During my last week, I had a couple of days off and thankfully one of them was drier than the rest so I had the opportunity to wander around Perth freely rather that dodging showers.
After a very cheap lunch with a friend (a Thali curry voucher purchased from Groupon in a bid to eat as many different and interesting cuisines as I could before leaving Australia) I wandered over to the State Library for a gander. Both here and in Melbourne, The State Library has been a bit of a refuge for me. It’s a place that’s free, had air conditioning (not that that was a need of it in recent months) internet and in the case of Perth a really great range of second hand books just outside of the gift shop, and of course – nice, clean toilets. The café in Perth is particularly good, if anyone wants to check it out – coffee and a muffin for $6.90 which is pretty good value for Perth! Today I skimmed over the books I knew I couldn’t buy, but managed to find what I was looking for. A copy of the story I had enjoyed reading T & S many times when we rented it from our local library.
I bought it and went for a coffee outside – enjoying people watching, as well as glancing up at the oriental visions on the large screen. It’s akin to Fed Square (Melbourne) I suppose and a place I have often sat in for a ponder between appointments, or in the early days of Perth – just because I did not want to go back to the house I was living in.
Jumping on the tourist bus next I headed up to King’s Park to spend a couple of sunny hours before sunset. I realised I had never been to King’s Park on my own. In fact could only count 5 visits, which seemed a shame, as there was so much I hadn’t yet seen. My first was an unenthusiastic outing with the first family I worked for – then there were two dates (neither went any further) and I’d been there twice with friends who were visiting. I also realised I had always stuck to the same path which never leads anywhere new, so off I headed – quite literally taking the path less trodden, camera in hand for an almost meditative walk through the Spring offerings of the Botanical Gardens. I stopped to take photographs whenever I wanted, doubled back as many times as I felt necessary, sat down to enjoy the view a number of times to ponder over my time in Perth. I did feel, as one often does, sad to be leaving at that point. Perth has suddenly burst into bloom, and thanks to the awful amounts of rain we’d been having – moments of sunshine were really to be cherished. The perfumes and colours that were splashed across the park were stunning.
Although I was happy not to have to make awkward conversation (unsuccessful dates) and pleased I had nothing else to concentrate on other than myself, there is always that little part of me that wishes I were holding someone special’s hand.
Anyway, enough of that drivel – a good couple of hours were spent wandering around at my own pace (some of you will know how slow this is) enjoying the moment – stopping to smell the flowers and capture the moment whenever I wanted to.
Here’s a few snaps of the day.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
Very often, the focus of my blog posts is some mishap or other: some series of events that only seem to happen to me, something I have done wrong, some mini disaster, a bit of stress of just one or several of those moments.
Last Saturday was not one of those. I actually had a perfect day. Should I even write about it? I am not sure if I have a misfortune to make you laugh…
I had purchased a voucher for a Stand Up Paddle boarding lesson, as it was on my Perth bucket list. I had seen people doing it on the Swan River and thought it looked like something I would like to do.
There were two other Au Pair friends also doing it, so I wasn’t going to be on my own. I also had a lift lined up from someone who lives in the same suburb as me, so didn’t have to do battle with Perth public transport ( if you read OFF UP THE COAST you’ll know my feelings on this).
It had been raining most of the week, but I woke up to a beautiful sunny morning, with a clear mind (no booze the night before) and a healthy (ish) body – ready for action. My concern was that I read wetsuits were NOT provided, and as it IS winter, I didn’t fancy falling in. Then I must remind myself that this is Perth, not Melbourne, so it’s really not THAT cold. And yes, if you haven’t thought/said it already – I do indeed come from colder climes, so yes, I should be used to the cold weather/water etc. My other concern was my left knee: still bruised from my little ice skating escapade (read LIVE A LITTLE for that disaster) and comes with a certain amount of fear of hitting or even using it. I had read up on Paddle boarding, and the first thing you do is kneel and learn to get your balance – not something I can comfortably do – and can you believe this – because of this I was considering surrendering my voucher and not even going!
Luckily I gave myself a good talking to that morning and got up and on with it. Wished I had bought a pair on board shorts – who in Australia doesn’t own a pair of boardies? Me of course!
