It’s a chilly early morning at Wooramel – an Australian outback station stay nearly 800 kilometres north of the Western Australian capital, Perth. The sky is perfect blue, not a cloud in sight, and fairly soon I’ll be abandoning my jacket as the day warms up to the mid twenties celsius. I’m sitting outside my steel clad motel style accommodation. It resembles a big farm shed and is adorned with the blades of an old Station windmill. As I write my blog, flocks of pink and grey galahs descend noisily on massive river gum trees metres away from me. I’m enjoying my breakfast outside too – porridge I’ve cooked in the camp kitchen, topped with local honey and accompanied by a mug of hot instant coffee.
Wooramel is a 356,000 acre working cattle, sheep and goat station, offering a unique visitor stay. I wrote about it in my May 5 blog ‘Outback Aussie Station Stays’. If you haven’t read it, take a look as I’ll try not to repeat myself. That article provides a lot of background information about Wooramel and Justin and Rachel Steadman, the innovative couple who own the Station – ranch to the Americans. I’m a repeat visitor here, and once again I’m enjoying Wooramel’s amazing array of birdlife, campfire meals, stunning scenery and downtime relaxation.
Most visitors are in caravans or tents, spread out along the Wooramel River with their own campfire pits. It’s a mixed group – grey nomads (travelling retirees), families, and a lot more young people than I’ve seen travelling in these parts in previous years. Unable to go to Bali, Europe and other overseas destinations, I guess they are exploring more of their own country. Some are living in their cars, or sleeping by them in swags in a lawn area, with access – like me – to a communal campfire lit most nights. There are amenity blocks with toilets and hot showers, some created from old station water tanks. Don’t expect concrete caravan pads or personal electricity link ups. But do expect a whole lot of nature including more than 40 bird species to spot!
There’s a small number of set up deluxe tents for hire, and a basic tent camp for groups. There’s also some basic ensuite rooms with share kitchens, which is where I’m accommodated. And there’s one two bedroomed self contained unit, with its own kitchen facilities. I sneaked a look. Very nice and comfy!
I’m not the only returnee to Wooramel. The prize for number one returnee must go to Neil from far away Phillip Island on Australia’s south east coast. He first came as a visitor with his wife for a short stay several years ago. They fell in love with Wooramel, and on a subsequent visit they volunteered to lend a hand to the Steadmans when they heard Justin had shattered his ankles in an accident while mustering when his aircraft caught a sudden downdraft, flipping over on landing.
Turns out Neil is a pretty good handyman and of like mind to the Steadmans in his love of restoring old things that most people have sent to the junk yard. Which is fortunate as Wooramel Station has an abundance of interesting items in its tip … another fun place for visitors to roam.
Neil and his wife, who helps with the Station gardens, couldn’t get to Western Australia last year because of Covid, so this year – caravan in tow – they were like Melbourne Cup horses in their race for the border in case a Covid lockdown saw it closed down again! I think there must have been quite a few people racing for the border too as we are meeting plenty of other interstaters travelling WA.
All of Wooramel’s accommodation is within a few minutes walk of the Wooramel River – most sites overlook it. Like the Gascoyne River, described in my last blog, the Wooramel is upside down, with water only surfacing a few times a year for a couple of weeks if there’s been good inland rain. My timing is good this year, because water is flowing – though it doesn’t cover all of its massive river bed. I trekked along the dry bed section yesterday, a sand pit in some sections and soft mud in others where you could sink up to your knees. A free mud bath for your legs!
The big new development taking shape at Wooramel is a cafe for visitors. A team of young builders is currently arriving every day from the nearest town, Carnarvon, 124 kilometres away, and leave in the early evening on the return commute.
I’m in two minds about whether a modern cafe is a good idea. Will it take away that unique outback feeling at Wooramel, with its quirky use of old farm/station equipment for visitor facilities- old rainwater tanks recycled for shower rooms and housing an artesian spa- other equipment seeing new life as chairs, tables and campfire bq’s? The station even recycles junk for artwork! I suspect once aroma of a good coffee drifts my way, I’ll probably succumb.
Rachel is currently mulling over ideas for the inside decor and outside finish to the cafe building to retain Wooramel’s unique station style that she’s developed with her husband. There will be some corrugated iron on inside walls – possibly too on the outside with old fence timbers. She’s also got an array of items she plans for decoration. No doubt not what you’d see in a city cafe, and with her flair for the unusual and authentic, I’m pretty sure I will like what she comes up with. I can’t wait to return next year to see what’s evolved!
Most exciting is Rachel’s hope to use local Gascoyne products as much as she can in the cafe kitchen. I applaud that initiative. The Gascoyne is a major fruit and vegetable bowl for Western Australia, but you see few local chefs making use of it. Food offered at the cafe will be simple, but tasty. The famous Wooramel camp meals, offered under the night stars, will continue. I went to one earlier this week – pulled roasted pork the centre piece. And, glass of wine in hand, I’ll be enjoying a camp oven dinner tonight with many of the other Wooramel visitors.
As Arnie famously said: “I’ll be back” 😎