We’ve been very good in this blog so far and used it mainly to talk about travel. Destinations, attractions, scenic wonders… and pubs, of course. But not a word have we said about… AMENITIES!!!
Well, the time has come. What is the subject of many a Happy Hour discussion?
What is it that causes caravanners to coo happily or to spit venom?
The state of the amenities.
So let’s examine this vital subject.
Number One: The thing that most grey nomads require of amenities is that they should be CLEAN. In most of the parks I’ve visited, this condition has been fulfilled pretty well. (Yes, even when we don’t book in under the name of Caravan and Motorhome, in case you’re wondering! We too have been a bit suspicious that people might do a quick clean-up when they know we’re coming… but we’ve booked into enough parks under our own name to have this doubt dispelled.)
After ‘clean’, then what?
Number Two: Fixtures that Work! It’s important that the shower heads and taps actually work. Just last week I closed the shower door, got undressed, organised my soap and shampoo in the shower cubicle, then turned on the water. Nothing happened.
Not a drip. So I turned the taps on harder. Then I spun them around as far as they could go.
Result? A teeny tiny dribble of water that plopped sadly onto the floor.
Heaving a frustrated sigh, I wrapped the towel around myself, gathered up my clothes/shampoo/soap, and transferred myself to the next cubicle. Luckily this one worked!
Number Three: shower cubicles that actually have a system for controlling the water so that (a) your clothes don’t get wet and (b) you don’t have to stand in puddle to dry yourself. The top-ranking amenities actually have glass shower doors (and these aren’t necessarily in five-star parks, either!) Next on the thumbs-up list are showers with shower curtains.
My big question: Why can’t all amenities be fitted with shower curtains? Are they THAT hard to clean… or THAT expensive? A simple shower curtain makes a big difference to being able to keep your clothes out of the spray. Add to that: a rubber mat that allows the water to collect underneath it, so you can actually get dressed without your jeans getting wet.
Number Four: Easy Entry. My big preference is for amenities that don’t have ANY keys or touchpads, but if push comes to shove I prefer a key to a touchpad. Why? Several reasons, including:
- I sometimes forget the code and have to go back to the van to get it. (Well, OK, I often forget a key, too… what can I say? Too many senior moments these days.)
- Some touchpads have teeny-tiny numbers that are impossible to see without reading glasses (back to the van again to pick up glasses to read the touchpad…)
- Some touchpads are impossible to see at night if you happen to forget your torch (even if you remember your reading glasses).
Number Five: Toilet Paper Dispensers That Work. Who hasn’t been caught sitting on a loo, teeth gritted, furiously trying to work out how to get the toilet roll to dispense its paper? Like in the case of a brand new roll where the end is firmly stuck down, and impossible to pull out of the narrow slot allocated. You end up with torn scraps of paper about the size of a five-cent piece littering the floor. Then there are those dispensers from hell that are designed to dispense one leaf at a time before they ratchet backwards (almost taking your fingers with them).
I’m sure there are plenty of you who can regale us with tales of woe related to amenities blocks. Apart from the basic five requirements listed above, I can think of various situations that have had me ready to spit chips.
- At one outback station camp the lights were on a timer. Unfortunately the timer didn’t actually allow anyone time to have more than a five-minute shower. Too bad if you want to shampoo your hair and shave your legs. Too bad if you’d also like to clean your teeth. When I encountered this one, I walked into the amenities block just as the lights went out. A child in one cubicle emitted a blood-curdling scream of fear as the cubicles were plunged into darkness. I promptly punched the timer to restore light and sanity, then another child took on the job of standing guard to keep pushing the button so everyone could actually get clean.
- I’ve been in ablutions blocks where the toilets are set a good six inches lower than standard. Why??? Wouldn’t have a clue. In contrast, I’ve also encountered The Throne: your feet dangle above the floor. Who designs these things??
Let me leave you with a few quotes from emails sent to us over the years by my friend Pat, a long-time caravanner. (I’ve omitted the names of the parks. Who knows? They may have since fixed up what was wrong… or ripped down the sub-standard amenities blocks to erect more cabins. That’ll teach those whining Grey Nomads…)
“We stayed at XXXX caravan park and the amenities block there was a hoot. I think they had furnished it with stuff from an old kindergarten. The toilets were tiny – knees up under the chin type stuff and the sinks were so low that Bob’s arms dangled on the ground when he shaved. The shower recesses were metal and June said it was like showering in a four-drawer filing cabinet. A new amenities block had just been constructed down the way, so I gave the old one the flick and transferred my affections to the new. I’m like that. Shallow.”
The caravan park at XXXX was a bit like Stalag 12. They like the patrons to toe the mark. Signs in the amenities block instruct the way this park is to operate. They are very particular about how you park your car – a laminated sign on the back of the toilet doors demonstrates the ”right way” to park (marked with a tick) and the “wrong way” – (marked with a Ghostbusters-type circle). Another states “so that we can maintain our high level of hygiene, spit your toothpaste into the bowl and not onto the taps”. The third sign however is a cause for concern. It states that, because of “pilfering and vandalism”, security cameras have been fitted. Now, these cameras are not obvious and the sign does not identify their location, so I could only hope that my worst fears were not realised in this regard.”
On the plus side, I have of course encountered amenities blocks where the management has gone out of its way to make things pleasant for travellers. Flowers on the benches, soft and plentiful toilet paper, soap dispensers in the shower cubicles, even hair dryers at the sinks. Bouquets to such people!
Ah me, what would we do without being able to discuss the state of amenities blocks Australia-wide? Perhaps you, too, have a story to tell! (Keep it generic… this is not about naming names, but sharing funny experiences!)