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Serpentine National Park

Transperth – or public transport in WA to be more general is NOT brilliant. In Slovakia – a country you wouldn’t expect to have a well organised or easy to use transport far trumps what Perth has to offer. In Slovakia I went on a number of adventures – weekends and day trips, and although sometimes complicated ( there are a number of posts offering examples of this in Slovakia Stories ) they were never impossible. My point being that I have found it incredibly hard – in fact impossible to have adventures that don’t require a set of wheels. Places of interest are simply not served by public transport – or at least they are but require a number of changes, lengthy transits or not enough time to meet connections or return trips. In Slovakia I travelled far and wide on a network of trains, trams and buses and never found anywhere I couldn’t get to.

So on Friday night, after pulling my hair out trying to find somewhere I could get to and spend a reasonable amount of time in – I texted a friend on the off chance they wanted to accompany me on a day out… and drive their car there and back. Fortunately the response was positive, making me very happy to set my alarm early for Saturday morning.
I needn’t have bothered as I was awoken at some antisocial hour by an incredibly loud thunderstorm, that seemed to be directly above my head, shaking my little cabin.

Two hours later, when the thunder, lightning and torrential rain had ceased chariot arrived and we set off for Serpentine Falls.

First stop was Serpentine Dam. A vast expanse of water on the Serpentine river whose catchment is one of the major supplies of drinking water for Perth. Do not quote or correct me on this please – I don’t make notes when I go exploring – I remember and recount information and openly admit to getting it wrong sometimes!

This dam was not on my do list – didn’t even know it was there. We stumbled upon it first of all, missing a turning and completely bypassing the falls. A wrong turn worth taking I believe…

Serpentine Dam

Serpentine Dam

Serpentine Dam

Next came the falls. Entering the national park from the opposite side we pulled up into the central picnic area – a smell of sausages on the barbecues greeting us as we assessed the trail maps. There was a damp, yet pleasant smell in the air – of fresh, green plants – ready to spring into bloom. It reminded me so much of Železná studničk – Bratislava Forest Park – and a wonderful day I had spent hiking there at the beginning of Spring some time ago.

We took an alternative path to get a higher view of the Falls, only to realise that the easier, simpler route led you to a far better viewing platform – purposely built with steps into the upper pool for warmer days when the water invites you for a swim. It wasn’t particularly cold – so with a little more planning ( bikini and a towel ) I could have been persuaded to have a dip. I have had a waterfall swim already which was up near Cairns (QLD) last year, so that box had already been ticked. Thankfully.

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After an ample amount of time taking in the scene and sitting on a rock that plenty of other people wanted to sit on, we headed off on another trail. A 6km, grade 4 hike up to Baldwin’s Bluff. This very much reminded me of my hiking weekend, again in Slovakia – in Terchova where the weather, climate and hiking grades were similar. Yes – it has been 2 years since I have enjoyed a good hike!
Our trail was a steep, stony path up the side of a gorge to a lookout over the waterfalls and Kitty’s Gorge. It was flanked either side with nature’s display of Spring bursting into bloom. The smell was worthy of being bottled – a fragrant reminder that Spring has sprung and Summer will be arriving fairly soon. The humidity and threat of rain enhanced the aroma and as the climb evened out, the flowers grew brighter and smelt fresher.

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I could have joined the masses who stopped to photograph every flower, but I would have bored my companion to tears and I wouldn’t have enjoyed the exhilarating high I got as I sprang onwards – pain in my back or legs totally eradicated as my heightened senses absorbed everything available. I don’t get what they call Runner’s High – but what I feel when I walk or hike in a place of natural beauty is something I imagine can be equated to that feeling.

view from Baldwin's Bluff

Serpentine Falls

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Perth in the distance - 50 km away

Long distance Perth

The walk down had a few slips and slides, but no injuries were obtained other than a large bite I, of course, (wouldn’t be anyone else) received right on the kneecap of my still sore ice skating knee!

I snapped away at a few views and flowers, as an excuse to catch my unfit breath but was disinterested in hiking behind my camera lens so hope the atmosphere has been sufficiently captured from my relatively spontaneous, yet wonderfully rewarding day in the park!

