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The Ghan pauses at Alice Springs while passengers enjoy tours of the local area. Photo by Bahnfrend

The Freemason printed an article in its December 2018 issue on the background of the train known as the Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin. This report is from a member who decided to make the journey.

I joined the Ghan at its home station Parklands on 3 February 2019, arriving by a chauffeur driven limousine. Rail staff delivered my luggage to the cabin five minutes later but I needed a golf cart to drive to the cabin as the train was 11⁄2 kilometres long and was in two sections.

We departed at 12.15pm and travelled towards Perth on the main western line until we arrived at Tarcoola at about 10.00pm where we headed north. The dinner table in the dining car had the highest quality linen while the menu was a choice of Spencer Gulf Prawn and Pork Dumpling, Roast Chicken, South Rock Lamb, and other choices, plus dessert.

The Ghan arrived at Marla at 3.30am and at 6.00am we were invited to disembark and witness the sunrise. Marla was in the middle of nowhere with picnic tables, a shed and a large fire to ward off the morning chill. The train staff set up a drinks stall with tea, coffee and fruit juice as well as bacon and egg rolls and other breakfast delights. Thank good- ness the sun did its thing and shed warm light on the gathered throng to fulfil our first off-train experience. Back at the cabin our room was fully prepared for travel together with a cup of tea, orange drinks and chocolate.

We headed for Alice Springs but first had to cross the border between South Australia and the Northern Territory which was marked by a large rock and small sign. Next was the Finke River, which mostly is a river of sand, widely cited as the oldest river in the world and features rocky riverbeds that date back 300 million years.

The Ghan pulled into Alice Springs at 1.45pm with a departure time of 6.15pm so there was plenty of time to explore the Alice and we chose to do the helicopter flight. Well what a story! We were taken to the outskirts of town and divided into groups and when our turn came I was given the front seat next to the pilot but when I was fully strapped in I noticed there was no door! The helicopter flew over Alice and headed out to Stanley Chasm, then the pilot banked left and I was looking straight out at the ground below, quickly switch- ing my gaze to the front. The flight then proceeded towards home and on the way he banked hard left again to show us John Flynn’s grave. It was also a very windy day and the trip developed into a battle with the wind but we made it back to base safely. On the way I asked the pilot if he did this on a full time basis and he said ‘Oh no, I muster camels and cattle most of the time.’
We were flying with a legend!

TheGhanDesertBack to the comfort of the Ghan for a few drinks and we were off on our way to Katherine. Dinner that night was Venison Carpaccio, Crocodile Sausage, Pulled Pork Salad, Barramundi, Beef Rib, and others choices, plus dessert.

The next day breakfast was Juice, Cereals, Tropical fruit, Full Breakfast, Barramundi Benedict, White Chocolate and Lychee Pancakes.

We arrived at Katherine at 9.00am with a departure time of 1.00pm. We decided to stay on the train as the staff explained they had to help with the off-train passengers but added the bar was ours and we could help ourselves. I was lucky in finding a bottle of 12 year old single malt whisky.

At 1.00pm we were off to Darwin. The land was quite green and lush, we saw buffalo, emus and kangaroos but no camels.

The Ghan pulled into Darwin at 5.30pm, our transport was waiting at our carriage door and we were whisked off to our Darwin hotel.

To sum up, the trip on the Ghan was most rewarding and I will do it again one day.

Article extracted from Freemason magazine, December 2019, pages 20 and 21.


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