Today I went on an all-day coach trip to
Yarrangobilly caves and the
power station. I had a feeling that there might be timing issues as the ride guide
said that the tour left at 10 am, but I thought that was a bit late. The tour
operators were already on site by 7:45 and champing at the bit. Their scheduled
departure time was 8:30.
Once on board it was a windy, fast, nauseous ride past Blowering Dam, which is just
south of Tumut and the other side of Snubb Range from Batlow. Blowering is where
Ken Warby set his unbroken world water speed record of 511 km/h. The driver was
also telling us about the fact that, while everybody talks about Jindabyne and
Adaminiby having to move for the hydro scheme, Blowering is the poor cousin
that people forget. Residents had to fight for compensation and many were forced
off the land as they couldn't afford to buy new land.
Between Tumut and Blowering there was a valley in which many, many trees had been
blown down by a mini-tornado that ripped through the area around Christmas. If you
recall the news of the time, Canberra was reported as having high winds come through
and rip roofs of houses and bring down branches. The tornado was part of the same
weather effect, ripping up whole trees and flattening sheds. The swathe of
destruction was quite impressive.
Yarrongbilly was about 40 minutes drive south into the national park. The bus had
to climb up into the hills and then down a narrow dirt road for 10 minutes or so
to get to the rangers' station. We were supposed to go to a cave and then wander
down to the hot springs. However, the springs were on the floor of the steep valley
and the time left after the caves and lunch was such that I'd have barely had time
(40 minutes) to trek to the springs before I had to be back on the bus. I got to the
top of the track down to the springs after walking to the springs car-park from the
bus, saw how steep and how far down the valley floor was, and turned back. I just
waited on the bus in the cool for the remaining 15 minutes.
Cliff face at Yarrongbilly
North Glory caves were impressive. This system is one of the youngest, being a mere
10,000 years or so old. It is always about 10 degrees Celsius inside and some
riders and volunteers had not thought to bring and jumpers (as we were all so
used to the heat of the last few days). They ended up wandering in the caves with
a towel for the springs wrapped around their shoulders.
North Glory entrance
In the back of the caves, there is a section that has grey soot dis-coloration.
Most people think that this was caused by the fires at Christmas but it's far
older than that, as can be seen by the fact that there are several centimetres
of new deposit on some of the dis-coloration.
Soot and newer deposits
There were several tags stuck around the caves and the ranger said that he'd done
a survey recently for a new lighting system. The one in there dates from the '60s
when the prisoners from Cooma modernised the facilities. Unfortunately the
lights can damage the cave decorations by drying them out. Newer, less obtrusive,
technology is available which could do the job better and with less damage. However
it's about $400,000 to do the work, so the ranger said that it probably won't
He also talked about cleaning caves, which has to be done every few decades to
remove dandruff, lint, skin flakes, etc. from all the visitors. Basically, it's
several months work for a sizable cave system with half a dozen chambers - brooms,
vacuum cleaners, cloths on delicate decorations to sluice out all detritus. There
seems like an awful amount of work in maintaining these attractions.
The Tumut-3 power station was big - the biggest in Australia - with 5 generators. There are
massive pipes up to the top of the hill and the dam wall through which water is
pumped up and down. Normally the station is idling and only providing smoothing
current, but during times when there is demand and the price is high, the station
produces power by pumping water from the Talbingo dam. Then, when the price drops
and electricity is cheap, they pump the water back from the holding pond back up
to the dam to reuse later. A very efficient operation, if you ignore the fact that
somewhere a coal power station is operating constantly to provide that cheap
electricity. Still, in isolation, they must think that they've invented a
perpetual motion machine. At least it is a renewable resource they're using.
At the moment, due to drought conditions, they're releasing a large amount of water
into the Tumut. That's why the river has been flowing so fast and cold. All the water
in this system is used for irrigation in the Murrumbidgee region. A few years ago
they had let so much through that the Blowering dam was down to 2 percent capacity.
Another sign of the times, For a couple of years now, after 911, photography has
been banned in the station. Not that they confisticate cameras or anything
serious, but they prevent the casual snapper from taking photos like
If someone seriously wanted to sabotage the station, such casual snaps would be
one of the last useful bits of publicly useful information on such facilities.
As the station tour only had room for half the bus, those of us on the first tour
went to the Talbingo general store for some cold drinks before a trip to the
dam wall. It's impressive, but no I think that no photo from eye level could do
justice to the expanse of water. Here's a couple of images I found that present
Back in camp, I went down to the river to swim and cool off. There was a guy
thrown sticks for his blind dog. The basic technique was that he'd throw pebbles
towards the floating stick and the dog would guide himself by the splashes. Then
he'd also be guided back to shore by more pebbles.
Blind dog fetches...
...and returns the stick
At the briefing this evening, we were told about a willy willy which had come
through and engulfed an empty tent. The tent had been sucked up and floated
above the camp for a few minutes before coming to rest at the other end of the
Red faces was on in the evening. I was starting to walk up to it and the following
movie The Triplets of
Belleville, but I started feeling crap again, which I put down to the
travel sickness still hanging around. So I turned around and tried to get a good
night's sleep instead.