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Published: March 19th 2014
He and two females entertained us as we waited to enter the Buchan Caves.
Well that idea didn’t go quite as planned! It started OK with us getting up, sandwiches made and on the road in plenty of time to get there for the first cave we wanted – at 11.15am (you have to get there ½ hour earlier as it takes a while to get to the cave entry). I went to buy the tickets for the two caves and the Park Ranger said, “You won’t be able to take your walking stick into the cave but there are hand rails all along the path.” That’s OK – I can do that
. “Oh and the first tour is for the Fairy Cave. There are about 200 steps inside that cave and you have to walk to the top of the hill to enter the cave. Also there is a 40 metre section where you will have to crouch down to walk.” Not OK – my knee would be too sore to walk for an hour after the climb, never mind all those steps and bending inside. So much for seeing both caves.
“The next tour at 1pm is for the Royal Cave. Its entrance is from just a short walk up a slight incline
Royal Caves, Buchan
Just a few of the formations in the caves.
and there are fewer steps inside the cave.” That sounds more like it!
Barry wasn’t worried about seeing Fairy Cave so we bought the tickets for Royal Cave and then went back just up the road to the township of Buchan (about four shops, including a post office, a pub and a petrol station) for a coffee.
There was a smoky haze all across the hillsides and the smell of burning was quite strong. We had seen a “Smoke over the Road” hazard warning sign on the way to Buchan and were a little worried as there had been bushfires in the area a few days ago. We also noticed a sign outside the Buchan Caves Office saying that the Snowy River National Park was closed. On enquiry, we were told that the Country Fire Authority (CFA) were doing a controlled burn today, (to reduce the flammable material on the ground like dry strips of eucalypt bark, dried leaves and grass) as there was so little wind and the temperature was mild. The forecast for tomorrow is hot and windy again so I hope they are able to put the fires out in time.
Just before 1pm, we
Small gallery at Nowa Nowa
Fantastical sculptures from tree roots and limbs
arrived outside the Royal Cave entrance and sat down to wait for the guide. Suddenly, a large bird landed in a tree just opposite us – it was a King Parrot male with his beautiful red head, breast and underpants and dark green back. He was followed by the female and a juvenile, both with a lot more of the strong green colour and just the underpants red. He kindly stayed still for a while so I took his photo (the other two wouldn’t have shown on my camera amongst all the green).
Then the guide arrived and explained how the formations are created and passed around some broken pieces of stalactites for us to feel and examine because “Once in the cave you are not allowed to touch anything except the hand rails or the formations will be damaged by your skin oils”.
We entered the cave system and walked along the pathways with very good, strong handrails on them, rather slimy but at least I felt safe. The only problem was a few of the paths were EXTREMELY narrow and I had to sidle along them as my shoulders and hips didn’t fit. There were
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos
They gave me a fright as I walked on a path next to the gallery
and you did
have to crouch sometimes but it was not really difficult and I managed OK. It was worth it, of course. The caverns full of formations were wonderful – a magical world where the walls glitter and strange shapes of gleaming white, rusty red, and all shades between, tower around you or appear to cascade nearby and offer a feast for the imagination. The cavern names even show this, “Font of the Gods; Octopus Chamber”. I never tire of seeing cave formations and, though this was not as spectacular as Jenolan and some others we’ve seen, it’s well worth seeing.
Afterwards we went and sat on the green and had lunch. A family of White-winged Choughs were roaming about near us and one started to poke his beak into a dusty patch at the base of a tree. He then rubbed it under some feathers. He did this repeatedly, as well as having the usual dust bath. It seemed as if he was applying the dust like cosmetics! Very soon the rest of the family joined him, all piling on top of each other. It looked very funny. There were also the usual Australian Magpies and Superb
Ferryman's Seafood Cafe, Lakes Entrance
Barry's very belated 65th birthday dinner - a fabulous seafood basket.
Fairy Wrens around the area.
We drove back through Nowa Nowa, which had a small gallery. It featured some gemstones and crystals and quite a few sculptures made of highly polished wood. They were natural but fantastical shapes formed by roots, trunks and twisted limbs from local trees. It’s amazing what art is under our noses and most people don’t see. This sculptor did.
We had another ornithological surprise while eating ice creams and walking down the lane next to the gallery, which nearly gave me a heart attack. Three huge black birds leapt out of a thick bush right next to me and flew high up into a tree. On closer look we discovered they were Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos. I’ve seen pictures of them but this was the first live ones. Most unexpected!
Back at Lakes Entrance, Barry decided he would like to have his very belated birthday dinner at Ferryman’s Seafood Cafe, which sits on the edge of the Lake amid the fishing fleet wharfs and specialises in the fresh fish they catch. It even has its own trawler. We sat outside overlooking the fleet and chose to have a Fisherman’s Basket for two. One
Sunset over the Lakes
The view from our table as we finished our lovely meal at Ferryman's Seafood Cafe.
fish on the menu was Duck Fish, which I’ve never heard of, so I asked if that could be included. Unfortunately, they had run out of it but when the waitress returned with the tray of food she told us that the chef had found a small piece for us to try, grilled. It was very tasty and I would have liked more so I’ll keep an eye out for it along the coast.
This Fisherman’s Basket was rather different from what Barry had expected (the usual pub ones consisting of HEAPS of chips, battered flake, unnamed fish pieces, scallops, calamari and a couple of King Prawns). To start with there was just a small
bowl of lovely hot, crispy chips to share, and (shock, horror!) a pile of salad (“You don’t have to eat it – I’ll have it”; “I suppose I should, it’s good for me”). On top of these were two fillets of battered flake (sweet, tender fish and crispy outside), a small piece of grilled Gemfish and the Duck Fish, plus a pile of small prawns, some fresh, raw oysters, mussels and some scallops. The best bit was the six halves of Moreton Bay Bugs, (around here they just call them Bugs) which we kept for last and were YUM! I just wish there was more meat in the tail, it was gone too quickly.
We enjoyed all of it and Barry even survived the salad (although we did leave some of the lettuce). It was great watching the coming and going of the boats and birds, too. I was surprised to see a pelican come to roost on top of a light above the wharf. His feet just about covered the whole top of the light!
For dessert I had figs stewed in red wine syrup (which was really tasty but very sweet so Barry finished it off for me) with vanilla ice cream. He had an Affogato (ice cream in a large glass, alongside an espresso coffee and a liqueur of your choice – his was Cointreau. You pour the coffee and liqueur over the ice cream and eat it all together).
While we were eating our desserts we watched a beautiful sunset over the masts of the trawlers. It was a lovely end to a wonderful day.
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