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Gracetown to Ellensbrook Campsite – Day Five

Michael & Laura, the owners of Gracetown Caravan Park were so friendly & helpful. Michael does free pick ups & drop offs for hikers & had arranged to drop us off at Huzzas Carpark back in Gracetown this morning after 8am. The Caravan Park & the tiny town of Gracetown had grown on us. We liked the good vibes here & the people. We had a simple breakfast & packed up ready to hit the track again. Hoisting the backpack on was becoming second nature & easy now.

Michael dropped us off & was chatting about his life. He had been running the Caravan Park for 15 years & loving it. Couldn’t go back to the city – too stressful & many city drivers so angry on the roads. Mr D was mentioning the helicopters we keep seeing. One had come over at Moses Rock Campsite seeming to be looking at us, so Mr D gave the people inside a wave. Michael said they are always up there looking for sharks as there is so many surfers out in the ocean. When they spot a shark, they tell people to get out of the water. And that’s what happened just last week when two surfers got bitten by the same shark. They ignored the warning to get out of the water & the rest is history. Michael gets annoyed as the media doesn’t put that in. They get cancellations at the Caravan Park, Laura asks them why, & they say because of the shark sightings & attacks. Gracetown has another sad history as we walked pass the memorial site that morning. Back in 1996, a group of adults & children were caught when the cliff face gave way, trapping & killing them under a pile of large rocks sand & dirt. They were just sitting & watching a surf sporting event – you wouldn’t expect an avalanche of rocks onto you, scary & very sad.

We met an early morning hiker – he marched pass on a mission with his big backpack. Mr D gave a cheery greeting & got a mumbled unenthusiastic hello back. The man didn’t stop, just kept going. Obviously he was not enjoying his walk so far. I assumed he must of camped out on the beach as the Caravan Park was the only accommodation in Gracetown & we were the only hikers that stayed there last night. We made our way back on the sand dune hills working out where the track markers were. The surf was up again, this whole area a Mecca for surfers as more were out on the water catching the waves. A lone husky dog followed us a short way, his owner busy surfing.

We made our way to Left Handers – a real surfie dudes paradise. There were so many of them in the water. More were using the C2C track to access the beach further south & would pass us barefoot with their surfboards & long hair blowing in the breeze. Today was a very short walk, in no matter of time, we were off the beach dunes & heading inland, passing Ellensbrook Homestead, a famous building with historic significance. There it became 1km along easy paved walkway to Ellensbrook Campsite, passing Meekadarabee falls which at this time of year was non existent. There wasn’t much water around hence the falls had all dried up from last winter & spring.

Laura had offered Mr D a choice to have a rest day at the Caravan Park & then take 17kms to Prevelly the next day. But he was keen to work out setting up the tent properly & looking forward to camping out again. So we arrived at the Campsite just before 11.30am having done only 8kms. Mr D was feeling faint which he put down to being dehydrated, not drinking enough water & walking under the hot sun. So we had a leisurely afternoon, setting up the tent properly so we look like pros now but no one came along & saw our proud handiwork. I visited the homestead as it was all open to just wander through & read the history. Then I had a lay down & Mr D relaxed reading his book. There were new sprouts of Lily plants coming up everywhere & I could imagine in Winter & Spring this area would be beautiful the ground a carpet of white lilies. The water tank & toilet was 100 meters away next to the track. The only man made items in our Campsite were two picnic tables.

We ate early before dark, our delicious dehydrated meal from Campers Pantry, an Australian company with an added mashed potato packet. Wasn’t the same as a meal in a restaurant, but tasted good enough. Then we got stuck into the vino. Mr D couldn’t finish his after 2 cups, saying he had enough of drinking red wine & gone off it! He went on further to say, “That’s it! I’m not carrying any more vino again on these hikes! It is added weight & I can go without the wine anyway!” We hit our sleeping bags at 7.30pm. It was dark, we were tired & there wasn’t anything to do but sleep anyway! We weren’t allowed to make a campfire as it’s banned in the Campsites. Mr D was very upset about this as he loves to build a campfire in the evenings. Our only company, the nocturnal animals rustling in the bushes.

Moses Rock Campsite to Gracetown – Day Four

I was already awake early as Mr D turned over & said, “It’s 6am, lets get up”. The cold breeze kept blowing the outer tent flaps about all night. I kept waking up, coughing, turning one side then the other. By early morning I had zipped my sleeping bag right up & covered my head underneath. Mr D on the other hand was feeling hot & tossed everything off, including his bedclothes 😮.

So we got up & made ourselves porridge & indulged in 2 cups of tea for me & 2 coffee for Mr D. One of the two men had used the last of the toilet roll in the dunny & not changed the roll! Mr D was not fessing up to that. There were 8 spare toilet rolls hanging up. Not going to run out of toilet paper any time soon! Our calf muscles were feeling so tight & sore from yesterday’s sand walking & dune climbing. The Campsite was lovely & you had a great view of the ocean & dunes. I wasn’t impressed that the water tank was right next to the drop toilet. The toilet smells was so off putting as I used the water tap to get water & clean the dishes. Ben joined us for breakfast & had packed up & headed off well before us. We need to be more like Ben – organised, fast & efficient. He was hiking on to Ellensbrook Campsite, well over 20kms away. There was no way we could do another day like yesterday. Even through he was hating it, he was determined to finish the track, so all the best to him, we are unlikely to meet up again. Today was a short day – 14.5kms. We were thankful for that.

It was 8.45am by the time we left camp. Not as early as we would like. I was delighted that my hips didn’t hurt when I put the backpack on – maybe they had gone numb! My shoulders were slightly sore but much better than yesterday. The tightness in the calf muscles eased up too. Always the first days are the hardest to getting use to the physical demands on the body. We both were in greater spirits as the track winded down soft sand dunes, through coastal vegetation & down to Willyabrup Beach & Brook. I was really enjoying stopping to watch the waves come in & crash into the rocks & beach while waiting for Mr D to catch up to me.

It is a good idea to walk this time of year. I imagine it would be horrible to cross those brooks that have broke through to the ocean during winter & early spring. You would have to cross through water! So another sandbar crossing & passing a couple of men that had turned up to go surfing, one had really expensive camera gear with him. Then we had our first sand dune climb of the day up to the carpark.