It turned out that our lesson was just the three of us – 3 Au Pairs on paddle boards with an mean age of 28 (this is indeed unusual in my line of work!) went out on the Swan with out instructor Cristina from Germany. The water wasn’t cold, just a little “eech ouch” getting in on account of all the tiny shells on the shore.
I was given the biggest board – probably on thanks to my usual look of uncertainty. After a brief “this is how you do it” We lugged them into the water and got on. It hurt to be on my knees – bloody ice skating – so once we got some speed (literally moving, not racing) we got to our feet.
The sun was warming my back, my board was steady and I was smiling because I was paddling! I managed to turn without falling off, I coped with a wave caused by a passing boat, and didn’t fall off when I looked round at the large splash to my right when H had fallen off her board trying to get a photo of M!
The only problem I had was a cramp in my right foot (It wouldn’t have been right for it to have been THAT perfect), which I later learned was perfectly normal, although incredibly uncomfortable, as the body tries to counterbalance what the board does. Once our level of comfort was ascertained, we paddled back to shore to get different boards. This time I had a shorter, lighter, therefore faster board, which was much more fun to work with. I actually ENJOYED this outing, and found myself asking fellow British nanny friend from Torquay if this was something people did at home. Yes, apparently it’s quite popular! Show’s what I know, as the first time I had seen it was 6 months ago here in Perth.
To congratulate ourselves on a morning of exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise – I want to do more of this – we went to the Matilda Bay Tea Rooms. An Idyllic setting on the river, under the trees where the parrots sit and… poo on your slice of chocolate cake. No joke. But it wouldn’t have been MY blog post without a little bit of trouble…
I should have blogged this ages ago! I am so far behind!
Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in June I was getting itchy feet, so a friend and I decided to hire a car and take it to Margaret River. It’s a small town about 3.5 hours south of Perth synonymous with good food, wonderful wine and great surf breaks. Travelling on a budget doesn’t always get you those things – but I never travel anywhere without making great memories, laughing hard, breathing deeply and taking it all in. So this is how I did it:
I hired a car from Europcar which was a bus ride, a train ride and another bus ride away from us. I managed to get the only manual car in the depot, as for some reason Australians tend to favour autos. Driving without using a gear stick is not driving in my opinion.
Then I got a friend to jump on board.
Then I found two backpackers who also wanted to go to Margies (how the locals call it) on Gumtree. Pick up the car, pick up the backpackers and all pile into the TINY car whose suspension and tiny engine are now being tested.
We hit the road and as we get closer to Margaret River the clouds get heavier and heavier and it starts to rain. Not before I spot Gracetown – which just HAS to be visited and photographed.
Then we try and check into your hostel but reception is closed for a few hours… Check in done, rain sets in and we race to the coast in hope of catching a sunset in a rain break. We get totally drenched, but we’re on holiday so it doesn’t matter right?
Going out involves THE only pub in town where I spend more than I want to on beer and the following day’s hangover inhibits me greatly.
Sunday afternoon arrives and it’s time to make my way back to Perth even though it feels like I have been here 5 minutes. So I take one of the backpackers who wants to go back, and we amble our way back up the coast stopping here and there to admire the view, do a cartwheel on the beach, shelter from the rain and drink a crap coffee to keep me awake on the drive back top Perth.
On arrival back in Perth I drop my backpacker off at his new hostel, then my friend and arrive home waking the dog as I park “my” car outside the house and go inside. Exhausted, happy and nostalgic from another weekend well spent in Australia.
Then nearly two months later I get round to blogging about it, having forgotten the details that make people laugh but hoping my photos make up for it!
Here are a couple of drafts that never made it onto my blog, so I’ve put them together here…
Happy New Year everyone!
As I sit in bed on January 1st, looking at the glorious sunshine out of my bedroom window, it’s hard to imagine the torrential rain yesterday that caused rivers to swell, roads to becomes rivers and puddles to become ponds. Just driving out of my village was like driving upstream yesterday which is something I don’t remember ever having to do before…
It’s nice to have a moment to contemplate where you have been and what you have achieved over the past year, and to feel inspired about how you will continue this year.
* * *
I write this as I sit on the train making my way from Taunton to Bristol, where I will meet my sister-in-law who will have a late lunch with me, drive me to Reading, where I will take the Airbus to Heathrow and later on tonight, be on my merry way to Singapore for the next phase of my journey.
2012 was a wonderful year. I decided to Live Loving and Love Living and that I did.
