Cape break

Time to re­con­nect with real life

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Front Page -

What did you learn to­day, that you didn’t know yes­ter­day?

By now, my two chil­dren, aged 14 and 12, are well aware that I’ll ask them this ques­tion each time I pick them up from school. Not that I of­ten col­lect them. You know how it is these days. Shift work, long com­mutes and too many hours at work are some of the rea­sons why we spend less time with our chil­dren than we’d like.

Just lately, there’s an­other rea­son why I seem to talk with them less and it in­volves them sit­ting in front of a TV screen.

Not to watch the tele­vi­sion, but to play video games.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I de­cided it was fi­nally time to get them out­doors for a spot of real ex­plo­ration, in­stead of the vir­tual kind.

With win­ter storms now a dis­tant mem­ory and sun­shine fore­cast for the days ahead, it seemed like the per­fect time to for­mu­late a plan.

It was my wife that made the sug­ges­tion.

“You’ve al­ways en­joyed walk­ing and we live close to one of the most iconic long-dis­tance tracks in Aus­tralia. Why don’t you take Noah walk­ing this week­end? He can bring a friend along, plus their dad. The four of you can camp overnight and get away from tech­nol­ogy for a while.”

A few days later, the four of us set off. Two teenage boys (Noah and Nathan) and their mid­dle-aged dads (me and Chris). We’d packed tents, wa­ter, food, snacks, spare clothes and torches.

Sur­pris­ingly, through­out the 13km jour­ney the boys never once asked: “Are we there yet?” Or said “I’m bored.”

In­stead, they set off from the light­house at Cape Nat­u­ral­iste, just out­side Duns­bor­ough with a spring in their step and map in hand.

Each car­ried a se­cret stash of lol­lies, but as long as they didn’t dis­card any lit­ter, the dads were happy for them to munch and march. Our route fol­lowed the Leeuwin Nat­u­ral­iste Ridge, but we weren’t go­ing to com­plete all 135km of the iconic Cape to Cape track. It runs from Cape Nat­u­ral­iste to Cape Leeuwin, close to Au­gusta. All the way, wild ocean buf­fets the coast adding to the rugged scenery.

For us, it would be a leisurely four-hour stroll along the beach and coastal path, towards a bush camp known as Mt Duck­worth. Along the way we met one man, head­ing our way, laden down with a pack and happy to chat. He’d left Au­gusta a week ear­lier and had many tales to tell about his time on the track.

Later, we stopped for a drink and while gaz­ing at the spark­ing wa­ters of the In­dian Ocean caught sight of a hump­back whale, far in the dis­tance, leap­ing from the wa­ter.

Fur­ther along the track, we spot­ted an ea­gle soar­ing and as we ap­proached camp, were warned a me­tre-long dugite had re­cently been spot­ted.

While we cooked din­ner to­gether, the boys learnt how im­por­tant it was to con­serve gas and wa­ter. Once gone, there was no more. All of the food was de­voured and ev­ery­one helped with the wash­ing up.

After sun­set, we all played cards by torch­light and en­joyed hot choco­late be­fore bed­time.

I spoke more to my el­dest boy in that day than I had in weeks, and that night slept soundly un­til dawn.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing we broke camp, con­tin­ued the walk towards Yallingup and watched the first surfers of the day head out to sea. We passed a dog, sit­ting pa­tiently on the sand, wait­ing for his master to re­turn.

It felt good to be walk­ing with a fully laden pack. Some­thing I hadn’t done in years. I had a pur­pose and each foot­step on the moist sand felt sig­nif­i­cant.

A short while later, I dropped the pack to the floor, stripped to ba­sics and swam in the la­goon.

The cof­fee that morn­ing, never tasted bet­ter.

Two weeks later, I set off on the Cape to Cape again. This time I was with my youngest boy, Se­bas­tian. Along­side, was my friend Wayne, and his daugh­ter. We chose a dif­fer­ent sec­tion, slightly shorter, but dare I say it, a lit­tle more im­pres­sive.

We started at Redgate Beach and were waved off by the mums.

After travers­ing the wide beach, we headed in­land and were soon re­warded with the sight­ings of whales, this time splash­ing, rather than breach­ing.

Later, we spot­ted a hawk, hov­er­ing above a blaze of wild­flow­ers, in search of prey.

On three oc­ca­sions we came across mon­i­tor lizards, block­ing our path. We stopped to watch, they stood per­fectly still and the sun beat down in all of its spring glory.

Along the way we passed caves, then made our way to a clifftop path. As we stopped to ad­mire the se­cret coves, lapped by turquoise wa­ters, I couldn’t help but think we were on a Greek isle, rather that the coast of Western Aus­tralia.

That evening, while at Conto’s camp­site we en­joyed the lux­ury of drop toi­lets and the chance to light a fire. Once again, the chil­dren learnt about the need to con­serve fresh wa­ter and our dwin­dling gas sup­ply. They helped cook din­ner, then went alone by torch­light into the for­est in search of pos­sums.

Around the fire­side, we played card games, then told sto­ries. Just be­fore bed­time we were joined by kan­ga­roos, yards away, chew­ing on the sweet grass. Nei­ther child men­tioned video games and with no phone sig­nal, there was lit­tle need to check my phone.

So, what did the chil­dren learn, that they didn’t know the day be­fore? Hope­fully they learnt that time away with adults can be fun. Maybe they learnt about the im­por­tance of con­serv­ing re­sources.

They cer­tainly dis­cov­ered the best places to spot pos­sums and worked out that whales don’t breach all of the time. As for me, what did I learn? I learnt that chil­dren and adults some­times get caught in a rut. Luck­ily, we live in an area once de­scribed as one of the must-see lo­ca­tions in the world.

All we need to do is get off the couch, turn off the TV and take the first step.

Around the fire­side, we played card games, then told sto­ries. Just be­fore bed­time we were joined by kan­ga­roos, yards away, chew­ing on the sweet grass.

Pic­tures: Alis­tair McGuin­ness

A typ­i­cally scenic view along the Cape to Cape track, one of the most iconic long-dis­tance tracks in Aus­tralia.

Walk­ers can ad­mire the se­cret coves and turquoise wa­ters.

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