Friday, 29 September 2017

Cape to Cape Track (WA) - Deepdene to Cape Leeuwin

The final day of a seven day thru-hike of the Cape to Cape Track, Deepdene to Cape Leeuwin takes walkers from wild beaches to the tallest lighthouse on the Australian mainland. Starting as a beach walk before heading along rocky platforms and cliffs, the track ends at Australia's south-westernmost point. An excellent final day on a superb track.

Distance: 18 km (one way)
Gradient: Some moderate descents and ascents along the rocky platforms and leading to the Augusta Cliffs.
Quality of Path: Largely clear and well maintained. Some uneven sections with rocky limestone and granite sections, especially along the rocky platform and the granite headlands near Cape Leeuwin.
Quality of Signage: Largely well signed, with the the Cape to Cape Track markers allowing walkers to remain on track (albeit lacking in directional information).
Experience Required: Previous Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time: 5 Hours
Steps: Informal steps along the rocky platform. Some formal steps near Skippy Rock Rd and leading off Quarry Bay
Best Time to Visit: Late Autumn/Early Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: No direct access to Deepdene campsite. Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse can be reached from Augusta. Bussell Hwy becomes Blackwood Avenue and then becomes Leeuwin Rd. The lighthouse is located at the end of the road. 

With no other hikers showing up at Deepdene, Alissa and I had a quiet night to ourselves and woke up well rested as a result. Alissa's back pains from a few days ago were now well and truly gone, and with no rain overnight it was a quick and easy pack up. This definitely suited our purpose; being our last day of the Cape to Cape Track and with a TransWA bus to catch, Alissa and I wanted to be up and going as soon as possible, and were back on Deepdene Beach before 6:30 am.

Only a few hundred metres down the beach, Alissa and I crossed Turner Brook - the last brook/river crossing of the track. This was little more than a shin deep paddle through the tannic waters, however it did a lot to explain the sheer number of mosquitoes we encountered the previous night at Deepdene campsite.

The sky was dominated by dark and moody clouds that suggested rain was on the cards. The rain never fell on us as we hiked, however the ocean was fairly rough, with constantly choppy waves continually crashing into the beach. The walking was a bit of a slog as a result, with the appearance of rocky slabs providing something of a respite.

Given the roughness of the waves, the appearance of a gentle rock pool 45 minutes into the day's walk proved something of a stark contrast. With rocky slabs breaking the waves further out from the beach, these calm pools were teeming with small crustaceans and some smaller fish, and in warmer weather and with more time I can imagine the rock pool being a lovely, safe spot for a dip.

The rock pools would not last long however, and Alissa and I found ourselves once again slogging down the long sandy beach. The swell was definitely increasing by this stage, with some disconcertingly large waves crashing with thunderous volume.

Another 20 minutes after passing the rock pool, Alissa and I reached the beginnings of the rock shelf that stretches on for most of the way to the end of Deepdene Beach.

The shelf is fairly low at first, looking like a less impressive version of the Blowholes seen between Cosy Corner Beach and Cape Hamelin. A well worn path runs just behind the shelf, and we found it to be fairly easy to follow.

Further along, the shelf gets quite high, and I can imagine it being disconcerting for less experienced hikers - especially in bad weather. While the path is less clear, it is still easy enough to pick a route behind the rock shelf. There are a number of trails running up into the dunes however we avoided all of these as they seemed like ad hoc trails rather than the official Cape to Cape Track.

Continue along, the rough, jagged shelf gives way to a broad rock platform that made for easy walking, before descending to a small section of sandy beach.

Beyond the beach, the Cape to Cape Track runs through a jumble of granite boulders at a small headland before reaching the next stretch of Deepdene Beach.

A short distance into this stretch of beach, the Cape to Cape rises up and makes it way behind a series of dunes. These dunes are quite high and soft, making them even more of a slog than Deepdene Beach was!

The high dunes give way once again to a rocky shelf, with the trail running through the coastal heath behind. This rocky shelf becomes steeper and higher, eventually rising up to become the start of the Augusta Sea Cliffs - the home stretch for the Cape to Cape Track!