It was a full calendar year in Australia where my friends became my family, my adventures became my stories and my challenges became my strengths.
I fell back in love with my career: teaching English thanks to the ever-changing 18 or so students who I spent 4 hours a day with. Apart from a few personality clashes in the classroom I honestly never felt like I was going to work. Getting up every morning and knowing I was going to spend time with a group of wonderful adults never felt like work at all. In turn for improving their English, they shared their cultures, their music, their dreams and their trust in me and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I experiences Colombia, Korea, Thailand, Japan, China and Brazil all from inside my windowless classroom in Melbourne.
I had a number of opportunities to see Victoria and more from behind the wheel, from hire cars, to mini buses to motor-homes. I have driven along the Great Ocean Road, through the Grampians, down to Lakes Entrance, over to Philip Island, raced into Adelaide, got lost in Canberra, traversed a steep mountain road and driven around Queensland chasing waterfalls.
I’ve also lived the city life, lived the bush life, Lived the country life. I have taught and been taught and learnt so many lifelong lessons as I have continued to Live Loving and Love Living throughout the year.
I had the opportunity to meet family I didn’t know I had, to reconnect with friends from the past simply have a few moments to just enjoy being.
This year, I have decided will be the year to Make it Happen. I no longer have any time for useless aspirations to lose a few pounds, get a bit fitter or eat less chocolate and feel that the one goal we should all strive to achieve is to be happy. That’s all it needs to ever be.
So this is the year to Make it Happen. I achieved so much my myself last year, that I shall continue to do so and to go for the things I want. So If I want to go and lie on a white sandy beach, I will make it happen. If I want to visit a far away friend – I will make it happen. If I want to learn something new, I will make it happen. I am starting to believe that the power we have to do what we want is just endless.
So… 2013 will be the year to continue to Live Loving and Love Living, as that proved to be one of the best years I’ve and also to be the year that I Make it Happen – whatever it is!
So, who’s in? What are you going to Make happen this year? And did you have a go at Living Loving so you could Love Living? I would love to hear feedback from my readers!
Sitting through a cyclone
New Italy, Northern Rivers, NSW
Two weeks have passed since I arrived back in Australia and though I seem to have plenty to say in my head none of it is making its way out of fingers and into this blog.
I had 4 interesting days in Singapore with a good set of photos I have yet to type about, I have met up with the Maltese/Australian connection of my family and I have reinstated myself on the little farm belonging to my mum’s cousin, whilst I look for a new job and a new challenge.
All of that is a little stilted at the moment as ex tropical cyclone Oswold is traversing down the East coast of Australia and here on the little farm my second cousin, the cows, horses, dogs and the cat are waiting to see how bad it will get and what it will do when it hits us.
It’s already caused tornados up in Bundaberg and the Sunshine Coast, widespread flooding throughout the East and South-East of Queensland and winds of up to 144km are pushing down into New South Wales as I type. The rain is lashing on the windows, the wind is whipping round the house, the trees are bowing and Sky news is informing us of its route and what it’s done so far.
It doesn’t make for a very good night’s sleep when you wonder if a tornado will come, or a tree might fall on the house. Or you worry that the horses are distressed, as dear Kasimir didn’t know what to do with himself yesterday – galloping from one side of his paddock to another, bucking, rearing and farting wildly – which did make it quite amusing.
I feel thankful that we are not on the coast itself, seeing the terrible devastation this cyclone has left in its wake, knowing there are people waiting to be rescued from their roofs and seeing people whose houses are submerged up to the bedroom windows. But instead we play a waiting game. We wait and see what will happen, when the news tell us it’s “not arrived here yet”.
Maybe I will at least get some writing done, as sitting here, in the safety of a one storey, brick house, on a hill, all I can do is sit and wait to see what happens.
I had books of rainforests when I was younger and they fascinated me. I always wanted to walk through one, and whenever I went to some attraction that had a “rainforest” in it, I would walk through the polytunnel imagining I was in the Amazon. Now I can happily say that in the space of 6 weeks I have visited two real ones here in Australia. The first being the Daintree, up in the north of Queensland, and now one of its much younger sisters: the Nightcap national park in The Terania Valley, NSW.
