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

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

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.

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