Re­lax and en­joy the ride

Central and North Burnett Times - - EXPLORE -

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

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