To the Lighthouse

My luck held as I rode round the bottom of Geographe Bay and took the Caves Road up to Cape Naturaliste lighthouse. Ahead of me the sky was heavy grey, split by the occasional flash of lighting, and underneath me the roads were soaking wet, but above my head the sky was blue. A good reason to meander along and enjoy the scenery. The earth is pink, and as the road gets nearer the coast the trees shrink into low green brush.

As an RBR rider I’m conditioned to take photos of my bike outside lighthouses, but I fancied climbing these as well, as practice for the Gloucester Tree at Pemberton. Cape Naturaliste, the northern lighthouse, is quite stumpy. Cape Leeuwin, at the bottom of the cape, and from which you can see the meeting point of the Indian and the Southern Oceans, is tall and slender.

As we walk up the path to the lighthouse, Liz, our guide talks about the isolation, and how hard it was for the lighthouse keepers and their families to live here. But it’s only taken me a few minutes to ride the 8 miles from Dunsborough, I say. Liz looks at me with well-deserved contempt. When the lighthouse was first built Dunsborough didn’t exist, she explains, carefully. Lighthousekeepers in need of medical help, company or supplies had to take a horse to Busselton. I think about this for a while. To me, lighthouse keepers are isolated because they work on tiny rocks surrounded by turbulent seas. These men, and their families, were isolated by the land itself. I think their houses look beautiful, with verandas to shade from the heat, and gardens to provide veggies and a few chooks, but they are a very long way from Waitrose.

The light and the mechanisms came from Birmingham. Travelling the other way, Australia sent trees chopped up to be used as cobbles in the streets of London. This seems an undignified way for trees to end their lives, though it is apparently kinder to horses’ hooves and quieter for sensitive Victorian ears.

“People with breathing or heart problems are warned against attempting to climb steep stairway leading to light,” it says at the foot of the stairs. I think this may be a metaphor. It is always a difficult climb to the light.


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