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Torren Martyn 

Nick Colbey suggested the two of us hike the Cape to Cape Walk Track. He’d been based in Western Australia for several months, and did all the groundwork and research. I hadn’t heard of that walk but, having done a couple of stints in the west, I knew the beauty of the surrounding area. Still, I’d never done a hike of that scale. From Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin is a distance of 130 kilometers, spanning some of the most rugged landscape and swell-exposed coastline in Australia. 

Nick Colbey 

I was tripping that there was a trek that went the whole cape. So when Torren expressed an interest I set about putting it together. As far as I know no one has attempted it with surfboards, which is surprising given the hike takes in a handful of Australia’s best waves, including North Point, The Box, and Margaret River Main Break. I’d whizzed up and down that stretch of coast in my car, but I wanted to turn the phones off and really immerse myself in what was in front of me. 

Torren Martyn

I knew it was going to be tough given the length and the amount of days we’d be on the track, not to mention the shit we had to carry. I brought one board, one fishing rod, one pair of undies, one pair of boardies, two shirts, a jumper, a sleeping bag, a tent, water, and food. We were all feeling pretty limber and ready to roll—until we picked up our packs.  

Nick Colbey

When I picked up my pack, I knew I’d kooked it. It felt like the heaviest thing ever. It had to be around 30 kilograms. As soon as we set out I realized we were up against it. I also had minimal experience with long-distance trekking and overlooked some crucial logistics, like food drops and how we’d get picked up at the end. But with a warm sun overhead, crisp offshore winds, and a few feet of groundswell, spirits were high as we started day one.

Torren Martyn 

I’d been to that neck of the woods before but I hadn’t spent enough time there to notice the diversity in the landscape. You travel so slow by foot that you absorb every detail. Every single bay had an incredible and unique landscape. Some of it was rolling rocks, while other bits were pure-white beaches. After a couple of hours of walking, we came over a little ridge to find a perfect lefthander peeling off in the distance. There were a couple of guys out, but they soon went in and left it all to us. 

Nick Colbey 

We ended up spending a third of the day there. Torren went for a fish afterwards and we hung out getting stoned at this picturesque bay, reflecting on the short journey so far and the long, long road ahead. It was hard not to feel euphoric, but confronting the physical reality of our packs quickly burst our bubble. We had too much gear. I was caught a little off guard by how physically intensive the hiking was. No cell, sinew, muscle, or tendon is left unchallenged. We hadn’t done any training or conditioning before the trek, assuming our surf fitness would be enough.

By the time we left the bay, it was the middle of the day and stinking hot. Giant March flies attacked every time we stopped. We decided it would be better if we each stuck to our own pace and met up at designated points. That pattern played out over the coming days. We’d often go hours without seeing each other. By the end of day one we’d walked 15 kilometers total, from Cape Naturaliste all the way to Taj Burrow’s hometown, Yallingup. We were disorientated and drained, and we hadn’t even set up camp or prepared meals. 

Torren Martyn

I brought my girlfriend, Aiyana, who I met in the surf at The Pass in Byron Bay a couple days before I left. It was her first time in Australia, she had no plans, and was eager to see as much of the continent as possible. She is more experienced at hiking and outdoor adventures than I am, so we were confident she’d handle the trek. At the end of day one, as we relaxed into a surreal sunset over the ocean, I knew I’d made the right call. But the respite was brief. As soon as the sun disappeared we were attacked by the biggest swarm of mosquitoes I’ve ever seen. It was a moving black cloud. We couldn’t even sit still. One moment we were relaxing, and the next we were ripping our tents out of the bags and slapping ourselves stupid. Within ten minutes we were all in our tents, not talking. 

