Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

Murray Raynes, the man who sailed around the world

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

The meeting of two oceans

The Southern Ocean

The Indian Ocean

Where the two oceans meet (The rocks at the back not the...

Close up of the waves meeting

Sylvia's Comments 18 to 19 January 2007.

When we left the campsite we headed to the mini golf course just along the road. We have a mini golf competition as we travel around Australia; the score to date is 3 to 1 in Jeff's favour. The hole-in-one competition is currently standing at 2 to 1 in my favour. The course was well set out and in some parts very tricky. On one hole you had to hit the ball up a ramp to drop it down a hole to a lower level. Jeff thought he would take the easy option and hit it through the lower pipe, after 3 puts he eventually got it in only to have the ball returned to him. The comments made between us both remain confidential but you can see we are having fun! At the end of the round the running total is 4 to 1 Jeff and hole-in-one 3 to one me.

We needed some shopping so we drove around to the main street and parked. We went into a shop selling health foods at one side and jarrah furniture and gifts at the other. After making our purchase at the food side we wandered around the furniture shop looking at the lovely wooden items. A conversation struck up with the owner and we told him about our trip around Australia. He related his experiences of sailing around the world a few years ago. He had bought a fibreglass sloop and re-named her Sonnet and set off to sail around Australia starting from Sydney. The trouble was he just kept going and two years later arrived back in Australia. He had written a book about his experiences 'One Easy Step' and when we said we had wondered about doing the same, gave us lots of hints, ideas and encouragement. We bought a copy of his book, got it autographed and left.

Our journey today was to take us from Nannup, in the centre of the karri forests to Augusta and Cape Leeuwin where the two oceans, the Southern and Indian, meet. On our way we passed through some lovely country and small rural villages.

Cape Leeuwin is one of the great southerly capes of the world. Like Cape Horn in South America and the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, the Australian version is known for its treacherous reefs and rocks, savage weather conditions with its unpredictability. Many ship wrecks lie off its reef.

The first recorded sighting of the Leeuwin Cape was in 1622 when, during a storm that had blown her off course; the Dutch ship Leeuwin took refuge in the bay. They stayed for a few days until the weather changed and allowed them to continue to the Spice Islands. As the mist never lifted they only saw the head land and thought it was an island so named it Leeuwin Island. It was not until 1801 when the English explorer Matthew Flinders started from here to chart the coast of Australia was it discovered as part of the mainland. It was then renamed Cape Leeuwin.

We arrived in time to take the light house tour, and once again were lucky to be in a small party, ourselves and two young men. One was a Scot from Glasgow, the other a Frenchman now living in Aberdeen. Both had been working over here and were now taking a short break before returning back to Scotland.

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is Western Australia's tallest lighthouse standing 39 meters high from the ground and 56 meters above sea level. Its enormous beam has the intensity of a million candles and projects around the rugged coast for 26 nautical miles or 48 kilometres. It was built in 1895 by a local builder from Augusta using foresters as his workers, after going up and down the karri trees they were not afraid of heights. In order to get the contract he offered to build a water supply close by for use during the construction phase but also for the keepers benefit. The original workings are still there.

The tour takes you up the 186 steps through several levels to reach the top. Our guide took pity on us, and let us have a rest at the half way point while he imparted a little more information on life as a lighthouse keeper. The keepers had to make the journey up these stairs at the start of their four hour shift carrying two drums of oil to light the lamp. Originally it would have been whale oil then it changed to kerosene. As the stairs were not very wide they would make the trip sideways, facing outward to the first level and then inward to the next to prevent disorientation. During their shift they would have to descend the stairs to re-wind the clockwork mechanism every 50 minutes to keep the light turning. When the collection of weather details was added to their list of duties they had to descend every 40 minutes to read the instruments out side in the grounds, if they were not careful they might meet themselves going up and down. All of this was in addition to watching and recording ship movements, so in case of accidents it would be easy to plot the ships movements and last sightings. These men had a hard life but they did a wonderful job, since the light house began to operate there has only been one shipwreck in the area so they saved a lot of lives.

Nowadays it is all automated and run by computers; the computer even tells them what is wrong and what part is required to fix it.

So feeling suitably guilty that we were having it easy we proceeded to the top where we were treated to some stunning views around the coast. The guide pointed out to us where the two oceans met. There is a part of the reef out at sea where the waves from the Southern Ocean are rolling in from left to right and the waves from the Indian Ocean are rolling in from right to left. They meet at the reef where they crash in to each other and send a huge spray into the air; it was quite a sight to see. Our return journey down the steps was much quicker.

We invited the two young men to join us for a coffee before saying good-bye. It was now time to find a campsite for the night, which we did at Augusta, the nearest town. We got the last place on a site by the beach. So far we have been lucky in finding places in the busy holiday period; usually the beach sites are full whilst the inland sites have spaces. This site had large bays with high hedges around it making it more private, it also made it darker inside the van due to the light being cut out, but in this heat we spend most of the time outside. Tonight we sat under a brilliant starlit sky listening to the waves close by.

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