Then it was more pleasant walking up the top of the cliffs through narrow vegetation that threatened to take over the path. If anyone happened to come the other way, one would have to step into the bushes to allow them through. We didn’t have that problem at least. We saw only one trail runner dude. Still enjoying ourselves we were taking a slow pace. We may very well make a short day into a long day, so we upped the pace. The track as usual, went back down onto a beach called Cullen’s Beach. It was hard walking through the ultra soft sand before veering back up another sand dune & continuing along the cliff tops again. All I would see regarding animal life was these small birds & tiny lizards that would run across the track in front of me every 100 meters or so. And one pretty little white butterfly.

There were more surfers out & about, the waves looked huge. Some people had driven out to the lookouts & were checking it all out. We didn’t see any hikers. Besides Ben, we haven’t met anyone else doing the walk. The track led to another 4WD track down to the water again. This time the area we walked through had huge boulders & rocks everywhere. It was quite a spectacle watching the waves hit the rocks & the spray flying high up in the air before crashing down. Sometimes even I would see rainbow colours through the spray. The Boulders were all different shapes & I liked to give them a name. Mr D named one huge Boulder that had two smaller ones sitting on top of it, “I give this rock a name – Two Shoes!” he declared merrily.

By 12pm I was feeling very tired & needed a rest. So by 12.25 Mr D had found a suitable spot. He too had crashed & burned & needed shade & rest. So we had our wraps & a cuppa while the ants were crawling all through my rubbish as I was too tired & left it all out attracting the ants. I later found one had crawled into my backpack & was still alive & moving when I pulled my stuff out. At least it was only a tiny one. After lunch Mr D looked at his Garmin map & was so excited, “We are only 2kms away from Gracetown!” We were thinking we had another 2 hours of walking so we were so happy at this!

Away we went arriving at North Point shortly after. There the trail seemed to vanish down the treacherous cliff face. We bush bashed to another trail & saw the markers down below. Somehow we missed the turn but it didn’t look safe going down there anyway. We were right outside Gracetown so we walked the road into town. Not much to Gracetown. Went into Gracie’s General store. The lady behind the counter said, “This is Gracetown – this store! There is nothing around. The Caravan Park is 2.5kms back where you came!” We were tired & didn’t want to walk backwards! I got us two cokes to quench our thirst. There was no phone reception either. Mr D went out to the payphone out the front & called the Gracetown Caravan Park. The bloke said he would pick us up & bring us back. It’s a service he does for free. He also drops hikers back off at the track. We were so happy we quickly organised takeaway curry dinner from the store & Mr D grabbed a bottle of vino.

It sure was a long drive out to the Caravan Park & sure glad we didn’t walk it! We arrived just after 3pm. Such a nice spot set amongst the bush & trees, Kangaroos hopping about. The blokes wife was at reception & so helpful & lovely. She gave us two options as the Caravan Park was almost full. A cabin with no bathroom or an onsite Caravan with ensuite bathroom. It was right at the back but we chose the Caravan after inspecting both. Better than going to the public toilets all the time! I love Caravans. This one so simple but homely & lots of space. There were two single beds & table in the added room attached to the Caravan so we could spread all our stuff out. I did the clothes washing & drying while Mr D organised accommodation in Prevelly in 2 nights time. We showered & cleaned ourselves up. Mr D showed me all his cuts & bruises from yesterday’s fall down his legs. ☹️Then we settled down with vino & our curry dinners we had heated up. The curry tasted very nice but Mr D’s complaint was it was vegetarian with no meat. He sure must be tired as he had 2 small glasses of vino & retired to bed without finishing the bottle! Tomorrow is another short day as we head to another Campsite to practice setting up our tent again.

Yallingup to Moses Rock Campsite – Day Three

After having a better nights sleep with less coughing, I awoke my throat feeling great but my body very weary. I made Mr D & I some quick porridge & a cuppa. For Mr D – a Robert Timms Espresso coffee bag. In hindsight I should of dumped two coffee bags in to give him a double espresso shot. He was still recovering from yesterday & his shoulder was really sore from his backpack. I winced when I put on mine. I had very sore, red spots on the hips & shoulders where my backpack sits. It was incredibly painful to walk again with the backpack & I kept lifting the pack up off my hips but it would only slide back down again.

We set off just after 8am – an easy start walking on gravel track pass Torpedo Rocks. There I took the option of following the C2C walking on sand all the way along Smiths Beach must of been at least 2kms & was tough going, sinking into the sand with every step. Mr D avoided the sand & took off above the beach on another track that joins up halfway along the beach. Well I got all the way to the end & no Mr D in sight. I waited & waited…. he eventually caught up sweating & cursing his bad decision, “Bloody hell! I won’t be doing that again! That track took me the long way, up & down bloody sand dunes! And I had to walk half the bloody beach anyway! I’m exhausted now!” 😩 IMG_8445

On we pressed through Smiths Point & some tough going scrambling & climbing over boulders & rocks up & down arduous hills that exhausted us further. I stopped at one point to drop everything & change into my shorts. It was warming up to the point of being too hot. I lost the track as so many tracks intersect & the markers are sparse & far between. Mr D was somewhere far ahead. Luckily I retraced my steps & found the track. Scary to think how easily I can get lost.

We climbed up a bunch of stairs that got a “bloody hell! Who put these steps here?!!” From tired Mr D. At the top there was a bench seat to sit on, catch our breaths & look out at the Canal Rocks & the surf crashing into them. Then we had another difficult section up & up rocks, stones & tree roots & down & down the other side. I waited again as I was well in front. Mr D finally caught up not amused at all. He goes, “Thanks for racing off! I bloody tripped & fell crashing into some branches! One branch was almost going to poke me in the eye. I turned & it got me on the head! I’m wounded! My thigh is badly bruised! My head hurts!” My poor wounded trooper 😕. Later I inspected his head to find a small wound with a bit of dried blood. Yep, he will survive! On we pressed  still not covering much distance & most of the morning gone.

