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Lithgow Workies Club & Motel ensures access for all

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By Ellen Hill for Lithgow Workies Club                  Photos: David Hill

From the entry ramp into the club and lifts between floors to the ambulant bathrooms and wide doorways and throughout the property, Lithgow & District Workmen’s Club is accessible to all.

The new motel at the oldest registered club in NSW, affectionately known as “the Workies’’, sports stairless access to all areas of the club and motel for people who use a wheelchair and ambulant disabled users.

The two accessible motel rooms for people with a disability and their carers (one on the ground floor and one on the upper which is accessed by a lift near the two access parking spaces) are spacious including the bathrooms.

Visitors can access the motel via ramps throughout the property, and all doors are wide enough to cater for wheelchairs.

1Lithgow Workies Club general manager Geoff Wheeler said the design of the new 36-room 4-star motel and associated works including an art gallery, refurbished showroom, restaurant and conference centre, aimed to be accessible to people with a disability but also elderly people and parents with prams and small children.

“A lot of our members and guests may not use a wheelchair but they might have walking frames and walking sticks so they need as clear an entrance as they can get.

“There’s no steps here: you can come up the ramp at the front of the club, there’s lifts between floors and, in the main club itself we have accessible bathrooms.

“We’re providing first-class facilities for all ages. I don’t think there should be a difference between the facilities we provide for someone who is disabled and someone who is fully able bodied.’’

Providing a fully accessible motel and club for people of all ages was part of the club’s ethos of providing excellent community and customer service, Mr Wheeler said.

“It’s about looking after one another.

“People come here to enjoy themselves, and part of that is a relationship between the people that serve them and look after them. Our staff are aware that excellence of service is required at all times.

“If you don’t want to be pleasant and smile and be happy, hospitality is not the right industry for you.

8“But it’s not just about being happy. It’s about providing a safe and accessible environment for our members and guests.’’

Lithgow Workies Club had also implemented chemical-free cleaning wherever possible for the wellbeing of guests and staff.

“It makes sense: we don’t want our guests to be overwhelmed by odours, and we don’t want our staff working with chemicals on a daily basis that are going to be harmful to them.’’

Lithgow Workies Club will officially open its $6.5 million facelift on Saturday, March 19, with renowned media and sport identity Mike Whitney in the new showroom from 7.15pm.

The evening will be rounded off with spectacular entertainment from Australia’s “Queen of Soul’’ Lisa Hunt and her band in the revamped showroom. Tickets: $20.

Lithgow Workies Club Motel, Tank St, Lithgow, is now open for bookings. Go to www.workies.com.au or phone (02) 6350 7777 to book and for more details.

* Lithgow & District Workmen’s Club is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity7


Fiji: postcard perfect getaway

Postcard perfect Fiji

Postcard perfect Fiji

By Ellen Hill                                     Photos: David Hill

“Bula Mrs Hill. Bula Mr Hill. Bula Master Hill.

“Bula scruffy dog.

“Bula sun.

“Naughty dog – you should be at home.

“Bula dog.’’

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The cheery sing-song chant continued for the entire 90 minute journey from Nandi airport to the front door of Fiji Hideaway Resort & Spa, annoying yet uplifting and amusing at the same time.

It set the tone for the whole seven-day visit to Fiji’s Coral Coast.

 

Fiji 08From the palm tree-lined beaches, the thatched huts, azure waters dotted with quaint fishing boats, sapphire-coloured skies, and strapping young men in sarongs, all the clichés were there in glorious real life. It was as if we had been engulfed by the pages of a tourist brochure.

After a tough previous few months, it was just what we needed, right down to being handed a coconut on the promenade by the grinning man who scampered up to cut it down.

Fiji 01

 

The Fiji Hideaway Resort was perfect: not too posh so we felt uncomfortable but nice enough to feel like a treat.

Our white bure (villa) was spacious, cool and clean, surrounded by tropical plants and with high ceilings, a queen size bed, an indoor shower (and a pretty spiffy outdoor one) and a front verandah.

Unheard of for us, we embraced the opportunity to “fly and flop’’ and didn’t leave the resort for three days.

With jobs that require us to be positive, polite and almost servile, it was a welcome relief to laze by the pool while resort staff scurried around at our beck and call.

