Monday, 9 August 2021

Donga Tour

Welcome to the Centre for National Resilience, also known as Manigurr-ma Camp, I think I've finally gotten over the jetlag enough to give a proper tour of the accommodation that has been our home for the last week and will be for the next week before we're finally free to roam once again, Covid and South Australian Police permitting.

On arrival (in our case from a bus direct from the airport, but some interstate travellers are driving in, I believe), each person is allocated a room, one of a set of four conjoined cabins in a demountable building set somewhere on the site among about 500 of its peers. If you're travelling with others, you'll be placed next to them and can freely travel between each others rooms (provided you put on a mask while not in the rooms). The cabins are known lovingly as 'dongas' (dong-a), a mysterious word that seems to have come into Australian military usage around WWII to mean a temporary or transportable building, not to be confused with the more familiar (to me) donga (dong-gah), which means "somewhere out in the middle of nowhere", although in this case that wouldn't be out of place.

Each donga has a small balcony that represents your only contact with the outdoors, since leaving your cabin for any reason other than the occasional laundry trip on designated days (something I haven't tried yet) is not permitted. You can only use your part of the balcony (as marked by the red tape on the floor) while masked (or while seated and eating), and we're fortunate that ours face away from the sun in the hot parts of the day, so are reasonably livable, though I'm still not over 23 hours wearing a mask the other day, so I've mostly been sitting inside where I also get the benefit of the powerful airconditioning unit. While sitting on your balcony you can watch your fellow residents doing laps of theirs, or skipping, or occasionally trying to organise mass dance parties before you surreptitiously slip inside and pretend that you were never there.

Inside the room is relatively spartan, a single bed, desk, shelf, drawers and cupboard, all decorated with an institutional grey and green colour scheme. The fixed desk and limited space means that it's not really possible for couples to sleep in the same room unless they're willing to share the king single (something that Mrs. Owl in her twenty-six week pregnant state and I in my perpetually restless one are loath to do all that often), although there's more or less room for a second mattress on the floor as long as you don't want to be able to access the bathroom. There's a bar fridge and a kettle, but no other equipment, so you won't be reheating any meals. The meals are probably worth a post of their own, so I'll save that for later in the week. 

We got a care package of soap, shampoo and tasty goodies as well as a litre of UHT milk (surprisingly good) and a takeaway container full of tea and instant coffee on arrival, so we had all the bits and pieces required to make our stay manageable. If you run out of any of the basics, a call to the team will send them running with replacements. I assume that doesn't work with the packet of Strawberry and Cream lollies, which was a blast from the past that I didn't know I needed, but you never know unless you try it on, I suppose.

There's a TV on the wall by the door which gets all the local channels, including most importantly the ones that have been showing the Olympics this last week. I believe there's also some kind of TV on demand service available, but we haven't looked into it, not least because the internet connection has been...intermittent. It works, most of the time, but as you would have noticed if you tuned in for the crossword video yesterday, it's not all that reliable. To further detract from the temptation of television, the beds are on wheels, meaning that you can't easily prop yourself up to watch, and the absence of a comfy chair means that there's not really an ideal TV-viewing spot. The desk chair is fine and all (especially since our most recent comparison has been an airline seat), but I definitely think these rooms all could have benefited from a little armchair to sit and read in.

Each room has an ensuite bathroom that doubles as a sauna, since they're very well sealed and the sun beats in the little window during the day time. The showers have excellent pressure and get very hot very fast, so if your idea of a good time is getting properly steamed up then this is definitely the place for you. There's not all that much to add here, it's a bathroom, it works. It has plugs in it, which after a few years in Britain with their extremely stringent electrical regulations, we find exceedingly strange.
And that's it. There are certainly worse places to spend a fortnight, but I for one am looking forward to a reclining chair and some food that's not out of a plastic container. Oh, and to seeing something living and green, you do have plant life in this country, right?


Alli said...

This is so wild it feels like something out of a dystopia novel. Hopefully it's working, though.

Unwiseowl said...

It seems to be, Alli. Apparently they've had very few cases of transmission from anyone who's been here. And I'm not surprised, it all feels like a well-oiled machine with a lot less room for error than a metropolitan hotel would have.