Connection to Country Confirmed

Last week Nature published the first findings from the Aboriginal Heritage Project, which aims to build the first genetic map of Aboriginal Australia and help indigenous Australians trace their ancestry and family history. Analysing DNA in samples of hair has revealed that since their initial arrival in Australia around 58,000 years ago, communities of Aboriginal people have remarkably remainded in the same regions across the continent.

Studying the mitochondrial DNA from over 111 Aboriginal hair samples collected from across Australia between the 1920’s and 1970’s has uncovered that all Australian Aboriginal’s living today are decedents of the first population to arrive in the country and  over 1,500 to 2,000 years, groups of people spread across the land to both east and west coasts before eventually meeting in South Australia. Mitochondrial DNA is often used to trace maternal ancestry and map out ancient linages from deteriorated samples.

Field stations visited between 1928 and 1965, indicating sites where hair samples were provided.

Field stations visited between 1928 and 1965, indicating sites where hair samples were provided.

“These findings confirm what the Aboriginal community have known all along – that their deep ties with country stretch back thousands of years,” said Dr Raymond Todler, co-author of the study from the University of Adelaide. The study confirms that there is a real deep connection between Aboriginal people and country that has developed over thousands of years.

Feature Species: Slender Tree Frog (Litoria adelaidensis)

So far this summer has shaped up to be one of rather tropical characteristics. Warm days, high humidity and unseasonal summer rains in the southwest have created the perfect breeding ground for an array of insects.

With all the extra water around this summer, the insectivorous Slender Tree Frog, along with many other native frogs have been out and about making their presence known along the Track and in our gardens.

With their loud calls, these little beauties are often in great interest to our pets. Be sure to keep a close eye on your dogs and cats if you happen to suspect one of these little guys, or any other type of native animal may be living in your backyard.

Slender Tree Frog

A striking green Slender Tree Frog

They are a small frog, reaching a maximum length of 4.7cms with a narrow and tapering head. They have long slender un-webbed fingers, however their long legs end with webbed toes. These little Amphibians come in a range of colours, from green to all shades of brown.

Often making an appearance through winter and spring, it has been a real treat to spot a few of these guys enjoying all the water and feasting on a variety of tasty morsels so early in the year!

Hens Day Hike a Hit!

Hens group in front of the bus at Smiths Beach before the hike

Getting ready for the hike at Smiths Beach!

Last week a group of lovely local ladies joined us to take a look at their own backyard and enjoy a pre-wedding celebration for their dear friend Mandy! A hen’s day with a difference, we started the adventure with a hike from Smiths Beach to the Aquarium.

Hiking through the granite gneiss south of Smiths Beach

Hiking through the granite gneiss south of Smiths Beach

With the weather on our side, we were presented with light winds and clear waters, making a dip in the sheltered waters a highlight for many! In the shade of a marquee we enjoyed a delicious and fresh roll from the Margaret River Bakery before a game of quoits and bocce.

Cooling off at the Aquarium

Cooling off at the Aquarium

We continued our hike along to coast to eventually reach the protected nook at Canal Rocks. Indulging in an afternoon feast of fresh fruit, dips, cheese, chocolate coated strawberries and of corse, champagne!

Enjoying the shade of a Melaleuca tree

Enjoying the shade of a Melaleuca tree

Congratulations to Mr & Mrs Mills, we wish you a happy and long future together :).

West Coast Swimming Club joins us for performance camp!

Up and coming athletes from the UWA West Coast Swimming Club made their way down to Margaret River for a ‘Performance Camp’ to welcome in the new year. In the pool at the Margaret River Recreation Centre and out on the Cape to Cape Track, everyone had a great time focussing on their skills and immersing themselves in the elements.

West Coast Swimming Club

Day 1 – Walking out of Smiths Beach.

After a training session in the pool, the first day out on the Track saw these young fish out of water walking from Smiths Beach to Injidup! The team took a dip in the ocean and enjoyed a little snorkel at The Aquarium to cool off.

Snorkling at the Aquarium

Cooling off and enjoying a snorkel at the Aquarium

The following day was spent at the beautiful coastal hamlet of Gracetown where these kids completed a variety of team building challenges. From Spider’s Web, to Leonardo’s Bridge, to Raft Building, the group excelled through the activities by maximising communication and assigning competent leaders.

Launching the raft in Gracetown

Launching their competed raft into the bay at Gracetown

It was a really rewarding day for the kids and gave them the opportunity to get out of the pool and reconnect with nature together, whilst having to think on their feet.

Spiders Web

Spiders Web in action!

