Fifteen years after first hearing about them, I was finally on my way to visiting Buchan Caves. I left the pretty town of Lakes Entrance and headed North towards the foothills of the Snowy Mountains.
As I drove, I was actually getting excited at the idea of seeing these caves and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. You see, I don’t have a great deal of fears. I’m not a fan of heights and spiders give me the creeps but that’s really the extent of it. Until you mention caves that is.. The thought of being somewhere with millions of tones of rock and dirt hovering above my head is not what I’d call my happy place. Combine that with small spaces and the heartbeat starts to rise.
My mind wandered back to the last time I had to deal with a cave. It was while I was filming my science fiction film Lost:Black Earth. For some dumb-arse reason, I had written a scene that takes place in a cave and the day had finally come to film it. I got to the set four hours early so that I could force myself to go inside it and get used to it before the crew arrived. I couldn’t allow myself to look like a wuss in front of them.
The fact that it was 2am didn’t help matters either. I turned on the flashlight and made my way inside, one tiny step at a time. I used all my strength to fight the feelings of panic and keep pushing forward. It took about half an hour to make it to the back of the cave about thirty meters in. I sat on the ground and kinda meditated until I was somewhat comfortable with the surroundings. I even turned out the flashlight and sat in complete blackness for a while. Oddly I found that less distressing as I couldn’t see the walls any longer.
Eventually I walked out of the cave and waited for the crew to arrive. For me it was an uneasy day of filming. Thankfully, I don’t think the crew caught on to just how freaked out I had been just hours earlier.
I drove on through the small township of Buchan and turned off at the sign pointing to the caves. About a kilometer up the picturesque road and I pulled into the car park. I walked up to the information centre and asked about the caves. The lady behind the counter informed me that there were two different caves but I only had time for one of the tours before they closed. After many questions about which one was better, I decided on the Royal Cave Tour, the Fairy Cave would have to wait til I returned (hopefully sooner than another fifteen years).
I purchased a ticket and headed back to the car to fetch the camera. I flicked it on to check the settings and after a second it turned off again. Huh... I flicked it on again. This time nothing... Oh crap, the battery was flat. I couldn’t believe I’d done this. I hadn’t thought to charge my second battery either. What an idiot. This migraine I’d had all day had turned my brain to mush. I was soo pissed at myself.
Wondering what to do, my eyes wandered to the little Sony Cybershot DSC-W30 instant camera. My stomach churned at the thought of using this, this... This amateur camera... (yes, I can be a camera snob). But the snobbery was about to be beaten out of me. I had never actually used this little camera before and had “borrowed” it from my Dad “just in case...” Well, “just in case...” had just happened. I turned it on and within a minute was taking some fully automatic shots. At least it was easy to use.
I locked up the car and headed towards the meeting area near the entrance of the cave. I met the guide and a family of four who were also doing the tour. Six of us was a nice sized group. The guide opened the gates that led into the cave. I let everyone else go first so I could quietly panic out of sight to all.
The narrow passageway led down quite a way and got narrower and narrower as it went. I could feel my stomach churning. Every part of me wanted to turn around and run back to the surface. I fought on, my arms brushing against the walls of the cave. The panic demon was about to burst out of my head screaming for freedom, when suddenly, I stepped out of the passageway and into and large open cavern.
Instantly the panic was replaced with a state of awe. The cavern was filled with hundreds of different coloured calcite decorations and crystal clear pools of water. It was like something out of a fantasy movie. I pulled out the little Sony camera and started snapping shots of everything. I had no idea if they would even turn out as it was so dark.
The guide led us on and fed us with plenty of information about the history and geology of the caves. I found it fascinating to the point that I didn’t once stress about being underground again throughout the tour. There were some truly amazing displays of nature that almost looked alien.
We eventually made our way out and back to the information centre where we said our goodbyes. I returned to the car and flicked through some of the shots on the camera’s screen. I was surprised to see how well the little flash had worked. I packed it away and put the batteries for my Canon SLR camera on charge. I started the car and pulled out of the car park. I was heading North, towards the mountains.