Wed 22nd – Getting There:

I woke early, finished packing and then went to McDonalds to use the WiFi so I could get the phone numbers I had forgotten to write down. I dropped past Bunnings on the way back to get some more batteries and a charger.
I then grabbed my three bags and began the tiresome walk to the station. Once I had reached West Ryde – seeing a Vinnies opposite the station – I thought I’d make a final attempt at some overalls. I went in and one of the kind ladies had a look out the back to see if any had been brought in recently; no dice. They offered to watch my bags whilst I tried my luck on another opp-shop just down the block… It was a small place with some cloths at the back, but no overalls. The shopkeeper seemed somewhat of an expert in Aus stamps and had some impressive collections for sale. One of the albums was of Aus stamps pre 1901 when all the states had their separate stamps; he was selling this album for 4k.
When I returned to Vinnies I was presented with a pair of overalls. They were a perfect fit! Feeling lucky I quickly purchased them and ended up picking up a Sunto orienteering compass too.
I rang Keir from the phone booth across the road and my lift arrived shortly after. We headed south talking about pi’s (pi-cam, HDMI to DVI, arp…), Garmin, Diving, Music, etc.
We stopped for lunch in Yass and got held up before reaching Tumut due to bush fires. As we were passing Blowering Reservoir just before Talbino, we saw some planes water bombing the burning hillside.
It wasn’t long before we were driving along Long Plain, past some wild horses to our campsite above the Blue Waterhole.

Coops came up from the waterhole after we started setting up. We then went down to the look at the resurgence (re-emergence) and I went through my first Cooleman *cave*.

 

 

Thur 23rd – The North Branch Sink and Murry Cave:

During the night Phill and Allen arrived we were soon all up, breakfasted and heading along the Cooleman Plain behind the camp (part of the Nicole Gorge Walk). We pocked around in some rocks below the North Branch Sink. We then went and had a look at a rift behind the original sink. Further up the river we discovered that the sink had actually moved a 100m or so upstream; the river disappearing through a gaping hole in the ground.

 

We then went to Murry Cave Keir had a go getting through the first sump which proved to be both colder and longer than he expected. He resurfaced saying that you couldn’t get through without a mask. Freezing, he headed out to the sunshine with Phill.
Coops, Allen, Shannon and me then headed down the Evil Twin (lower branch) to survey it (it actually passes under the entrance). We finished surveying just past a squeeze, not much further on was an interesting tube which headed down to the left and back up into what could be an interesting chamber. We didn’t get to explore further as it was getting late.

We wound our way back through the gorge. When we finally made it back to camp I discovered I had lost a glove so went all the way back to Murrys. I wasn’t successful but did find a piece of diving gear. It was dark when I got back and I met a rescue party just leaving camp.

 

Fri 24th – River Cave:
I awoke to the sound of rain and everyone was soon huddled beneath the shelter. It was quite some time before Kier, Phill and I where on our way to River Cave. We walked in the same way; Keir having a look in Murrys for some gear whilst Phill and I went to have another look at the new sink. We regrouped and headed straight over the mountain to the entrance to River Cave passing several dolines along the way. Beneath the dolines is the part of Murrys cut off by the sumps. We would be surveying the Lower River of River Cave hopefully making a connection to Murrys.
We out on our wetsuits at the entrance and took in two 3L(?) tanks. It wasn’t long before we were at the first duckunder (which you can bypass via a crack). Further on we came to the sump which also had a haul-line. It was much longer than the previous duckunder, so I borrowed Phill’s air cylinder and regulator. I resurfaced without any problems and gave the line three tugs to let Phill know I was through.
We left the packs here and after observing several earth worms entered some spectacular river passage with large side chambers and patterns of dark basalt(?) from previous volcanic activity decorating the walls. There were also sections covered with delicate stags and other areas with glop-pots rising like the funnels some ants create at the entrances to their ant hills.
Further down the main river, we reached a point where our progress was impeded by a rock-pile. When I crawled in, trying to follow the passage of the water I found a web with a spider in the middle, It was quite small and I was surprised to see it this far underground. Just above the web I found some dive line which seemed to be tied around one of the rocks. Excited, I rushed back (as fas as a could in my grovelling position) to let the others know; I thought it might be some line used in Murrys. Keir went to look; it ended up being a small loop that may have washed in from Upper River.
We surveyed our way back and I had a look at several side passages. At one rockpile where the river cuts under the rock beside it there was a side passage that could be accessed by crawling along the waterway. On the opposite side was another passage. This one was quite impressive: the clear water covered the entire floor of the triangular passage. You could walk through standing comfortably knee deep your light bouncing around creating weird patterns on the clean walls. As I went further I was soon swimming and the water soon disappeared beneath the roof into diver territory.
Further on in the main passage as I was wriggling my way around a little side section with quite a number of worms I spotted some small critters swimming around in the shallows. I sat watching them for some time; they where a silvery-white colour with legs they used to scoot around on. They had an oval shaped cross-section and seemed a bit too top heavy because they kept falling over when they made a sharp turn. They seemed aware of my presence (or maybe the light) and would burrow into small holes in the mud dispreading completely.
The fun was soon over and we emerged to the overcast but rain-free upper world. The walk back was quite pleasant and when we returned to camp our numbers had swelled with the arrival of David, Nicole and their son Olly. We timed our walk well because it wasn’t long before the drizzle started again.
Sat 25th – Surveying Murry:
After making it across Cooleman Plain and half way to the cave, Allen decided to look at a hole under a rock. I got down on my belly and pocked my head in… it seemed to go, but at this point I realised I had left my helmet behind. I walked/jogged back meeting Shannon’s group and Keir & Phil on the way. On the way back I spent some time searching for caves on the hillside. The area I searched had large sections of the cliff flaking off, here there was a keyhole tube heading into the cliff (I later found this was tagged: CP112). It went in some distance before it became too narrow to attempt without someone for support, so I headed on to Murrys.

