Easter Weekend: Caves and Gardens

We are lucky to have been in Adelaide when Easter weekend came along.  Our friends Robyn and Paul were invited to a farm out near Keith SA for Easter weekend, and the invitation was extended to us as well.  John and Ro live in town, but also have a 1200 acre farm which they have managed by Brian.  We went out to enjoy the area, and also to help out on the farm a bit.

On Saturday John and Ro’s daughter and her partner took us out to Naracoorte Caves.  This is an amazing area of limestone caves that is a World Heritage site, largely because of the fossil remains they have found inside.  Over the last 500,000 years, animals have been falling into the caves and dying there. The fossilized bones have yielded some amazing discoveries: so-called “megafauna” like giant kangaroos and wombats.  Here’s a life-sized one at the entrance to the park:

Adam, Cathy and Caroline with one of the "megafauna" animals.

It’s an amazing place, and there are many tours offered through the caves.  We didn’t have time for a beginner “spelunker” course, so we took a tour through Victoria cave, one of the largest.  Up until the 1960s they took tours into the first two chambers, then they found the fossils in a back chamber, and have now opened it up for us to see.  They are still excavating and finding more bones.

The stalactites and stalagmites looked like melted caramel here.

There was very dramatic lighting in some areas.

Our tour guide was very informative, and she showed us the active excavation site, along with some of the bones they have found there.  The bones have all been jumbled, with the flushing action of water that has flowed through the caves, and it’s quite a puzzle to see which ones fit together.  There was an extinct lion and a leaf-eating kangaroo skeleton they have put together from the bones from the cave.

Our guide with the leaf-eating kangaroo skeleton.

They can tell from the jaws what the animals ate.  All the kangaroos now in Australia eat grass, so this fellow is extinct.  He had a much shorter nose than today’s hoppers.

Not all the caves were huge.  We next went into the “Wet Cave” (it wasn’t too wet), and found the head room a bit limited….

Mind your head!

We went from the Caves to have a picnic at Bool Lagoon, which has water in it for the first time in years.  There were lots of birds (magpie geese, ibis, spoonbills, ducks and harriers), and a few very cute water rats.  All in all, it was a wonderful day.

The next day we were invited to look at a house and garden that Brian’s daughter and her husband bought and moved into 18 months ago.  It is not far from the farm we were on, and we were absolutely gobsmacked when we entered into an oasis of beautiful fountains and flowers!

Looking from one pond back towards the house

Deb has been working on this property non-stop with her mom, Peg, since they moved in.  They love gardening, and have given this already-established, but unkempt, garden a major facelift. It is absolutely stunning.

A series of ponds alongside the house, ending with the swimming pool.

The property they have landscaped is quite large – perhaps 10 acres in all, and there are charming seats, statuary and vistas everywhere. They have already hosted a wedding, and plan to have more events on the property. There is an outdoors dining area that could handle lots of people.  There are even plans to build a couple of B&B cottages.  I would love to stay here!

A huge piece of wood makes this outside table.

We learned that the gardens had been started by the previous owners, and opened in 1989.  It is amazing that Deb and her family have taken this project on, and have such great plans for it.  I don’t think I could ever like gardening this much – I have nothing but admiration for them, and all the work involved.

A plaque tells the story of the opening of the gardens.

The house itself is pretty amazing, too. Very modern and open plan.  It has needed some structural attention by Deb and her husband, as well, but they seem to be getting everything done.  This area has been very dry until this year, and water is always an issue.  They use bore water for a lot of it, but they are very well set up to capture what rainwater they can.  A lot of people here only drink rainwater. It tastes much better than the bore water, and everyone has huge tanks to store it.

Four large rainwater tanks

Peg was giving the tour, but her daughter Deb came home just before we left.  It was great to meet her.

Deb and Peg

I am thinking of my very small garden at home.  I used to think it was fairly large, for a city garden.  I’ll be planting the vegetable part when we get home, and I’ve been taking notes on how people do it here.  I will never complain about how much work it takes to keep my garden going again.

One Response to “Easter Weekend: Caves and Gardens”

  1. Peggy Freeman Says:

    This is the best post yet! Feel like I’ve been on a lovely trip. Love the caves and those gardens are lovely. Only thing is, Cathy, THERE ARE NO VERY CUTE WATER RATS! Not anywhere. I assume they are like the nutria here and then there are the beavers who try to take over. But the rest is so interesting!

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