Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Ghan part 2

After a few more days in Alice Springs and still appalled at the social conditions there (about which, possibly more later) I boarded the Ghan at 6pm on the evening of April 19 and we set off for Darwin. If the average age of my fellow Uluru and Ocean Road tour passengers was somewhere in the twenties, the average age of the Ghan passengers (or at least those in Gold Class - I did see some backpackers getting on in a cheaper class) is probably in the sixties. Where are all the people in their thirties and forties? Raising families and building careers I guess. At least the people on the Ghan were a bit more interesting to talk to. Most were recently retired couples taking this famous trip that they’ve always wanted to do, but some were doing it for the second time.

Just north of Alice Springs, we passed over the Tropic of Capricorn. I’ve decided to make this a significant point for my overall trip. We can imagine the earth being divided into four parts from bottom to top: the first part is from the South Pole to the Tropic of Capricorn; the second from that Tropic to the Equator; the third from the Equator to the Tropic of Cancer; and the fourth from the Tropic of Cancer to the North Pole. My adventure will take me from the first part (New Zealand) through to the fourth part (England). I’ve now made it into the second part and further moments of significance will occur when I cross into the third and fourth parts.

Watching the sunset and the nightsky from my cabin on the train was amazing and I was even brought a cup of coffee in the morning so I watched the sunrise over the outback.

The Ghan stopped in the town of Katherine for a few hours and I got off to take a bus to Katherine Gorge. The first thing that struck me was the heat and humidity. Within five minutes of walking up the path to the lookout over the gorge, I was dripping with sweat. I kept going for a while until I had a decent view and then turned around and headed back to the visitor centre for an iced coffee. I had intended to go swimming or canoeing on the river but high waters meant that those activities were closed due to the risk of crocodiles.

After a few more hours on the train we arrived in Darwin. Overall, the trip was an enjoyable one although perhaps the scenery was not as interesting as I expected. Maybe this is partly due to the area being more green than usual instead of its characteristic red. But the service and meals in Gold Class on the Ghan are great.

This doesn't really warrant an Endurance Rating as it wasn't something to endure. But if I have to give something: a 2, just because of a few fellow passengers.

The Ghan coming into Darwin. You can just see the city in the distance.

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