37. Tracks Across the Heart: The Ghan

I’ve never ‘spotted’ them and have no idea about gauges, engines or inclines, but I do love  a train. In the early 90‘s I clattered across Europe in them heaving a backpack, clutching a Eurail Pass in one hand and often a baguette stuffed with leftover ham and cheese from a hostel breakfast in the other.

On that backpacker adventure in my late 20’s the train journeys were all amazing. Particularly memorable, from Interlaken, down through the mountains to Venice, and the exquisite ‘Norway in a Nutshell’, from Oslo to Bergen, staring out the windows at pristine lakes set against intensely bright snow.

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photo courtesy of Mark Smith (man in seat 61)

A few years ago I found out about the train guru The Man in Seat 61. Since then I have settled myself into a nearby seat (in the internet searching sense) and benefited from the advice of a truly passionate expert. His advice has taken me on more trains and more tracks..always wonderful, the pleasure of the travel enhanced exponentially by the mode.

One experience then, that I planned for the year was to take one of the long trains across my own country. At over 3000 kilometres through the heart of Australia from Adelaide to Darwin, The Ghan fit the bill.

In the spirit of the once in a lifetime experience my friend and I decided to indulge in the Platinum option.

Stepping up into the carriage we were welcomed by our personal attendant Anthony and were soon toasting our departure with celebratory glasses of sparkling. Like excited kids we checked out all the facilities in the compartment, tested out our comfy seats, tried all the lights, peered into the compact ensuite bathroom, flicked through the Ghan magazine.

IMG_7427Soon after boarding, another attendant came to book us in for meals in the Dining Car and Anthony kindly enquired as to ‘what time we wanted our tea brought in each morning?’  We found little difficulty in embracing the spirit of the experience.

In between the delicious meals there were small treats served to us in our compartment by Anthony …chocolate truffles, spherical melting moments, squares of turkish delight and triangles of lamington. Iced tea accompanied by a small moistened towel (to mop our not very fevered brows) awaited us on reboarding after an off-train excursion. Anthony’s attentive care even extended to watching for our return from dinner so that our nightcaps would be ready for us in our cabin without the ice having melted.

We spent much of our time in the Lounge car. Plenty of relaxed chatting  was to be had. There was so much pleasure too, in just staring out at the landscape….mesmerising red against blue to the horizon, and listening to the delightful sound of the train on the tracks.

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