Some people insist on 5-star travel with the plushest of towels, king-sized beds and endless hot water in palatial bathrooms.
Others seek adventure under a million stars, rather than just five.
We were driven by a sense of desperation and urgency so our choice of accommodation was slightly different and pretty much out of our control.
Here are five very different accommodation options, all without gourmet room service!
Earlier this year we enjoyed a short hiking and swimming adventure in Western Australia. Like all modern-day Covid19-travellers we had to be flexible, including doing the midnight flit from Perth to avoid an emergency 3-day lockdown. This stressful development threw our travel plans up in the air and the start of our tour changed from a comfortable 1.5hr plane flight to almost 20hours in a bloody minibus. Our comfortable tent accommodation changed to an any-port-in-a-storm approach, often arriving at some remote location after dark and thoroughly stiff and rattled after being origamied into a minibus for hours on end. If nothing else, we saw some places that were definitely not on our tour itinerary.
Firstly, after escaping in the dark from Perth, we woke up in…
- New Norcia Benedictine Community
We drove around and around in the dark and the minibus headlights flickered across imposing facades, sandstone monuments, and looming red brick walls. Frankly, I was past caring and just wanted to get out of that overcrowded vehicle.
Grabbing our bags we wandered into one of the large buildings and it dawned on us that we were sleeping somewhere very different that night!
New Norcia has been home to a community of Benedictine monks since 1847 when it was established by two Spanish monks, a French Benedictine novice and an Irish catechist. Yes, this is starting to sound like a joke…all we need is a bar for them to walk into!
Our rooms were large, sparse and sparkling clean. Lying in my narrow single bed and staring up the 18ft high ceilings, then rolling over and placing my feet on the cool, tessellated tile floor, I instantly got the feelings of simplicity and minimalism that would have been the norm of the previous residents’ lives.
Stepping out into the crisp early morning air the size and scale of the complex was astounding. Everywhere we looked were huge school, dormitory and religious buildings. All in the middle of absolutely nowhere and all absolutely empty.
The places you end up when you are doing a runner!
What else: It is possible to book a guided tour of the grounds and a museum is also open to the public. Or grab some of the freshest bread and tastiest cinnamon scrolls baked in the Monastery’s original wood-fired ovens.
Location: New Norcia Rd, New Norcia WA 6509
Cost: Not sure. You will need to contact them direct
For more information: Check out their website or email@example.com
Back in the bus again and +13hours driving later we arrive at…
2. The Capricorn Roadhouse
Again our arrival was in the dark and we were tired and disgruntled from another long, cramped day. We tumbled out the minibus like lemmings and it was only when we looked around at the massive semitrailers and B-triple road trains that it dawned on us that we were actually staying in a service station!
Grabbing our room keys like drowning men, we dashed along the concrete path, found our room and retreated inside. We had a scored an ‘accessible’ room so we were blessed with even more glorious space.
The room was basic, clean enough and had WIFI. No 5-star accoutrements here, but the bed was comfortable and the showers were hot. It was a joy just to be able to stretch out our legs and recline on something was wasn’t bumping around, jolting over pot holes and without that constant side-to-side vibration that seems to set up in vehicles with great long distances to travel.
Again the big reveal happened the next morning and I found that our rooms were actually prefabricated dongas cleverly stacked on top of each other and nicely landscaped with trees and shrubs to soften the cubist effect.
What else: There is nothing else to see or do here other than marvel at the monstrous trucks and machinery that are the lifeblood of supply in this part of remote Western Australia. The service station serves a fabulous Spanish Omelette and excellent coffee that comes in bucket-sized cups. Just what I needed.
Location: Lot 10, Great Northern Highway, Newman, WA
Cost: $220pernight – WOW! I didn’t realise it cost that much. Supply and demand, I guess.
For more information: Check out their website. Beware of their Facebook page – it includes an interesting range of incredibly colourful language and commentary!
