Job satisfaction is important to Geoff Kell. Lucky for him, he has that in spades.
“People would think I’m stupid, doing what I do for the money I am paid, but money’s not the most important thing,” he said.
“I grew up in a time when job satisfaction was paramount.”
Geoff manages and conducts guides at Carey’s Caves just out of Wee Jasper. He has done so for 20 years. The only money earned, is money paid by visitors when they attend his tours.
In Geoff’s opinion the caves are the region’s best kept secret, but he doesn’t want that.
“Unfortunately people simply don’t know it’s here,” he told the Tribune while deep in the caves recently.
“People from Yass especially seem to have no idea that there is such an amazing place almost right on their doorstop. Most of our visitors are from Canberra or even more abroad.”
The caves were officially discovered by John Carey in the mid 1800s, but Geoff believes it could be even earlier than that.
The land is covered in limestone and the area, which would have been under water years and years ago, dried up and has left the caves completely preserved.
“Caves are the oldest thing around the world that go completely unchanged. If you think about it, other things are damaged or change over time.”
Geoff had no experience and knew very little about caves before he decided to lease Carey’s Caves in 1992, with his partner Suzanne.
“I’ve never been to ‘cave school’ but I like to think that’s a good thing. It means my tours are different and people have a different experience when they come to these caves.”
Geoff has a table where visitors can touch all the rocks, and he has taken out a lot of the chains, which would be present in other caves, that would usually stop visitors from exploring.
“I don’t like the conventional idea of a tour. People get bored on tours, kids get tired. I do things a bit differently so that this can’t happen.”
Geoff was born in Goulburn, but moved from place to place due to his parents work commitments. His father always showed him the long way round and the tracks other people didn’t see.
“When I was younger I almost didn’t know what a sealed road was.”
After high school he moved to Sydney and studied architecture. He worked for a brief period before he left Australia for south-east Asia.
“My main interest, and it still is, is music, culture and languages. I learnt to speak Indonesian and I learnt to speak Thai.
“Just travelling around and immersing myself in the culture was what I loved.”
Geoff travelled lightly, hitch-hiking, and he spent very little money. It was in this way that he was able to stay abroad for several years. He travelled to Bali, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and he even found himself in Japan teaching English for a year.
“Our culture has changed in regards to hitch-hiking. The idea of helping people is just so different now.
“Simply stopping on the side of the road to help someone broken down is something that is not even taken for granted. I think that is really sad.”
Geoff said this appreciation of cultures and his love of languages have made his job as a tour guide at Carey’s Caves perfect for him.
“The people that come through these caves are amazing. I had a family from India for example come through recently. By talking with them, meeting them, I would now love to go there. These social experiences make my job wonderful.”
Geoff, who can also speak French, would love to go to Europe and share his folk music overseas, but at the moment he is still in love with what he does.
“Each time I come down here I stop and say to myself ‘wow’. When that stops happening I think it will be time to leave.”
Along with regular tours, Carey’s Caves now accommodate weddings and music concerts. There’s more information on the caves’ website.