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The Ghan Rail Experience

30 May 2022

Mary travelled the 2,979km from Darwin to Adelaide on The Ghan in October 2019.  The train’s name honours the Afghan camel drivers who arrived in Australia in the late 19th century with animals imported from India.

The expedition itinerary, North to South, has more off train excursions and the lovely BBQ dinner. Can do both and experience different outings. We met a couple who had already done the northbound and wanted to experience this trip in reverse.

The Train:

Our train (the length varies at different times of year) had an impressive 36 carriages and was 908 metres long (can get up to 1,200 metres long).

Gold section has 4-5 carriages per lounge and dining carts

Platinum has 3 carriages per lounge/dining cart

Solo cabins have shared toilet and showers and located in Gold section

Doors don’t lock from outside and only small safe for valuables.

Hairdryers supplied in room

Booking tips:

• Platinum definitely for older clients who would struggle to climb onto top bunk. Extra Platinum benefits include limousine transfers, bottle champagne on arrival in room, spacious cabin and bathroom, better quality wines and 5 course dinner (instead of 3 receive in Gold).

• Common feedback is that Gold lounge more social than platinum.

• Platinum lounge and dining in one room with pull out chairs to table (not fixed cinema style fold down like Gold).

• Can request two single cabins opposite each other (has shared bathroom facility) for a cheaper than Platinum option for older couples to avoid the gold bunk beds.

• Platinum has separate shower box in bathroom. Gold has shower over toilet (like caravan).

• All bookings: Request forward facing cabin and central carriage position (so not over wheels).

• June/July/Aug best time for wildlife but mild weather during day (in 20s) and cold at night (under10 degrees).

• Get ponchos at BBQ night that customers can keep

• Hard hats given at Opal Mine lunch can also keep

• All-inclusive can drink whatever want at any time of the day. Book meal sitting times in Gold or eat whenever want in Platinum. Snacks available for free in between meals. 3 options for breakfast and dinner with plenty of GF and at least one VE per meal. Have option to taste local delicacies including Crocodile, Buffalo and Kangaroo.

• Pack into small cabin size bag plus backpack for trip. Can check in 2 x 30kg luggage but can’t access during journey. Small closet to hang few clothes, otherwise live out of bag (Gold).

Katherine - Nitmiluk Gorge Cruise:

Around 38 degrees today. Cruise through two gorges. Incredible scenery. See a little Aboriginal

Cave Art. Best time for crocs June/July. Cruise company and land wholly owned by local aboriginal tribe.

Alice Springs - Simpson’s Gap Discovery Walk Tour:

Up to 32 degrees today. Ghost Gum Tree Walk half hour. Creek hasn’t had water for 3 years but leads to a boar in town and lots of water supply underground for the town. Cassia Hill Walk 1.8km 1 hr return, then onto Simpson’s Gap and back to Alice Springs town for half hour to one hour shopping.

Not much in town just souvenir shops. Lunch Star of Alice was included and delicious.

Coober Pedy – Discover The Majestic Breakaways Tour:

41 degrees, yesterday, but up to 29 degrees today. Gets up to 50 in summer and down to zero in winter. Population 2,000 in winter and 800 summer because most go south for the summer. 41km

Gravel road from train to town very bumpy. Pass lots of opal mine shafts. Over 1million of these around cooper pedy. Each 8-12 metre deep and left open. Identified by the piles of earth next to each. 30% of houses are dug outs mainly bedrooms have pipe for airflow rest of house outside for plumbing etc. average house cost $250-300k the underground rooms stay constant temp 21-14 degrees all year.

Tour includes some flora and fauna explaining and spend hour and half at the Breakaways, then visit

the Dingo Dog fence: took 5 years to build – was 9200 metres, but now 5200 long to control the

Dingos. Lunch at the Quest Mine in 1980s but now purely services The Ghan guests for lunch. A very cool experience. In town visit Opal museum, can purchase if want then look around town for half hour on own. Most fascinating outback town. Used often for movie sets i.e. Madmax.

Summary:

The Ghan Expedition is a wonderful itinerary. I was fascinated by the landscapes and insight into the

Northern Territory, Red Centre and History of the region. The service and crew on the train are attentive and very friendly. The food was delicious with broad range of drinks options. This is a must for those who enjoy rail travel, or river cruising (very similar style with all-inclusive tours and services on board), and looking for a new adventure.

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