Completing My Ride on the Ghan.
Rolling along steadily, heading almost due south, it isn’t long before we’re in the Outback again: hot and dry, but with more actual terrain than we saw from the Indian Pacific. Here there were actual hills in the background.
Around mid-afternoon, the train’s PA system crackled into life and an excited voice announced that we would soon be crossing the Finke River. The announcement was repeated several times until the train slowed and the P.A. voice, in almost reverent tones, said “We are now crossing the Finke River.”
It was almost bone dry, although our car attendant swore that it was a raging torrent when they crossed it on their northbound trip several days earlier. Supporting the plausibility of that account was the listing in my encyclopedia after I returned home. It described the Finke as “a major intermittent river in Australia.” (My emphasis.)
We stopped for half a day at Alice Springs, which is a real town of some 26,000 residents that’s smack in the middle of the Outback. The statue of a camel is appropriate because the beasts were used to transport supplies for the work crews building the railroad. The Afghans, who were brought along to wrangle the camels, we’re referred to simply as “Ghans”, hence the name of the train.
The half day was a welcome respite for everyone. We wandered around town, stopping in shops selling aboriginal art, bought an ice cream cone, and marveled at the stockmen (cowboys) wandering around the town in their finest outfits.
The half day break in Alice Springs flew by. While passengers were wandering through the town, the train crew was fueling and servicing the locomotive and bringing supplies in board for the dining and lounge cars. Soon we were again rocking along, enjoying the companionship of fellow passengers, mostly Aussies and New Zealanders.
Here’s one final photo, provided by the railroad, that offers a sense of the majesty of this train and it’s sister train, the Indian Pacific, providing luxury transportation as they pass though a land that is beautiful, yet hostile at the same time.
Is it a trip worth doing? Absolutely, and my very best advice is to do it the way I did: Both trains. One trip!