14 Caves in 12 days – maybe a bit ambitious?

CAVING in TASMANIA – Part 1 –  MOLE CREEK – 4 – 8 March, 2020
And the 12 days didn’t even include travelling to and from Launceston to Mole Creek, then to Ida Bay and then Hobart! And, as David kept reminding me … where were our “rest days”? In my book, sitting in a car driving was good enough for a rest day!  I do have to admit being a bit stuffed by the end of our Tasmanian Adventure.

Day 1 – Marcia, David, and I all arrived in Tassie on March 4, picked up the keys to the caves, did grocery shopping for the first week and then settled into our accommodation, ready for six full days of caving – very exciting!  Beth was to arrive later on that day (along with baby Elliot and Beth’s parents who would be babysitting whilst Beth was caving).

Day 2 – Tailender – Janice M, and David W-C from the Northern Caverneers joined us for the day, but we hardly saw them as they forged ahead to do some surveying – we caught up with them at the turnaround point!

David getting through the gate, you need to be a bit of a contortionist to get your body in the right position.  This is then followed by a LOT of crawling through small streamway passages and LOTS of mud.  Initially we missed the turnoff to the SRT pitch, but it was soon obvious to Beth that we’d gone too far so we backtracked for 20m or so, and there was the turnoff!

The SRT pitch – Beth covered in mud, negotiating over the flow stone, it’s rather awkward, such a relief to get to the top.

Once up to the top of the pitch, there are lots of boot washing stations (to get the mud off your boots), and then finally you arrive at some of the formations.  This one is called the Shark’s Teeth, note the string line to prevent cavers going around the back of the formations to see what’s there.  Much of the cave has track marking (such as this string line) to ensure that formations aren’t accidentally broken.

A bit more muddy crawling and we arrive at the main chamber, lots of helictites on the ceiling and walls.

Good shot of Beth in front of the formations (Photo: David S)

Interesting shot of a helictite growing upwards and an odd twist in it, very delicate (Photo: David S).

And the piece de resistance, straws that look like they have upside down umbrellas at the end of them, the pool of water isn’t very bit, maybe 1.5m lengthwise and .5m across. We had lunch looking at these formations, they’re absolutely fascinating, and David S got a good shot of them with the reflections.  These formations were the reason that I wanted to include Tailender as the caves we’d visit, haven’t seen anything like this before.

Beth was the first one to go back down the pitch, and David S got a good shot of her.

My (not so great) shot of David as he descended.  We ten retraced our steps (or recrawled) back through the passageway and out into daylight.  Great first day’s caving!

Day 3 – Lynds – one of my favourite caves! and Honeycomb – a tourist cave that we tacked onto the end of the day just for the hell of it!  Lynds has something for everyone, you have to swim across the river to get to it, then climb up a small waterfall, then follow the stream passage, not much crawling, but a bit of bouldering.  It was just David, Marcia and me on this day, Beth took the day off to spend time with Elliot and her parents.

The swim across the river – I was a little concerned about the swim because there had been rain for a few days, as it happened, I was able to walk most of the way so the river bed had changed somewhat since the last time I’d done the trip.

David climbing the waterfall (it’s only a meter or so), it was at this point that we saw that there was more water going through the streamway than the last time we did it (water level about 30cm higher than before).

Some nice cave pearls that I spotted.

Great formations in this cave (photo: David S)

Another great formation just near the Golden Staircase (photo: David S).  Just after we went through the Golden Staircase, there is a section of the streamway where you have to duck under a small formation, as the water was considerably higher, we decided that we’d gone far enough so turned around.  There is a rockpile that you can negotiate through, but it involves crawling through lots of water, and it’s very squeezy, we didn’t really fancy that, and the benefit of going through the rockpile didn’t seem to outweigh the effort required.

Great shot of Marcia negotiating her way down the waterfall – mind you, it’s no big deal if you fall in, you just get wet(ter). (Photo: David S).

Action shot of me going down the waterfall – thanks David S!

As we’d had a quick trip through Lynds, we decided to visit a “tourist” cave, Honeycomb, one that I hadn’t visited before.  A quick trip back to our accommodation to hang out wet clothes and then a drive through Mole Creek to the cave.  It’s called Honeycomb for a reason, there are a myriad of holes you can go down or exit as you walk through the cave.

David entering the cave (lots of daylight holes!).  Again, the water was higher than David recalled it, I’d never been here before so I had no frame of reference.  If we’d known how high the water was going to be, we would have brought our wetsuits and had a REAL adventure.

One of the many passages we explored.

Back at the entrance after 45 minutes of exploring and a good shot of some of the old formations (photo: David S).

I wouldn’t mind going back to Honeycomb with someone who knows their way around, looks like lots of passageways to explore.

Day 4 – Marakoopa 1 & 2 and Genghis Kahn – Beth joined David, Marcia and me today, and we were doing a bounce trip of Marakoopa 1 & 2 – whilst David didn’t think he’d done Mara 2, turns out that he had, but the rest of us hadn’t done any of 1 or 2 so it was a real treat.  We had to schedule our visit around the tourist cave tours (liaising with National Parks), and make sure that we weren’t seen exiting the streamway by the tourists.

Marakoopa show cave is heavily decorated so it wasn’t a big surprise for us to find some nice formations almost as soon as we entered the streamway.

