From North to South on the Ghan.
There are two luxury trains that bisect the Australian continent: the Indian Pacific, which crosses east-west between Sydney and Perth, and the Ghan, which goes north-south, between Darwin and Adelaide. Both trains stop a couple of times in interesting places en route. The Indian Pacific is a three night trip; the Gahn completes its journey in two nights.
I rode this train north to south, starting in Darwin. The train’s logo is a camel because the beasts were used to carry materials into the dry Australian outback by the Aussies who built the railroad. The name of the train is the nickname gave to the Afghan wranglers who looked after the camels.
Out there is the reason wooden ties cannot be used to build the railroads in Australia. Those brown objects are termite mounds and you see them everywhere.
Here the Ghan is crossing the Finke River. One of the train crew told us that when they crossed the river 10 days earlier, it had been a raging torrent. The encyclopedia I consulted when I got home described the Finke as “a major intermittent river in Australia.”
The Ghan stopped for half a day in Alice Springs giving passengers a chance to wander around the town and check out the local K-Mart (Yes, really!). I don’t know if it was usual or not, but there were quite a few Aboriginal people in Alice Springs the day our train was there. Many are “stockmen”, which is Australian-speak for “cowboy”.
I was a bit surprised that there was only one locomotive on the Ghan, but was assured by several crew members that they are well maintained and perform flawlessly. Here ours gets its windshield washed for the afternoon run.
Still several hours from Adelaide and then hostile arid outback gives way to vast fields of grain. We also passed great herds of sheep.
I flew from Adelaide back to Sydney, where I spent two nights before taking Hawaiian Airlines back to Honolulu. For one of those nights, I attended a performance of The Magic Flute in the Sydney Opera House only to discover to my great distress that Roberta Flack was in concert there on that same evening. Nevertheless, the Sydney Opera House is a spectacular building and is a “must see”.
Thank you for the write ups on your Australian rail adventures. While not taking the 2 most famous train rides down-under, my family and I are headed to New Zealand and Australia in a few months. We are scheduled for a ride on the Northern Explorer in New Zealand and an overnight train ride from Cains to Brisbane on the Spirit of Queensland. Always enjoy your blog post and as you mentioned in an earlier post, we too are looking forward to our train adventures just like it’s Christmas!
I’ve not been to New Zealand and I am very much aware that it is a grievous omission. Have a grand time!