Road trips enter a new dimension when you embark on travel short in nature far from home. For my first major day trip since I’ve been in Western Australia, I drove to Margaret River with Disha. This secluded little seaside town in the southwest of the state is an extremely popular spot for wine lovers and surfers. I am neither. Happily, cool stuff awaits even non-surfing teetotalers.
Underneath the ground close by the town of Margaret River lie three caves. I love getting beneath the surface of different countries. To do so in a literal fashion here, we descended 350 steps into the chill of a cavern called Lake Cave. In 1867 a 16-year-old girl named Frances Bussell stumbled upon but not into this cave while out riding her horse. She hurried back to tell her family but couldn’t remember where she’d spotted it. Lake Cave continued to lie there all alone, until her brother re-discovered it in 1890 and marked its location so everyone else could see for themselves that his sister hadn’t been full of it when she’d claimed she’d found a gigantic hole in the ground so many years earlier. Lake Cave is a living cave, with water constantly dripping and formations still growing, very slowly, all around the interior.
Next up – the river after which the town is named, a serene thread of cool water in the midst of thickets of trees. At the end, the peace of the narrow river’s gentle flowing waters spill into the crashing emerald waves of the Indian Ocean, creating a dramatic dichotomy of sight and sound. I wished I could rent a canoe or kayak to float my way down the river and into the ocean. Alas, like many of the greatest day trips, time was the limiting factor.
Disha is handy with a map, a mental tool that proved useful on the drive to and now from Margaret River. The sealed road on which we first traveled gave way to a dirt path, which took us 25 kilometers to yet another sealed road. The term sealed road in Australia means the road is paved – not sealed off, as it sounds to my American mind. Sealed roads are what you want to travel on. Dirt roads are abundant in this area and great to drive on as well. Unfortunately, in this case the dirt path was sealed – as in sealed off. Bizarrely, we weren’t alerted to the fact that our path of travel was closed to all traffic until we were more than halfway down this unsealed sealed-off road on our way back from Margaret River. Apparently the powers that be decided to close the road only after we entered.
With signs clearly stating Closed Road, I thought perhaps blasting was going to take place or quick sand was waiting beyond the blockade. The barricaded roadway was of no concern to Disha, though, who pulled up to the first strongly worded sign that stretched across our path, and told me to get out and move it so she could drive through. Several minutes later we arrived at an identical sign, which I again moved aside so we could plow through. The Australian Disha knows her territory well. No death or dismemberment awaited on the closed road, and we traveled merrily onward. This may mark the last time I’ll consider turning back and taking an alternate route just because it says Don’t drive on me, at least in Australia.