Prevelly to Contos
Start - Prevelly
Finish - Contos Campsite
Campsite - Water Tank, Toilet, Table, BBQs
Distance - 18.2km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 397m
Time - 5-8 hours
Date Hiked - 19th September 2020
The Hike- Day Four on the Cape to Cape and after a long 30km day yesterday, I slept like a rock in my cabin at the Prevelly Holiday Park. While not the Grand Budapest Hotel, it was an upgrade over my sleeping mat and it meant I didn't have to spend time packing up sleeping gear in the morning.
This meant extra time to rest before heading off and I put that to good use. With a much shorter day on the cards, I laid in bed listening to the showers as they passed through and also catching up on the socials. The previous night I had noticed that Michelle from WalkingTwoByTwo was in the area so sent her a message to see where she was. We organised a breakfast catch-up so I just had to be at the Sea Garden Café by 9am with all my gear. Packing and reorganising my gear into dry bags took a little longer than expected but I made it and met her just after 9am. Michelle was here scoping out the new realignment I was walking this morning for the next edition of her Cape to Cape guidebook, along with having a guiding trip in the near future. We spent time talking about her new business, Feed the Hike (use the code PY5 for 5% a great range of fresh, quality dehydrated soups and extras), along with how I was finding the track so far.
After a hearty breakfast, a nice fresh coffee and a good chat with Michelle, the table we were sitting at had reached its reservation time so we had to move on. Excellent timing as a strong shower had just passed, dumping a bit of rain on Prevelly but with clear skies in the distance, I was hoping it stayed that way for a while. Saying goodbye to Michelle, I headed back up the hill to the point where I left the track the previous day. As with every track town, the official route doesn't take you into the centre of town, in Prevelly this means it scoots the edge of Wallcliffe Road and heads off in an easterly direction along the footpath. It was fairly easy going up the hill thanks to the footpath and I got some nice shots looking out towards the ocean to the approaching weather that included a goodbye rainbow. Happily walking along the pavement, I thought it would be best to stop and apply some sunscreen if the sun was going to be out for extended periods between showers. As I was doing this, a cyclist passed me and came to an abrupt stop. Thinking they wanted to offer some advice or ask what I was up to, it turned out to be an old family friend that I'd known since I was born.
Brian and his family were enjoying a holiday in the area and he was out on his e-bike getting in some exercise for the day. What a random coincidence this meeting was given this section of path doesn't last very long and it was a fun way to start the walking for the day. We chatted about what they were up to, walks on the Cape to Cape they had done this trip or were planning on doing and how we'd both been. Brian and his wife Eileen were due to stay with my parents the day after I ending up leaving Funbury after this trip so it was at least nice to see Brian, albeit only for a brief moment. Wishing him well for the rest of his holiday, we parted ways and I eventually found the point where the Cape to Cape heads into the bush and continues uphill. On my previous trip I had botched the navigation coming into Prevelly and had missed walking this section. Being on an old sandy vehicle track, the trail won't blow your socks off but with plenty of wildflowers lining the edges and the unmistakeable scent of wet Peppermint trees on the air, I was finding plenty to enjoy here. Having been mainly on the coast for the first half, I was looking forwards to spending some time in the forests, as I feel more at home there than I do in the dunes or on the beach.
As I ascended up the hill, I was very much enjoying photographing all the wildflowers and orchids that I could find. Vanilla Lily, Cowslip Orchids, Pink Fairy Orchids, Donkey Orchids, Golden Buttercups, Hovea, Pepper and Salt plus my favourite, the Native Rose could all be found along here. Taking a turn to the left, you are introduced to more of a mixed forest arrangement with Marri and Jarrah starting to become more prominent. There are some quite old examples of these trees located either side of the track and it's a really lovely area to walk through, especially still being damp from the morning rain. Knowing this day was broken up into two sections, the first being forest and inland heath walking and the second being beach and cliff walking, I was savouring my time in the forested section. There is something primal about walking in these green spaces with the busyness and noise of the modern world to distract you. The natural world is of course very busy and noisy with an entire ecosystem moving around you but it's a very calming presence to be around. Still climbing, you take a right turn and follow the track up to where the new realignment has been put in.
