On the Ghan
Our trip on the Ghan from Darwin to Adelaide takes three days and nights, with stops at Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy. The Coober Pedy stop is actually a railway siding at Manguri, a railway siding about thirty km from the town and buses take us into the town.
It was a 5am rise to prepare for and catch the 6am transfer bus to the Darwin railway station, twenty km out of town. At the station there were lots of people milling around, checking in with QR codes and answering COVID questions (despite having done this when getting on the bus back in the town). We have been assigned to car B which, not surprisingly, comes after car A. Cars C & D are then between us and the explorer lounge followed by the Queen Adelaide dining car. So we (the Gold Class people) seem to be grouped in sets of six cars. Memory tells us there were ten twin cabins in our car. Some cars have single cabins. There are also groups of Platinum Class people scattered in the car line up with their own lounges and dining cars. Platinum is a much flasher class of travel, double beds (no bunks) and more space. More cost too of course! All up there are thirty carriages, including staff and luggage/storage carriages. We are a tad over seven hundred metres long and are pulled by two diesel locomotives. Some of the Ghan journeys have more cars and stretch up to one kilometre long.
The train was due to leave at 9 am but didn’t set off until around 9.15am for Katherine. Soon after we were called into the dining car for brunch. Managed to squeeze a departure bubbles down in the lounge beforehand. More about the meal experiences on the train later, except to say that they were excellent!
We arrived at Katherine around midday and were quickly off on our cruise (from a choice of four options) on the Nitmiluk Gorge, it used to be called Katherine Gorge. In the north, as in the south, many of the locations and attractions are reverting to their indigenous names. This was a great guided experience cruising up the first two gorges and taking in the sights from the level of the river, rather than gazing down from the top of the cliffs. We have been here before, but did not do the gorge trip. It was a stop in the van along the way to Kakadu. Apart from the National Park there is not a lot else to see in Katherine itself, it is a service centre for the surrounding country. Some use it as a base from which day trips can be done to other parts.
We were back on the train around 4.30pm and headed off at 6.30pm. Dinner was at 7.15pm. What do you do in the train over this three hour period? Well, you go to the lounge car before dinner and have a chat with fellow travelers and look out the window at the scenery as the sun sinks slowly and the dark comes in.
After dinner we retired to our cabin for bed. In our absence the lounge in the cabin had been converted to a bed and the bunk from above dropped. The wet ensuite was a little tight, but who cares you don’t stay there long! Allthego had the top bunk, interesting getting in as the ladder up is near the pillow. Up you go, swing ones end onto the bed, do a little end shuffle towards the other end of the bunk and then swing the legs up. More nimble and agile types might do it a different way. But this technique worked, even in the early hours of the morning when nature calls. We are due to arrive in Alice Springs mid morning.