Caves and Other Caves

Mon. 6th May 2019

Dreamtime storyThis morning we are visiting an underground cave and this afternoon is the wine caves. We start the day visiting Ngilgi (first g is silent) Cave and our first lesson is that there are other caves on this south-west coast that we also ought to visit and so sign up for a 3-cave pass. We are lucky to be in a small group of about ten people. After being led underground by a guide and an introductory chat we are left to wander through the passageways for as long as we want. It certainly is not high season around here. First we hear the local dream time story about how the Cave was named after the good spirit Ngilgi and the baddie Wolgine was banished.

Stalagmites on steroids!Surprisingly this was a favourite honeymoon spot back in the early 1900s. Couples took the train from Perth to Busselton and then a horse and cart to the cave. It was a two day journey back then rather than the three hour drive nowadays. There were no railings and steps in those days and the way was lit by kerosene lamps. Guides showed the visitors specific formations by lighting a magnesium flare. They then sat in Cupids Corner playing cards or chatting! It was a 6 to 8 hour trip into the caves in those days. We did visit The Caves Hotel where those not camping would have stayed, a typical hotel of its era. Quite bland as it was rebuilt in the 19303 to replace the original 1900 one which was burnt down.

Ngilgi caves - more formationsThe Caves themselves were extensive and it did take us about 45 minutes just to explore them all. It is the most stalactites, stalagmites, curtains and other formations I have ever seen in one Cave system. When the Cave first opened visitors were encouraged to break off a piece as a souvenir, as they were so plentiful. Luckily this practice is now forbidden. This cave is probably the best I have ever seen. Next on my list comes the caves in Vinales in Cuba and maybe some in Wales when I was a girl [Ed: What about Mulu in Borneo where we waited to see all the bats fly out at sunset?].

Canal rocksMoving above ground, we detour to the coast to investigate Canal Rocks. The clue is in the name as over time the sea has eroded the granite rock to form canals through the rocks. Like many tourist attractions this has been tastefully developed into a car park, toilets and wooden bridge meandering over the nearest canal, all for free.

Artistic take on the vineyardsNow for the other type of caves starting with a trip to Amelia Park Winery which had wow factors of a different kind. Firstly, on entering the building we walked through a dark cellar lined with barrels but no one in sight. When we reached the far end the doors opened automatically revealing floor to ceiling windows overlooking the vineyards. What a clever idea and amazing view – and a great opportunity for some photographs. The wines were also delightful and we just had to buy a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Lunches here were very pretentious so we moved on to the Cheeky Monkey Brewery where we had a much more appropriate lunch of a waffle and bacon and a delicious melted half camembert – washed down with a small beer. (Well, it would be rude not to try the beer).

Ameila Park viewOn The Ghan, we had some tasty wine from Moss Wood so we tried to visit them but they have no cellar door. Appointments only at £40 a pop. Their loss as we moved on to one of the original vineyards in Margaret River, Woodlands which was established in 1973. The wines were tasty enough but not good enough to pay their prices. I was driving this time and we decided we had time for one more tasting.

Howard Park tasting roomVasse Felix looked like a large concern so we moved on to Howard Park another of the wineries recommended in our B&B last night. Howard Park also had a spacious tasting room. No bargains here as the prices started at about £16 a bottle and upwards. Most tastings have been free with either a one off fee for the more expensive ones or a separate tasting list with a fee covering them all.

More formations in Ngilgi CaveOur accommodation is slightly out of Margaret River in a residential area, a five minute drive or a half hour walk. There are no street lights and no food within walking distance so we decide to drive into town There is loads of choice but we decide to try the local Indian restaurant and turn out to be the only diners – another sign that it is not peak season! We had forgotten the concept of BYO (Bring Your Own) in restaurants and as Indian food is better with a beer a quick detour to the liquor store next door was needed. Excellent choice and tasty food – our local in Bédar will need to pull its socks up to match this.

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