At the start of the cliffs, the Cape to Cape runs uphill along a 4WD track before returning to purpose built walk trail once again.

The first few kilometres along the coastal cliffs are quite enjoyable, especially since the open heath and higher elevation means you can see Cape Leeuwin and its lighthouse in the distance. Our anticipation was building by this point and we were beginning to get a little impatient; it wasn't much further to the end, but the last few kilometres felt longer than they really were.

It didn't help that the trail near the end of the Augusta Sea Cliffs was a bit of a closed in tunnel, giving us little indication of how far we'd progressed. The sound of cars was a positive indication that we were approaching Skippy Rd Road, a major landmark 100 metres before the southern registration station.

As the trail descends on the other side of Skippy Rock Rd, Alissa and I were provided with excellent views of Cape Leeuwin. By this point we had less than 3 kilometres to go, and we were able to get a better sense of just how large the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is.

As with its northern counterpart, the southern registration station is not at the southern trailhead so you technically sign out of the walk 2.9 kilometres from the actual end of the walk. Located in a nice sheltered grove, the registration station has a few benches that make it a perfect place for a rest stop.

With a few more kilometres to go and a bus to catch, Alissa and I didn't have time for a break and decided to press on. Beyond the registration station, the track passes through another low granite headland before heading towards Quarry Bay.

Even at this late stage, the Cape to Cape Track was still impressing us with unusual formations. The Tufa Formations of Quarry Bay are a case in point; with water constantly dripping down through the rock, calcium and limestone deposits have created cave-like structures along the low cliffs.

Leaving Quarry Bay via a series of stairs to a car park, the Cape to Cape continues along a large expanse of granite rock. Unlike the complete isolation we'd experienced throughout the rest of the day, the granite rock area was teeming with tourists, no doubt due to the close proximity to Cape Leeuwin and another famous icon of this section of the track.

Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

The famous Leeuwin Waterwheel was located just around the corner, and is a fascinating landmark I've visited many times in my childhood. Originally used to pump water to the lighthouse and surrounding buildings, the waterwheel has become completely encrusted in limestone. I remember being absolutely fascinated by the waterwheel as a kid, and there were quite a few young families out and about in the area near the Waterwheel having a similar experience to what I would have back when I first visited in 1994. Until recently, this was the official end of the Cape to Cape Track, with walkers having to find their own way to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse if they wanted to truly complete the lighthouse to lighthouse walk.

I always thought this was a strange setup given that the lighthouse is little more than 500 metres away, and I was glad to see that the track has been extended all the way to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse car park.

Having made it this far and having walked up to Cape Naturaliste before commencing the Cape to Cape Track, Alissa and I were keen to finish the track 'properly' and walk right up to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. The entry fee was a bit of a steep surprise, however one of the staff saw our large backpacks and said; "Cape to Cape Walkers, you can come in for free!" before kindly letting us through the gate and onto the broad bitumen path leading to the lighthouse. It had been close to 20 year since I'd last visited the lighthouse, and I was impressed to see that audio tours had been added and a lot of building maintenance had been undertaken in the interim to make this a major tourist attraction worthy of its entry fee.

Built in 1895, Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse on the Australian mainland and serves as an impressive final destination for a truly excellent multi-day walk trail. While the beach walking early in the day was a bit of a slog, this was enjoyable and fitting end to our Cape to Cape Track adventure, with the rocky shelf and the last 3 kilometres to the lighthouse being the main highlights of the day. I have to admit I didn't know what to expect from the Cape to Cape Track given it is not a true wilderness walk and my somewhat negative feelings about our last few days finishing of our Bibbulmun Track sectional End to End. I'm glad to report that the Cape to Cape vastly exceeded my expectations, being closer in my estimation to the Overland Track in terms of spectacular scenery per kilometre than the vast majority of the Bibbulmun. I loved this walk, and Alissa and I would happily walk it again. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the information! I am looking to travel to Cape Town. I didn't want to visit when I heard about Cape Town's water problems, but since it is fine I am ready to go!