Back into the %$#@ minibus to finally arrive at…
3. Karijini Eco Retreat
If you don’t like the colour red and a fair dose of dirt and dust, then camping at Karijini Eco Retreat may not be for you. We had a fabulous camp set up with individual tents, really comfortable stretcher beds and sleeping bags. Yes, it was a short stroll to the toilet and bathroom facilities, but they were clean and the water warm. Hand washing tubs were also located in the ablution blocks.
Karijini Eco Retreat also has eco tents, huts and luxury tents. Dining options included a restaurant/bar area that had live music in the evening. We were kept so busy, I didn’t get a chance to poke my nose into any of these facilities so I can’t accurately report how ‘luxury’ those luxury tents were.
What else: While the facilities are simple, the gorgeous sunsets and sunrises make up for the lack of any modern conveniences. To lie in bed and stare at the stars or hear the dingos yapping in the distance was all we really needed.
Location: Savannah Campground (off Weano Road), Karijini National Park, WA, 6751
Cost: Unpowered campsites start form $22 per night.
For more information: Check out their website.
Our time in Karijini was over in the blink of an eye and it was time to load up the mini-bus and head West to…
4. Cheela Plains Station
Seemingly in the middle of nowhere our minibus turned left off the Nanutarra-Munjina Road (Highway 136) and slowly bobbed and bounced over a wide swathe of red dirt road. After about one kilometre we puttered up a steep rise and a green oasis awaited us on the plains below.
Cheela Plains is a working cattle station of 188 501 ha (or 465 796 acres – Yes, you read that correctly) and, like many stations in Outback Australia, they have diversified their business to provide tourism and hospitality experiences, caravan and camping sites.
What else: For a small set-up, they provide a hugely warm welcome and their services were excellent with washing machines, hot showers and lush communal seating areas with large, welcoming fire pits. Again, the sunset and sunrise were outstanding with brilliant reds and yellows fading to the prettiest purples.
Location: 174 Nanutarra-Munjina Road, Paraburdoo WA 6754.
Cost: Unpowered campsites start from $30 per night. They also offer rooms in a fully renovated Shearer’s Quarters and are developing more accommodation options.
For more information: Check out their website.
Another 6.75hrs in the bus and we arrived at…
5. Yardie Homestead Caravan Park
Yardie Homestead has developed from the original old homestead, belonging to Yardie Creek Station, into a true accommodation metropolis. When we parked the minibus and stepped out onto yet more red dirt, there would have easily been 250 caravans plugged in, 50 tents pitched, plus more comfort-focused individuals in three chalets, six cabins, and the renovated shearer’s quarters. Obviously this was a very popular destination for visitors like us to the Ningaloo Reef and Coral Coast.
The Caravan Park also features a swimming pool, bar/café and a convenience store. The fact that this is a dog-friendly park meant that there was every shape, size and age of dog enjoying a stroll with their owners. I am not sure I could travel such vast distances with a pet, but obviously people do. And if you prefer a flying holiday, they have their very own airstrip right next to the Park so you can just drop in out of the skies.
What else: The ablution blocks were plentiful and had lots of hot water. The washing machines were also a hit with our touring group at this stage of the tour. Probably the only downside of this place was the inconsiderate nature of some caravaners partying into the wee hours, without any real walls to block the noise. Hopefully, the yapping dingos woke them up at some ungodly hour!
Location: Yardie Creek Road, Exmouth WA 6707
Cost: Unpowered sites start from $35per night.
For more information: Check out their website.
Although I was sad to sweep out my tent and pack my bag one final time in preparation for the long trip home (bus, walk, plane, walk, plane, walk, drive, drive drive), I was looking forward to getting back into a real bed, my own bed and having an ensuite a mere 4 steps away. The tour started in chaos and exposed me to some places I would never dream of seeing, let alone sleeping in. I guess that is what an adventure is all about!
Where is the strangest place you have slept?
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