Today was 20kms but Mr D’s Garmin said we had done 22.5kms. And he had made a rookie mistake in not checking the next days walk & ensuring he had enough water. After the first 5kms, there is no water source until we get to the campgrounds. He only carried two 600ml Powerade bottles of water & had already finished one so was getting very concerned at this stage. Just before Injidup Beach some fishermen came along & one of them offered Mr D a bottle of water. He dropped his pack & clambered up the hill to the guys car in the carpark & returned relieved with another water bottle. I spoke to 2 other fishermen, one goes “You doing the whole C2C in one go?!” I said yes I planned to. He goes “Well, good luck!” Yep he thinks I’m crazy.

Ben trudged pass on his way onto the beach having already caught up to us. But he missed the turn off along the beach & had an extra effort in going up a huge sand dune & finding his way back onto the track. More beach walking & the surfers were out catching the waves. I would stop, catch my breath & watch them getting dunked into the ocean, laugh then continue. Hmmmmmm, they were probably laughing at me too!

We stopped just off the beach at a seat for lunch at 12.15pm. We still had over 10kms to go, we felt so miserable & defeated! At least the next 8kms were relatively easy on a wide 4WD track. But it was sandy & hilly & monotonous. There was great spots under trees that we just wanted to stop & put up the tent, call it a day, but no water! We were eventually spat out onto the beach again & crossed Quininup Brook which was well receded back from the ocean so easy to cross over sand. But a high tide of water came rushing up & I wasn’t quick enough to avoid the water as it washed over my boots & socks. Just great! I had wet feet & there was another big sand dune to go up! I plonked down on that sand dune going “No more walking today!” But had to coax myself to get back up & continue now with sand all over my legs & arms. The track was getting eaten up by the coastal vegetation as I battled my way through bushes. Most of the track is exposed to everything all the elements including the relentless sun that constantly beats down heating my face & exposed skin. It zaps my energy. I was no engeriser battery bunny 🐰.

We spotted Ben way ahead on the track & we had 3 odd more kms to go, inland through more dense vegetation & narrow sand tracks. I spotted my second Kangaroo here. I see more of them in suburbia. At 4.30pm we stumbled into camp 5 minutes after Ben had arrived. What relief to stop finally! Not much light left, so we set up our tent which we have never used before now. Mr D got this ultra light 600gm hiking tent 2 years ago, we finally were using it! Hence we didn’t set it up nicely & we looked like amateurs compared to Ben. He had an Hyperlite tent & backpack & all the expensive good stuff. We sat over dinner with a couple of cups of red vino from Mr D’s goon bag & chatted. Ben is from Brisbane & loves hiking & picks a trail to do each year for 2 weeks. He was fast regretting his pick this time & like us, was not enjoying the C2C. Found it very hard going. The book not very informative. Lack of campsites & water supplies. Yep, we were doing it tough all right & I have no idea how people do this whole track in 6 or 7 days! I think we have met our match with this track & it may break us all☹️. Ben’s backpack weighs a staggering 30kgs with 8 kgs in camera equipment alone!

We retired to bed at 8pm. We were so exhausted & couldn’t think anymore. Tucked up in my warm sleeping bag inside the tent felt soooo good 😊. The stars in the sky were brilliant. The breeze cool. Lucky for us it wasn’t too windy or wet. The lack of expertise in setting up the tent, we would of been blown away or floating on a big puddle of water.

Bunker Bay to Yallingup – Day Two

We are laying in bed totally exhausted at the Yallingup Beach Holiday Park. This is called the Aussie Camino where you walk from accommodation to accommodation, the only problem being is our packs are too heavy. Seriously but, we do have a tent & do plan on using it along the way – sometimes!IMG_8343

Lets rewind to this morning which seem so long ago now. No Cat Empire woke us up as Mr D forgot to set the alarm. He was mixing his drinks last night & was out like a light when his head hit the pillow. Not so for me as I coughed this annoying throat infection or mild cold cough all night which also kept Mr D awake at times so both of us didn’t get much sleep.

The day started grey which we weren’t expecting. So as we sat in comfort inside the Resort restaurant helping ourselves to a smorgasbord free breakfast thank you very much Roberto!, & looking out to the ocean in this wonderful spot, we felt a bit of despair. The rain came over, & it only seemed to get heavier. We watch, amused, the waitress setting up the outside tables for Breakfast as well under the roof. But we watched some rain hit the tabletops & no one was venturing out there to eat!

We had to race back to our villa in the rain, throwing our wet clothes in the dyer – such a convenience! We rearranged our backpacks for the rain & by the time we left – the rain had eased up! Typical but there still were some light rain about. So sad to leave a lovely place & walk away with heavy backpacks in dreary weather. Even the receptionist seemed chuckled over our agenda to hike to Yallingup.

Back on the beach briefly before heading up to Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse via narrow sandy trails overgrown with bushes & trees that drenched our pants & shoe gaiters as we brushed past them. I of course wanted to take the longer loop around going past Seal Rock. So you need a really good camera, binoculars or an Apple iPhone 10 to see the seals lazing about on the island of rocks far out in the water. I could hear more than see them. Lucky for us, Mr D had the iPhone 10. Impressed with the tiny dark shapes resembling seals, I was happy to get to the lighthouse & actually start this Cape to Cape track. I spooked a huge Kangaroo whom was taking a toilet stop just in front of me on the trail. I feel like I was the one that got more spooked & trod in some Kangaroo poop in my excitement of getting my phone out to take a picture.

So we get to the lighthouse – the cafe souvenir shop that is where you pay to go on a tour of the lighthouse. The lady behind the counter saw our gigantic backpacks & said “You are here to walk the Cape to Cape? You can go through up to the lighthouse to give it a pat”. We obviously looked too fresh & clean to have been finishing the walk! So up we went at least 500 meters to the lighthouse so we could give it a ‘pat’. It’s a long way to the second lighthouse pat from here🤔 There were at least 4 large groups of school kids there going on the lighthouse tours. The guide man goes to his group just outside the lighthouse, “See those two people are here to walk the Cape to Cape track!” We felt like celebrity’s.