Again I was led through the forest by someone who used to live in the valley and has adored the area for decades. It cost me nothing: I wasn’t on a bus, nor surrounded by tourists, I was just taken on a magical walk through the chilly leafy footpaths, stopping when I wanted to observe the wildlife, take a photo, or even scramble down to the creek to taste the fresh running water.
The vividness of the flora surrounding the walk may never be captured by photos quite the way you see them. The sunlight filters through only in privileged sections and the air is fresh and wet: it’s invigorating. I found myself thinking of shower gels and shampoos I have had that claim to be Rainforest scented, yet I don’t feel it’s an aroma that can ever be captured in a bottle. Nor is it a moment that can ever be captured in a photograph. With all places where nature takes precedence: it’s up to the individual how they see it, how they experience it. And for me, this place had an air of magic and enchantment about it. I wondered if water nymphs might have been skipping along the rocks at the waterfall, or if Unicorns had ever wandered through the leaves. There was certainly something in the air that was captivating.
When we reached the “grand finale”, after steadily making our way upwards, up steps of rocks winding their way slowly to something spectacular, we were rewarded with Protester Falls. Their name is thanks to the group of protesters who bravely stood in the way of bulldozers waiting to do away with this forest, people who recognised, loved and shared its beauty. The waterfalls themselves cascaded from way up above us into a pool of green water, hidden by rocks until you reach the summit. The air was fresher, cleaner and more certain than deeper into the forest, with a breeze that comes from nowhere and makes the waterfall dance.
I feel in my relatively short time in Australia I am getting opportunities to have magical moments and experiences that make everything worthwhile. Mother Nature really did have a good time in Australia and although she also put the world’s deadliest creatures here, she put them in an incredibly beautiful country.
Waterfalls, waterfalls and waterfalls. 27th June Weather: cloudy Temp: 24C The next day in Cairns was indeed poor weather again. At this point, I had not seen the sun now for days. My money was dripping away but without a hot beach to sit on and not spend it, I decided to spend it and enjoy every moment I had in the “sunshine state”. I hired a car. I met a Polish girl the previous day on my Daintree trip and a Swiss girl in my room the night before. I took the plunge and, so with two new friends, the lonely planet and vague idea of where we were going: I put the Toyota Corolla into Drive and off we went. (I hate automatics)
With ONLY the Lonely Planet for reference (I don’t bother with GPS) we headed out of Cairns hoping we were going south. After a few wrong turns we got onto the Bruce Highway (does anyone else find that funny?) heading towards Gordonvale, took a sharp right and drove up into the hills towards the waterfall circuit. The view was spectacular and although I loathe automatic transmission, It made the hairpin bends, steep hills and frequent road work stops ( due to landslides!) much easier, if a little boring, to handle.
First stop was the Cathedral Fig tree; an ENOURMOUS, ancient tree strangler tree whose root grow down from the top. The first and probably most exciting fall was Malanda falls. We picnicked here, and then, as I hadn’t had a decent swim at the beach, I jumped in! I wasn’t the only one and the water was surprisinglynwarm, so the shock I had prepared myself for as I gingerly stepped in was totally unnecessary. I swam out to the slippery rocks behind the fall, trying not to think of whatever might also have been there, and also avoid thinking about how slippery the rocks were. I hasten to add, this wasn’t a dangerous whimsical swim: there were many others and no snake warnings, hence deeming it safe to swim. As I swam through the fall, I was surprised at how gently the cascading water fell. It really was akin to walking under the shower.
The following falls were each different in their own right. We took left and right turns and guessed our way to some 10 different falls. Some you could hear long before you saw them: some were mere trickles: others pounding, almost deafening demonstrations of water’s power. I enjoyed my day. I loved behind behind the wheel for the day, and was pleased to have seen something much more cheaply than a chartered tour would have allowed. As I handed back the keys, I found myself going back to that familiar dream of buying my own set of wheels and touring around Australia before I leave… Hopefully you can appreciate the difference of each waterfall as I have finally found a way to up load pics…
No Worries…. Too easy!
Or… a visit to Mossman Gorge, The Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation.
Weather: Cloudy and drizzling
Temp: 25 C
Having had relatively little sleep, thanks to the difficulty of getting the boat to stop moving (see The Great Barrier reef) and some noisy neighbours and not having had a decent night’s sleep for over 5 days AND getting up at 6.30am again, meant I staggered onto the tour bus in a zombie like fashion, desperate for a coffee but with ever the optimistic smile of a good day ahead on my face.