A great time was had by everyone involved! Well down to all the swimmers and we hope to see them back next year to take on some more of the Cape to Cape Track and continue developing their leadership and team work skills!!!

Leonardos Bridge

The team successfully constructed Leonardo’s Bridge

Looking for a camp for you and your team? Whether you are professional athletes, from the corporate world or just want to pull your organisation together for something fun and rewarding we can tailor a package to suit your needs. Email us at info@capetocapetours.com.au so we can meet your needs and create a program to suit your outcomes.

Year One’s from Margaret River Independent School take on the Track!

The students from the Margaret River Independent School are always so much fun to take out exploring on the Cape to Cape Track! These local kids spend their days learning in small classes in a beautiful bush setting about 10kms south of Margaret River. The schools vision is to provide an environment that caters for the whole child in development of lifetime learning skills as well as academic and creative excellence. This year, the year one students joined our managing director Gene for an overnight camp full of leadership and team building activities.

Gene chatting to the kids out on the Track.

Gene with the Year 1 students from Margaret River Independent School

We are always impressed by the knowledge and respect that these children have for their local environment! These 6 and 7 year olds are often finishing our sentences when we begin talking about some of our endemic flora and fauna species. Their enthusiasm and connection with nature is inspiring.

Kids in Boranup Forest

Enjoying some shade in Boranup Forest

As well as walking through the bush, we worked on some of our favourite team building and leadership activities including Spiders Web and Pipeline.

Being briefed on the Spiders Web activity

Being briefed on the Spiders Web activity

The challenge was set for the children to make their way through the web of the mighty Hamelin Spider, which the kids took to quite well. Without facilitation, they formed a circle, selected a leader and formulated a plan that would see all of their classmates get safely through the web.

Forming a circle in the shade to formulate a plan

An empowering moment for the children

The kids were very impressed with themselves after the activity concluded, and rightfully so! Who would have thought that a group of 6 and 7 year olds could make such a great team!?

Celebrating Spiders Web success

Celebrating Spiders Web success

The class also demonstrated amazing patience and cooperation throughout their pipeline activity, which they very quickly got the hang of. Returning to the Pipeline activity throughout the walk allows the group to try and better their score that is measured by how fast they can move the ball through the pipeline with dropping it to the ground!

Pipeline in action!

Pipeline in action!

The camp finished with an expedition through the awe-inspiring and mighty Giants Cave! With crawling, ladders and sliding, each one of the children made it the entire way through the 500m underground labyrinth. It is always such an empowering experience to reconnect children with their natural environment. As you can see, Cape to Cape Explorer Tours love hosting camps for school and youth groups! We are more than happy to creative a package that suits the needs of your group. Check out our Schools page to find out more information or send us through an email at info@capetocapetours.com.au today!

A special thanks to Lauren Trickett for the incredible photos she took throughout the camp.

 

All the gear with great ideas; tips for happy hiking with Nyree

Heading out to explore a trail or take on a long distance hike for the first time is both an exciting and daunting experience. Around a quarter of our hikers are about to embark on their first ever multi-day long distance walk when we meet them for the first time and what I’ve gathered after two years of guiding on the Cape to Cape Track is that regardless of experience, tips for making your walk more enjoyable are always welcomed! Even with the incredible and awe-inspiring beauty of the Track, walking 20kms a day for 7 days straight is both a physical and mental challenge for even the most fit, experienced or determined. From gear to daily tips, here are some of the most important things to me while I’m out in the elements!

Nyree guiding at Cosy Corner

Out at one of my favourite sections of the Track, Cosy Corner

Do your research, then gear up!

Before you hit the shops or online stores, have a good read through your itinerary, planning, preparation and packing notes provided by us! This guide will allow you to go through the equipment you already have and figure out what else you will need to get the most out of your hike.

