Towards the tail-end of the summer holidays, we decided to cram all five kids into the car and head for the Blue Mountains for a few days of adventure. Five kids, four days, one room… what could go wrong? Actually – hardly anything. A few days of fresh air, quite a bit of physical exertion and five happy kids at the end of it.
We crammed so much in, in fact, that this blog comes in bite-size pieces – one day at a time. Here’s part one.
We set off nice and early in our borrowed 7-seater, heading first to our first day’s bit of exertion: a ride through Megalong Valley with Centennial Glen Stables.
The top of the mountain is shrouded in mist and rain but as we wind down into the valley, the mist clears and eventually reveals the stables, surrounded by fields populated with very pretty looking horses.
We’re each matched up with horses, helped in to the saddle and the kids are given a little refresher on how to sit and hold the reigns. I like this detail. Our guide Jim Commens taking care of each detail carefully, making sure the kids are feeling confident and comfortable.
We head out through the paddocks, past horses and the odd cow, making time for a little practice trot before heading into the forest.
The landscape changes every few minutes as we wind through the trees and after we’ve had a few canters through wide open spaces we’re asked if we’d like to go the adventurous route, or the REALLY adventurous route.
“The REALLY REALLY adventurous route,” says everyone with us who’s not yet grown up.
The little goat path we’re then taken on gets narrower and windier and the horses pick their way through it like troopers.
It’s a beautiful track, that leads us eventually back to the stables just in time for lunch. Check out the video and just HOW MUCH fun we had!
And so we head back up the mountain for chocolate…
Back up in Katoomba it’s still pretty misty (and rainy) so after checking in to our digs – the Blue Mountains YHA – we head for nearby Gingerbread House.
The Gingerbread House is a repurposed and renovated old church, now a café and sweet shop serving up classics like gingerbeer floats, creaming soda spiders and malted milkshakes.
We choose a selection of freshly baked delights including an extremely indulgent white chocolate cheesecake, chocolate brownies, choc salted caramel cake and Mexican chocolate cake.
While the kids hoe into their milk shakes and spiders, we get chatting to Jody van der Veldon, the passionate chocolatier behind this new establishment.
Everything here is made from fresh, natural and ethically sourced ingredients. The selection of soft drinks on offer includes naturally brewed flavours from Bundaberg and even the cola is organic Fair Trade.
A note for the single-use-plastic aware – no Coca-Cola on sale here, no bottled water – no plastic bottles at all actually – and waxed paper straws.
We’re so taken in by Jody’s passion for chocolate that we decide to visit her shop and factory, Josophan’s Fine Chocolates, in Leura. Jodie very kindly shows us around her kitchen.
She lets us taste a few different flavours (you have GOT to try the choc-mint), shows us how everything is made – even how they make those delicate patterns on the peanut butter cups.
Jody also explains the difference between real hazelnut praline and Nutella and teaches the kids about the evils of palm oil.
When Jody started this business she stayed up all night making chocolates while her children slept. Now both her daughters work with her and share her passion. The name “Josophan” is an anagram her name blended with her two daughters’ names.
It’s reminiscent of Chocolat, that wonderful movie starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. All that’s missing are the gypsies. But our kids are looking pretty feral after a day of horse riding so maybe they can substitute.
Where to stay
If you have a large family like ours, I highly recommend the Blue Mountains YHA. We stayed in a double room with an adjacent family room which sleeps five.
The Family Room was extremely spacious, so even with five kids’ possessions strewn all over the floor I could still see the carpet. The building itself is historical – the enormous communal lounge an old music hall, with stage and chandeliers still intact.
Each evening the kids had plenty to entertain them here, with a pool table, vintage arcade games and Foosball. They didn’t even venture down to the TV Room.