Orvieto underground

While in Orvieto, we signed up for the tour underground, a fascinating insight into the lives of the inhabitants thousands of years ago. At the end of the 1970s, a landslide opened up a large hole a few hundred metres from the duomo, tempting a number of speleologists (a new word I have learnt meaning someone who studies caves) to investigate. They found an incredible underground world, dug by hand out of the tufa beneath the town, that had been forgotten. The beautiful Umbrian countryside accompanied us as we made our way to the entrance of the caves.


We found ourselves at the centre of medieval olive oil production, complete with millstones, a press, furnace and mangers for the animals working the grindstones.

2.grinding stone

3.olive press

Intriguing tunnels led in all directions, beckoning us to investigate further.

The Etruscans created cisterns for holding rainwater and very deep narrow wells in search of underground springs. There are small notches on the two longest sides called pedarole, footholds to enable someone to climb down and out again.


The tour continued, revealing more grottoes that had a variety of uses such as wine storage and pottery kilns, over twelve hundred have been discovered.


The walls of some were covered in small cubic niches created to breed pigeons, now a classic dish of the local cuisine.



There are narrow tunnels at the back of the walls, just big enough for a person to pass on all fours. Unfortunately, their destinations remain unknown, the mystery secured by centuries of landslides.

Every so often, light streamed in from openings in the cliff and we were treated to another glimpse of the spectacular vista.


There seemed to be an endless labyrinth of tunnels, stairs and passageways intersecting in all directions.


Thank goodness we had a guide, we may never have made it back.


Mountain Valley

Mountain Valley is a secluded retreat in the Loongana Valley, we first discovered while on holiday here.


50km inland from the coast of northwest Tasmania, this 61 hectare Private Nature Reserve nestles beneath the majestic Black Bluff.

2.Black Bluff

There are six eco-cabins to choose from, our favourite is Blue Wren.

The Leven River flows through the property


and many an hour has been spent idly waiting to spy the elusive platypus.


Across the bridge,


the path follows the river. Trout can be seen jumping in the shallows


and the native hens appear when you least expect them.


The path becomes narrow and we still search for that perplexing platypus.


Native creatures abound in this sanctuary – wallabies, possums, quolls, birds and of course, our gorgeous pademelons.

We watched Tasmanian Devils and quolls eating their evening meal on the verandah. Our host placed tasty morsels for them at dusk and they slowly came after dark as Michael sat motionless among them while I opted to watch through the window.


The guided walk to the glow worm grotto took us through serene grassland,

23.walk to cave

and we learned the beautiful foxglove is regarded as an environmental weed in Tasmania.


There are many walks to take through fern glades

25.walk to cave

and rainforest

to discover hidden caves.

31.walk to cave

There is much more to explore at Mountain Valley, it is a wonderful experience and for those who are feeling energetic, there is the walk to the top of Black Bluff.

32.Black Bluff

I am looking forward to our next visit. http://mountainvalley.com.au

heading south

After five days in Darwin, we began our road trip southward. Our first stop was Adelaide River War Cemetery.

1.Adelaide River12.Adelaide River2

There are 434 war graves of service personnel who died in this part of Australia, marked by bronze plaques.

3.Adelaide River3

A further 292 are honoured by the Memorial of the Missing. The civil section contains the graves of nine Post Office staff killed in one of 63 bombing raids on Darwin.

4.Adelaide River4

Pine Creek was the next break to have a look at the now closed open-cut gold mine. The main pit, Enterprise Pit, has been filled with water to prevent acid build up.

5.Pine Creek16.Pine Creek2

Further on, we lunched in the shade overlooking the swimming hole at Edith Falls.

7.Edith Falls1

Leliyn, as it is known in the Aboriginal Jawoyn language, is a series of cascading waterfalls and pools on the Edith River in the Nitmiluk National Park, about 60km north of Katherine.

9.Edith Falls310.Edith Falls411.Edith Falls5

30km south of Katherine, the Cutta Cutta caves tour took us into a tropical limestone cave 15 metres below the surface. Venturing 700 metres into the cave, we were surrounded by all sorts of fascinating formations.

The spectacle wasn’t all underground, this amazing tree stood at the entrance to the cave.

22.cutta cutta11

After checking into our motel in Katherine and a much needed shower, we followed the river northward to Cicada Lodge, an exclusive resort located in Nitmiluk National Park.

We savoured a beverage on the deck


while watching the descent of the sun

28.cicada lodge6

then moved inside for a unique dining experience. The Chef’s menu features specialty dishes of the Chef’s choice combining traditional elements and incredible flavours from the region. We started with ciabatta with extra virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar. Entrée was a delicious canard (that’s duck) salad, with beetroot, orange segments, fetta & a merlot and orange glaze.

29.canard salad

Lemon Myrtle Barramundi followed, with broccolini, soft egg, confit cherry tomatoes, wilted spinach & hollandaise.


The culinary journey was completed with dessert of chocolate tart with calvados cream & fresh raspberries.

31.chocolate tart

What a fabulous way to end an awesome day.

32.cicada lodge7

Gunns Plains

Gunns Plains is a rich, fertile valley in northwest Tasmania. Named after botanist and early explorer, Robert Campbell Gunn, the Leven River winds through pastures, grazing stock and rich, red volcanic soil. Forty minutes drive from our house is George Woodhouse Lookout where George and his wife, Lurlie, are resting with a view of their beloved plains.

1.sunny view

The view is breathtaking, even on a cloudy day.

2.cloudy view2

It is a place we like to take visitors, building them up to this astounding vista as we get nearer. It was a little disappointing, one clear June day, to find the valley under heavy cloud. Still beautiful but not quite the same.


The scenery is just as captivating once down on the plain.


I love the poplar trees as winter approaches.


Beneath this gorgeous landscape lies over 150 caves. The second largest was discovered in 1906 when a possum hunter’s dog fell into a hole. It was opened to the public three years later. The formations in the cave are magnificent, particularly the calcite shawls


and the flowstones are so varied.


Stalactites, stalagmites, columns and young shawls abound.

This cute little fungus caught my eye.


The underground river still flows and is home to the endangered freshwater crayfish, platypus and eels. The delicate display of the glow worms can be appreciated when the torchlight is dimmed. We look forward to returning to the caves, maybe with our next visitors….