World of the wild and the free

Young Travel Writer finalist Kate Loveday, of Applecross Senior High School, finds forests and exhilarating freedom on a camping trip to Nanga Mill. 

Time stands still at Nanga Mill, frozen in the days before stress and tests, homework and schoolwork.

Only a few hours’ drive south of Perth, at the heart of Lane Poole Reserve, it’s a completely different world. A world of endless childhood, of wild forests and exhilarating freedom.

A world where I can truly be myself. 

The dusty gravel campground, scattered with mighty pines, slopes gently down to an icy, rushing stream. Ancient felled trees lie across that stream, bridges for the brave. 

Making it across, I am plunged into the wild, wonderful world of the woods. Towering trees, spiky scrub, slippery slopes and a fresh, earthy, intoxicating scent that fills the air around me.

The atmosphere is transforming; my brother, best friend and I are a pack of young wolves. 

Alert, energetic and eager to explore, we scramble around steep slopes, roam the banks of the brook and follow narrow bush tracks wherever they may take us. 

Finding the rock slide doesn’t take long – a bumpy, natural waterslide where the stream runs over a huge algae-covered boulder. 

Stripped down to my swimmers, I shiver in the chill air, letting the icy numbness of the water wash over my legs until they no longer feel the cold. I whoosh down the slope and splash into the pool below, shuddering as the water’s freezing embrace sends shockwaves up my spine. 

So … cold … let’s do it again! 

When we’ve finally had enough, and are so cold we can barely feel our fingers, we scamper back to our campsite. Rugging up, we lounge around a roaring campfire, propping up our feet and toasting marshmallows over the flames. 

Night draws nearer, lanterns are lit and the delicious smell of many dinners cooking wafts through the campground. 

The sun slowly sinks behind the trees, painting the sky in a thousand fiery colours.

Darkness creeps across the blue and stars bloom like a field of mystical flowers. Billions of stars, countless constellations, and the Milky Way winding through it all, a river of light. 

It’s quieter at night, and sitting in silence around the campfire, I can hear everything. Crickets chirruping, stream gurgling, campfires crackling and the zipping of tent flaps as people turn in for the night. 

I stay there for hours, peaceful and content, staring mesmerised into the dancing flames and glowing embers of the dying campfire. Night, night, Nanga Mill. Sweet dreams. 

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