Saturday, 5 January 2013

Royal Arch, Chillagoe

Far North Queensland isn't all beaches and rainforest
Way out west of Cairns lies the small town of Chillagoe, once an copper mining town but now best known for its cave system. I had made a short trip out once before, but had missed the cave tours. Today I headed out again, this time with my mother in tow, and arrived in time for the tour of the Royal Arch Cave.

The Cave is located within a limestone bluff (pictured from the carpark above), formed in shallow seas 400 million years ago but now 390 metres above sea level. Details of the geology can be found in a report on the Australia and New Zealand Geomorphology Group's website.

Our guide, Eddie, was a born and raised local who grew up visiting the caves of the area. He and his young niece, who had apparently done the other guided caves with him before and wanted to finish the set, met us in the carpark, handed us our torches, and led us to the Royal Arch bluff.

Our guide, Eddie, and his niece whose name has unfortunately escaped me, in the first chamber.
The tour takes you through a range of chambers, a few of which have had their tops collapse, giving some daylight chambers. The only animal life I saw in the cave was a cockroach and some huntsman spiders (apparently species adapted to the cave) and a couple of bats. Apparently some pythons occasionally call it home at times too.

One of the open chambers in Royal Arch Cave
It's a fairly easy walk, with only a few places we had to stoop. There was also one voluntary section, named the Laundry Chute, where we got to try something a little more adventurous and squeeze through a small hole barely large enough for me to fit through. My mother managed to overcome her claustrophobia and squeeze through too.

If you're looking for a cave experience in FNQ, skip Undarra (which I was disappointed by a few years ago) and make the tip out to Chillagoe. The scenery above and below ground is stunning. We've already started contemplating a return visit.

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