With our incredible slow pace, it took 2 hours before we even started the C2C. We left just after 9am – amateurs! And just after 11 we were at the register station to sign ourselves in. There was no pen! Luckily Mr D saved the day again with his little pen in his front balance pocket. The rain was clearing up now as we set off to Sugarloaf 3kms away on easy sealed pathways & board walks. I took the lead and trotted off at a steady pace. Just after 12 pm we had arrived at the Sugarloaf carpark. Sugarloaf is the name of the big rock that sticks out of the water there. Now I know what a loaf of sugar would look like 😶. We stopped here for lunch sitting on a little ledge outside the drop toilets. Just a simple meat & cheese wrap with a cup of tea. I had insisted on a cup of tea. A rather reluctant Mr D did not feel like getting out all the equipment for it. He was already tired & annoyed we still had another 10kms to go! A rather scary big ant almost crawled into my backpack before I spotted him & flicked him away. He was sure to give me a nasty bite when my unexpecting bare hand would fumble around inside the backpack for something later on.

After 1pm now we were packed & back on track. This time the path would take us largely above the ocean near the cliff edges with sudden drop offs. The jagged rocks far below with surf crashing relentlessly into them. A narrow sandy trail that sometimes included rocks strewn all over the path to hop over & dodge around. Everywhere along the cliff tops were interesting limestone formations jutting out all different shapes & sizes.

The hardest part was Kabbijgup Beach called Three Bears & not sure why the name. We had to go down the wooden stairs & walk along the sand for like 1km or so, then climb back out up the sand dunes. So why make walkers go down & come back up rather than go straight across?! The sand was so soft & hard to walk on, our boots sinking into it making for hard work. I was always ahead of Mr D & took no time mucking about getting back up. There I recovered & looked casual like as Mr D struggled up that sand hill. I think it broke him. After that, he was spent & looked so defeated as he trudged along head down wishing he was done for the day.

I would stop at a chair placed atop the cliff looking out. The best seat in the house! I would wait for Mr D to catch up, allow him to rest a moment on the seat before we continued on. Soon the trail left the cliff top & continued back from the ocean on a wide sandy track. Yallingup looked so close you could touch it. But it clearly was still a few hours away. Mr D was like, “I’m sick of this sand already!” We arrived at Mount Duckworth campsite – 3kms out of Yallingup. There we met Ben whom had also started the C2C today. He got to that campsite & decided to call it a day & was resting inside his tent as we came along. His plan is to go to Moses Campsite tomorrow, the same as us if we can make it there!

The last 3kms was struggletown. I was still in front & willing my sore feet onwards. We arrived in Yallingup just before 4.30pm & Mr D quickly found accommodation in a cabin at the Yallingup Beach Holiday Park. The kind lady behind reception said, “I finish at 5pm, so if you want, I can give you a lift to the hotel restaurant & save you a 15 minute walk there”. Sounded good. We were spent. Done for. Every muscle ached. Our feet so sore. We immediately upon entering the cabin, took off our backpacks, pulled off our gaiters & boots, peeled off our socks & inspected our hot red feet for blisters or anything else ugly. Then we promptly returned to reception still a sweaty mess for our free lift.

We were dropped off at the Caves Hotel restaurant. They have a lovely sitting area with comfy couches in front of a gas fireplace. Fantastic with a glass of vino. It was hard to leave that spot to go to dinner in the restaurant. Our bodies could not or did not want to move! But we did have dinner & it was delicious! Then we had to take the Ghost trail which isn’t haunted, back in the dark to our cabin. Lucky Mr D’s iPhone came in handy once again to light the way home. Today was 17.6kms. Mr D was certain we had done over 20kms. It felt like we had. Tomorrow is a longer day than today, we are in trouble! Now it’s a case of trying to get a good nights sleep & hoping our bodies can move in the morning!

Meelup Trail to Bunker Bay – Day One

And so we start our journey. Not without the usual rocky start. Last night Mr D sprayed the bed with insect repellent paranoid after our last episode with bed bug bites. We had stayed in a Backpackers lodge & when we arrived we had paid for a single double bed room. For an extra $15 we could upgrade to a bathroom ensuite. Mr D said “So it is a better room?” The man replied “No, I just unlock the door!” That is the same room with the door to the bathroom unlocked! The double bed should feature a write up in Mr D’s upcoming novel titled “Banana Beds & Pancake Pillows”. Some time in the wee hours of the morning I was awoken by a sudden loud noise – 4 of the wooden slats under the mattress on Mr D’s side had fallen down, hitting the ground & causing him to fall in a sudden dip. Grumbling away he had to get out of bed to fix it. The bed was also terribly squeaky, even looking at it made it squeak. It is in due need of retirement!

Fast forward to waking up time & we were already awake when Mr D’s phone alarm started playing Cat Empire “Two Shoes”. We dressed & left the still quiet backpackers lodge for breakfast at the local bakery. After eating far too much on Sunday, I opted for a simple toastie & Mr D tried to squeeze in a big breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, hash browns & baked beans. He couldn’t finish it. It is that saying “Eyes bigger than the stomach”. Walking back we witnessed a rare sunrise over the water – not common in WA at all but common in pretty quaint Dunsborough town.

We packed & waited for our lift to arrive & take us to the Meelup Trail – 1.7kms away on the outskirts of Old Dunsborough. The lift was Melinda & Nick driving down from Bunbury to join us on a day hike! With good company & fine weather it was a perfect start to our walk. Alas we almost got lost right at the start! The trail isn’t very well sign posted with many intersecting trails so easy to wander off somewhere else.

We walked along just inland from the beach, sometimes on the beach, meeting other people fishing off the rocks for the Salmon, surfing, running or just on a day walk themselves. The scenery lovely, many birds to watch & listen to, an odd bobtail lizard sunning itself in the middle of the path & the sound of waves crashing onto the rocks. Meelup Beach was a beautiful spot & as the sun felt quite warm, I regretted leaving my bathers behind. There is lots of picnic tables under trees & a very clean & mosaic tiled shower toilet block. Very impressed with the facilities, we moved on, finding ourselves off trail often. Mr D would pull out his Garmin & get us right back on track again. After Eagle Bay & some goat trails, we ended up climbing up some big rocky boulders around to Bunker Bay.