  • Footwear 
    • Your shoes is the most integral component of your hiking attire. If you haven’t worn your hiking boots/shoes for six months, make sure you get them out and take them for good stroll before packing them in your luggage and crossing your fingers. Shoe rot on the first day of your hike is the last thing you need when you’ve got six more days on the Track to follow. If you’re going to wear shoes you’ve worn on previous hikes, make sure you take them out and test them in soft sand. I would say that close to 30% of the Cape to Cape Track is variable sand, which is very different to walking on firm or rocky terrain. Your feet will move more in your shoes and they are likely to fill up with sand – two things that increase your chance of blisters.
    • If you are buying new shoes for the trip, I recommend either Salomon‘s (narrow / medium foot) or Keen‘s (medium / wide foot). Although our paperwork recommends boots, if you are an experienced walker with good ankle strength you can definitely comfortably walk the Track with lighter hiking shoes. Also, it’s not a bad idea to bring some hiking sandals! These can be great on warmer days with less soft sand beach walking.
    • When buying new shoes, make sure you purchase them at least one size too big. For example, I usually wear a 38 but my Salomon’s are a size 40. This will leave more room when sand walking and also extra space if you need to apply blister covers or wear extra socks.
    • On that note, make sure you get comfortable socks! I really like Bamboo socks as they are reasonably prices, antibacterial, super soft and durable! However, many hikers choose marino wool and toe socks to keep their tootsies comfortable and rave about them! Whichever you choose, make sure you wear them in with your hiking footwear.
  • Backpack
    • One of the many bonuses to walking with us is that you will only be hiking with a comfortable day pack! Choose a pack with enough space for your water (bladder pocket ideal), lunch, wet weather gear, swimmers, microfibre towel, personal medication, first aid including blister treatment (Compede & Fixomull) and a compression bandage, sun protection and Track notes. Somewhere between 25-40L will usually do the trick.
    • Although sometimes this feature is only available on a larger pack, it is great to find a bag with a hip belt as this will help distribute the weight evenly and reduce the load on your shoulders.
    • A metal frame with mesh across the back is also an added bonus, especially on hot days.
    • A lot of our hikers like Osprey or Deuter, I currently have a Companion and love it.
  • 3L Hydration Bladder
    • A lot of people opt against these because they can have a plastic kind of taste. However, they will ensure that you stay hydrated whilst on the Track with great ease. You can add a sachet of Hydralyte or any other powdered sports drink to remove the unpleasant taste.
  • Microfibre Towel
    • Great for dusting the sand off your feet after a beach walk or water crossing. These lightweight, compact towels can be aired out on the outside of your pack after use.
  • Adjustable hat
    • I prefer a broad brim adjustable hat so I can be confidently protected from the sun in strong wind
  • Light weight, quick dry pants
    • These are all I wear on the Track now. Not only do they add extra protection from snakes and sharp shrubs, they also keep you ready for any kind of weather. Remember if it’s a warm day and the ocean looks inviting, you can always jump in to cool down! Patagonia make some awesome pants for both men and women.
Nyree guiding at Moses Rock

The hike from Moses Rock to Gracetown is a great day to wear hiking sandals on the Track.

While you’re here and hiking!

It’s all well and good to be geared up and ready for the elements, but there are also a couple of simple things that might make the hiking days a little easier whilst you’re here with us.

  • Keep hydrated
    • Each morning before you get out on the Track it is a great idea to consume at least 500mL of water (that’s in excess of your dehydrating coffee). When I know it’s going to be a warm day, I’ll make sure that I have at least a whole litre of water before hitting the Track.
    • Hydralyte is a godsend after a long day in the sun. Bring some a long and take it whenever you are feeling tired or dehydrated during the week. You may also want to put some into your water bladder to spruce up your taste buds.
    • Another tip is to store the bladder in the fridge the night before your hike! The water will generally stay cool in your pack throughout the day and keep you feeling refreshed.
  • Good quality lip balm
  • Zinc
    • Everyday that I am out on the Track I make sure that I am protected from the sun with both SPF 50+ sunscreen (Cancer Council or Le Tan). I also apply a layer of Surf Mud to my face. This amazing natural products smells like honey and keeps me protected from those harmful rays.
  • Look after your muscles
  • Get enough sleep – aim for 8 hours every night
  • Stretch
    • Particularly the legs and hips. Check out these yoga poses to help release some of that muscle tension. Magnesium will also help with this.
    • Bring a tennis ball – roll it under your feet and up and down your hamstring
  • Blisters
    • Dress your blisters with Compede & Fixomull. Sometimes wool can also soften your toes in tight shoes.
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse from Skippy Rock

There is no feeling quite like the one of arriving at Cape Leeuwin after 135kms of hiking.

When you get home

It’s important to give yourself some time to recover after your hike. Make sure you take at least a day or two for downtime and to unpack before heading back to work.

  • Clean your gear
    • The one item that most people forget to clean is their hydration bladder! Without proper cleaning and storage the tube is a breeding ground for algae and bacteria.
      • Hot water & bicarb soda generally does the trick. Make sure you massage the tube to exfoliate off anything that may be growing inside! After you have finished, rinse all the grossness out and re-rinse with bicarb to store.
  • Keep stretching those legs
  • Stay active
  • Continue drinking lots of water

I hope these tips and tricks help you plan your next adventure on the Cape to Cape Track! They certainly help me get through lots of days on the Track during our peak seasons. My best advice would be to keep training in the shoes you plan to wear on the Track for long distances on variable terrain. If you are interested in hiking the Track this Autumn, check out our Guided or Self-Guided experience and make sure you book on soon to avoid disappointment!

