Journey to remember on board The Ghan

The Ghan

The Ghan

Safety system issue causes train delays

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It’s 10 years since The Ghan made its maiden cross-continental journey all the way from the bottom of South Australia to the top of the Northern Territory and the original staff, drivers and passengers from a decade ago, along with other lucky newcomers like me, were celebrating the milestone as part of a commemorative ‘Ghanniversary’ trip.

Its arrival in the city signified a new era of tourism in the Northern Territory, making travel easier as well as providing better access for Aboriginal communities in the region.

Following a flight with Singapore Airlines and sister line SilkAir, I began my Aussie journey in Adelaide, which is regularly voted among the top 10 cities to visit, not just Down Under, but around the world.

There’s plenty to see and do, including the newly redeveloped Adelaide Oval, Rundle Mall shopping area, plus great bars like Clever Little Tailor.

However, Adelaide’s main appeal is that it’s a gateway to many of South Australia’s main tourist attractions, including the nearby white sandy beach resort of Glenelg, the Barossa wine valley and the nature reserves on Kangaroo Island.

Adelaide Parklands Terminal is the starting point for a northbound Ghan journey, and from speaking to my fellow passengers it’s an excursion that’s high on many Australians’ and rail enthusiasts’ ‘bucket lists’.

The sheer size of The Ghan is staggering. There are two engines pulling up to 43 carriages and car transporters, and at over 1km in length it takes good eyesight to be able to see from one end of the shiny silver behemoth to the other.

Train carriages in general are far from spacious - but the clever design of The Ghan means every millimetre of space on board is utilised perfectly.

Nevertheless, walking down the narrow dark timber corridors on an evening followed by a stranger can still make you feel like you’re in a scene from Murder On The Orient Express.

There are three choices of accommodation, including the Red seats, which are pretty typical of first-class areas on UK trains.

However, I find The Ghan to be a kind of cruise on land, and to get a true taste of the train’s magnificence, you need to stay in the Gold or Platinum cabins which offer pull-out beds, wardrobe space and a safe, plus as much food and drink you can get down you.

When you consider the size of the tiny kitchens on board, the cuisine is nothing short of mesmerising.

In between the eating, drinking and resting, the hours whizz by.

With an intermittent phone signal and no TV, radio or internet on board, it feels like I’m in my own peaceful little bubble.

I find myself hypnotically staring out of the window for minutes, sometimes hours, on end, as the scenery changes from the parched farmlands of South Australia, past rivers and ocean, to the notoriously harsh red centre and termite mound-littered Outback, before arriving in Crocodile Dundee land - the bush and swamps of the Northern Territory.

I also play frequent games of animal-spotting with other passengers.

I clock a court of kangaroos and flock of emus, while my companions pick out water buffalo and crocodiles.

Gazing out at the moving scenery as the train ploughs along, it gives a new meaning to the term ‘rear window’.

Trailfinders (trailfinders.com) offers a seven-day day holiday including The Ghan from £2,669. This includes Singapore Airlines flights from Manchester or London to Adelaide, hotel stays in Adelaide and Darwin and a three- day/two-night journey on board The Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin in Gold Sleeper service.This also includes all meals and most drinks. Prices based on November 2014. Singapore Airlines fly to Adelaide from Manchester or London, returning from Darwin, from £1050pp in economy.

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