We’ve done long bush walks before. Now I’m a bit bigger and our baby (Delaney) is a bit heavier, and we’ve now discovered our daily limit is probably eight kilometres — thanks to the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park.

Wollemi National Park, October 2011
We spent the night in our rig just outside the main carpark at the end of Glow Worm Tunnel road. The pile of rocks just next to our trailer immediately attracted the girls who climbed to the top to play "king of the castle" every chance they got.

When we visited the glow worm tunnel, I was enticed by the idea of the Pagoda Track. The Pagoda Track is a loop walk that leads through the Wollemi National Park and back to the car park through the glow worm tunnel. The picture board at the car park promised “towering sandstone pagoda formations”, and I envisioned our family happily conquering these monuments to erosion.

David’s easy to persuade — he loves exploring the bush. The girls didn’t take much convincing, especially when we made it sound like a literal picnic. (“We’re going for a walk and will eat some yummy stuff in a nice location and then we’ll come back.”)

Walking along the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park, October 2011
Starting out, we are fresh and enthusiastic. Eight kilometres? That's a piece of cake!

Walking along the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park, October 2011
From the track, we can see huge sandstone and basalt cliffs towering over us. A short detour is all that is necessary to climb to the top, but we stick to the well-worn path.

Brioni laughing, October 2011
This is the moment when we realise that the apple Brioni has been carrying for a snack is actually a wax candle that we accidentally pilfered from our last hosts! Prior to this moment, every single member of the family thought it was an edible apple!

Walking along the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park, October 2011
There are some obstacles along the track, but generally it's very well-maintained.

Walking along the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park, October 2011
I used the high waist-band on my maternity pants as a set of pockets of for a double-load of drink bottles. Our girls called me a "mama bee", saying that I looked like a bee carrying pollen on the sides of its legs.

Walking along the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park, October 2011
The Pagoda Track joins the wide Old Coach Road where I thought — yes, a vehicle could still come along here! Later we see tracks that indicate a heavy machine has come by to reinforce the path.

I think at this point I started to wonder if our walk was too long. However, when I relaxed into our slow pace, enjoyed each conversation with the girls and stopped to properly enjoy the wonder of the natural elements, the walk became more enjoyable and less stressful.

Walking along the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park, October 2011
The flora along the track varies as we walk through different micro-climates.

Walking along the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park, October 2011
After we stop for a snack, Brioni and Calista are revived enough to ride stick "horses" for a kilometre or two.

We enjoyed some brief but memorable encounters with other bushwalkers. One party of four fresh-faced young people carrying heavy backpacks passed us twice on the loop. (I think we walked about four kilometres in between each meeting.) They were scouting the walk as a possible youth group activity.

Another interesting man we met is a keen mountain biker. He looked to be about sixty, and sported a long, flowing white beard and very good gear on his top-of-the-range bike. He was planning to bring back two other bikers in a couple of months’ time, but he doubted whether they would handle the track well.

Interesting gum tree, October 2011
I wonder what sort of trauma has happened to this eucalypt to cause it to grow two main roots like this.

Walking along the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park, October 2011
Again and again, we approach great sandstone cliffs, although we never stop to climb to the top of them. If there were more tracks marked off the main path, we probably would have ventured off for a detour to enjoy the views.

A beautiful leaf, October 2011
Aisha was encouraged to find this extraordinarily-coloured leaf on the path. The underside was just as beautiful, only in paler shades. (We take photographs of beautiful natural objects like this instead of collecting them.)

Walking along the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park, October 2011
We passed timber sleepers — remnants of the Wolgan Valley Railway that used to run along this path. Sometimes — like here where the sleeper is hanging out over a cliff face — the path of the sleepers demonstrates how much the track has changed in the hundred years since a train last travelled along it.

Walking along the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park, October 2011
Across the valley, the cliffs look amazing. I suspect this is what the cliffs above us also look like, but most of the time they're obscured by the trees.

David has memories of travelling along this track with his parents — but it may have been while he was still small enough to be carried in a backpack! The views and some parts of the paths unlocked hidden memories for him, and it’s been a pleasure to share this part of his childhood with our own children!

Walking along the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park, October 2011
This handmade stone wall is another reminder of the railway.

Walking along the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park, October 2011
David leaned out over the rock and the view made him dizzy. When Calista did the same, we both felt our heart rates rise, and David restrained himself from grabbing her. She knows her limits and just wanted to peer over the edge.

Walking along the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park, October 2011
Yes, the cliffs are wondrous. The view of the cliffs above us opened up a bit when when we got closer to the rear side of the glow worm tunnel.

Walking along the Pagoda Track at Wollemi National Park, October 2011
The flora also changes as we approach Bell's Grotto. The rainforest plants are a welcome sign that we're nearing the end of our walk.

Bell's Grotto, Wollemi National Park, October 2011
Bell's Grotto is shaded by the cliffs on both sides of it. When the railway ran through here, passengers would often alight from the train and walk along this winding rainforest path while the locomotive filled up with water from the creek.

Bell's Grotto, Wollemi National Park, October 2011
The sandstone is weathered by water, leaving caves and holes that would be intriguing to explore further.

Bell's Grotto, Wollemi National Park, October 2011
Look, it's the mouth to the glow worm tunnel! Suddenly, we're all revived by the excitement of once again seeing the amazing glow worms!

Lighting a candle, October 2011
We carried the wax apple candle all the way around the track — at first thinking it was a snack — and light it in the centre of the tunnel as a celebration of our achievement.

From the glow worm tunnel, it’s only a kilometre back to the car park. This is a familiar walk after yesterday, and the girls perked up as they recognised the features of the path.

It may be a while before we tackle a walk that long. We were so glad to get back to the truck — everyone was quite tired! We drove out of the national park but stopped in the state forest for the night. Tomorrow, we’ll head into Lithgow for some supplies before driving south again — we’re heading for some caves!