Nick Colbey 

On day two, we woke at first light to onshore winds, no surf, and a significant drop in temperature. The latter was a blessing. Our bodies were wrecked and another day of walking in the heat might have broken us. The landscape was changing dramatically. We trudged through never-ending sand dunes that gave way to the firmer footing of red boulders and immense lava caves. Soon we were in luscious green farmland surrounded by horses, where we stopped for lunch. Already our packs were feeling lighter and our bodies were beginning to condition. The mood, like the scenery, fluctuated dramatically. Often the two were linked. The sense of isolation and independence, when enjoyed in the raw and seemingly endless Western Australian wilderness, yielded a supercharged kind of euphoria. Other times we were downright irritable as we followed stinky fire trails and limped past carparks full of people.

We’d hit peak exhaustion when a guy drove by in his four-wheel drive and spotted Torren. The guy insisted that we accept a lift to a nearby carpark. We refused, initially. I told him that we were trying to do the whole walk on foot, but when he pointed to an esky filled with cold beers, we crumpled like soggy cardboard. We were gunning it along the sand in his car, clinking bottles and hooting, but we were about to get slapped by karma for reneging on our commitment to walk the whole way. The carpark was at the bottom of the ridgeline. We needed to be at the top of it and there was no apparent way up. Backtracking would cost us half a day. Morale dipped as we stumbled around the bush, looking for a track. Torren and I were getting testy. We’ve known each other our whole lives but there are points where we don’t get along. That was one of them.

Foraging through the bush, we came across a natural oasis—a freshwater spring running through a cave. The shimmering water and quiet trickle of the spring soothed our unease. We hung out and smoked a joint, consulted the map for potential routes, and groaned as we lifted our packs and set out again. At the end of the beach we found a tiny track that took us back up the ridge, where we set up camp. Once our packs were down we relaxed into one of the best sunsets I can remember. 

Torren Martyn 

We set up our tents in what were almost tunnels of vines on a hill. We had a little fire and were laying there when, all of a sudden, the sky just lit up. There was a little chair on top of the hill, and we just sat there and ate our noodles watching it. It was destiny!

Nick Colbey 

It’s hard to explain how much those things mean. I think it is what the philosopher Immanuel Kant meant with his theory of “The Sublime”—situations that combine beauty, purpose, and physical hardship to create an experience so uplifting and so transcendental that it cannot be explained with language. It had taken a full 48 hours to decompress from our everyday reality, for our senses and neural pathways to properly synch up with our surroundings, and to bring to the fore our primal and evolutionary assets. Sights, smells, shifts in temperature, shifts in wind, and shifts in light took on a seismic quality. They were enough to stop us in our tracks. Excitement came from a kangaroo or goanna popping up and doing something tripped out. Free of the everyday anxieties and bullshit that plagues our capitalist, consumerist, materialist simulation of a society, we were free to return to our natural state. And it was nice. 

Torren Martyn 

My body clock got more connected and I could really acknowledge my surroundings. Whereas in day-to-day life, I just drive around from A to B and don’t really take it in. When you’re exposed to the elements, you know when the wind changes, you can smell the sea breeze in the air, you can smell the humidity and the trade winds when they come up, you can distinguish the various species of birds in the morning. It’s really surprising how quickly we adapted. I felt a lot more vulnerable to the elements, but the greatest thing about traveling and putting myself in the elements is that vulnerability.

Nick Colbey 

By the morning of day three it felt like we could keep doing this forever, or at least the full 130 kilometers. It was insane looking back at the ground we’d covered. I looked right to the edge of the horizon and watched as the landscape dipped around knowing I’d walked all that way, plus some. 

Our packs felt lighter, our bodies had conditioned, and we’d developed a seamless routine. Torren and his girlfriend had some gnarly blisters. That wouldn’t ordinarily be an issue, but with our time constraints we had no choice but to push on for the full 15 kilometers. It was going to be test. 

Torren Martyn 

We stopped for a break, had a bit of lunch, and made a rough plan of the track to follow. Not long after that we lost Aiyana. She was gone for maybe an hour. I couldn’t see her until we made it up onto the ridge and looked down toward the coast. She was down below, maybe 3 kilometers away, on the beach. I thought, Fuck! I better run down and check where she is. By the time I got there she was in tears. Like, rattled. I felt like such a dog. 

