typical of the scenery, that predominates here. The river runs beside us, and far away on our right is the Gilmore chain pf mountains forming the watershed of the Tumut river, whilst we skirt the the base of lofty hills on our left; and further on we come to a pretty little cascade.
At about two o'clock in the afternoon, we reached Talbingo Station, where we were entertained at luncheon by Mrs. Lampe. We give an illustration showing the cottage, with its picturesque surroundings. It is charmingly situated, and the river runs by the house within a hundred yards or so of the front door.
Less than two hours later saw us again on the road, commencing the ascent of Talbingo. The old road here is very steep and bad, but thanks to the new road, which is now being cut, and is rapidly approaching completion, we were enabled to trot with ease for about the first three miles. This brought us to the ' Rocky Pinch,' the most precipitous part of Talbingo (this ascent, however, will be avoided when the new road is completed). Looking down into the valley, from the summit of Talbingo, the scenery is wildly picturesque, forcibly reminding one ot'. Devonshire country, only on. a larger scale.
Our road now was nothing more than a track through the bush; up and down steep and rocky ravines, and across stony creeks (very stony some of them were); and frequently we experienced the exhilarating delight cf driving up and down sidings, with the buggy at an angle of about forty five degrees; or to vary the excitement we drove over the innumerable logs lying about. No use attempting to get out of their way, there is no avoiding them. One cannot help pondering the question in his mind as to how it-is so much timber is allowed to rot away in the bush. Not cortil carting is the answer I receive, and with this reply I am forced to be content. In spite of bad roads, however, we manage to reach Yarrangobilly Station just before dark, in the best of spirits, and quite prepared to do ample justice to the good fare provided by our host, Mr. Campbell.
The following morning we made an early start for the caves, some five miles distant. Owing to thè fact, however, of there being simply a bridle track between these two points, our pace with the buggy was necessarily slow, and it took us several The Avenue, Bumbowlee Road, Tumut. hours to accomplish, the journey. None kt an expert whip could have successfully piloted a team of four horses, with a huggy attached, along the tortuous path which we were obliged to take j winding in and out amongst the trees, and humping over fallen logs. The climax, however, was yet to come, and the business of the day was reached soon after passing 'Harris' Camp.' Here the road suddenly dipped, forming a very steep ravine, about a mile in extent, through which our path lay. Preparations were at once made to hold the buggy back, during its descent, vi et armis ; and whilst Borne proceeded to cut down a stout gum tree, about eighteeen feet long, to act as a drag, others were getting the rope in its
The Tumut River at East Blowering Station. The scene that now presented itself was picturesque in the extreme. Here in the wilda of the bush, almost shut in a forest of trees, were two buggies, whilst grouped around were a party of men and horses. Ours were the first two buggies (as far as is known) that have ever accomplished this descent, and one might well have repeated the question asked of the fly in the amber: How did they get there ? All being ready, the first buggy started.
Some of us held on to the rope, whilst one or two of the more adventurous spirits of the party sat straddle-legged across the tree, and made the descent in a manner which combined ease with dignity. Such a mode of locomotion; is decidedly exciting, but it has its disadvantages. Buring the road down you keep endeavouring to calculate your chances as to whether you will reach the bottom on the top of the tree, or with the tree on top of you, when you suddenly wake from your soliloquy to find that your companions are, with a fiendish delight, endeavouring to make you lose your equilibrium by twisting the rope round your legs. Such draw backs as these, however, only serve to en- hance our enjoyment, and after getting the first buggy safely down, we return to the second, where the same "modus operandi is again gone through, with successful results.
We once more climb into our seats and resume our journey. The path shortly makes a slight ascent, and now, on our right, we at last espy the cave house, nestling at the foot of the immense limestone cliffs. Mr. Murray, the caretaker at the caves, and his wife come forward and give us a welcome, and we go into the house and fall to on the meal which has been awaiting our advent, preparatory to starting for the caves. - Our illustrations are from photographs taken by Mr. Kerry (of the firm of Kerry and Jones), whilst on the journey. -(Ref- Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872) Saturday 28 March 1891).