30 July 2002
We have heard much about the caves in the Margaret River area, so we put a day aside for a “cave crawl”. We headed off down Caves Road and covered four caves during the course of the day: Calgardup Cave, Mammoth Cave, The Lakes Cave, and Jewell Cave.
Calgardup cave was unlit, so we had to descend with torches and hard hats. There were ladders and boardwalks so it wasn’t arduous, and it was a good introduction to the cave environment. We saw only what we shone our torches at. There were pools of water and a variety of cave decorations. We weren’t there for more than an hour before we pushed on to Mammoth Cave, so called because of its size.
Mammoth cave was well lit and had a hi-tech virtual guide. At the entrance we were each issued with a small portable CD player and a set of headphones. We then made our way from one point to another in the cave, listening to a pre-recorded guided tour. It was a good use of the technology, as it explained the various natural processes in the cave environment. The commentary was more interesting than a simple monologue, however: as well as expert voices there were readings of historical materials by actors, and various other features that were only possible in a recorded medium.
The cave itself was stunning. There have been important fossil finds in this cave so there were exhibits of the bones of the various fauna, both extant and extinct, that had found their way into the cave and perished there. These exhibits, combined with the carefully designed lighting, made the cave like a museum. Clare and Ruby managed the CD player well, and appeared to enjoy the commentary as well as the experience of walking through the cave.
When we were buying tickets to enter Mammoth Cave, we were offered a package deal that allowed us access to Lake Cave and Jewell Cave as well. Even though we had not set out on our expedition very early, we had just enough of the day remaining to accomplish this. So after Mammoth Cave, we set out for Lake Cave, which was only a hop, skip and a jump down the road.
The entrance to Lake Cave was very impressive. There was an enormous cave-in sometime ago that exposed the limestone decorations to the light, so they became covered with lichens. This created an eerie, gothic effect. I tried to capture it with photos on the way out, but failed to do so. The entrance was steep and narrow, much like a climb down into a cellar, except the cellar was 70 metres under the ground. Our guide was an affable fellow who led us through the short cave and the light show that had been designed for the tourists. The centrepiece of the cave was a suspended table above the lake. I caught it on film as best I could, but the flash on the camera tended to bleach out the colours of the decorations. The cave was like some kind of ice palace, watery, cool and still. I could see why it had gained a reputation as one of the most beautiful caves around.
After our visit to the Lake Cave, we stopped at a kiosk attached to the museum (which we didn’t have time to peruse) and wolfed down some pies, hamburgers and chips. We then kicked on to Jewell Cave, which was about half an hour’s drive down the road. The drive was very pleasant as we passed through some of the tall and now familiar Karri forest. We arrived at Jewell Cave for the last tour of the day, and as luck would have it (for us rather than for the staff), we were the only tourists on site, so we got a personalised tour of the cave.
Jewell cave certainly had the most stunning decorations. The natural entrance to the cave was a single long chute that the discoverer abseiled down to find himself suspended in a cavernous space. To preserve the natural environment of the cave whilst allowing easy access for those with neither the equipment nor the inclination to abseil in, a new entrance had been constructed with an air lock, so that one passed through two sealed doors, the second of which would not open until the first was shut.
The atmosphere in the cave was quite stuffy. This we learned was due to the release of carbon dioxide as the chemical reactions took place that led to the formation of the limestone deposits. Even though our tour guide (unlike the previous one) appeared to have been affected by a degree of ennui, he did a fair job of showing us around, and we got what felt like a personalised tour, which made the entry fee very good value indeed.
After admiring the cave’s famous marvels, including the “frozen waterfall” – a breathtaking outcrop of flow stone – we headed back north to Dunsborough. As soon as we arrived, Susie jumped into Claire’s car with Cate and sped off into town for a Yoga class. Both Susie and Cate have been several times to this same class, and always came back raving about it.
That evening, Cate cooked dinner, which was a pastry thing with chicken and broccoli inside.