Sea Kayaking to Cape Peron

by Barry Moore

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Sunday evening and the sun has already set and, along with a couple of other mortal beings, I am waiting at the cave of the Rivergods. It is cunningly disguised as a warehouse in a secluded lane in North Fremantle. Chief Rivergod, Tom (also an ex-Swannie) arrives and unloads enough food to fix the famine problems of Ethiopia from his heavenly chariot. We load up the sea kayaks and then load them with the food and water and in no time at all ( I think they have done this before) we are on the road. It is now 8:30 pm and we still have to pick up another "river angel" from the back blocks of Wanneroo. But I settle down on the mattress that has been set up in the back and hey! this is really quite comfortable. Six o'clock next morning we arrive on the Peron Peninsula (Monkey Mia). I feel fantastic! Everybody else is knackered, but I have always been a good sleeper.

There is no rush, we have only ten kilometres to paddle to-day, so we quietly unload the sea kayaks and gently set about loading them with everything we are going to need in the next few days. ( Don't forget anything, there are no deli's where we are going).

While we are getting ready 10,000 tourists are gathering to see the dolphins come in for their feed, but as fate would have it they decide not to come in to-day, so the tourists have to make do with the bunch of "crazies" who are planning to sleep on the beach tonight, instead of in a nice warm bed.

We finally get moving at about 10 am, after telling the ranger what we are up to. No sooner have we started than Tom spots a sea horse clinging to a piece of seaweed, so we all turn around, not an easy task in a sea kayak (you're not in your slalom now!). We follow our "bubble tracks" back and sure enough, find the little devil which is a great thrill for everyone, but particularly for those who have never seen a sea horse before. We are to learn over the next few days that Tom has the most amazing "eye" for spotting wildlife and it is something that can be taught. Over the next couple of hours we encounter dolphins, turtles, sting rays and, of course, we are in Shark Bay, so it is quite exciting when we see our first shark. Not long afterwards we see a group of about ten, and before our day's journey is over we see a group of around fifty. Then just before we stop for the night, just off the beach where we are to stay, there is a group of around one hundred. Ho hum.

After making camp just off the beach and having an enourmous lunch, we settle down to do our own thing for a while: afternoon sleep for some, exploring for others. Tom takes it on himself to cook the evening meal and along with "river angel", Jenny, turned out a very acceptable spag bol, followed by fruit cake, tinned fruit and custard ... hey! ... I thought we were supposed to be roughing it!

Next morning we are all pretty relaxed and it takes a while for us to get moving. We have about twenty kilometres ahead of us only, so we can take it fairly easily and pop a line over the side and see if any fish want to get caught. We stop for a break mid morning and with great difficulty climb the cliffs. We can now see where we have come from and where we are going. They both look a long way off. We decide to wait for lunch and just have a "snack" before moving on. We eat sufficient nuts, dried apricots, etc., etc., to feed the 40,000 and then move on. (Tip: this is not a trip to lose weight).

We continue on at a very gentle pace and, lo and behold, start catching fish. By the time we get to our destination we all have a good load of fish tucked under our spray decks.

But the fishermen have got the bug and they are determined to catch something major! They decide they will have one of those sharks for dinner ( a small one, I hope, seeing as I have volunteered to cook). Well, it keeps them amused for several hours, but without success. A few near misses, they claim, but good fun, nevertheless. I remember back in my scuba diving days being told never to pee in your wet suit, it attracts sharks. Well, if you, like me, didn't believe it, try peeing in the water in Shark Bay. You will soon believe it. It is like somebody rang the sharks' dinner bell.

Top dinner tonight: loads of fish, vegies cooked in the coals, fresh pineapple for sweets and toasted marshmallows, Milo and dirty jokes before bed.

I slept like a top but wake to a howling SSE wind. Now Tom had told us about something they do when the wind is in just the right direction and that is to put up a kite and raft the kayaks together and let the wind do its job. So by seven am we have had our breakfast and are packed and on our way. We have a fairly large bay to cross and by eight we are several kilometres out to sea being carried along by the wind. Quite fun, but I think I prefer paddling. As we approach the coast again we pull the kite in and paddle along the coast before pulling in for brunch. We start off with a few oysters off the rocks and then climb up some mammoth cliffs and look down on some schools of sharks in the waters below us. Plenty of sting rays, turtles and even one manta ray but still no dugongs, and only five or six kilometres to go.

We have a good lunch (do they ever stop feeding you?) and then gently head on to our destination. We've been going for a while and catching a few fish when up ahead there is great excitement. Dugongs have been spotted. I quickly don mask and snorkel and slip over the side. As long as I keep my distance they are not concerned by me. Two, in particular (mother and child) continue on with their life, quite oblivious to my presence. I suppose I was only with them for a few minutes, but it was just wonderful and for me quite the highlight of the trip.

Finally, they move on and we continue to our destination, but what's that up the cliff? Yuk. People. We are back. Well, it was fun while it lasted. We pitch camp and settle in for our last night, but Tom has another "treat" for us. "Do you reckon we could eskimo roll a double sea kayak?" Well, I assure you it can be done, but I don't recommend it unless you've got a very strong arm and a very thick head, sounds like some people I know.

Another top feed of fish for dinner and we spend the rest of the night around the fire discussing a top trip. Meanwhile, Jenny (angel from Wanneroo) explains what too many dried apricots do to your digestive system. Keep her away from the fire or we'll all burn. Next day we still have a major 4WD journey back down the peninsular with our chauffeur, Len, broken only by a stop-off at Peron Homestead for half an hour in the artesian spa.

Great trip. Thanks, Tom; Thanks, Jenny; Thanks, Rivergods.

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