Cape to Cape Day 03 – Moses Rock to Ellensbrook
Seas of Sea Spurges
The trail once again dropped down to the beach where we were greeted by the fresh, invigorating salty air brought in by the sea breeze. The path curved inwards for a brief sojourn in-between sand dunes that obstructed our view of the sea. The sand dunes here were completely infested with Sea spurges (Euphorbia paralias).Sea spurges are weeds that colonise bare sand and native dune vegetation. It produces large numbers of seeds that are both salt-tolerant and survive a long while, allowing it to spread and be dispersed by ocean currents. It tends to reduce floral diversity and degrades fauna habitats, disrupting many native species (a lot of which are endangered shorebirds) that use sand pits for nesting. I was tempted to pull out a few of the Sea Splurges that I came upon initially but I quickly dismissed the idea after realising how many there were scattered around the dunes. Handling the plants with bare hands could also be considered a potential hazard since the plant oozes a milky-white latex that is toxic and can burn exposed skin if the stems of the plant are broken.The trail began to narrow and ascend up to another lookout overlooking the violent breaking of the surf as another pod of Common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) gracefully rode the waves. The path then dipped back down and brought us right up to the shoreline that was littered with rocks. I clambered up a few of the larger ones and got up close and personal to the awesome power of the ocean as it smashed up against the rocks and filled the air with salty spray, with some jets reaching almost 10 metres high! I noticed then that the air was filled with waves of its own as the strong gusts of the sea breeze carried away the spray in ripples. With salt-saturated lungs, I hopped back down and continued on with a smile as the roar of the surf and the hiss of the suds receded back into the distance.The path lead inland once again and uphill past red-speckled boulders that littered the path. The sand here had turned a deep dark brown and reminded me of the black volcanic dust that is strewn across the base of the Bromo caldera.Trickling through these giant red monoliths was a little brook that had unnaturally black water. I was fascinated but wasn't really able to explore the area much as the other two had just trudged straight through, fatigue having sapped all the wonder and fascination from them.The path jumped back into the woods right before opening up into vast areas of shrubbery once again (and of course amazing views of the coastline over the cliffs). We clambered down the rocks and the small town of Gracetown greeted us as we rounded the corner, past a surreal patch of smoked trees before joining on to the road to Cowaramup Bay.
Suunto Movescount Stats
I continued on without the other two along Cowaramup Bay, scrambling and clambering up and over all the boulders that lined the coastline. I found this section of the coastline to be almost devoid of people, something that I found fairly surprising then considering the proximity to Gracetown (although in hindsight, I suppose the violent waves that were smashing the coast and the large, sometimes impassable, boulders explained this).I ran out of land shortly after and was forced to ascend the Gracetown South Point stairwell that lead back up to the road. The C2C path branched off to the right winding its way around the cliffs that overlooked the swarms of surfers down in the waters of South Point. The trail passed a small memorial dedicated to the victims who perished in the 1996 rockfall of Huzzas Cliff (that lay just below) before continuing on into Leeuwin-Naturaliste national park.
The Advantages of solo Hiking
I quickly realised that despite a quickening of my pace since continuing on alone, I felt far more relaxed. There was no trudging of boots and rustling of plastic bags strapped on haphazardly to backpacks that followed me. I was able to immerse myself with the sights and sounds - from the whistling of the wind to the rustling of the underbrush as critters were caught by surprise - that surrounded and completely engulfed me.The extra speed and stealth left me feeling somewhat emancipated, unburdened, unhindered.I also became keenly aware of my vulnerability, being out in the wilderness completely alone, a vulnerability that I had come to love when crossing the High-Altitude passes in the Himalayas.After a while, I came upon strange fields of barren grey twigs amongst the green shrubs a couple of kilometres from Gracetown. The trees had charcoal-black undersides with glistening white tops and strange granule-like pods hanging from the branches. The black undersides must have been due to fire as I came upon fire rehabilitation signs shortly after that (more information about controlled burning can be found here). I continued along, with the heavy clouds far off to my right, as brilliant rays of sunlight periodically pierced through the clouds leaving bright swaths of light on the ocean.
The trail brought me to the historical homestead of Ellensbrook (the local Nyoongar name for the area is 'Mokidup') that was built in the 1850s. The building was charming in itself but the lawns that surrounded it were manicured and seemed completely artificial, stirring strong feelings of aversion within me. I carried on walking along the trail called the 'Meekadarribee trail' that lead to the waterfall that had a sad tale to tell. The path there ran parallel to a whispering stream, and completely surrounding me was the lush, living and breathing forest - the only word that came to mind then was the German word 'waldeinsamkeit', or 'forest solitude'.I carried on down the trail completely engrossed with my surroundings, when I thought I caught sight of a small shed from the corner of my eye. The shed turned out to be the outhouse and rain-catchment tank that belonged to Ellensbrook Campsite, the discovery of which, brought an end to the day's hike.