3 Backpackers got on the bus at the next stop having rolled out of the hostel bar not long before and personifying everything I hate about backpackers. I was grateful for the Polish girl who sat next to me, who later became the following day’s travel buddy and someone for me to repeat the phrase: No Worries, Too Easy with as many times as we could.
That catch phrase was coined by our guide who was every stereotype he could be. A skinny, shaggy- haired, smiling Queenslander with a laid back, slow drawl, who finished EVERY sentence with “Noooooooooooooo Wooooooooooooooooooories” and very often followed that up with “Tooooooooooooooooo Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeasy”. It went something like this: “Ok guys, just relax and take in the scenery as we head up the coast, nooooooooo worries”. “ Ok gang, we are about to arrive at Mossman Gorge, where we’ll be be getting out for a walk noooooooooooooo worries”. “So the saltwater crocs here are the most aggressive in the world, so don’t go anywhere near the water nooooooooooooo worries”. “we’re gonna head up towards the Daintree now and I’ll be giving you some commentary on why I think rainforest is awesome, noooooooo worries, tooooooooooooo easy”. Get the picture? I wish I could have recorded him. Now I’ve spent so long telling you about the driver, and not anything about the amazing things we saw or the interesting anecdotes this guy had to tell us (someone who loves his job as much as this guy makes trips like this such a pleasure) which I learnt so much from.
So first to the Mossman Gorge. ON the way up here, we had interesting stories about Sugar cane farms, their history, the geography of the area, the aboriginal tribes and also the nasty things in the rainforest like the Stinging Tree, which if you accidently brush against it will leave you in pain for at least 6 months. He told us about a guy he met in the Daintree, who he told this fact to, to which he responded “six months? Mate ( all Aussies say that, doesn’t matter if they’re your mate or not) I was held up by that for 10 years!” Message? Don’t touch ANYTHING!
Mossman Gorge: I went a bit snap happy here, as I couldn’t get over the tranquillity of the calm green water and the rushing splendour of the waterfall within metres of each other. My photos, are (as you should know by now) totally untouched by photoshop and what you see, is exactly what I saw.
Onwards to the Daintree. The rainforest mist and rain added to its atmosphere and the smell of freshness is nothing like shower gels claim it to be. It’s a million time fresher. Crossing the Daintree river on the cable pulled ferry, the stories started about things that go on in the Daintree, due to the fact that there are NO police THAT side of the river, so pretty much anything goes. Our driver at this point took off his seatbelt, telling us that there were no police around to fine him for not wearing it. This is a concept I found difficult to comprehend. Do people in Australia only wear seatbelts for fear of being fined if they are not?
The Daintree is the oldest rainforest in the world being at least 115 million years old and the number of species of EVERYTHING in it are almost uncountable. Rainforests need 2 metres of water a year to survive, London has 0.6 metres a year, but some parts of this rainforest have between 8-10 metres per year! It’s one of the most toxic in the world, thanks to its many poisonous flora: although these hopefully will be the basis of cancer cures in the future.
Cape Tribulation is where we stopped for our picnic lunch and a nervous stroll along the beach. We were advised that if we wished to swim, we had about a 60% chance of survival right in front of the picnic area, but going near the water anywhere else, no chance! We were also reminded that crocs can hold their breath for 3 hours, so they can quite comfortably sit in the water waiting as
long as they want.
The river trip, on the flimsy little boat took us up stream through the territory of Scarface, the 5m alpha male, who didn’t make an appearance, but we met 2 of his girlfriends: Dusty and I can’t remember the other’s name. We also saw Lumpie, and smaller male and several baby crocs resting on the river. We were assured that thanks to a lack of sun of late, the crocs were particularly lethargic and unlikely to do any jumping! We learnt about Yellowtail, who took a 9 year old boy from the river bank and Fat Albert who killed one-too-many cows, so was shot by the farmer.
The ride back to Cairns was scattered with more stories and anecdotes of all of the above, amidst stops at lookouts and the most amazing icecream I have tasted from the Daintree IcecreamCompany. Wattle seed was my personal favourite.
A good day? No, a fabulous one that made me laugh, gasp, question and relish in the true beauty of the world we live in and the things we can love and learn every day.