There was a hint of an Indiana Jones Adventure in the making as we stood at the top of Nellies Glen, the sky darkened by a moonless night as we readied ourselves to go in search of…
“The Exotic Treasures of The Temple of Baal”
Fellow adventurer, Ray Tong and I set off in near sub-zero temperatures along an old bridle track, The Six-Foot Track, taking our first steps cautiously to ensure we didn’t slip on the ice covering the ground. Established in 1884, it is a well trodden path linking the township of Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to the picturesque Jenolan Caves to its west.
The 45 kilometre track initially traverses majestic forests and national parks deep in the Megalong Valley and is often trekked as a 2 or 3-day walk. Although, every March there is a six-foot track marathon run and the front-runners will complete the distance in around 3 to 4 hours despite the mountainous terrain.
The Jenolan Caves, containing some of the world’s most spectacular calcite crystal formations, have been entrancing visitors since 1838 and are the world’s oldest, dating back over 340 million years.
The glorious Orient Cave and the glittering Temple of Baal are indisputably among the world’s best…
Our route took us along fire trails and well-worn tracks in the Megalong Valley, an area steeped in early Australian settler history, before heading up on to Black Mountain Range, a tough section as the route winds its way up the mountain.
When the route was first surveyed in 1884 it took the exploration party around 11 days to make their way through the rugged Australian bush. We had planned on around 11-12 hours of walking to cover the distance to the caves carrying 15 kilogram packs.
And whilst that was the plan, we were content with just getting out and about in the mountains on another adventure.
The area is important to the Gungungurra people who moved throughout the various valleys in the region. The track even passes the site of the last recorded Gungungurra corroboree and a cricket ground where an all-aboriginal team played the Megalong settlers in the 1890s.
“And it would hardly be an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones unless there was a swing bridge of some kind along the way”…
An interesting feature on the track is Bowtell’s Swing Bridge, a suspension bridge over the Cox’s River that was constructed by the army in 1992. It is used as an alternative crossing when the Cox’s River is too high to cross safely. It is such a beautiful spot that we were tempted to set up camp, but we were still a long way from our destination so we settled on a break to take in the peace and solitude that the flowing river brought.
The area teemed with wildlife, kangaroos feeding on fresh green shoots of grass, and Gang-Gang cockatoos, squawking, as though heralding our passage through the tall standing gum trees.
As we made our way up along the Black Mountain fire trail the silence of the Australian bush was punctuated every so often by motor-cycle riders who use the area for recreational riding, and occassionally, a four-wheel drive vehicle.
And as the sun lowered in the western sky, disappearing behind the mountains, and the air cooled, the Stately Caves House came into view, a most welcome sight after 11 hours of trekking.
We took a look around the caves area and were later met by our families before heading to the small rural township of Oberon, situated about 30 kilometres away, where we were able to relax over a beer, reflecting on our journey, and…
“The Exotic Treasures of the Temple Of Baal”