Another Birthday Treat

Sun. 28th April 2019

Iconic pic of the Ghan taken by DaveI wake excited, albeit a bit slow from the wine pairing at dinner last night. Today we head back to Adelaide to catch The Ghan Train to Alice Springs. I had never considered why it was called The Ghan but it does make sense to hear it was after the Afghans who came over from Afghanistan with camels in the 1830s (many were from Pakistan but that would ruin the story). It is an easy 1 hour drive to return the car at the carefully picked Hertz dealer that was less than 10 minutes walk from the Parklands railway station. We are soon sat in the waiting area sipping champagne (well Aussie sparking wine). Whilst waiting I chatted to a Chinese lady, who told me she preferred to fly than go by train but this was another trip to tick off the Bucket List. What!! A bucket list is supposed to be those things you want to do, not just to tick off to impress goodness knows who. I was so glad a Platinum ticket and the whole experience that entails was not squandered on her. She was somewhere with the hoi polloi on the rest of the train, though even so, what a waste.

So the amazing trip awaits usSo, as my birthday treat we have Platinum lanyards to show we are not slumming it in Gold class (can I upstage Dave and his birthday Spitfire flight?? At least I think so). The train has 280 guests of which only 25 are Platinum who have a separate lounge and dining car on the train. At full size the train is said to be 1km long, ours comprised of 36 carriages, 3 power vans and two locos. The train is so long that is split between platforms one and two and it still took me ages to walk to the front only to find the engine is not attached, as it would block the tracks. According to the duty manager I meet, the engine would be attached at 11am. I report this back to Dave before he goes off for a wander with camera in hand.

Captain smugAt about 11:15 we are called to board but Dave is nowhere to be seen. Typical! Almost everyone had headed to the train when Dave returned grinning from ear to ear. Not only did he get photos of the engine arriving and being coupled up, he had only gone and been in the cab with the engine driver!! [To be fair, it was just pure luck. I was wandering back to Janet when I was told the engine would be arriving in a couple of minutes. Then when I got to the front, I was waved past the end of the platform to the the on-the-tracks photos of the train, and then I was asked if I wanted to go up to the driver’s cab. What else is a boy supposed to do?] Everyone is buzzing with excitement as we head under the tracks to Platform 2 where our carriages are. Our room is spacious for a train and even has an ensuite shower and toilet. We are soon sat sipping champagne this time. Bollinger, I believe. This is going to be indulgent.

All ready to goSnowtown Main StreetAfter a tasty lunch, we sit back and take in the views. The landscape soon turns to a mass of flat nothing except brown soil and small bushes. The only wildlife is a few horses and cows – still no sign of any kangaroos. Soon we hear an announcement to say we will shortly be heading through Snowtown. This means nothing to us but according to the Austalian couples we are sat with it became famous back in the 1980s due to murders where the bodies were eventually found in barrels. On a more cheerful note, it is also known for its windfarm. One of the massive blades fell off a lorry and instead of being used it is now mounted on display in the main street.

The train goes on for ever!The next surprise was to see the sea on the left side. A study of the map showed that there is an inlet leading to Port Augusta. Given we have been travelling for 4 ½ hours, albeit not that fast, we have only covered a miniscule distance through Australia. We have not yet started heading inland into the outback. In the next few hours the main excitement was when the track went around a large curve and we could see the front of the train out of the window. One disappointment (possibly our only disappointment) was that there was no observation carriage on the train.

Platinum dining carThe rest of the afternoon was spent chilling in our room reading and watching mile after mile of nothingness outside. The sun going down was good to watch but no amazing colours as darkness quickly fell. We hen just had to try the novelty of the shower in our suite, which was surprising good. Even with our limited luggage in our well travelled backpacks we managed to scrub up (reasonably) well for dinner. We did wait to a respectable time of 7pm before heading to the bar/lounge carriage. Any earlier and we would definitely need to pace ourselves with the good selection of (free) wines on offer although we did feel the need to try a few different options. I was going to try the Chenin Blanc too but that will have to wait until lunch tomorrow.

Our route from Adelaide to AliceThe four course meal was very tasty, five if you count the desserts separate from the cheese. The staff were all so chatty, attentive and friendly. From minute 1, the service has been absolutely first rate. Earlier we had let slip that this trip was the main present for my birthday, then after the main course, Lucy and Tija presented me with a goodie bag for my birthday which contained The Ghan souvenirs of a tea towel, fridge magnets (how did they know we collected these?) and a luggage tag. How lovely.

And so to bedThe wattleseed ice-cream intrigued me so I just had to try a scoop and it was very tasty. It is an Australian Bush spice which is roasted and tastes a bit like nutty coffee and the ice cream is considered a delicacy. Just time for a port as a nightcap and then we decided it was time to turn in. Whilst we had been having dinner our room was converted into our bedroom for the night. We were soon tucked in as we have a 5:45am alarm call to alight the train and watch the sun rise over the bush. The chug chug soon lulled me to sleep, as ever it took Dave a bit longer.

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