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A surprise holiday

Posted on: January 16, 2013

After Christmas, Tom, the kids and I settled in for what we thought was going to be our usual quiet New Year’s, spent at home doing nothing much.

But then I received a text from a friend, inviting us to come away for a few days with a whole bunch of other families, and I was like, “Yes way!”

So, with only a couple days’ notice, we bundled up some food and clothes and sheets and towels and swimmers, and made our way to Pittwater YHA, in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Access to the site is by ferry only, and then walking. Up hill. Yep.

Without kids and luggage for five, it might have taken 15 minutes, but with those little mites and all their stuff it took closer to an hour. The trip up was equally taxing on mind and body, because with each laboured step, carrying 20kg on our backs and another 10kg in our arms, we also had to be motivational speakers, encouraging, wheedling, imploring our three children to just get their own little bodies to the top of the dratted hill. We only made it about three quarters of the way up before having to dump most of the stuff and carry the youngest up the rest of the way. Then Tom went back with a wheel barrow for the rest.

The journey up was such an ordeal that I was beginning to think it was all a huge mistake. What were we thinking, bringing three small kids out into the wilderness, where we would have to keep them entertained, and keep them safe, for four whole days? And obviously we knew nothing about camping, because we had definitely brought too much stuff! We were going to look like idiots at the top.

However, when we finally, finally made it, I began to change my mind. For starters, the view was just spectacular.


There was such a sense of tranquility about the place that I immediately started to feel better. The long hike was definitely worth it.

I found my friend and we were shown to our room, which was basic, hostel-style, with three sets of bunks. The kids straight away clamboured up and claimed a top bunk each (even Neave), and, too exhausted to argue, we let them at it. Having staked their claims, they took off outside and soon found some friends to play while we settled in.

Throughout the afternoon, a few more sweaty-faced families arrived, each shaking their heads and proclaiming they had brought too much and wasn’t that hill a stinker? It was good to know we weren’t alone.

Having spied a hammock hanging on the deck outside that just beckoned to me, I struck a deal with Tom: if I took the kids swimming that afternoon while he had a rest, then he could do something with them the next day while the hammock and I got acquainted. Deal.

Swimming, however, required walking back down the hill, and then turning off down another hill, about half way to the wharf. Despite this, getting the kids down to the water was easy. When we arrived, they swam and paddled in the warm water of the Hawkesbury river for a while. Then came the hard part: coaxing them back up the hill. It wasn’t as arduous as the first trip, but I still had to carry Neave most of the way, while encouraging Molly to keep walking and preventing Tiernan from poking anyone in the eye with the sticks and rocks he was collecting. But, we made it in the end.

By late afternoon, there were eight families at the site, with about 15 children, ranging in age from 1 to 9. Tiernan was right at home with a group of five boys, all aged five and about to start school. With one older boy of nearly seven as their ring leader, they got on like a house on fire and he was never bored the entire time we were away. Molly was just as happy to hang out with a group of slightly older girls, who were lovely and eager to include her. Neave hung around us mostly, but she did join in with the others on occasion, and also played nicely with a little girl who was about her age, every now and then.

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Once the kids were asleep that night we had the opportunity to chat a while with the other adults, and we met some really lovely people. I always find it very encouraging to meet other parents and discover that pretty much everyone is muddling along with the whole parenting thing, and really just trying to do their best. And their best is no better or worse than our best. Phew.

The next day, we attempted a walk along a fire trail in the bush, but after many tantrums and much screaming by both Molly and Neave, the girls and I bailed out while Tom and Tiernan continued. We figured to wallabies, goannas and other wildlife deserved their peace.


Later that afternoon it was Tom’s turn to go swimming with the kids while I enjoyed some hammock time, with my book and a cup of tea. I also started preparing our contribution to the communal New Year’s Feast that was scheduled for that evening. Our bags were so heavy because we had brought several tins of cannelleni beans and tomatoes for a baked bean dish, with bacon and maple syrup. It was super yummy, and well worth the effort of carrying them all that way. Dinner that night was just lovely, with a great selection of dishes made by each family. I think we were all pretty full by the end.

The kids enjoyed sparklers before being tucked into bed around nine, while the adults cleaned up, had pavlova and cheese cake for dessert, drank wine, and crashed by 11.



On New Year’s Day, Tom and I bravely took the kids kayaking across the river to the beach for a picnic. I say bravely because it was the first time we have ever attempted such a thing, and solo kayaking a double kayak laden with one or two kids and baggage, across deep water, choc-a-block with yachts and jellyfish, was more than a little nerve-wracking. Did I mention none of the kids can swim? However, we all made it across safe and dry, and it was a lot if fun. I enjoyed the kayaking part most of all. A bit different to rowing, but using similar muscles and it was nice to be able to see where I was going for a change!. The kids had a great time at the beach, ‘catching’ jelly blubbers (the dead ones that washed ashore), and spying a massive goanna, on the prowl for food.

After an early dinner, we took the kids for a walk (up more hills) to the look out for some more stunning views.


The following day, it was time to say goodbye to our new friends, pack up our things, and head back down the hill for the last time. Like always, we didn’t leave quite enough time to comfortably make the ferry, so much of the trip was made at a frantic, scurrying run, laden as we were with bags, children, eskies, and food containers. At least they were empty this time. Miraculously, we somehow all got to the bottom in one piece, and in time for the ferry.

All in all, our surprise holiday was pretty great, and we are definitely hoping to be invited back next year. Although, to save our backs next time, we will have to either re-think our menu, or invest in some pack mules for the trip up the hill!

2 Responses to "A surprise holiday"

Oh, how lovely! I’ve been wanting to take ours camping for some time now, but I’ve never really been sure they’re ready. It’s good to see that it can be done! And you were VERY brave to take them out on the kayaks; I’m not sure I could have done, even with life jackets and Gemini being a right fish in water. (I don’t even want to think about poor Libra, who considers himself half-drowned if he has to leave the safety of the steps down into the pool at the gym.)

(also ps, hello again!)

I have contemplated this trip a few times Anna, but we have always been otherwise occupied (usually being at in-laws during this time). I must admit that we are not camping types either and the thought of that hill is a scary one with the kids and luggage. However… it seems that the end justified the means and maybe we’ll see you there one year?

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