Posted by: travelrat | December 10, 2012

Hello, Darling! I’m on the Train!

Ghan at Darwin

Darwin: 18th April 2012.

Finally, we boarded the Ghan at Darwin. The rail terminal is some distance from the city … maybe they wanted it somewhere near the railway tracks? But, a coach had been laid on to take us not only from our hotel to the terminal, but from the terminal to the very door of our carriage, because the train is so long. I don’t think we were supposed to notice that it would have been quicker to walk to the carriage?

You need to organise your luggage into ‘hold baggage’ and ‘carry-on baggage’, as if you were on an airline flight, for space within the compartment is limited, but comfortable. And they do get a lot into a small space … including an ensuite toilet and shower. But, like on an aeroplane, you do have to play a few games of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ to decide who gets the window seat … although, if you lose, the view is nearly as good.

We were a little late leaving Darwin, but with such a long journey ahead, a few minutes doesn’t really matter. At first, we passed through the kind of territory we’ve already seen from the tour buses … lots of gums, pandanus and termite mounds.

Around midday, we were summoned to lunch. There are three classes on the Ghan, and each class has its own dining car. I’ve got to say, I heaved a nostalgic sigh at the sight of the elegant ‘Queen Adelaide Restaurant’. This, I thought, is what train journeys should be about … real service, rather than overpriced sandwiches and mediocre coffee, like we get in Britain … and have to pay extra for.

I have a soft spot for ‘proper’ dining cars … I seem to remember a dining car attendant on the former British Railways (when they had such a thing!) was the first person ever to call me ‘Sir’.

The food and service matched the décor. We had chicken, served with a tart containing sweet potato, with a flan to follow.

At around 2 p.m., we arrived in Katherine, where the train would stop for some hours, so that the passengers could take one of the ‘whistle stop’ tours on offer.

Ghan Cabin


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