This geological formation was the prize at the end of an experience. It was an experience that provided just a hint of what it might have been like for the early explorers of this continent.
Let me begin at the beginning. My mum has wanted to visit Borenore Caves, near Orange NSW, for many years. We finally made the trip. Whenever the topic came up, the quick reply from all around was “Take a torch”. It’s not normally something we hear when planning a trip to caves that are marked on a tourist map. Normally, there’s a little more infrastructure, a volunteer guide or at least a kiosk selling fridge magnets and hiring audio equipment.
Granted, there are some modern conveniences, including a sturdy bridge to cross the creek and a well-kept picnic area. But once you get past the last of the tourist signs about 100m from the entrance, that’s it.
The Arch Cave cuts through from one side of the rock to the other. As a result, the cave has two entrances.
The entrance shown in the first photo above is 100m from the bridge, while the one on the right is 600m. Your experience will be dictated by your choice of entrance.
The one closest to the picnic area is quite average. A large opening into which the sunlight streams…..
However, if you want to get a sense of what it may have been like to venture into a dark unknown that is surrounded by a landscape and geology foreign to you, I recommend turning right and taking the 600m track to the far entrance. And to authenticate the experience a little more, ensure that your torches aren’t very powerful…..
I also recommend leaving behind old colonial attitudes. This area has been home to Indigenous Australians for thousands of years. Please bear that in mind and enter only with respect.
The explorer’s mindset in action
I seriously considered backing out before I got in. Getting to the mouth was a delicate scramble up some well worn rocks. The torches were not throwing enough light to offer any reassurance. There was no indication how long the cave was or what obstacles, twists or turns might be inside. And there was no hiding from the geological features surrounding the entrance that evoked spooky tales of old. While I’ve had remarkable experiences in some caves, there were others I needed to exit as quickly as possible.
My mum reminds me of an emphatic pronouncement made by a sibling at a recent outing – “Well, I’m going across. I’ll meet you back at the car.” At the time, we were wondering whether the questionable bridge would force us back the way we came; the long way back. We were roped in by her surety and determination and crossed with no difficulty and no problems. Not that mum was planning to abandon me while she explored the cave alone. It was just a reminder, perhaps to both of us, that forward is still an option.
If I had not put the explorer’s mindset into action at the cave’s entrance, heading into the darkness, albeit tentatively, then the sight of the geological formation at the other end would not have been so sweet. The dull, torch-lit interior gives way to bright sunlight that overwhelms detail but then, turning my head, the light dances across the ridges that were formed millennia ago when water danced here instead.
Is there a greater emotional investment associated with exploring when compared with travelling? Could this investment produce greater dividends in the end?