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The Cape To Cape Trek
cape leeuwinThe span of coastline between the lighthouses of Cape Naturaliste in the north and Cape Leeuwin, spans for a total of 135 kilometres and will simply take your breath away. While most of this magnificent stretch of coastline isn't easily accessible by vehicle, the whole length of coast is traversed by the infamous Cape to Cape walking trail. This challenging six to seven day hike takes you along the edges of towering cliffs and rockfaces that have been forged into amazing features by the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean. Remotely hidden beaches and thick coastal bush settings become a playground for visitors who are almost blown away with the wonder and beauty of this trail.

To many people a six day hike is pushing it a bit too far, and fortunately for them there are several access points down the track that enable people to go on shorter hikes of a day or even just a few short hours. A few inland loops on the track break away from the coast and pass through sheltered woodland sections, which is ideal for a more unique experience of nature. One of these goes will take you into the depth of the famous Boranup Karri forest, which is home to the third tallest tree in the world. Over 100 years old, the tall paper barked trees of the forest contrast pleasantly with the rest of the coast.

If your goal is to complete the trek within 6 days, you should aim to complete at least twenty to twenty five kilometres a day. Most of the area is extremely remote and isolated, so make sure you plan well in advance. Come prepared with your camping gear and plenty of water! In the hot Western Australian weather water should be your most important consideration, and while you don't want to burden yourself with too much weight, adequate water should always be carried above all else. There are water sources in most sections of the track in the form of rainfed tanks, or taps located in various townships. These and the scattered freshwater creeks there should be enough to stop you getting thirsty, but caution is always wise.

For those keen to embark on the whole walk, a big decision you will need to make is whether to start in the north or south. Many start at Naturaliste and walk south, as this keeps the sun on their backs. The track begins by taking you through dense coastal heath that merges into the rocky limestone ridges that border the blue Indian Ocean. Yallingup is a great place to set up camp for your first night as there is a caravan park there and a large and popular surf beach to relax and rest your feet on. Further down the track you will come across four free camping sites that are there especially for bush walkers. Basically, you are permitted to camp at any point along the track, but this is normally discouraged because the track is a sensitive landscape. There are also a number of commercial campgrounds and caravan parks, which unfortunately are not for free.

Before reaching the halfway point of your journey at Prevelly you will walk the sandy path adjacent to the long, pristine beach at Cape Clairault. You will also have already experiences the famous surf beach of Indijup, which is renowned for its beach breaks and great waves for surfing.

There really is an amazing amount to do and see on this trail, and essentially it all comes down to what you wish to see and do. During the summer months the landscape erupts in a kaleidoscope of colour, when the region's famous wildflowers come into bloom. Boronias, daisies, pea-flowers and clematis are amongst the many varieties that flourish, and some visitors come from around the world primarily to see these beautiful flowers.

The second half of the trek from Prevelly to Cape Leeuwin, is a little more isolated but it means that you will see less people and buildings. This break from civilization and crowds will allow you to enjoy a rugged landscape and permits more glimpses of local wildlife such as kangaroos and iguanas. If you visit during the right season, you may get a look at some pods of humpback whales, which rise to the surface off the coast, as they travel on their migratory routes.

If by this stage you are in need of a short break from the trail, head inland for 2 kilometres and would will come across Lake Cave. This cave consists of a long chamber built around a large pool. The still water of the pool reflects the stalactite formations on the roof above, creating an uniquely interesting effect. There are over 200 caves along the Cape to Cape trail, so it is worthwhile visiting at least one of them.

Nearing the end of the walk, you will be able to spot the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse, which rises in the sky in the distance, beckoning you towards the conclusion of your trek. Positioned on a headland that extends out into the sea, it is visible from miles away, so it may feel like it takes forever to reach it on your tired legs. The beauty of the lighthouse and the rocky coast surrounding it is a fitting finale to the wonders encountered over the last few days, and the ideal ending to a rewarding excursion. If you are a keen bushwalker, or even if you are just keen on nature and scenery, then the Cape to Cape trail should definitely be on your list of things to do.

Christine Barton

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