Here we farewelled Melinda & Nick as they returned to their car. We had a great morning chatting away & it was really nice having the company of others for a change. The morning went too quickly! 4 became 2 as we had a last km or so stretch right along the beach. I took up a steady pace eager to get off the sand. Mr D struggled & fell behind, I guess his backpack being heavier made him sink more into the sand. I waited & had a breather at the Bunker Bay Beach House cafe. It was 1pm so a fine time to stop have lunch & decide where to stay. It was an expensive lunch but lovely nestled in the sand dunes just off the beach. We enjoyed the last of their fresh OJ followed by an alcoholic beverage that went down rather well. The Garmin reported we had done 13.5kms today & I was happy to call it a day. Mr D rang the fancy smancy Bunker Bay Pullman Resort for availability. We had decided to rough it … was a hard day of walking after all, that last bit of beach walking was a killer!

Gearing up our even heavier than before backpacks, Mr D was chatting to this bloke. Well the guy said he was turning 80 in a few months. We were like “No way! What?!?” The guy looked more 65, but he runs a lot & is keeping jolly well for his age. He said he did the Camino with his daughter but only managed half of the 800kms. He said “So where you off to? Walk a bit further & set up camp?” Mr D admitted to going just up the hill to the resort & the guy was like ” What?! Ah you guys are only carrying around those big backpacks for show!!”

So with tired hot feet still stuck in boots we walked UP HILL! To the Resort. At least it is downhill in the morning. Bit of trouble at reception there. Roberto the Duty Manager could not see our booking. No email confirmation had been sent. Mr D was quoted $229 including breakfast. The manager was like “$249 is the best I can do. I can’t see your booking. I don’t know whom you spoke to”. Mr D decided he hadn’t walked too many kms & had energy to voice his complaints. So there was no messing around with Mr D today! The Duty Manager went out back to process the booking & when he came back said he found the original booking & the staff member had booked it all wrong & under a different name. It had the same credit card numbers as the ones Mr D gave him. So in short he gave us a free upgrade to a 2 bedroom villa & even took us personally on the Resort car around to our villa. There, the card wouldn’t unlock the door so he had to drive back & return with another. Eventually we were home for the night! In a big open villa, very cosy with own ensuite & bath. The second bedroom came in handy to lay all our gear out on.

After a good bath soak & resting up off our feet, we indulged in another expensive meal in the restaurant including cocktails.  Very soon we will be roughing it in our tent & wish we were back here in this classy resort. So far, the bed feels great & we should hopefully get a good nights sleep. Tomorrow we start the Cape to Cape track! Mr D is already fast asleep at 9pm – just a little over indulging on alcoholic beverages!

Dunsborough

e509b9b9-dab6-4915-b13a-1de29f6c8ec9So here we are in Dunsborough. Pretty little quiet country town Dunsborough. We spent the morning transporting here via uber, train then bus – it worked out quite well. The rain has cleared & the week ahead promises fine sunny days – perfect for a hike.

We wined & dined until we ate so much food was coming out of our ears. A bit of relaxing in our backpackers accommodation. Even challenged Mr D to a game of pool. (He won – just!)IMG_8248

Then it was sorting out our heavy sodden backpacks again & again. Mr D was getting frustrated with his backpack straps. If anyone has seen an Aarn backpack, it is as complicated as it looks. Mr D’s backpack weighs 20kg which includes a red wine goon bag…. or two….& some whiskey on the side. Must get ones priorities right. Mine is like 16kgs easily with the food bags clearly weighing at least 4kgs, then the water weighing a further 2kgs. So the more we eat, the lighter my pack gets! Alas, the more wine I drink from Mr D, the lighter his pack gets! Win, win situation.IMG_8253

Well it’s time for a good nights sleep before we venture out with our little houses on our backs, ready for another adventure!

C2C training on the Bibb.

So decided to plug in one more training run before our Cape to Cape attempt. This time I went off road onto the Bibbulmun track starting at the northern terminus end & seeing how far I could get before turning back.

The better half still recovering from his random virus he had picked up had to sit this one out.  I donned on my Lowa boots & small dayback with the essentials & set off in the early morning chill.

One noticeable difference along this section repeat is how dry it is. Not one drop of water anywhere, Piesse Brook & Rocky Pool. Dry as a bone. The first 5kms are not for the unfit, it is hilly enough to get your heart rate up & put your brow in a sweat. Up, down & up some more. The track is unforgiving & not so foot friendly. Over man made rock steps, tree roots & slipping about on loose pebbles & honkey nuts. Why be anywhere else?!

The great Bibbulmun track volunteers did an excellent job fixing up the spot where we last got lost. They must of received many complaints from lost hikers as they put up not one, not two, not three, not even four, but FIVE markers pointing in the right direction. Guess there’s no excuse to get lost now!

Once I had climbed another glorious hill up to the powerlines, the track became easier walking, wide & relatively flat. That’s more like it!

I was feeling quite good as I passed Fern Rd, then the Calamunda Camel Farm….. so went all the way to Hewitt shelter & back covering a distance of 21.5kms today in 5.5 hours.

Met this older lady heading south as I headed back in the hilly tough section. She donned a red deuter backpack just like mine from the Bibbulmun foundation office. Under the Bibb badge, there was a badge of a tortoise – resembling the badge that of the slow strollers on the Camino. Well she moved like a tortoise but there’s nothing wrong with that! We all get to the same destination, some just get there quicker. So this red faced lady whom admitted she had been off track awhile & not fit enough said, “Golly! I’m sure glad you came along! I was getting worried I must be going back to Kalamunda!” I assured her she was on the right path as she continued to Mundaring Weir where she would be picked up. Sure is great meeting like minded people on the track. Everyone is relaxed & happy as it should be.

The sun was feeling hot as I trooped back up Kalamunda Hill. There I passed another southbound hiker. His backpack looked equipped for an overnight camp. Hmmmmmmm, yep, that’s a good idea, finish work early & head off for an overnight hike….or two. But nope, on I plodded, slowing down on the last 1km. Because it is always the last km that is the hardest.

