More Caves

Wed. 8th May 2019

Lake caveWhen Dave researched this section of our trip he included one cave and that was Ngilgi cave (see 6th May) but he did not find reference to any other caves of note to visit. We had bought a multipass at Ngilgi to allow us to enter two of three more possible caves – and today is the day for that visit. Once I read the leaflet it was tough to decide which to visit, but Mammoth Cave lost the vote. We will never know if this was the right decision but it would be hard to top the two that we did see.

Sink hole entrance of Lake CaveWe therefore drove past Mammoth Cave and headed to Lake Cave which was formed when the ceiling of an underground cave slowly collapsed over many years, forming a doline or sinkhole. It was found by Miss Bussell of Busselton family fame when she was out herding up cattle and her horse stopped her from falling over the edge. Nowadays there is a long stairway leading down into the cave past blackened stalagmites and other formations which are open to the outside world.

Into the abyssOur tour group is large and slow which is frustrating at first but once we headed underground the wow factors just kept coming and everyone had time to appreciate then. The walkway follows an underground river passing many formations that can be interpreted in many ways including, for example, a dragons head. There were many straws suspended from the ceiling formed by water droplets falling and depositing calcium to form a delicate strawlike suspension. If the straw gets blocked then this will become a stalactite. Even more stunning than Ngilgi and the main party piece is yet to come.

Suspended table formationWe stop at a couple of columns joined at the roof and look down to see a table like base. On closer inspection they are hanging above the water and the formation weighs several tonnes. If you study the photograph carefully you should see the gap between the base and the water. It is incredible how such a weight can hang from the roof.

Many, many strawsOnce at the end of the walkway we all sit quietly in the darkness, the only sound is the drip drip of water. It is almost pitch black, just a glimpse of light from the entrance way back down the path. We took our time retracing our steps to the entrance seeing shapes we missed on the way in. I am so glad we visited a second cave, will the third one this afternoon be able to top this?

Hamelin Pier before and afterWe still have so much to see today that it is a brief stop for a lunch of cold leftover pizza at Hamblin Bay. This coastline is famous for surfing so we just had to have a short walk on the coast today and Hamelin Bay has a wrecked jetty destroyed by the sea once it ceased to be used regularly by explorers and fishermen. A very pretty spot for a breath of sea air before visiting our final cave.

Tree roots in the cavernWith a name like Jewel Cave how could we resist visiting? We must have just missed a tour as we had a 45 minute wait until the next one. This has been cleverly resolved by the cave management as there is a twenty to thirty minute circular walk to fill such a time gap. The walk through the trees was interesting and it also showed us the original entrance to the cave through a small hole in the ground, but more of that later when we see the tree roots inside the cave next to the original entrance.

Enormous cave packed full of all kinds of formations The tour begins from the shop and restaurant and we head. down a gentle slope and in through a gate. We descend to a platform and above us is the original entrance. When Cliff found this cave his friends lowered him through the small hole in the ground on a rope. He soon found himself swinging in a huge cavern with rock formations in every direction. They kept their find secret until they could explore further. When they realised the enormity of their find they knew they could not keep it secret so they sought public funding to open the cave to the public, this was in 1959, so much more recent than the nearby caves.

Organ pipes or curtain?In just one year Cliff and Lloyd blasted through 147 foot of solid rock and installed 1,280 foot of piping for the handrails to form a navigable cave system for the public to safely enter. Indeed they guided 12,500 visitors in the first 6 weeks the caves were open. So what was so amazing? Well everything. The frozen waterfall, the organ pipes and just the sheer size of all the caverns packed full of formations of all shapes and sizes. We took so many photos it has been difficult to select just a few. The cave lived up to its name, and some!

Cape Leeuwin LighthouseNo rest though as we checked into our apartment, threw our backpacks into the room and headed straight back out to get to the lighthouse for the last tour at 4:30pm. The Cape Leeuwin lighthouse is the tallest mainland lighthouse and is situated where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, so it just had to be visited. Apparently it is one of the roughest capes in the world, on a par with Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope, if you believe everything you are told. Also National Geographic named this as one of the top three best ocean views in the world.

Random tourists!Cape Leeuwin was named by the Dutch, as Dave mentioned yesterday, and originally called ‘t Landt van de Leeuwin’ translated as the land of the lioness, when they though that this peninsula was an island. It was later found to be part of Australia. After many shipwrecks the lighthouse was built in 1895 and manned around the clock by three full time keepers who all had cottages next door, for themselves and their families. It is now all automated but still a working lighthouse.

Indian Ocean meets Southern OceanWe were a group of us two Brits and two Eastern Australians, so once our guide Bruce (no stereotype here!) had insulted the east coast v west coast cricket and the Aussies v England the lighthouse tour commenced. We climbed the 176 narrow steps to the top and saw the enormous hand carved lens weighing numerous tonnes and floating in a bowl of mercury (as a friction free bearing). There were many more facts thrown at us in the half hour tour but I forgot them as fast as I heard them. The view from the top was pretty spectacular and we could clearly see waves in two different directions crashing over the rocks, where the two oceans met and understood the reason why most vessels travel about 40km south of them.

The only boats in the harbour at sunsetAfter being hustled out of the lighthouse to enable then to close up for the night, we headed back into town. We did stop at Flinders Bay hoping for sunset pictures but the clear skies only turned a vague shade of orange but not particularly spectacular. Maybe the harbour nearer town would produce more photogenic scenery but to no avail. Just a few boats but nothing really to see. After our long day and being on the coast it just had to be fish and chips. As the chippy was famed for shark we were talked into trying a piece. It was OK but we preferred the hake. But, of course, the real jewel of the day was the caves!

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