Cape to Cape Trail
Start - Contos Campground
Finish - Prevelly
Length - 20.00km
Time Taken - 6hrs 00mins
Date - 29th October 2014
With a big day ahead and the body clock now set at sunrise wakeups, it was an early breakfast of muesli and powdered milk. With nothing but the sounds of the birds chirping in the early morning I slowly got through my breakfast and proceeded to pack up my things for the long day ahead. On the cards today was a long 31km trek to Ellensbrook Campsite.
With a slight readjustment to my heavy pack (tent now being attached north-south instead of east-west) I quietly left the campsite on the path that I came in on the previous day. The first section takes you towards the famous fishing spot above the cliffs of Contos Beach. After a short walk through the scrubland you reach the 4x4 tracks that you can follow to get down to the beach but as I had a big day ahead unfortunately I didn't have time.
Following the map I found the path and wound my way above the stunning limestone cliffs above Contos Beach. With clear skies and a bright morning sun, the coastline was breathtaking and I couldn't help but stop every now and then and photograph the area. The landscape was very similar to the first day with peppermint trees and low scrub dominating the view. The path snakes it way through this scrub (very thick at times) with the occasional sparse spot allowing you to view the coast.
After a very up and down section you reach the turn off to Bobs Hollow Grotto, a cool little cave system set into the cliffs. The surrounding area is quite cool so make some time to explore the cliff face and take photos. The path continues down past the spring (big metal box at the base of the cliff and easy to miss) and towards the ocean. It takes a bit of scrambling over the rocks but you soon reach the stunning Bobs Hollow Bay and another postcard opportunity. The trail is not very well marked here and it can be quite easy to question yourself but you need to head uphill to the stairs exiting the beach. It shouldn't matter where you exit the beach on the south side, eventually you will find the guide ropes under the trees leading you up the trail.
The trail follows some exposed 4x4 tracks and with the sun now higher there was no escape from the heat until you hit Redgate Beach, where the trade off for cooler temperatures is some boggy beach sand. This section isn't as long as previous days but its still beach walking and your pace slows up considerably, while the effort required rises. Eventually you hit the car park leading down to Redgate Beach and a chance to rest before even more beach walking.
It's tough work for the next few kms until you reach Boodjidup Brook, which marks the turn off for the trail. It is very hard to miss the brook but the trail isn't marked at all until you are further inland. Make sure to take the southern/eastern side of the creek and follow it upstream until you find a trail marker. Working its way inland, the trail takes you across the exposed dune system south of the brook on soft sand.
Having looked at the guide book earlier I knew what was ahead (the dreaded 300 steps up the other side) and the hill on the other side of the brook loomed large. Knowing a crossing was coming soon doesn't help as the hill seemed to get bigger as it went inland but finally you spot the bridge over the brook. At this time of year it is a great spot to rest with the brook flowing and greenery everywhere. If you have the time there is a piece of rope attached to a nearby tree that hangs over the river and for those that dare, it would provide some good fun.
I rested on the logs on the other side of the bridge and stared down the first of the "300". The 300 are the individual logs that make up the stairway to the top of the 124m summit above. While I was enjoying some mango fruit straps a couple appeared from the 300 and we exchanged pleasantries. I took one last drink and lifted my heavy pack onto my shoulders to start the slog up the hill. I had planned to count the logs to see how many there were but about 20 steps in a group of five women were making their way down so I stopped to let them through. We had a bit of a chat and they were doing the trail in sections with someone waiting for them at every stop (I envied their tiny daypacks at that moment). I inquired about the condition of Margaret River and they confirmed it was safe to cross if I watched the waves carefully. Moving on I slowly made my way to the summit and made my first mistake of the day.
The written directions in the guide book indicate there is a steep downhill section before making a turn towards the Prevelly Communication Tower and so I went down what looked like a very steep downhill and took the next left. It turned out that I had travelled too far east on Blackboy Hollow Rd and my left turn (north) was a parallel 4x4 track that made the route a little bit longer. After reaching the sealed road of Rainbow Cave Rd I referenced the map and figured a way to get back to the correct 4x4 track. I figured I added an extra kilometre to the day but given the heat and soft track I would have preferred not to go to the long way.
The 4x4 tracks are again exposed and very soft so the going was slow up to the Prevelly Communication Tower (141m). I eventually made it and then made the second navigation mistake of the day. Stopping for water I didn't check the map properly before setting off and kept going on the 4x4 track that goes up to the tower. I should have taken a little left-right to get on a parallel 4x4 track but I didn't and by the time I realised something was up I was further east than I should have been. Thankfully I could get mobile reception so checked my position on the GPS and referenced that against the map. I had to double back a little bit and take a chance on a sandy driveway not on the map leading to a building site before heading to the paved road of Peare/Isaacs Rd. That road eventually led to the main road and I headed back towards Prevelly on the footpath.
I bumbled along the footpath keen to get into Prevelly as I was well behind schedule. My feet were in a bad state with blisters rubbing on my toes, heel and sides. Adding to the discomfort was a dull pain from the balls of my feet that had reduced me to a hobble, even on the hard pathway. The walk into Prevelly with the wind howling in my face wasn't as enjoyable as it should have been given the excellent views of the ocean and Margaret River.
I stopped at the Prevelly Caravan Park for something to eat and to assess my feet without a heavy pack/shoes on. By this time it was mid-afternoon and I still had about 9-10km to go in the day including a river crossing and more beach walking. This was the time to think about whether or not I could make the entire Cape to Cape in the planned five days as Gracetown was the next realistic point along the trail in which I could choose to stop and even then it wouldn't have been easy to find a way back to Margaret River or Bunbury. So on the benches outside the General Store I made the decision to stop my journey in Prevelly.
Final Thoughts - Looking back, the trip provided me with some great memories and I got to experience some landscapes that not many people get to see. This won't be the end for my Cape to Cape aspirations and the next time I do attempt this walk I will be better prepared and take more time to complete it. One pearl of wisdom I can come away with is five days isn't enough to fully appreciate the landscape and often I missed exploring the trail due to time/distance/fatigue constraints. When you have nothing but your own company and a long hike ahead it is nice to pause and distract the mind/body with a swim in the ocean or exploring rocks around a headland.
Was I disappointed not to make it to the finish? Of course. I had been hiking all winter and was fit enough to take it on but a combination of an overenthusiastic schedule, my feet not fully recovering from the Oxfam Trailwalker and the wrong mindset ultimately led to my decision. It was a humbling experience to say the least after challenging myself and falling short and I'm sure it won't be the last time.
I apologise to those who have been following my blog expecting a full account of the end to end experience but this won't be my last adventure and I will be back to have another crack at it soon.