Relax and enjoy the ride
IN 2004 A milestone in Australia railway history was achieved when the first train crossed the heartland of Australia travelling 3000km from Adelaide to Darwin.
It was February 1 and it is the date all rail devotees recognise as the date The Ghan was born.
A decade on, the iconic train has become one of just a few local bucket-list attractions for Aussies.
As the son of a railway engineer I have always held a fascination for trains, although a 20-hour trip on a train from Sydney to Tweed many years ago washed away some of the magic of train travel for me.
That said, an invitation to be part of a small media contingent on the 10th anniversary Ghan trip to Darwin saw me falling over myself to say yes.
The first Ghan carried leading politicians Gough Whitlam and Alexander Downer, while entertainers Joe Camilleri and James Blundell were also aboard.
Blundell wrote a song about the Ghan which he performed for guests on the inaugural trip.
Fast forward 10 years and former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer replaced Gough, while James Reyne was handed the entertainment baton.
The former Australian Crawl lead singer provided one of the highlights of the anniversary trip when he performed at a concert in the middle of nowhere.
Actually nowhere was the small South Australia town of Pimba which is home to just 50 residents.
It was fitting for him to open his impromptu concert in the red dirt with the song Way out West.
It was a short stop and didn’t affect the train’s schedule with trips leaving Adelaide twice a week on a
It’s a trip that offers tranquillity and a time for reflection and sometimes in our busy lives we forget that we need this
Sunday and a Wednesday at 12.20pm.
All up you spend three days on the train with stops at Alice Springs and Katherine before arriving in Darwin at 6.30pm.
Southern Rail, which operates The Ghan as well as the Indian Pacific, moved to make the long rail journey ticket more attractive recently by handing passengers in the top two classes an all-inclusive food and drink package.
It simply means your ticket includes all meals and you can wander up at any time to the lounge carriage and join other travellers for a drink and a chat.
Meeting others experiencing The Ghan is one of the great benefits in doing this trip. You can just stay in your cabin if you want, but I’d suggest stretching out and enjoying the company of others is a great way to go. I have no doubt it’s this opportunity for social interaction that has helped make The Ghan trip so popular.
While The Ghan offers a cheaper individual-seat-only travel option, most opt to book platinum or gold service tickets, which give you the privacy of your own carriage and most importantly a bed.
My greatest joy was to sit in my cabin looking across the panorama of Australia’s outback through the window. It reminded me of walking into an art gallery featuring the best Outback landscapes.
Yes for kilometres on kilometres the painting may not change much, but now and then you will be met with a surprise. It’s a trip that offers tranquillity and a time for reflection and sometimes in our busy lives we forget that we need this.
My advice: “it may not be the cheapest holiday you have ever gone on, but it will deliver a lasting memory”.
Peter Chapman discovers why so many sing the praise of The Ghan