RTA Big Ride 2006 diary

Day 4: Rest Day in Tumut
Previous  Home  Next 

Today I went on an all-day coach trip to Yarrangobilly caves and the Tumut 3 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.

Blowering dam
Blowering dam

Blowering dam
Blowering dam

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
Cliff face at Yarrongbilly

Escarpment
Escarpment

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
North Glory entrance

Grotto
Grotto

Cave decorations
Cave decorations

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
Soot and newer deposits

Streaky bacon
Streaky bacon

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 happen.

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 decent views:



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...
Blind dog fetches...

...and returns the stick
...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 paddock.

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.

Ride Statistics

No riding today.


Previous  Home  Next 


Copyright © 2006. All Rights Reserved.