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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 Do not quote or correct me on this please – I don’t make notes when I go exploring – I remember and recount information and openly admit to getting it wrong sometimes!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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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.

Live loving and love living… continued

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.

January sky

January sky


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!

train time

Monday 30th July

Temp 22

Weather: Beautiful sunshine!

I woke up at 6am to catch a 7.30am train express from Brisbane to Sydney. I was getting off at Casino, NSW.

My taxi driver arrived early, and I think started the meter as soon as he arrived, as I felt the charge was rather steep considering the fact that we met no traffic and sailed through all the lights.

I tried not to let that bother me, and was pleased to have time to buy breakfast and a coffee on my way to the platform. I wasn’t pleased to walk up the broken escalator, with all my luggage, and find no café on the platform and have to retrace my steps back to the entrance to buy said coffee and toast. But I tried not to let that bother me either.

In fact, my spirits were high indeed. I was getting an apparently very scenic train to stay with a relative who I had never met to spend 5 days on her small cattle stud in the heart of New South Wales north coast.

I found my seat next to a boy with headphones. Let a man much older than suitable help put my bag above and settled in for the ride. The boy with headphones didn’t seem to mind me sitting there, although he was in my window seat. Again, I let that go over my head and started on my spilt coffee and soggy toast.

As the train sidled out of Brisbane announcements were made regarding our arrival times at each destination. This seemed a bit futile since we were departing later than scheduled.

Tickets were checked, and people moved seats to make themselves more comfortable. For some reason I didn’t bother to do this and I still can’t really understand why.

The countryside was beautiful once we had got out of suburbia and into NSW. The hills were rolling in almost mountainous shapes as we swung through valleys, past farms with horses and cows grazing on the lush green pastures. This is a novelty to me, since despite the bush being relatively “green” at the moment; it is incredibly dry in comparison with where I was racing through.

The journey went relatively quickly and pleasant though it was, I was quite pleased I wasn’t going all the way to Sydney, which was another 11 hours!

 

What a difference the sunshine makes…

Jan 12th

What a difference the sunshine makes!

Today was what we could call my first “real” day, in that off I went this morning to class after class, navigating my way around Bratislava on the bus, the tram and the trolley bus to destinations I can’t pronounce and places I can’t locate on the map!

But without the damp mist that seemed to hover around like a bad smell, the buildings were certainly a different shade of grey and bathed in sunlight the whole city was a totally different place.

I set off this morning, my first class having been cancelled the night before, allowing me a generous lie-in until 7.30. I made it into town on bus 95 in plenty of time, marvelling all the way at buildings I hadn’t even noticed before. Off I hopped to make my change at the tram stop, deliberately missing the one I saw approaching, so I could smugly stand and wait knowing I had aeons of time. Tram 12 rattles into its stop, on I get eagerly checking my timetable against stops. It turns left. Did it turn left on Monday? No, having just missed one, the director and I had walked onto another stop for another line. Ok, no problem I think, scanning the screen for my stop. Doesn’t appear. That’s odd. Double check schedule and destination. Yes I am on the right one. Left again. This can’t be right. Off I get, whip out my street map and now I really am on an adventure and a mission. I’ve just got off the tram at a random stop in the middle of a city I have not yet explored and I need to get to a class in 45 mins. Best mistake I have made! I locate the stop I had used on Monday, for Tram 5, and race along cobbled streets towards it. This is Bratislava! Here are the lovely buildings I’ve seen in images of this city, the old churches and cobbled streets. Fabulous, but no time to marvel, got a tram to catch at 19 mins past! I race up the steps recognising the stop from another angle and skip across the road as the tram approaches. Phew. Wait a minute, this tram doesn’t list my stop either, I realise as we jerk into a tunnel. Ho hum. What to do. I soon realise that only the MAIN stops scroll across the screen and the dear old tram stops at them all. This is confirmed as I step off at destination stop Svanterova and number 12 comes squeaking up behind it. Oh well, learnt something about the trams. Along I skip, still very pleased with myself. I still have 20 mins till class and will arrive with more than enough time. This nasty looking housing estate is not a glum as it was in the fog, in fact the buildings are painted rather oddly in oranges and yellows. Yes… orange and yellow tower blocks. The school looks much cleaner and brighter as I approach and again I smile to myself at how easy this all is. I arrive slip on shoe covers. The Children remember my name and take very well to my new English Only policy (and strict it is too!).

Two hours later, I saunter, yes saunter because I have 2 hours to get to my next class back to the tram stop. This time I hop on Bus 83 for about 12 minutes and get off at a totally random place Sokolska to then catch the trolley bus. At least I am seeing the city now, although cleaner windows would be nice. I’m not looking forward to the next class cos a fellow teacher “helpfully” warned me that they were difficult to teach and the class was miles away from anything. When I arrive at Trnavska I spot a café next to the bus stop (He told me he’d walked for miles to find one!). It takes ages to cross a rather complicated road and as I am still 45 mins early I enter the “fresh food market”. This is weird. It’s nearly empty bar about 10 open shops which either sell fruit, veg, bread or a combination of the lot. There are some stalls selling food with tables too, but I am only brave enough to buy a mandarin and a pastry. It’s going to take a while since I answer every question with “Si”, greet people with “hola” and thank people… you know how it goes.

The class itself is fine. I enter an enormous building, which is the central office for a big bank. Hand over my passport (rather annoyingly have been told to carry this with me at all times for my business classes) and make my way towards elevator D, floor 5. Not as easy as it seems, as when I get out of the lift I realise I am stuck, cos my security pass doesn’t allow me to enter the next part, so I wait for a student to arrive. The class is in a glass cubicle, in the middle of an open plan office. I can’t scratch my bottom when I write on the board, not that I do normally…

After that class, I have to navigate my way back out and then find bus stop 50. This drops me at another random location Wustenrot where I whip out my street map (this is a street map, bought here, NOT a tourist guide) and enjoy working my way back to school. It’s now 3.40 and I have a substitute class to cover in less than an hour and everyone wants to know how I got on today. How nicely annoying. One to one class takes place in a classroom at the top of the building, to which I am given a special key. Student is waiting when I arrive. He is surprised I am not Mike, but after that initial confusion, the hour flies by.

5.30, can’t go home yet cos photocopies have to be made for my 7.30 class tomorrow nd everything I taught today has to be typed into the online agenda.

A busy, but enjoyable day was had by me, finished off with a quick trip into Tesco near school. I don’t have the time to wander round with my dictionary so I shamefully collect TESCO items that I recognise and totter off to the bus stop having bought more than I intended to…

Photos in aorder of appearance are…

View from my bedroom window,

My block of flats

Waiting for the tram at 9am ( before I thought i’d buggered it up and got on the wrong one…)

Bratislava Castle from the balcony

Orange tower blocks of Batkova, near the school I teach at 3x week.

13th Floor!