AT’s Wheelie Traveller explains why getting amongst nature can be a challenge for people in wheelchairs.
When friends invited us to spend a week with them at Murramarang Beachfront Nature Resort we gladly accepted. Situated in Murramarang National Park about three and half hours south of Sydney, the Resort’s advertising made it look like a natural paradise with a few essential creature comforts, such as a playground, pool, restaurant and cocktail bar thrown in. And let’s face it, holidaying with a big group of friends is always great fun, especially for the kids, however there were certainly a few challenges in store for me and my wheels.
The two accessible cabins (31 and 32) are among the Resort’s Forest Villas and are in fairly desperate need of refurbishment. Apart from the ramp into the cabin and some modifications in the en suite, there was little else done to make our cabin accessible. The pathway of travel through the living area was blocked by various bulky pieces of furniture making it extremely awkward to navigate. There were no modifications to the kitchen, the second bedroom or bathroom. I found it virtually impossible to use my manual wheelchair and ended up using my scooter instead as it was slightly less cumbersome. Fortunately there was a powerpoint conveniently located beside the bed so I could easily charge my batteries overnight.
I got the impression that whoever commissioned the modifications for the en suite meant well, but had little idea of what they were doing. The care toilet seat (more robust than ordinary seats) didn’t actually fit properly on the older-style toilet and the vertical grab rails in the shower seemed to be positioned to make it easier for the installer to fit them rather than for someone in a wheelchair to use them.
In the public areas of the resort, I was able to get around but there was certainly room for improvement. I had to ask reception for the key to the accessible toilet which appeared not to have been used (or cleaned) for years and it was a fair distance from the pool. There was no attempt to provide wheelchair access to the beautiful beach, although to be fair, beach access for wheelies is a difficult problem everywhere.
On a more positive note, the Resort’s location in Murramarang National Park makes it a truly special part of Australia. You are completely surrounded by native flora and fauna wherever you wander and I am sure it is an absolute thrill for overseas visitors to be able to share the camping grounds with masses of friendly kangaroos. A word of warning for wheelies though: your wheels will end up traipsing roo poo everywhere!
New owners have taken over the property since we stayed there and they are spending a lot of money and effort to refurbish the Resort and its amenities. When they are ready to improve the accessible cabins (and I wouldn’t recommend them to fellow wheelies until they do) I hope that they will recognise the value in seeking specialist advice from experienced architects, designers and builders and maybe even a wheelie or two.
Murramarang Beachfront Nature Resort // South Durras, NSW, Australia; 1300 795 813; www.murramarangresort.com.au