And baby makes three

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - LOUISE STE­WART

EVEN an out­ing to the su­per­mar­ket can be am­bi­tious with a new­born. I have three nap­pies, a small squeak­ing gi­raffe and a spare shirt for me in my hand­bag. Which, it turns out, I need be­fore we get to the front door. Sod it, din­ner tonight will be fish fin­gers with a side of olives.

Five months later, how­ever, I amitch­ing to es­cape our in­ner-city Syd­ney en­clave. The only moun­tains I’ve seen are those of laun­dry. And so Jon and I de­cide to take our first hol­i­day with daugh­ter Florence.

We want a three-night break within a two-hour drive and find just the place on Stayz.com.au. For $200 a night, we can have the run of an old tim­ber house sur­rounded by noth­ing but bush­land.

Pack­ing is a feat of lo­gis­tics. We­have now be­come the cliched cou­ple in a city car ad­ver­tise­ment. Into a hatch­back we squeeze a travel cot, pram, baby car seat, as­sorted ab­sorbent ac­cou­trements and enough baby clothes for the most vom­i­tous days. Florence’s stuff en­gulfs the boot and back seat. Ours fits in the footwell.

The trip starts promis­ingly. The ca-donk-ca-donk sound of the con­crete free­way lulls Florence to sleep. We get to our turn-off and wind through the bush, glid­ing round moun­tain­ous bends. Nowweare that cliched cou­ple in an SUV ad­ver­tise­ment. Mean­while, mo­bile re­cep­tion is drop­ping off: four bars, two bars, none. Google Maps is no more. Con­nec­tiv­ity nil. I re­alise I should have writ­ten down the ad­dress. We have no red pin to guide us. No pul­sat­ing blue dot to re­as­sure us we ex­ist. If a tree falls in a for­est with­out In­sta­gram, does it ex­ist?

We push on, free from the shack­les (oh safe, re­li­able shack­les) of the mod­ern world; nav­i­gat­ing by in­tu­ition we find the house. It’s per­fectly lovely. The orig­i­nal build­ing has stood for more than 100 years. Re­cent ad­di­tions in­clude a wide deck and swim­ming pool fringed by rocks, com­plete with sun­bathing goanna.

Af­ter un­pack­ing we sit on the deck to have a vic­tory beer. Rain be­gins to fall nois­ily on the cor­ru­gated tin roof. A tree-cov­ered moun­tain rises from the mist in front of us and we can’t see an­other house. If peace is what we were af­ter, we have found it.

Of course, peace takes on a new mean­ing with a bub, and it’s not long be­fore the baby wran­gling be­gins again. But here there’s a dif­fer­ent hall­way to pace and the space and seren­ity give my mind what it needs to de­clut­ter. We spend our day curled on the sofa read­ing, cook­ing for plea­sure and mak­ing plans for our fu­ture as a fam­ily.

That evening I lo­cate the vis­i­tors book to scour the en­tries for tips on how to make the best use of our pre­cious days here. The words leap off the page — ticks, leeches, spi­ders. In­deed, creepy crawlies are a com­mon theme. Hol­i­day-mak­ers have been sav­aged by mos­qui­toes, ‘‘com­muned a lit­tle too closely with na­ture’’ and one fam­ily has even come across fun­nel webs in the pool.

I must be alert, not alarmed. And so that night, while Florence and Jon snooze bliss­fully un­aware, I re­main sleep­less, in a state of high alert. Are those pos­sums on the roof? Are they at­tracted by baby poo? Can mice scale a travel cot? Surely their lit­tle claws would make light work of the mesh sides seem­ingly de­signed to fa­cil­i­tate the as­cent of ro­dents?

With the dawn comes re­lief from such noc­tur­nal non­sense, ex­tin­guished by Florence’s smil­ing dial. She chuck­les as I pick her up from the mouse-free cot and re­minds me that when trav­el­ling with lit­tle ones, you should just re­lax and go with the Flo.

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