Baby goes bushwalking and keeps parents on track
THE FAMILY TOURIST A toddle in the Blue Mountains could require an overnight bivouac, supply drop and support team
WE are standing on top of a spectacular waterfall, looking over ancient escarpments; less than three hours earlier I was hanging yet another load of tiny clothes on the washing line.
We are in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with our nine-month-old, Florence. She’s riding high in her sporty Outdoor Baby carrier on my partner Jon’s back, her head swivelling from side to side, like a tiny owl watching tennis.
After the best part of a year of baby wrangling, it is definitely time to get some fresh air and reconnect with mother nature.
It will probably be our last chance for a while. Once toddlers start toddling, they want to use their newly acquired mobility skills all the time. What should be a simple five-minute walk to the corner shop can become an hourlong round trip as they stop to look at, take a sniff of and, worryingly, taste everything they find.
A toddle in the Blue Mountains could require an overnight bivouac, supply drop and support team.
Setting out from the Wentworth Falls picnic area, the cicadas are deafening. I cover Florence’s ears with my hands and see other bushwalkers doing the same — for themselves, that is.
There is something unnerving about the piercing calls of cicadas, as if they are warning us about a danger we are yet to discover. But we shouldn’t be alarmed. Their volume is simply a function of unusually high numbers this summer and since they only have a few short days to find a mate, the competition is fiercely loud.
The din subsides as we descend into the cool and ferny glens of the Jamieson Valley. Jon strides ahead with his 10.2kg high-riding cargo of cuteness, ducking extra low to clear the overhanging rocks.
He’s regaling me with cheery anecdotes from his (alleged) previous life as a climber/hiker/mountain biker. I’m walking a few paces behind, like a paranoid back-seat driver, watching for hazards as Florence bounces high on her father’s shoulders. ‘‘Mind that rock! Watch for the branches!’’
We reach Queens Cascade after 45 minutes of fairly easy walking on this ‘‘moderate’’ track that is a little up-anddown with some steps in a few parts but easily navigable when carrying a baby or with kids in tow.
The water bubbles — well, cascades really — over tiered rocks before coming to rest in a large, sandy pool. Stepping stones and a fence cross the calm water and I almost expect a gang of small pointy-eared forest creatures to emerge from behind a rock, such is the storybook-perfect scene.
On the other side of the fence, however, is the 187m drop of Wentworth Falls.
At this point we are glad Florence is secure in her extreme sport strappings and not running around like a drunken pixie (which, at the time of writing, has become her preferred style).
There are fences, of course, but 187m is a long way down.
The Blue Mountains region is full of these wondrous and easily accessible spots and as we climb through the forest on our way back we resolve to return soon, perhaps to Govett’s Leap, Mount Victoria or the Grose Valley.
It’s hard to put into words the value of such trips — the fresh air, the sweeping vistas, the glory of nature. We know the cliches, but when you are at home with an infant most of your waking life, the restorative powers of places such as Wentworth Falls take on new significance.
Well, they did for Florence’s mother on this occasion. Jon was busy dreaming about mountain bikes.