Alice Springs Travel Blog› entry 20 of 34 › view all entries
August 23rd, 2009 – by: Documama
There's a rumor going around town about a group of Americans who arranged their whole vacation around the Regatta but we wouldn't know anything about that, now would we? Our job here is done. It's probably a good time to get on the road.
John has three (3!) laptops so we spend the morning blogging and internettin' and general computer geekin'. Jeff and I are beginning to think we need to get one of those really small laptops to carry with us on trips like this. It would be sooooooo handy!
By 1, we're ready to head down to the train station. We have a reservation on the legendary Ghan.
There are two long-distance trains in Australia. The Ghan runs down the center of the country, from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south.
The Ghan is named for the Arabs that came to Australia with the camels. You didn't know Australia had camels? In the 19th century, before the railroad and roads were finished across Australia, someone decided that, given its arid nature Australia might be a good place to use camels for long-distance travel, especially as pack animals.
And they were right. While the people who came with the camels were not Afghanis, that's the name they got and that's the name that stuck and the train is named for them.
While waiting to board the train we decided to take some pictures next to the Ghan emblem on the side of the train. Which prompted a station-wide announcement about not standing next to the train! Um, oops, apparently that's us.....
When we finally are able to board the train, there's a bit of surprise. It's tight. The hallways for the sleepers are serpentine and the rooms are about 6 feet long and 3 feet wide. There's a big picture window but the rooms are decidedly snug. Jeff and I are in one cabin (they sleep two) and Kitty is in another.
Kitty, who has mild claustrophobia....panics at the size of the room and the twisty hallway and the idea of sharing that closet-like space with a stranger. She is quickly contemplating alternative routes to Adelaide. She stepped off for a breath of air and we discuss the options.
She decided to stay on the train.
We do end up spending a lot of time in the dining car. Those rooms are really really tiny and, besides, you can get snacks in the dining car! The snacks aren't too bad either. The train appears to be only about half-full, which helps as well. The other travellers seem to be evenly split between Australians and foreigners. It's nice to see Australians enjoying some of their interesting attractions. We've seen so many....well, everything but Australians!
Contrary to appearances, you cannot buy condoms in the dining car.
The countryside remains like the area around Alice -- semi-arid and scrub-brushy.
Except.....when the sun goes down, the best part of the trip begins. We discover that if we sit in our cabins with the lights out you can see the entire night sky full, just full, of stars. It's mesmerizing. Even Kitty finds her cabin much more attractive. In fact, she later finds it difficult to go to sleep because she doesn't want to stop watching the stars. I can't really blame her.
I have the top bunk in our cabin. There's a metal ladder to the top bunk but it's noisy and kind of hard on my feet. I discover that with long arms and legs I can ratchet myself in and out of the bunk without the ladder. In fact, the way to get down is to stick my butt out of the bed, wedge it against the door (1.5 feet away) and just slide myself down. Easy-peasy.
I don't sleep as well as I did on the train in Europe in '96 but I do sleep just fine, thank you.
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