Staff Christmas party a hoot!

On Saturday 10th December the team from Cape to Cape Explorer Tours got together to celebrate another amazing year showing hikers the incredible trail that we are all so passionate about! We spent the day under the shade of the Melaleuca tree’s and down on the beach in the beautiful and coastal hamlet of Gracetown.

The CCET Team

The CCET Team of Spring 2016. Back (left to right): Ro, Bec, Gene, Nyree, Sarah, Mike, Lisa & Heather. Front (left to right): Rusty, Rich, Danny, Saul & Jamie. Absent: Shell, Laurie & Adzy.

With low winds and warm weather, we couldn’t have picked a better day to pull the team together and have some fun! Everyone brought along their families to enjoy the festivities which featured diving, fishing and stand up paddle boarding.

Crayfish caught by Sarah and Rich

Sarah and Rich went out for a quick dive and came back some delicious crayfish!

A huge hats off to our amazing catering coordinator Lisa for serving us up a feast of freshly BBQ’d local line caught fish, monster sized prawns, delicious healthy salads and yummy deserts. Kudos to all those who helped cooked the BBQ and prepare the food on the day, what a team!

The team getting into the BBQ

A fantastic feast in the shade!

BBQ at Melaleucas

The day continued after lunch with what to many was the highlight of their day! A massive thank you to Gene and the rest of the Hardy family for bringing down their boat and taking everyone out to give skurfing a shot!

Gene, Rich and kids on the boat

Gene and Rich taking the first round of kids out skurfing on the boat.

Our Operations Coordinator Saul was a natural!

Saul skurfing

Saul skurfing!

The beach was also quite a comfortable spot to spend the afternoon!

Relaxing on the beach

Danny & Saul’s partners Harmony & Kerry enjoyed relaxing on the beach!

Thank you to all our staff, their families, our business partners and our clients for making 2016 the best year yet for Cape to Cape Explorer Tours. We would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and safe and Happy New Year. We look forward to a sharing a whole lot more fun out on the Track in 2017!

Lock the Gate on Fracking in the Southwest

The Margaret River Region lies right in the middle of one of the worlds 36 biodiversity hotspots. With over 7,500 plant species with half of those being found no where else in the world, it should come as no surprise that in 1 hectare of pristine bushland here in the southwest you could find more species than in the entire continent of Europe. The unique environment is accompanied by world class surf, artists creating in all forms of media, premium wines and gourmet food attracting around 2 million visitors annually who together inject over $1 billion into the local economy every year.

It is hard to believe that the Department of Mines and Petroleum would even consider an application for invasive gas exploration that could threaten land, water, air quality and existing industries, such as tourism and agriculture in this pristine part of the world. Although the hype has been amplified through effective campaigning by anti-fracking groups of recent, the exploration and extraction of gas in Western Australia has been underway for well over a decade.

So, what actually is fracking? Also know as hydraulic fracturing or hydraulic stimulation, fracking uses high pressure to fracture rock formations and push grit-containing fluids into the fractures to hold them open allowing the gas to escape. The sand/water slurry can include a range of chemicals with potential health consequences. Why are we bothering to extract unconventional gas? Under Australian land there are huge reserves of gas and their exploitation is seen as an answer to the depletion of conventional gas fields. It is also seen as a more environmentally friendly energy alternative when compared to coal.

fracking diagram

Diagram of fracking

What are the problems with fracking in the search of shale or tight (unconventional) gas? Firstly, fracking companies are not required, even by regulation, to disclose the chemicals they are injecting into rock deposits – not even to government regulators. One of the harmful chemicals known to be used in Australian fracking operations is BTEX. BTEX is a volatile organic compound that easily vaporises. It can cause leukaemia, reproductive problems and harm to unborn children. Another risk of fracking is the gasification of groundwater which can result in the water being unfit for human consumption. In the United States fracking fluids are returning to the water surface with radioactive materials, in particular Radium-226 which has an extremely long half-life of over 1,600 years. Additionally onshore gas mining companies are not required to disclose of where fracking is taking place meaning that there is no way to track onshore gas in Western Australia.