I suggest this should be repeated in Spring where the streams & brooks will be filled with water & the wildflowers will be out. It will look completely different. Amblings company of course is a given!

So….. the important question is, can we walk this Cape to Cape business?!? Stay tuned…..IMG_8214

Return to training

Back into training for our next planned hike which will be the Cape to Cape in the south west corner of WA! Nothing like a 14.5km hike by the ocean before breaky to  warm up the legs again!

This section is Mullaloo Beach to Burns Beach return. Thought I would try out my LOWA hiking boots but they don’t sack up against my trusty ultra comfy HOKA ONE ONEs!

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Adios Santiago!

Following our Thursday celebrations, Friday we attended Mass at the cathedral. Sitting in the front row with Jamie. The rest of the gang, Sioux, David, Janet, Helen, Montserrat, George, Anna & Ricardo were further back. We waited for the Botafumeiro to swing – the giant container that contains charcoal & incense, when swung, billows out large amounts of incense smoke. In the old days, it was used to fumigate the cathedral from the smell of all the sweaty smelly Pilgrims. These days, it has turned into a money making profit. Only certain dates of the year, it will swing for free. Otherwise the cathedral expects a payment of 450€ for them to swing it. Now I also found out that if the priest & acolytes come in red robes, then it will swing. On Friday they wore only white robes. So it was a disappointment & Mr D couldn’t get answers from anyone about when or if it will swing while we were there. Finally he spoke to a service security fellow that informed us it was broken. It was all sounding wishy washy.

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After mass, Helen & Anna were farewelling the group as they were leaving. Anna & Jamie were walking out to finsterre that day. There were tears amongst them as they said their goodbyes. It was easy for us as we only met them on Thursday. We sorted out a paella for lunch & did some sightseeing & shopping, old Santiago town is a very cultural place, full of beautiful buildings, laneway shops & restaurants, history & so many souvenir shops. We often walked through the cathedral square during our stay in the hope to see Jo & Sigrid. But we never saw them. Wherever they are on the Camino, we hope they have a successful & safe journey end.

I had a quiet moment to stand & look at the Cathedral. Due to the groups excitement, taking photos & drinking champagne, we really didn’t just stop & let the acknowledgement of finishing seep in Thursday. I never did get hit with that emotional moment that I had made it. My mind was blank. So I was here, what now? Everyone else had their moments of tears when it finally hit them that they were in Santiago. No tears, but I’m so proud of us making it, there were times I really thought ‘we aren’t gonna get there’.

Friday night the group had shrunk to us, David, Sioux, Ricardo, Janet & George as we went to a different restaurant for a cheap peregrino meal. Afterwards we went back to the Monastery for more liquor shots & Baileys on ice. We spent more time at that Monastery than at our Parador! George was the only non – Australian at the table as we all said, “You must come to Australia George!”

Saturday morning we returned to the Monastery to farewell George whom was heading home. It would take him 2.5 days to get home with a 20 hour layover in Iceland. Then we had to down grade from the Parador to HotelReal which was further away from the cathedral square in a different part down a cute laneway full of shops & eaterys. No lifts as we had to walk up & down 3 flights of stairs to our room several times a day. A very small cosy room which was fine, but the bathroom not so. We had another of those shoebox sized showers. It was so tiny, I had to leave the doors open, there was just no way to shower comfortably! For Comparison: ( The Parador had a shower & a bath separate. )

We wandered the streets, finding the train station for Tuesday. Going to the markets. More shopping. We came across the two Alaskian ladies that had just arrived & were trying to do a selfie with the cathedral behind them. Lucky we were there as Mr D took their photo for them. He then suggested the Monastery to stay at so they did that. Their names are Joanie & Aimee. It was nice to see familiar faces arrive. They didn’t know if they wanted to walk or bus to Finsterre so Mr D told them about Tour Galicia that we were going on Sunday. For 35€ each an all day bus tour out to the coast. They took a flyer from us & went to find themselves a bed.

That night we were trying to team up with David & Sioux. Sunday, Ricardo, Sioux & Montserrat were walking out to Finsterre. David was flying to London & Janet heading to Paris. It seemed we were not to meet up as we had no connection with them & couldn’t find them. Due to me going into a shop to look at something, Mr D was waiting as Ricardo & Janet came by & bumped into us! So we all teamed up one last time for dinner. It took the others so long to decide where to eat. Janet was like, “I don’t want another peregrino meal!” And Sioux had found a place that made the drink I was after! So Ricardo went home to bed. Janet wasn’t going to join us then decided to as she didn’t want the drink. But she came & had red wine. David & Sioux made an effort to come to the bar to have the drink with us as we needed a minimum of 3 people. It is called Queimada, a traditional Galician drink that takes a lot of preparation. And as required, one man at the bar was reciting a spell while the tiny bar woman prepared the drink. The spell conferres special powers to the drink & those drinking it. It tasted alright! Had fruit, coffee beans & Brandy in it. Then a live Celtic band came on! So we partied on into my birthday. Janet left before the band came on. I’m sure Sioux would of been cursing us as she walked 21kms on Sunday! One Spaniard man took a shine to Mr D, grabbing him for a dance on the floor! Then paying him compliment after compliment. Mr D felt so flustered that he took a breather outside for a moment. The tiny bar woman was on her own & did such an incredible job serving & running about everywhere that David & Mr D gave her a tip each.

Sunday we headed out on the bus tour. Joanie & Aimee had decided to come. We went out to Muxia then Finsterre. It was a cold, wet day. We got a slight view of the ocean – where it once was referred to as the end of the world. Then the rain & mists came in & everything went white. Mr D was like, “This would of been a nice walk actually!” Yes it would of – another for the bucket list! Our two hour stop for lunch & it rained constantly. Mr D’s lunch wasn’t too desirable as his fish had not come out the way he wanted & did not taste very good. Yep we were right by the ocean too!

 

 

The weather was clearing up as we got to the waterfall & then to the second longest grainery in Spain. Then it was watching the ocean views, the towns all clustered close together along the coast for the ride back to Santiago. And we found a great Tapas bar for dinner, pigged out once again on awesome food. The only night we had to ourselves in Santiago!