And it wasn’t a surprise to find lots of glow worm threads.

Beth admiring more nice formation.

A bit of climbing over slabs of limestone as we made our way upstream.

Really nice fossils on some of the rocks.

We’re almost at the exit of Marakoopa 1 now, making our way towards the daylight hole. A bit of a rock-pile to climb (photo: David S).

At the daylight hole.

Beth climbing out of the exit.

We then had to scout around for the entry for Marakoopa 2.  Initially we went downstream into a gully, the entry was only supposed to be 20m away, and we realised we’d gone too far, so turned around and searched in the opposite direction.  It was well camouflaged but once we found the entry, we realised it was a “no brainer”.

Once we were in the streamway of Mara 2, David realised that he had been there before, the lovely marbleised passageway was a dead give-away.

A shot from above, looking down into the passageway (photo: David S)

And a shot of Marca in the passageway, note how narrow it is (Photo: David S)

We went all the way up to the exit daylight hole and then turned around and retraced our steps, with a short stop off back in Marakoopa 1 on a high ledge with these cool Stals. (Photo: David S).

This was a great trip, I’d definitely apply for a permit to do it again, lovely formations, interesting marble inclusions in the limestone and a top streamway.

We sat around for about 15 minutes waiting for a tourist cave tour to go past us and then made a quick exit, had lunch in the sun and then headed over to Genghis Kahn.  Took us a bit of stumbling around in the bush to find the track that we should have been on and then, there it was … the locked gate.

A longer than I remembered boulder, rock pile to negotiate through and then we were in the main chamber, nice shot here of a big formation (photo: David S)

 

Eventually we found our way over to where I remembered all the formations were, under the roof of this ledge.

A nice collection of straws.

And lots of helictites (Photo: David S)

We were underground in Genghis for about an hour.  Interestingly, I put this cave on the permit because I remembered it being amazing, but it wasn’t as good as I remembered (there are a lot of things in life like that – lol).  I probably wouldn’t go back there, finding my way down the rock pile was tedious, although have to say that it was easier going up to get out … other than the small climb though which someone had to shove me up, note to self, if you ever go back, take a hand-line!  We took ourselves to the Pub for dinner after we’d cleaned up – very nice lamb shanks!

Day 5 – Croesus– another short-ish day, after which David was heading off to Launceston in the afternoon to pick up Heather would be joining us for the rest of the adventure.

I had done Croesus twice before at Mole Creek, it’s a classic cave, highly decorated, and an easy walk through a streamway, so I made sure that we would do it this time too.  It’s dead easy to get to, a 10 minute walk (or thereabouts), and after getting through the beautiful stainless steel locked gate, there is a small crawl and then you are up to your neck in water before stepping out onto a nice sandy bank.  This time, despite the rain in the previous week, the water level was quite low, so we didn’t get as wet, it was still cold in the cave though, and we wore wetsuits.

Big cave spider just inside the entry passageway.  If you didn’t look up you’d miss it.

These are rim (or gour) pools, you must walk on the rim of each pool where possible and keep in the streamway where possible.  It takes a bit of balance to not fall off the rims, and they are amazingly hard, they look fragile but aren’t.

And the water is crystal clear.

The “beehive” – we tried to light up the water underneath this formation (it doesn’t go all the way down to the streamway floor), but it was too hard, apparently too, there are small helictites under the beehive (Photo:  David S).

I really love this part of the cave, the flowstone goes down to the water level and then stops (dissolved away), so the water goes in under the formation. When the light is right the water is luminous blue.

Beth at a lovely white formation (I was using David’s lights to get this shot).

A beautiful section of formation. There are lots of areas in this cave where you can’t go (track markings all the way). (Photo: David S)

When we got to the part of the cave where it closed in and there was a lot of bouldering we’d have to do, we decided that we’d seen the best, so turned around and made out way out.  All in all it was a great day, and a cave that I could do every time I headed down to Tassie.

So, six caves in five days, pretty full on! and the best was still to come.  I had scheduled Kubla Kahn for the next day, with the expectation that there would be too many people for the limit of six that we had, and I wouldn’t have to do it (was still suffering the indignity of falling into Sally’s Folly the last time) but as it turned out, including our leader, David W-C, there were only five going and I said that I would go and do the cave.  It’s a big day, and I hardly slept the night before, so, Kubla deserves a post by itself …. stay tuned!

Big thanks to David W-C, Janice M, and the MSS crew and to David for his beautiful photos (all taken on his mobile phone … which, would you believe, you can make calls from, and navigate through the streets of a city!)

This entry was posted in Caving, MSS, Road Trips, Tasmania. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to 14 Caves in 12 days – maybe a bit ambitious?

  1. David says:

    Good summary of the first 5 days. Amazing eh? A photo enabled GPS device that can also calculate, calendar, communicate…and you can make phone calls too. What is the world coming to?

  2. John L'Estrange says:

    A grand day out (to quote Wallace).
    The caves are beautiful but I still prefer canyons, even though I am not participating any more.

  3. Jenny Hughes says:

    Looked like an amazing trip! so many amazing photos! Thank yo so much for taking the time to write it.

  4. Kathy Leslie says:

    Another amazing adventure. Stunning photography. Thanks for sharing!
    A high point in my day of sheltering at home!!! 🤪

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