Venus, the brightest of the planets, appears first, then as night falls, clusters of tiny stars gradually begin to multiply, creating a blanket of brilliance above.
With a telescope in hand and a twinkling sky begging for my full attention, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than kicking back in the middle of Australia’s spectacular Capertree Valley in my very own two-person stargazing bubbletent.
The uniqueness of this, the only pop-up glamping experience of its kind Down Under, is not lost on me – I feel like I might just be the only person on Earth.
In reality, just over the rise down to my left and atop the hill behind me are another couple of privately positioned inflatable bubbletents, each of them well out of sight of the other and with their own individual offerings – one has an outdoor Swedish style wooden bathtub, the other a romantic love swing.
Unlike other tourist destinations, there is a shroud of secrecy over the exact location of the bubbletents. The owners prefer it not be revealed until a booking is secured, and it’s so secluded that there is no need to collect a key or check-in with on-site management.
Instead all necessary details are mapped out in the welcome pack guests receive shortly after a booking is confirmed. The information provided includes a map, location coordinates, a list of what to bring, and a rundown of things to do in the Valley, whether visiting for a one night or staying a few.
The Bubbletent Australia concept was conceived after owners Sonny Vrebec and Mayu Iwasaki visited New Zealand’s Lake Tekapo.
This spot is renowned for being one of the top three spots globally for stargazing thanks to a concentrated effort by its residents to minimise light pollution. During their stay the pair witnessed what they describe as ‘an incredible meteorite shower’ and afterward made a pact then to do their best to find a spot in Australia where they could offer tourists a similar experience.
‘We were just flabbergasted at the beauty of the cosmos and the wonderment of what lay overhead,’ says Sonny.
Set amid a World Heritage-listed landscape, within a remote 1,000-acre working farm between the popular NSW tourist townships of Lithgow and Mudgee, there’s plenty of appeal here, especially if, like me, you’ve been forced to spend several months in home isolation due to the sweeping global Covid-19 pandemic that’s been plaguing the world for most of this year.
Positioned to take in views of the second biggest canyon in the world – also one of the world’s 50 Important Bird Area (IBA) sanctuaries for bird watching – the Capertree Valley is one of Australia’s most picturesque destinations.
Not only am I surrounded by sandstone cliffs and spectacular chasms, the amount of flora and fauna that abounds here is part of the appeal.
Native animals like kangaroos and kookaburras, mountain goats and sheep from the working farm, as well as eagles and 242 different species of bird provide the perfect introduction to Australia’s rugged landscape.
I’m booked into the Cancer tent tonight (named after the constellation – the others are Leo and Virgo), which, alongside from offering a cosy bedroom with a plush double bed and accompanying en-suite, also boasts an outdoor rain shower, a firepit, alfresco kitchen/lounge area with daybed, a couple of single sofas and a coffee table, a chiller fridge built in under the deck, a floating swing relaxation area and cooking utensils, along with kindling and firestarters.
Inside in the drawers under my bed I discover a couple of extra blankets, great for wrapping around my shoulders as I sit by the fire, along with some board games and a pair of bird-watching binoculars that I’ll use in the morning after I’ve tackled a nature walk.
It’s a clear evening, ideal for searching and identifying constellations, while enjoying some vino and a couple of sausages cooked on the grill. There’s no need to worry about faffing about in the dark looking for anything you may need – there are lanterns scattered about and a string of solar lights that are actioned by a simple switch as well as a couple of head-lamps for ease of onsite navigation.
With a full tummy and a sky full of stars to entertain me, I pull on my pyjamas and settle under the covers in my igloo-like den and put the Luminous app to good use. It helps guide me on where to point my telescope. I connect the Wonderboom Bluetooth speakers to the in-room iPad and drift off to sleep listening to Under the Milky Way by Church.
I’m not sure what time I nodded off, but as the sun begins to creep up over the horizon signifying the beginning of a new day, I grab my SLR camera and walking shoes and hit the nearest trail.
My breath grows deeper with every step and as I make my way through the wilderness I am amazed by how many lookouts there are – talk about a lesson in the true beauty of Australia.
After a dose of morning exercise and a cooked breakfast it’s time to hit the road.
As I unzip the tent and prepare to venture back to civilization, I commit the landscape and the luxury of this unique place to memory.
Then, as if on cue, I’m brought back to reality by a chorus of bleating from a herd of mountain goats on the hill nearby.
‘See you later,’ I whisper as I get in the car for the journey home. ‘I’ll be back’.
Bubbletent Australia is about three hours drive west of Sydney. A stay here costs from A$510 (£279) per night for a minimum two-night stay.
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