White limestone in the creek bed that runs along the walking trail leading to the Bendethera caves is easily seen and is lovely in its natural state. It’s also a reminder that you’re now walking through the largest karst (limestone) area in Deua National Park. The walking trail meanders along, following and crossing Con Creek many times, with the sound of the bubbling, flowing water a peaceful, welcome fellow traveller. About 3km into the walk covering the hillside to the right of the trail is another feature of the area, the endemic Bendethera wattle that is unique to the limestone soils in this region. Also known as blue bush, depending on the time of year, you can expect to see a display of shimmering blue green foliage, or a sea of yellow flowers.
To the left of the trail, and with interpretive signs thanks to the diligence of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service are a number of dolines, which are circular bowl shaped depressions in the limestone. Dolines are one of many weathering features, including caves that form when rainwater dissolves limestone and the solution seeps away through the rock.
The limestone has been identified as forming in a shallow sea during the Silurian Period and is between 440 and 415 million years old. Limestone consists of calcium carbonate, the main gluing agent in cement. The limestone contains abundant fossils, the remains of shell marine animals. It predates the Great Dividing Range itself, which formed from 250 million years BP onward, possibly through uplifting over the ages and during the rifting of the Lord Howe Rise from the east coast 90 to 70 million years ago.
How to get there: The Bendethera Caves walking trail is 48km from Moruya. If driving south from Batemans Bay on the Princes Highway turn right at the roundabout at Moruya into Campbell Street, which is the road to Araluen. Campbell St turns into Luck Street, which will take you out of town for about 3kms then turn left into Womban Road. Womban becomes Little Sugarloaf Road follow Little Sugarloaf for 30km until you get to the Bendethera Fire trail, which is clearly signposted as the way to Bendethera. Be aware that from this point on it is four-wheel-drive access only and there is steep terrain and three river crossings. Turn left onto the fire trail and follow for 9kms. The only public toilets are a few kilometres from the walking trail at a clearing near the river, where the old homestead was situated.
The walking trail to the caves is an 8km return trip, and is very steep in its final stages. If accessing the caves take appropriate footwear, headgear and torches. The wattle and dolines are about three kilometres along the track and the walk there is moderately easy with numerous creek crossings. Always check in with the National Parks and Wildlife Service as to conditions.
What do to: Get away from it all and camp along the Deua River near site of the old homestead; bushwalk; explore the caves and the limestone environment; taste the clear mountain creek water near its source.For more information call the National Parks and Wildlife Service at Narooma on 02 4476 0800.