 

Fiji 31We enjoyed the theatrical nightly kava ceremony, the lighting of the torches, the cultural stage performance each evening and got a buzz from the “personal’’ invitation to attend drinks with the resort general manager the afternoon we arrived.
Our tweenage son preferred our company, although the resort does have a kids club where resort crew look after the children with non-stop activities from treasure hunts to snorkelling and Fijian fishing lessons.

 

Fiji 14The resort website encourages visitors to meet the real Fiji’’ by visiting thefriendly locals’’ in nearby villages, although we suspect the many locals who work there feel obliged to welcome tourists into their personal spaces after serving their every need all day.

After three days of soaking in the cloistered embrace of the resort, we tentatively ventured beyond the protective gates and wandered down the narrow potholed road towards town.

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Just a few hundred metres down the road we were confronted by a man holding a machete.

He eyed us suspiciously.

We eyed him anxiously.

“Where are you going?’’ he asked.

“Just for a walk,’’ my husband said, aiming for a casual tone but achieving a warbled defence.

Why?’’ the man asked in amazement.Why you leave the resort?’’

Fiji 04He invited us to see his home. Well we had no choice, did we?

Sitting cross-legged on the bare earthen floor of the hut, a tiny naked child peeped around the doorframe as the man told us his hard luck story and asked for money.

The next day it was slightly disconcerting to see him elevated as an elder at the local Methodist church service, where we were amused by the spotlessly dressed children in their Sabbath whites, singing psalms like angels and squabbling like seagulls during the sermon.

 

Fiji 26While it is tempting to remain within the safe confines of the resort, it is worthwhile to stretch the boundaries and explore further afield.

We took an organised full-day tour to Robinson Caruso Island (arranged by the resort staff), where tourists can enjoy a bountiful lunch, educational tour and entertainment. There is also a bar, children’s water activities and basic hut accommodation.

 

Fiji 09

The resort shops are stocked with a range of items, from toiletries to clothing along with traditional novelties and snacks – all carrying a generous mark-up price.

The Hideaway has a full gym but we steered clear of physical torture, preferring a massage at the day spa and a lounge by the pool.

 

 

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Apart from the raw sausage served at the “traditional Aussie BBQ’’, the only real downer was the lack of an ATM (we had to order a taxi and travel to the 5-star hotel down the road).

After building a sandcastle on the beach, going on numerous romantic sunset strolls along the sun-soaked shores of the majestic ocean lagoon with year-round warm tropical waters’’ andpristine coral beaches’’, collecting shells and sipping rich cocktails by the pool, we truly felt refreshed.

 

Sometimes you just need a postcard.

 

Fiji 03Getting there

Several international airlines have flights into Fij, including Qantas, Air New Zealand, Korean Air, Pacific Blue, and V Australia. Air Pacific is the national carrier and has direct flights from Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Christchurch, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Japan. The Fiji International Airport is located in Nadi.

The Coral Coast and the Fiji Hideaway Resort & Spa are a 90 minute transfer away. The resort’s reservations staff can organise a transfer at the time of reservation via private car, taxi, or coach (fees apply).

 


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Getting around

Sightseeing around the Coral Coast is a must, with beautiful beaches and coral lagoons to explore. Taxis are available from the resort to visit Sigatoka for duty free shopping or the tour desk can organise a rental.

We rode the public bus into Sigatoka, which cost only a few dollars.

 

 

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Ballooning in the Aussie Outback

Outback Ballooning

 

By Ellen Hill                          Photos: David Hill

(This travel story won the 2008 RovingEye Expose Your World Competition, Travel Story category. All prices and contact details have been updated.)

 

BEING caught between the cusp of a new day and the last flickers of night is like witnessing two of nature’s most intimate acts – birth and death. Secret and mysterious, only a select few are privy to its glory.

Today, we are that select few, a group of strangers pressed together in a wicker basket like sardines in a can, suspended 1000ft above the ground smack bang in the centre of Australia just outside the town of Alice Springs.

Moonset in the desert near Alice Springs with Outback Ballooning.

Moonset in the desert near Alice Springs with Outback Ballooning.

In the pre-dawn silence when the nocturnal animals have bedded down before the birds awake, the sun sends tentative golden strands across the red dirt until it glows like an ember. Its radiant tentacles stretch out slowly as they have done for millennia, highlighting desert features of oaks and mulga scrub, rock wallabies and craggy outcrops.

