Caving in Tasmania – “you should only get your legs wet”

CROESUS CAVE – 19 April 2018
Those were Garry’s words, plus “if you lean on one hand, and hold your pack to the side you shouldn’t get too wet” … wrong! It was a squeezy passage just to get in and then there was a deep pool – chest deep for me! It was going to be a long cold trip – not to mention being behind schedule due to the road being closed off for a car rally.

Andrew was the self-appointed time-keeper for today and had us up bright and early and in the car by 8 am sharp; right on time.  We’d only driven a few k when we were stopped by a line of rally cars stretching ahead for what looks like kilometres, plus a policeman at an intersection explaining that the road was closed for the Targa Tasmania Rally, and the road would be closed until 12 noon.  We couldn’t even make a detour because we needed to get to the Mersey River bridge and that was part of the rally route.

We explained that we had a permit for this particular cave, and had to use the permit for the day that was indicated, couldn’t do it any other day.  Nah, they weren’t going to let us through, but he did say that quite often the road opened earlier than the 12 noon time advertised.  We were a bit cross because the notice on the road hadn’t been there the day before, it had gone up at 7am in the morning, if we’d known about it earlier we would have gotten out of bed earlier!

If the road was opened at 12 noon, we could still do the cave, it would just mean that we wouldn’t get out in daylight – good thing we’d prepared tonight’s dinner beforehand as it was highly unlikely that we’d get back to the cabin before 9pm.

So, we made the best of a bad situation and retraced our steps and decided to visit the Marakoopa Tourist cave.

Tasmania does a great job with its tourist caves (much better than NSW), this one had a lovely walk through rainforest.

Of course, we’d seen much better formations but the lighting was better for photographs.  The guide also gave a great presentation about glow worms (which because it’s dark you can’t take photos of!).

Andrew, Cathi, Mel and I took the long way back down a rainforest walk which was also very pretty.  Apparently a massive flood had washed away a lot of the infrastructure both in and outside the cave, you could see a bit of evidence of the flood still left but in the main, they’d done a good job of clearing it up.

Another nice stainless steel gate opened at 12.10pm and into the cave.

Immediately after the gate there’s a “crawl” this is where Garry had said you could keep relatively dry by crawling and having just one hand in the water and your pack out of the water.  Didn’t quite work for me, both hands in the water and in up to my chest with the backpack down the bottom, letting god knows how much water into my dry bags!

Garry taking a few snaps as Andrew and Mel exit the crawl, there was a bit of a hole and the water was up to my waist.  We then started walking in the stream way.

Whilst there were a few knee/thigh deep pools (like this one), in the main the water was only ankle deep.  Garry had given us instructions about what to walk on and what to avoid.

Whilst it looks easy walking along the stream way, it wasn’t all that easy, there was a lot of silt in the water, so the first person got a good track/route, those of us behind were walking through silty water which was disconcerting for me given my South Bowen experience with silty/muddy water.

Cool shot looking back at the others with the reflection on the water.

More of the stream-way – up to this point there were only the occasional stal, or straws on the ceiling, not many formations in the stream-way of course.

Here you can only just see in the distance the rim-pool formations that we were walking on.

We’re now at our first photo shoot and Andrew’s looking at a way of setting off a flash under water (using a clear dry bag).  I was at this point that they told us about the problems working with water and flashes, you can get a 1,000v shock from a flash, and Garry can attest to this, once one fell in the water and when he picked it up he got a shock that threw him back high onto the bank of the river he was in.  I couldn’t get any good shots at this photo-shoot, was possibly too far away.

Just after the photo-shoot was a key-hole route around a deep pool, so rather than get wet we all took the key hole.  It wasn’t easy to get to, involved a big stretch but once up all was fine.

Getting out after the key hole involved sidling past a drop onto a bit of a ledge, if you slid off, all that would happen is you’d get wet (we were all trying to keep our body heat at this stage).

Another crawl.

Melissa coming through the crawl beside the water.

This was another photo shoot that I couldn’t capture cause it was too far away.  This formation is called the “Wedding Cake” mostly because it is absolutely white, and the flow-stone looks like icing.  You can just see the sparkles of the crystals on it, very pretty up close.  The flowstone goes all the way down to the water and then stops, the water flows under it, it’s really fascinating.

