Low-cost student-style travel can lead to unusual opportunities. For something a little different this year, you can stay in an Australian tree house, a Dutch castle or learn to be a master igloo builder.
These are among opportunities available through international youth hostel organizations.
The hostel Tree Tops is in the Mission Beach area of Queensland, Australia, just south of the coastal city of Cairns.
Tree Tops is set in 1 1/2 acres of rain forest in an 84-acre private estate. Estate owner Roger Scales started building the pole-framed tree house last May and it was opened Aug. 26. The floor is nearly five meters above ground level, offering a view of the rain forest through to the ocean. The design provides accommodations for up to 32 travelers.
Variety of Activities
Scales believes this is one of few places where travelers can see the reef, islands, rain forest, waterfalls, mountains, aboriginal landmarks and go white-water rafting or horseback riding in the Australian bush all in one day.
Once at the Mission Beach area you will find the hostel about 200 meters west of Garner's Beach, at the Bingil Bay Rainforest Lodge just off Bingil Bay Road. Average rate for a night's accommodation for a senior member (over 18) in an international youth hostel in Australia is between $4 and $7.
If you plan to travel from Australia to areas that have limited youth hostel facilities, the youth hostel travel service in Sydney may still be able to help with information about alternative inexpensive lodgings.
On a recent visit to the YHA Travel Office at 355 Kent St. in Sydney, I found that they had gathered information and advice on several areas with few or no hostels and that booklets were available for $1. The suggestion sheets covered tips on low-cost accommodations in Singapore, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, South Africa, South Pacific, Bali, Malaysia and Thailand.
Learn to Build Igloo
Another option this year is across the Atlantic. The Swedish Touring Club is offering a course in building igloos. The club, which has a network of mountain huts and 270 youth hostels, is celebrating its 100th birthday.
The club will begin its two igloo trips March 3 and April 13. Participants spend one day learning basic building techniques. Then the group skis through mountain areas where there are no overnight huts and build their own igloos to stay in. Touring club representatives claim that most tour leaders speak English; you should double-check that for the specific tour you consider joining.
If you join the group at Enafors railway station, the price for the one-week trip would be 1,835 kronor (about U.S. $244). From Stockholm the rate is 2,167 kronor (about $288). For further details contact Svenska Turistforeningen (Swedish Touring Club) directly at Vasagatan 48, Box 25, 101 20 Stockholm, Sweden. You can also ask travel agencies owned by the national youth hostel association for help in getting information.
Castle by the Beach
News from the Netherlands is that another castle has been added to that nation's youth hostel system. Westhove Castle, near Domburg, has a setting among dunes and forest and is only a six-minute walk from a beach.