On the opposite horizon a sleepy full moon melts down like an egg yolk behind the rugged outline of the MacDonnell Ranges, leaving the sky silvery blue in its wake.

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and the 30m tall balloon with its cargo is carried along with it.

Hot air balloons are the most basic of aircraft. But all fears and concerns for the world below and the flimsiness of our craft have whooshed above our heads as the pilot on our Outback Ballooning experience pumps the burners to send jets of orange, blue and white hot propane fuel into the balloon.

We float aimlessly through the first heaven, unaware of our progress. There is no airspeed, no aerodynamic lift, no vibration and no wind noise. We cannot pitch or roll.

The G-free experience is like gently levitating rather than flying.

My seven-year-old son, almost too terrified to join the flight, pops his head up from the base of the basket to get a better look at the unfolding palette before us.

G-free aerial adventure.

G-free aerial adventure.

He remains there mesmerised until the basket scrapes the top of a tree on its final descent back to terra firma.

Out here, the ranges are no fuzzy-topped mountains emanating a soothing blue haze but a jumbled stretch of rocky outcrops and hills that appear much larger and further away than they really are because the pathetic scrub is no more than a few patches of scrub and that accursed spiky buffel grass.

This is one of the most isolated and arid places on earth, a place where you can wander far into the horizon and not see another soul. A place where all there is for company is the melancholy “Ark, Ark, Aaaah’’ of a lone crow, the crunch of your feet in the never-ending dirt and the gentle wail of the breeze. Where the sun beats down so hard it feels like it’s pushing you into the rock hard earth.

Here in the second largest desert in the world, clouds become a myth and the clumps of spinifex grass haul themselves out of what must be imaginary moisture. This desert of 1.3 million sq miles receives just a Biblical rich man’s drop of water on its tongue – 5 inches a year. Some parts of central Australia only get relief once or twice a decade, just enough to torment. This collection of small deserts is called the Outback, and takes up 44 per cent of the continent.

The Australian Outback ...one of the most arid places on Earth.

The Australian Outback …one of the most arid places on Earth.

Mile after mile of river and creek beds wind their way through this parched land, baked to that red dust and rock in the merciless Outback sun. The “Floodway’’ signs that appear at regular intervals along the highways seem ludicrous as the waterways snake through the landscape as a mocking reminder of the thundering rains that will surely come.

Then myriad dry lakes fill with water and the lowest point on the continent, the half million square mile Lake Eyre Basin, floods as the rivers drain into its bowl.

But sometimes nature taunts the thirsty tongue and parched earth. The rains don’t always come and then the Todd River remains a shortcut walkway into the town of Alice Springs from outlying settlements.

Reality hits as the basket bumps and scrapes along the ground, sending puffs of deep orange-coloured dirt into the air. We hadn’t even noticed our descent.

Back on terra firma.

Back on terra firma.

Still trapped in the romance of the experience, we tumble awkwardly from the basket and stomp our boots on the dirt. Reality hits when we’re all summoned to help the crew pack up the nylon balloon into its bag.

Nothing less than breakfast of honey glazed chicken drumsticks, quiches, fresh fruit, cheese and chocolate cake washed down with fruit juice or champagne would be good enough to end such a civilised experience.

On the cusp of night and dawn.

On the cusp of night and dawn.

Cost:
30 minute flight: $AUD290

Children 6-16: $AUD237

60 minute flight: $AUD385

Children 6-16: $AUD313

Adult balloon chase: $AUD40

Child balloon chase: $AUD32

Separate mandatory insurance fee: $AUD25 per passenger payable on the morning of the flight.

 

Experience the beauty of the desert with Outback Ballooning.

Experience the beauty of the desert with Outback Ballooning.

What to wear:
It can be dusty in the bush and balloon riders are welcome to help rig and pack away the balloon so enclosed shoes and warm casual clothing (don’t wear light colours) is suitable.

How to get there:
Passengers are collected from their accommodation and dropped back after the flight. Qantas has regular flights to Alice Springs from most Australian cities.

Bookings:
Toll free: 1800 809 790 (within Australia), +61 8 8952 8723
or sales@outbackballooning.com.au.

Ellen and David Hill received a complimentary Outback Ballooning ride thanks to Tourism Northern Territory.

© Deep Hill Media

Tranquil way to experience the Australian Outback.

Tranquil way to experience the Australian Outback.