So there I was. Five minutes into it and I was already doubting my decision.
I thought it would have been easier, doing it for the first time with someone you know.
And yet I stood there, rigid. I was ashamed to admit I was THAT inexperienced, so I remained silent, but the truth was … only the sight of that long, slimy, unknown thing approaching my direction was really scaring the hell out of me!
“Relax, Martina” my friend Naz said. “It is not a snake, it is just a lizard”.
Oh dear God. I thought I’d have a heart attack.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN:
I had agreed few days earlier to meet Naz, (my former London housemate) who happened to be in Sydney at the same time as me, and go to the National Park Ku Ring Gai Chase, located in the north of the city.
The weather that week in December was great, sunny and hot. I should have been used to it by now, almost a month after my arrival Down Under. In reality, these inverted seasons don’t cease to amaze me, so used to the frozen Decembers back in the UK or back home in Italy as well.
Thank God I put on my trainers and knee-long trousers. For a moment I thought I should put only my flip flops on, as it was so hot! Wonderful weather and high temperatures require open shoes, right? Wrong! Not if you go bush walking. Well the thing is, I didn’t really know I was going bushwalking. The idea was to meet for lunch and after that “go for a walk in the park” as the weather was so nice. In my head that would be a nice stroll, let’s-burn-the-lunch-off kind of walk!
Thankfully, I thought about my back and how it hurts if I walk around with wrong shoes (too high or too flat)…yes, I am getting old I’ve heard. So anyway, I decided to wear trainers (hoping people won’t judge me and think about the sweat going on down there as it was nearly 40 degrees).
And that was definitely a smart decision. It was naïve of me thinking that going to a National park would mean a comfortable walk in freshly cut grass, where you can sit and have a picnic, where you can take your shoes off and let the grass tickling your feet, where you just enjoy the beautiful nature without worrying about anything around. The thing is, in my country, or in the UK where I have spent the last 4 years of my life, it is really not dangerous going for a walk in a National Park. Ok, maybe not always of course. It depends which kind of trail you are on. Ok, I’ll admit it now. I haven’t really done much trekking here so far. What I am trying to say is that I was not mentally prepared to be…vigilant and careful when it comes to nature.
Because when you go to a national park in Australia, this means going into a wild forest. Bushwalking. Getting close to animals. Watching your step. Following a trail or getting forever lost.
I guess I don’t have an Australian mindset…yet.
I have read a lot about the dangers here in Oz (aka spiders ,snakes, crocodiles… basically a long list of deadly animals all concentrated on this huge island)but again, reading about something without experiencing it really is not the same thing. I kind of thought that “those things” were away from me, maybe in the far away inner small rural areas of Australia. They are not. You simply need to be careful here.
The first time I realized that was in a toilet. We stopped in a public toilet just before starting the walk, and there it was. A picture of a massive leech with the notes “please do not remove leeches in these toilets, leeches suck blood and it could be infected…” etc. I stared at the picture of this horrible big, black worm and asked… “Is this common?” and my friend was like “Oh yes, we should have brought salt actually. That is what you do if a leech is sucking your blood. In this way it shrinks and gets off of you. It is quite common for this kind of walking, don’t worry. Actually it is probably not the season”. Ok, at least the last sentence made me feel better and I didn’t want to pass for the sissy girl, so I pretended that it was not bugging me. IT TOTALLY WAS.
So the hiking began. 5 min into the walking, something long and slimy passed quickly in front of us, my friend jumped a little and I froze on the spot, mind running all the worst possible scenarios, already regretting the decision of waking up that morning. “All good, she said, it‘s just a lizard.” Whaaat?? I just stood there looking at the longest lizard I have ever seen (a part from the ones in the zoo-safely closed behind glass), while it looked at me from the tree it was hugging…and snapped a pic! That was my first big moment!! A wild animal, yuhuuu. And it was not that scary after all. It is actually kind of cute, once you realize it is just a lizard and not a deadly snake! (but it is easy to get confused If you only see that long tail moving, you know).
I did my homework and googled it later and from the picture I think that what we saw was something called “Goanna”. Which sounds even cooler than lizard. Now I can go around and show off saying I saw a GOANNA, I saw a GOANNA!
So all happy with a new cool pic stored in my camera, we went on. Another 5 minutes passed and Naz stopped suddenly announcing: “Ok, I have just seen a snake! Now, quickly, we need to go”.
Whaat? What do you mean S-N-A-K-E? And we need to go? Yes we do! Need to run away back home!!! That was what crossed my mind, together with “why did I just come to the deadliest place on earth?? What the hell was I thinking”? Ok, the drama queen was dancing wild inside my head. Instead, I tried to breathe and keep cool as I didn’t want Naz to think I was a total pussy…after all, I wanted to do it. I had to quickly walk on a muddy area, where this snake apparently just was. I couldn’t see it and after hesitating a bit (thinking do they have quicksand in Australia? What if this thing is going to suck me in??) I quickly walked on through this thing, obviously surviving and feeling super silly after that.
Not long after this little drama, we were walking along a river and, watching towards those muddy river banks we were so close to, I started thinking about the time I read DO NOT stay close to water, river banks, wetlands etc.… as these are places where the crocodiles live.
If only I had remembered reading crocodiles do live in Australia but NOT in Sydney. That would have helped immensely in that moment. Instead, thanks to my shaky memory, I was secretly worrying about those animals AS WELL and beating myself up for not being that fit (crocodiles do run fast, apparently).
Luckily though, we stopped to admire and enjoy the beautiful place we were at.
Little by little I started to relax and I began to appreciate more and more the beautiful surrounding, wild and fascinating. The day was very hot, but the trees and nature offered lots of shade and repair, making the walking very pleasant.
We heard something big thumping near us and between the bushes I saw something jumping… I am pretty sure it was a kangaroo! And a wild turkey also passed quickly in front of us…It seemed very scared by something, so we waited a little while, as Naz wisely suggested (me expecting the next dangerous animal to jump out of nowhere and, well, kill me?! I am NOT dramatic.
Nothing at all happened of course, maybe it was scared by US hahaha.
But the highlight of the afternoon was seeing a baby kangaroo (or maybe it was a wallaby, still don’t know how to recognize one from the other, sorry guys), right on the side of the road where we were walking. Just there, few meters from us!! I was very excited! I also managed to take a picture of this fascinating little thing while it was bouncing away from this annoying, staring woman… it obviously couldn’t know that for me it was right in that moment, more than ever, that I realized I was in Australia! As a sort of rite of passage, I think you really feel you are in Australia when you see for the first time a kangaroo in his natural habitat ( and no, the zoo doesn’t count ).
It took us almost three hours to go back to the starting point, but the feeling at the end of my very first Stralya wondering was simply amazing! Feeling deliciously exhausted by the walk, the heat, the fear (hahaha such a baby!) never felt more appealing!
May this one be the first of many, more relaxed or more exciting but for sure always enjoyable, many other times! When the first time leaves you with the desire to have more, even after a shaky start, it must mean you just discovered something you will be quite passionate about. And that reminds me of another first time… ! 🙂
- It is located 25 km North of Sydney
- It is the Australian’s second-oldest national park
- It was added to the “Australian National Heritage List” on the 15th December 2006
- You need to pay an entrance fee ( 12 dollars per vehicle )
- The first inhabitants of the area were theindigenous GARIGAL people. If you are interested in rock art and engravings, follow the fascinating Aboriginal Heritage Walk
- 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of “Skippy the Bush Kangaroo”, a famous Australian television series about the adventure of a young boy and his intelligent pet kangaroo. The series was shot right in the Ku Ring Gai park
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