Autumn presents a great time to go and explore nature’s playgrounds in WA’s South-West. Weather conditions are ideal, not too hot during the day, not too cold at night, campfires are allowed, and lake or river temperatures are still bearable for the odd swim. This year’s Anzac Day fell on a Monday, offering a long weekend opportunity too good to miss! It was obviously time to venture out on a family camping trip, water our kayak and give our mountain bikes a good shake.
To make the most of our trip, my twin daughters invited me on a horseback ride. In anticipation that this would take me outside of my comfort zone, I felt this would qualify for an additional day off from work under the Perspektiv Adventure Leave scheme. Could I find any better way to celebrate Earth Day out of office and enjoying some rugged single trails on "4 by 4"s of real bone, flesh and fur?
This was a fabulous start to a fun-filled weekend around the Wellington Dam near Collie, otherwise known for its recent 8000 square meter mural painting (world’s largest on a dam!). Starting from Perth, we accessed the area in less than two hours to find a fantastic playground for outdoor sports amidst majestic scenery. Best of all, once the car was parked at the nearby campsite, I didn’t feel the need to drive it anywhere else. There was so much to discover within reach by foot, pedal or paddle, and so much to relish on the return back to the camp.
Paddling out with my wife on our three-seater kayak into the morning wind, we wondered what we’d discover on the other side of the lake. The submerged tree trunks and logs gave it an eery feel even in the most joyful time of the day, reminding us of the life that used to be here before the dam was built and the water level raised by almost 50 meters.
Riding my bike on little trails woke the little boy in me (Inspired by ET, I once had a BMX and would spend my afternoons exploring the nearby forests). Now I am rediscovering new trails across the region with my own kids and can’t get enough of it. I am continuously intrigued by WA’s unique flora and fauna, the mix of grey granite rocks and red pea gravel, the bush-fire shaped remnants and the world-class trails meandering through all of this. I love the flowy feel riding, along with the suspense of the possible surprise around the next tree, or behind the next roller. I miss the mountains, snow and skis, but this compensates a lot. For a long time, taking the kids out required an additional portion of courage, patience and lots of empathy. But with persistence, the help of snacks and sending them off on their bikes for their daily commute to school, they have gained the strength and endurance and acquired great confidence to tackle some of the more challenging uphill and downhill rides. I cherish every bike ride with them, knowing very well that one day they’ll pick a track that I can no longer follow.
We were blessed to have some family friends join us on this trip. We’ve already shared lots of smaller and bigger adventures together, developing a deep trust and bond which made this trip even more enjoyable. After returning from our adventures of the day, we’d share a refreshing swim in the lake, exchange a hearty meal around the big table, and recall our stories of the day by the campfire. Surprise animal encounters added magic to these precious moments: During a lunchbreak at our base, a family of Doowan came to fill the air with joy. Also known as Darlmoorluk or ‘Twenty-eight’ parrots, this species has long been known as the protector of evil spirits and guardian of the camps.
On our final day, the sound of a 5:45 AM bugle ripped us from our dreams. The Last Post was played so perfectly, I listened in awe only to find out later that it was some professional recording played by another camper through his radio. I had practiced a few days ahead to try and squeeze some tunes out of my own rusty trumpet, but that morning I missed out getting up early enough to beat the neighbour’s radio. So, I went for a walk and found a beautiful pink sky that had already welcomed several other campers that congregated out by the lake to commemorate Anzac Day. With dawn we witnessed a change in the wind and in the weather. Perhaps it was nature’s poetic way of acknowledging a historic day and the sacrifices given by so many. In that moment it was the recent war unfolding in the Ukraine that dominated my thoughts. But the red sky also reminded me of a far more dominant battle to curb; climate change. It’s a crisis I have dedicated my professional life to from the onset of my vocation and career choices, even before I joined the army to practice my trumpet for peace.
Later that day I played my own tune into the forest, it was certainly shakier than in my younger years, but with no less passion (and the echo helped). I trust it remains a matter of exercise… much like venturing out into nature, it is an activity that I must constantly remind myself needs repeating as often as possible. Only by stepping out of our routines and into the unknown does it brings us these new experiences in life.