My big issue with this section last time was the exposed walking on the very soft sandy tracks coming into Prevelly and it appears something has been done to address this. The track no longer passes the town's water tanks but instead heads east just before you reach them. There is no distance added to your day because of instead of heading south then east from this point, you head east then south along the opposite side of an imaginary rectangle. The entry to the realignment is very pleasant with a single track surrounded by lush forest leading you into the distance. Running parallel to a vehicle track, it is very much an improvement over the previous route as the excellent wildflower display continued. Reaching the end of the single track adventure, you are placed on another vehicle track as you head south but with some mature forest surrounding you, this is no bad thing. Being so close a town, it certainly doesn't feel that way with a world that feels like you're in the middle of nowhere (vehicle track aside). The large Balgas, the increase in Banksias and even some fungi growing in the shaded areas brought a smile to my face as I soaked it all in.
Reaching a sharp drop in the track, this marks the highest point you'll reach in the day and also provides some great views overlooking the rolling hills ahead. Still being in the forest was a delight as you descend down the vehicle track and here I saw one of my favourite wildflowers in WA, the Foxtail. These bright pink and blue flowers were everywhere as I finished my last leg of the Bibbulmun Track so I was happy to see some on the Capes, even if it was just a little pocket. Along with the Foxtails were plenty of Cowslip and Donkey Orchids and I managed to get a shot of both kinds in the same frame. The forest started to disappear as I reached the bottom of the hill, replaced with more familiar Peppermint and low lying coastal scrub. That didn't stop my enjoyment as the introduction of drosera vines to the edge of the trail made me stop and get down on all fours trying to photograph these interesting plants. Getting a couple of okay shots, it wasn't until I was flicking through the photos in my tent later that night that I realised I had captured a cool looking red and yellow insect that seemed to have outsmarted the various traps that the drosera uses to catch prey.
Continuing on the mix of sandy single track and sandy vehicle track, I could feel a changing in the winds and the skies certainly looked like weather was approaching. Rounding a fence line, it was reminiscent of walking into Nullaki and similar to that experience, you don't stay by the fence for too long. Spotting another drosera, this time with a purple flower attached, it was a nice start to the day. This would change as it started to sprinkle and then sideways rain came pouring down as I moved into the more exposed areas up on the ridge. With the strong winds I figured it wouldn't last too long so I stopped, put my back to the wind, arched my head up to use my wide brim hat as a shield and stayed as close to the undergrowth as possible. I must have looked very silly and at that point a man appeared from down the track and witnessed my silliness. He had all his rain gear on except a cover for his pack that looked soaked right through. We gave each other a little nod and I stayed where I was, getting slightly cold now the rain had partially wet my clothes. With the heavier rain now subsiding, I continued on my way and towards a section that is a real highlight of the day.
As the ocean views start to appear after a slight uphill, you head west and begin your journey to the top of the hill where the 300 steps start. This steep drop leading down the Boodjidup Valley is made possible by the 300 wooden steps that snake down to the bottom. I'm not entirely sure there are exactly 300 steps but to honour the great Zach Snyder movie I yelled "This is Sparta" at the heavens as I started my descent. It was very pleasant to get lower into the valley and be protected from the howling wind as I was starting to feel quite cold. Spotting Cocky's Tongue and Native Rose on my way down, I was grateful that the path wasn't too overgrown as I didn't feel like being drenched even further by the moisture clinging to the tunnel of plants. I certainly enjoyed going down this way as last time I was here, I was heading in the opposite direction and that meant going up the steps with a full pack on. Not running into any day hikers this time, I arrived at the bottom and happily removed my pack for a well earned break. I was hoping the wind would be completely blocked out here but it was still pretty fierce and my plans to stop and dry off in the sun that had subsequently appeared were thwarted.
