Cruising, on the rails
another year of volunteer-driven travel, but on the rails down under
I had an opportunity to cross the australian continent in a different way in november.
on nov. 28, I boarded The Ghan, a long-distance all-inclusive rail journey that lasted three days and two nights as it chugged through the middle of the continent.
It wasn’t initially in the plans, but was a delightful nightcap of sorts on 2018.
when the year began, I already knew I would be returning to australia in the fall. as readers with long memories and an interest would know, I volunteer at the world lifesaving Championships when they are held every other year.
The south australian City of adelaide – more specifically its suburbs of holdfast Bay, Glenelg and Marion – hosted the International life saving Federation’s 2018 world lifesaving Championships for the second time. The region had hosted this event before in 2012, providing my excuse to visit australia for the first time.
with the distance and travel time to reach australia, and having learned that volunteering for 10 to 12 hours a day for 16 days of your 21-day vacation isn’t too relaxing, this sojourn to the great southern continent was built with some travel time in mind.
having seen an episode of a discovery Channel Canada series on the Ghan, it became an option. The train itself will celebrate its centennial in 2019, after the first carriages made the perilous journey north from adelaide that year. It would be several decades before the rail line was complete and dependable, linking the south australian city with darwin at the continent’s northern edge.
The Ghan name itself comes from the afghanistan workers who were brought to australia in the colonial 19th and early 20th centuries to do the backbreaking work many residents of British origins wouldn’t do. They, and their camels, are the reason the rail line was laid down, and also played a role in the first telegraph line through the continent that would provide a link through asia, the Middle east and europe, to Mother england.
several things struck me while on the sojourn— first, what a great way to travel. second, it was a kin to cruise in a number of ways, most visibly how I was among the youngest person on the train at the sprightly age of 41.
The excursion to nitmiluk Gorge (Katherine gorge) showed me once again that when it comes to the recognitionelement of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, we Canadians could learn many things from our Commonwealth cousins. aside places being renamed, those guiding us through the gullies included Indigenous people and their history of this place.
Beyond the train, I had noticed these recognitions elsewhere too. aside land recognition, which was a standard back in 2012, representatives of Indigenous communities were routinely included to offer welcomes alongside other dignitaries such as mayors and premiers. Flags representing the Indigenous people arealsoflowntogetherwithstateand the australian national flag.
all symbolic practices, but still more than what is done throughout most of Canada.
another takeaway was the school over the air that was part of the Ghan experience. a concept used in australia and elsewhere, it connects students whose families live in remoteareas–thinklivestockranchers miles away from anything else – without schools, but being schooled with the assistance of a home tutor (mom, dad or a caretaker).
whenfounded,thestudentswould receive readings and other materials in mailed pouches and send back their assignments the same way. They’d connect with teachers for lessons via radio. Today, a computer with internet connectivity, web camera, speakers and a microphone allowstudentstoconnectwithteachers and lessons online.
Thisschoolfascinatedme,particularly its potential applications in our country.
whatwillthenextworldlifesaving Championshipsopportunitybring?I can’tpredict,butIdoknowtheevent returns to australia’s Gold Coast in 2024, and by then there’ll be a new train excursion available that runs from adelaide to Brisbane.