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Live a little…

So, the other day I bought a voucher to go Iceskating…

It occurred to me that I had become a bit “safe” recently and subsequently, quite boring, and yes, indeed bored.
I have a number of excuses for such a position. Is it because I now work as an Au Pair and I am quite literally drained of energy at the end of the day? And I have the unusual luxury of having my own digs, complete with tv and internet, so sometimes it’s just “easier” to not go out?
Is it because I have never got enough money? I don’t earn very much to say the least, and what I do earn, really doesn’t go very far in Perth. Then there is the fact that I don’t have my own car, so going anywhere involves a number of transport complications, so as previously mentioned, it’s just sometimes easier to stay at home.

But is that what I came to Australia to do? To sit in my room, watching Foxtel and feeling pleased I have got through the day? Worrying about where my cents will go, so desperately trying to save them instead of enjoying them?
I know that when I get back to the UK my dollars will mean nothing, the sun won’t shine very often and I won’t have the opportunities that living in a (pretty cool) city in a (bloody awesome) place like this has to offer.

They say that you should do something that scares you every day. That’s not always possible and I am not as brave as I used to be, so I will aim for once a week! I also have only 5 weeks left in Perth, and only 8 weeks left in Australia, so now is the time more than ever to MAKE EVERYTHING COUNT! Who knows when I will be back?

Iceskating. Yes it scares me. The last time I went was about 10 years ago. I fell over, but it was ok. The time before that was about 3 years previously and I fell badly, landing on my knee, really hurting it, and vowed never ever to go again. Since then I have feared hurting myself so much that I never thought I would go again. Frightened I would fall and hurt my back, I forgot about the prospect of landing on my knee again. Which was worse?

Anyway, I enlisted the company of a fellow Au Pair and friend on my fear-combating adventure. Bought the tickets and made the plans. I refused to let anxiety hinder my enjoyment, but on entering the building I was looking for any excuse turn on my heel (whilst still on dry land – can’t turn on ice!) and make a quick exit. There was nowhere safe to leave my bag: leave it in the car. The skates were too big: Smaller ones would be uncomfortable. The skates hurt: get over it. It’s cold: get over it. I don’t like the music: get over it. Out of excuses. Skates on.
We waddled our way towards the ice – how do you walk without looking like a penguin??
I gingerly stepped onto the ice, gripping the barrier for dear life. At this point I start laughing hysterically (anyone familiar with this?) as I was actually bricking it. I can’t move!! I had no idea what to do, I froze, pardon the pun! Other skaters whizzed past me, carved the ice, skated backwards. No one was falling over. This was not the place for Grace to get over her fear!

Slowly I started to move my feet – making my way along the edge, and whilst laughing and screaming simultaneously whenever someone passed me, I found myself sort of skating. My partner in crime was finding my expression (sticking tongue out in concentration interspersed with screeches of fear or hysterical laughter) hilarious herself and had to stop a number of times from laughing too hard. I don’t know how many laps I did before I started to realise I was actually skating and dare I say, enjoying it a little bit. I still flailed my arms, and windmilled my way around and went straight into the barrier to stop. I still screamed every time someone whipped past me, and watched people fall over to asses how badly they were hurt and to figure out how they got up again.

I started to get the hang of it, and was smiling, grinning, skating, yelling out “I am skating, no one will believe me! I can do it!!” I don’t have words to describe how it felt to actually do it, after all these years. I even had a little fall and got back up again, but I was fine!

It has to end somewhere though doesn’t it? Usually when someone wants to take a picture. Often when you fall and really hurt yourself and the wind is taken out of your sails, not to mention your chest and your pride, not to mention your body is bruised.

“You skate ahead, do another lap, and I will get a photo of you”. Off I went, picking up speed: the idea of a camera capturing my moment spurring me on. Then something went wrong, I did something wrong and I went down. I went down hard. Right on my Left knee (same one as before) and hard on my left boob and hand, as I tried to cushion my fall. I flipped myself over immediately, scared someone was going to slice me in half, but the pain in my knee made me want to vomit and the pain in my chest from being winded actually scared me. I can’t tell you how I got to my feet, but I made it just as someone was offering me a hand, I managed to dodge oncoming traffic and slide contraflow to the exit and get off, barely able to move my legs. I sat, tears smudging my mascara, as my leg shuddered with shock, and my left breast felt like someone had kicked me repeatedly. I wanted everyone to disappear so I could have a good cry. The pain eventually subsided, but my enthusiasm was gone. Skating was finished for me. The fear was back and I was terrified and bruised. I did, however, get back on the ice and I did another lap, just so that I could end it well, and not have my memory being face down.