Being in such an iconic location on the track, I didn't want to rush through so kept moving around while I took photos of Boodjidup Brook and the metal bridge that safely takes you to the other side. Like many popular spots along the Cape to Cape, the Arum Lily has dug it's claws into the area and is now an unwelcome infestation. They do provide some greenery and the flowers are unique but I much prefer the native vegetation. Not long after completing the Cape to Cape I saw an article on an initiative to rid the South West of this menace, mainly in the Boranup Forest. Hopefully if the trial is a success, it can be expanded all along the coast to bring the landscape back towards a more natural look. Weeds aside, the area is a good rest spot with plenty of shade, a few benches and some nice old Peppermint trees. While the sun was very nice on my skin, it also meant that trying to photograph the area was a bit difficult. Post rain sun for wide angle shots is never good in the middle of the days as the glare is increased and everything always looks extremely bright. I tried but in the end I didn't get as many nice shots in the bag as I'd liked.
It was difficult leaving the comfort and protection of Boodjidup Brook knowing that the rest of the day was going to mean hiking with strong winds and rain blowing in my face. One advantage was that I'd already done this section before so roughly knew what to expect and for how long each exposed area would be. As soon as I stepped out into the dunes past Boodjidup Brook, the wind was blowing right in my face. It was a real shame as I'd enjoyed this stretch running parallel to the brook as it made its way out towards the ocean. Early on it became clear that the remaining 11km was not going to be a stop and admire the details kind of walk. Although the wildflowers along the trail were quite pretty, once it reached the open dunes closer to the ocean, they ceased to exist apart from the occasional Native Geranium. Running right next to the brook for the most part, this is a lovely section that was really picturesque thanks to the grasses, flowing water, scrub covered dunes and the darkening skies in the background. Still somewhat protected by the dunes, it was a case of enjoying the scenery but also knowing what was ahead.
The tannin stained waters of the brook provide a nice contrast as it weaves through the dunes and it's an odd sight seeing that much water just flowing over the porous sand. Eventually you catch sight of where the brook empties into the ocean and with dark skies in the distance, it was not a nice welcome to the first of the sustained beach sections. Climbing up and down through the soft dunes, the winds picked up and I would occasionally be sandblasted quite hard. This would become an issue along the beach sections over the next few days as I couldn't keep my camera lens clean from all the sand and salt spray. Reaching the beach, I was about halfway through the day but the harder half was ahead of me. As a welcome to the soft sand walking and a return to the Indian Ocean, I was greeted with a sideways shower. With only passing showers, it wasn't worth getting my rain jacket out, as by the time I put it on the rain has usually finished. At this point I was trudging along the soft sand with the wind pelting my face, my pack cover blew off and with it, my rain jacket that I store tucked into the bottom for easy access.
Picking up my pack cover and putting it back on, I forgot my rain jacket was there and unfortunately it was lost to the wind gods. I didn't realise until I reached the Redgate Beach car park but by then it was too late. I hope whoever found it makes good use of it but I now have a replacement that is slightly larger and a better colour. With not much to do but put my head down and see out this 2km stretch of beach walking, I was lucky in that my wide brim hat would fold down in the wind and protect the windward side of my face from the harshness. It also meant that my eyes were protected and all I had to worry about was my next step. It wasn't a pleasant experience but there were some moments I took solace in like a couple of seagulls fighting over a small fish one had caught. I did enjoy occasionally facing the dunes and having a small moment where the wind was blocked and I could enjoy a respite. In some sections the dunes were quite dramatic with steep flanks and the passing clouds providing a nice contrast. While the photos show a mostly sunny sky, they don't capture the wind and even the shots of the open ocean don't really convey the ferocity of the squalls.
