All aboard The Ghan

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - Contents -

Re­call­ing a by­gone era of un­hur­ried travel, car­riage cock­tails and old-world charm, trav­el­ling by rail has se­ri­ous ap­peal.

In­deed, it’s im­pos­si­ble to not feel the ro­mance of rail travel, so it was with a head full of whimsy that I ar­rived for my ad­ven­ture on The Ghan. Named after the pi­o­neer­ing Afghan cameleers of the Red Centre, The Ghan cuts through the desert be­tween Ade­laide and Dar­win via Alice Springs, a four-day, three-night jour­ney (one-way) of 2979km.

Sight­see­ing in style

For a city-slicker like me, who en­joys crea­ture com­forts while want­ing a bit of an ad­ven­ture, Th The Ghan is ideal. Be­fore we ro roll out of Alice Springs (where I joined the train), a glass of c chilled bub­bly is placed into my h hand. My Gold Ser­vice cabin is com­pact but slick with oak p pan­elling, air con­di­tion­ing a and a de­cid­edly vin­tage feel.

For pre-din­ner cock­tails, I make my way into the plush c club lounge – all meals and s se­lected al­co­holic drinks are i in­cluded in Gold and Plat­inum f fares. I’m as­signed to a ta­ble in t the Queen Ade­laide Restau­rant, where I join two other sin­gles. Bol­stered by the all-in­clu­sive wine, we’re soon bo­som bud­dies. The food is sen­sa­tional. Over three cour­ses, we’re treated to lo­cal pro­duce paired with killer Aussie wines. The mouth­wa­ter­ing menu ex­tends to the two-course lunch and yummy cooked brekkie, too.

Back in the cabin, I find my bed has been made. A cho­co­late and a minia­ture Coin­treau bot­tle wait on the pil­low. Soon I’m lulled into a deep sleep by the gen­tle rock­ing of the train.

An out­back odyssey

I spend the next day glued to the win­dows, hyp­no­tised by the grad­ual trans­for­ma­tion of the land­scape. Vast deserts, bar­ren plains, crocodile-in­fested wet­lands, sa­cred Abo­rig­i­nal sites – the jour­ney takes in some of the coun­try’s most spec­tac­u­lar scenery and re­ally gives a sense of just how huge Aus­tralia is.

Off the rails

One of the best things about the Ghan is its Off Train Ex­cur­sions (some are in­cluded in the fare while oth­ers are ex­tra) such as camel rid­ing or tours at Alice Springs. The stand­out is the Kather­ine Gorge cruise (in­clu­sive). I was awestruck by the tow­er­ing cliffs, stun­ning wa­ter­falls and sandy beaches. The Abo­rig­i­nal rock art, thou­sands of years old, will take your breath away.

Disem­bark­ing at trop­i­cal Dar­win, I cast one last look at the ma­jes­tic train on the plat­form and re­alise why The Ghan is fre­quently touted as Aus­tralia’s “Ori­ent Ex­press”. Put it on your bucket list.

Paul Ewart does the Red Centre in style. The Ghan has thrilled train lovers since its in­au­gu­ral jour­ney in 1929. Plat­inum Ser­vice on The Ghan.

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