February 25, 1997

Today was a day for exploring the Cooleman Caves inside Snowy Kosciusko National Park. Most of Australia's snow area and all of the New South Wales snow fields lie within the park. Many of the plants above the treeline are found nowhere else in the world. The summer wildflowers in the alpine area are very beautiful this time of year. The park's 690,000 hectares contains a variety of outstanding scenery, natural and historic features, and plant and animal communities.

Differences in rainfall, altitude, aspect, and soil produce a variety of vegetation types. Among them are the tall forests of the moist western slopes, the alpine area above 1800 meters where it is too cold for trees to survive, and the dry woodlands of the lower snowy river in the east. The area around Mt. Kosciusko was first reserved in 1944 and became a national park under the control of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife in 1967.

The area has seen Aboriginal occupation, European exploration, grazing, mining, skiing, tourism and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. In 1986 the Commonwealth, NSW, Victorian, and Australian County Terrority governments agreed to cooperate in managing a number of parks which became know as the Australian Alps National Parks. These include Kosciusko, Namadgi, and the National Park in the ACT and the Victorian Alpine Park- a total of more than 1.5 million hectares. A special place of unexpected gorges, disappearing streams, dry creeks, strange circular depressions, caves and bubbling blue-tinted springs.

The Cooleman Caves were formed by limestone Karst which forms unusual shapes as the rocks are dissolved by the natural acids in the water. Underground passages and caves develop as the water seeps into the cracks and joints. The word Karst comes from Yugoslavia and refers to the special terrain of limestone area. The Cooleman limestone was formed from the shells and skeletons of sea animals. These accumulated over millions of years and formed solid rock which is generally smooth and milky-gray. The circular form of the plain and the surrounding hills is probably associated with a volcanic crater or caldera. Much of the limestone has been exposed by natural erosion. Some of it is still covered by sediments which form the low hills in the center. Wooded hills of harder volcanic rock surround the plain. Campsites, stone tools, and burial sites indicate that Aborigines visited the area each summer, probably over several thousand years.

I am awakened by a thumping sound outside of my tent . The noise is a pack of twenty or more kangaroos. They seem to be harmless -I sure hope so, being out numbered. The kangaroos are looking for dinner. However, my food rations are on tight supply. They continued to surround my tent for an hour plus. I did venture out once to say hello to several of them. I wanted to give everyone a live update from the back country of Australia. If I survive the roo's, it will be an experience to be remembered.

February 26, 1997

I survived the Kangaroos I heard last night. When leaving the campsite, I had a conversation with a retired Australian couple traveling by caravan. Then the time came to pedal on down the track. After traveling about 20 km the couple offered me a ride and some lunch. The distances between points in Australia are so great that I accepted and had a pleasurable journey to the town of Cooma.

In Cooma I picked up some supplies and charted my course, only to meet a friendly local named Bob. Being a cyclist himself, he invited me over for a cup of tea. This turned into dinner and an evening well spent with his family. The Doyles, Bob, wife- Kate, daughters- Anna(6) and Margie (3) were kind hosts for the evening. Traveling solo has many rewards if one choose such a lifestyle. After spending four days in the wilderness alone, chatting with locals is welcome. I believe the keys to success of solo traveling are being open, honest, and having the desire to understand people in their environment. The bike is a great tool because others can admire the means of transportation. Stay tuned to see what happens tomorrow. T.C.

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