May 20, 1997


Today's cycle was beautiful, 90 km on rolling outback scenery. I think the other day I mentioned about the outback being on a plateau? It is on a plateau, However, the landscape is far from flat. The terrain contains several mountains. The outback's popular red dust color comes from iron oxide. Usually at this of time the year the landscape is very dry, but the area has had a higher rainfall percentage this year from cyclone Justin. As I pedal along the outback one would assume it is boring. On the contrary, it is full of life. The numerous birds are always singing tunes. Flocks of rainbow lorikeets bring color and noise throughout the day. An awesome bird in flight is the wedge tail edge. They soar effortlessly for hours in the thermals searching for a feed. In total, the bird life species number over 75.

The days journey ended in Chillagoe, famous for its limestone caves of 500 plus. The town of Chillagoe has a population of 200 and an elevation of 425 meters. This is only the second town I rode through all day. The other was Almaden with a population of 50. The only service in the town was a pub. That's Australian for ya, they don't care if they eat, but don't take away their Booze! Hopefully, I can visit a few caves and gain some education about these formations. Time to head to the local pub for a schooner. Timmy Traveler

May 21, 1997


Jagged outcrops of limestone towering above the surrounding landscape typify Chillagoe. These towering quartz formations protect relic rain forest species which contrast with the open eucalyptus woodland of the surrounding plains. Erosion has formed extensive cave systems within pinnacles of limestone. Local Aboriginal groups knew of the existence of cave systems in the limestone, but it has only been in the last 100 years that extensive exploration of the caves has taken place. Since then visitors have been attracted by their beauty and variety.

The bluffs form fire protected limestone islands that support a special range of plants growing in the fissures. The plants are surviving vestiges of a wetter era and are deciduous, losing their leaves to aid survival during the dry season. Deciduous species include figs, kurrajongs, helicopter trees, batswing coral trees, and strychnine bushes. Ironwoods and blood woods are the dominant trees on the undulating plains. The introduced plants, rubber vine and chinese apple, are also very common. Animal life includes several species of wallaroos and wallabies. Birdlife is plentiful, with over 75 species having been recorded within a 20 km radius of Chillagoe. Blue faced honey eaters noisily feed on insects and blossoms while metallic grating calls announce the presence of the black cockatoos. The northern blue checked race of the paleheaded Rosella and cheeky mobs of Apostle birds are also commonly seen.

The limestone caves are thought to be over 400 million years old. Limestone is a common sedimentary rock with the chemical name of calcium carbonate. Falling rain combines with carbon dioxide in the air to form carbonic acid. The acid and the limestone react to form calcium bicarbonate which is soluble. The fact that limestone can be eroded by water at the surface and underground in this way results in a set of distinct land forms called karst. The limestone was deposited in calcareous mud and coral reef approximately 400 million years ago on the bed of a shallow sea. Since deposition, major earth movements have resulted in the limestone's and other interceded sediments being folded and tilted to an almost vertical position.

Cave decorations can form in two ways. In damp conditions the release of carbon dioxide from the limey water causes the lime (off-white calcium carbonate) to be re-deposited in brilliant sparkling crystals. Stalactites (hanging from the roof), stalagmites(growing from the floor), shawls(draperies or bacon stone), helictites(growing sideways), canopies, crystal flows, and rimstone(gourrs) all can be found at Chillagoe. Under drier conditions after the wet and in areas of good ventilation, evaporation of water produces knobby formations with chalky surfaces know as cave coral. The visiting of several caves in Chillagoe is a must. Each cave has a unique structure and decor formed over millions of years. Cave tours can be booked through the Department of National Parks in Chillagoe for a fee of five dollars per cave. Hundreds of other caves are self guided and free. With a torch one can be fascinated for hours at their beauty.

May 22, 1997


I explored the Mungana Caves 15 km outside of Chillagoe. The archway is a giant grike cave system. The multiple side passages have had some very pleasant surprises. The caves are noted for its garden of maidenhair ferns and fig tree. This flora is ancient remains of the rain forest in this area from millions of years ago. An interesting fact about limestone is that during the volcanic times, when heated to high temperatures, it formed into marble. The area has several old marble mine site with rejects littering the landscape. The process of mining for marble starts with digging underground and cutting the marble into huge blocks. Then the marble is graded and shipped overseas. Transportation is the biggest cost in the mining process due to its weight.

I enjoyed the evening tea with a few locals. The owners of The Cave Lodge (Cobber and Marcia) invited me up for a BBQ with some friends. The evening conversation was informative of the local politics and surroundings. I highly recommend a stop at The Cave Lodge when in Chillagoe. The hospitality is sincere and relaxing.

May 23, 1997


Still chilling in Chillagoe. World Bike was the guest at the State Primary School in town. I entertained the local school kids with details of my travels. The students appreciated learning through a question and answer session. They were a very attentive audience. The Primary School will be tracking my journey. I will also field questions from the students via e-mail.

May 24, 1997


Well it was either run for mayor of Chillagoe or hit the road again. After four days I was becoming a regular townie. The outback town of Chillagoe had people from a lost era. The locals were open honest people, always willing to help. The area around Chillagoe contains some rare gems and minerals found no other place. However, I will miss the hospitality and warmth of Chillagoe the most.

The cycle was 90 km of off road rolling outback country. I stopped in Almaden to visit Joe the owner of the Railroad Pub and only service for the next day and half. I'm traveling in a southern direction towards Mt. Garnet. The biggest concern is managing water. Presently, I'm camped in a cattle station. Well, the ruins of a cattle station. The stars are some of the brightest I've ever experienced. The outback is BIG SKY country. At the moment a bat is flying over my head. He's attracted to the light. So, good night!

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