 

Monday was a lazy day. Mr D decided to shave off his little bit of facial hair he had grown – with a semi blunt razor. He is returning to normal life now, no longer a Pilgrim! I had decided to try the cathedral mass one last time not expecting the botafumeiro to swing. Mr D couldn’t sit through another mass & went back to the hotel. When the priest & acolytes came in, they wore red robes! I did not get my expectations up & sat through 40 minutes of mass. Well this is the end of mass – not going to happen – hang on! Another group of men in red robes came out & pulled the ropes off the wall that swings the botafumeiro. My second wish had come true as I got to witness the swinging of the botafumeiro. It was spectacular & amazing. I feel so lucky to have seen it! Later, Joanie said she was in the laundromat when someone told her a Japanese tour group had paid 450€ to see the botafumeiro swing – which was to happen now – so she dropped her clothes & raced into the cathedral & videoed it just in time. Mr D was upset he had missed out – next time maybe!

We joined a rooftop of the cathedral tour group in the evening. It was in Spanish so we quickly got bored & wandered off to take photos & do our own thing! It was so cold up on the roof I couldn’t wait to get down! Joanie & Aimee were in the group too as we chatted to one another. Another lady called Ceti invited us all out for tapas & drinks afterwards. Another Australian called Lindy from Adelaide joined us. She had met Sioux & David along the Camino route. The first restaurant wasn’t so good as they served up a tapas platter that oozed too much oil. So we went back to the tapas restaurant from Sunday night & had some good food there. It was mainly a social evening & the first time we got to really know a bit about Joanie & Aimee. Me & Aimee were the only ones to not get a Latin name on our compostela certificates. It was farewells again as this time we were leaving the next day. Santiago sure was a nice stop.

 

 

Luckily I had checked the timetable for the trains. Mr D thought it was 9.30am. But it was 7.48am! So no breakfast that we paid for as it didn’t open till 8am. Straight onto the train & back to Madrid today. We have come full circle – Madrid, hotel, restaurant all as I had remembered from weeks ago. Hard to believe we had completed a long walk across Spain in that time. As a last minute impulse – Mr D found a music shop & finally bought himself a Laud instrument to add to his instrument collection at home. And it is  made in Spain! So he has been happily getting acquainted with his new toy. Thank you Spain – for a trip we could never forget! And the carbs overload! And the helpful Farmacias – our best friends this trip. And the people we have met along The Way. Buenas Noches!IMG_7080

Day Fourty Five: Pedrouzo to Santiago!

Distance: 22.8kms, Steps: 34,595, Time total: 7hrs.

(Delayed final blog due to late night celebrations!)

So Mr D was like at first; “Let’s get up early & be on the road early! I would like to get into Santiago early afternoon to enjoy our Parador!” What really happened was I woke up before Mr D whom slept to like 6.40am. (Totally unlike him!) Then he was like; “Well, it’s our last day & all! Let’s enjoy it!” We packed our stuff in our backpacks one last time for the road ahead. We were to meet George for breakfast at the same bar we had dinner at Wednesday night. Even through there was a breakfast bar opened 2 doors down from us, we went further along to our meeting point. It was a dreary cold wet day.IMG_6594

So we had no longer sat down at the same booth, then George turned up. Then a lady from Poland whom we briefly said hello to the other day, knew George & sat with us. George asked for his butter & jam with crossiant – he always gets a strange look at this request. We took our time enjoying talking over breakfast. Mr D was like, “I could sit here all day just talking & watching the rain outside!” The Polish lady had tostadas as “I can’t get eggs before 10am here so I have to walk until after 10am before I can get served eggs!” George took off before us as we headed back to our Pension room to collect our backpacks & go. I think how befitting it is to rain on our last day of walking! And it was the wettest day for us. It wasn’t like I was excited like the day we walked into Leon. It felt like just another day walking to our next town, I couldn’t get the song ‘The final Countdown’ out of my head as we set off back out of town & joined the Camino once again. It was almost 9am!

Mr D geared up with rainpants & rainjacket. I had my jacket & rain jacket on plus my umbrella. And it rained non – stop ALL day. It was a light rain at least. Only 4kms along Mr D was getting too hot so he stopped & pulled off his rain gear, put on his light rain jacket & umbrella & he was good to go again. I pulled off my jacket underneath. There were some Pilgrims but I think the majority had left earlier. Mr D had poured the remainder of the Baileys liquor from the heavy glass bottle it was in to his empty plastic water bottle & carried it in one of his front balance pockets. So as he was walking he got thirsty & removed one of water bottles & took a big swig from it. It wasn’t water. The baileys liquor burned its way down Mr Ds throat & into his stomach! If anything, it gave him an energy boost!

On we went through more beautiful tall, tall trees & eucalyptus trees. I could only imagine in Spring Galicia must be so green, the brown ferns we saw must all be green then. We stopped in at Porta de Santiago cafe after 1.5hrs for a hot drink. It was so cold & wet & miserable outside. We had constant heavy fog & mists ALL day so we couldn’t see much ahead. We passed through another small town & 2 ladies walking past Mr D stopped to chat to him. Turns out one of them started on the 20th of September so he has met a person slower than us! Then one of those Camino transport cars was back with the same ladies. One of them opened her car door & asked me if I wanted free water! Not needed today thanks! These people actually help out Pilgrims & can give them a lift somewhere if they need it.

We had been slowly plodding along, I was so tired actually & my legs were heavy. I just wanted to sit down for a bit. It felt the walk was dragging & it was so quiet we hadn’t a clue where the city was & when would we reach it. So in the heavy fog I couldn’t see much around, we passed a cafe & I was like, “I need a break!” Mr D said, “Ok the next one”. Well that is the Camino for you! As we didn’t stop at that cafe, I walked onwards up to Monte del Gozo at 380metres without realising we were now 4.5kms from the end! 3 people were coming back onto the path from taking photos of the great statue object on top of the hill. They were Sioux, David & George! George said when he saw me, “Hey! We were just talking about you two! I kept saying you mustn’t be far behind!” Sioux laughed & goes, “Oh my! It’s Mary Poppins!” And David was hell impressed with our umbrella ideas. Sioux wanted to take a photo of Mr D holding his umbrella & doing a dance. Then it was a case of singing Mary Poppins songs! After that, George pulled out his own bell that David got him & started ringing it. Then Montserrat caught up! So there was 6 of us to continue into Santiago. I went up the hill for the first views of Santiago – Santiago was so beautiful & white what could I say! The fog covered everything. Never mind!

