Chapter Two: The Journey

Chapter One is back here.

I did forget to mention that during the process of packing I had made a cup of tea which had gone stone cold. I reheated it in the microwave and as I pulled it out realised just how hot I had made it but instead of just releasing thought I could get it to the other side of the kitchen and drop it in the sink rather than making a mess on the bench and in the nuker. Idiot. The burn on my left thumb was impressive, resulting in a massive blister taking up much of the top third of the finger. Awesome.

So, with injured hand, dubious packing and questionable food stuffs in tow we set off to Wombeyan Caves.

According to the official NSW Parks and Wildlife website, the caves are a mere 2 1/2 hours from Sydney through Mittagong or 3 through Goulburn. They give you a mild heads up that the trip via Mittagong includes “some steep winding roads”.

Chef had, in something eerily similar to his father, printed off a detailed set of directions including estimated times and distances of each section.

We thought it curious that the section between Mittagong and the caves, a mere 48kms (30miles), was given 1.5 hours to complete.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First, we pull out of the driveway and about two blocks down the “I’m hungry” brigade starts up. Twenty minutes into the trip we go PAST our turn-off so as to satisfy the hordes at the nearest McDonalds. It is a rule in this house that any major road trip must feature McDonalds within the first half hour of the journey.

I know. We’re moments from living permanently in a caravan and chewing tobacco.

Anyway, “food” is distributed and we get back to the task of actually going on holidays.

Then we stop. On a motorway. Several times. Because EVERYONE else is leaving Sydney too. That and the roadworks always required on a motorway only built a couple of years ago because of course it wasn’t built with enough lanes in the first place. Idiots. We even chat to people in cars around us. Tragic.

We get moving again. Finally and before you know it, we’re in Mittagong.

Somewhere in the previous two and a half hours – because that is how long it’s taken us just to get to Mittagong and YES, apparently we should be at the campsite setting up our tent by now because Wombeyan Caves is “a short, spectacular drive from Sydney…” – Chef chuckles as he reveals he forgot to put the gas bottle in*.

I confess we’re going to have to buy the boys more socks.

I point out we forgot to go to Chef’s parents to get their camping table. We have a small bridge table packed which we normally use as a bench, prep table so it wasn’t a disastrous omission.

As we were leaving I realised that we’d run out of nappies. I had some pull-ups left over from toilet training days of Jasper that would have to tide us over. We’re going camping with a 21 month old and I have forgotten to buy nappies. Awesome.

We agree that a trip to Goulburn is going to be unavoidable on Easter Saturday.

Then we reach the Wombeyan Caves turn off. This “road”. This ” short, spectacular drive” with “some steep winding roads” turns out to be – as the Head Ranger will later say – up there with some of the worst

It’s unsealed (ie dirt). There are sheer drop-offs to gullies below. Sheer walls of rock up the other side. It’s all only wide enough for one and a half cars. There are large rocks scattered on the road that have clearly f.a.l.l.e.n. off the cliffs. It is hairpin bend after hairpin bend down mountains, across valley floors and back up around mountains again.

It is spectacular.

It takes an hour and a half.

Chef and I keep joking that there better still be campsites available once we get there. (You can’t book)

When we finally reach the campsite the place is heaving. The Easter weekend is its busiest time of the year and as we drive around desperately searching for a spot to set up camp we get the distinct feeling that everyone else has been coming here for decades.

We’re not joking anymore.

We eventually find a spot and just kind of ignore the “no camping, no campfires” sign because the site is nice and flat, relatively close to one of the amenities blocks and someone else is setting up a tent closer to the sign than we are (technically we are camping before the sign and therefore its message).

The people next to us seem OK and have two boys about the same age as Oscar and Felix. It looks good until the mother says to us, ‘I hope none of them are early risers’. Chef laughs at her. Bless him. She mutters something about how there’ll be a lot of swearing if one of them wakes her up. Um, welcome to camping lady.

Critical to pitching a tent is a game of footy. Note Jasper with the mallet.

The boys are excited, Chef and I are relieved and the location? Is just divine.

It is a long valley with tall poplars lining the road through the campsite to the caves. There’s a wide open green field for cricket, footy and grazing kangaroos. There’s tennis courts built in 1956 which have not had a spec of work done of them since. The camp kitchen and rec room were built in the 70s, as was the amenities block near us. The one further down was built in the 60s. The whole feel of the place is endearing.

Our three room tent which is fantastic. Whole thing was up in about half an hour.

It is, however, starting to drizzle and by now it’s almost 5pm. We’re moving fast to get this tent up and to get our stuff in for fear the drizzle turns to a downpour. We needn’t have worried, there were plenty of drizzles before the downpours.


And the scrag camping beside us? Who was setting up at the same time? Was still trying to feed poles through when we were unpacking the car into the tent. Smugness is such an ugly thing.

The Ranger had visited us by now and was cool about where we had camped – he said when it was this busy they just sort of turn a blind eye to it. We realised later on that there was another whole section further up the valley where there would have been room, but we were pegged in by now. Haha. Pegged in. Geddit!

Dinner was sausages cooked in the camp kitchen (thank goodness as otherwise it would have been breadrolls w/ vegemite) with breadrolls and then essentially it was time for bed.

Don’t be fooled. Bed does not equal sleep.

* Chuckling was the natural response as he had actually put the gas bottle in and even showed me its special little spot and how he could occi strap it down and keep it safe blah blah blah. It was then taken out to pack everything else

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