There’s nothing quite like a highland fling, especially when said flinging is flung amongst the treetops. We’re in the Southern Highlands at Illawarra Fly Treetop Walk – a suspended, cantilevered one way ticket to vertigoland. And it’s raining. A lot.
But worry not because we’ve got a couple of oversized garbage bags to protect us from the elements as we traipse down a rainforest trail through Jabberwocky territory (we’re not concerned about those though, as we bought one of our own).
Then onto a suspended walkway about 50 metres above the forest floor… with a pram. What could possibly go wrong?
Positioned in the treetop canopy, the 500 metre steel walkway features not one but two gently swaying cantilevered arms, and by gently swaying I mean shaking with all the intensity of a 6.5 scale earth tremor because my five-year old has elected to jump up and down like an epileptic baboon to test the darned things. I quickly remove myself from the aerial earthquake zone and return to the safety of the non-cantilevered walkway where I can soak up the views, without fear of death by brat.
Momentarily unmolested by children, I finally get to take in my surrounds. The rain and cold has only added to the beauty of the rainforest and waves of mist curl up and over the trees to create an otherworldly vibe.
Even more so when my family come out of the mist like glad-bagged ghosts.
In a moment of providence the drizzle stops and the sun miraculously breaks through at the precise second we reach the top of the tower.
And reveals spectacular views over the canopy of trees of the Illawarra Escarpment and out to the Pacific Ocean.
Just to seal the serendipitous deal a rather flashy rainbow appears, to the delight of Sugarpuff. Actually, both the kids are pretty impressed with the magical misty tour through the leaves and vines, Raffles wanting to do it all over again when we reach the end. Sadly for Raffles, his lazy-arsed mother would prefer a cuppa.
He may not get another lap, but “The Fly” still has some other surprises in store for my boy. In fact, the kid is about to be thoroughly bugged.
And I mean that in the literal sense as we’ve arranged a special meet and greet with some cool creepy-crawlies as part of the Bugs @ the Fly school holiday event.
Introductions begin with a hirsute Wolf Spider, a grotesque beast of a thing who I’m pleased to say is kept behind glass. Then comes a lairy pair of perfectly pretty Rainbow Stag Beetles who shimmer and shine like cheap costume jewellery which Sugarpuff thinks would make nice earrings. Raffles is entranced but Sugarpuff, on discovering that the incredible insects aren’t about to become additions to her jewellery box, heads with her dad to the gift shop to make out with a fluffy python or two.
Back in bugland, Raffles is getting touchy feely with some other interesting invertebrates including a super-cool Spiny Leaf Stick Insect…
And this dinosaur, the Giant Burrowing Cockroach.
The ‘roach is so freaking big and so awesomely strong that he declares it a Teenage Mutant Ninja Cockroach – high praise indeed from my mutant loving boy.
In a slightly macabre twist, on our trip home, our creepy-crawly meet and greet turns to into a meet and eat as Raffles finds himself noshing on some of his new pal’s cousins.
On a weekend whim we decide to stop by Cabramatta for some Vietnamese vittles to find the annual Moon Festival celebrations in swing. The kids are quickly joining in. They jump and sing and chase down a dancing lion or seven.
They bang some gongs and collect enough balloons to send the pair of them floating into outer space.
The whole of Cabramatta’s John Street is a buzz of people, colour, noise and, of course, tantalising smells.
There are steaming bowls of pho tai (beef noodle soup) big enough to swim in.
Platters of Com Dac Biet (a quirky combo of rice with pork chop, minced pork, noodles, egg and fried rice) to shovel.
Piles of delicious zongzi (sticky rice parcels) to unravel and comsume.
A fabulous duck and bamboo shoot noodle soup is nothing short of an epiphany.
Not to mention the plates and plates of steaming hot dumplings. We willingly scoff it all but even after consuming his own body-weight in Vietnamese food Raffles remains hungry.
A packet of traditional mooncakes fills a little more of his tardis like belly but, having now devoured enough to make a dozen sumo wrestlers feel bloated, my little compactus still swears he’s wasting away from starvation.
So when we stumble across Butterfly Skye and her stall of edible insects, we put him to the test. How hungry is he really?
Hungry enough to eat a packet of mixed bugs it would seem.
A chocolate-coated mealworm here, a choc-dipped cockroach there and a couple of choccy crickets as garnish almost do the trick, but he is disappointed when he discovers the stall is all out of scorpions and tarantulas.
Whilst Raffles thinks the edible insects are just ok, Sugarpuff is in a frenzy of chocolate bug bliss and is begging for more… neither of them appears to notice that their cowardly parents are not joining in the insect inhalation.
For those of you more squeamish than my little weirdos, and who may think it odd that I’m actually allowing my children to eat worms and cockroaches, it’s not their first time at scoffing insects. And as it happens, bugs are extremely nutritious and a great sustainable protein alternative. Most bugs are also high in calcium, iron, essential amino and fatty acids but low in fat.
The only thing even remotely unhealthy about these ones is the wads of chocolate they’re coated in. But give us a break, it’s a festival and buggers can’t be choosers.