The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Friday, December 29, 2006
The holiday
When I was a teen, we celebrated the Christmas school break in the cold and snow. This meant that, as a kid, you had to pick a winter sport in order to keep from getting cabin fever throughout the long winter months. Christmas was usually the time your parents bought you the equipment you needed for your winter sport. For many kids I knew growing up, this meant ski equipment. In my house, it meant ice skating equipment.

I went through two pairs of ice skates in my teens, and got to be a fairly decent ice skater, thanks to lessons and plenty of skating venues like the Syracuse Coliseum and the local frozen lakes and ponds. I didn't become proficient, however, without plenty of falls, and my knees bore the brunt of most of these falls. I hurt my tailbone once or twice, and it was enough to convince me that I didn't like that at all. I wound up with heavily bruised knees over the winter months.

Now that I am living "Down Under," winter sports no longer play a part in my Christmas holiday. Instead, it's summer, and, not being a beach kind of person, we tend to head for the Blue Mountains. True to form, Dan and I headed up to Lithgow and Jenolan Caves for a couple of days of fun and relaxation.

The Blue Mountains area of New South Wales is absolutely gorgeous, even though right now, it's severely affected by the drought we've had for the past five years. Once you're up there, you can understand why farmers are loathe to sell up and move out. It's God's Own Country.

Dan and I drove around with Christmas music blaring from the car's CD player, and took in the rustic splendour of the place. It was just stunning.

We were on a mission, however, to explore another of Jenolan's majestic caves. After our last visit, we became determined to come back. And we are so glad that we did!

The first cave we saw was Lucas Cave. Lucas Cave gives visitors a good overview of what to expect in a limestone cavern, with its stalactites and stalagmites, craters, pools, and underground river. We were treated to a recorded concert of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing in the underground theatre. It was awe-inspiring and the acoustics were great!

My camera was working overtime as I tried to capture the beauty of the sites around me. The tour lasted about an hour and a half, but I could have easily spent another hour or more in the cave.

We took a short break for tea and cake, which seemed to be the civilised thing to do, and then headed off to the Nettle Cave, a twilight cave, so-called because several openings let in the daylight. Strange life forms called stromatolites grow on the outer cave walls. There was only one minor problem with the Nettle cave, as far as I was concerned. It was the stairway. One very high stairway up into the cave, and one very long stairway down from the cave. Those years of falling on my knees as an ice skater came back to haunt me in a big way.

Everyone has that moment when they realise that they aren't going to live forever. I've had several of those moments, but yesterday's moment came in a rush of clarity. On descending the stairs after our exploration, someone or something was pushing a knife blade in between my knee caps and the bones underneath. At least, this is what it felt like.

Dan noticed my obvious discomfort and I explained what was happening. "I'm too young for this!" I wailed. Especially too young, because I love exploring caves and we hope to do the Off the Track tour, which requires some rappelling and other feats of athletic dexterity. I am irritated that my knees are not cooperating with climbing and descent. Dan's offered to carry me and I raise my eyebrows. Dan is very sweet, but I don't trust him to carry me down that steep flight of open metal stairs.

I wonder if I can ask for new knees for Christmas to support my new Christmastime sport. I can just imagine me, next time we go see the caves. I'll be the one wearing knee braces and a grimace.

I can't wait to go back.

- Click on photos to enlarge. All photos by Melanie O.
posted by Melanie O. at 3:19 PM -
  • At 5:35 AM, Blogger gardenbug said…

    I am also paying for knee abuse. When I was running at the "Y", I pounded the gym floor...not proper running form. Now in my 60s I feel the cartilage crunch as I go up and down stairs. I found something that is effective and I recommend it to you: Rub castor oil on your knees...the backside bend and the top of the knee caps. To assist the body in rebuilding cartilage, I also take 3 capsules of hyaluronic acid and glucosamine chrondritin every day. My knee problem has practically disappeared. Try it. You'll like it.

  • At 9:25 AM, Blogger LivinginOz said…

    Oh - it was pretty awful - crippling even. I felt like an old woman hobbling down that long steep flight of stairs one at a time and having to take a break from the pain after every step. I bought emu oil (supposed to work great for inflammation) and will pick up some glucosamine. Next year, it will be better (I'm determined!)

  • At 2:01 AM, Blogger gardenbug said…

    Hyaluronic acid is what draws water into cartilage...plumps it up. Be sure to get this stuff. It is wonderful for rebuilding cartilage. I suspect that my friends who have had joint replacement therapy, could have avoided the whole thing by just ingesting the ingredients the body needs to make its own repairs.

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About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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