Before you get to the Redgate Beach car park, there is a section of rocks that is a welcome relief from the unrelenting soft sand. Keen to get to Redgate and knowing that the next beach was only a short one, I powered on into the gales and eventually reached the rocky headland that the car park is built on. Finding more people there than I expected on this wild and woolly day, it was such a relief to find a spot protected by the scrub where I could be out of the wind for a moment. I plonked myself on a wooden post and had a bit of a rest, checking my GPS to see how long I had left before Contos. Enjoying a lunch snack, it wasn't until I was packing my stuff back up that I realised that my rain jacket was missing and I'd left it on the beach near the river mouth. Not to worry I thought, it wasn't like there was more rain forecast for today, tomorrow and the following day. Thinking I would leg it all the way into Contos and hopefully beat the predicted afternoon rain, I had to stop on the rocks as I left the car park because the scene in front of me was too good to miss. While the weather wasn't as I'd hoped, it did mean that in certain areas the results were spectacular. Where heavy swells meet immovable boulders, the violent collisions cause the seas to rise up and scatter in all directions.
Having a longer lens is very useful in this situation and I spent a good deal of time waiting for sets to roll through and strike the distant rocks. Ignoring the dark clouds that were headed my way, I eventually made my way down to Redgate Beach for the last of the beach walking for the day. Thankfully it is hard sand for the most part and the only challenge here is crossing Calgardup Brook. I noticed a family coming towards me as I approached it and figured they must have abandoned their walk when they saw the crossing. It was no deeper than ankle height and with damp shoes already it was a case of seeing if I could jump it but if not then it wasn't the end of the world. I didn't quite execute my long jump correctly but was safely on the other side and powering on towards the beach exit. Rising up the hill near the old Cape to Cape wooden board, there were some moody views looking back over Redgate Beach and out towards the ocean. With a little perk in my step at having completed the beach walking, it was a case of admiring the views from the top of the little climb I'd just done before heading inland to a thicket of protected scrub.
Boy I was happy to be out of the strong winds and stopped for a moment to appreciate it. Hoping it would last, I continued on and found myself enjoying a mix of single and vehicle track set back in the protection of the coastal scrub. I remember the last time I was here, this section I did not enjoy because it just felt like aimless wandering on soft tracks (it was also much warmer) but today, in these conditions, I was happy for some less than thrilling sandy tracks. The point of this section is to lead you to the famous chain leading down the limestone cliff. Before you get there, the views overlooking the bay are worth stopping to take in. Heading towards the shade of the tea-tree thicket, the winds were once again punishing but this was a section I enjoyed so they couldn't dampen my spirit. The first time I was here I thought the stainless steel chain was a bit pointless but now I can see why some might find it useful. The limestone "steps" you descend down aren't super tricky but if you have short legs then I understand it might be an issue. Reaching the bottom, I found that I wasn't alone here with a couple enjoying a day walk taking a break in the protection of the scrub.
Having a chat about the track and getting the usual questions about having all my gear for the week in my backpack (apart from rain jacket), we all moved towards the next big feature of the day, Bob's Hollow. This stretch from the metal chain all the way to the cliffs above Contos is a really special spot that many C2C hikers find interesting. This couple were doing the track in small day sections and had noticed me at Ellensbrook Homestead too. Admiring the initial views of the cliffs above, we all agreed that the geology of the area was something else and it only got better from here. As you get closer to the cliffs you can see more detail and thankfully the track takes you right up to the limestone for a closer inspection. According to the signs there are more caves in the area that must extend deep into the limestone and are only accessible if you're a very experienced cave diver. I can only imagine what they look like but think they'd be wildly different to the tourist caves you get along Caves Rd to the east of here. Climbing up next to the cliffs on the sandy path, there are some wooden steps to help out leading all the way to a small hollow named after a guy called Bob. Given what happened at Gracetown with the cliff collapse, I stuck to the edges and photographed from a distance.
