I hiked 135kms last week. I’ve never hiked before, but Natty Nat suggested that walking Cape to Cape in Perth would be a good practice run for me as I want to do the 800km Camino trail in Spain. Smart woman. So off we went.
Hiking is so much more than just walking through bushland and admiring the scenery. I thought I was going to wander along pathways seeing birds and wildflowers, soaking up the sun and fresh air. Get a bit of exercise. I was wrong.
Our first few days were relatively easy. 17kms covered on walking paths trodden by previous hikers. The other hikers in our group were friendly and supportive, and we chatted and laughed as we walked up and down low hills, through bushes and trees – pointing out wildflowers and orchids. As we got closer to the ocean, we spotted pools of dolphins playing in the waves. Breaks for morning and afternoon tea were spent munching on muesli bars and fruit (hiking makes you hungry) before setting off again. My feet were sore but I felt good. I like this hiking thing.
Day four and shit got real. We increased our distance to 22kms. The hills got steeper and longer. Up AND Down. The terrain intensified. We hiked on dirt, sand, sandy dirt … with tiny rocks jutting out of the ground, ready to trip you up. In the dense bush, the pathways diminished to almost nothing, so we pushed through the foliage, getting scraped by the spikey leaves as we walked past. I prayed I wasn’t allergic to anything I brushed past. Totally left my epi-pen at home.
The walk through Boranup Forest was amazing, as we wandered under hundreds of tall trees which provided a canapé from the intermittent sun. I considered running off into the forest to escape, but knew that I could have another dark chocolate muesli bar in 4kms so I kept going.
The real hell came two days later when we did long walks along the beach. Not a romantic, let’s take our shoes off and hold hands as we saunter along the sand, walk. This was 7kms of trudging in deep sand … often in wind and rain. Long kilometres where it felt like our end destination would never arrive. You’d become dizzy trying to keep up with the person ahead of you, placing your feet into their footprints to make it a little easier. It wasn’t.
Then there was the rock climbing – and descending. I’ve never been comfortable jumping around on rocks or scaling cliff faces. On this hike, we did both. After a long walk up sandy hills, we’d be faced with an expanse of large rocks to climb over. Slow step by slow step we’d ease ourselves over them, then continue to push ourselves up and down the trails, before we’d hit another patch of rocks. It felt like a tuff mudder course, working my way through the various challenges. I really hoped there wasn’t an electric fence section coming up.
On day six, I hit a wall. A headcold took over my body and I felt like death. Yes, I wanted to stay in bed with my electric blanket on, but the wannabe warrior (stupid, stubborn girl) inside of me dragged my sorry ass off for another 22km day on the sand. I sniffed and coughed my way through the wind and rain, popping Codral and Nurofen and trying to soak up the views. Thankfully endless kms of greenery and long blue oceans kept my spirits high, with new panoramas every time I reached the top of yet another hill.
My hands and ears got sunburnt. I’ve never spent this much time outdoors so I had no thought whatsoever to slip, slop, slap these parts of my body. They’re now a lovely matching pink colour.
Our final day provided the biggest challenge. Within 25 minutes of starting out, we were pelted with hail. Giant frozen raindrops that stung against my new rainproof jacket. I laughed. It was all I could do as I contemplated the next six hours of walking.
We scaled more rocks. Slipping and skidding along plates of slimy moss. We hiked another long 7kms of beach, smacked in the face with rain and a cold headwind. As our final destination approached, the track turned into a narrow winding path about 30cm wide. I tried hard to quell my fear of heights (and dying from falling off a cliff) as I slowly inched along the mud. Thank God for the hiking pole in my hand – it gave me the confidence I needed to get through every step of that hike.
135kms (and more I’m sure) later and we finally arrived at Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. It had started out as a tiny dot on the horizon at the start of the day – and now we stood in front of this giant white landmark, exhausted but super proud of our achievements. Hiking is so much more than I expected – every part of my body hurts, but I loved this amazing adventure. As for doing Camino, I might just think about that for a while. At least until my ears stop peeling.