First time father Iain Lawrie used to be an intrepid traveller priding himself on visits to far-flung places like Iceland and the Canadian Rockies. But the recent arrive of his daughter Greta (4 months) has somewhat put pause on the Australian’s travel plans. He tells suitcases&strollers how travelling with baby has changed his pace from keen tour cyclist to a slow walker.
Little Greta is growing up quick. In the last few weeks she has been learning a few new tricks. One in particular has been the rather useful skill of falling asleep in the car on long trips. Unlike other little kiddies we'd heard of, Greta didn't seem to have come pre-programmed with that skill. Our first few trips in the car were dominated by a screaming baby and pretty high stress levels all round. But now she typically clonks out once we break free of the stop-start city traffic and get out on to the country roads.
So a couple of weeks ago we decided to try taking little Greta for a bushwalk. Just a day walk, not too far, not too strenuous. Bushwalking (hiking for the North Americans, tramping for the Kiwis) is something we've always been keen on. Getting out into the Australian bush to smell the eucalyptus trees, admire the views and savour the peace and quiet holds a great deal of appeal. However, before Greta came along, when we had the choice between a weekend of walking or a weekend of cycling, cycling always won out. Rolling along on wheels always seemed easier than walking a heavy bag of stuff over rough tracks.
Now with Greta in tow, and the bikes slowly gathering dust and flattening their tyres, rekindling an interest in walking seemed like a good plan. Bushwalking seemed to offer a way to be a bit adventurous without having to find a babysitter and get back in time for the next breastfeed. Taking advantage of Greta's new love of back seat dozing, we set off to the Koorooya State Park in Victoria, a couple of hours north west of Melbourne with our friends and their 20-month-old toddler.
First of all, I didn’t really consider whether the park was going to be “good for kids”. Rather, I looked at the weather report and chose somewhere that would be relatively warm and not too wet. Because the forecast was for 20 degrees and showers we dressed Greta (and ourselves) in layers including hats and waterproof jackets.
I carried Greta in our trusty carrier that has a good waistband and shoulder straps. Even so, after a day of walking I had a little bit of a backache (my wife Anna tells me that this is what being pregnant is like — my respect grows even more!). In a few months when Greta gets a stronger neck we can switch the carrier around to a backpack style which is likely to be much more comfortable.
I planned a route that took in lots of rocky outcrops, interesting caves and scenic views...but that also had some options to shorten the journey if needed. The caves gave us welcome shelters from the occasional rain shower.
Compared to walking with only adults, we took about three times as long to complete the circuit as I expected. This included stops to enjoy views, stretch toddler's legs, eat lunch and snacks and feed and change Greta. Despite this extra time, it was fun to watch our friend's 20-month-old turning logs into horses, running along grassy tracks, splashing in puddles and babbling non stop about the plants, baby kangaroos and butterflies that we saw along the way. Greta on the other hand mainly slept, stared, wriggled and ate. But it was certainly enjoyable to get out into the fresh air and outdoors.
All in all, a great, if long, day. As a result, I've quietly begun researching and planning overnight hikes with under ones....watch this space!
(And by the way, yes, Greta slept almost all the way home.)
By Iain Lawrie
Iain Lawrie is a regular contributor to suitcases&strollers. To read more of his work, type "Iain Lawrie" into the Search bar on the suitcases&strollers website.