Nearly 3,000km is the distance from Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs, and there’s no better way to enjoy this lengthy journey than by rail. The Ghan, this year a grand 80-year old veteran, lets you undertake the two nights and two and a half days in comfort and style.
I know what you’re thinking … how does an Australian train get a name like The Ghan? The train is named after the Afghan cameleers who were brought to Australia to manage the camels which were imported into the country as the first means of transport into the outback deserts.
The Ghan has now replaced the camels and affable staff stand in stead of the cameleers. However, the experience is no less thrilling or adventurous – it’s just undertaken with a lot more refinement and luxury these days.
The cabins in Red Service (Red Kangaroo) are twin share sleepers with communcal ablutions at one end of the carriage, although there are wash facilities in the cabin. If you’re really on a tight budget and want to save your pennies for when you hit Darwin, there are day-night seats which are much like your standard commuter trains – they do recline and have good legroom, but you will need to take your own pillow and blanket/rug. The Red Diner is fully licensed and offers good priced snacks and light meals.
In Gold Kangaroo, the cabins are small but perfectly fitted and you have the option of twin or single. Ensuite facilities in the twins offer a little extra privacy and no queueing! Single cabins also have a lounge chair while the twins have a 3-seater couch, both of which convert to beds. You’ll also get complimentary toilet bags and have the luxury of carriage attendants who’ll supply fresh bedding.
Platinum service launched in 2008 and, as the name implies, is for the discerning traveller. The cabins are veritable “rooms” with double or twin beds and even a writing desk. The ensuites are spacious and the comforts provided are distinctly modern. For breakfast, you can opt for a hearty full breakfast in the restaurant or a lighter Continental in the comfort of your cabin. With panoramic windows offering an ever-changing vista, who’d want to leave?
At night, you can take advantage of the full-steward service and an extended in-cabin menu if you’re not up to joining other guests in the Queen Adelaide restaurant of the Desert Explorer lounge.
Book a Platinum service fare, and you’ll receive benefits such as you would at any five star accommodation – welcome drinks on arrival, complimentary night caps and turndown service, binoculars and in-cabin service, freshly-brewed tea or coffee, priority restaurant seating and even hotel transfers.
Whistle Stop Tours are designed to give you brief glimpses into the land beyond the railway line and take advantage of the train’s scheduled stops enroute. There’s the Alice Springs town tour which will show you five highlights by luxury coach. The Aboriginal Sacred Sites and Cultural Tour showcases the history of the Central Arrernte culture and lets you view the old Afghan cameleers’ campsites.
For the more adventurous, why not explore Alice’s outback – after a quick tour of the CBD, you’ll get to try a short camel ride for yourself on a working frontier homestead; or perhaps the Quad-Bike Adventure. Other tours include the Alice Wanderer where you shuttle about at your leisure, the Desert Park tour or a Simpson’s Gap Flight where a helicopter will have you soaring over those baking sands outside. And then there are the various ways to explore the Katherine Gorge.
So, go on … do something different this year. Book a trip on the grand old lady that is The Ghan and enjoy the Outback of Australia from a truly unique perspective.
Luggage: Due to space limitations, you can’t take full suitcases into the cabins. These are stored until arrival at destination. Take an overnight bag with sufficient clothing and toiletries for the 48 odd hours you’ll be onboard. Checked-in luggage should not exceed 40kg per guest.
Meals: Special dietary requirements can be requested at time of booking.
Check-in: 1 hour before departure time
Finance: Visa, MasterCard, Diners Card and American Express accepted onboard. Traveller’s Cheques and EFTPOS not available.
Vehicles: Special vehicle carriers are available. You must book then when purchasing your ticket.
Attire: Smart casual is best. A jumper is handy with the air conditioning. Aunscreen and walking shoes are musts for the stopovers.