I felt more energised as the group of us set off downwards, passing the huge Xunta Albergue that in Spring & Summer must be full of Pilgrims housing easily over 200 people. Today it was empty & quiet. George wasn’t holding back either on his little expulsions of gas. I think there was a frog following us! We laughed & joked as we went. Everyone stopped at this place at the bottom of the hill. A museum of great stone artwork. The older Spaniard man there opened the gate & gave us a personal tour of all his amazing work – his whole life is in that yard. Mr D hung about outside munching on the cheese & chorizo which I had some too.

The gang spent so long there that Mr D & I continued slowly onwards. Once you stop, you start getting cold standing in the rain. We had to walk back uphill & around before we entered Santiago, noisy Santiago. I immediately wanted the peace in the country! Mr D was looking for a supermercado to buy a bottle of champagne. No luck. People were walking wide around me squeezing through the gap between the pole & wall. It was hilarious. Mr D said I must be scaring them with my poles! I was feeling so tired again, so I demanded to stop for a break. We found a nice corner cafe & had churros & hot drink. After awhile, we spotted the gang coming as we joined up again for the last 1.5kms. George was like done, “I need to sit down! How much further?!” Sioux & David that had only started from 5 kms back when we saw them at Monte Gozo, they had made a short day a very long day! It was already after 3pm by now. We walked pass a supermercado that was open as Mr D bolted inside to buy the champagne. George went across the road for a cigar! Onwards we marched, how excited I was to see part of the cathedral in the mists in the distance!

We were almost there! We headed down the stairs that lead into the cathedral where one Pilgrim stopped us. Jamie from Byron Bay. He had finished 2 days ago & was congratulating us on our arrival. I think it would be fun watching the reactions of Pilgrims coming in. We had to walk around the side of the cathedral & around the front of it to the spot where you go to to face the Cathedral – the end point. We had done it! I was just so happy to be standing in the spot where thousands before me have stood. The gangs friends were there to greet them. There was Helen from England. Janet from Tasmania whom is originally from NZ. One very tall lady called Anna. And a guy called Ricardo. Sioux threw these bottles of glitter she carries over all of us as we had group photos. Mr D cracked open the champagne & we all had a small amount each in those long plastic cups, saluting & drinking in the rain – we didn’t care! I don’t know anyone else that has drank champagne on the square! Sioux said to us, “I’m going to keep these cups! And will bring them to Perth when we visit you! We can drink champagne at your house!”

With all the groups excitement, there wasn’t a quiet time to look at the cathedral & reflect. But it sure was nice to celebrate with these people we had only known in the past 4 odd days. We were like tag ons as our group had already finished – most of them anyhow! I still wish to see Jo & Sigrid walk into the plaza before we leave. Our Parador wasn’t far either – just on the side of the cathedral! Everyone went off to get their certificates. We got settled in at the huge Parador. Our room is very impressive! Off we went to get our certificates. And the distance certificate said we had done 799kms. What?! So rude really! We have done well over 800kms! The American was there & we saw him walking on his own in earlier. His wife must of taxied in. And he ignored us again! He is very strange. Mr D said his wife was getting a certificate even through she had taxied obviously quite a bit of it! Nope, we had walked every step of the way & with our backpacks! We couldn’t have been prouder! We have a bath! So we soaked in the bath. Mr D saying, “My right heel feels funny! Like it’s not connected to my foot!” Our legs have had enough. I couldn’t walk another day – I need to rest!

We all went out for dinner at a huge monastery building that David, Sioux & George were staying at. So there was 11 of us. We had drinks before going to the restaurant which the room was so impressive & big! 10€ each for our 3 course meals which was great. I chatted to Janet a fair bit & Mr D was chatting to Jamie, whom he kept calling ‘grasshopper’. George was telling his funny misdemeanour tales again & had everyone in stitches. Some still had not showered & had the glitter all through their hair & faces still. Anna loved my bright red SKINS tights. I’ll retire them away now – I think the tights would be remembered more than me by the locals! We stayed up to after 11pm as we went for shots after dinner. Mr D was getting very loud & excited now – the more he drinks, the more the party boy comes out! Sioux asked if I was walking to finesterre as she will be walking there. I would of loved to I reckon after 2 days rest I would be good for it. But there is not enough time left now & Mr D has been adamant from like 2 weeks into the walk he was not going to walk anymore after Santiago. I was sooooo tired, we all eventually said our good nights. We will meet up for the cathedral mass at noon Friday. Us & Janet walked back to our accommodations. Of course everyone was envious of us staying at the Parador!

So that is it – our Camino story, our way. Hope you all have enjoyed reading our journey. And to all those amazing & special people we have met along the way; Larry & Liz, Jo & Sigrid, Lottie & Hanne, Harold & Sabine, Jill, John from Arizona, John from Albany, Irish Ray, Anna & Martin, The two Amigos guys,  Brian, Mario & Adriana, David & Sioux, George, Montserrat, the French pair, Joanie & Aimee, Ricardo, Janet & Lindy. Hope I haven’t missed anyone out! It has been 6 weeks & 2 days – just a walk in the park! A loooongggg walk in the park!

What did I not see that I was expecting?

– The laughing Spanish Women on the seats. ( I think they were all laughed out from watching the Pilgrims in Spring & Summer )

– Two Irish lasses. ( I think we will substitute those with the two Irish ‘big boys’ we met in Mazarife )

– The giant Sunflowers. ( They had all sadly died. You probably see them in Spring so wrong season in wanting to see the fields of Sunflowers )

We don’t regret anything! Except maybe bypassing Astorga. What a journey it truly has been. If you want to know what it’s like – come & do it as the Camino is different for everyone! Some say it is even life changing….IMG_6703