At the first hut of the Three Capes Track, I had a comfortable night’s rest and woke before dawn. I quietly left the cabin and limped out along the wooden boardwalk to the toilet block, which features beautifully clean dry toilets, the waste dropping into Apollo-shaped pods which are taken away by helicopter.
There was a warm desert wind blowing from the North. My hip was sore from an earlier injury but the painkillers were kicking in, so I did some gentle stretches in the pre-dawn light, and then made my way up to the helipad, which is a simple square of clean gravel at the edge of the compound, to watch the sunrise.
As the first rays of orange moved across the sky, a handful of other people slowly drifted out to stand quietly and widely separated on the pad. Each in our separate bubble of contemplation, we quietly watched the dawn of our first day on the trail. As the sun finally lifted clear of the horizon, the wind changed and brought with it a flurry of rain. Exchanging small private smiles, we sauntered slowly back to the cabins. Time for breakfast.
Elizabeth and I both like to enjoy our first meal of the day, so we had packed half a dozen fresh eggs each as a little luxury. Mine were in their cardboard carton, and one had broken, but it remained salvageable. We scrambled four eggs in ghee with cracked rice in one of the kitchen pans, served with fresh coffee from my Aeropress. Not bad at all.
We washed up, composted the shells, and packed everything else away. The weather outside had turned cool and blustery. We hoisted our packs, and set off.
The second day starts with the ascent of a double peak (Arthurs Peak / Crescent Mountain) connected by a low saddle. I was curious to see how my duff leg was going to cope. It’s only a 200m climb and the path is manicured into stone steps, but I was still a little puffed at the top of the first one. The painkillers and back brace were great, but presumably the tendon was still taking its toll inside.
To take my mind off that, Spring flowers were blooming everywhere, especially the Erect Guineaflower and the local subspecies of Hairy Boronia which is endemic to this peninsula.
Across the saddle to Crescent Mountain, the climb rewarded us with lovely views across the aptly named Crescent Bay, and beyond to Cape Raoul. It is a curiosity of the “Three Capes” Track that it actually follows the perimeter of just two capes, Pillar and Hauy. The third, Raoul, is only ever glimpsed in the distance.
We stopped to admire the view, and then began the climb back down, following a beautifully constructed staircase of local stone.
From the twin peaks, we descended into a flower-laden valley, where yellow-tailed cockatoos feasted on the ubiquitous banksias. The boardwalk made it easy for us, but the first walkers to break trail here spent several years forcing their way through impenetrable Banksia and She-Oak. Much of the work was done by a colourful couple called Reg and Tim, who named many of the features along the way, including ‘Where-the-freaking-hell-are-we Ridge’, which gave this basin its current name, Ellarwey Valley.
Much of the Three Capes Track is now protected by wooden walkways, and these do a great job of keeping everybody to the path and preventing erosion bogs, with the bonus of lifting you a little above the landscape so that you can see over the top of the scrub, but they are tediously hard and flat underfoot.
Today, the valley was beautiful and the Spring flowers delightful, but it was very exposed, and easy to imagine that it would be a harsh trudge if the weather was coming from the Southern Ocean.
At the far end of the basin, we ascended Tornado Ridge where a short side-path led to a series of delightful benches overlooking Tornado Bay. Here we paused and put together a hearty lunch of pre-cooked rice and tinned fish.
Back on the main path, we followed the path alongside the plunging cliffs. A squall came in across Tornado Bay which had us scurrying for our waterproofs, but it swiftly passed by to one side.
The flora varied between wet and dry sclerophyll, but was still sprinkled with Spring blooms. The ground underfoot would have been boggy without the boardwalk. However, the wire-covered hard wooden surface had taken its toll on my boots, and I had to do a swift repair job. Thank goodness for cloth tape.
Arriving at the Munro cabin, we found that it was all pleasantly familiar. Several beautifully appointed fire-resistant buildings holding a variety of kitchens and dormitories. The marked difference was the availability of a hot shower located in the bush. Fill a bucket with hot water from a nearby gas boiler, pour the bucket into the shower bag, hoist it to the sky, and stand beneath! Lovely.
Where Surveyors has a deck for admiring sunsets over Cape Raoul, Munro has a viewing platform, complete with telescope, out over the whale migration route. Humpback whales hung out below for much of the afternoon and then, as dusk fell, a pod of dolphins came inshore to feed in the surf. Wedge-tailed eagles soared overhead.
Tonight’s dinner was reconstituted camp fare, but palatable enough: “Roast lamb and vegetables and mash” followed by rolls of sour cherry paste, with a glass of hot rum tea.
We should have carried more wine, really. The official recommendation was to carry three litres each of water per day, but I had barely touched mine, there would have been room for an extra litre of red instead. One of the other walkers had packed the silvered bag from the inside of a wine box, and had a little party sitting up on the helicopter pad with legs dangling toward the ocean, watching the whales.