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Blue Mountains and Breaking Down

Or ‘In Which We Tried to go to the Jenolan Caves and ended up Visiting a Stranger’s Long Departed Grandmother’

Hellllo My Cherubic Vagabonds

One of the things I love about living where I do is the amount of amazing places I can drive to for a day trip.  Sydney, Canberra, Blue Mountains and Heatherbrae Pies to name a few.  Though Canberra is for those special occasions that you feel like driving 3 hours each way.

As I’ve said before, I love giving a good surprise.  And with 2 of my children away, I decided it was time for some surprise quality time with our youngest.  (Now I say it like that, it kind of sounds a little bit like it’s…not-quite-welcome quality time I’m trying t force on her by stealth.)

I discussed it with hubby the night before and we decided to take her to the Blue Mountains for on overnight trip to investigate the Jenolan Caves.  I booked a hotel (one of the only ones available at such short notice) and packed the car up while our daughter was asleep.

The next morning I packed a picnic and told her that we were going for a drive to explore.  Knowing it was a long drive to get out the other side of Sydney where we were planning to stop at an old cemetery (a thing she loooves to do) I had her pack a few things to do in the car in case she got bored.

Off we set.

All was going swimmingly for the first hour of our journey.  Then we got to Carlingford.

It is about this point in the story where things go horribly wrong.  Both hubby and I looked at each other and said ‘Our car shouldn’t be doing that’.  And mere seconds later we were pulled over at a service station with the hood up and looks of this-would-be-funny-if-it-weren’t-such-an….no-its-almost-funny were running across our faces.


After a call to the NRMA we settled in to wait for a mechanic to come out to us.  I explained to Ash what we had been trying to do for her and together we laughed about how ridiculously wrong my surprise had gone.  We stopped laughing when we saw the public bathrooms and vowed not to drink anything just in case we needed them.

Not long after (but it felt like forever at the time) a mechanic came out to help us.  He did not, however, have good news for us after he looked under the hood.  The water pump had gone and we would need a new one. Not something he could do at the servo for us.

If there is anything hubby and I are good at it is talking.  By the time the mechanic delivered his dreadful news hubby had already become firm (temporary) friends with him.  I asked if there was any way we would be back on the road that day and sadly, there would not.  We opted to get our car towed and hire a rental car to get home, bringing our surprise trip to an abrupt end.  I got on the phone and cancelled our hotel reservation.

A moment later the mechanic looked around the hood and asked “Have you cancelled your reservation yet?”
“Yeah.  I just did it”
“Do you think you can call them back and get it again?”
“Probably.  Why’s that?”
“I just called a friend who has a shop around the corner and he can have you back on the road by 5 pm if you still want to go.”  He.  Called. A. Friend.  Oh my goodness.  What an amazing man.

I jumped in the car and back on the phone to get our reservation back.  We followed the NRMA guy (very slowly with our patched up busted water pump) around the corner to his mechanic mate’s shop to get a new water pump and wait for 6 hours.

“If you go down that road you’ll get to a shopping centre if you want to wait there, or there is a park across the road.”  Before he went out to the next call he was making sure we were going to be amused for the next 6 hours.  What a sweetheart.  “Or if you go next door you can visit my Grandma.”

….. huh.  That was unexpected.

“It’s okay”, he said. “We lost her a couple of years ago.  She’s buried in the cemetery right there.”

Now, that might not sound fortuitous to anyone else, but it certainly was to us.  Not the dead grandma thing – that is sad.  The cemetery thing – that is fortuitous.  I was overjoyed.  The first stop in the mountains I was planning to make was a cemetery that dated back to colonial days.  Ash loves wandering around cemeteries and wondering about the lives that were lived.  Even with the unscheduled adventure in the middle of our trip I would be able to take my baby to do what I had planned.

But first – lunch.

We grabbed the picnic basket and went across the road to the park for a bite to eat.  Although it wasn’t as it was planned, we had some wonderful family time, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.  A massive Sherlock, Torchwood and Doctor Who fan, I grabbed my phone and delighted Ash by quizzing her on trivia about her favourite fictional men.  FYI – my little nerdling rocked it!  Then went and had a hot chocolate up a tree.  She is both nerd and monkey is equal measures.

After a lovely family picnic we packed up and went across to the cemetery.  She could not have been happier!  It was a gorgeous, slightly overgrown in places, Lebanese Catholic cemetery the likes of which she had never seen before.  Ornate, gold trimmed headstones, stories about the people inset behind glass, personal tributes. It was a lovely hour imagining the lives that were lead and discussing the ones left behind.

We waited the last of our time until the car was ready at the onsite cafe and after many hours and many more dollars handed over, we were back on the road and on our way to the planned adventure.

As we drove further into the mountains the air started to cool down dramatically.  It had snowed up here recently and the temperatures had plummeted.  As it had gotten dark shortly after we left the mechanic Ash really didn’t know where we were and got the shock of a lifetime when her dad suggested she touch the window (we’re cruel parents like that).  The cold started to seep in and although we had the heater running full bore it paid to keep a little distance between exposed skin and the windows.

Eventually we got to Oberon and pulled up outside the hotel.  The fog was dense enough it had started to feel like drizzle and was pricking at our skin as we stepped out of the car.  The icy wind was so lazy it went straight through us rather than going around.

We opened the door and the warmth from the roaring fire spilled out over us.  I have never been so happy to open a door in my life.  We tumbled in to the spacious reception area of the Titania Motel and as hubby and I booked us in, Ash toasted herself by the fire.

After readying our room by turning on the electric blankets and the heater, we went back downstairs and had a particularly lovely Indian meal at the little homey restaurant on site.

Back upstairs I pulled out the movie I had bought as a surprise for Ash and we all cuddled into our bed to watch the Lego Movie (don’t judge – SPACESHIP!), snuggle and listen to the wind rattle the windows.

The next day we rugged up warm and headed out to the Jenolan Caves – the real reason we had brought Ash up here.  And me for that matter.  Having not grown up in NSW, I had not been for the obligatory school excursion to the caves.

I can’t speak highly enough of the Jenolan Caves.  A spectacular sight and well worth the love and laughter it took to get there the day before.  The drive through the countryside to the caves is just lovely, the gorgeous old buildings make it feel like stepping into another world, stunning decorations adorn the rock faces in the caves and there are knowledgeable guides.  We spent as much time exploring this magical place as we could before heading home to a world of reality, full of jobs and commitments.

All in all, not the exact get away we had planned, but nevertheless, it was an exceptionally wonderful (yet much more expensive) break together.  And if nothing else – we had a story we had to tell over coffee with friends.  How many breakdown stories did that make now….?  What disaster have you had that turned a planned short get away into an unexpected adventure?

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