This weekend, Eric, the kids and I on a last minute whim, loaded up and headed for the hills, or to be exact, The Blue Mountains. I browsed the Internet late Thursday night and came up on Hatter's Hideout. It advertised a house that came with a cave, and a discount for last minute bookings. That would be us.
So Friday, I packed up the kids and clothes and a cooler, and after a harrowing drive through downtown Sydney where, I found myself driving the wrong way on a one way street, then yelling to Eric, "If you will just run, you can jump in at the next stop light!" we made our way out of the mad rush of Sydney's Friday afternoon traffic. Finally the landscape contained fewer and fewer office buildings and used car lots. Less warehouses and more 1920's federation style homes. And finally we began to come upon quaint downtown areas centered around train depots with all the charm of Norman Rockwell paintings. I stopped in to a local grocer for eggs, coffee, and milk. The cashier showed me a several pictures of her grandchildren. It was nice.
Then we headed down to the Hatter's Hideaway which consisted of a wonderful house the mad hatter, aka, Mark O'Carrigan constructed himself and a cave. Both were equally impressive. The house ran on solar power and used rainwater that was harvested from his roof and then stored in a 17,000 gallon cistern below the home. The cistern acted as a heat sink keeping the house cool, and the house was designed after Mark had collected enough doors and windows from homes or offices that were being demolished in the area. Made entirely out of corrugated Tin, it could have looked rather industrial, but the house had a wonderful cottage feel, and Caleb loved sleeping in the attic loft.
The next night we stayed in the Cave. Mark, who'd lived in the area for about 20 years came upon the cave while bush walking one day. He supposes he's only the third white man to have ever seen the cave. A large tree stump at the cave's entrance indicates that loggers were in the area, and you can see Aboriginal graffiti on the cave walls. One such marking is a of a child's hand print. The child would have made a type of red dye from rock found in that area, put his hand on the wall and then spit the red dye onto the wall leaving the hand imprint for us to see hundred of year later. The cave was the shape of an upside down amphitheater. It had a grill, a fire pit, a giant swing, running water, and then out of eye-sight, but close enough to race to in the middle of the night was a Rota-lu--A composting toilet. When we weren't listening to the lyrebirds call to one another across the canyon we played the drums! Mark had placed a couple of plastic drums, each with a plastic wire attached to the end of a broom handle. The idea was to straddle the drum, hold the broom handle in front of you so that the tip without the wire rested on the edge of the drum making a triangle. It's sides being the top of the drum, the string and the handle. Then you could pluck the string and adjust it's pitch, making it go higher by pulling the handle towards or you. I thought I did a pretty good job of Stairway to Heaven and YMCA, but Eric was never able to tell what they were. He's tone deaf.
It took Elise all of five minutes to look like one of those children you might send your coffee money to (in the days when a cup of coffee was forty-five cents.) The bottom of the cave was composed of dust from the sandstone. Elise took it for beach sand. She made dust angels, she tried to bury herself in dust. She absorbed all the dust kicked up in the wake of the Tonka dump truck she pushed around as a ride for Baby Anna. Caleb faired a little better but only nominally so, by the next day Caleb's blond hair and Elise's brunette had turned the same color--sort of sandstone grey. We still managed to eat hamburgers and apple pie. And after a "spit bath" we lowered them down gently into their pj's and without letting their freshly scrubbed feet touch the ground, laid them gingerly into their sleeping bags. Eric and I cleaned up around the campfire, poured ourselves a couple of glasses of wine and before we could finish our drinks the kids were asleep. Come to think of it, we never did finish that wine ourselves.