Nick Colbey 

For all of day three we were fixated on getting to the general store at Gracetown, which we began calling, somewhat sacrilegiously, “Mecca” because of the creature comforts it had. As we came over the hill at North Point and looked down on the town, we let out a primal scream. We got a beer and a sandwich at the store and I charged my camera batteries. 

We camped near one of the go-to waves around there that’s patrolled by Jurassic-sized great whites. It’s about a 40-minute walk from Gracetown and it was a trip to think how many times I’d covered that same distance in a couple of minutes by car. It made me wonder about how much I was missing out on in my car, gripped by wave-mania. I thought of how simple and pleasurable a surfing life could be if I just limited myself to the wave out front and my feet for transport. I wondered whether I should be more fixated on cultivating a calm and meditative surfing practice instead of running rings around the planet racking up tubes, photos, and clips.

Martyn, tracking near the end of the journey at Margaret River Main Break. “That was a short surf. My feet were covered in blisters and every muscle in my body ached by the time we got there.” Photograph by Russell Ord.

We set up camp with an ominous front looming on the horizon. The wind went offshore in the night and we woke at first light to car doors slamming and people running past our tents. The waves were pumping. Haggard and covered in beans, with hair like a bird’s nest, I stumbled out of the bush and startled a crew of clean-shaven “Perfers” (Perth surfers). Torren looked just as bug-eyed. Having spent so much time in isolation and surfing  by ourselves, it was hilarious to watch him paddle out and jostle with a pack of 30 to 40 rippers.

Torren Martyn 

The Cape to Cape hike follows the coast, but you’re also walking through townships and carparks. So there’s a lot of people. That’s one of the downsides. We’d been walking for days, and then went for a surf and there was 30 people out. People were hassling for waves. I was like, “Ya fucking kidding me?!”

Nick Colbey 

To complete the culture shock, Taj and his crew rocked up with cameras and drones as we were packing up. I’d reached out to Taj to be a part of the trip but never heard back. Now they were on a rock looking down on us, chuckling and pointing. By day four, Torren and I were giving each other the shits. Spend too much time with anyone and you’ll get sick of ’em, and that’s without walking 60 kilometers together in the sun, getting lost, and having to debate every decision. We made the call to cut the trek at four days. There wasn’t enough time to make it to Cape Leeuwin in the state we were in. We decided to finish at Margaret River Main Break. 

Torren Martyn 

People walk the whole 130 kilometers in five days, but they’re not carrying surfboards and camera equipment. We were on day four and not even halfway there. With the time frame and amount of supplies we had, we had to change our goal and call it at Margs. A few people said it got a lot rougher after there. We hadn’t done any food drops so we were short of supplies.

Nick Colbey 

The first sight of the steps was euphoric as we walked over the dunes after another grueling 15-kilometer day. The carpark was full of windsurfers with thousands of dollars in aquatic hardware getting ready. As we stumbled up the stairs with our junk they gave us sideways looks. Sitting there amidst the heavily manicured grass and gentrified layout of the carpark, surrounded by shiny cars and clean-cut humans scrolling on iPhones, was almost an out-of-body experience. That sense of separation between us and society is hard to put into words. I could almost see myself separate of it. So began the slow and strange adjustment to the real world. It took around two days, beginning with a pub feed at the Settlers Tavern in Margs. The noise and activity was amazing, but full-on. I wasn’t ready. Back at my cabin with a roof over our heads, Torren turned his phone on and it began to beep and buzz with countless texts, emails, and notifications. We were back in the simulation—answering nonsense, getting harassed by phones and obligations, worrying about bullshit. 

We might have had our creature comforts back, but in the course of readjusting I couldn’t help but wonder whether those things were more of a hindrance than a help. Sure, life was easier. But does ease mean happiness? Maybe struggle and a sense of direction are more meaningful. You don’t see the stars when you’ve got a roof over your head and you don’t smell the flowers when you’re in a car. What happens to the human mind once it’s deprived of these things? I found it went inward. And not in a good way.