We have just finished what is our first, and hopefully not last trip on the Ghan… an iconic rail trip back in time and place. The Ghan was named for the Afghan Cameleers who traded and transported goods, water, medicines and culture, throughout the outback and across the vast distances of Australia in the colonial era in Aus’. The Ghan, these days as one Aussie put it, is up there on the ‘bucket list’ for many Australians… as it was for us.
When the opportunity arose to ‘empty the bucket a bit more’ hubby and I jumped at the chance and it is proving truly a magical and regal experience from beginning to end. It was three great days of adventure and leisure and two strange nights being rocked in the arms of the Outback. We chose the Darwin to Adelaide run, though many chose only to travel as far as Alice Springs and many take the ‘Red seat option’ which is more about getting from A to B but still… what a ride!
The Ghan travels just shy of 3,000 klm in three days and two nights and is in itself usulally 1/2 and 1 kilometre in length. It weaves its way down a rail line running through the Centre of Aus’, along the longest north – south rail journey in the world. There are other travel options, Platinum class (posh class) and the extended touring versions, but we took the pensioner option of Gold Class, and it was a golden experience.
Right from check in the staff are exceptional, they become almost family over the time of the epic trip. They look after all your needs, make your bed, usher you about, bring you cuppa’s and in general make you experience an exceptional one.
You are encouraged not to spend all your time in your cabin, most of which are twin berth though there are more spacious options. They feel just as a fully self-contained as a caravan can feel. You have your own ensuite, with shower and all the nice little touches you would expect in any serviced room. No mini-bar however.
The absence of a mini-bar is no problem as in Gold and Platinum class, all drinks and meals are included and a nice range they are too, from Bloody Mary cocktails to Aussie Beers and wines. As are the touring options when you pull into Katherine, Alice and just out of Copper Pedy. There are tour busses, which await to take you out on your chosen tour. These include cruises, scenic flights or just shopping and stopping to look and learn about the places you pass through.
The meals are a fine dining experience that is memorable. The options are a treat and the chef is a wiz’. In whole you feel as though you have stepped back in time to a more relaxed and genteel place and it is a delightful change. The lounge car, where you wait for your seating and where you can relax as you are served from the bar, is reminiscent of yesteryear and it is here that you are encouraged to join others and make new friends at any time or just to relax and read.
The Ghan is more than a train trip…it is an adventure into history and time and I would love to do the trip again in another season, to look out on other views and see he world of the Outback through a different cycle of life.
It is often forgotten that Australia was made up of people not only from the convict hulks and others looking for a brave new world, but of so many more cultural experiences. From the Chinese seeking wealth for their families, to the Pacific islanders who were initially bought here under contract by traders to work the cane fields and later often dragged here in a base’ slave practice. There were also many emigrants from many lands seeking freedom and prosperity and together we make up the diversity of our culture and society that we enjoy today.
The Afghans and Moslems also found a home in this new world in the century Australia joined with Europe and the Northern Hemisphere as we emerged from the millennia and more of tribal isolation. As a nation and religion this group are now out of favour in the psyche of the world, due to the radical element in their society and beliefs and a general religious lack of tolerance for other faiths and practices. I don’t want to get into arguments about the problems in the world, which arise from radical, intolerant and evil practices of others, but I do want to remind you that ‘radical’ is in another word ‘extreme’. As extreme as was the Christian persecutions of the Crusaders and the witch hunts of Inquisition, all of past ages. This age of terrorism and the random murder of innocence too will pass if we refuse to tolerate it, and as I have said before “Karma is a bitch”.
The Ghan is of our proud history, reminiscent of a hard working group of emigrants whose purpose was to better our society, improve not only their own situation, but that of others. It is a proud and prosperous history… and it is part of our own.
I loved our journey and am pleased to share it with you, if only for a short time.
Some of the best bits are:
- The wonderful staff and their welcoming ways
- The all inclusive tours available
- They feed you really well… love the choices!
- The commentary along the way… particularly pointing out the “Iron Man” statue in the middle of nowhere… Only in Aus’ do they seem to commemorate the nicking of railway sleepers… hang on? Is that right?
- The wonderful “Birds of flight” show at the Desert Park in Alice Springs.
- The tour into the beautiful Katherine Gorge.
- Someone else is making the bed and doing the cooking.
The best memories are:
- The trip itself… a on-board holiday on an iconic experience.
- The food… Yummy!
Jan is a traveller and author, you can read more about her books and tales under the tabs above.