There is one point where there is a break in the limestone that I wasn't sure I should follow and help Aragorn through the Paths of the Dead to go summon the Oathbreakers (LOTR nerds will know what I'm on about). As I was checking out the various points along Bob's Hollow, the sun came out for an extended period and being somewhat sheltered in points here, it almost felt like a normal day. With a break in the weather I decided to move on and finish with some glorious sunshine so kept moving up the wooden steps but this meant exposing myself to the winds again. I caught up to two hikers that looked like they weren't having a very enjoyable time in the wind and I can understand why. On the jagged limestone path, it was very easy to get blown off course and have your foot land somewhere that your ankle doesn't agree with. This doesn't last long and soon the path returns to a familiar hard sand that weaves around the hills. The views through here were stunning with the bright sunshine illuminating the turquoise waters just so and the clouds in the distance looking pleasant rather than threatening. A return of the wildflowers I'd missed since my time at Boodjidup Brook was lovely but super hard to photograph in the wind.
Getting closer to Contos, this stretch seemed to drag on for ages. Mainly because it was at the end of the day and I just wanted to get to the money shot over the cliffs and head inland to the campsite. I was done with having my face blown off by the wind and just wanted to setup my tent and have a relaxing afternoon listening to the rain and being warm. The wind was unrelenting through here and I made it to the cliffs above Contos Beach ready to get the money shots in the bag. One of my favourite photos from the early days of the website is overlooking the beach and the bay here but I was getting very different conditions today. The sun had disappeared behind the incoming rain clouds and it was looking properly wild out there. At various points you get some nice benches to enjoy the views but it would not have been a fun experience to stop here for a break. Reaching the spots where the limestone rises up sharply and you can see over the edges of the cliff, I was buffeted with winds so strong I was blown back. Having to lean into the force to get photos, I was wary that the wind might stop suddenly and Caris would get a big life insurance pay-out. I exaggerate as I was taking the proper precautions but didn't get the shots I wanted, mainly due to the sun disappearing. My hopes for my visit to Contos when I was planning this trip was for a nice sunny day where I would come back at sunset and spend time watching a glorious sunset, something I regretted not doing on my first visit here.
With that option now a distant dream, I turned my back to the ocean and headed inland for the final walk into Contos. You still have about a kilometre until you reach the campsite but being out of the wind made this feel like nothing. Just for fun, it started to rain again as I admired the Peppermints getting thicker and the Grass Trees returning in large numbers. The Cape to Cape skirts around the campsite but there are signs pointing you in the right direction if you camp here. I had booked a spot at the Whistlers section (you can book online here and the fee is $15 at the time of writing) because that's where I stayed before and I'm a creature of habit. Walking through the other loops I saw well stocked campers all setup and some locals in the form of a group of 28s (parrots). Unfortunately the spot I selected last time under one of the big Peppermints was taken so I chose the best spot from what was remaining and set about putting up my tent before more rain arrived. With much less wind here, it was a pleasant afternoon spent preparing for the next day, reading a book and writing my notes. I was even joined by a local Kookaburra but his acquaintance was very brief. It rained on and off again all afternoon and I was lucky not to get hail as everyone else I had seen that was in the area got hail at some point during this day. It was a wild night with the strong winds continuing and a few more showers waking me up at several points.
Final Thoughts - Well that was an experience and a half!
Weather is something you can never really plan for when you book trips like this in so you just have to roll with the punches sometimes. While not ideal that it was super windy all day, at least it was through a section I had already visited.
I really enjoyed the new alignment leading out of Prevelly and that forest is something special thanks to all the old trees and diversity of wildflowers.
The same can be said about Boodjidup Brook but maybe a lesser scale thanks to the Arum Lily infestation. It's still a nice spot but I just can't get over the weeds ruining the look of the place.
As I've said many times before, coastal walking isn't as enjoyable as forest walking for me so to experience the beach and cliff walking in the conditions I got today didn't make for an enjoyable time. The saving grace was an injection of moody photos to this series of posts and it's a nice test of your mental character to soldier on through bad weather.
In better weather, this is another stretch of the Cape to Cape. In conditions I got today, you can still see why it is rated so highly.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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