Last summer, my cousins and I planned a camping trip to Mt Kosciuszko, as we did every few summers. Lightning storms were forecasted and the trip had to be relocated as one of our friends had a metal plate in his arm. We decided to change our camping location to Wolgan Valley, closer to home and near the Glow Worm Tunnel Walk. Twenty four hours before the trip, bushfires erupted in that area of the Blue Mountains. Running out of options and time, texting alternative tracks close to midnight, we settled on the Berowra to Cowan section of the Great North Walk, the section frequented by Seven Summit enthusiasts and ultra marathon runners.
I thought that the boulders along the Berowra Waters section of the walk were the perfect free rock climbing playground for my five year old daughter so I shortened the route from my initial trip with my cousins, making the walk as kid and parent friendly as possible. By autumn, me, my daughter, and my friend Mia, set off on our inaugural Girls Only Berowra Waters Scramble. Our itinerary for our weekender was simple:
- Lunch at Berowra Waters Fish Cafe
- Catch the ferry and walk 3.2 km up to Ridge Top Camp Ground
- Set up camp, have dinner, sleep
- Breakfast at the campsite
- Walk back down 3.2 km to Berowra Waters
- Lunch at A Chef Secrets
- Catch the ferry and drive home
Runners made themselves known to our trio, soft ploddings on the ground carried by even puffs, getting louder and louder, culminating to friendly breathless hellos and encouragement for my daughter as they neared then disappeared. We were in no hurry as we still had a good five hours of the autumn sun ahead of us.
The short yet drastically steep ascent was painful, but we were rewarded with instant views of the Hawkesbury River and the satisfying knowledge that we covered a lot of ground in just a few steep steps and boulder-hugging scrambles. Mia and I kept going, slow and steady, catching up on life updates and pondering existential questions that have moved us since we last caught up a few months prior. Long breaks between boulder after boulder, we encouraged and challenged Miss 5, mindful that we were opening new possibilities to our brave yet inexperienced 5-year-old.
We arrived at the campsite at 3 pm, pleasantly surprised with our speed and at a loss on what to do with the remaining three hours of daylight. With only cup noodles and marshmallows to prepare, we settled on gathering firewood for our campfire then setting up our tent.
At 4 pm, light softening to afternoon yellow, repeated clicks on the Jetboil yielded no flame. The firewood and kindling set up for maximum oxygen penetration sat neatly stacked, lacking the matches or a lighter to start the fire! As I questioned Mia about Jetboil fuel levels, suggested the travesty of having dry noodles and uncooked marshmallows for dinner, and contemplated accosting passing walkers for a lighter, Mia refused to give up. She worked out, with Google, that slight adjustments needed to be made to the igniter. A few minutes of face-twisting metal bending and we welcomed whooshing Jetboil flames. Another few more minutes and the Jetboil flames were replicated on our campfire.
That night, Mia and I continued catching up, while Miss 5 slept, oblivious to our musings. As we talked, orange light glowed outside of our tent – embers reignited to slowly burn and a crackle for a few more hours. After all talk seized, I lay content taking stock of almost two decades of friendship with Mia marked by new endeavors, adventures, and dilemmas dissected, analysed, supported, debated, celebrated, or commiserated in phone calls, texts, and long catch-ups.
As we retraced our steps back down to Berowra Waters, the steep scrambling from the day before turned to vertical drops. As a parent, I held my breath a few times ready to hold on to Miss 5’s hands or any available body part as she descended. But I couldn’t and I didn’t, knowing first hand how empowering it is to find your own footholds and committing to your own line, in life, and in rock climbing. Mia was also conveniently leading, sharing my parenting style, and ready to catch and cushion any falls of which there was only one – at a flat section with loose gravel.
This is a hard track for adults and for kids alike, but with preparation and patience, it is worth the weekend scramble. I thought to bring Miss 5 back in summer to immerse her in cicada song, but we ended up coming back two months later in winter when work camping plans fell through. Minus Mia who was baking in the warmth of Singapore, this time Miss 5 and I made sure to pack not one, but two boxes of matches.