I saw so many people fall and get back up again, who looked fine. I was fine too – nothing but my smile was broken, but it was time to go home.
On the way home, we stopped for frozen yoghurt – my new obsession and I got a bag of ice for my knee, which I sat with all evening, fearing the prospect of an unusable knee.

I am SO pleased I did it, I now know I can do it, and I had a go, and even enjoyed it.
I told my younger brother tonight what i had done, and he said… “So, maybe are ready to have another go at skiing then…” Some of you know my skiing story from the Pyrenees about 7 years ago – an experience I do not wish to repeat!

Off up the coast

I had a week off during the school holidays back in July and a little bit of birthday money to play with so I went on a little adventure for some sunshine, soul searching and to do what I came to Australia to do: Live loving and love living. In other words – live in the moment and smile.

My destination was Kalbarri – a small township on the coast about 7.5 hours north of Perth.

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Having searched fruitlessly for a cheap way up the coast: looking for ride-shares and even couchsurfing options, I went back to what I know best – long distance buses and youth hostels.
Throwing some caution to the wind I booked a one-way bus trip from Perth to Kalbarri and one night in the only hostel there hoping the rest would fall into place, which – as is nearly always the case – it did.

But there is no such trip that Grace can make without a bit of sweat and stress (read up on my Slovakia stories for more of this) and a little bit of sweat and stress was what I had the morning of my departure.There have been a number of times when my last minute nature is entirely responsible for any mishaps I may have had, but having learnt from that I find that sometimes in my world – things are simply just not simple!

Getting from where I live in Carine (a northern suburb of Perth) to the bus station in East Perth would normally have been a fairly easy transition of a bus from my house to the train station, a train to the city, a train to East Perth and then a short walk to the bus station.

However, the good people of Transperth wish to improve their frankly-not-very-convenient public transport system and chose to do this by shutting the central stations and disrupting normal service during the school holidays.

Leaving my house at 06:40am for an 08:30am bus should have been ample time and would generously have allowed time for breakfast and coffee at the station cafe before my 8 hour bus trip. Not for me. Of course.
My weekend bag and handbag pissed me off on the lengthy transits I had to do on three occasions. The length of the footbridge overpass at Leederville, platform at McIver station and overpass at East Perth were far too long for heavy bags.
I was quietly impressed with how well organised and smoothly the transition to replacement transport went at Leederville, as well as surprised by the number of staff they apparently needed to orchestrate it all. These staff members would have been much more useful on the next leg of my journey as the location of the free transit bus had changed and information of its whereabouts or timetable were non-existent.
About 50 of us grunted and squeezed into it as it arrived after 20 minutes (not 8 as promised) and trundled 600 metres to the next train station – much to the bewilderment of many of the passengers who dismounted. Since everyone seemed to be going to or coming to McIver station, the 1.5m path of its entrance became almost impassable with the surge of commuters. Trains were then waiting at platforms they weren’t normally on and I burst onto the train moments before its door beeped shut – with looks of sympathy from my carriage mates. “This is bloody ridiculous!” I panted to which the “friendly” commuters either nodded or busied themselves looking at what was in their hands or on the wall of the train. I am pretty sure in the UK this is the rare occasion when people DO converse and unite on the opportunity to have a good old moan.
On arriving at East Perth my shoulders ached once I saw the length of the passenger bridge and I almost walked in the wrong direction once of it by mistaking a coach for the not-very-obvious coach station.
On arrival, although desperate for a coffee, as it was 08:17 I immediately checked in and then ran to the cafe only to realise I couldn’t get anything for less than $10 paying by card, nor could I withdraw cash without forfeiting the $2 charge. And when every cent of your trip counts – coffee has to wait.