The stunning cave gems at Yass Valley
It’s a good 45-minute drive from Yass where I’m staying with my five-year-old son, so we start the day at Cafe Dolcetto — a restaurant set in a heritage building in the heart of town. We then turn onto a winding country road that passes several stunning rural properties, including Rupert Murdoch’s famous homestead Cavan.The area is punctuated by striking rocky outcrops that are the remnants of an ancient seabed, and the limestone formed in the shallow marine waters contain the beautifully preserved fossils of lungfish, trilobites and molluscs from about 400 million years ago.When we arrive at Carey’s Cave we meet guide Geoff Kell at the entryway. Back in the 1800s, when the caves were discovered, female explorers would tuck their skirts into their bloomers and wriggle through a hole with only a candle to light the way, and the original entrance is still visible through an illuminated crack in the rocks above the stairs.
Inside, the temperature drops to a comfortable 15C and, as our eyes adjust to the light, the sight of crystals everywhere astonishes my son.Geoff aims to run a tour that’s a bit different and he begins with some commonsense rules — such as “think for yourself by asking questions”.“Hear the sound of dripping water?” he asks my son. “That’s the clue to how crystals are formed.” They’re so close I want to reach out and touch them but Geoff stops me in my tracks. Apparently this causes discolouration and we’re encouraged to handle some crystals and rocks on a specially arranged table further into the tour.The caves are very accessible and a smooth pathway leads us from one cavern to another. Geoff calls our attention to some red limestone that resembles a slice of prosciutto, another crystal formation that could be a dragon and a pretty reflective pool where we stop for a photo, but he saves the best until last.We take our seats in a large cavern that doubles as an amphitheatre and Geoff switches off the lights. I’m shocked at how dark it is — I can’t even see my hand in front of me — and my son goes very quiet.
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