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!

Getting friendly with the Cape to Cape Track

Over the last couple of weeks we have been walking with the Friends of the Cape to Cape Track (FOCCT) group. Biannually, Cape to Cape Explorer Tours offers the end-to-end walk to members of the Friends Group where they can join one or both of the 4 day legs with our guides out on the Track. The first four days on the Track saw members of the Friends Group traverse the Track from Cape Naturaliste to Ellensbrook followed by the final four days seeing the Group complete the walk to Cape Leeuwin after three rest days in the middle.

Friends of the Cape to Cape Track Yallingup

Day 1 – Friends of the Cape to Cape Track in front of the coastal hamlet of Yallingup

With monster swells smashing the coast line, we were all dusted with fine coating of salt by the end of each day. During the first week the weather was extremely kind to us, mostly drenching us in sunshine apart from a little rain on the second day which definitely added to the atmosphere of the walk. “Many of the members noted day two to be the most enjoyable of the first week” said Mike Evans, who walked on each day of the FOCCT program. On the fourth and final day of week one, members were invited by Karen Karri-Davies back to her winery Cape Grace for an afternoon of cheese and wine tasting, This was a fantastic way to reflect on and celebrate the walk thus far!

Cape to Cape Track Wilyabrup

Day 3 – Downhill from Moses Rock Campsite

The weather for week two was wild, wet and windy! Quite a contrast to what was experienced on the Track just days earlier. Day one coincided with one of the biggest storms of the season. With weather predicted to worsen during the day, the walk was cut down to 7kms seeing the group heading south from Ellensbrook to Kilcarnup Road. “The walkers in the front were kept busy pulling fallen branches from the middle of the path and the rest of us followed heads down” said Lyn Hellier recounting the shorter mornings walk. The wind was still strong on the second day of week two but the afternoon the group found shelter and enjoyed a bit of orchid and fungi spotting in Boranup Forest. The final two days were both longer stretches complemented by isolation, wild Indian Ocean and CCET’s Managing Director Gene Hardy.

Boranup Forest Burl

Day 5 – Big burl on a Karri in Boranup Forest

It was a fantastic opportunity for Cape to Cape Explorer Tours and the Friends of the Cape to Cape Track to note both the strengths of the Track and potential improvements that could be made, particularly to the signage. Jenny Kickers, an ex-guide of CCET took the role of ‘Tail-end Charlier’ to a a whole new level by playing ‘Doctor to the Signs’ by patching up and re-digging damaged signs along the way. Highlights of the walk for both Lyn Hellier and Mike Evans were not just the scenery, wild weather and big seas but also the whole physical challenge leading to an overall sense of achievement. To those wondering if they should do it; don’t wonder any longer, just of it while you can.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

Finished! The group upon completing the hike at Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse