Road Trip Day 3 – Wellington Caves and the road to Mudgee

Day 3 and time to press on towards Mudgee. We backtracked 50kms or so to visit Wellington Caves, which I had heard some good things about. When we arrived though, I was a bit more sceptical. It had a definite whiff of the glowworm about it. The glowworm is a short hand Mike and I use for a place where the sell or expectation far outweighs the actual experience. It comes from a visit a few years back to a glowworm cave on the Gold Coast. Needless to say waiting an hour for a trip through a dark cave that smelt of things recently dead to see a small trail of little sparkles was not the highlight of our holiday. However, it did give us a fun way to reference our experiences now.

The town of Wellington is past its hay-day and so is the fossil trail, which could have been quite interesting with some more information and a bit of effort. You have to buy tickets for a guided tour into the caves and the “box office”, for want of a better word, doubles as a small cafe where the smell of fried chips hangs thick in the air. It’s very clear no ex-marketing bigwig has tree-changed to this part of the world and joined the local “save our city” council. I was having serious second thoughts about the whole thing, but as we had travelled a good way to come and see it, we stuck it out. And thank goodness we did. We chose Cathedral Cave (there are three tours to choose from, each running at different times), because it was the next available. And we had a really great time. Not a glowworm in sight!

Our guide, Katrina, was fantastic. She was knowledgeable, interested and entertaining. She peppered her talk with loads of anecdotes and personal reflections in a conversational manner. Despite having to negotiate 42 meters worth of stairs (don’t know how many, didn’t count) and duck both headache rock and guillotine rock, we all had a great time. The stalactites and stalagmites were quite stunning – nature at her gorgeous best, but the history of the cave most interested me. The Cathedral is named for a formation the resembles an organ. It is in fact one of the largest stalagmites in the world. In times gone by they used to hold church services down there, with the minister preaching from half way up, behind an formation that looks remarkably like a pulpit. Early photos called it “The Alter”. They even used to do baptisms in one of the rock pools. Of course, this damaged the cave remarkably, but it is still fascinating. There is, apparently, an old leather bound bible on the pulpit, from about 100 years ago, slowly getting covered with crystal formations. Every year they do a christmas carol service down there and have acoustic concerts. The sound is quite amazing, apparently.

So, an experience worth doing if you are heading out that way.

But onward to Mudgee! We traipsed across country, passing through rolling fields bursting with new life until, finally, we spotted our first vineyard, an indication that we were travelling in the right direction (which is good, because by this time we were off the Testra grid!).

Mudgee really is gorgeous, with its wide streets and colonial architecture. All the buildings are low rise, and the endless sky seems to flatten everything further. The day was warm and the sky clear, and the sun bleached the colour out of things, so all in all, you felt a bit like you were in an old postcard. Most appealingly, to me anyway, was the abundance of coffee shops and funky looking eateries. I wanted a good coffee badly. We had a nice lunch at The Dancing Goat and had no problem arranging an allergy-friendly meal for the kids. The owner is an ex-Sydney-sider who set up the cafe about 5 months ago.

It got me thinking about why people move to the country. I couldn’t imagine it. Maybe it is the skill set we have (definitively city orientated) or just the fact that I need to be near the sea, but I don’t find anything remotely appealing about the idea of a move to the country. I couldn’t even entertain the idea of moving to St Ives, so I am definitely an “inner” suburbs girl – but I am not sure why. I think, perhaps, it is because cities represent, to me, anyway, opportunity, potential. In the country, it seems to me, your options are much more limited and I find that scary. I might not engage in everything that is available to me in Sydney, but I could if I chose to.

But enough of that! We got to visit a couple of wineries and bought some fabulous basil infused olive oil from Blacklea Vineyard. And then we rolled on into our campsite, day done.

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