To begin with, it felt like a dream.
My first days in Australia were spent in a suburb in Perth’s hills, a place called Karragullen. The area is almost completely unnoticed and quiet, with a large oval just a few steps away from the house — where at night the kangaroos all come out to graze on the grass.
Standing on the oval as the sun was setting on my first night in Australia, it was hard to identify what felt more real — the people and places I had left behind in the English winter just the day before, or this warm Australia night filled with stars.
My first full day in Australia, we packed a picnic and our swimming gear, picked up some friends at Armadale train station, and all went to Serpentine National Park. The feeling of everything being not-quite-real didn’t subside with the picnic spot at Serpentine, where tame kangaroos were hopping around and begging for food. The signs warning people not to feed the ‘roos were for a good reason: they can get aggressive if you don’t feed them, as some other picnicers were finding out with one of the animals refusing to leave them alone and acting shows of dominance.
After our lunch the four of us set off uphill on a walking trail, billed as only moderate difficulty — but we hadn’t bargained on the day being as hot as it was. This was my second time walking in the Australian bush, and like the first time I quickly realised that I didn’t have what I needed to do even a moderately gentle hike properly was walking boots (especially important for me, with my feet) and a platypus for water. Carrying a large, solid plastic water bottle was too bulky and too heavy for this — even though having plenty of water is about the most important thing you can carry.
The highlight of Serpentine National Park was the Serpentine Falls, a small waterfall over a sheer granite rock face. While the waterfall itself wasn’t much to look at, the volume of water over the falls being much smaller in the summer, the fresh water pool below the falls was welcome — and very cold, especially in the deepest parts — on a hot day.
Serpentine Falls was my first experience of wild swimming in Australia — a world of difference from swimming in Highgate Ponds in London, particularly because you don’t come out muddy and smelling of pond water!