Cross section of the aquifers in Margaret River

Cross section of the geological and hydrological composition of what is below the surface of Margaret River

Our water and the Margaret River is keystone to the value of this area. The entire southwest region is hydraulically connected (see diagram above) due to underlying geological formations of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge and the Yilgarn Craton, a landscape crated over 220 million years. Approximately the top 10m below the surface comprises of the superficial aquifer which lies above the Leederville Aquifer (made up of the Upper Mowen, Lower Mowen, Upper Vasse, Lower Vasse and Yelverton Members) making up the next 100-200m, which is on top of the Sue Coal Measures (where the gas is), which lies upon the Yarragadee Aquifer which in some places flows over 2.5kms under ground. All of the water moves slowly between the aquifers. The Margaret River is one of the healthiest rivers in the entire of southwest of Western Australia. With a small catchment of around 40,000 square kilometres (Whicher Ranges), in the below video our managing director Gene Hardy explains the intrinsic connection between this river, our drinking water and the threats of fracking.

So, where are the current leases for coal seam gas in the Cape to Cape region? CalEnergy Resources, Whicher Range Energy and Bunbury Energy are businesses that all currently have permits for onshore gas exploration in the southwest. There are also current mining leases in the area of the map occupied by Whicher Range Energy.

Onshore gas permits in the southwest

Current onshore gas exploration permits in the southwest.

So, now you know the ins and outs of the intrinsic values of the Margaret River Region, onshore gas exploration and the potential threats to our fresh water supply, and we haven’t even touched the surface on some of the other potential consequences of gas exploration including inadequate indigenous consultation, encroaching on private land, exuberant use of our precious water and industrialisation in our pristine natural environment. What can we do to help create more awareness and ultimately cease any gas exploration and mining in the southwest? Luckily, there are already a few groups and individuals trying their hardest to get the message out of there. Check out the Lock the Gate Alliance and Frack Free WA. Next weekend the John Butler Trio is hosting a ‘Frack Off’ concert at 3 Oceans Winery in Margaret River. Click here to book your ticket now! Patagonia is currently undertaking an unbelievable initiative to encourage people to donate funds with the promise to match, dollar for dollar, to total amount raised. With only 15 days of the campaign left, click here to donate now!

A Whale of Time for our Humpbacks!

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen a Humpback breach, you still can’t help but to stop in awe of these enormous, majestic and mystical creatures! With adults measuring 12-16 meters in length and weighing in at a whopping 30,000kg there is still something so streamline and weightless about the way they move through the ocean.

Adult Humpback breaching

Amazing breaching humpback in Geographe Bay. Photo credit: the_mermaid_viking

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) have a life expectancy of at least 48 years, with sexual maturity being reached between four and eight years (average five years). These whales have a gestation of 11-12 months and once their calves are born, they breast feed for a further 10-12 months. Calves become independent between one and five years after birth (sometimes even longer), with a two and a half year average calving interval. This just highlights the immense commitment from these mothers to raise their young.

Baby and mother Humpback whales

Mother and baby Humpback in Geographe Bay. Photo credit: the_mermaid_viking

At the moment hikers on the Cape to Cape Track are experiencing the peak period of migration for population 8 (Group D) of the 15 populations of Humpback’s from around the world. Although this populations was hunted to the brink of extinction throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, they are steadily recovering at a rate of approximately 11% per year with current estimates placing population 8 as the largest aggregation of Humpbacks in the world nearing 50,000 individuals.

Tail slapping Humpback

A big tail slap by an adult Humpback. Photo credit: the_mermaid_viking

Every year, these enchanting creatures take the incredible journey from their feeding grounds in the nutrient rich waters of Antarctica between (70° E and 130° E) all the way up to their breeding area in Australia’s north-west – as far as Camden Sound. The congregation leaves Antarctica around May in an orderly fashion dependent on sex and reproductive status. On their journey to their breeding grounds, lactating females with their yearlings head out first, followed by immature males and females with mature males, resting females and pregnant females making up the tail end charlie aggregation. On their journey south, mixed females, immature males and females leave first, followed by mature males and finally females with calves in early lactation follow.

Surfacing Humpback in Geographe Bay

Surfacing Humpback. Photo credit: the_mermaid_viking

The whales travel an incredible 9,000kms on their return journey and unbelievably they very rarely feed throughout the entire migration. They tend to stay within 20kms of the coast in waters of depths up to 200m. On their way back to their feeding ground in Antarctica, they hitch a ride in the Leeuwin Current – boosting their speed to approximately 10km/h which would be a massive help for a lactating mother on an empty stomach. The whales stop for a rest at four different locations on their journey, including Augusta, Geographe Bay, Shark Bay and the southern Kimberley region. We are very lucky to have the whales spending a little extra time on either side of the Cape and if you are in the area during the migration, we definitely recommend taking a charter to get up, close and personal with these gentle giants!

Migration of Humpbacks

Distribution of the 2 migrating populations of the Humpback Whale’s in Australia.