Monday, July 6, 2009

Some Places To Stay

I have frequently imagined writing travel literature, but never reviewing travel destinations. Nonetheless, this post seemed right.

1. Alice On Todd – Alice Springs, Northern Territory. Four nights Nice, clean, well-appointed two bedroom self-catering unit. Quiet with a decent view of the Todd River (dry) off the balcony. Reception was efficient, friendly, and easy to communicate with via email. Good kitchen with ample cutlery, utensils, plates, pots, etc. The small pool might have felt good in summer. About one mile from downtown: a nice walk, although a bit chilly at night. Only problem: this was a second floor unit, and the staircase too it was a bit narrow and long to carry with luggage.

2. Mounts Bay Waters Lodge – Perth, Western Australia. Three nights. Another two bedroom self-catering unit, in a complex of multistory apartment buildings. Only one block was a hotel. Overlooks the Stirling and Graham Farmer Freeways, but quiet. The unit was recently upgraded in inconsistent ways. The new cabinets looked nice but did not open properly, jamming on the floor. The water closet had a new toilet, but the wall opposite it needed patching. The kitchen was well equipped; a dishwasher was a nice touch. There was only one small trash bin in the five room suite. The hotel is adjacent to Perth city centre and Kings Park, which was great for access to services, shops, and nice walks. The 24 hour reception staff was always courteous and helpful. Underground secure car park worked well once our key card was reset.

3. Karijini Eco Retreat Campground – Karijini National Park, Western Australia. One night. This used to be the Park’s Savannah Campground, where I’ve stayed several times. It’s now run by an Aboriginal-owned concessionaire (this confuses me a bit; all the staff seemed to be young Canadians). It’s been upgraded with cabins, a pub/restaurant, and showers, water, and flush loos in the campground – all solar powered. It was disappointing. The campground is dirtier than previously; our site had swarms of ants, clearly attracted by the food people had tossed into the bush (all trash is supposed to be carried out of the park) and maybe the toilet paper just out of the site. I guess the toilet seem too far away after dark. The solar hot water showers were a great idea. However, they only work when the sun has been out: unlike during my visit. The campground loop is poorly signed; more than once I drove into someone’s campsite instead of staying on the dirt road. Previously, campers and caravaners where given separate areas; we were between two caravans; luckily the generator on one side drowned out the Balkan music on the other. The pub sells beer and wine, and has powerpoints for recharging batteries, for an extra charge. The staff was helpful. Astronomy “tours” are available at night – a very cool idea in this part of the world.

4. The Seasons Lodge – Newman, Western Australia. One night. This series of former SMQ blocks has been a motel for over a decade. It’s largely occupied by short term contractors, based on the vehicles in the parking bays. Given its heritage the rooms are fairly spartan but adequate. They have been refurbished since my last stay here in 2003 (I found my name in the guest book). It’s within walkable distance of the Newman town centre shopping complex. The staff was great; of all the places I’ve stayed, they showed the most genuine interest in what I was doing in Australia. The brick walls between units were a bit thin; I was kept awake by the Wimbledon matches on the TV in the next room.

5. City Waters Lodge – Perth, Western Australia. Three nights. This is a basic self-catering motel – yet another block of converted flats – in downtown Perth. It’s basic, but convenient. Each unit has a basic, barely stocked kitchen and a small restroom. I’ve stayed here since 1986, so I’m fond of the place. The staff is friendly as always.

6. In Bush – the Red Centre, Northern Territory and the Pilbara, Western Australia. Eighteen nights (never enough). No rooms. Quiet except for occasional brumbies, camels, crickets, birds, frogs, cows, road trains, and iron mines, depending on location. Self-catering, all services available from rear of the truck. Toilet with a view. Rarely damp. Sublime at all times. Not close to any services, shopping, or other amenities. Any review of staff would be biased if not self-serving.

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