The siblings sit, silent as stone, arms crossed, brows furrowed, they refuse to relent. "We will NOT go bushwalking," Grace says, stamping her foot. "Remember the ticks?"
Our family history is pockmarked by parasitic arachnids with barbed probosces. During a camping trip on the NSW South Coast, we picked up hundreds of hitchhikers. "I've never seen so many ticks on a child before," the doctor said, fishing some out of Taj's scalp. "There must be 500 here."
After days of treatment with calamine lotion and tea-tree oil, we found one tenacious creature on the inside of Grace's eye. As a baby, Taj had a paralysis tick in his back and we've lost a border collie to the insidious insects.
Really, I understand their reticence to battle the bush. But we're in the Blue Mountains for a weekend of walking. So, like the Three Sisters, I too turn stony: "There will be NO dessert, unless we walk this path," I threaten.
To that end, we choose a 40-minute bushwalk, of medium difficulty, at Wentworth Falls. Taj is learning about the explorers at school: William Wentworth fought for equal rights for ex-convicts.
Grudgingly, they trudge along the track. "Do you think good old Wentworth would have given up?" I cry, in a perfect example of passive aggressive parenting.
Suddenly we're on a cliff-edge, over a thunderous waterfall. It is a reminder of nature's majesty. International tourists are slack-jawed. And the kids' countenance changes. "Mum, let's go all the way to the bottom," Grace insists.
It is a scene from Tolkien's novels as we descend the Grand Stairway: all rugged rocks and Jurassic rainforest. After 20 minutes of vertiginous climbing, we're at the bottom of the waterfall. The spray tickles our skin. I collapse in a middle-aged heap. "Race you to the top, Mum," they holler, scampering away. After 10 minutes I'm hyperventilating: "Kids, I'll just sit here to, er, take a photo and, well, see you at the top!"
Our next stop is Sublime Point Lookout, which lives up to its name. Hidden behind Leura, this is a view of the Three Sisters from behind, without the crowds of Katoomba. Then we tackle the Giant Stairway at Echo Point. This glute-gnashing adventure is best undertaken mid-week: the human traffic is tiresome on a weekend.
Back at home base – a rustic raked-roofed home in Bullaburra, with four bedrooms and a fireplace on a huge bush block – I decide I'm the Cleverman: turning two siblings, instead of three sisters, back into human form.
Our lovely hosts from stayz.com.au have cooked a pudding for Christmas in July, stocked the fridge with cheese, and filled the pantry with condiments. We crunch on crackling from a pork roast as reward for our expedition.
There's something special about having a whole home to yourself. One child reads on the balcony overlooking the red gums; another is finger-knitting in the dining room; hubby and I sip wine by the fire.
After dinner the kids confront us. "Mum, Dad, when are we going bushwalking again? It's awesome!"
They've discovered what the Gundungurra people knew for millennia: The Blue Mountains is a very special place.
Tracey Spicer and family stayed at Bullaburra courtesy of Stayz. See www.stayz.com.au/185587