Wild & Free: Illaroo

“All good things are wild & free.”

I grew up camping. Days were spent running wild across beaches, climbing trees, rocks or exploring over-grown bush tracks, either by myself or with a tangle of dirt-crusted kids. My fellow adventurers were either friends I’d known since before I could remember or whatever kids happened to be at the campground at the time. I was aware of these earlier friendships through the stories our parents told of us as mischievous toddlers or the sepia toned photographs of our cloth nappy clad, or naked, selves sitting in the shade of a tree playing with washed up stalks of coral. Some of these friendships were for a few minutes, a day, week, or, on the rare occasion, a lifetime.

After hubby & I spent the Christmas holidays camping at Illaroo, & exploring the Yuraygir NP, our passion for camping was re-ignited. It was this passion for nature that we wanted to share with my husband’s little one, just as our parents had shared with us. There is something incredibly liberating in switching off from technology/work/society & returning to the freedom of nature. Time slows down, connections are formed, & memories made.  

I watched as dad explained & guided daughter to cast a fishing rod, encouraging & answering her questions on how to cast out further after the hook landed only a metre from shore. Cheeky grins lit up their faces, co-conspirators in adventure, as they paddled across the Sandon River to look for shells together on Plover Island. And together we watched as she peddled off on her bike with her new camping best friends, memories of our own childhood camping adventures resurfacing with each squeal of delight & ringing bell that drifted on salty air across the campground.

The beauty of camping lies in the simple moments. Shoes are optional. Hair tangles & knots in the salty air, the hair brush ignored in the bottom of a bag. Showers, warmed by the sun, hang from a tree branch ready to trickle water over sunscreen clad bodies. After a day of swimming & exploring, as adults all over the campground spread out a newspaper or book, a cool drink in hand, & campfires crackle to life, the campground kids converge on the nearest hammock to see how many of them can fit in at once… And how high they can swing it. There are goannas to stalk & kookaburras to cackle at.  


There are games of hide-n-seek to play. And when the colour begins to fade from the day, adults & kids tramp down to the beach together to watch nature’s scheduled show: the moon rising above the crash of waves, the orange glow stepping down wave by wave until it reaches the shore & the light creeps closer to our toes on the incoming tide. For a moment the chatter stops. But the sting & slap of mozzies soon breaks the peace & we all head back to the fire. Then there are marshmallows to burn & sparklers to twirl. 

And when it’s time to pack up camp & say goodbye, soft echoes of “I don’t want to go home” or “I wish we could stay camping forever” float among the sounds of folding tarps & tents collapsing. Maybe one day we will pack it all in to live wild & free. But, until then, our consolation lies in the pull of the wild, it’s in our blood now, we’ll be camping again before we know it.


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