This weekend the Amazing Aussie Adventure continued as I got the opportunity to check out the opening of Sculpture by the Sea on Cottesloe beach.
Cottesloe is a tremendously popular beach in Perth, but I’d never visited it properly before — then again, I’d never been to Perth at this time of year before, either, and visiting at the end of summer makes a big difference.
Making the beach even more attractive was a range of sculptures by more than 70 artists — local artists and artists from WA were exhibited alongside international artists, making the beach and surrounds into one big modern art gallery.
Among the sculptures were “Ocean Cathedral” by Debbie Harding, a cathedral window made out of bamboo with a view of the ocean, “Wave 1” by Annette Thas a wave made out of plastic Barbie dolls, and “Red Center” by Carl Billingsley, a veritable sea of red and yellow survey flags, that reminded me, in my exceedingly amateur opinion, of some of Van Gogh’s paintings.
150 Surfboard Graveyard
Other sculptures had an ecological message: including “150 Surfboard Graveyard” by Chris Anderson, a “graveyard” of broken parts of surfboard, all sticking out of the sand, a life size rhinoceros knitted entirely out of black plastic bags by Mikaela Castledine, and a fish tank of “Things You Might Find On Your Trip to the Beach” (by Marina DeBris) — entirely consisting of rubbish the artist finds washed up on the beach.
There are too many sculptures and installations to list here — but if you like art, want something to talk about and think about, the exhibition is running until the end of March. I can highly recommend it.
For more photos of Sculpture by the Sea, check out my Tumblr here and check out the Sculpture by the Sea official Twitter account
As a belated birthday outing, we went to Perth zoo on the Friday after I arrived. Despite sleeping very little on the flight from London to Singapore earlier in the week, I’d been fortunate that I hadn’t too much difficulty adjusting to the time difference (Perth is 8 hours ahead of GMT).
On a briefly unrelated side note, whenever I have a time change like this and find myself suddenly wide awake at 5 or 6am, I often think about trying to train myself to stay awake at that time permanently. After all, it would add several more productive hours to my days. As you’d probably expect, I always decide I like sleep too much, and get over the inconveniently early wakefulness without too much effort.
At this point in the adventure, I felt like I’d lost a day and a half when I left London on Monday morning and arrived in Perth on Tuesday afternoon. The feeling of things not being quite real was exacerbated by feeling a little adrift in the week. Just the same, I had largely overcome my mid-afternoon slump by the end of the week. Instead, what I had left behind felt more like a dream than the dusty red earth that was now home.
Like with Serpentine National Park, going to Perth zoo on a week day in school time meant that it was reasonably quiet — with a surprising number of Scottish visitors. One of the things I noticed about Perth zoo was how spacious it felt — it had clearly been designed with a lot of thought to shade and wide open spaces.
You might think that one zoo is a lot like the next, but now that I think of it despite having visited various zoos and safari/wildlife parks at home, this was the first zoo I’d been to outside of the UK. I guess with all the travelling over the last few years, zoos were always further down the list than things like exploring the city.
Sure, Perth has its giraffes and lions and cheetahs and rhinos [fun fact: despite their intimidating appearance, rhinos are regarded by their keepers as overgrown dogs: they’re gentle creatures that like attention and a good scratch behind the ear] but the next realisation after the sense of space and shade in Perth zoo was the variety of Australian animals that I’d not experienced before.
There were the prehistoric and vicious-looking Cassawaries, the Quokkas who always look delighted about something, endangered Bilbys — and a veritable galaxy of small Australian marsupials. One of my favourite animals was the tree kangaroo, a native of Papua New Guinea, and an interesting-looking creature I’d not so much as heard of before. There were also the more familiar dingos, koalas, wallabies and a walkabout section through a wooded area where kangaroos would hop happily across the path in front of you. And despite having seen crocodiles in zoos and alligators both wild and in captivity, I wasn’t expecting a crocodile the size of the specimen in Perth zoo.
Perth zoo is a fantastic place for conservation, and learning. I learned a lot about the zoo’s conservation projects in the wild, including its fantastic native breeding program, and I was educated on topics such as the importance of dingos to the ecosystem. Once regarded as a pest, it’s been found more recently that in areas where dingos are reintroduced, the feral invasive species like cats, rabbits and foxes all decline, and the native plants and marsupials recover.
At risk of sounding like a tourist guide book, Perth zoo is a great place to visit. Even if it is more conventional than a place like Serpentine National Park — it’s a place to discover animals you’ve never seen or heard of before, but also learn about conservation efforts in Australia, and around the world.
Those of you joining this program already in progress may have questions about this Amazing Aussie Adventure I am on.
Questions like why is a 30-something marketing exec and copywriter from London in Western Australia? What is he doing? What kind of a visa is he on? And what is the purpose of this adventure? I’ll try and explain it here.
So; the why. The easiest explanation is that it’s all about a girl. Amanda, the creative genius behind Apples and Green, came to the UK 6 years ago on a working holiday visa. We have been together ever since. I always knew that one day she would want to go home, so we talked about it, and to cut out all the stuff in between: here I am.
Next, what am I doing? Am I travelling, am I writing a book, am I just having adventures and seeing where the wind takes me? Nothing quite that glamorous! Right now, I am looking to ply my digital marketing skills for a suitable employer in the shining city of Perth. I am also doing some freelance writing for various people, because I just love to write. I have an idea for a whole new blog — or even a book! — I want to research, and write, about the coolest small towns in Australia. But first I need a steady income…
What about a visa? I came into Australia on a partner visa, and I am a permanent resident — this is different from being an Australian citizen. I have no restrictions on my visa: I am free to come and go as I please for the next few years, and can work freely. Anyone interested in this kind of visa is welcome to contact me for anecdotal stories, but for anything more useful you should speak to a professional and visit the Australian government’s website.
What is the purpose of this adventure? This adventure is unlike the one-off adventures in Peru and Norway: it isn’t an adventure with a specific goal, like to raise money for charity and raise awareness, it’s more open-ended than that. It’s about life. It’s about The Flat Footed Adventurerin a wider sense. It’s about sharing my stories to inform, entertain and, hopefully, inspire others to explore the world — while also expanding my own horizons. It’s also about overcoming adversity, sometimes.
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!