This is the photo shoot – as you can see, couldn’t get anything, but you can see some of the flashes that were set.  Melissa is looking at the “rocket ship” (see my photo below).

The rocket ship – has to be 10 – 15m high.

More of the formations that they were capturing.

The formations are now getting to be impressive, see the one on the left which has a stal from the ceiling and one on the ground, they’ll probably meet up in a thousand years.

Back into the stream-way.  Nice formations on the ceiling.

Further on.

This one is really cool and shows how the formation stops just above the water, not sure whether the water dissolves the limestone formation or what, but fascinating, the flow-stone is quite thick, probably over a metre at the base, its been forming over hundreds of thousands of years.

Melissa walking on the rimstone pool edge, it’s very hardened, looks fragile but you can walk on it without fear of it breaking. Rimstone dams form where there is some gradient, and flow, over the edge of a pool. Crystallization begins to occur at the air/water/rock interface. The turbulence caused by flow over the edge of the building dam may contribute to the outgassing or loss of carbon dioxide from water, and results in deposit of the calcite  on this edge.  It would take thousands of years to form the dam walls.

We’re at the Golden Staircase now (a series of rimstone pools which head up almost to the ceiling of the cave).  We had received the permit for the cave because we were going to do some cleaning of mud from the bottom of the staircase.  We had carried in a bottle to get water out of the river and a scrubbing brush.  We took before and after photos to submit to Parks Tasmania to prove that we’d done the work.

Just after we’d had a photoshoot at the Golden Staircase, there was a rock pile that we had to negotiate through and then a climb.  I didn’t realise it but we were only 15 minutes from the end.  Before we’d started, Garry said that if anyone got cold, then it was ok if 2 people (of the group of 6) walked out, but if three decided to go, then the whole group would exit.  Murray was getting very cold now, so I offered to walk out with him, not realising we were so close to the end.  So, we retraced our steps, was sort of fun trying to remember the way we’d come in and make sure we didn’t end up in a deep pool.

Beautiful pure white shawls (the only ones I’d see over the whole week) on the way out – Murray back-lit them for me with my head torch.

Murray and I had no trouble exiting the cave and it was just on dusk so we were able to easily find our way back to the car.

We changed and washed our muddy stuff in the river, then took a walk over the bridge, coming back we saw a person who had a fire so we thought we’d light a fire back at the van to keep warm.  I didn’t have any matches, so walked along to the person (Phil) camping just beyond us and borrowed a lighter (and fire starters) from him.  Once we had the fire going, Phil joined us around the camp fire.  He was a backpacker from England and was really entertaining.  At 8pm the others turned up (eternally grateful for the fire to warm up by).  We were on the road by 8.45 and very grateful for dinner at the cabin that was already cooked.

I really enjoyed Croesus cave and given the chance would go back to do it (without the stops for photography) and next time make it all the way to the end.  Next time I’ll know what to expect and maybe stay drier – it is a beautiful cave and I loved the way that you could walk upright for almost the whole way!

 

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8 Responses to Caving in Tasmania – “you should only get your legs wet”

  1. Shirley says:

    Have enjoyed sharing your adventures M – amazing (you too!) Loved the formations.

    Shirley H

    • marilyn says:

      Thanks Shirley – you’ll love this. When I got back, decided to take a walk with my Grandson on a tourist track, thought i’d walk along the top of a retaining wall, fell over the edge about a m and hurt both my knees, not sure what the problem is but I’m definitely sidelined!

  2. Cathi says:

    Good report, Marilyn – it was a great day..! Croesus was a beautiful cave – very wet and very cold, but including a bonus tourist cave, and the fact that a WRX beat a 911 for the final standings in the Targa meant everything turned out just as it should have 🙂

    But please stop injuring yourself…

  3. Linda says:

    Amazing Marilyn !!!!, thanks for sharing.

  4. David says:

    Croesus is a Tassie classic! It’s a privilege to be granted a permit. It was possible in the past to do it as a through trip, but these days, it is no longer allowed to prevent the tracking of dirt in from the top end. It really is a self cleaning cave if you enter from the efflux. Good one Marilyn.

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