Saturday, 9 January 2010

Australian travellogue: Lake Cave

I was faced with a dilemma when we arrived at the Lake Cave. Unlike most of the other caves in the region, we would have to join a guided tour. This wasn't a tour that we could walk through by ourselves. The dilemma was that we were too late to join the 2.30pm guided tour while the next one was at 3.30pm. The person at counter told us that if we were to follow this 3.30pm tour, we wouldn't have enough time to go up the Augusta lighthouse. So it was to be the cave or the lighthouse. After a few moments of indecision, we decided on the cave ... but we would still go on to Augusta.

The Lake Cave turned out to be a underground cave with limestone formations reflecting in the almost still waters of an underground stream. The entrance to the cave sits on a doline, which means an underground cave had collapsed previously and the soil above had sank down, causing a depression at the earth's surface.

Anyway, the cave is underground and to get there, we had to descend a wooden staircase with some 350 steps to the base of the doline where the guide was waiting. Along the way, we passed by giant karri trees and even ferns. After a few preliminary explanations, which included a warning not to touch the crystaline deposits which had remained uncontaminated for millions of years, we went down the long narrow stairway to be swallowed by the complete darkness.

No problem, I told my wife, I was ready for the darkness because I had brought along a torchlight. Clever me, aren't I? Smart, right? Too smart, actually, because I didn't reckon with the power of the dark which totally overwhelmed the light from my pathetically small torchlight, thereby rendering it completely useless. I quickly hid it away.

At the bottom of the stairs was a cave lake. It was not exactly that huge or cavernous by my estimate but when we walked in the semi-darkness - the guide would turn on and off the lights after we crossed certain stretches - and your senses started playing tricks on you, even a small cave would appear very big and you would imagine monsters on the cave walls. Nevertheless, it was about a 10-minute walk to the back of the cave on wooden planks with only a handrail to separate us from the edge. At the back of the cave there came more explanations from the guide accompanied by a light show: more turning on and off of the lights for special effects.

It is a beautiful cave. Since then, I've read somewhere that it is sometimes said to be the most beautiful cave in Australia. The temperature inside the Lake Cave is a constant 18 degrees Celsius regardless of the seasons.

The most spectacular sight is the "suspended table", a huge plate of calcite with a size of some 10 square metres and weighing in excess of five tonnes. It once formed as a layer of calcite on the floor, at the foot of two massive columns. Later, as the material below the plate was carried away, the columns are now left holding the plate in the air, some 20 centimetres above the surface of the cave lake seemingly in defiance of gravity.

Next: Cape Leeuwin lighthouse
Previous: Margaret River

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