Saturday, 17 February 2007

Going Underground

Today was an interesting as well as an exhausting day. There are several caves between Augusta and Margaret River, three of which are very popular tourist caves. It rained overnight and was cool and overcast in the morning and threatening rain. We decided it was a good day for going underground.

Our first stop of the day was at the Jewel Cave. It is described in the brochure as "Tour an underground maze of mystery and beauty. Jewel Cave seems to defy nature and dwarf whose who enter its lofty chambers. This spectacular recess with its intricate decorations and sheer magnitude is home to one of the longest straw stalactites to be found in any tourist cave in the world." Sounds great huh? We thought so too, and off we went curious and full of a sense of adventure.

Our sense of adventure was surely shaken when we heard the ticket dude warn a ticket buyer that there were 250 steps down, and that the increased carbon dioxide in the cave makes you struggle more going up, We had our doubts. He went on to say that the carbon dioxide levels were monitored, and at a safe level, but that they do make breathing on exertion more difficult. - More doubt. But, that bloody "sense of adventure" led us to not only ignore our nagging doubts, but to buy the 3 cave pass.

While waiting for our tour to start people from the previous tour started emerging from the entry to the cave. First were a group of teenagers wearing thongs looking as though they had just gone for a leisurely stroll. Mike and I looked at eachother and smiled - surely this was going to be a snap. Then, some time passed and the rest of the group dragged themselves out of the cave, many wheezing and coughing, some dripping with sweat, and others who looked like it took their last bit of strength to heave themselves into a nearby chair. - Uh oh!

Still, we were commited, so I gave Mike my "what the hell were you thinking - 3 cave pass!" look, and off we went. There were indeed many many steps of varying degrees of steepness (some more like ladders), and some with cave formations so low that we had to descend while bent over at 90 degrees.

At one point when we were just inside the cave and could see the huge descent awaiting us, the guide announced "this is your last chance, if you don't think you're up to it, turn back now". Several people did - gulp.

Surprisingly it was a lot easier than we thought, and the cave was well worth visiting. When we emerged from the cave we both felt as though we had done a workout, but we felt good. We weren't huffing and puffing and were feeling quite pleased with ourselves. It was at this point that we decided we'd go on to visit another cave.

The "turkey"

Lake Cave, described as "A stunning pristine chamber deep beneath the earth. Inside the cave a tranquil lake reflects delicate formations that will take your breath away. Visitors descend a staircase in time gazing up at towering Carri trees from a primeval lost world, before entering one of the most beautiful caves in Western Australia". Another dont miss - we nearly did though, having stopped for a picnic lunch we arrived just in time for the last tour of the day.

As our group assembled Mike noticed a sign that said that there were 300 steps down! At the same time I was flicking through the visitors book, curious about what parts of the world tourists had come from. It was there that I saw their comments ranging from "I nearly didn't make it" "You need a lift" to "beautiful but you must be very fit". Oh crap!!

Well, the cave was truly beautiful, as I hope you'll be able to see from the pics below. But, to be honest, the trip down and back again kicked our collective butts! As it was a collapsed chamber, there were many steps going down, some on long steep staircases before even reaching the entrance to the cave, and then another into the cave. Even the guide is smart enough to meet visitors toward the entrance of the cave rather than walking up and down the steep bits. We struggled a bit going up, but we were fine after stopping for a couple of minutes on a landing to take some photos and chat with the guide.

We are so glad that we went though, we have both been in several caves and this is the most beautiful we've seen. The lake at the bottom reflecting the caves features was so tranquil, it was truly magical.

The "dragon" on the left and "floating table" on the right. Can you see the reflection of the underside of the table in the water? It was incredible in real life.

The start of a long climb out.

We now have one cave left on our pass - that can wait for a few days. :) Actually, it's for Mammoth cave which is supposedly a bit different than the others. More accessible (read less climbing) and there is a self guided audio tour. We'll be sure to tell you all about it once we've visited.

Between the Gloucester tree, the caves, and the lighthouse that we plan on visiting, this is becomming a real climbing sort of a town. Maybe we should ebay our treadmill in exchange for more cave passes?


Audge said...

Hi Guys...OH MY GOODNESS! I wish I could have been there with you!! Out of all your entries this is the one that I would have most liked to join you on. I LOVE that kind of thing. I'm trying to convince the boys to go upstate with me to a cave we have to swim through.

I can only imagine how beautiful it is! The pictures are amazing!! I'm proud of you guys for being able to do all of it! It had to be hard..I was worried about your knees Sher. But glad you enjoyed it.

And..I love and know you so much Shez,that when you said this ""what the hell were you thinking - 3 cave pass!" I actually saw the face you made in my mind. I know it well.

I also can hear the panicked giggle and see the chin quiver you made when you walked down the steps in a 90 degree angle.

Mike & Sheryl said...

"chin quiver" LOL!

You really should go see the cave, it's just the sort of thing you'd love.

We have been told about one up north that you also have to go through water. The twist is, that there are freshwater crocs in the water. Supposedly the freshwater ones don't see people as a potential meal.

Mike says that the cave with the crocs is true, but I'm still not convinced that the whole thing isn't just a "have a laugh at the gullible tourist" story.

Audrey said...

You know what I mean by "chin quiver" right? I don't know how to type the sound you make when you do it. You did it right?

Ummm, yeah, think I'd pass on the fresh water crocs though...getting through the caves would be hard enough without panic and fear. And, somehow extensive plastic surgery doesn't seem like a great finale for a cave trip.

Hope you had a fun day today too!

maybe I"ll wait till next time you guys come here and go with you!

Mike & Sheryl said...

okay, NOW you are giving me a complex...

Mike thinks this is all very amusing btw.

caz said...

all your cave pictures are realy stuning would realy love to see them some day