I had some lunch, dropped the air cylinder off half-way and then helped Allen and Coops with the re-survey. Whilst we were doing this Keir and Phill where surveying past the sump.
Whilst surveying me met Bill (who I don’t really know); he had set up . The divers were out before we had finished so we completed the last of the survey using skeleton legs.

As we neared camp the smoke from camp-fires could be smelt – apparently the rain had brought down the total fire ban. When we got back it was quite busy; Megan had arrived as well as Debora and her sister Louise.

Sun 26th:

David, Nicole, Olly and Louise went down the gorge to look at Shrodingers, White Fish and Easter Caves (I think).
The divers where going to Glop Pot.
Myself, Coops, Megan & Allen went to Murrys to finish the survey. But first I had another go at getting into CP112 without success.
Allen and I finished off the end whilst Coops and Megan surveyed the efflux (+ something else?).

We met Keir while we were finishing the area at the sump; apparently they were a person short to tackle Glop Pot.
Once the end was finished we surveyed some side leads and then had a photo shoot.

Once finished, Allen and I went to Ev’s cave to check out a lead he had previously been pushing. The entrance was near the south branch sink, it had several loose boulders at the entrance, so you had to be quite careful as you squeezed in. In general the cave was quite tight and involved a lot of crawling and getting down on your belly (often in mud) – how fun! There some spots which where a little unstable so you had to be careful not to disturb the precarious rocks.
Allen got ahead at one point and I followed the impressions he left in the mud past a small stream meandering its way through the mud, and then followed some wet rocks meeting him at an active river passage. He was quite certain we had made our way into Keith’s Faint Hole; a connection that hasn’t been found before. I had a look around and went halfway through a crescent shaped hole just above the water’s surface (It turned out this hole is known as the Wetter Box, lol: Ox Box).
We had to head back out before I could go any further as it was getting quite late. I got wet reversing out of the Wetter Box, but the water was surprisingly warm. Coming back out through the mud belly crawl, I had a sizable rock fall down in front of me giving me quite a fright. My gumboot also got lodged in a crack right as I was crawling over what may have been a dead chick – pew!

We had a quick break and followed the riverbed to caves river and had a wash at Blue Waterhole (I discovered I had lost another pair of gloves). I had a quick dip in the icy water and warmed up a bit on the walk up the hill to camp.
There were less people around Bill and his friend had left as well as Deborah & Louise.

Mon 27th:

David, Nicole and Olly packed up and said there farewells. Coops went to help Keir and Phill with Glop Pot and I went with Allen and Megan to survey the connection from Ev’s Cave into Keith’s Faint Hole.
We stopped at the new North Branch Sink on the way and has some fun damming the water to release it in a raging torrent. We then followed the tourist track up onto the hill. It was quite hot by this time and we had some foodstuff and got changed within the cave.

We surveyed through looking at things off to the side as we went (some more rocks fell in the same place). The most intriguing thing was a round hole about 600mm in diameter and just over a metre deep. At the bottom water was flowing quite quickly through what looked like a drain pipe. We didn’t want to get wet at this point so left it – but didn’t actually get time on the way back.
It was quite hard keeping the Disto and sketch clean and we had to continuously take our loves off and on. I think we were glad to reach Keiths.

We went upstream first to look at some side passages but I don’t think we added anything monumental, probably just a few corrections.
Downstream, through the Wetter Box we got through a narrow section but then the stream went through an even tighter squeeze. It didn’t look very nice so I wormed through a mud tube to the right which then turned left – I hoped it would join back up to the streamway. But after wriggling further I was stopped by a section which had collapsed, reluctantly I turned around.
I had a go at getting through the crack and made some progress before discovering I had gone in the wrong way and my knees just wouldn’t bend that way and had to slowly reverse. We left it at that and began the journey out.

On the way back I went past Glop Pot to see if any gear had been left. I grabbed two cylinders and rendezvoused with Megan and Allen on the mountain where with arms feeling like they had lengthened gladly gave up one of the cylinders.
We eventually made it back and after a quick rest I went to wash gear for the trip back tomorrow. It was dark by the time I got back.

Tue 28th:

Woke up early and went for a walk down Nicholas gorge. It was quite spectacular but I regretted not taking gumboots as there were several river crossings and the plant (weed) seeds and burs where a real pest. Whilst trying to climb around one of the walls to avoid a river crossing a water dragon startled me before it plunged into the water. I exited the gorge and came to an open section that was quite present. I got told later that there was another gorge section, but it was getting late anyway and I didn’t want to delay Keir so I headed back.

 

 

Keir was half packed and Phill was back from getting the remainder of the diving gear and near ready to leave. Coops, Alan and Megan decided to stay for an extra day and were soon off down the gorge.
Keir stopped at the Cooleman hut on the way back; it would be nice to do a winter trip here and spend the nights in the huts…. maybe some time.

On the way back I took a turn at doing some driving to give Keir a break. He was nice enough to drop me home.

More things to do…
– Devil’s Hole
– White Fish
– Easter
– More leads in Ev’s

+ Lots more. I guess I’ll need to go on the next trip.

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