Blue Waterholes

Categorising my recent trip to the Blue Waterholes presented a challenge:
Bushwalking?
Canyoning?
Caving?
All of the above!

This picturesque spot on the Cooleman Plains in Kosciuszko National Park seems to offer everything. It started with some brumby spotting (absurdly easy with the high numbers up there at the moment) on the Long Plain Road access, followed by some philosophical arguments concerning the ethical management of this brumby population (which has since been discussed in more deatil). This was, perhaps for the best, interrupted by a stop at the historic Coolamine Homestead. Apparently the first Europeans were shown the site by local Aborigines, who took them across traditional trails on the vast alpine grassland, which the road still follows today. Old newspapers decorate the walls of the three buildings, though they were actually used to stop drafts, and kangaroos reluctantly make room for our arrival.

The Blue Waterholes themselves are the pools from which subterranean water emerges at a perpetually chilly 16 or so degrees. They are indeed blue, due to the high mineral content, and though the temperature increases during summer as the river gets further from the source the colour remains till the merger with the Goodradigbee River. It was this river junction that we were aiming for, though before we could start walking we were required to assist the other car on our trip, as somehow it had managed to gain TWO flat tyres!

Thus, post midday, we set off.

This area is a “karst” landscape: limestone means that water drains into the earth quickly, which also forms caves, and we spotted entrances to multiple small caves as we wandered down the edge of the aptly named Cave Creek. We also saw a water rat and a water dragon, and enjoyed exploring the small gorges we encountered.

We lunched at a lovely waterfall, and not long afterwards the bushwalking threatened to turn into canyoning. Not sure of the conditions, we’d all brought wetsuits, and a tyre tube and lilo to assist with ferrying packs that were equipped with less confident dry bags. Two of us decided to skip the faff, and charged on ahead in underwear.

It was a beautiful gorge to walk/swim down, and the climbable walls over the blue pools were irresistible for a few in the group.

We made it to the junction with the Goodradigbee River at 5pm and set up camp. This was my first experience with a camping hammock, and I was very impressed the speed and ease at which it was set up. We dined on laksa and pasta, and then when the mosquitoes emerged we brought a fire to life to dispel them.

In the morning one car group headed off early, while three of us meandered more slowly back along the ridge beside the creek. At the car we lunched, and then explored the local caves up Nichols Gorge track. Right Cooleman cave became a squeeze in a short time, and I was taught about the “superman” technique of one arm in front and one arm back to narrow the shoulders whilst shuffling oneself down a tight hole. Cooleman Cave, a little further up the dry creek bed, proved a magical experience, with some fabulous acoustics in one cavern that made even my singing impressive!

Caving in Cooleman Cave

Finally, it was time to wash the mud off ourselves in the frigid waters of Cave Creek just below the spring of emerging subterranean water, and drive back to Canberra. It had been a truly multi-sport weekend in a single, beautiful part of the high country.

And, most amusingly of all, we heard that the other car had lost a THIRD tyre on their return. Some people have all the luck!

For more of my photos, check out Flickr.
A lovely, short and useful description of the area from Our Hiking Blog

Excusing the shockingly awful background of this website, Forkword has lots of more detailed information about the area.

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