When I was offered the opportunity to race the Cape to Cape in Western Australia (WA), I jumped at the chance. One of my university lecturers was from Perth and used to start his immunology lectures with a couple of slides of the area. The lectures became rapidly more incomprehensible from there, but the idea of WA as somewhere to check out had stayed in my mind ever since. My flying visit didn’t allow me to explore much of the 2.5 million square kms of WA, but I did get a little taster of the very south-western corner in the area surrounding Margaret River, where the race is centred.
After leaving Wellington at 5pm, I arrived in Perth at 10pm local time. By resisting the temptation to binge on movies, and ensuring that I got a good sleep on the plane, I wasn’t hit too hard by the 5-hour time difference and I only needed one emergency Red Bull to get me to Margaret River safely and tucked up in bed by 2am.
I had one free day before the race began on the Thursday, and had booked a whale-watching trip which left from a picture-postcard sandy beach at Cape Naturaliste. We get teased by an occasional whale sighting around Wellington, but this place is next level. Our guide explained that 35,000 humpbacks migrate past the bay on their way to the Antarctic feeding grounds. Blue whales are also spotted during October, so if you come to race the Cape to Cape you have a good chance of seeing them too. Heading out from the shore it wasn’t long before we spotted our first cow and calf pair, and from then on, it was difficult to know where to look with humpbacks blowing, fin-slapping and breaching in all directions.
A couple of hours and a couple of hundred badly-timed photos later, we headed back to shore. The drive back to Margaret River passed numerous wineries, and it was impossible to resist stopping for a delicious stone-baked pizza and a glass of local cabernet sauvignon. The absence of extremes of climate in the Margaret River Wine Region makes for perfect grape-growing, as well as mountain biking.
That afternoon, I had booked in to “Giniversity” at the Margaret River Distilling Company, which hosts Day 3 of the Cape to Cape. After meeting the impressive still, and learning about the distilling process, we experimented with flavouring our own blends. The company uses indigenous botanicals to flavour their prize-winning gin. Obviously, Giniversity entailed a certain amount of tasting, a novel alternative to pre-race carbo-loading.
After the first morning of the race, I was scheduled to go canoeing with The Margaret River Discovery Company. I have to admit that I was a little jaded from travel and racing and not really looking forward to another excursion. However, as we drifted along the Margaret River in Canadian canoes, so close to town and yet so tranquil and calm, I found it was a very mellow way to recover post-race. Sean Blocksidge, who owns the company, was so passionate and knowledgeable about the local botany and wildlife that I soon forgot my weary legs and was wishing that I had time to do the full “wine and nature lovers’ experience”. Next time!
If you are tempted by a racing holiday at the Cape to Cape, instead of applying for a leave pass, it’s a great place to bring your significant others along for a holiday in Margaret River. I wished I could have stayed longer to enjoy a surf, explore the caves, walk some of the Cape to Cape track, and drink a bit more of the excellent local wine.
Until next time Margaret River – I’ll be back!
Words: Peg Leyland
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