It’s hard to believe just weeks ago, my buddy Rob and I were sea kayaking along the Margaret River coastline on a mini-expedition enjoying the kind of freedom that due to COVID-19 is currently only in our dreams.
Many of you will have heard of the surfing in the Margaret River region, or at least the wine. For the adventurous, there’s great rock climbing, mountain bike tracks, camping and 4×4 tracks too.
It’s also home to the Cape to Cape Track. It’s a stunning multi-day hiking trail that runs 123 kilometres from Cape Leeuwin in the south, near Augusta, to Cape Naturaliste in the north, near Dunsborough. It’s a stunning coastline, and if you get the opportunity to complete it ‘end to end’ in one go, you’ll camp in incredible places, and earn a sense of accomplishment that is worth the sweat.
It’s this hiking trail that inspired our sea kayaking trip. We planned to paddle the same coastline over four days. With our sea kayaks loaded with camping gear, water, food and wine, we pushed off towards Cape Leeuwin.
The initially effortless paddling was short-lived. As we rounded Cape Leeuwin, we were no longer in the lee of the strengthening northerly wind. The combination of heavily laden sea kayaks and the stiff headwind meant maximum effort for very little forward progress.
We dug in until lunchtime and started looking for a beach to rest. With sections of reef, rock and shore break there weren’t too many places that appealed, but given the alternative, we quickly became less fussy and negotiated a sketchy surf landing between the reef.
We rested for a while, hoping the wind would drop; it didn’t, so we launched back through the shore break for another push into the wind, and ended the day early with very few kilometres behind us.
We camped nestled out of the breeze in the dunes, and Rob prepared a sensational curry. The morning was windless; it was time to cover some distance!
On the approach into Hamelin Bay, a pod of dolphins joined us. Sea kayaking is usually quiet and relatively slow; which means dolphins and seals are often curious, it’s one of the highlights of travelling like this.
Further north, the wind returned. This time it was from the south-west, a tailwind. At first, it gave us some assistance with our sails. It quickly strengthened, and we were soon covering ground at pace, in challenging, yet exciting conditions.
There were few options to land and rest, so we didn’t, and powered further north, careful to avoid the notorious hidden bommies that would have stopped us in our tracks.
Sea kayaking by Margaret River Main Break, the wind strengthened again. We were surfing the wind waves, propelled by our sails. It was a blast, but it’s an intimidating section of coast, and I was happy to round the corner into Kilcarnup. We were out of the wind, and it was a beautiful spot to camp.
With the forecast weather, the next day was the crux of this sea kayaking trip. Wind warnings were forecast, and although they were with us, from the south-east, they were at the limit. We decided to test the waters on the section up to Cowaramup Bay. Like the previous day, we made excellent speed, but it was challenging.
While we both were carrying PLB’s, on these types of trips, the idea is we rescue each other. It can be challenging to stay in close proximity to each other and to communicate. We mounted our VHF radios for one-handed operation, and they were working well, and we were managing to stay close, so that was of some comfort.
We had coffee and lunch at Cowaramup while we contemplated our next move. The conditions were borderline and not improving. We were both feeling strong, so we decided to continue.
The section to Injidup Point was more exciting paddling, and thankfully we rounded the corner back into the sheltered waters of the bay without mishap. It was an epic day of sea kayaking!
Our final push to Cape Leeuwin started with another pod of stunning dolphins. Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky with the wind, and a stiff easterly dealt us headwinds on several sections of this coastline. North of Yallingup though, we could get in close to shore in the lee of the high headland. It was comfortable paddling, and it’s a stunning coastline.
Further north we passed Three Bears, one of my favourite breaks, where Rob and I had been surfing on the day we drove down from Perth just days before. At Sugarloaf Rock helicopters and boats searched for a lost fisherman. It was a sobering reminder of the power of this section of the ocean.
Finally, we rounded Cape Naturaliste. Unfortunately, though, the nearest pick up is east at Bunker Bay. The final grind was straight into a powerful headwind.
This short, close to home trip, was one of the best I’ve done. It was such a different way to see this impressive coastline, but more than that, it was a substantial challenge. Often, the more you sweat, the higher the reward.
A big thanks to Tarky Wall for sorting our logistics.