Trip of a lifetime

Thursday 25 September 2014 05.05 PM

Well, that’s not strictly true in my case. I could be tempted. Although my next ‘trip of a lifetime’, so to speak, would be better timed: visiting the temperate parts of Australia in the middle of the southern winter isn’t ideal – the weather was quite cold and it got dark at about 5.15pm

As Tim Vine once said, I just got back from the trip of a lifetime. Tell you what – never again.

Well, that’s not strictly true in my case. I could be tempted. Although my next ‘trip of a lifetime’, so to speak, would be better timed: visiting the temperate parts of Australia in the middle of the southern winter isn’t ideal – the weather was quite cold and it got dark at about 5.15pm. It was a great holiday, but I must admit that we’d built our expectations up so ridiculously high it was always going to be a challenge to live up to them. (Our family holiday is usually a two-week camping trip in France, so a month away on the other side of the world was a pretty big deal!)
 

Blue Mountain view, near Katoomba
We arrived in Sydney in sparkling sunshine on their warmest winter day for 30 years (26 degrees, no less). Sadly the warmth didn’t last. And from then on, even after the jetlag had worn off, it wasn’t easy to get everyone up early and out into the cold morning air. Problem was, with the daylight issue, if we weren’t heading out the door by, say, 9.30am, options were limited. On those occasions when we did succeed, when we were up in the Blue Mountains or on the wild coastline of South Australia, it was fantastic. We spent two memorable days hiking around Katoomba in the 'Blueies' under sunny skies, enjoying the huge panoramas and tramping through deep, dark gorges. Spotting wild kangaroos for the first time (the Megalong valley is the place) was a thrill. There’s lots of outdoors stuff to do there other than hiking – rock climbing and mountain biking for example - but we couldn't fit it all in.
Forest trail in the Blue Mountains
Australian trails are very well maintained, with steps and a few sections of handrail even in remote locations. This is a good thing for overall accessibility, of course, though it does detract from the wilderness feel at times. The other slight oddity is the time estimates they put on the signposts: a 5km circuit is estimated to require 2 hours 15 minutes. We did it in less than half that – with dawdling teenagers. Another one was described as ‘strenuous’ and 2 hours: I did that one by myself, I was going quite fast but it took 40 minutes and was very easy.
 
Winter in Queensland. Ellis Beach north of Cairns
We spent an all-too-brief amount of time in Queensland, too – the tropical coast around Cairns. Winter is the best season there, at least, although we got unlucky as it rained heavily on the first day up at Cape Tribulation: we did some zip-wiring through the dripping jungle - hideously expensive (£240 for the four of us for about 45 minutes) but fun. Further south in Mission Beach the weather was glorious, the water off the 15km-long, palm-lined beach clear and warm. Fair-sized waves, too, which made for some entertaining body surfing and kayaking.

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