Family Travels

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The Blue Mountains: three valleys in one weekend

The Blue Mountains: three valleys in one weekend

Amazing yet true, we managed to explore three of the Blue Mountains magnificent valleys in just two days. Well, not extensively with four kids in tow, but by foot and horseback we did cover a fair expanse of ground.

The drive to the Blue Mountains from Sydney is much shorter than it used to be and I expect it'll be a lot shorter when they finish the roadworks on the M2 freeway.

That said, the journey in the new Ford Territory is a smooth one. The kids, happily ensconced in the back seats, fall asleep before getting car-sick so it's a pleasant 90 minute drive to Wentworth Falls.

The Territory proves perfect for a family weekender. There's enough room for four kids and all their paraphernalia — with enough storage space and power outlets for all to share. No iPod went uncharged and no drink was short of a cup-holder. And there's plenty of room for the luggage, even with the rear seats in use.

Our accommodation in Wentworth Falls is a gorgeous little cottage called The Dairy. A fragrant English country garden greets us, complete with daffodils, snow drops and jonquils and we're sold on the place before we walk through the front door.

The Dairy is nearly 100 years old and has been decorated beautifully. It's so cosy that it seems like somebody resides here. It's spacious enough for our large brood — the dining table seats 10 — and it has a delightfully eclectic collection of books and DVDs.

Saturday morning arrives and after a fry-up we head for Megalong Valley for our first trek of the weekend — on horseback. Kathy Tucker, who runs Werriberri Trail Rides, has promised horses for riders of all levels of experience (and we certainly are a mixed half-dozen in terms of riding experience).

She is true to her word — the horses are all very sweet-tempered and well looked after. Kathy is able to tell us each horse's history, and being a bit of a horse-tragic, I'm a keen listener. Mary, 10, gets Billy, a 30-year-old quarter horse and former cutting competition champion, and I get to ride Bonnie, who regularly wins ribbons at gymkana when she's not busy in her day-job.

The group of horses that greets us is also delightfully varied in size. From the enormous Clydesdale offered to my partner to an Icelandic pony not much larger than a Shetland proffered to the youngest of our troupe.

The Megalong Valley is surely at its finest. Wattle blooms all around us and the views of the surrounding escarpments are magnificent. Two hours pass a bit too quickly, but we all gain enough confidence to canter a few times so everybody's happy.

We head back up the escarpment to Blackheath and gobble down some lunch while admiring the view from Govett's Leap of our next valley — Grose Valley. Inspired by the view we decide to head down for a closer look.

It's tough-going, and I'm wearing inappropriate footwear (I still have riding boots on). But the kids are in their element with the mix of rocks to clamber over, ladders and mud. It's very wet, with water literally seeping out of the cliff face at every turn.

Our destination, Bridal Veil Falls, doesn't disappoint and we manage a few happy snaps in front of it before the long trek back up the cliff face.

Back at the cottage, I don't believe I've ever seen my kids eat so much and so quickly for dinner, and still ask for dessert having licked their bowls.

We opt for a slightly easier walking route the next day — downhill. We start at Scenic World, heading off on a round-trip that begins with the Skyway cable car which takes us over to the opposite cliff to Prince Henry Cliff Walk.

From there, we walk to Echo Point before heading down the Giant Stairway into Jamison Valley, around the Three Sisters, past Katoomba Falls to the bottom of the Scenic Railway.

The Giant Stairway is steep and narrow — and certainly not recommended for those suffering vertigo, but the scariest part is near the top by the short bridge across to the first sister which is invariably packed with tourists.

Trying to squeeze past this lot is far scarier than the dizzying heights and precipitous ledges further on (it's best to visit early in the day to avoid the crowds).

The valley itself is incredibly peaceful — and surrounded by temperate rainforest and bird-song we follow the cliff-face around to Katoomba Falls and on to Scenic World — for an ascent far easier than yesterday's in the cable car.

So, three valleys in two days and we have between us no injuries other than my slightly aching upper thighs (damn those boots).

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