Crusade at the Cape: My adventure around Cape Woolamai

The basis for the walk started 360 million years ago; just before I was born I’ve been reliably informed. A

The basis for the walk started 360 million years ago; just before I was born I’ve been reliably informed. A massive slow cooling lump of magma settled in the middle of a mountain. Today the mountain is no more, but the hard blob of granite remains, rent by the swells of the Great Southern Ocean that tears boulders away and deposits them along the base from where grit is removed that becomes the coarse sand of the nearby beach.

Today the surf was not benign. None ventured out whilst I started my way along the beach. There’s something about a moderate to large swell; every time a set lines up beyond the break there’s a stirring within my soul. I have to watch, checking for rideable breaks though it’s decades since I last rode a mal.

Perhaps it’s just the fact that it’s nature in the raw, ever changing, and throwing out a variance of challenges. Whatever, I love being there when it’s happening.

After less than a kilometre there’s a stairway to a track where normal people are encouraged to walk. However, in the book (40 Great Australian Walks) that I’d purchased, it indicated going further to the Colonnade, then returning to the normal track above. Initially I took their advice, but couldn’t help but notice that it seemed possible that the point itself might be achievable. Adventure stirred my adrenalin, it was a really low tide and I could see no serious obstacle, just the couple of thousand weathered granite boulders between me and the point.

I moved on, with optimism as my partner, and rounded the first bend. Wow, what a rock. I’m guessing I’d just stumbled on to the Colonnade, a significant outcrop of granite that rose like a sentinel over a tiny beach just around the corner, hidden from the viewpoint of the multitudes who simply go to the beach.

I moved in awe past the pillar and swept around to the other side and continued towards the point. The rock hopping became a little more difficult; routes had to be chosen in advance rather than just stumble along. Excitement rose as I contemplated the unknown at the tip. It must have taken at least another half an hour before I could see a gap in the cape. “Could I get through and, if I did, what would I find there?” These questions haunted me as I moved closer until the split revealed a passage to the other side and more tall pillars, apparently called the Pinnacles. I couldn’t stop saying, “Wow”.

The spectacle was electrifying, magnified by the waves crashing every which way around the boulders. Truly a place where you get a feeling that you’re the only one that’s ever been there and it’s been discovered for the first time, though I imagine on a long weekend that feeling would dissipate somewhat.

On high there were no other tourists or adventurers. I sat, partook of my drink bottle and soaked up the atmosphere. A Pacific Gull oversaw my presence, perched high on one of the pillars. Other birds of the shoreline, like the white faced heron, silver gulls and plovers, strayed their keen eyes over the landscape for opportunities. I felt like an intruder on the margins, at times worthy of a glance from them but nothing more.

The fissures in the rock faces, like age lines on an elderly face, told of a tortured life facing the elements whose continual bombardments had scarred them but they were not bowed. The dramatic nature of geological time is writ large here and you bear witness to its continuity as you pass by.

I ascertained that there was, indeed, an escape route up the cliff, where a slope of more manageable degrees led to the tourist trail; so I started to climb out, constantly looking rearwards to garner different angles for photos.

It’s a different world on top, potted with the holes of shearwaters’ nests. It seems like there are hundreds of nests but, in fact, current estimates have the figure at half a million, which explained why you never stop seeing them all over the cape. In fact, there’s even a warning sign for motorists on the surf club road to slow down but they’ve still managed to kill more than ten, as I later discovered by the carcasses on the side of the road.

Now the trail became easy, here and there were benches, for sitting at scenic points, with the apex of the cape offering expansive views in all directions. I paused and started to take them in, noting that the first humans I’d seen for hours were approaching from the opposite direction. Before they even reached me I ascertained that the male’s name was Aiden, the penetrating voice of the female squawking it several times.

We exchanged greetings; it transpired that they’d used the same starting point as me but had come up through the woods trail. My destination was over on the estuarine reaches where an old quarry mined pink granite, a slightly longer route but apparently more interesting. I moved downhill, puffs of dust rising from where my feet scraped the earth.

From the grasses of the heights the trail descends into scrubby heathland, the stunted nature of the trees indicative of the harsh weather they sometimes have to face. It’s in here that you choose more of the same or divert to the beach via the steps I was now flowing down beneath a sturdy old fig tree.

Remnants of the disused quarry can be found here with blocks of the last, never to be delivered, shipment sitting on the beach, their telltale drill marks hinting at an industry that once was. The quarry itself was further away but I chose not to go there and instead turned towards home. The firm sand was a pleasure to walk on; beside it, sea grass matted rocks, the occasional water bird and a lone fishing boat were all I had for company.

At times parallel ripples in the sand or mounds of dead seaweed marked the high water line as I rounded the final point and civilization beckoned on the near horizon in the form of housing and a few yachts. I checked with a dog walker as to where the exit might be and was glad I did as he probably saved me a few hundred metres.

Along the road I was sorely tempted to thumb a lift back to the motorhome but for some strange reason felt guilty and so trekked over the final dunes and relief, but it had been a route and experience I wouldn’t forget in a hurry.

Here are some pictures I took on my journey:

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