Trekking through Margaret River, Australia
On a new high-class trek through the outback, CARMEN JENNER learns that nature and nurture definitely go hand in hand.
Published on Mar 14, 2016
TRAVERSING THE 135-KILOMETER TRAIL between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin is by no means a cakewalk, but with the Walk into Luxury tour, I was pampered every step of the way. The journey through Margaret River, Western Australia's stunning wine region, crosses some of the world's most breathtaking landscapes, from beach-lined coasts and limestone cliffs to vineyards, riverfronts and forests, with stops at top-flight villas and restaurants.
Didgeridoo. Courtesy of Walk Into Luxury.
The tours don't span the entire trail, instead tackling key sections of Australia's sole biodiversity hot spot—one of only 34 in the world—at a leisurely pace. Approximately 99 percent of the species in this area are found nowhere else on earth, like rare forests of balga grass trees. Walk into Luxury offers two-, three- or seven-night trekking packages, winding up gentle gradients that are accessible to all fitness levels. The longer trips cross a bigger swath of territory and include stays at a wider range of boutique hotels, from the secluded villas set within 27 hectares of natural bushland at Losari Retreat; to Pullman Bunker Bay Resort hovering over the Indian Ocean's turquoise tones; to the fully equipped Smiths Beach Resort; or Injidup Spa Retreat, which is hidden by the craggy coastline and only revealed as you approach on foot. The owner and founder of Walk into Luxury, Nikki King, coined the tagline "it's a new way to walk."
Didgeridoo. Courtesy of Walk Into Luxury.
Tight on time, I opted for an exploratory two-night, two-day trek, which has been available since August, for a sweet little six-kilometer taster of the terrain. I brought a good pair of walking shoes, light clothes and a hat; the Australian sun can be harsh, particularly in the warmer months. I was given a daypack stocked with tissues, wet wipes, sunscreen, a hand towel, snacks and a water bladder I sipped regularly to stay hydrated.
After checking in mid-afternoon, I relaxed in my lake-view suite at Cape Lodge, strolling through the country grounds before a decadent degustation at the hotel's superb restaurant. The menu features regional specialities like venison, Donnybrook marron, Wagin duck and quail, matched with locally sourced wines.
A Cape Lodge lake view suite. Courtesy of Cape Lodge.
At a civilized 9:00 a.m., King and I were dropped off at the Wyadup Rocks car park with expansive views both north and south along the spectacular coastline, though longer walks begin at various points of the track. We strolled along the cliffs, keeping an eye out for frolicking dolphins, to Injidup Spa Retreat where it usually takes a bit of coaxing to get guests to leave their villas with private plunge pools, in-room massages and chefs on demand—although the offer of a dip in the nearby natural springs is tantalizing enough.
The next day, our chauffeur arrived to transfer us to the next section of the track, which starts at the lookout above Conto's Beach. I watched for monitor lizards and witchetty grubs, breathing in the natural perfume of rosemary in the air. We stopped at the bench overlooking Cape Freycinet for a hearty morning of fruit, nuts and a muffin. The feeling of isolation was invigorating; it was just us and the elements. I've never felt closer to nature and farther from the grind. We strolled deeper into the Boyanup forest, home to kangaroos, which I sensed were near, but never saw. It was hard to be disappointed, though, when the squawking laughter of kookaburras and cockatoos in the towering karri trees above set such a cheerful melody for our march.
Kangaroos lead the way down the cape trail. Courtesy of Walk Into Luxury.
At the end of the hike, our car awaited with cool towels and cold water to whisk us off to Leeuwin Estate for a late lunch of pankocrumbed oysters, ocean trout, aged Black Angus and a cheese platter accompanied by Leeuwin Estate's opulent Art Series Chardonnay, a full bodied white with fruity undertones. We browsed the cellar and gallery before returning to Cape Lodge, where a deep bath in a marble bathroom had my name on it.
Margaret River cheese plate. Courtesy of Walk Into Luxury.
Despite having spent two days walking, after a room-delivery platter that included chicken soup with truffles, Rangers Valley beef, cheese, salmon and cured meats, I may have actually gained weight. From my balcony, I saw a magical blanket of stars embrace the night, and I melted into bed too content to even count the number of threads on my silky sheets.
Sunset along the coast. Courtesy of Walk Into Luxury.
It was here, on the dusty, dazzling tracks through Margaret River, that I discovered the real extravagance of the slow-travel movement. There was always time to stop and smell the buttercups along the way, and isn’t that the greatest luxury of all?